Tag Archives: Worship

Does the LORD Seem Distant? (Psalm 10)

Scripture reading – Psalm 10 

The author of Psalm 10 is not identified, and are we not given the historical context for the psalm. However, the subject of the psalm is evident, for the focus is on the pride and oppressive nature of the wicked. I invite you to consider two portraits of man found in Psalm 10. The first portrait is that of the wicked (10:2-11), and the second is a portrayal of the righteous, and their appeal to the LORD (10:1, 12-16).

The Astonishment of the Righteous (Psalm 10:1)

When facing a wicked foe, the psalmist felt as if he had been abandoned by the LORD. He questioned, Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble [anguish; distress; adversity]?” (10:1) Facing an enemy whose desire was to hurt, and destroy him, the psalmist despaired, and felt the LORD was far from him in his hour of need.

The Will of the Wicked (10:2-4)

Psalm 10 paints a vivid portrait of the wicked. Consider the will, resolve, and determination of the wicked. They are arrogant, and oppressors of the poor and needy (10:2). The wicked are boasters, and glory in sinful lusts, passions, and desires (10:3). That which God abhors, the wicked praise (10:3). “Through the pride of his countenance,” the wicked “will not seek [follow] after God,” and God is far from his thoughts (10:4).

The Way of the Wicked: They are insensitive, and desensitized to the grievous nature of their sin. (10:5)

They deceive, and defraud the naive with their platitudes, and lofty promises. They do not fear God, and are blind to His judgments (10:5). The wicked are “his enemies, [and the LORD] puffeth at them” (10:5). They are proud, and sneer at any who oppose them.

The Words of the Wicked (10:6-7)

Lifted up with pride, the wicked boast, “I shall not be moved [removed; carried; fall down]: for I shall never be in adversity [distress; harm; injured]” (10:6). He believes he is too big, or too strong, to be brought to justice (10:6), and he threatens all who oppose him (10:7). He swears, “his mouth is full of cursing.” He deceives, insults, and his tongue is venomous, full of “mischief and vanity” (10:7).

The Wiles of the Wicked (10:8-11)

Like lions stalking their prey, the wicked lie in wait to catch the poor, the innocent, and spiritual stragglers unawares (10:8-10). With one fierce swipe, they seek to crush the righteous. (The portrayal in Psalm 10 is of a physical attack; however, the implication might also be intimidation, slander, and lawsuits that can crush, and destroy.) A wicked man is spiritually deluded, and like the fool that he is, “He hath said in his heart [mind; will], God hath forgotten [oblivious; ignored]: he hideth [conceals] his face; he will never see [look; behold; perceive] it” (10:11).

The Appeal of the Righteous to the LORD (10:12-18)

The psalmist had prayed to the LORD, “let them [the wicked] be taken [captured; taken hold; seized] in the devices [inventions; plots] that they have imagined [devised; purposed; conceived]” (10:2). Remembering the LORD is Just (10:12), Omniscient (10:13-14), and Judge (10:15), he called upon the LORD to save him from the wicked (10:12). He reminded Him that the wicked boast, and believe the LORD “wilt not require it” [call to account] (10:13).

Closing thought: Psalm 10 concludes on a victorious note, for the psalmist took comfort, knowing the LORD was Sovereign (10:16). Though the wicked boasts, the righteous can be confident the LORD hears and answers the prayers of the humble (10:17).

You may not always see justice come to pass, but you can be certain that the LORD is on the side of the righteous, and He is a righteous Judge (10:18).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“What is Man?” (Psalm 8-9)

Scripture reading – Psalm 8-9

Today’s Scripture readings, Psalms 8-9, are authored by David. Both of the psalms have captured the imagination of saints for centuries, and inspired musicians and poets to put the words of the psalms to music. With the exception of my amplification of some word meanings, I invite you to meditate on the words of the psalms.

