God’s Sovereignty and Providential Care (Isaiah 13-17)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 13-17

Caution: Today’s study covers a great swath of history, from ancient Assyria and the emergence of Babylon, to the “day of the LORD” and His future coming and Millennial Kingdom on the earth. The doom of four nations is prophesied: Babylon (Isaiah 13; 14:1-23), Assyria (Isaiah 14:24-27), Philistia (Isaiah 14:24-32), Moab (Isaiah 15-16), and Syria (identified as Damascus) with whom Israel (identified as Ephraim) was allied and eventually suffered that nation’s fate (Isaiah 17).

Isaiah 13-14 described the prophetic judgment God would bring against Babylon, the nation that would lay siege to Jerusalem and take the Jews captive.  Described in Isaiah 13:1 as the “burden (i.e. doom) of Babylon,” the Book of Daniel records not only the Jewish captivity by Babylon, but also the destruction of that city by the armies of the Medes and Persian nearly two centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 13:1-5, 17-18; Daniel 5). Isaiah 13:19-22 paints a prophetic picture of the devastation Babylon would eventually suffer. To this day, Babylon lies in ruins under the sands of the desert in Iraq.

Isaiah 14 continues the prophecy against Babylon and predicts the miraculous return of Israel following their captivity (14:1-3). Remarkably, the destruction of the city of Babylon, considered unassailable in its day, is foretold in prophetic detail (Isaiah 14:9-23).

Isaiah 14:12-14 compares the sudden fall of the great king of Babylon to the fall of the archangel Lucifer, who was described as the “son of the morning” (14:12).  The sinful pride that moved Lucifer to challenge the God of Heaven, is the pride that moved Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon to boast he would assail Israel and “exalt my throne above the stars of God” (14:13).  The parallel between the fall of Lucifer and the king of Babylon continues in verse 15.

Isaiah 14:16-23 completes the prophecy against the king of Babylon, describing how the people will gaze upon the king’s lifeless body with wonder, that so powerful a man would be brought to the grave like all men. Indeed, hell itself is said to have been stirred at the entrance of the fallen king of Babylon (14:21-23).

Isaiah 15-16 is a prophecy concerning the “burden of Moab” (literally the doom or prophecy concerning Moab). The Moabites were descendants of Lot’s incest and were perpetual adversaries of Israel. Their geographical lands were located east of the Jordan River, on the southeast side of the Dead Sea.

The subject of Isaiah 17 is the “burden (i.e. doom) of Damascus” (17:1), a prophetic picture of the destruction of Syria’s capital city that was an ally of Israel, and identified as Ephraim (17:3).

Damascus’ destruction would serve as a prophetic warning to Israel of its own impending destruction by Assyria (17:12-14).

A closing note of exhortation: Long passages of prophecy are challenging; however, a daily discipline in God’s Word will not only impart knowledge, but also enrich your appreciation for God’s sovereignty and His providential care of His people.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Apostasy and Tragic End of Israel [the northern kingdom] (2 Chronicles 28; 2 Kings 16-17)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 28; 2 Kings 16-17

Our Scripture reading in the Book of 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings are parallel records of the same period in Israel and Judah’s history. While the names of the kings and their successors might be laborious, don’t overlook the testimony of God’s sovereignty over the kings and their kingdoms.

The northern ten tribes, known as Israel, whose capital was Samaria, had continued their rebellion and rejection of God’s Covenant, Laws, and Commandments. Judah, the kingdom in the south whose capital was Jerusalem, though blessed with a succession of kings who feared the LORD, was yet following in the idolatrous steps of her sister to the north.

2 Chronicles 28 introduces us to a young king named Ahaz, whose reign marked a dramatic spiritual decline when he turned from the LORD (28:1), and “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim” (28:2; 2 Kings 16:2).

Ahaz made no pretense of fearing the LORD, and the ways of the wicked and the worship of their gods became his way (28:3-4). The king not only burnt incense to idols, he also committed the horror of burning and sacrificing “his children in the fire” (28:3b; 2 Kings 16:3).

The king’s wickedness accelerated Judah’s spiritual decline and eventual destruction. Because Judah had rejected the LORD, He removed His blessing and the nation began to be afflicted. Syria’s king invaded Judah and carried away “a great multitude” (28:5a). The king of Israel soon followed Syria with an invasion of Judah that is described as “a great slaughter” (28:5b).

The depth of wickedness to which Israel had descended is shown when we read that the children of Israel took away 200,000 of their Judean brethren as captives (28:8). Only the intervention and condemnation of a prophet, identified as Oded, deterred Israel from enslaving their own brethren, the people of Judah (28:9-15).

When the Edomites invaded Judah, rather than turn to the LORD for help, King Ahaz appealed to the king of Assyria, and took from the treasuries of the Temple and palace a payment for his protection (28:16-21; 2 Kings 16:7-8).

The depth of Ahaz’s wickedness was evidenced when he ordered the construction of an altar to the gods of Assyria. The king stripped the Temple of its sacred vessels, removed the altar of the LORD, and finally closed the doors of the Temple (28:23-24; 2 Kings 16:10-18).

2 Kings 17

2 Kings 17 gives us the record of God’s final judgment against Israel for breaking their covenant with Him (17:1-6). After a three-year siege of Samaria, the capital of Israel, the city fell and the king of Israel was taken captive and imprisoned by the Assyrians (17:4-6).

Judah, rather than heed the warning of God’s judgment as demonstrated in the fall of Israel, continued in her sins and the people “hardened their necks” (17:14). They not only rejected the LORD, His Law and Commandments, they also established places of idol worship like the heathen (17:15-16), and sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (17:17).

Why did this desolation befall Israel? It was a fulfillment of God’s covenant promises with the nation. The LORD had warned His people, should they rebel and reject His Law and Commandments, He would remove them from their land (Deuteronomy 28:25, 49-50, 52, 63-68) and enslave them (Deuteronomy 28:29, 33, 48, 68). Assyria was the nation God chose to fulfill His covenant promise of judgment. Following the practice of ancient kings, Assyria resettled Israel with people from other nations (17:24).

Judah, after witnessing the fall of Israel, continued in the sinful ways of her sister to the north. We will soon see that God will pour out His wrath on His people.

A closing thought: We might be shocked at the depth of sin and depravity to which Israel and Judah descended, especially as we remember they offered their sons and daughters as burnt sacrifices to idols.

However, my question stands as this: Is a society that kills its unborn in the mother’s womb any better? The United States has taken the lives of sixty million infants, sacrificed as an inconvenience to “women’s rights.”

Surely the LORD, Who did not spare Israel and Judah from judgment, will not tolerate the sins of our nation forever.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Judgment and Confidence in His Mercy (Micah 1-7)

Scripture Reading – Micah 1-7

* Today’s devotional commentary is an introduction to the Prophecies of Micah. I have purposed to give an historical perspective on the prophet, his message, and his times.

The prophet Micah was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos.  His ministry began during the reign of King Jotham and continued through the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (1:1). The principal focus of Micah’s prophecies were Jerusalem, the capitol of Judah, and Samaria, the capital of Israel (1:1).

False prophets were proliferating in both Israel and Judah in Micah’s day. While the prophet warned of the imminence of God’s judgment, the false prophets of the day had risen in popularity by telling the people the things that pleased them.

Just as Isaiah had done, Micah calls upon the inhabitants of the earth (1:2) to be a witness against Samaria and Jerusalem (1:5) as the LORD sits in judgment (1:3-4).

The Assyrian invasion of Israel and the destruction of Samaria, the capital city, is described (1:6-9a), and is followed by the prophecy of Assyria’s invasion of Judah that stopped short of overthrowing Jerusalem (1:9b-16). Many of God’s people would be killed and many others taken into captivity (1:16).

What were the sins of Israel and Judah that demanded God’s judgment?

Judah and Israel were guilty of idolatry (“graven images” – 1:7). Micah 2 identifies covetousness (2:2), pride (2:3), and false prophets (2:6-11; 3:5).  The leaders of the people were harsh and oppressive (3:2-3).  The priests and judges were distorting their judgments in taking bribes (3:11). There was a pattern of dishonesty in their dealings with the people (6:10-11).

Micah 6-7 – A Final Appeal Before Judgment

Micah 6 returns us to a scene of judgment in a courtroom with the “mountains” and the “hills” witnessing the proceedings (6:1-2).

A series of questions presents the LORD’S case against His people as He rehearsed His providential care of them and their rejection of Him as their God (6:3-7). Micah then appealed to the people saying, “He [the LORD] hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly [righteous judgment according to His Law], and to love mercy [being merciful is an act of love], and to walk humbly [i.e. obediently; confessing our sins] with thy God?” (6:8)

Because of the wickedness of the people and their unwillingness to repent, God pronounced His judgment against the people (6:9-7:7).

The economy of the nation was already failing (6:13-15).

Micah 6:15 – “Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine.”

While Assyria was the aggressor and adversary of Israel (the northern ten tribes), Micah prophesied that it would be Babylon (4:10) that would invade Judah and leave the city of Jerusalem desolate (6:16).

Micah 7 closes with the prophet bearing the weight of his message and the sorrow for what he knows will soon befall his nation (7:1-7). What a tragic portrait of a doom nation we see as Micah bewails there are no good men left in the earth (7:2) and all the leaders are corrupt (7:3). Even the common man found there was no one he could trust (7:5-6).

Every level of Jewish society was failing (7:5).

Micah 7:5 – “5  Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide [leader]: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.”

Families were disintegrating (7:6).

Micah 7:6 – “6  For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.”

In spite of Judah’s failings and God’s impending judgment, Micah turned his focus away from the sins of the nation to the LORD and said: “Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me” (7:7).

Like many of you, I identify in Judah’s sins the failings of our own nation. We have rejected God, His Law and Commandments. Our leaders are corrupt. The common man is oppressed. There are few who have integrity and can be trusted. Our society is deteriorating and families are divided and crumbling.

What can we do?

Get our eyes off the sins and decay of our nation (i.e. turn off the bad news), turn our focus to the LORD, and pray knowing: “My God will hear me” (7:7).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is My Salvation! (2 Chronicles 27; Isaiah 9-12)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 27; Isaiah 9-12

2 Chronicles 27

The contrast between the wicked kings of Israel and the kings of Judah continues with an observation that Jotham, the king of Judah, “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (27:1-2). God blessed Jotham and he secured the nation militarily and “became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God” (27:6).

Isaiah 9 – The Coming Messiah

Isaiah’s prophecies against Israel, specifically the northern ten tribes, continues in Isaiah 9. The idolatry of the people and their rejection of the LORD, His Law and Commandments demanded a season of chastening that began “lightly,” but the LORD “did more grievously afflict” the nation (9:1). In the midst of Israel’s afflictions, Isaiah prophesied that God would send His Messiah, a son who would be born of a virgin.

Isaiah 9:6 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful [Marvelous; Extraordinary], Counsellor [God of all wisdom], The mighty God [all powerful; Omnipotent], The everlasting Father [Father of all Eternity], The Prince of Peace [source, the fount of lasting peace].”

The birth of Jesus Christ fulfilled only the first phrase of Isaiah 9:6 and the Jews’ rejection of Christ, His crucifixion, death and resurrection leaves the balance of that prophecy yet to be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Isaiah 9:8-10:4 pronounces God’s future judgment on Israel (in this passage described as “Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria,” the capitol city of the northern ten tribes (9:8-9).

Isaiah 10 – Prophecy of Israel’s Fall to Assyria

Isaiah prophesied and history testifies that Assyria would invade Israel, destroy cities, and take the people captive (10:5). God described the Assyrian nation as “the rod of mine anger,” and foretold He would send that heathen people against Israel whom Isaiah said was “an hypocritical nation…the people of my wrath” (10:6).

The Assyrians did not know they were a vessel, a tool in the LORD’S hand, to chasten His people for their sin (10:7). Nevertheless, Assyria’s harsh treatment of Israel and that nation’s boast of their conquests would provoke God’s judgment against them (10:8-19).

Isaiah prophesied the LORD would preserve Himself a remnant of His people (10:21), and unlike the other nations who were taken captive, assimilated, and forever lost to time, God would intervene just when Judah appeared to be on the brink of destruction, and “Lebanon (i.e. Assyria) shall fall” (10:34).

Isaiah 11 – A Messianic Prophecy

The coming Messiah was identified as “a rod out of the stem of Jesse” (11:1), Jesse being the father of King David. Making legitimate the Messiah’s claim to the throne of Israel, he would be born of the lineage of King David, and therefore a royal son and heir to the throne of Israel (Isaiah 11:1).

Isaiah 11:1-2 – “And there shall come forth a rod [shoot] out of the stem [stock] of Jesse (father of King David), and a Branch [descendant] shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;”

The Millennial Kingdom, over which the Messiah will reign, will be one of righteousness (11:2-5) and universal peace (11:6-9). Israel will be united to her homeland as one people and the Gentile nations will seek the LORD in His holy city, Jerusalem (11:10-13).

Isaiah 12 – A Song of Salvation

Two times we notice the phrase, “And in that day,” in Isaiah 12.

“That day” is yet future, but it is the day when God will gather His chosen people, Israel and Judah, who have been scattered to the “four corners of the earth” (11:11-12) and assemble them as one nation and one people.

“In that day” the people will worship the LORD and say, “I will praise thee…God is my salvation…the LORD Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation” (12:1-2).

This glorious day of restoration as God’s chosen people finds the inhabitants of Zion (Jerusalem) singing praises to the LORD for He, “the Holy One of Israel” dwells in the midst of His people (12:6).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Israel, Behold Your King Cometh! (Amos 6-9)

Scripture Reading – Amos 6-9

Amos 6

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of “woes”, against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1).  Identifying Philistine and Syrian cities that had fallen to the Assyrian army, Amos questioned if Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them (6:2).

In spite of the clouds of judgment on the horizon, the people continued to indulge themselves, resting on “beds of ivory”, eating “the lambs out of the flock;” entertaining themselves with music, drunkenness and reveling in pleasures till they were carried into captivity bearing the chains of slavery (6:4-7).

Six prophetic visions: Five Prophecies of Judgment and the Sixth of the Day the LORD will Establish His Heavenly Kingdom. (Amos 7-9)

Amos 7 – Three Judgments

The First Judgment: Locusts (7:1-3)

God had determined to bring locusts to devour the people’s second harvest (7:1).  Amos pleaded with the LORD for the people and He “repented” (7:3). Though the sins of the people demanded His judgment, the LORD heard the prayer of His prophet and, because He is longsuffering, God determined to withhold His sentence for a season.

Reminder: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16b)!

The Second Judgment: Fire (7:4-6)

Fire drying up water is a picture of the drought God planned to bring against His people.  Once again, God heard the intercession of His prophet and “repented” (7:6).

The Third Judgment: A Plumb Line (7:7-9)

The plumb line is a tool used by a builder to make sure a wall is straight.  God’s plumb line of judgment is His Law.  Seeing the plumb line of God’s Law and Commandments and the failure of the people to obey and keep the Law, Amos did not intercede for Israel (identified as “the house of Jeroboam”).

Truth – Preachers who faithfully declare the Word of God often find themselves in conflict with government and religious authorities.

The priest Amaziah, whom King Jeroboam II had appointed to serve as “the priest of Bethel,” warned the king that the prophet Amos “hath conspired against thee” (7:10) prophesying, “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall be led away captive” (7:11). Amaziah admonished Amos there was no place for him in Israel (7:10-11) and demanded the prophet flee to Judah (7:12).

Rather than heeding the warning of God’s judgment against the nation, Amaziah demanded the prophet be silent and “prophesy not again” (7:13). Amos rehearsed God’s call upon his life, and though he was a man of common stock and not the son of a prophet, the LORD had called him to prophesy, and he would not be silent (7:14-15). Rather than silence, Amos boldly declared God’s judgment (7:16-17).

Amos 8 – The Fourth Judgment: Fruit harvested at the end of the summer season, expressing the imminence of God’s judgment.

Amos 9 – The Fifth and Final Judgment, and a Vision

The final judgment prophesied by Amos was a vision of the temple destroyed (most likely not the one in Jerusalem, but the idolatrous one established by Jeroboam I in Samaria at Bethel). Amos warned, “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword” (9:10).

The prophecies of Amos would come to pass. Israel, the northern kingdom consisting of ten tribes, was the first to be taken captive, and scattered “among all nations” (9:9).

Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of Judah and Benjamin, was promised, “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8).  Seventy years after Judah was taken captive by Babylon, the Jews were allowed to return to their land, and to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1) and the city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:20; 9:11-15).

Amos 9 concludes with God’s promise to one day restore God’s people to their land and place a legitimate heir on David’s throne (9:14-15). 

A legitimate heir of David has not sat upon the throne of Israel since the time of the captivity. A portion of the house of Judah has returned to their homeland, but no king reigns in Israel. When a legitimate heir of Israel sits on the throne of David, He will be none other than Jesus Christ, Son of David, the Only begotten Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 1:7-8 – “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to a people who celebrate perversity! (Amos 1-5)

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-5

Amos 1

In the days of the prophet Amos, “Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and that nation had maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” (thus identifying him as Jeroboam II) was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom. That nation made no pretense of worshipping the LORD. Founded by Jeroboam I who set up and sacrificed to a golden calf at Bethel, Israel had rejected the LORD and departed from His Law and Commandments.

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.  When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

With the word of the LORD upon his lips, Amos courageously delivered a series of prophecies concerning the imminent judgement of God against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8), Tyre (1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3).

Amos 2

Turning his focus from the Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged because they had “despised the law of the LORD, and [had] not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God had sent prophets, but the people had said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

Amos 3

Amos reminded the people how the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both Israel and Judah) to be His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, had rejected the LORD and He had set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:1).

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: “For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments, come to “know not to do right?”  How could they be so blind? Why had they lost the knowledge and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts become so desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law that the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

On a personal note, I fear our society has followed the same sin pattern. The lunacy of atheism and the perversity of humanism have become so entrenched in government, education, religion and media that our judgment as a society is perverted.  When a people reject God and His Laws, the moral judgment of that nation is so twisted that the people “know not to do right” (3:10).

Amos 4 – The Chastisement of Israel and a Prophecy of That Nation’s Fall and Exile

Amos 5

Remembering the distinction between Israel, the northern kingdom made up of ten tribes, and Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, Amos takes up the prophecy of the LORD against Israel in Amos 5.

God’s condemnation and exposure of Israel’s hypocrisy gives way to His lamentation over the judgment and sorrows that will soon come upon the people (5:1-3).   Knowing the heart of the nation was set to do evil, nevertheless the LORD appealed to Israel to hear, heed and repent (5:4, 6, 8, 14-15)!

Amos names the sins of Israel: Unjust and rejecting righteousness (5:7), hating bearers of truth (5:10), abusing the poor (5:11), afflicting the righteous, and taking bribes (5:12).

A pronouncement of “woe!” brings this chapter to a close (5:18-27).  The people had continued to make a pretense of worship (“your feast days…solemn assemblies” 5:21-22), but God knew their hearts and the prophet condemned their hypocrisy, and even their songs were noise to His ears (5:23).

I close with a challenge that Israel ignored, but that we should heed:

Amos 5:15 – “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe is Me!” (Isaiah 5-8)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah foretold the judgment of God upon Judah in a succession of four distinct woes pronounced against the nation should the people not repent of their sins and turn to the LORD (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30).

Notice that three of the woes address Judah and the fourth was exclaimed by Isaiah when he witnessed God sitting on His heavenly throne. Knowing the woes express the character of a people who had rejected God, His Laws, and Commandments, I invite you to contemplate how the spiritual condition of Judah parallels our own nation.

The first woe (Isaiah 5:20) condemned Judah for rejecting God’s Laws, leaving the people with the dilemma of no moral absolutes.

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Such is the condition of our nation and world.  Allow me to illustrate this point with one of many examples I could name: “Gay Marriage”.

The biblical and historical definition of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27, 2:18, 21-24; Matthew 19:5-6; Ephesians 5:31) has been under assault for two decades. Politicians, judicial courts, secular schools, and liberal churches have assailed the sanctity of marriage and embraced wickedness and depravity. Condemning moral virtue, our society champions the lunacy of men marrying men and women marrying women (Romans 1:26-27) and demands the judgment of God.

A second woe described the people as unteachable (Isaiah 5:20).

Isaiah 5:21 – “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent [wise, shrewd] in their own sight!”

Paul’s letter to believers living in Rome describes that same spiritual malady in these words: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).

Who is a fool? Those who reject TRUTH and are unteachable (“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” – Psalm 14:1; 53:1). When a man rejects His Creator (Romans 1:23), God abandons him to sinful passions that are expressed in the depth of his depravity: “vile affections…unseemly…reprobate” (Romans 1:24-32).

A third woe illuminated the narcissistic nature of the people of Judah and their loathing of the righteous.

Isaiah 5:22-23 – “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine [drunkards], and men of strength to mingle strong drink [boasting of their drunkenness]: 23 Which justify [acquit] the wicked for reward [bribe], and take away the righteousness [innocence; justice, rights and liberties] of the righteous from him!”

The fourth woe is one Isaiah stated of himself.  Shaken by a vision of the LORD sitting on His heavenly throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), Isaiah saw the manner of man he was and was overwhelmed by his sinfulness. The prophet confessed:

Isaiah 6:5“…Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

The LORD was looking for a man who would declare His final warning to Judah before effecting His judgment. Isaiah, his lips purged from sin by a “live coal…off the altar” (Isaiah 6:6-7), and with a fire burning in his soul, heard God ask:

“Who shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered saying, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A closing thought: I believe I have made the case that the sinful conditions of Judah in Isaiah’s day are the same as those we see in our nation and world. The world has rejected the LORD and His Commandments, and become morally bankrupt (no right or wrong).  We have ejected God from public places and become unteachable. We are slaves to temporal pleasures (boasting of our vices and despising righteousness). The ominous clouds of God’s imminent judgment are clearly seen. Who among us will be humbled by the knowledge of our sinfulness and pray with Isaiah,

“Woe is me… mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts…Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Standing at the Precipice of God’s Judgment (Isaiah 1-4)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 1-4

An Introduction of the Prophet Isaiah

The prophet Isaiah lived in the 8th century BCE. His prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah), and three world empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the rise of the Chaldean empire). He was, in my opinion, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets.

He was a fearless preacher, a courageous prophet, and a passionate pastor. Isaiah faithfully warned the nation, because they had rejected the LORD, His Law and Commandments, the wrath of God and His judgment were imminent.

Isaiah is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament and His prophecies concerning the coming Messiah were fulfilled in exacting detail by Jesus Christ: His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), His character and person (Isaiah 9:6), His suffering, death, and rejection by His own people (Isaiah 53), and His resurrection (Isaiah 53:10).

Isaiah 1 – A Heavenly Courtroom

A heavenly courtroom is the setting of Isaiah 1 where we find the LORD portrayed as the judge and prosecutor, Judah as the defendant, and heaven and earth as the witnesses and jury (1:2a).

The nation of Judah was indicted on three counts: Ingratitude (1:2-4); Insincerity (1:11-20); and Injustices (1:21-23). Before rendering His judgment, God mercifully offered Judah an opportunity to repent saying, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins [faults; offences] be as scarlet [color of blood], they shall be as white [purified; without blemish] as snow; though they be red [blood red] like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Judah despised the prophet’s message and rejected God’s offer of grace. The nation continued in her sin that would end with Nebuchadnezzar’s army destroying Jerusalem and taking the people captive to Babylon.

Isaiah 2 – The Millennium Kingdom, Restoration of Israel, and the Reign of Jesus Christ on the Throne of David

The prophetic setting of Isaiah 2 is “the last days” of human history (2:2). The geographical location is the Temple mount in Jerusalem where the LORD Himself will rule and the nations of the earth will gather to worship Him. (2:2b-3)

Isaiah 3“The Sins and Signs of a Failing Nation and a Dying Culture”

Like a portrayal of our world in the 21st century, Judah was morally and spiritually bankrupt. Her leaders were weak and void of integrity (Isaiah 3:2-3).  Foolish, inexperienced leaders described as “children” and “babes” (3:4), were not only inept, but proud and oppressive (3:5). Strong dominant women and effeminate men were leading Judah “to err, and destroy the way” (3:12, 16-23). The wickedness of Judah not only invited, but demanded the judgment of God (3:11, 25-26).

Isaiah 4 – The Restoration of Purity, Peace and Prosperity

Rather than the utopia the intellectuals of the early 20th century imagined, the first two decades of the 21st century have been marked by violence, cultural revolutions, and a sexual depravity unseen since God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

We might lose hope and despair if we did not know the Author of “His-Story” and the Sovereign of creation. Though troubles surround us and adversaries assail us, we have the LORD’S assurance:

Isaiah 51:16“I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Danger: Cursed Be the Man Who Usurps God’s Authority (2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Once again, our study of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are parallel passages of the same historical events. While the names of the various kings might be confusing and their acts forgotten, what we should take from our Scripture reading is the way and manner in which God sovereignly deals with his servants and people.

2 Kings 15 – Time marches on and kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.

His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah.  Only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, Azariah would reign as king for fifty-two years (15:1-2).

2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a separate house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e. Azariah) remarkable accomplishments are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26 and the secret to his successes is stated: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah was a warrior (26:6-8), builder (26:9), and a farmer (26:10). He was also a gifted administrator who numbered and organized his army, and provided them the necessary implements for war (26:11-15).

Why would God afflict King Uzziah (i.e. Azariah) with leprosy, a dreadful disease that would follow him to his grave?

The king was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy; one that affects and infects the soul: PRIDE (26:16).

2 Chronicles 26:16 – But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

In an act of sinful pride, the king usurped the role and office of the priest and foolishly entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).

Bloated with pride from his successes, the king trampled upon ground that was reserved for the priesthood. The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy on his forehead (26:19).

The law concerning leprosy demanded the leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46). Seeing the leprosy on the king’s face, the priests moved to expel Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20). Uzziah lived the rest of his life as a leper in exile from the palace. As a leper, he was denied burial in the royal tomb, and was buried in a field near to the place where kings were buried.

What a tragedy! The great king whose legacy should have been that he was a great warrior, builder, and administrator, dies with his testimony in tatters. What lesson might we take from this sad historical record? What would Uzziah advise us if he could speak?

I believe he would warn, “Trifle with the pulpit, usurp the role of a spiritual leader, and you do so at the risk of your legacy, if not your life.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Orders the Starts and Stops! (Jonah 1-4)

Scripture reading Jonah 1-4

The Book of Jonah is today’s Scripture reading assignment. Though only four chapters in length, this historical drama is powerful and telling: Nineveh, a wicked, idolatrous city, unaware of the imminence of God’s judgment and the threat of annihilation. The LORD and Sovereign Creator is holy and just, but also merciful and loving toward sinners. Jonah, a reluctant, rebellious prophet, defied God’s command to warn Nineveh and call the people to repent of their sins.

Have you ever wanted to run?

You may remember a childhood tantrum that resulted in your threat to take your little red wagon and run away from home. To your chagrin, your mother pretended to take you up on your plan, and even offered to help you pack!  If you were strong willed, you might have even followed through with strong determination! Fortunately, for a child, minutes can seem like hours and a hundred yards like a mile. Upon returning home from your self-willed excursion, your mom probably greeted you, “Well, you’re back! Wash your hands and get ready for dinner!”

Two lessons come to the forefront of this scenario: The first, “What is best for you is not always what you think is best.”  The second, may not be realized until years later; although you could not see her, your mother never took her eyes off you!

Some 2800 years ago, a passionate, patriotic and popular preacher in Israel named Jonah received God’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh…” (1:2). 

Nineveh was a great city with a population of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11). However, Nineveh was also a wicked city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and a great adversary of Israel!

Possibly fearing his nation’s enemy or the rejection of His own people, Jonah refused to preach against Nineveh, later confessing he feared the LORD would spare that city from destruction!  Jonah resigned his calling as God’s prophet (Jonah 1:3), paid his fare, and took a ship for Tarshish, a city on the western most edge of the known world in his day (1:3).

In his flight from the LORD, Jonah soon found himself caught in a great storm and the sea threatening to take him and his fellow passengers to a watery grave (1:4-6).  Evidencing the callousness of a backslidden sinner, Jonah slept in the bottom of the ship until he was awakened by the sailors. Jonah confessed he was a prophet of the LORD and the storm was sent by God to chastise him. Fearing for their lives, the sailors reluctantly cast Jonah into the sea where he was swallowed by a great fish providentially provided by the LORD.

We read that Jonah confessed his sin and “prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (2:1) and “He heard me” (2:2). 

The prophet understood his miserable state was a watery grave unless the LORD delivered him (2:9-10).  The LORD mercifully answered Jonah’s prayer and “spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

Jonah obeyed the LORD, went to Nineveh and began warning that great city, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). 

Amazingly, the people of Nineveh believed the word of that reluctant prophet and repented (3:5-9).  Hearing Nineveh’s penitent cry, the LORD was moved with compassion and set aside His judgment (3:10).

Jonah 3:10 – “And God saw [looked;; beheld; perceived] their works [behavior; deeds], that they turned [turned back] from their evil [sinful; wicked] way; and God repented [reckoned; moved with compassion] of the evil [destruction; bad—not sin], that he had said that he would do [make; wrought; perform; accomplish] unto them; and he did it not.”

We would number Jonah among the greatest preachers and prophets of all time, if he had also longed to see Nineveh repent. Jonah, however, did not rejoice in the LORD’s compassion, or the city being spared His judgment. We read:

Jonah 4:1-2 – “But it displeased [so angry he trembled] Jonah exceedingly [overcome with anger], and he was very angry [incensed; burned with anger]. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God], and said [charged], I pray thee [lit. “Ah, now!”], O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful [full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment].”

Jonah was angry that God had spared a city that was the enemy of Israel. Jonah then left Nineveh, built a temporary dwelling outside the city, and sat down and waited to see if God would destroy the city (Jonah 4:5).

Here we find a characteristic of men who abandon their calling…they are more interested in temporal comforts than they are in lost souls (4:6). 

Jonah 4:6 – “And the LORD God prepared [appointed; told] a gourd, and made it to come up [ascend; mount up]over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver [preserve; recover; escape] him from his grief [lit. sin; evil; wickedness; distress; misery]. So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

Jonah became angry and despaired of life when the LORD destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine. “God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd? And he said, I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (4:9).

God then challenged Jonah to consider his priorities, along with his foolish, self-centered attitude.

Jonah 4:10 – “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:”

This brief biography of Jonah’s life ends with a question:

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?”

There may be someone reading this devotion who has quit on God and taken a ship to your own Tarshish. 

I understand the temptation that comes with hard times, difficult people, harsh criticisms and little encouragement. To quit is appealing in the midst of disappointments, especially when a “gourd” promises you rest and comfort. However, such a path comes at the sacrifice of the best part…the will of the LORD.

Take a lesson from Jonah’s life: God orders the starts and stops, not man! 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith