Category Archives: Alcohol, Drunkenness

Divine Providence: The Invisible Hand of An All-Loving God (Esther 1-5)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

The Book of Esther is known as one of only two books in the Bible that never mentions God by name (the other is the Song of Solomon). That fact, however, cannot dismiss the indisputable evidences of divine providence seen throughout the pages of this book. Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

What is divine providence?

Simply defined, providence means “to foresee” or “to see before.”

The late Dr. Edward M. Panosian, my Bible college history professor who sparked within me a passion for history, quotes in his book, The Providence of God in History, the observation of 19th century historian Hollis Read: “History, when rightly written, is but a record of providence; and he who would read history rightly, must read it with his eye constantly fixed on the hand of God.” 1

Many great minds have attempted to define providence. T. Dewitt Talmage, a 19th century clergyman observed: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer said of divine providence, “[God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, stated, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

I add to the chorus of others who have defined Divine Providence my own definition of the same: Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of His creation, and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose which is His glory and my good. The providence of God is practical, personal, and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose. 

The apostle Paul suggested the same, writing: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Book of Esther is a testimony of both God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and the preservation of His chosen people. The LORD sovereignly guided the affairs of a secular empire to fulfill His divine purpose and end. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Esther 1 and Esther 2:1-7.

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

King Ahasuerus (also known in history as King Xerxes I) was king of Persia. He was the fourth of five kings to rule the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. He was the grandson of Cyrus the Great, and the son of King Darius I. He reigned over Persia (modern Iran) from 486 B.C. to 465 B.C.

Ahasuerus was ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (1:1), including one hundred twenty-seven provinces that embraced all of today’s Middle East (1:4). Nevertheless, the Persian empire was past its zenith and the events recorded in Esther 1 occurred, according to Greek historian Herodotus, before Ahasuerus attacked Greece and suffered the loss of the Persian navy.

Three lavish feasts are recorded in Esther 1. The first lasted one hundred-eighty days (1:3-4). The second feast, though lasting only seven days, was greater than the first and was a scene of sin and drunken debauchery (1:5-8). The third feast, apparently coinciding with the king’s drunken, weeklong banquet, was hosted by Queen Vashti for the women of the city (1:9).

Drunk with wine, and apparently at the loss of his senses, King Ahasuerus commanded his beautiful queen to parade herself before his guests (1:10-11). Queen Vashti, however, refused to obey the king’s command (1:12). Her refusal created a royal crisis (1:13-18) for a drunken king too proud to humble himself and accept that his queen was the better and wiser of the two. Enraged, Ahasuerus issued a royal decree that forever banished his queen from her throne and the king’s palace (1:19-22).

Esther 2:1-7– A Defeated King and A Virgin Who Became Queen

Having suffered his first defeat and the loss of his navy, Ahasuerus returned to his throne and then “he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her” (2:1). The king’s rash banishment of Queen Vashti (1:19-22), had set in motion a series of events that propelled a Jewish maiden named Hadassah, whose Babylonian name was Esther (2:7), from the anonymity of a maiden, to the throne of Persia.

Although some 50,000 people of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had returned to Israel (Ezra 1), there were many who had chosen to remain in Babylon, among those was a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7). Mordecai, had taken Hadassah into his household after the deaths of her parents and brought her up as his daughter (2:7). The premature death of Esther’s parents, and her adoption by Mordecai, were both part of God’s sovereign, providential plan for her life.

1Edward M. Panosian, The Providence of God in History (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1996), p. 21.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson and Admonition to Social Drinkers (Habakkuk 1-3)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 1-3

Habakkuk was a prophet whose brief ministry served as a final warning of the LORD’s judgment on Judah for the sins of the people.  A contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s lamentation over Judah and the imminent invasion of the Chaldeans was an ominous conclusion of a succession of warnings faithfully delivered by the prophets.

Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were as much an appeal to the LORD for Judah as they were a lamentation over the devastation God’s people would soon face as the invading armies of Babylon (the Chaldeans) stormed over the land, finally destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Habakkuk 1

Habakkuk 1 is a record of Judah’s sins (1:1-4) and a warning that God would use the Chaldeans to punish the sins of His rebellious people (1:5-17).  Habakkuk questioned why the LORD would use Babylon, a heathen nation whose wickedness far exceeded the sins of Judah, to punish His people (1:12-13).

Habakkuk 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked[Babylon] devoureth the man [i.e. Judah] that is more righteous than he?”

Habakkuk 2

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1) and the LORD graciously responded (2:2-4).  The judgment of God was set against Judah; however, God had not forsaken His chosen people, therefore, “the just shall live by his faith” (2:4; note Romans 1:16-17).

Although God would use Babylon as a tool to exact justice on Judah for her wickedness, the LORD was not blind to the sins of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).  Habakkuk raised several grievances against Babylon, among them their drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19-20).

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sorrows and sufferings that would soon engulf Judah (1:1-4), but ends with the prophet praying and acknowledging the LORD’s sovereignty (3:1-2) and majesty (3:3-16).  The prophet had moved from questioning the LORD, to trusting His ways and rejoicing in His faithfulness (3:17-19).

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

I close today’s devotional drawing your attention to two verses too many 21st century believers trivialize and dismiss as they assail any who dare question their “Liberty.”

Among the sins and wickedness of Babylon, was one that was mentioned twice…wine and drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:5, 15). The Chaldeans were condemned not only for their drunkenness, but also for giving strong drink to mock and take advantage of their neighbor.

Habakkuk 2:5 – “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:”

Habakkuk 2:15 – “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

I close with a lesson all believers would be wise to heed: Wine and strong drink often chart the path to unrestrained pride, shameless adultery, uninhibited lust, and gross immorality.

Warning to parents and charlatan pastors: What you exercise in moderation, your children will practice to excess. Such a path invariably ends with heartache and ruin!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Invitation: God Is Waiting to Hear Your Call (Isaiah 28-30)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 28-30

Continuing our chronological study of the Old Testament, we transition from the prophecies of Hosea, whose ministry was directed primarily to the northern ten tribes (Israel, also referred to as Ephraim), and return to Isaiah 28.

Isaiah 28 – Isaiah announced two judgments in Isaiah 28.

The first was God’s judgment against “the crown of pride” (which I believe is a reference to the royal capital city of Samaria) and “the drunkards of Ephraim,” which I interpret to be the political and spiritual leaders of the northern ten tribes (28:1-4). Referring to Assyria as “a mighty and strong one” (28:2), Isaiah prophesied the LORD would send against Ephraim a nation that would trod “under feet” (28:3) and “eateth up” (28:4).

Isaiah 28:5-6 refers to a period of time that is still future (unless one considers the reign of Hezekiah, the godly king of Judah as a partial, immediate fulfillment) and will be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming.

The second prophecy of judgment was directed to Judah, who witnessed the destruction of her brethren to the north, but continued in her sin and wickedness (28:7-15).

The wickedness of Judah was revealed in the drunkenness of her priests and prophets. Those leaders who should have called the nation to the LORD were guilty of drunkenness (28:7) and self-indulgence. Their feasts had become drunken banquets vividly portrayed as “tables…full of vomit and filthiness” (28:8).

Realizing the looming threat of Assyria, rather than repent of their sins and turn to the LORD, Judah’s leaders sought an alliance with Egypt (28:14-15; 30:1-5) that God described as “your covenant with death” (28:18).

Judah’s only hope was a Messianic prophecy: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste [not be ashamed; panic]” (28:16). The New Testament reveals the “precious corner stone, a sure foundation” is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-7; Mark 12:10; Romans 9:33).

Isaiah 29

To understand Isaiah 29, when you read “Ariel”, think of Jerusalem for we read that Ariel was “the city where David dwelt” (29:1). Isaiah 29:1-14 is the prophet’s warning of God’s imminent judgment against Jerusalem that would be fulfilled in Assyria’s siege of the capital city.

The distress, mourning, and siege of Jerusalem was a historical event that took place in 701 B.C. when Assyria defeated Israel (the northern ten tribes) and would have overwhelmed Jerusalem if the LORD had not intervened (37:36).  Knowing that prophecy often has an imminent and a far-reaching application, I believe Isaiah 29:7-8 describes the future siege when the nations of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem during the “battle of Armageddon” (Zechariah 14:1-3; Revelation 14:14-20; 16:13-21).

Isaiah 29:15-24 reminds us that the God of Heaven is Sovereign Creator and nothing escapes His knowledge or is beyond His control. The leaders of Judah were foolish, thinking God had no knowledge of their schemes, plans, and sins committed in secret (29:15).  Isaiah reasoned, no more than the potter’s clay could rise up against the potter, how foolish for man to assert of God, “He made me not?” (29:16).

Isaiah 29:17-24 is, in my opinion, a picture of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom after His Second Coming. His earthly kingdom will be glorious: The earth will be transformed and fruitful (29:17), the deaf will hear, the blind will see (29:18), and the meek and poor will rejoice (29:18).  What a glorious day that will be!

Isaiah 30A prophecy of woe against Jerusalem

Rather than turn from her sin and return to the LORD, Judah turned to Pharaoh and Egypt for deliverance from her enemies (30:1-7).  Isaiah warned, Judah’s attempt to purchase Egypt’s protection would all be in vain (30:7).

Isaiah 30:8-17 paints a graphic portrait of Judah’s rebellion against God and His Word.

The LORD commanded Isaiah to write down His warning of judgment (30:8) and to describe the rebellious nature of the people… “lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD” (30:9).

In spite of their sin and rebellion, Isaiah assured the people that God is gracious, compassionate, and just (30:18). When they cry out to Him, He will hear and answer their cry (30:19).

Isaiah 30 closes with a promise of Judah’s restoration to the land (30:18-26). Isaiah prophesied the defeat of Assyria that is, I believe, symbolic of the defeat of all the nations of the earth that will gather against Jerusalem when Christ returns and establishes His Millennial Kingdom (30:27-33; Revelation 19:11-21).

An Invitation: Someone reading today’s devotional might identify in their own life some of the sins of Judah: Hypocritical worship; a disdain for spiritual truth; a pattern of minimizing sins; excusing rebellion, and a defiance of God and authority.

There is hope for you, as there was for Judah, if you are willing to confess your sins, turn to the LORD, and seek His forgiveness.

1 John 1:8-10 – “8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: None are Too Great to Fail (Genesis 8-11)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 8-11

The historical account of the universal flood began in Genesis 6 where we read, “5 the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man…” (Genesis 6:5, 7).

Credit:The Illustration Art Gallery

Noah and his family escaped God’s judgment for he “found grace [divine favor] in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8) and “was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

Noah was a man of faith; just, righteous, walking according to God’s Law, not yet written, but passed down from generation to generation. Unlike any other of his day, Noah believed and “walked with God.”

Because he was a man of faith, God extended His grace and favor to Noah, sparing him and his family from the greatest cataclysmic event to ever come upon the earth.  For forty days and nights it rained upon the earth (7:12,17) and, when the rains were stopped, the waters covered the earth another 150 days.

“God remembered Noah…” (Genesis 8:1)

Noah’s family remained in the Ark a total of 370 days (Genesis 8:14-16).  Disembarking from the vessel, Noah’s first act as the father and priest of his household was to offer sacrifices (Genesis 8:20-21a), acknowledging God’s salvation, mercy and grace for sparing him and his household.  Accepting Noah’s sacrifice, God set a rainbow in the sky as a symbol of His covenant with man to never again destroy the earth with universal floodwaters (Genesis 9:11-13).

The best of men are sinners at best.

Noah planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20), made juice, and contented himself with the fruit of his labor.  Inevitably, the juice fermented and Noah, failing to realize his drunken condition, left himself naked and exposed.  In such a state we read, Ham saw [i.e. with a mocking, scornful gaze] the nakedness of his father” (Genesis 9:22).  Awakening from his drunken stupor, Noah learned of Ham’s scorn and prophesied his lineage would be “a servant of servants…unto his brethren” [the descendants of Shen and Japheth] (Genesis 9:26-27).

Lesson: A man’s weakness is often exposed in the aftermath of his greatest success.

Before the flood, Noah had been a faithful preacher to a dying world and a godly testimony to his family.  After the flood, he allowed himself a liberty that proved tragic.

We might conjecture, in an effort to explain the failure of this noble man, that Noah’s physical strength was failing. He must have reflected on the world that was lost and, with no mention of his wife, perhaps the loneliness of his last days. Whatever the excuse, Noah’s life was marred by one failure and the sorrow of a son who held him in contempt.

Let us all be reminded that the greatest of men are not above temptation. (Genesis 9:21)

1 Corinthians 10:12 – Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Lot: The Tragic Consequences of One’s Father’s Sinful Choices

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 19-20, Psalm 10, and Matthew 10. Our devotional is taken from Genesis 19-20.

We read in Genesis 18 that the LORD and two angels appeared to Abraham and Sarah as men.  That elderly couple soon realized the three visitors were not mere mortals, for the LORD revealed He knew Sarah’s private thoughts and how she scoffed and laughed within herself when she heard the promise she would bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:11-15).

We are made privy to the LORD’s love for Abraham and His desire to not keep from the man the great judgment that would soon befall the cities of the plain, specifically Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-17, 20-21).

Abraham pled for Sodom, proposing if ten righteous souls be found there the city might be spared God’s judgment (Genesis 18:23-33).  The LORD heeded Abraham’s petition and promise to spare the city from destruction should ten righteous souls be dwelling among its citizens (Genesis 18:32).

After “the LORD went His way” (Genesis 18:33), the angels made their journey into the valley, arriving at Sodom that even (Genesis 19).   Entering the city, the angels found Lot sitting “in the gate” (Genesis 19:1) where city leaders transacted business and settled disputes.  Lot recognized the visitors were not like the wicked of Sodom and urged them to find refuge in his home for the night (19:2-3).

As darkness fell on the city, the wicked men of Sodom encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sodomized (19:4-6).  Unable to prevail against them (19:7), Lot foolishly offered his daughters to satisfy their depraved lusts (19:8-9).  Refusing Lot’s offer, the citizens of Sodom pressed upon the man threatening to break down the door of his home.  Lot was saved when the angels drew him into the house and striking the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Exhibiting grace, the angels urged Lot to gather his family and flee the city before God destroyed it (19:12-13).  A desperate Lot went out of the house into the night hoping to persuade his sons, daughters, and sons-in-laws to flee the city; however, they dismissed the man as “one that mocked” (19:14).

As the sun began to pierce the eastern horizon, the angels forced Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city, warning them to no look back upon its destruction (19:15-23).  Adding sorrow upon sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope the deaths of loved ones and the judgment that befell the cities might transform Lot and his daughters; however, such was not the case. Lot’s daughters enticed their father with strong drink and committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.

The tragic consequences of Lot’s sinful choices has shadowed God’s people as the lineages of Lot’s sons, the Moabites and Ammonites, became adversaries and a perpetual trouble for Israel to this day.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: None are Too Great to Fail (Genesis 9-10)

Today’s scripture reading is Genesis 9-10, Psalm 5, and Matthew 5.  Genesis 9 is the focus of today’s devotional.

Accepting Noah’s sacrifice, God set a rainbow in the sky, a symbol of His covenant with man to never again destroy the earth with universal floodwaters (Genesis 9:11-13).

Noah became a farmer after the flood and planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20), contenting himself with the fruit of his labor.  Sadly, we are soon reminded the best of men are sinners.  The juice made from the grapes of Noah’s vineyard fermented and he became drunk.  Unconscious of his drunken condition, Noah exposed himself and Ham “saw [i.e. a mocking, scornful gaze] the nakedness of his father” (Genesis 9:22).

Awakening from his drunken stupor, Ham’s scorn enraged Noah who cursed his son with a prophecy that has shadowed his lineage… “a servant of servants shall he [Ham and his lineage] be unto his brethren [the descendants of Shen and Japheth] (Genesis 9:26-27).

Many have observed a man’s flaws are oft exposed in the wake of his greatest victory.  In Noah’s case, that observation proves true.  Before the flood, he was a man who “walked with God”; a faithful preacher and servant of God.  After the flood, he let down his guard and became drunk with wine.

We might conjecture Noah’s physical strength was failing, for he was an elderly man.  Perhaps his wife had died and his sons, occupied with tending their lands and raising their families, left Noah a lonely man.  Whatever the reason, Noah marked his last days with a moral failure and the sorrow of a son who held him in contempt.

We find a lesson and a warning here for all, but especially those who have guarded their testimonies and served the LORD faithfully.

  • Noah lived an unblemished life, but one moral lapse in judgment forever affected his testimony.
  • The greatest of men are not above temptation (Genesis 9:21). Noah’s drunkenness was a spiritual and moral failure that damaged his relationship with his sons.
  • A man’s moral vulnerability is often exposed at the pinnacle of his achievements. Samson withstood the assault of thousands of Philistines, only to fall morally under the spell of one woman, Delilah.  King David was at the height of his power and popularity, when he spied Bathsheba bathing and committed adultery.  Noah, his name and reputation synonymous with God’s grace and judgment, goes to his grave remembered for his drunkenness.

1 Corinthians 10:12– Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 

 Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith