Tag Archives: Tongue

The Tongue and Its Nature (James 3)

Scripture reading – James 3

Our study of the Epistle of James continues with chapter 3, and the focus is three major themes of the book: Trials, Temptations, and the Tongue. Wonderfully practical and convicting, the overriding subject is the tongue and the trouble it is for all mankind.

A Warning to Teachers (3:1)

James 3 opens with a warning to all who aspire to be teachers: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1). The word “master” is in essence the teacher (an experienced professor may be called a “master teacher”). James included himself in the admonition, saying, we [teachers]shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1b). Because the tongue is the tool of all who teach, James warned: We will face God’s greater judgment.

The Tongue: Its Characteristics and Dangers (3:2-12)

The author identified man’s tongue as an instrument for both good and evil. The tongue has the power to bless or curse, to affirm or offend, and to cause some to err. In fact, the tongue is so powerful and influential, only a “perfect man” (one mature and spiritually disciplined) has the power to restrain and bridle his tongue (3:2).

Though small, the tongue boasts much and has power and influence. Consider two analogies James drew upon to illustrate the influence of the tongue. The first compares the tongue to a small bit in the mouth of a horse. Small in size, the horse’s bit has the power to harness the strength and direct the will of the horse to submit to the authority of its rider (3:3). The same is true of the rudder of a ship (3:4). Though a small mechanism in proportion to the ship, the rudder can guide a massive vessel through “fierce winds” and troubled seas.

The application: What the bit is in the horse’s mouth, and the rudder is to a ship, so is the tongue to mankind. Though small, the tongue can boast, and destroy lives, marriages, families, and institutions (3:5). “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity [evil]: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth [inflames] the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (3:6). Like a spark can turn into a raging forest fire, so the tongue unchecked can destroy everyone and everything.

The tongue of man is also restless, and untamed (3:7-8). Men have been able to capture and tame different “beasts…birds…serpents, and of things in the sea,” but man has never been able to tame his tongue (3:7-8a). Why? For the tongue is by nature, “an unruly evil” and full of venomous poison (3:8b). Treacherous and hypocritical by nature, men pretend to bless God, and curse men; yet, man is made in the likeness and “after the similitude of God” (3:9b). James then declared, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10).

Three Things that Cannot Be (3:10-12)

To illustrate the intolerable nature of a tongue that pretends to worship God, and curse men, James proved his point with three things that are unnatural. The first, it is unnatural for a water fountain to spew both sweet and bitter water. It is impossible for a fig tree to bear olives, or a vine to bear figs (3:12a). Finally, it is impossible for a fountain to “produce salt water and fresh” (3:12b).

A Contrast Between Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom (3:13-16)

This passage began with an admonition to teachers (3:1), and I suppose the “wise man” in the passage is the teacher. Consider then, teachers with heavenly wisdom will epitomize three qualities: Their conversation [not just their words, but their ways] should uphold the highest, moral good, and their works should reflect meekness, and wisdom (3:13b).

Worldly wisdom is the antithesis of heavenly wisdom—it is neither good, nor wise. The wisdom of the world spues bitterness, and envy (3:14a). The wisdom of man is selfish, ambitious, proud, and deceitful (3:14b). Such wisdom is born in the bowels of the hearts of evil men, and is worldly and demonic. The Spirit of God does not abide envy and strife (3:15). Warning: Reject implementing the Word of God and confusion and evil will prevail (3:16).

Closing thoughts (3:17-18) – True wisdom has it source in God, and its character reflects His nature. True wisdom is morally pure, peaceable (pursues peace with others), gentle (kind, patient), reasonable (“easy to be intreated”), merciful (compassionate, caring), bears “good fruits” (caring, loving actions), is impartial and just(“without partiality”), and honest and sincere (“without hypocrisy)” (3:17).

What is the effect of godly wisdom? Righteousness [obeying God’s law and commandments] that results in peace with God and others (3:18).

Are you wise or foolish? Which wisdom is characteristic of your heart and life?

* 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.

Persevering in Trials, and Overcoming Temptations (James 1; James 2)

Scripture reading – James 1; James 2

Our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures continues with a brief departure from our readings in the Acts of the Apostles, and picks up in the book of James. Completing our prior study of Acts 14, we found Paul and Barnabas returning from their first missionary journey to towns and cities in Asia Minor (an area we know today as modern Turkey). Jews and Gentiles were professing faith in Christ, being baptized, and added to the church daily. That diversity, Jew and Gentile (many of them of Greek and Roman backgrounds), introduced differences that arose between the circumcised Jews and the uncircumcised Gentiles. (That will be a topic of study in Acts 15, when Paul and Barnabas journey to Jerusalem and account for their ministries to Gentiles.)

Why interrupt our study of the Book of Acts, and focus on the Epistle of James? That question is answered by identifying its author.

Introduction (1:1)

The “Epistle of James” is a letter that bears the name of its author. The writer introduced himself and his recipients in the opening verse: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [the Tribes of Israel] which are scattered abroad [dispersed], greeting [rejoice; be glad]” (James 1:1).

With humility, James identified himself as “a servant,” a slave to “God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). There are several men identified as James in the New Testament; however, this James did not feel the need to introduce himself, perhaps because he needed no introduction. By the time this epistle was penned, the apostle James, brother of John and the son of Zebedee was martyred (Acts 12:2), and thereby eliminating him as the author. Most scholars identify the writer as James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), being born of Joseph and Mary. We know James and his siblings were not followers of Jesus until after His crucifixion, death and resurrection (John 7:5). Acts 1:14, however, identified Jesus’ “brethren” among those who assembled in “an upper room” after He ascended to heaven.

This same James was recognized as a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). In a future devotional, Paul and Barnabas will give account to the believers in Jerusalem, and it will be this James who addressed the assembly (Acts 15:13) of apostles and elders. James was also mentioned by name with leaders of the church in Acts 21:18. The letter was addressed “to the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad” (some of the captivity who never returned to Israel, and others recently scattered by persecution, 1:1b). You will find the Epistle of James is practical, insightful, and convicting.

A Righteous Attitude Toward Trials and Temptations (1:2-4)

James opened his letter with a bold exhortation for believers: “My brethren, count [regard; judge] it all joy [a cause for rejoicing] when ye fall [stand in the midst of] into divers [various] temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying [testing] of your faith [what you believe] worketh [performs; works out; produces] patience [steadfastness; endurance]. But let patience [steadfastness; endurance] have her perfect [maturing; complete] work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire [complete], wanting nothing [i.e. lacking not one thing]” (James 1:2–4).

Means to Overcome Trials and Temptations (1:5-12)

What should you do when you face hardships and persecution? Ask God for wisdom (1:5), trust Him (never give in to doubts and fears, 1:6), and rejoice (1:9). Whether you are brought low by poverty, or tempted to be exalted and dependent on riches, remember wealth is temporal (like grass that withers, or flowers that fade, 1:10-11). Do not forget, the person who loves the LORD will be blessed, when he endures trials (1:12).

Origin of Trials and Temptations (1:13-18)

Among the great truths we might take from trials and troubles, is foremost the promise God will never tempt you to sin (1:13). In fact, when you are tempted to sin, remember temptations arise from within the heart: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (1:14). Some might whine, “the devil tempted me;” however, the appeal to sin arises from lust seeded in the heart of sinners, and comes with a death sentence: “sin, when it is finished bringeth for death” (1:15).

The effect of lust and sin is death (Hebrews 9:27). Sin deals a death-blow to marriages, families, careers, hopes, and one’s health. Sin ends with physical, spiritual, and eternal death (Romans 6:23). Remember: God is the source of only good (1:16-18).

Closing thoughts (1:19-27) – How might believers prepare for trials and temptations? I find three major principles that answer that question in the closing verses of James 1.

1) Be Quick to Hear the Word of God, and Slow to Speak (1:19-21). In other words, obey God’s Word (1:19), restrain your anger (1:20), and renounce any sin that comes between you and God (1:21).

2) Be a Doer of the Word, not a Hearer Only (1:22-24). Hearing, but failing to obey God’s Word ends in self-deception (1:22). The Word of God is a perfect, flawless spiritual mirror of man’s soul, if he will remember what it reveals, and obey its truths.

3) Bridle Your Tongue (1:26). Some appear pious, and spiritually devout; however, if they do not bridle their tongues, they are self-deceived and their religion is vain and empty.

A devotional study of James 2 will need to wait for another year.; however, I conclude our study of James 1, by spotlighting the qualities of a sincere heart: Selfless and compassionate (caring for orphans and widows), and unstained by the sins of the world (1:27).

How’s your heart?

* 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.

Hallelujah, Praise the LORD! (Psalm 147)

Scripture reading – Psalm 147

Psalm 147 is thought to have been written after Israel had returned from the Babylonian captivity; however, neither the occasion or the author is revealed. The mention of the city of Jerusalem being built, and the “outcasts of Israel” being gathered (147:2), gives good cause to believe the psalm was most likely written about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Psalm 147 is a song of worship and praise to the LORD for Who He is, both in His person and divine attributes. We find three distinct calls for the people to worship the LORD (147:1, 7, 12), and the reason for the people to praise the LORD.

Men Should Praise and Worship the LORD (147:2-3)

It was the LORD who made rebuilding Jerusalem possible when it had been destroyed by Babylon; and it was He Who moved the heart of King Cyrus to bless the Israelites, and release them to return to their land (147:2; Ezra 1). The LORD was able to heal the sorrows of the oppressed, and bind up the wounds of the afflicted (147:3).

Who Is the LORD? (147:4-10)

He is the God of heaven, and is able to do what no man can do, for “He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names” (147:4). Our God is omnipotent, omniscient, compassionate, and just in His judgments (147:5-6).

We should give thanks to the LORD, and praise Him in both song and with instruments for He is the Creator, and nature bows to His command and will (147:7-11). He is the sustainer of the earth, and paints the clouds in the sky, sends “rain for the earth,” and makes the “grass to grow upon the mountains” (147:8). He provides food, not only for man, but for the beast of the field, and the birds of the air (147:9).

In what does the Creator delight?

God takes no joy “in the strength of the horse,” or in the physical strength of man (147:10). He delights in men who fear and revere Him, and put their hope and trust in His mercy (147:11).

We should praise the LORD! He is Sovereign of the earth, and what He has spoken will come to pass (147:15-18). Nature obeys the Creator’s voice, and He sends the snow, the frost, and the hail (147:16-17). God speaks, and the ice melts, the wind blows, and the streams flow with water (147:18).

The LORD chose Israel and revealed His word to Jacob (the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel), and His “statutes and His judgments unto Israel” [Law and Commandments] (147:19). He chose and revealed Himself to Israel, and apart from the witness of His people, the heathen had no knowledge of the LORD and “His judgments” (147:20).

Closing thoughts – Believer, the God whom the psalmist praised and worshiped, is your Creator, and the Sustainer of the universe. He knows the number and the names of the stars, and He loves to be revered, and feared by men who worship and praise Him!

Are you stressed, and burdened with many cares? Know it is the LORD Who heals the broken-hearted (147:3), and shows compassion for those who humble themselves. He is just, and will surely judge the wicked (147:6).

What more can be added, than to join the psalmist and shout, Hallelujah, “Praise ye the LORD” (147:20).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Temple, and the Veil of Separation (2 Chronicles 3)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 3

We continue our Scripture reading with 2 Chronicles 3, and an expanded record of Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem. We find in today’s reading pertinent details regarding the place where the Temple was built (3:1), and the time of its construction (3:2). Once again, the dimensions of the “house of God,” and its front porch are recorded, along with a stunning fact: Solomon had “overlaid it within with pure gold” (3:3-4).

The Temple’s magnificence was embellished with engravings, while the beams of the ceiling, doors and frames, and walls, were all overlaid in pure gold. Precious stones also added to the beauty of the LORD’S house of worship (3:5-7).

Beginning with 2 Chronicles 3:8, and continuing through 2 Chronicles 5:1, the Temple’s furnishings are stated and described, including the Holy of Holies, called “the most holy house” (3:8). The ark of the covenant, with its mercy seat representing the throne of God in heaven, was shadowed by two cherubim, carved from wood and overlaid with gold (3:10-13; the same was described in 1 Kings 6:23-28). The wingspan of the two cherubim is stated as a total of 20 cubits, or roughly 30 feet (3:11-13). Lest they become an object of idol worship, the cherubim, like sentries, faced inward, toward the Ark (3:13).

Not mentioned in 1 Kings 6, but described in 2 Chronicles 3, was “the vail of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon” (3:14). The vail in Solomon’s Temple was in color like the vail that had been present in the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:31), that separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies, where the Ark was set, from the outer chamber.

There were also two pillars that supported the front of the Temple, and were decorated with chains upon which were hung one hundred pomegranates (3:15-16). The pillars were named, but the meanings of the names are not known (3:17). A description of the furnishings will continue in our next devotional (2 Chronicles 4-5).

Closing thoughts – I conclude today’s devotional inviting you to consider the veil (i.e., vail) of the Temple (3:14). Though unmentioned in 1 Kings 6, the presence of the veil and its purpose was to serve as a divide, a curtain of separation that excluded all but the high priest from the holy place. None could enter the holy of holies and live, and only the high priest when he sprinkled the blood on the Day of Atonement on the mercy seat.

The veil was present in Herod’s Temple, until it was rent in two from the top to the bottom as Christ died upon the Cross (Matthew 27:50-51). Christ’s sacrificial death, and His resurrection from the dead, made the veil obsolete, and forever removed the curtain that separated sinners from the LORD. Christ’s death, and resurrection, made it possible for all who will repent, to approach God’s throne through the blood of Jesus Christ. In the words of the author of Hebrews:

Hebrews 4:15–1615For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Temple for the LORD (1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 2)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 2

Our study of God’s Word brings us to two parallel chapters in the Bible, 1 Kings 6 and 2 Chronicles 2 (We will conclude our readings of the Proverbs in a few days, but chronologically we are returning to the history of Israel in the time of King Solomon.)

You might remember both I and II Kings were written in the post-Davidic era, but before the Babylonian exile. The Chronicles (the first and second books) are believed to have been composed after Israel returned from exile. (Many scholars suggest they were the work of Ezra, inspired and preserved by God, 2 Peter 1:21). In an earlier devotion, I suggested the Book of the Kings gives us the human perspective on Israel’s history, while the Book of the Chronicles reflects God’s perspective on His chosen people.

Returning to our study of 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, we find Solomon setting his heart to build the Temple as he had been commanded by God. As a nation, Israel was at peace with her neighbors, and the wealth of the kingdom was unprecedented. David had longed to build a house for the LORD, but because his hands were bloodied from war, God had denied him the opportunity to build His Temple. Thus, the closing years of David’s life had been spent preparing his son, Solomon to build the Temple, while he dedicated himself to setting in store the gold, silver, and brass implements that would be utilized in the daily Temple worship.

Having been blessed with the gift of wisdom excelling all men of the earth (1 Kings 4:29-34), Solomon set his heart to build the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5).

After ascending the throne of Israel, Hiram, king of Tyre (a coastal city to the north of Israel, and in an area known today as Lebanon), sent ambassadors to Solomon to congratulate his anointing as king (5:1). The king of Tyre had been a dear friend of David, and had supplied timber for the king’s palace in Jerusalem.

Solomon wasted no time in petitioning for timber and workmen from Hiram’s kingdom, and requested the king might send him his finest artisans to assist in preparing the wood and stones required for constructing the Temple (5:2-7). Hiram agreed to Solomon’s request, and the two kings set terms for the goods and materials he had requested (5:8-18).

1 Kings 6 gives us the time Solomon began to build the Temple (6:1, 37-38), its dimensions (6:2-3), and design, including its windows (6:4), rooms (6:5-10), walls, floors (6:15-18), and doors (6:31-35). The extraordinary beauty of the carvings in the walls and floors overlaid with gold are detailed (6:15, 18, 21-22). Within the “oracle” (the Holy of Holies where the “ark of the covenant of the LORD” rested), Solomon placed two carved cherubim (estimated at nearly fifteen feet in height), their wings outstretched, spanning the breadth of the hall, each gilded with gold (6:19-28). With the foundation of the Temple laid in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, the construction of the Temple was completed in the eleventh year (6:37-38).

You will notice that 2 Chronicles 2 gives similar details to the preparations and building of the Temple we have considered in 1 Kings 6. There were thousands employed in the construction (2:17-18).

Closing thoughts – Together, the accounts of the construction of the Temple remind us the central focus of Israel was the LORD, and the beauty and presence of His house was a perpetual reminder of God’s presence in the midst of His people. Care was taken to sanctify, and dedicate every step in the process of building the Temple. All the labor and preparation of the materials used in the construction were cut and prepared outside of the Temple Mount, and then transported to be placed intact without the need or the noise of a hammer or axe in the holy city (6:7;Proverbs 24:27).

It was the desire of the LORD to bless Israel; but we are reminded the fulfillment of His promises was conditioned upon the people obeying His Laws and keeping His commandments (6:12). If Israel would obey Him, the LORD promised He would never forsake them (6:13).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Great! (Psalm 145; 1 Chronicles 26)

Scripture reading – Psalm 145; 1 Chronicles 26

1 Chronicles 26 – Porters, Guards, and Administrators

David’s census of the Levites continues in 1 Chronicles 26 with the assignment of men and families who would serve as “the porters” of the Temple (26:1-19). The “porters” were in fact gatekeepers, and the ancient equivalent of what churches today would describe as a security team.

How important were the porters? They were of the tribe of Levi, and chosen by the LORD to serve Him on behalf of Israel. It was their task to guard the entrances to the Temple, and be alert to thieves and enemies. They were extraordinary men, and were as serious about their tasks as the priests were theirs. The porters were described as “mighty men of valour” (26:6), “strong men” (26:7), and “able men” (26:8). They were assigned by families to gates (26:13-19), and there were twenty-four companies in all.

In addition to guarding the Temple, some Levite households were keepers of the Temple treasuries (26:20-28). These families were entrusted with securing the “treasures of the house of God, and [watched] over the dedicated things” (26:20). It was their task to secure the gifts offered by the people, and the “spoils won in battles” (26:20). The treasuries of the Temple were dedicated to the maintenance of “the house of the LORD” (26:27).

A third group of Levite families oversaw “the outward business over Israel, and were officers and judges” (26:29). By “outward business,” we are to understand it was the governing of the land outside the Temple. They were the counselors of the law to the king and his officers. They were “men of valour…in the service of the king” (26:30). Some were assigned to the tribes west of the Jordan River (26:30), while others were assigned to the tribes on the east side of the Jordan (26:32). Theirs was a sacred trust, “for every matter pertaining to God, and affairs of the king” (26:32).

Psalm 145 – A Psalm of Praise

Unlike many of the psalms of David we have studied, Psalm 145 is a triumphant psalm of praise, and its central focus is God’s character, and attributes. The psalm begins with David promising to praise the LORD every day, and forever (145:1-2).

Why should the LORD be praised? (145:3-20)

You will notice the balance of the psalm answers that question (145:3-20). We should praise the LORD because He is great (145:3), strong (145:4), gracious and compassionate. He is patient and merciful (145:8). He supports the weak (145:14), sustains all who look to Him for help (145:15), and provides for every living thing (145:16). The LORD is righteous, and holy (145:17). When you call upon Him, He is near (145:18). He answers prayer (145:19), and preserves all who love Him (145:20).

Closing thoughts – No wonder David ended the psalm, resolving, 21My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: And let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever” (145:21).

David modeled for believers the manner in which we should worship the LORD. We should not mindlessly “go through the motions,” giving little thought to the words of our prayers, or the songs of our praise. We should consciously meditate upon the great truths God has revealed about His character, and attributes, allowing who He is to passionately, and energetically prompt us to praise His name.

The LORD is great, and worthy of our praise!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Broke the Mold When He Made You! (Psalm 139)

Scripture reading – Psalm 139

Psalm 139 is titled, “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David,” and in my opinion, is one of the most profound of all the psalms. Some of the foundational doctrines of our faith are declared here, including the revelation that God is Omniscient (139:1-6), Omnipresent (139:7-12), and He is mankind’s Originator, meaning our Creator (139:13-16).

How important are those doctrines? They are essential, fundamental principles to the faith of all Bible believers. You see, what we believe concerning God’s attributes will dictate the answer to critical life questions: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? How should I live? Where am I going?” There is, within the heart of man, a longing for purpose, and a desire to find answers to those questions.

In the 19th century, Charles Darwin, a man who had rejected God as Creator, traveled the world seeking an alternative explanation for life, and the physical universe. The result was a book he titled, “Origin of Species” (1859), and a proposition that the world and life as we know it is the result of evolution. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, though rejected as impossible by many credible scientists, has continued to be taught as “science” in secular education institutions. Tragically, several generations of students have grown up under the influence of Darwinian evolution, and failed to grasp it is an unsubstantiated theory that demands blind faith. To date, not one proof of a species evolving to a different species has ever been discovered (nor ever will)!

What does the Bible reveal in this matter of God, and man?

God is Omniscient, and He knows all that is in the heart of man (139:1-6).

The LORD knows our fears, longings, thoughts, and desires (139:1a). There is nothing concealed from Him (139:2).  He knows our secrets, our ways, and every word we have ever uttered (139:2b-4).  He also savors the noble qualities of our life (139:5-6).

God is Omnipresent (139:7-12).  He abides in every part of his creation, and there is not a place where God is not present (139:7-8).

Psalm 139:7-8 – “Whither shall I go [walk; come] from thy spirit [God’s Spirit]? or whither shall I flee [i.e., be put to flight] from thy presence [face; countenance]? 8  If I ascend up into heaven [i.e., the sky above; the stars and planets], thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Sheol; grave; pit; place of the souls of the dead], behold, thou art there.”

Because He is omnipresent, we are never beyond the LORD’S protection, love, or mercies (139:9-10).  We can take flight, but we will never be beyond His grasp.

Psalm 139:9-10  – “If I take [depart; carried away on] the wings of the morning [dawn; first beams of morning light], and dwell [abide; remain; inhabit] in the uttermost parts [end; last] of the sea; 10  Even there [flight as fast as light or the depths of the sea] shall thy hand [power] lead [guide; bring] me, and thy right hand [i.e. considered to be the stronger side] shall hold [take hold; possess; handle; grasp] me.”

When the darkest hour of life is upon you, the light of the Lord is with you (139:11-12).

Psalm 139:11-12 – “If I say [speak], Surely the darkness [i.e. misery] shall cover [bruise; break; overwhelm] me; even the night shall be light [day; light] about me. 12  Yea, the darkness [i.e. misery] hideth [obscures] not from thee; but the night shineth [shines; enlightens; gives light]  as the day: the darkness [i.e. misery] and the light [luminous light] are both alike to thee.”

God is not only Omniscient and Omnipresent; He is also our Originator… Creator, Designer, Engineer, and Architect (139:13-16).

Psalm 139:13-16 reinforces one of the great “Right-to-Life” principles against abortion in the Scriptures. When we accept that God is Creator (Genesis 1:27), and the Giver of life (Genesis 2:7), and man is created in His image (a spiritual, eternal being), we must believe human life is sacred. Abortion is, therefore, an unconscionable evil; a sin against God and humanity.

God has sovereignly determined our uniqueness. (139:13)

Psalm 139:13 – For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; soul, seat of my desire and affections]: thou hast covered [knit; weave] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].

Every man, woman, boy, and girl is unique. You are one of a kind, and there is none other like you. Modern science has proven just how unique you are.  Did you know, your ears are geometrically unique to you, as is your body odor (secreting a combination of 44 compounds).  Your fingerprints, and fingernails are unique with loops and swirls that form patterns that are distinctive to you.  In fact, even the pores of your nose form a pattern like none other!

God has impressed on man’s soul a consciousness of his Creator’s hand and design. (139:14-15)

Psalm 139:14-15 – “I will praise [give thanks] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly] and wonderfully made[distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deeds]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well[exceedingly; greatly]. 15  My substance [strength; physical frame; bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret [mother’s womb], and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth [out of human sight].

Just think about it, from the moment your were conceived, your person and days were determined (139:16).

Psalm 139:16 – Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [body; frame; bones], yet beingunperfect [embryo; unformed mass in mother’s womb]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them [before one day of my life was past].”

Closing thoughts – You are God’s unique creation and He knows you.  He created you as a free will agent, and like Charles Darwin, you have the privilege and responsibility of your choices. Be forewarned: The ability to choose brings with it the consequences of that choice.

Remember: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“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