Tag Archives: Stewardship

The Pastor: His Role, Responsibility, and Reward (1 Peter 5; Hebrews 1)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotional.

Scripture reading – 1 Peter 5; Hebrews 1

Reminder – January 1, 2023 will mark the beginning of a new 2-year chronological study series in God’s Word. Lord willing, Heart of a Shepherd Inc. will be hosted on a new website, and subscribers will have daily devotions sent to their email box. In addition, the website will feature video devotionals, and a “kid’s link” to Bible stories. Subscribe today by sending your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Today marks the first day of the final month of our two-year chronological journey through the Scriptures! I applaud those who have participated in this “spiritual marathon” study of God’s Word. I trust you share with me a sense of accomplishment and rejoicing. The author of Psalm 119 wrote, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (119:103); indeed, they are!

Today’s Scripture reading concludes the 1st Epistle of Peter, and introduces the Book of Hebrews (which many suggest was authored by Paul; however, that is mere speculation). This devotional will be taken from 1 Peter 5:1-4.

A Review of 1 Peter 1-4

I pointed out to you in an earlier devotional from 1 Peter, the practical nature of the apostle’s letter to the “strangers scattered” (1:1), believers who had been driven far from family, friends, and country by persecution. Peter, now an old man, was burdened that believers not only know the Scriptures, but live them. After he reminded them who they were in Christ (elect, chosen, and sanctified, 1:2), he challenged them to lay aside besetting sins (2:1), and to “desire the sincere milk of the word, that [they] may grow thereby” (2:2). Echoing the words of the psalmist, Peter affirmed, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (2:3).

In chapter 3, Peter charged believers regarding marital relationships (3:1-7), and interrelations with believers and unbelievers in the world (3:8-22). Understanding the scattered saints would face sufferings, persecutions, and even death…Peter called upon believers to bear injustices (4:1-6), love one another fervently (4:8-11), and hope to the end! (4:12-19)

1 Peter 5

Though only 14 verses in length, chapter 5 overflows with Charges, Exhortations, Encouragements, and a Challenge to be emboldened by Christ’s sufferings (5:10-11). Nevertheless, I must limit my focus to the first four verses, and what I consider to be Peter’s challenge to the pastors (“elders”) of the churches (5:1-4). Understanding the primary role of the pastor is that of a spiritual shepherd (for he leads, feeds, guides, and protects the sheep), it was critical for mature men, called by the Lord be ordained in the churches. Writing to believers, Peter addressed the role, responsibility, and reward of the pastor.

The Pastor’s Role (5:1)

The pastor was described as an “elder,” for no novice was to be ordained (1 Timothy 3:6). In Jewish and Greek culture, an “elder” was an older man, and one who was respected and given honor in his home, congregation, and society.

The role of the “elder” was defined by three titles: “Bishop,” meaning an overseer (1 Peter 2:25; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7); “Pastor,” the word for shepherd (Ephesians 4:11); and “Elders,” emphasizing the spiritual maturity necessary for ministry (5:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; 2 John 1; 3 John 1). With humility characteristic of the apostles, the apostle Peter identified himself as “an elder” (5:1b). His credentials and authority were summed up in this: “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” (5:1c). He had been an eyewitness of Christ’s life, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection, and glorious ascension to heaven.

The Pastor’s Responsibility (5:2-3)

Peter charged the spiritual shepherds to, “feed the flock of God which is among you” (5:2a). The work of the shepherd in feeding a flock encompassed the responsibility of guiding, protecting, and providing nourishment (Psalm 23). The same is the calling for the pastor, for he is to guide, protect, and spiritually nourish believers in his charge.

The apostle then addressed the attitude of the shepherd, writing, “not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (5:2b). The heart of a good shepherd need not be forced to the work of ministry, but is willing, self-motivated, and as Paul challenged, “instant in season, out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). He serves his calling with eagerness, and not to enrich himself (5:2b).

The pastor\shepherd is to be a model, an example of a servant (5:3). Pastors are to lead by example, not as “as being lords” (5:3a). They are not masters exercising absolute authority, but shepherds “over God’s heritage” (5:3b). Believers are the “heritage,” meaning the inheritance of God (5:3b), and pastors are to be models, “ensamples to the flock” (5:3c). What are they to model? The likeness of Christ, fruit of the Sprit (Galatians 5:22-23), and the character and actions of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

The Pastor’s Reward (5:4)

The sum of Peter’s challenge to the “elders” was to remind them their labor in the Word, hardships, challenges, and sorrows would be rewarded when Jesus Christ, the “Chief Shepherd shall appear” (5:4a). At Christ’s Second Coming, faithful pastors will “receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (5:4b). An earthly crown is temporal, but the reward Peter promised faithful pastors was eternal!

What a wonderful incentive to faithful, dedicated pastors! Not only have we received a great calling, but we are promised “a crown of glory!”

* 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 Calling and Passion of a Minister (1 Timothy 4; 1 Timothy 5)

Click on this link for translations of this devotional.

Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 4; 1 Timothy 5

The passage assigned for today’s Scripture reading is prophetic (4:1-5), convicting (4:6-16), and voluminous in practical instruction for the daily life of the church, its leadership, and members (5:1-25). Understanding Paul was writing to Timothy, who was not only his spiritual son in the faith, but a young pastor, we find instructions that are powerful and pointed. Unfortunately, I must limit today’s devotion to 1 Timothy 4.

1 Timothy 4

Warning Concerning False Teachers (4:1-5)

On numerous occasions our study of the New Testament has evidenced a concern regarding false teachers and their teachings. Timothy was no stranger to the enemies of the Gospel, and their presence without and within the church. Paul was aware of the challenges facing Timothy as a pastor, and he warned him concerning the presence and growing influence evil men would have “in the latter times” (4:1).

Apostasy has plagued believers from the fall of man, and the influence of evil men has shadowed God’s people throughout the ages. Moses contended with wicked men in the midst of Israel’s sojourn through the wilderness. Isaiah prophesied against the people of his day, saying, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13).

Paul warned Timothy to be vigilant, for the Holy Spirit had revealed to him, the time would come when men would abandon the truth, and “depart from the faith” (4:1). Believers would follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1c). False teachers would perpetuate lies, and their consciences would be insensitive, as though “seared (and hardened) with a hot iron” (branding iron, 4:2). Reminiscent of the false doctrines of Roman Catholicism, false teachers would teach abstinence and forbid marriage (4:3a), and commend denying oneself food as though it merited God’s favor (4:3b).

After warning Timothy of the encroachment of false teachers and their doctrine (4:1-5), Paul gave him practical instructions concerning the character and godly virtues of those who aspire to preach and teach God’s Word.

Four Essential Traits of Spiritual Leaders (4:6-11)

1) The minister must seek his spiritual nourishment in the Scriptures (4:6). To “be a good minister of Jesus Christ” to his congregation, a pastor must feed himself daily in the Word of God (4:6; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).

2) A pastor must not entertain false teachings, nor get entangled in foolish speculations (4:7a).

3) He will discipline and exercise himself in godliness and spiritual disciplines (4:7b). Perhaps having in mind, the physical disciplines of Olympic athletes, Paul reminded Timothy physical exercise profits a man only for a brief time (4:9a). However, spiritual disciplines in God’s Word, prayer, and in pursuit of godly virtues, profits a man in this life and eternally (4:8). Paul asserted, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation” (4:9). In other words—the preeminence of spiritual disciplines is without question.

4) A faithful minister must be committed to work hard, willing to “suffer reproach” and rejection, because his faith and hope is “in the living God” who would “have all men to be saved” (4:10-11; 1 Timothy 2:4).

With the challenge, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers” (4:12a), Paul recorded six virtues that should be true of all in positions of spiritual leadership (4:12-16).

Six Godly Virtues of Spiritual Leadership (4:12)

1) Word (4:12b) – Ministers must be examples in speech and conversation. They are to guard their speech from sin, and speak that which edifies, and encourages others to Christlikeness (Ephesians 4:29).

2) “Conversation(4:12c)” The pastor’s manner of life and conduct is to serve as an example to others. He is to be a model of righteous living, and “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

3) Love (4:12d) Sacrificial love motivates the minister’s work, as he dedicates and gives his life in serving the Lord and others (John 15:13).

4) Spirit (4:12e) A pastor’s spirit is passionate regarding the work of the ministry to which the Lord has called him.

5) “Faith” (4:12f) – A good minister must be mature in his faith, and unwavering in his obedience to the Word of God.

6) Purity (4:12g) – The sixth virtue speaks of the minister’s moral character, and is to be characterized by purity in heart, mind, and body.

Closing thoughts (4:13-16) – In conclusion, Paul exhorted Timothy: “13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:12). The old apostle challenged the young pastor to keep his passion and focus on ministering to believers. Timothy, as with all ministers, was to focus on three spiritual disciplines: “Reading”(4:13a) – the private and public readings of God’s Word. “Exhortation” (4:13b)Encouraging believers could take on the form of reproving, rebuking, or patient exhortation (2 Timothy 4:2). Lastly, Timothy was to teach and instruct believers in “Doctrine” (4:13c).

An observation – There was a time when a pastor’s ministry was measured in decades, as he faithfully poured his life into reading God’s Word, exhorting believers, and teaching doctrine. Tragically, the average stay of today’s pastor in between 3-5 years.

* 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.

Relational Dynamics: Children and Parents; Employees and Employers (Ephesians 6)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, and introduces his letter to the believers of Philippi. This is the first of two devotions, and is taken from Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 5 challenged believers to live and walk in a manner that was worthy of the Lord (5:1-5). Paul urged the saints to manifest a spirit of humility and submission, “in the fear of God” (5:21), and remember marriage between a husband and wife is a portrait of Christ’s love for His church (5:22-33). The apostle commanded: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…[and] 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (5:22, 25).

Ephesians 6

Having addressed the institution and sanctity of marriage (5:22-33), Paul’s focus turned to the believer’s family and household. Ephesians 6 presented a portrait of the spiritual dynamics between children and their parents (6:1-4), and servants and their masters (6:5-9).

The Believer’s Family (6:1-4)

Though the majority of Galatian believers were of Greco-Roman ancestry, they were not exempt from the implications and applications of the Commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20). Knowing the 5th commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12), Paul wrote to the sons and daughters of Galatia:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise” (6:1-2). And what was the promise to those who obeyed and honored their parents? “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (6:3).

If you ponder why our society and 21st century world is troubled, you need look no further than the tragic consequences of violating the 5th commandment. It is not well with our families, communities, societies and nation. Disrespect and rebellion in the home has spilled over into our schools and communities, and is a cancer that is destroying our nation and world.

Of course, parents, particularly fathers, must bear the weight and responsibility for the failure of the family. Paul urged fathers, “provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). “Provoke not,” carried the inference of actions and attitudes that were unreasonable and incited resentment in the heart of a child. Provocations might arise from being overly protective, unreasonable in expectations, failing to affirm, or abuse (verbal or physical). Paul exhorted fathers to nurture and admonish their children (6:4b). Nurturing a child requires instruction and correction, while admonishing obliges warning, rebuking, and discipline (Proverbs 29:15, 17). How different our homes and churches would be if children honored and obeyed their parents, and fathers and mothers nurtured and admonished their children in the Lord!