Psalm 8 – The Wonder and Majesty of the LORD and Creation

1 O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Master; Sovereign of Creation], how excellent [noble; mighty; majestic; glorious] is thy name [character; person; reputation] in all the earth! who hast set [put; made; given] thy glory [splendor; majesty; authority] above the heavens [i.e. stars of the sky].  
2  Out of the mouth of babes [young children] and sucklings [nursing infants] hast thou ordained [appointed; established; lay a foundation] strength [might; power; boldness] because of thine enemies [adversary; foes; distress], that thou mightest still [cease; silence; rest; observe] the enemy and the avenger.  
3  When I consider [look; behold; perceive] thy heavens [i.e. stars of the sky], the work [acts; labor; i.e. accomplishments] of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained [prepared; established; fashioned; fixed];  

4  What is man [mortal man], that thou art mindful [remember; think of] of him? and the son [children] of man, that thou visitest [care for; concerned with] him?”

David beheld the splendor and glory of the LORD displayed in His handiwork, the sun, moon and stars (8:3). He marveled at God’s power to hold the stars and planets in their courses. Overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of creation, David exclaimed, “What is man?”  (8:4)

Why would the Creator of the heavens give even a thought to sinful, weak, foolish men?  Why would the Infinite take a single moment of time to visit, care or concern Himself with such an ignoble race?  Surely, only a fool would gaze into the heavens and state, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

5  For thou [the Lord] hast made him [man] a little [smaller; less than] lower [wanting; lacking] than the angels [heavenly beings], and hast crowned [encircled; compassed; surrounded] him [man] with glory [splendor] and honour [beauty; majesty].
6  Thou madest him [man] to have dominion [rule; reign; power] over the works [acts; deeds; i.e. creation] of thy hands; thou hast put [placed; set; fixed] all things under his feet:
7  All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts [domesticated animals..i.e. horse; mule] of the field [land; country];
8  The fowl [birds] of the air [sky; heavens], and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas [roads; ways; i.e. we have learned there are currents].
9  O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Sovereign; Master], how excellent [great; powerful; glorious; majestic]is thy name [character; position; renown] in all the earth [land; country]!

Psalm 9 – A Call for Thanksgiving

Psalm 9 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD for His judgment upon the wicked, and His deliverance of the righteous. Psalm 9:1-6 stated David’s praise, in anticipation that the LORD would give him victory over his foes.

Psalm 9:7-12 listed David’s reflections on the character of the LORD, who is eternal (9:7), righteous in His judgment (9:8), a refuge and safe place for the hurting (9:9), trustworthy (9:10), worthy of all praise (9:11), and just (9:12).

Understanding the LORD is merciful, David called upon Him to look upon his troubles, and behold his enemies. He believed God would deliver him in the future as He had in the past (9:13-14). Though his adversaries threatened him, David was confident the heathen would be overtaken in their own plots against him (9:15).

Knowing the LORD is just and righteous in His judgments, David declared, “16The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion [think, meditate]. Selah [pause]. 17The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (9:17-18).

David’s psalm of thanksgiving closed with a benediction, as he called upon the LORD to remind the heathen, and the nations of the world that they are but men! (9:19-20).

Closing thought: Take a few minutes and ponder the majesty of the LORD reflected in not only His creation, but also in His “marvelous works” in your life. The LORD is great, and worthy of all praise!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Way of the Wicked (2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6

The events in 2 Samuel 4 are another reminder that humanity has not changed. Evil men struggle for power, riches, and influence, and the treachery and deceit found in our Scripture readings are as present in our day as they were in ancient times.

2 Samuel 4

The Plot to Kill, Ishbosheth, King of Israel (4:1-4)

When the news of Abner’s death (3:26-27) reached Saul’s son, Ishbosheth was so overcome with fear that “his hands were feeble [i.e., became limp], and all the Israelites were troubled” (4:1). With the captain of his army dead, Ishbosheth realized his days as king were numbered.

Two brothers, Baanah and Rechab (4:2-3), supposed the death of Abner provided them an opportunity to exact revenge against the house of Saul (for that king had slain many Gibeonites who lived in Beeroth, 2 Samuel 21:1-2). Besides Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, there was one other male of Saul’s household, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan; however, he was lame and unfit to be king (4:4). With Ishbosheth dead, Baanah and Rechab reasoned the last obstacle to David becoming king of Israel would be removed, and they would be rewarded.

The Assassination of Ishbosheth (4:5-8)

Under the pretense of gathering grain, possibly as compensation to their band of soldiers, Rechab and Baanah entered the palace. Finding Ishbosheth sleeping, they killed him upon his bed, and beheaded him (4:5-7). Carrying the head of the king as proof he had been slain, Rechab and Baanah traveled through the night, and “brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron” (4:8). Imagining they would be rewarded, they said to David, “Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed” (4:8).

David Condemned the Murderous Actions of Rechab and Baanah (4:9-12)

Reflecting on the LORD’S faithfulness during his wilderness years, David certainly did not need Rechab and Baanah to slay Ishbosheth (4:9). Drawing upon how he had ordered the death of the Amalekite soldier that had claimed to slay King Saul (2 Samuel 1), David condemned the two brothers for slaying Ishbosheth, “a righteous person in his own house upon his bed” (4:11).

David then “commanded his young men, and they slew [Rechab and Baanah], and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron” (4:12). Because the pool in Hebron was a public gathering place, hanging the limbs of the slain served as a testimony and a warning to Israel. A testimony that David had no part in the assassination of Ishbosheth. It was also a warning to any who might be tempted to betray David in the future. David, however, made certain “the head of Ishbosheth” was given an honorable burial “in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron” (4:12).

Closing thought: We should not be surprised that when there is no law, evil men commit heinous acts of treachery, and murder. The wicked actions of Rechab and Baanah, and their expectation to be rewarded for murdering Ishbosheth, is the way of the world. David, however, proved to be a righteous man, and his judgment to put Rechab and Baanah to death was according to the Law (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17,21).

Psalm 6Suffering, Sorrows and Setbacks

The setting and historical context of Psalm 6 is not known; however, David is identified as its author. Time and space do not allow me to do an in-depth study of Psalm 6; however, I trust my brief overview might be a blessing.

Psalm 6:2 2  Have mercy [Be gracious; show favor] upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal [cure; make whole] me; for my bones [i.e. body; substance] are vexed [troubled; tremble; alarmed; disturbed]

Psalm 6:5-7 5  For in death there is no remembrance [memory; memorial] of thee: in the grave [hell; the pit; Sheol] who shall give thee thanks [praise; revere]?

6 I am weary [faint; exhausted; grown weary] with my groaning [sighing; mourning]; all the night make I my bed to swim [inundate; i,e, swimming with tears]; I water [melt; dissolve] my couch [i.e., bed with a canopy] with my tears [weeping]

7  Mine eye [sight; appearance] is consumed [dimmed; waste away] because of grief [sorrow; anger]; it waxeth old  [grows old; fails] because of all mine enemies [distress; pains].”

Believer, if you find yourself in the midst of trials, and your soul is burdened and weary of life…take heart; the saints of God are strengthened in their faith when they, in the midst of the extremity of their weakness, turn to the Lord.

Many are the saints that have experienced the sorrows of trials, and can readily identify with David’s sleepless nights.  How many have cried themselves to sleep, because of the sinful choices of one they loved?  How many parents have grown weary, bearing the sorrows and trials heaped upon them by children who have chosen a path of sin? Take heart…God hears your cries.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Out of Sorrows, A New Beginning (2 Samuel 1-2)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 1-2

Our study of 1 Samuel concluded with the deaths of King Saul, his sons, and a humiliating defeat for Israel when that nation’s soldiers fled the battlefield in disarray (1 Samuel 31:7). Three days later, news of Israel’s defeat, and the deaths of Saul and his sons reached David in Ziklag (2 Samuel 1:1).

2 Samuel 1 – The King is Dead: An Elegy

The news bearer was an Amalekite soldier. He had come to David with a fabricated claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy, sparing the king the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (1:1-10). The truth was, as we read in 1 Samuel 31, Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4). Nevertheless, to support his claim, the Amalekite had in his possession Saul’s crown, and a bracelet David would have recognized as the fallen king’s (1:10).

Saul had been an enemy of David for more than a decade, nevertheless the news of his death, and the death of Jonathan moved David to mourn, weep, and fast until that evening (1:11-12). Rather than rejoice in the death of his enemy, David mourned, and ordered the man who claimed to have slain the king to be put to death (1:11-16).

The Song of the Bow (1:17-27)

As the poet and musician, he was, David turned to poetry and expressed in an elegy his profound sorrow for the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan (1:17-27). To memorialize the household of Saul, David commanded the words of the elegy be taught to “the children of Judah” (1:18).

The concluding verses of 2 Samuel 1 expressed David’s grief at the loss of Jonathan, his friend and confidant (1:25-27).  There have been some who try to paint David’s lament as a twisted validation of sodomy, but it is not. Sodomy is condemned in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27), and we can be certain such a sin would not have been a subject put to music for children to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual affection and trust, and such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2 – Two Kings and a Divided Nation

With the deaths of the king and his sons, David recalled he had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as king of Israel (1 Samuel 16). Being the spiritual man he was, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, and asked two questions: “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron” (2:1) With the LORD’s blessing, David, his two wives (2:2), and his men and their families moved to Hebron where he was crowned king by the men of the tribe of Judah (2:2-4).

David immediately faced opposition from Abner, Saul’s nephew (2:8) who moved to make Ishbosheth, Saul’s surviving son, king (2:9-10).  Abner’s opposition to David, coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character, plunged the nation into a civil war that lasted over seven years (2:10-11).

Civil War (2:12-32; 3:1)

There were constant skirmishes between the men of Judah who served David as king, and those who served Ishbosheth, the son of Saul. Two strong generals incensed the conflict on both sides (2:12-17). Joab, David’s nephew by his sister Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:16), and Abner, the captain of Ishbosheth’s army, had become bitter enemies.

Coming upon a pool of water at Gibeon (2:12-13), Joab and Abner determined to set their soldiers in battle against one another (2:14-16). Abner was defeated, and fled the battle (2:17), with Joab, and his brothers, Abishai, and Asahel pursuing (2:18). Asahel, described as “light of foot as a wild roe” (2:18) pursued hard upon Abner intending to kill him (2:19-21).

Abner, desiring to spare Asahel for the respect he held for Joab, attempted to dissuade him, but “he refused to turn aside” (2:22-23). Abner then stabbed Ashael with the blunt end of his spear, and he died (2:23).

With Ashael dead, and Joab in pursuit, Abner fled to the “children of Benjamin,” who rallied to his side to face Joab (2:25). Abner persuaded Joab to turn back, lest he too die (2:26). Joab sounded the trumpet, and his men retired from the battle (2:27).

Joab and David’s men returned to their encampment victorious, having lost only nineteen men (2:30), while three hundred and sixty men of Benjamin had died (2:31). The victory, however, was a bitter one for Joab, who “took up [the body of his brother] Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem” (2:32a). As we will soon see, a vengeful spirit took hold of Joab, and would overshadow his relationship with David in the years ahead.

Closing observations: Though he would wait years to reign over a united Israel, the LORD, and time was on David’s side. He wisely sought the LORD for wisdom, and direction (2:1).

You and I would be wise to do the same…pray, and wait on the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Cry for Forgiveness and Help (Psalms 129-130)

Scripture reading Psalms 129-130

We continue our study of the psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees.” For today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 129-130), I have made an effort to amplify some words to strengthen the reader’s understanding of the psalms. [Bracketed words in italics are those of this author.]

Psalm 129 – Israel’s Reflections on Her Persecutions and Her Prayer for Justice

As with an earlier Psalm, I believe the song leader introduced the theme of Psalm 129 in the first verse, and the congregation echoed the words of the song leader in the second verse, adding the triumphant phrase, “Yet they [Israel’s enemies] have not prevailed [have power; overcome] against me” (129:2).

Psalm 129:1–3 – 1Many a time have they afflicted [treated harshly or with hostility] me from my youth, May Israel now say: 2Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: Yet they have not prevailed [have power; overcome]against me. 3The plowers [i.e., engravers; to inscribe] plowed upon my back: They made long their furrows. [may refer to beatings with a whip; harsh criticisms or accusations]

I believe verse 3 refers to the afflictions the people had suffered as a nation. The whips of the enemies had left scars, furrows, upon their backs. Yet, God in His mercy had delivered Israel, and “cut asunder the cords [ropes; bindings] of the wicked” (129:4).

The wicked had prospered for a season, but the psalmist prayed:

Psalm 129:5–6 – 5Let them all [the enemies of the LORD and His people] be confounded [put to shame] and turned back that hate Zion [the mount upon which the Temple was built]. 6Let them be as the grass upon the housetops [the Middle East had flat roofs], Which withereth [dries up in the heat of the sun] afore it groweth up [removed; i.e. taken up]:

Psalm 129:7–8 – 7Wherewith the mower [gatherer] filleth [to be full or filled] not his hand; Nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom [garment; possibly the picture of carrying grain in the folds of one’s robe]. 8Neither do they which go by say, The blessing [wishing or pronouncing a blessing] of the Lord be upon you: We bless [praise] you in the name of the Lord.

Too often I fear, believers encourage sinners in their sin (2 John 1:11), and bid them words of comfort and blessing, rather than pray they will come to repent (129:7-8).

Psalm 130 – A Cry for Forgiveness, Hope, and Redemption

The words of a penitent sinner are found in the opening verses of Psalm 130. In his guilt and despair, the man had confessed his sin, and pled for the LORD to show him mercy (130:1-2).

Psalm 130:1–2 – 1Out of the depths [deep place] have I cried [cried out; shouted] unto thee, O Lord. 2Lord, hear [listen; give heed] my voice: Let thine ears be attentive [listen; pay attention to] to the voice of my supplications [plea for mercy].

Understanding all are sinners, the psalmist reasoned, 3If thou, Lord, shouldest mark [keep watch; guard; preserve] iniquities [sin; guilt], O Lord, who shall stand? [stand before the LORD]” (130:3).

Confident in the LORD’S mercy, and forgiveness (130:4), he waited on the LORD, and His redemption (130:4-8).

Psalm 130:4–8 – 4But there is forgiveness [pardon] with thee, That thou mayest be feared. [fear; be afraid of God]  5I wait for [hope for] the Lord, my soul doth wait [hope for], And in his word do I hope. [have cause for hope] 6My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch [keeps watch; guard] for the morning [the morning light]: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 7Let Israel hope [have cause to hope] in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy [mercy; kindness; goodness], And with him [the LORD] is plenteous [much] redemption. [paying of an amount or price] 8And he [the LORD] shall redeem [buy out; liberate; pay] Israel [the Twelve tribes from the sons of Jacob] from all his iniquities. [sins; guilt]

Why should a sinner hope in the LORD? Because the LORD is merciful, and compassionate, and has promised to redeem all who come to Him.

1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 4:1010Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [atonement] for our sins.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait (Psalms 128)

Scripture reading Psalms 128

Psalm 128 continues our study of the Psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134), and is a song of rejoicing for the LORD’S blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the promise of the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears the LORD, and walks in His ways.

Notice the promise of happiness found in the first two verses of Psalm 128.

Psalm 128:1–21Blessed [Happy] is every one that feareth [reveres; worships] the Lord; That walketh in his ways. 2For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well [pleasant] with thee.

Is there anyone who does not desire, and long for happiness? Some look for affirmation as a way to happiness, but trophies, medals, and applause never gratify. Some climb the ladder to success, pursue wealth and acquire possessions, but find happiness just isn’t there. Sadly, the happiness the world promises is temporal, and never satisfies!

To whom does the psalmist promise happiness? To those who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (obeying His Laws, and Commandments). Such a man will be happy and satisfied, and has the promise he will enjoy the fruit of his labor. (128:2). The man who loves and serves the Lord is physically blessed through his seed.  His wife is compared to a fruitful vine, and in Scripture vines symbolize a life-giving force.

The psalm continues with how the blessing was given: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion [the mountain upon which the Temple was built]: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life” (Psalm 128:5).The Temple was a majestic symbol of God himself.  It represented life, and Israel’s prosperity.

We have observed two family portraits in our study of Psalm 128. The first was of a man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), was like “a fruitful vine,” and a source of joy to her husband. The second portrait was of the couple’s children, sitting around the table. The children had not grown up to become wild weeds, but were like olive plants; trained and cultivated. They were growing up to be a blessing (128:3).

The third family portrait was one of contentment (128:5-6), and the concluding verses of Psalm 128 served as a benediction.

The man that had feared the LORD (128:1) was now old, and stooped in age. His body was weak, but his spirit was strong as he aspired to see God’s blessings on his nation (128:5). Because the LORD is the rewarder of them who love and fear Him, the old man was promised, “6  Yea, thou shalt see [look; discern] thy children’s children[grandchildren], and peace [Shalom; prosperity] upon Israel” (128:6).

Closing thoughts: There are some reading this devotional who long for their family to be a picture of happiness and joy. You long for the LORD to pour out His blessings on your marriage, and to see your “children’s children” living in a nation that enjoys “Shalom,” the peace and prosperity of the LORD (128:6).

Those are admirable desires; however, they are promised only to them who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (128:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD: My Deliverer and Protector (Psalms 124-125)

Scripture reading – Psalm 124; Psalm125

Our study of the Psalms continues with two psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees.” While Psalm 124 bears the name of David as its the author, the author of Psalm 125 is unknown. Both of the psalms are among those believed to have been sung by the priests as they ascended the steps in the Temple.

Psalms 124 – “A Song of Degrees of David.”

I suggest two major themes for Psalm 124. The first, the dangers from which the LORD had saved David and his men.

The phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side” is repeated in Psalm 124:1, and again in Psalm 124:2. I believe it is possible a song leader could have sung the first verse, ending the verse with, “Now may Israel say” (124:1). The congregation might have echoed the phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” and added, “When men rose up against us” (124:2).

If the LORD had not been on the side of David and his men, the enemy (perhaps King Saul) would have “swallowed us [David, and his men] up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us” (123:3). If the LORD had not been on their side, he and his men would have been overwhelmed by their enemy, and swept away in Saul’s wrath like a violent stream sweeps away its victims (124:4-5).

Deliverance is the second theme of Psalm 124.  Like a prey delivered from the teeth of lion (124:6), and a bird set free from a trapper’s snare (124:7), when David called on the name of the LORD, his deliverer was the Creator of heaven and earth (124:8).

Psalms 125

The reference to Mount Zion (125:1) seems to confirm Psalm 125 was a psalm sung by pilgrims ascending the road to Jerusalem and the Temple. Consider the following as an outline for Psalm 125. I suggest you consider four major ideas for the psalm.

The Proclamation – “1They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. 2As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, So the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” (125:1-2)

We live in world where it seems the wicked often have the advantage. Psalm 125, however, exhorts believers to “trust in the LORD,” for He is like Mount Zion: Unmovable, immutable, unwavering, and He “is round about his people” forever (125:1-2).

The Promise – “3For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; Lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” (125:3)

The wicked threaten, and even smite the saints of God with their rod (i.e., club). Nevertheless, the LORD restrains the wicked, and the rod will not “rest [stay] upon the lot [person] of the righteous” (125:3).

The Prayer4Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.” (125:4)

The LORD is loving, and compassionate, and we can be certain He will bless those who please Him with good.

The Pledge – “5As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, The Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: But peace shall be upon Israel.” (125:5)

The LORD is Just, and those who take the crooked path, will be led along with the “workers of iniquity” and shall perish (125:5). But Israel [the true Israel, those who are the people of God] will enjoy peace (Galatians 6:16; John 14:27).

Closing thoughts: The mountains of Zion afforded Jerusalem a natural, fortified place, secure from her enemies.  Sitting upon the Mount Zion, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.

In the same way Jerusalem enjoyed safety and security on Mount Zion, His people are encouraged to “trust in the LORD,” for He encircles them like the “mountains are round about Jerusalem” (125:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Critics Got You Down? Hope in the LORD! (Psalm 123)

Scripture reading – Psalm 123

Our Scripture reading is Psalm 123, and it is in the midst of the psalms that are titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalm 120-134). The author of Psalm 123 is not identified, and it would be mere speculation on my part to identify its author by name.

As stated in prior devotions, the psalms identified as “Song of Degrees,” are thought to have been those sung by pilgrims in their ascent to Jerusalem. There is also a great probability the “Song of Degrees” were sung by the priests and Levites as they ascended the steps to the Temple.

I suggest you consider three themes for Psalm 123.

The Focus of the Psalmist: The God of Heaven (123:1)

The psalmist writes, 1Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (123:1). I believe it is instinctive for man to look to the heavens, and the breadth and wonders of the sun, moon, stars, and galaxies, and ponder the Creator of it all. The author of Psalm 97 writes: “6The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (97:6). The LORD “dwellest in the heavens,” for He is Sovereign, and sits upon His throne. The prophet Isaiah was given a vision of God upon His throne, and he wrote, “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple…[and the seraphims] cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The Heart of the Psalmist: He looked to the LORD for His Will (123:2)

I invite you to consider four “looks” in verse 2. The first, a look of deference: Rather than the pride of his enemies, the psalmist looked to the LORD as “servants look unto the hand of their masters” (123:2a); a look of humility and servitude. Notice also a look of dependence: for the psalmist describes himself as looking to the hand of the LORD to meet his needs, “servants look unto the hand of their masters, And as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress” (123:2b). A third look I notice is the look for direction: This is a longing, expectant, look that “[waits] upon the Lord” (123:2c). There is finally, a look of determination: To wait upon the LORD “until that he have mercy upon us” (123:2d).

The Hope of the Psalmist: A Cry for Mercy (123:3-4)

The psalmist’s cry to the LORD appears to be one of desperation. He cried, “3Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us:” (123:3a). He had been the object of contempt, scorn, and mocking (123:3b). He longed for God to fill him with his loving mercies, and grace. Who were those who had treated him with scorn? Who had heaped upon him such sorrows?

The psalmist identified them as “those that are at ease…the proud” (123:4). His harsh critics were “at ease,” complacent, lazy, and proud.

Closing thoughts: I have learned that my harshest critics are seldom those who are laboring for the LORD, and serving His people. No, the critics arise from those whom the psalmist describes as “at ease…[and] proud” (123:4).

Let us take a spiritual lesson from the psalmist. He had suffered abuse, and lesser men might have quit; however, he determined to set his focus on his Creator (123:1), turn his heart to the LORD, and cry out for mercy (123:3-4).

Hope in the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Psalms of Rejoicing and Praise (Psalms 18; 121)

Scripture reading – Psalms 18; 121

The death of King Saul and his sons concluded a tragic time in Israel’s history (1 Samuel 31). The king’s death, however, marked the ascension of David, the man whom the LORD had chosen to be king, for he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

With today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 18 and Psalm 121), our study introduces us to the Psalms David penned during his reign as king of Israel. To understand the psalms, you must consider them in their historical context, and cultural setting. They were written by the king in a time that was pastoral and agricultural, and far removed from our fast-paced 21st century world. Beautiful and poetic, the psalms reflect the heart of a man who loved the LORD, and cherished His Word, Law, and Commandments. The spiritual breadth of the psalms makes it impossible for me to write an exhaustive exposition of the chapters we will study; however, I pray my meditations and thoughts will enrich your study. [For the sake of brevity, I will limit my focus to only a few verses. The phrases in brackets are the amplification of this author.]

Psalm 18 – A Hymn of Rejoicing

The title of Psalm 18 indicates it was a hymn of rejoicing, penned by David on the occasion when the LORD delivered him from Saul, and his enemies. After expressing his deep, and fervent love for the LORD (18:1), David painted a verbal portrait of the LORD using eight descriptive metaphors.

Psalm 18:2 – The LORD is my rock [stronghold; cliff], and my fortress [castle; fort], and my deliverer [Savior; Rescuer]; my God [Almighty God], my strength [rock; mountain], in whom I will trust [confide; have hope; seek refuge]; my buckler [small shield], and the horn [strength] of my salvation [liberty; deliverance; prosperity], and my high tower [defense; refuge].

Rock” and “Fortress” describe the LORD’S loving protection of His people.  David had often sought refuge among the rocks and clefts of the wilderness, and they serve as a reminder that God wants His people to flee to Him in our hour of trouble and need. The LORD is also our “Deliverer” and mighty “God,” and can save us from our enemies by the power of His might.  The LORD is “my Strength,” and He never changes.

David employed three metaphors for the LORD that are suggestive of a battlefield:  The LORD is “my Buckler,” a small shield employed when an enemy presses hard upon us. The LORD is “the Horn of my Salvation,” for He alone has the power to save us. The LORD is, “my High Tower,” a refuge to Whom believers may flee for safety.

Psalm 18:3 – I will call [call to; cry unto] upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised [boast; glory; sing praise]: so shall I be saved [delivered; preserved] from mine enemies [foe; adversary].

There were times when David’s courage waned, and his fears well-nigh overwhelmed him, but the LORD delivered him. Indeed, the LORD alone is worthy to be praised!

Psalm 18:30 – “As for God [“El;” Almighty God], his way is perfect: the word [commandment] of the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] is tried [refined; purged by fire; tested]: he is a buckler [small shield] to all those that trust in him [flee to Him for protection; confide; make their refuge].”

It is easy to say, “God’s way is perfect,” when we are free from trials and troubles; however, will we trust God’s way is perfect when our days are shadowed by trials. When we feel the intense heat of trials, and our motives are tried like silver smelting in the fire, will we resolve to trust the LORD? When an enemy maligns us, and friends betray us, will we turn to God’s promises for hope?  Will we trust Him to be our “buckler” (a small shield for hand-to-hand combat), when an enemy means us harm?

David’s hope was revived, His strength renewed, when he reflected on the character of the LORD (18:31), and confessed, “His way is perfect” (18:30), for He is “my rock…[and] the God of my salvation” (18:46).

Psalm 121 – A Pilgrim’s Psalm

Psalm 121 is titled, “A Song of Degrees,” and it is believed it was one of the songs sung by saints of God during their annual pilgrimages.

I suggest four major themes from Psalm 121: The Pledge of the psalmist to seek the LORD (121:1); his Promise to trust Him (121:2); his confidence the LORD was His Protector (121:3-7); and that He was a Perpetual Shepherd and would “preserve [his] going out and [his] coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (121:8a).

Believer, there is no place beyond the LORD’S watch. He keeps us when we are young and strong, and when we grow old and frail. He is with us in sickness and in health! He is with us in our down sittings and our uprisings.

If you are a child of God, you are secure in the LORD, and can be assured, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Victory is the LORD’S (1 Samuel 30)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 30

David and his men lived at Ziklag for sixteen months, and prospered in the midst of the Philistines (27:8-11). Tragedy, however, struck while the men were deployed to the battlefront with king Achish and the Philistines. Knowing the Philistines had removed to wage war with Israel, the Amalekites determined to use their absence as an opportunity to attack Ziklag, no doubt to exact revenge for David’s raids upon their cities (27:8-9). With the men away, the Amalekites encountered no opposition, and took away the women, sons and daughters, and burned the city (30:1-2).

David’s men departed the battlefront, and arrived at Ziklag on the third day (30:1), and found the city destroyed, and their wives and children missing (30:3). Distraught, and overcome with grief, David and his men wept until there were no more tears (30:4), yet grief quickly turned to bitterness. As mankind is so prone to do, the men, without delay, set upon whom to blame, and “David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him” (30:6a).

In his distress, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” and commanded Abiathar the priest, to bring the ephod of the high priest, and “David inquired at the Lord…[and the LORD] answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (30:8). David obeyed without hesitation, and with six hundred men followed after the Amalekites (30:9). Two hundred of the six hundred men, had become faint and were left behind, while David continued his pursuit of their families (30:9-10).

They came upon an Egyptian slave whose master had abandoned him without food or water (30:11-15). Reviving him with food and water, the Egyptian agreed to lead David and his men to the Amalekite’s camp, with a promise his life would be spared (30:15). Finding the Amalekites celebrating the spoils they had taken from Ziklag, David and his men attacked them “from the twilight [darkness] even unto the evening [setting sun] of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled” (30:17).

It was a glorious victory, and all that had been taken was recovered, including David’s two wives (30:5, 18). David took the spoils of the Amalekites for himself, and sent some of the spoils as presents to the elders of Judah (30:26-31).

There were some wicked men among David’s four hundred, described as “men of Belial,” who begrudged returning the possessions of the two hundred men who had stayed behind (30:9, 22). David quickly intervened, and reminded those complainers that it was not they, but the LORD who had given them the victory, preserved them, and saved their wives and children (30:23).

David’s decision became a law for Israel thereafter, being reminded the battle, and the victory is the LORD’S. (30:24-25)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith