Tag Archives: Tongue

“Joy to the World, the LORD is Come!” (Psalm 97; Psalm 98)

Scripture reading – Psalm 97; Psalm 98

Today’s Scripture readings, Psalm 97 and Psalm 98, have a prophetic application. I suggest that both of the psalms are depictions of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 97 – The LORD on His Throne (97:1-6)

Psalm 97 opens with the LORD reigning as King, and the inhabitants of the earth rejoicing (97:1). Christ is presented in His majesty, and His judgment is described as one of righteousness and judgment (97:2).  He is  just, and holy, for “fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about” (97:3). The earth trembles, and nothing can stand in His “presence” (literally, the person), for God is holy (97:4-5). Indeed, “the heavens declare [God’s] righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (97:6).

The Shame and Confusion of the Heathen (97:7)

When Christ reigns, the heathen who have worshipped and served “graven images” will find their idols are not gods at all. They are, in the words of the psalmist, “The work of men’s hands. 16They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; 17They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths” (Psalm 135:15-17).

The Rejoicing of the Saints of God (97:8-9)

When the people of Zion (i.e., Jerusalem), hear how the heathen have been confounded and put to shame, they will be glad and Judah will rejoice (97:8). There is none like the LORD, for He is exalted, “high above all the earth… [and] above all gods” (97:9).

The Righteous and God’s Blessings (97:10-12)

How do the righteous prove their love for the LORD? They “hate evil” (97:10a), the evil way, and the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). They love the LORD, and keep their feet far from wickedness.

Because God loves the righteous, He preserves them (guards; watches over). Though the righteous find themselves hated, and even persecuted, the LORD will in the end save the righteous “out of the hand of the wicked” (97:10). To the righteous, the LORD gives light, and He rejoices the heart (97:11-12).

Psalm 98 – “Sing unto the LORD a New Song”

Psalm 98, like Psalm 97, is a reflection on the Second Coming of Christ, and inspired Isaac Watts’ memorable hymn, “Joy to the World” (although sung at services reflecting on Christ’s birth, it is in fact a celebration of Christ’s Second Coming). Psalm 98 is an invitation to believers to worship the LORD in song, and rejoice in His salvation and righteousness (98:2).

First Stanza: “Sing unto the LORD a new song” (98:1-3)

What is this “new song?” It is a song of victory, and praise to the LORD for His strength and power (98:1-2a). It is a song of redemption, and a praise to God for His grace (98:2b). It is a song of rejoicing that the LORD is faithful, and He had not forgotten Israel (98:3).

Second Stanza: A Call to all Nations to Worship the LORD (98:4-6)

The musicians in the Temple were Levites, and were trained, skilled, and dedicated musicians. The sound of their voices and instruments was not noise (98:4), but an energetic expression in music and song. The “joyful noise” and the “loud noise” was a “shout,” or cry or triumph (98:4, 6).

The music of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was not meant to entertain the congregation. The focus of the music was the LORD, and His holiness was reflected in both the message (words) and the music. Accompanied on string instruments (the harp, vs. 5) and wind instruments (trumpets and coronet, vs. 6), the focus of worship was “the LORD, the King” (98:6).

Third and Final Stanza: A Call to Creation to Worship the LORD (98:7-9)

Only when creation is freed from the curse of sin, and the LORD ushers in His millennial kingdom, will all creation rejoice (98:7-8). Romans 8:18-25 reveals the devastating effect man’s sin has had upon creation, and the world will not be delivered “from the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21) until the Second Coming of Christ.

Closing thoughts – Violent storms, earthquakes, and yes, pandemics, remind us that “creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22). When Christ comes again, He will right the wrongs, and judge the earth in His righteousness (98:9). Think about that the next time you sing:

“Joy to the World, the LORD is Come!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

I Shall Not Be Moved! (Psalm 62; Psalm 64)

Scripture reading – Psalm 62; Psalm 64

There is a familiar refrain in today’s Scripture reading, and it is like many of the psalms authored by David. While I cannot say with certainty the occasion that inspired Psalm 62 and Psalm 64, the subject and content fit the trauma and sorrow he suffered when Absalom led a rebellion against him. Each of the psalms afford us an insight into the wicked bent of men, and their nature. The devotional is taken from Psalm 62. [* Use of brackets indicates the amplification of the author.]

David’s Confidence in the LORD in Times of Trouble (62:1-2)

Though hated by his son, and hunted by those who would kill him, David declared his faith in the LORD, saying:

Psalm 62:1–21Truly [Surely] my soul waiteth [rests] upon God: From him cometh my salvation [help]. 2He [God] only is my rock [fortress] and my salvation; He is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved [not stagger or falter].

Driven from his palace, and hunted by evil men, David’s faith stilled his soul, providing him solace and presenting him rest. If ever there was a man who had cause for a “panic attack” or paralyzing anxieties, it was David. And yet, he was confident the LORD was his Rock, his Fortress, his Salvation, and his sure Defense. With boldness the king proclaimed, “I shall not be greatly moved” (62:2).

Evil Preys Upon Weakness (62:3-4)

David’s song invites you to consider the moral decline of men, and how they prey upon those they seek to destroy.

Psalm 62:3–43How long will ye imagine mischief [lit. verbally assault, shout] against a man? Ye shall be slain[struck down; killed]  all of you: As a bowing [bending] wall shall ye be, and as a tottering [broken] fence. 4They [the wicked] only consult [plan; plot] to cast him down from his excellency [dignity; high character]: They delight [take pleasure] in lies: They bless [praise] with their mouth, but they curse [disdain] inwardly. Selah.

Stop for a moment and meditate on what David revealed about the ways of the wicked. Although his reflections were recorded 3,000 years ago, nothing has changed! What he described as the character of evil men is mirrored everywhere in our world today. Politicians, liberal media, and powerbrokers do not hesitate to lie, distort, and destroy the character of good men and women.

The wicked probe for a man’s weakness, and if they find it, they attack him with a vengeance. If they are unable to find a fault, they will court your favor, pretend to be your friend, and curse you behind your back.

Closing thoughtsWhat can we take from Psalm 62?

It is the nature of evil men to sting a good man’s reputation with lies, and assault his character. We should not be surprised when a godly man is attacked by those whose intent is to break his spirit, and bring him to shame.

What hope is there for believers when they are cruelly attacked? David answers that question in the balance of Psalm 62, and I will offer a brief summary: Wait on the LORD, and hope in Him (62:5). Remember, He is your Rock, Fortress, and Salvation (62:6). “8Trust in him at all times…Pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (62:8). Know that all men, “the lowly, and the high [powerful],” are deluded, empty shells, and are “lighter than vanity” (62:9). Never put your faith or confidence in men (62:10).

Remember: God will render “to every man according to his work” (62:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD, My Creator and my God (Psalm 104) – Part 2

Scripture reading – Psalm 103; Psalm 104

The author of Psalm 104 though unknown, he continues the spirit of worship and praise, focusing upon God as the Creator, provider, and sustainer of creation.

This devotional is the second of two devotionals for today. The first focused on Psalm 103. This devotional will consider Psalm 104.

Psalm 104 – Creation is God’s Glory on Display

Psalm 104 needs little explanation or commentary. Its simplicity, and beauty can inspire saint and sinner to contemplate the earth, sun, stars, and planets, and understand that all creation is a testimony of God’s person and existence. The pen of the author sings the praises of the LORD, saying, “1Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty” (104:1).

Psalm 104 unfolds much like the timeline of the first five days of creation (Genesis 1).

The first day of creation, God’s light, His shekinah glory stretched across the heavens (104:2), and He made the heavens His abode (104:3; Genesis 1:1-5). (Take time to look up into the sky, and ponder the majesty of God). In the words of the psalmist, “[He] maketh the clouds his chariot: Who walketh upon the wings of the wind” (104:3).

The second day of creation is described as the day the LORD “laid the foundations of the earth” (104:5; Genesis 1:6-8; Job 38:4). How did this ancient psalmist know “the waters stood above the mountains” in the beginning? God revealed to him that He had spoken in the beginning, and the waters were separated from the dry land (104:6-9). In case you have ever wondered how the vast waters of the ocean are held in place by the sands on the seashore, the Creator “hast set a bound that they [waters] may not pass over; That they turn not again to cover the earth” (104:9).

On the third day of creation, God sent fresh waters throughout the earth, where the thirst of beasts might be quenched (104:10-11), and to water the grasses, vegetables, and trees of the earth (104:10-18). Then, on the fourth day of creation, God set the stars, the sun, and moon in place, and by them the days, and season were set (104:19-23).

Pondering the creation of the fifth day, the psalmist exclaimed, “24O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: The earth is full of thy riches” (104:24). God created the teeming creatures of the seas on the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-23), and made provision for their food (104:24-30). The psalmist observed, it is the LORD who gives, and takes life (104:29), and He has made provision to renew the earth (104:30).

The subject of creation concludes in Psalm 104 with the fifth day.

The psalmist did not detail the events of the sixth day when God created life on dry land (Genesis 1:24-25), and made man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27); nor did he consider the seventh day when God rested (Genesis 2:1-3).

Rather than consider man, the height of God’s creation, the focus of the psalm turned to contemplating the glory of God displayed in His creation: “31The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: The Lord shall rejoice in his works” (104:31).

Closing thoughts: Having considered all God had created, the psalmist burst out with song: “33I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (104:33-34).

Take a few moments, and ponder the glory of creation, and remember, it is a display of your Creator’s glory. Let us join with the psalmist, and lift up our voices and say,

“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (103:34).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Treasures of the Wicked are Fleeting, But the Righteous Will Behold the Face of God (Psalm 17)

Scripture reading – Psalm 17

Psalm 17 is titled, “A Prayer of David.” We cannot be certain what occasion served as the background for the psalm; however, the fervency of the prayer leaves no doubt its inspiration came from a time of grave danger in David’s life. The previous Scripture reading, 1 Samuel 26-27, could serve as a fitting setting for the prayer. Consider the following outline for Psalm 17.

A plea for justice (17:1-4) – David asserted his rightness before the LORD, and his desire for Him to hear his cry for help. His enemies had accused him of wrongdoing, and deceiving the king, Saul’s heart had turned against him. Although he was falsely accused, David took comfort knowing the LORD is omniscient (17:2). His concern was not the judgment of men, but the justice of God (17:3). With humility, he declared the LORD had tested and tried his heart, and found nothing! As a man of integrity, he had determined in his heart that he would “not transgress” in word, or action (17:4).

A prayer for grace (17:5-6) – Though his enemies plotted to destroy him, it was David’s prayer that the LORD would grant him grace and favor, and keep his feet on the right path (17:5; 37:23). With faith in the LORD, he asserted, “6I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God” (17:6).

An entreaty for protection (17:7-12) – Desiring to be an object of God’s goodness (17:7a), and to be saved from his enemies (17:7b), David prayed, 8Keep me as the apple [pupil] of the eye… hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (17:8b). Recounting the malicious intent of his enemy (17:9-11; 1 Samuel 26), David described the king as “a lion that is greedy of his prey, [and] a young lion lurking in secret places” (17:12).

A petition for vindication (17:13-14) – With righteous indignation, David called upon the LORD to exact His justice on the wicked (17:13), reminding him that all men, even the wicked are in the hand of God to do as He will. He considered how the wicked are “men of the world, which have their portion in this life” (17:14). Their treasures are earthly, and when they are dead, they “leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (17:14).

A recitation of hope and thanksgiving – “15As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (17:15).

David looked beyond the grave, and with eyes of faith, declared with confidence, the righteous will “awake” and behold the face of God (17:15). The word “awake,” describes the resurrection of believers from the dead. When Jesus announced He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He said, “I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). Paul encouraged believers whose loved ones had died, “14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

For believers, physical death is a “shadow” (Psalm 23:4), a veil through which we will pass, comforted by the presence of the LORD. For the lost, death is the dreadful beginning of perpetual darkness, and eternal suffering. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Slander and Lies are the Haunt of the Righteous, But the LORD Delivers Them. (Psalm 7)

Scripture reading – Psalm 7

Scholars believe David wrote Psalm 7 as a reflection on a time he had become the object of slander and lies. The occasion of the psalm is stated in its title, and was composed regarding the attacks of one Cush the Benjamite. Who he was, or the reason for his malicious attack is not known; however, considering King Saul was a Benjamite, Cush’s motive for slandering David might have been fueled by his jealousy for the king. It must have been Cush’s proximity to the king that gave credence to his slanders, and subtly undermined David’s strained relationship with Saul.

Slandered, and accused of disloyalty, David appealed to the LORD for justice and vindication. (Note – the words in brackets are the amplification of this author.)

David’s Appeal to the LORD (7:1-2)

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, while there is none to deliver [save].

It was not David’s body, but his soul that was to endure the attacks of those who would tear and shred his reputation (7:2).  The attacks of an enemy are often deep and personal, leaving a leader feeling alone and vulnerable. In his sorrow, David cried out to the LORD, “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust” (7:1).

David’s Cry for Justice and Vindication (7:3-9)

Psalm 7:3-5 – “O LORD my God, if I have done this [the wrong of which he was accused]; if there be iniquity [wickedness; unrighteousness] in my hands; 4  If I have rewarded [recompensed; compensated] evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered [take off; plundered] him that without cause 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 the protestations of one’s innocence are usually to no avail. Many will believe the slander of a leader, rather than give weight to a lifetime of faithfulness.  Accusers will attack one’s character, and assault his reputation, but the righteous must determine to trust the Lord for vindication. Such vindication is often a process of years, not days or months.

Psalm 7:6-8 – “Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up [go forth, as one to meet an enemy] thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake [stir up; raise up; incite] for me to the judgment [execute justice] thatthou hast commanded [charged; appointed]. 7  So shall the congregation of the people compass thee [the LORD] about: for their sakes [the sake of the people] therefore return [return again] thou on high [to dispense justice]. 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 the LORD to be the judge of his enemies, and the vindicator of his rightness and integrity.

Psalm 7:9 – “Oh let the wickedness [sin; evil] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] come to an end [cease; fail]; but establish [confirm] the just: for the righteous [just; lawful] God trieth [proves; tests; examines] the hearts and reins [i.e., mind; inward parts].” *

David made two requests in verse 9: 1) That the wicked would fail in their designs to destroy him. 2) That God, knowing his heart, would affirm his integrity, and establish his testimony.

Application: As you read this devotional, you may be on the verge of quitting. You may have suffered unjust attacks, and now bear the sorrow as one betrayed by those whom you trusted. At such a time, it is normal to feel abandoned, and alone; however, I encourage you to follow David’s example. Cry out to the LORD, knowing He is just, and will vindicate His servant in due time.

Be sure your sin will find you out! (7:10-17)

We find several insights into God’s nature in today’s study. The first, God is just (7:10-13).

Psalm 7:10-11 – My defence [shield] is of God, which saveth [delivers; preserves; gives victory] the upright [righteous; just] in heart [mind; understanding]. 11 God judgeth [pleads the cause; vindicates] the righteous [lawful; innocent], and God is angry [enraged; indignant] with the wicked every day.

David reminded himself, God is always Just in His dealings with the righteous and the wicked.  He hears the cry of the upright, and comes to the defence of the righteous. He is their shield and deliverer (7:10).  He vindicates the cause of the righteous, but the wicked provoke his anger (7:11). Indeed, let the wicked be forewarned: God is angry with them every day!

Psalm 7:12-13 – If he [the wicked] turn not [do not repent], he [God] will whet [sharpen] his sword; he [God] hath bent [draw; bend; string the bow] his bow, and made it ready [prepared].  13 He [God] hath also prepared [readied] for him [the wicked] the instruments [weapons; vessels] of death; he [God] ordaineth [prepares] his arrows against the persecutors [i.e., those in pursuit].

Warning: Should the wicked continue in their ways, and refuse to repent, God promises to act as both judge and executioner (7:12-13).

Another truth is, the wicked will suffer the consequences of their sin (7:14-16).

Psalm 7:14-16 – Behold, he [the wicked] travaileth [struggles; labors] with iniquity [wickedness; sorrow], and hath conceived [i.e., planned; plotted] mischief [sin; trouble; sorrow], and brought forth [delivered; given birth to] falsehood [untruth; lies; untruths]. 15 He [the wicked] made [digged] a pit [trap; hole], and digged [search out; pry; explore] it, and is fallen [cast down; abandon] into the ditch [pit; grave] which he [the wicked] made. 16 His [the wicked] mischief [sin; iniquity; wickedness] shall return [go back] upon his own head, and his violent [cruelty; wrong] dealing shall come down [descend] upon his own pate [scalp; crown of his head].

The wicked take pleasure in sin for a season; however, they inevitably find that choices have consequences!  The wicked reject God, despise His Word, and scorn His people. They plot against the saints, and through lies, deceit and wickedness assert their sinful ways and philosophies. They are spiritually blind to the reality that a just God will not withhold His judgment forever.  In the words of Moses to Israel, the wicked can be assured, “your sin will find you out” (Number 32:23).

Psalm 7 concludes with a doxology of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD, for He is always just!

Psalm 7:17I will praise [give thanks] the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God] according to his righteousness [justice; righteous cause]: and will sing praise [sing psalms] to the name [reputation; memory]of the LORD most high [Supreme; i.e., in the highest].

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Opportunity Lost Might Never Be Reclaimed (Numbers 14-15; Psalm 90)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 14-15; Psalm 90

Caleb had urged the people to “go up…we are well able” (13:30); however, the bad report of the ten spies prevailed (13:31), and the people began to murmur against the LORD, Moses, and Aaron (14:1-2).

A spirit of insurrection broke out among the people, and they accused the LORD of bringing them into the wilderness to die (14:3). As Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the people, Joshua exhorted them to trust the LORD (14:5-9).  As the people threatened to stone Moses and Aaron, the LORD suddenly appeared in a display of His heavenly glory and majesty (14:10b).

Moses pled for the LORD to spare Israel for His own testimony among the heathen (14:11-16).

Modeling a believer’s prayer of faith, Moses rehearsed the character and divine attributes of the LORD, praying, “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression…Pardon…the iniquity of this people” (14:18-19; note Psalm 90).

The LORD spared the people from immediate judgment; however, the consequences of their faithlessness would be borne by the people as they were commanded to turn from the Promised Land and go into the wilderness (14:20-23).  Condemned to wander aimlessly in the wilderness for forty years, only two men of that generation older than twenty years of age would enter the land, Caleb and Joshua (14:24-35).

The ten spies who brought the faithless report were immediately slain (14:36-37). The next morning, a remorseful company of Israelites endeavored to enter the Promised Land without the LORD and were slain (14:40-45).

Numbers 15 rehearses the matter of the Law and sacrifices.

Whether one was a native-born Israelite (15:13) or a “stranger” not of Abraham’s lineage (15:14), there was “one law and one manner” when it came to the law and sacrifices (15:13-16).  A distinction is also given differentiating between unintentional sins (“sins of ignorance”) (15:24-29) and intentional sins (15:30-31). An example of the LORD’S justice and the law’s demand is given when one man was guilty of breaking the Sabbath and was stoned (15:32-36).

Psalm 90 is a prayer of intercession and song of praise authored by Moses and is the oldest of the psalms. For the sake of brevity, we will focus on one verse.

Psalm 90:12 – “So teach [help us to know and understand] us to number [make them count] our days [time], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom [discernment; i.e. wise in decisions and choices].”

How different would your life be if you knew the number of your days before you die?

I fear there are many things we allow to consume us that are trivial at best.  The same is true of moments and opportunities we should treasure, but we treat as trivial.  Whether young or old, every day is a gift of God’s loving grace and should be numbered and treasured.

Won’t you set aside pettiness and treasure the life and opportunities God gives you today?  Love the LORD and love your neighbor (Luke 10:27).  Express in your words and actions:

“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Character of a Holy People” (Leviticus 19-21)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 19-21

* This is the first of two devotionals for today’s scripture reading.

Leviticus 19 introduces a detail review of the commandments of the LORD beginning with the sum of all the commandments: Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

From that command flows a series of laws that define the essence of what it means to be a holy, sanctified, people. For brevity, I will offer a summary of three series of commandments (19:9-37).

Leviticus 19:9-18 – Moral Guidelines Concerning One’s Neighbor

A holy people will:

19:3 – Fear and revere father and mother and keep the Sabbath holy.

19:4 – Not worship idols

19:9-10 – Be compassionate to the poor

19:13 – Pay day laborers their earned wages at the close of a work day

19:14 – Show kindness to the disadvantaged (deaf and blind)

19:15 – Be impartial in judgment

19:16-17 – Not gossip, slander, or hate another

19:18 – “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Leviticus 19:19-32 – Natural Laws

A holy people will:

19:20-22 – Not disgrace a slave

19:29 – Shelter and protect a daughter’s virtue

19:32 – Stand in reverence and honor the elderly

Leviticus 19:33-37 – Judicial Matters

A holy people will:

19:33-34 – Be compassionate and loving to a stranger and a foreigner

19:35-36 – Be fair and just in business and commercial matters

God’s command for His people to be holy is practical, instructive, and clearly stated. 

21st century believers would do well to recognize the LORD’S command for His people to be holy touches every area of life…marriage, family, neighbor, employee\employer, even business principles of just and fairness.

How do you measure up to God’s holy standard?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Sinning against another is a sin against God! (Leviticus 5-7)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 5-7

Today’s study in the book of Leviticus continues its exposition and explanation of the sacrifices required for sin; each reminding us sin is an offense against the LORD and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Various sins are identified in Leviticus 5 and the prerequisite sacrifice for each sin. Leviticus 5:1 speaks to the sin of failing to speak truth and thus concealing the sin and crime of another (perhaps in a judicial sense where one is called to testify as a witness).  Similar to our own court system where one is asked to swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Cleanliness is urged and contact with the carcass of a dead beast was forbidden under the Law. Unlike ancient Israel, today we understand the health risks of being defiled (infected) by a dead animal and why the LORD forbade it (5:2-3).

Inconsiderate, thoughtless words and conversation is also condemned and sacrifices were required of all who swore and spoke with haste (5:4-13).

The Trespass Offerings is the subject of Leviticus 5:14-6:7. You will notice a principle of “restitution plus one-fifth.” Why?

Saying “I’m sorry” is not enough in God’s perfect justice system.

The first sin demanding a trespass offering plus “one-fifth” is spiritual misappropriation: A sinner taking that which another dedicated to the Lord.

For instance: A priest might fall prey to embezzling…taking for himself what another had offered as a sacrifice.  Such a sin demanded not only restitution, but also giving one-fifth more above what was taken (5:14-16).

Other sins demanding sacrifice and restitution were lying and dishonesty (6:1-2), finding another’s property, but concealing the fact (6:3), and violently cheating one of his property.  All sins committed with foreknowledge required not only sacrifice, but also restitution above what was pilfered (6:4). Similar to an assessment of loss and damages in the American Judicial System.

Laws concerning burnt offerings are expressed in Leviticus 6:8-13.  Reminding us the believer is to be ever in a spirit of prayer, we read: “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (6:13)

Leviticus 7 – The “trespass offering” and the “peace offering”

The “peace offering” served as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for God’s grace and provision (Leviticus 7:11-21).  The sacrifice of oxen or cattle is prescribed accompanied by offerings of “unleavened cakes…unleavened wafers…and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fired” (Leviticus 7:12).  The portions of the “peace offering” not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their consumption.

Remembering the blood was a testament to the punishment of sin, the “fat of the beast” and “blood” portions of the offerings were not to be eaten (Leviticus 7:22-27). Blood was not to be consumed because it was the means and object of atonement (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).

Consuming the “fat of the beast” or the “blood” necessitated a sinner “be cut off from his people” (7:25, 27); a punishment that could extend so far as death.

What have we learned?

Sinning against someone requires not only sincere confession, but “restitution plus” may be necessary to make them whole and restore fellowship.

Have you sinned against someone and not sought forgiveness?  Without confession and restitution for the harm you have caused, your broken fellowship may follow you to your grave.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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