The Household: Servants and their Masters (6:5-9)

The New Testament has a lot to say regarding the dynamics between the servant (slave) and his master. Servitude and oppression have been a perpetual human dynamic since the fall of man. Rather than address the question of the morality of slavery, Paul focused upon the responsibility of the servant to his master, and the relationship of the master to his servant. Because Roman culture allowed slaves to enjoy some liberties, including religion, the Galatian church would have had a membership of slaves and masters. Of course, the application to our culture is the dynamic of the employee and his employer.

The Attitude and Testimony of a Servant

Servants were commanded to be “obedient,” and to respect and serve their masters with a heart that was single in motive: “as unto Christ… as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:5-6). Whether a slave or a free man, a believer was to do his work, no matter how menial the task, knowing the Lord was the rewarder (6:7-8). Finally, the duty of masters, as it is with employers, was to neither threaten or abuse their servants. Instead, the master was to treat his servants fairly, according to the Law, knowing God is the rewarder, and an impartial judge (6:9).

Closing thoughts – So much more might be gleaned from this chapter, but I will leave that for a later time. For now, I encourage you to examine your relationships, and whether or not you are honoring to the Lord. Whether a child or parent, an employee or an employer, you should guard your heart and live your life above reproach.

Remember: What you sow you will reap, and God is a righteous judge.

* 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.

Five Essentials to Overcoming a Restless Spirit (Romans 12)

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Scripture reading – Romans 12

On a personal note: I consider the 12th chapter of Romans to be a pivotal chapter, not only in our study of this book, but in my life. As a teenager, I grasped the importance of Paul’s exhortation when he wrote: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (12:1-2).

Consider what I suggest are five essentials for spiritual victory found in the first five verses of Romans 12. The first, salvation, implied by the title, “brethren,” indicating Paul and the believers in Rome shared a spiritual kinship because of the “mercies” and compassion of God (12:1a). The second, essential for spiritual success is a life characterized by a “living sacrifice” (12:1), one that is dedicated to God and is “holy, acceptable,” and in harmony with His will (12:1c).

Sanctification, the third essential for spiritual victory, was defined by Paul as a life “not conformed to this world,” but “transformed by the renewing of [the] mind” (12:2). Genuine salvation and sincere dedication to the Lord, so transform a believer’s life that it impacts his thoughts, feelings, and purpose. Paul, in his second letter to believers of Corinth, described the transformed life, writing, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things [attitudes and actions] are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The fourth essential for being a spiritual overcomer is to surrender your will to God’s will, proving “what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (12:2b). Lastly, the life of a spiritual victor is characterized by a testimony of submission, evidenced in two qualities: the humility of a servant and harmony in the midst of diversity (12:3-5).

Humility: Paul exhorted every believer, “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (for pride has no place in our lives, 12:3b). Instead, the believer is to think “soberly” [exercising good, sound judgment],knowing his gifts and talents are apportioned to him, not by merit, but by God’s grace and goodness (12:3c).

What is the effect when the hearts of God’s people are submissive, and fused together in serving God and ministering to others? — Harmony, Paul used the body as an illustration of harmony, writing: “4For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (12:4-5; note also, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

Closing thoughts – Taking Paul’s analogy that compared the members of the body to the members of the church, we understand our physical bodies are comprised of many members (eyes, ears, nose, arms, fingers, legs, feet, etc.), and each member, though different, has its function. When a body is healthy, it is a picture of symmetry, as each member of the body works together. However, when a member of the body is injured or weakened, the whole body is affected.

The same is true of the members of a congregation. A church enjoys harmony when each member of the church submits to the head of the church—Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:23). Proud, unruly church members can be as destructive to the congregation as cancer cells are in the body. Yet, the members of a church enjoy harmony when its members “present [their] bodies a living sacrifice,” and are sanctified, surrendered and submissive to the will of God (12:1-2).

Warning – When a congregation experiences disharmony, you can be certain there are members who are either not saved, or are refusing to submit to the will of God.

* 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 Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Days, and Make Them Count! (1 Chronicles 23-24)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 23-24

The opening verses of 1 Chronicles 23 remind us that “David was old and full of days” (23:1). Accepting his death was imminent, the king left no doubt who should be his successor: “He made Solomon his son king over Israel” (23:1).

I admire David’s heart for the LORD. Resigning his role as king, he turned the affairs of state over to his son, and devoted his last days to organizing the priests and Levites who would serve in the Temple (23:2-32; 24:1-31).

A Census of the Tribe of Levi (1 Chronicles 23)

A census of Levi found there were 38,000 heads of house who were thirty years and older (23:3). The organization of the Levites was stated by their tasks: 24,000 men were to assist the priests; 6,000 would serve as “officers and judges” (23:4).

There were 4,000 men who would be porters or keepers of the doors of the Temple (23:5), and another 4,000 that were musicians (23:5). It was their calling to praise the LORD with “the instruments” David had apparently provided (23:5).

Various Levite families are named, including those whose lineage were notable: The sons of Levi, “Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (23:6), and “sons of Amram,” of whom was born “Aaron and Moses” (23:13). Particular mention of Aaron is made, for he and his sons were high priests, and were sanctified (i.e., set apart) “to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless in his name for ever” (23:13).

David charged the Levites to serve the LORD on behalf of Israel (23:24-31), assist the sons of Aaron with daily sacrifices, and “in the service of the house of the LORD” (23:32).

The Aaronic Priesthood (1 Chronicles 24)

1 Chronicles 24 recorded the “divisions of the sons of Aaron” (24:1), and their order. We find twenty-four classes of priests identified in this chapter, and David was attentive to the names (24:2-3), and offices of those who would serve in the Temple (24:4-31).

The list of names in today’s Scripture reading might seem unimportant, especially three thousand years after they were recorded; however, their offices and tasks as spiritual leaders is instructive for us. Their ministries in the Temple were prominent enough that even the king dedicated himself to their assignments.

Closing thoughts – David was old, but his fervor for the LORD had not abated.

He had been denied the opportunity to build a great house for the LORD; however, he poured himself into preparing his son for the task. In other words, the frailty of old age had not robbed him of his desire to serve the LORD.

We would be wise to take a page out of David’s biography: Not only count our days, but make our days count!

Wise men “number” [prepare; count] the days of their lives and, like David, “apply [lit. pass on] [their] hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Dead Man Walking; God’s Man Rejoicing (Psalm 63, 1 Samuel 28)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 63

1 Samuel 28 – Dead Man Walking

One might feel a certain empathy for King Saul in the latter years of his reign and life. The king was old, the strength and vitality of his youth faded, and his spirit consumed by bitterness. In contrast, David had been a faithful servant to the king, but Saul’s jealousy had made his friend his enemy. Indeed, the champion of Israel, appeared to be in league with Achish, the Philistine king (28:1-2).

Saul was alone. He had disobeyed God’s command, and the LORD had withdrawn his Spirit from the king (16:14-15). With the prophet Samuel dead (28:3), and the Philistine army gathered against Israel (28:4), Samuel trembled at the sight of “the host of the Philistines” (28:5).

Paralyzed by a spirit of foreboding (28:5-6), and desperate for a word of reassurance, the king disguised himself, violated the Law (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31), and turned to a witch who consulted with spirits (28:7;Leviticus 20:27). Assuring the witch, she would not be punished, Saul demanded she call the prophet Samuel from the dead (28:11).

The LORD permitted Samuel to appear, and his appearance frightened the witch, who realized the man before her was Saul (28:12). With the king’s assurance that she would come to no harm, the woman revealed she had seen a man, “an old man…covered with a mantle” (28:14). Saul realized the apparition was that of Samuel, and the king “stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself” (28:14).

Samuel demanded, “Why hast thou disquieted me [awaken from rest or sleep], to bring me up [from Sheol, the place of the dead]?” (28:15). Trembling with fear, Saul declared how the Philistines had gathered against Israel, and God’s Spirit had departed from him (28:15). He confessed he had no prophet to answer him, and no man to interpret dreams (28:15).

Samuel then reminded Saul he was suffering the consequences of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:23; 28:18). Not only had God’s Spirit departed from Saul, but the LORD had become his enemy (28:16). The LORD had “rent the kingdom out of [Saul’s] hand, and given it to [his] neighbour, even to David” (28:17).

Revealing the imminent deaths of Saul and his sons, and the defeat Israel would suffer the next day on the battlefield (28:19), Saul fell to the ground, “and there was no strength in him” (28:20). Overcome with emotion, and weak from fasting, the witch took pity on Saul and urged him to eat (28:22-24). When their supper was ended, Saul and his men “rose up, and went away that night” (28:25).

Closing thoughts: Rather than humble himself, and repent, Saul departed with his heart hardened, knowing he would not live to see another night. Because of his sin and disobedience, the king and his sons would die the next day, and his throne would be given to David.

He was a “dead man walking.”

Psalm 63

The title of Psalm 63 gives us the background for the song, for it was “when [David] was in the wilderness of Judah.” You will notice phrases and verses throughout the psalm that are beautiful and expressive.

In light of Saul’s despair in 1 Samuel 28, Psalm 63 affords us an encouraging contrast.  While Saul longed for a word from the LORD, but found his sins had made the LORD his enemy; David’s heart rejoiced in his God, and he confessed:

Psalm 63:11O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, My flesh longeth for thee In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

Surely, only a man who loved the LORD could find such joy, comfort, and cause for rejoicing in Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Third Generation Leaders Lack Spiritual Fortitude (Judges 1-2)

Scripture reading: Judges 1-2

The Book of Judges begins with a revealing statement indicating a void in leadership left by Joshua’s death. We read, “1Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)

Though Israel possessed the land, they still faced the presence of enemies in their midst. The LORD answered Israel’s inquiry, not with the name of a man, but with that of a tribe: “2And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his [the tribe of Judah’s] hand” (1:2).

In the absence of Joshua, the LORD chose Judah to be the first to wage battle in the post-Joshua era. Why Judah? Judah had the largest population of the twelve tribes, and was the most powerful among them. Judah, Jacob’s fourth born son, was blessed by Jacob (Genesis 49:8-12), and his lineage bored the noble character out of whom would emerge the line of kings, beginning with David, and concluding with the LORD Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Matthew 1:1-3).

Judah accepted the challenge, and invited the tribe of Simeon saying, “Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot.” (1:3). The people of Simeon accepted Judah’s invitation, for their land was encircled by Judah’s territory (Joshua 19:1).

In the midst of victories, a repetition of failures emerges in Judges; failures that would haunt the people as a nation for generations to follow. Though Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20); regrettably, they fell short of the LORD’S will. The LORD had not failed Judah, but Judah had failed to trust the LORD, and they “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron” (1:19).

A pattern of failing to obey the command of the LORD, and drive out Israel’s enemies continues throughout Judges 1. The tribe of Benjamin failed (1:21), and Manasseh failed (1:27-28). Ephraim did not “drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (1:29). Zebulun, failed to “drive out the inhabitants of Kitron” (1:30), and Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of cities in their land (1:32). Naphtali failed (1:33), and “the Amorites forced the children [tribe] of Dan into the mountain” (1:34).

Judges 2 – A Crisis in Third Generation Leadership

Judges 2 begins with an ominous declaration from “an angel of the LORD” (whom I believe to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). Israel’s failure to drive the idol worshiping nations out of Canaan was a breach in their covenant with the LORD. He reminded them of His promise: “I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). The people, however, had failed to drive the inhabitants out of the land, and destroy their altars (2:2).

God warned, “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (2:3). When they heard what would befall them because of their sins, the people “sacrificed there unto the LORD” (2:5); however, the consequences of their sinful failures followed them.

Notice the narrative in Judges 2 turns briefly to a reflection on the death of Joshua (2:6-10), and his influence on his generation, and the one that followed. We read, “the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel” (2:7). When that generation passed from the scene, a third generation arose, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim” (2:11). That generation “ forsook the Lord God of their fathers…and followed other gods…and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (2:12-13).

The LORD did not altogether forsake Israel, and He began raising up judges in Israel, to call the people to return to the LORD, His Law, and Commandments (2:16). He would bless the judge of His people, and deliver them “out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (2:18). Nevertheless, “when the judge was dead, [the people] returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers…[and] ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (2:19).

I close on a personal note: I have witnessed the failings of transitional leadership throughout my lifetime. A nation, organization, corporation, school, and a church are never more vulnerable than in a time of leadership change. Judges 2 proves the nation of Israel was no exception.

Why are third generation ministries so vulnerable? I believe the reason is summed up in an old adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Israel’s third generation in the land had not experienced the sacrifices, or the victories of the generations before them. They had grown comfortable, and familiar with the heathen in their midst. Invariably, their parent’s failure to drive the wicked out of the land proved to become a fatal attraction, and invited God’s judgment (2:20-23).

What about you? Have you become so familiar with sacred truths, and the blessings of the LORD, that you have become insensitive to the conviction of His Word?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Place to Call Home (Joshua 19)

Scripture reading – Joshua 19

The narrative concerning the division of the Promised Land continues in Joshua 19 with the final tribes receiving their territory by lot: Simeon (19:1-9), Zebulun (19:10-16), Issachar (19:17-23), Asher (19:24-31), Naphtali (19:32-39), and Dan (19:40-48).

While the names of the borders, and cities are too numerous to list, there are some details found in Joshua 19that I invite you to consider in your meditation. The first, unlike the other tribes, Simeon would not receive their own distinct territory, but would instead find its lands “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (19:1b).

Why would Simeon not be blessed with their own territory?

The immediate explanation is “the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore, the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them” (19:9). However, there was a prophetic significance to the assignment of Simeon’s land, within that of Judah, and it is found in Jacob’s dying words. On his death bed, Jacob remembered how Simeon, and Levi had sinned and brought shame upon Israel.

Do you remember how Simeon and Levi had avenged the honor of their sister Dinah, after she had been raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite (Genesis 34:1-2). When Jacob’s sons heard their sister had been violated (Genesis 34:5-7), they determined to deceive Shechem, his father, and their people into accepting circumcision under the guise of an accord between their families (Genesis 34:13-24).

On the third day of the circumcision, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, attacked, and slew Shechem, Hamor, and the men of the city (Genesis 34:25-30). Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi, saying, “Ye have troubled me”(Genesis 34:30). Many years later, as Jacob was dying, he remembered the cruelty of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-6), and cursed them saying, “7Cursed be their [Simeon and Levi] anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

“Divide and scatter,” Jacob’s prophetic cursed was fulfilled, as the tribe of Levi, would not receive their inheritance in Canaan. Also, the tribe of Simeon, would be in the midst of Judah, without its own distinct territory.

Joshua 19 concludes with the LORD commanding Israel to give Joshua an inheritance (19:49).

Like the servant leader he was, Joshua had served the needs of all the others, insuring each tribe had their inheritance. Now, “according to the word of the Lord they gave [Joshua] the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:50).

Why did Joshua chose to build a city on mount Ephraim? He was a son of the tribe of Ephraim; however, I believe the principal reason was this: The Tabernacle was located at Shiloh, a city of Ephraim, and Joshua wanted to live out his days near the LORD’s sanctuary, a symbol of His presence in the midst of His people.

What about you? Is worshipping, and serving the LORD a priority for your life, and family? It was for Joshua!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24-25)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (24:1-5)

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan, or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce] for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle. and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence that God was sensitive, and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). Everyone was to bear the consequences, and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith