Tag Archives: Tongue

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 1-5

Today’s scripture reading contains stories that have enriched the hearts, lives and imagination of children in Sunday School for centuries.  The book of 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings finished with no introduction.  The old prophet Elijah is in the last days of his earthly ministry and his protégé Elisha is prepared to take up the “mantle” of Elijah, literally and figuratively (2 Kings 2:13).

Due to the length of today’s reading, I will content myself with a few highlights.  Ahaziah, king of Israel, became deathly ill after falling through the lattice-work of his upper chamber.  Wondering if he would recover from his fall, the wicked king sent servants to enquire of the pagan god Baalzebub (2 Kings 1:2).  God, however, intervened and sent Elijah to send word to the king that his decision to enquire of Baalzebub would result in his death (1:3-4).  The king’s messengers described Elijah as the bearer of the news concerning the king’s death (1:5-8).

Three occasions the king sent a captain and fifty soldiers demanding Elijah come to the king.  The first two times the captain and the soldiers arrogantly demanded the prophet come to the king, and each time the captain and soldiers were slain (1:9-12).  The third captain and his soldiers humbled themselves before God’s prophet and requested their lives be spared (1:13-14).

2 Kings 2 records the momentous occasion God sent a fiery chariot to take Elijah to heaven.  Elijah promised Elisha he would receive a double portion of the old prophets spirit if he saw him taken up (2:9-11).  A “double portion” was that amount of inheritance that would be allotted to a firstborn son.  In that sense, it was Elisha’s longing that he would be the inheritor of Elijah’s ministry, and indeed he was!

God promotes the ministry of Elisha as God’s prophet before three kings in 2 Kings 3.  The king of Israel, Judah, and Edom all learned God had a prophet in the land and that prophet was Elisha.

Elisha performed four miracles in 2 Kings 4.  The first, multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).  The second miracle, blessing a childless, elderly woman and her husband with a son as a reward for serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  The third miracle was raising that same elderly couples’ son from the dead (4:18-37).  The fourth miracle was turning a poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

I close with Elisha directing the healing of a leper named “Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria” (2 Kings 5:1).   The description of Naaman’s character aids us in understanding why his welfare was so important to his king.  We read, he “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great is size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was an illness…leprosy.  There was no cure for leprosy and a leper would eventually face exclusion from the living as the disease slowly took hold on the face, limbs and extremities of the body.

Providentially for Naaman, a slave girl from Israel waited upon his wife and shared with her there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  When the king of Syria heard there was hope for Naaman’s healing in Israel, he sent a letter with Naaman and gifts requesting his captain would be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was impossible for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).  At his request, the king sent Naaman to Elisha (5:8).

Naaman, feeling slighted by Elisha’s refusal to greet him and perhaps expecting some great, ceremonial act of healing, was instead directed by Elisha’s servant to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times (5:9-10).  The thought of the great warrior of Syria humbling himself to wash in Israel’s small river infuriated Naaman who at first refused (5:11-12).  Fortunately, his servants prevailed upon him and persuaded him to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Following his healing, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman responded to the prophet and his miraculous healing with a moving statement of his faith that his sacrifices would forever be only unto the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel (5:17-18).

Reminding us a spirit of covetous (Exodus 20:17) might take root in the hearts of those who serve the LORD, “Gehazi, the servant of Elisah” set his heart on a portion of the reward Naaman offered to Elisha (5:20-22).

With a greeting of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21) and Gehazi responding with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), Gehazi lied suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward.  When Naaman granted his request, Gehazi hid the gifts (5:23-24) and took his place before Elisha (5:25).

When Elisha asked Gehazi where he had gone, he lied (5:25); whereupon, Elisha cursed his covetous heart and his unfaithful servant was smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).  Leprosy marked the end of his ministry to Elisha and became Gehazi’s lifelong reminder God hates covetousness and lying lips.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Lies, Innuendoes, and Questions on One’s Character is God’s Business

walk-in-my-shoesThursday, February 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 15-16

One of my joys as Hillsdale’s pastor is hearing the voices of children in our building throughout the year.  I try to visit the hallways of our Christian school at least one or two times a day and, reminiscent of classes when I was young, a teacher will sometimes have a classroom door open and I am able to hear the lesson being taught.

Passing a Pre-K class on Tuesday, the 3-year-olds were sitting at the feet of their teacher, captivated by a Bible lesson on poor Job and wondering, “Why God would let Satan be so mean to Job?”  I doubt I am alone when I express the intimidating thought of explaining to 3-year-olds the Sovereignty of God! [P.S. I have asked the teacher for a tape when she explains the Trinity!]

We continue today’s devotional commentary with Job 15-16 as our scripture reading assignment.jobs-friends

Although they purported to come and comfort him, Job’s friends have served as his prosecutors, judges, and jury…condemning the man though he was already stricken by his losses and wretchedness.  One of Job’s three “friends”, Eliphaz the Temanite, takes up his dispute with Job accusing him of pride (Job 15:5-6) and hypocrisy (15:34-35) and warning Job all he had suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).

Job’s response to Eliphaz is recorded in three pleas in chapters 16-17.  The first plea is for mercy, rather than comfort; Job’s friends were unsympathetic to his plight and their words only added to his misery (16:1-14). Reproving them, Job suggested if his friends had suffered the losses he had their words would be softened with understanding and sympathy (16:4-5).walk-in-my-shoes

There is an old adage that states, “Before you criticize a man, you should walk a mile in his shoes.”  The point of the quote is it is easy to be an unsympathetic, heartless critic until you have borne the pain, sorrows and disappointments of another.  For example, how many are experts at parenting and passing judgment on the perceived failures and heartaches of others, until they have children of their own?  How many are harsh critics, until they have suffered the blows of pain and disappointment?  How easy is it to give little thought to our harsh words, until we fall victim of the same?

Superior to the proverb to “walk in another man’s shoes before criticizing him” is the principle taught by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount:  “Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).judgment

The knowledge we will face the judgment of a just God should incite caution when we judge others.  How much better to heed Paul’s exhortation and, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16  Be of the same mind one toward another…” (Romans 12:15-16a).

The closing verses of Job 16 are a picture of sorrow and humiliation (16:15-22).  In addition to his plea for mercy, Job pleas for justice and vindication before he dies (16:16-19).

Friend, I have learned to accept that some accusations and personal attacks on my integrity will not be answered until God’s judgment.  Lies, innuendoes, and questions on one’s character is God’s business; indeed, I have known too many professing Christians who are quick judges, unrepentant gossips, and “hit and run” deceivers.

In the words of Job, “my witness [recorded testimony] is in heaven, and my record [Advocate; i.e. Jesus Christ] is on high” (Job 16:19b; 1 John 2:1-2).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Road Rage: Beware the Bear behind the wheel!

Angry bearProverbs 17:12 “Let a bear robbed [bereaved] of her whelps [cubs] meet [come in contact with] a man, rather than a fool [stupid; silly] in [in the midst of] his folly [silliness].”

Anger has been the malady of sinful man since Cain rose up and slew his brother Abel in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 4:5-8).  Anger, however, is a natural emotion that is not always sinful.  For instance, the Bible describes the wrath of God and His fury against sin in over 500 instances [Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary].  Anger can also describe the “righteous indignation” of the saints towards sin.  Paul commands believers in Antioch to, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).  In other words, righteous anger is slow to wrath and seeks resolution as soon as possible (Proverbs 14:29; James 1:19).  The apostle challenged Angry couplethose same Christians in Ephesus to, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

Let’s be honest; explosive, self-centered anger has become an emotion that characterizes the fabric of our marriages, homes, churches, communities and nation.  Anger is the sin behind senseless acts of abuse, slander, outbursts of violence, and a newer phenomenon known as “Road Rage”—an outburst of anger and violence against a total stranger who may have inadvertently “cut you off”…but who becomes the victim of your pent-up anger, bitterness and lack of restraint.

In today’s proverb (17:12), Solomon warns it is better to cross paths with an angry she-bear seeking her cubs than be a companion or friend of a fool in the midst of his folly.roadrage  Such is the case when you cross paths with an habitually angry man or woman.  He is a danger to himself, his family, friends and acquaintances.

Beware the fool!

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Psalm 7:1-9 – Slander, Libel, Disloyalty and Lies are the Haunt of God’s Servants

pastor in pulpitOn a personal note, having just celebrated 30 years of ministry in one church, I will make today’s devotional more personal than is my custom and practice.

The average tenure of a pastor in a Bible-preaching church is said to be between three and four years, prompting the question: “Why? Why do pastors move to a new ministry after serving only a brief time in a local church ministry?”

There are many reasons that might be given, but it is my observation that the central one is the reality that all honeymoons end and the toll of ministry among a people who can be fickle, disloyal and sometimes the source of grievous attacks that are deeply personal in nature. Having served as a staff member for 17 years and a senior pastor for 20, I can attest to the sorrows that often arise from the attacks of those closest to the pulpit…a pastor’s own staff [by the way, I am thankful God has blessed me today with a faithful staff who lift the burdens of ministry rather than add to them].tenure

Scholars believe Psalm 7, titled by one writer the “Song of the Slandered Saint”, was written at a time David was the object of slander and lies from Cush the Benjamite.  King Saul was already envious of David’s popularity and Cush the Benjamite used that sin of jealousy as an opportunity to accuse David of treason.  It was Cush’s proximity to the throne that gave credence to this slanderer who subtly undermined David’s strained relationship with the king.  Already mistrusted by the king, David turned his appeal for justice and vindication to God.

Psalm 7:1-2 – “O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust [my refuge and hope]: save [deliver; help; preserve] me from all them that persecute [pursue; chase] me, and deliver [recover; defend; save] me: 2  Lest he tear [tear in pieces] my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces [break; tear apart], while there is none to deliver [recover; save].

Slander, gossip, lies and disloyalty are often the sorrows borne by God’s servants who are devoted to serve the Lord with integrity.  Ours is not to be popular, but faithful.  We do not aspire to earthly applause, but to the heavenly commendation, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

lion's roarIt was not his body, but his soul that was to endure the attacks of those who would tear and shred his reputation (7:2).  Because the attacks of an enemy are often deep and personal, leaders often feel alone as they bear the sorrow of those who align against them.  David turned to the Lord in the midst of his sorrow and confessed, “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust” (7:1).

David’s cry for justice and vindication is Psalm 7:3-5.

Psalm 7:3-5 – “O LORD my God, if I have done [make; wrought] this; if there be iniquity [wickedness; unrighteousness; injustice] in my hands; 4  If I have rewarded [treat; recompense; compensated] evil [sin; wickedness] unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered [take off; plundered] him that without cause [empty; vain] is mine enemy [adversary]🙂 5  Let the enemy persecute [pursue; chase] my soul [life; person], and take [overtake; hold] it; yea, let him tread down [oppress; trample upon] my life upon the earth, and lay [settle] mine honour [glory; reputation] in the dust. Selah.”

I have learned that vindication of one’s life and testimony is often a process of years, not days or months.  Protestations of innocence are usually to no avail when some are more willing to believe slander than they are to weigh a life and ministry of years.  Accusers attack character and assault one’s testimony, but the righteous must determine to trust the Lord for vindication.slander

Psalm 7:6-8 – “Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up [remove; depart; carry away] thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake [stir up; raise up; incite] for me to the judgment [sentence; justice] that thou hast commanded [charged; appointed]. 7  So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return [return again] thou on high [exalted; above; dignity]. 8  The LORD shall judge [plead the cause; execute judgment] the people: judge [plead; avenge; vindicate] me, O LORD, according to my righteousness [justice; rightness before the law], and according to mine integrity [completeness; innocence; blameless] that is in me.”

With humility and confidence in God’s justice, David appealed to God to judge his enemies and vindicate his rightness and integrity.

Psalm 7:9 – “Oh let the wickedness [sin; evil] of the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] come to an end [cease; fail]; but establish [prepare; ready; set up; confirm] the just: for the righteous [just; lawful] God trieth [prove; test; examine] the hearts and reins [i.e. mind; inward parts].”

do not fearDavid makes two requests in verse 9:  1) That the wicked would fail in their designs to destroy him;  2) That God, knowing the heart of David, would affirm his integrity and establish his testimony.

Someone reading today’s devotional may be on the verge of quitting.  You have suffered personal attacks.  You are carrying the sorrow of disloyalty from the very ones you trusted.  You feel abandoned and alone.  I challenge to you to cry out to God as David did in Psalm 7 and know He is a God of justice and will vindicate His servant in due time.  Trust the Lord!

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 14:33 – What is in your heart?

heartProverbs 14:33 – “Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.”

Social media has become to this generation a billboard for displaying the nature and wares of the foolish.  The lack of discretion evidenced in things posted and written on Facebook has become for too many an open display of their folly and for some a path of destruction.  Solomon taught his son that wise men exercise discretion, while fools rage.

faceProverbs 14:33 – “Wisdom [spiritual insight, discernment and dependence on God] resteth [gives comfort; remains] in the heart [and mind] of him that hath understanding [godly discernment; prudence]: but that which is in the midst [in the heart of] of fools [hates knowledge; silly or stupid] is made known [perceived; declared].”

Men and women of godly wisdom find solace in the wisdom God has imparted to those who seek and revere Him (Proverbs 1:7).  While the wicked rage, their hearts full of bitterness and driven by jealousies (James 3:14-16), the purveyors of godly wisdom know the rest and peace God alone imparts (James 3:17-18).

It is the nature of fools to lack discretion in their words and ways.  Like the rich fool who boasts he will tear down his barns to amass more wealth and then “eat, drink, and be merry”, fools are often awakened to their folly only when death comes knocking (Luke 12:16-21).   regretLoud, boisterous, abandoning all propriety, fools boast, blind to the reality their lives, indeed, their very heartbeat resides in the hand of their Creator.

My friend, you may find temporal solace in the applause of other like-minded fools, but lasting peace belongs to those who fear the Lord and embrace the wisdom He alone imparts.

James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 13:1-3 – Bite Your Tongue

Power-of-wordsYou will notice that Proverbs 13 continues with Solomon’s familiar form—using the conjunction “but” to draw a contrast between two opposing thoughts. For today, we will focus on the power of the tongue to bless or to destroy.

Solomon exhorts his son to be a “wise son” and heed his father’s instructions, unlike the scorner who scoffs at loving discipline and correction (13:1).   Solomon exhorts his son to consider the influence of a man’s words and conversation.  Words are powerful and the force of them, for good or evil, can shadow a person for a lifetime!   wordsNotice that a man’s words can minister grace and kindness or provoke violence and conflict. Solomon writes:

Proverbs 13:2 – “A man shall eat [consume; devour] good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul [desire] of the transgressors shall eat violence.”

     

The words of a good man are a blessing, like fruit to a hungry soul.  However, the words of the wicked alienate and promote strife.  Many families have suffered alienation of loved ones and wasted precious years because of words spoken in anger and haste.  Comprehending the power of words, Solomon exhorts his son to guard his lips and restrain his mouth for the sake of his testimony and reputation.

Proverbs 13:3 – “He that keepeth [bridles; watches] his mouth keepeth [preserves] his life [Guard your lips]but he that openeth wide his lips [a big mouth; rash with words] shall have destruction [come to ruin].”

A man who opens his mouth without weighing his words sows the seeds that lead to his own destruction (13:3b).

tongueWhat a practical truth for us all.  We would spare our loved ones and ourselves a lot of sorrow if we would learn to bridle our lips!  Too many families have suffered irreparable harm because of ill-advised words and proud, unrepentant spirits.

James 1:26 – “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 6:14b, 15 – A lesson concerning the words, ways and woes of the wicked

liarWe noted in an earlier devotion that the words of the wicked are a reflection of the evil that controls their hearts.

Proverbs 6:12, 14a – “A naughty [wicked; evil] person, a wicked man [morally bankrupt] walketh with a froward [going the wrong way; crooked; perverted] mouth…14 Frowardness [perversity] is in his heart…”

Christ taught the same principle when He said, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart” (Matthew 15:18).  A “froward” mouth [perverse, crooked, wicked] reflects a “froward” heart.  Listen long enough to what a man says and you will know what is in his heart (Matthew 15:19).

In today’s devotion we find that a wicked heart is laid bare not only by a man’s words, but also by his “body language”.

Proverbs 6:13 – “He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;”

Solomon identifies three physical gestures that mark the manner of the fingerwicked. The first—the wicked “winketh with his eyes” (6:13a).

It is said the eye is the window to the soul and I have found the wicked often communicate mischief by winking consciously or blinking excessively subconsciously.  Because the wicked “winketh with his eye”, it behooves us to note a man’s eyes.  Is he able and willing to look you in the eye?  Does he look away to avoid eye contact?  Are his eyes half-shut indicating emotional detachment?  Are his eyes warm and inviting or cold and heartless?  The wicked “winketh with his eyes” (6:13a).

The wicked also “speaketh with his feet” (6:13b).  This may indicate a nervous, rapid tapping of the foot or an inability to sit still.  Some might describe this gesture as indicative of nervous energy or an agitated state.

The third gesture of the wicked is “he teacheth with his fingers” (6:13c).  This is not a reference to modern sign language, but a use of the finger or fist in a threatening manner.  The wicked not only has a wagging tongue, he has a wagging finger!  Our 21st century equivalent might be making the gesture of a gun with the hand while pointing the index finger at another.

We have noted the words of the wicked and the ways of the wicked.  In closing I invite you to notice the woe of the wicked—his tragic end.

tragedyProverbs 6:15 – “Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.”

The wicked are by nature brazen, threatening and vindictive; however, they will inevitably face God’s justice—either on this earth or in eternity.  The wicked often come to a sudden and calamitous end.  Physical disease or accidents often cut short the life of the wicked.  Because his words and ways drive away those who love him, the wicked are often haunted by depression, loneliness and abandonment.  Desperation often seizes upon his soul and tragedy often marks his demise [“suddenly…broken without remedy” – 6:15].

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith