Category Archives: Alcohol, Drunkenness

The Prodigal Son, and the Question of Divorce (Luke 15; Luke 16)

Scripture reading – Luke 15; Luke 16

Today’s devotional reading continues our study of the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 15 and 16 contain some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD. The Lost Sheep (15:4-10), The Prodigal Son (15:11-32), The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love. Because the latter used a man’s proper name (Lazarus), some suggest it was in fact an actual story, and should not fall into the category of an allegory (parable).

Luke 15

The parable of The Prodigal Son (15:11-32) is among the most beloved of all the parables. Notice there are three main characters in the tale: the loving father, the prodigal who was the younger son, and the eldest son who was proud and unforgiving. Because the tale is so well-known, I will limit my observations to a few remarks.

The first two verses reveal the setting and circumstances that prompted the story: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (15:1-2).

As you read the drama between the father, and his sons, notice the parallel between the actors in the parable and those mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. The “publicans and sinners” were like the rebellious younger son, who “wasted his substance with riotous living…and began to be in want,” yet, were received by Christ (15:14). The Pharisees and scribes, like the elder brother who refused to accept his younger brother, resented and criticized Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners (15:2, 28-30). Of course, the father who received his younger son, forgave and restored him as a son, was a picture of Christ’s love for sinners (15:2b, 20-24).

Luke 16

This chapter opens with The Parable of the Unjust Steward (16:1-12), and concludes with the dramatic story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). In the midst of the chapter are five verses that seem to interrupt the flow of the narratives, until we remember they embodied Christ’s response to his adversaries (16:14). The Pharisees, often used the occasion of Jesus teaching the people as an opportunity to criticize and confront Him. Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) began to “deride” Jesus, openly mocking Him before the people.

Rather than retreat, Jesus answered the derision of the Pharisees and used the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  He accused those religious leaders of aspiring for men’s venerations, and unmasked the hypocrisy He knew was in their hearts (16:15).

The Pharisees, who considered themselves experts in the law of God, listened as Jesus said, “16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (16:16-17).

John the Baptist was the bridge from the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, to Christ, and His preaching the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17). Then, Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and adultery— “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (16:18).

The Pharisees had failed to uphold the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33). Those hypocrites had mislead the people, and misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

Closing thoughts – I close today’s devotional with a few parting thoughts.  The first, God’s will and His design of marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. Furthermore, the Scriptures are abundantly clear–God hates divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away,” Malachi 2:16).  On a personal, and closing note: I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, and I cite three proof scriptures for my authority in the matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 – “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 – “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

So much more might be said on the subject of marriage and divorce, but I will address that topic at another time.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Divine Providence: The Invisible Hand of An All-Loving God (Esther 1; Esther 2)

Scripture reading – Esther 1; Esther 2

The Book of Esther is 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 historical events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah.

What is divine providence?

Simply defined, providence means “to foresee” or “to see before.”  In his book, “The Hand of God in History,” Hollis Read, a 19th century historian writes, “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.”

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:

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 (Romans 8:28-29). The providence of God is practical, personal, and cannot be divorced from His 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 divine providence in the life of Esther, a young Jewish maiden, and the preservation of the Jews, God’s 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.

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

Ahasuerus (also known in history as King Xerxes I) was king of Persia (the region of modern Iran), and reigned from 486 BC to 465 BC. 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. In his day, Ahasuerus was ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (1:1). Divided into 127 provinces, Persia embraced all of today’s Middle East (1:4). Yet, the Persian empire was already past its zenith. According to Greek historian Herodotus, the events recorded in Esther 1 would have occurred before Ahasuerus attacked Greece and suffered the loss of the Persian navy.

Three lavish feasts were recorded in Esther 1. The first lasted 180 days (1:3-4), and the second, 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 a 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), and her refusal created a royal crisis (1:13-18) for the drunken king. Too proud to humble himself and accept his queen was the wiser, Ahasuerus issued a decree and forever banished Vashti from her throne and his palace (1:19-22).

Esther 2

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

Having suffered his first defeat and the loss of his navy, Ahasuerus returned to his throne and “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), set in motion a series of events that propelled a Jewish maiden named Hadassah (her Babylonian name was Esther, 2:7), from the anonymity of a maiden, to the throne of Persia.

Some 50,000 people of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had returned to Israel (Ezra 1); however, many Jews had chosen to remain in Babylon, and among them 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). Though tragic, the premature deaths of Esther’s parents, and her adoption by Mordecai, were part of God’s sovereign, providential plan for her life.

A Royal Marriage (2:8-17)

Esther’s life is a lasting testimony of God’s grace, and her beauty and humble demeanor gained her favor with “Hegai, keeper of” the king’s harem (2:8). “Out of the king’s house: [Hegai] preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women” (2:9). As discreet as she was beautiful, Esther obeyed Mordecai and did not reveal to any she was Jewish (2:10, 20).

Every maiden completed her season of purification, and was summoned by the king to his chamber (2:14), but the king found no delight in any of the women (2:15). Esther, who had “obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her” (2:15), was called before Ahasuerus. “The king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti” (2:17).

Closing thoughts (2:18-23) – In God’s providence, Mordecai learned of a plot to assassinate the king. Giving the names of the insurgents to Esther, she endeared Mordecai to the king (2:22), and his loyalty was recorded “in the book of the chronicles before the king” (2:23).

Think about it: Because she had experienced the deaths of her father and mother, Esther’s life might have been defined by bitterness. Instead, she chose to accept the LORD’s will with grace and submission, and was honored to serve the LORD as queen of Persia.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Dare to be A Daniel (Daniel 1)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history. Beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, our study of Daniel will encompass a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow: The Medo-Persian empire, followed by Greece, and then Rome. Yet, as we will see, the visions God imparted to Daniel were of the history of man that is past, present, and still future. Daniel’s writing included prophecies that are more than a footnote of history past; they are a foretelling of future events that will conclude with the Second Coming of Christ.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account of events we studied in 2 Kings 24:12-16, for it was “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah (605 BC) came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (1:1). This was the first of three sieges by Babylon. The others that followed were 597 BC, and 586 BC (the final destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, Jeremiah 25:9-12; 2 Kings 25).

The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings, if the people did not repent and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon,” the LORD would return His people to their land (Jeremiah 29:10).

The events recorded in Daniel 1 occurred at the time the Temple was plundered, and king Jehoiakim was taken captive to Babylon (1:1-2). 10,000 Jews were also taken captive following the first siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:14-16), and among them were the finest young men of Jerusalem: “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:3-4).

Named among the captives of Judah were “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (1:6). Desiring to complete their assimilation into the Babylonian culture, “the prince of the eunuchs gave names [to the Jewish captives]: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego” (1:7). Though we cannot be certain of his age, Daniel was probably between 13-17 years old when he was taken from his home and brought to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture.

Nebuchadnezzar chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth, and prepared them to one day take their place in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was among those youth (1:4), and soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a man of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7).

Leading by example and conviction, “Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself” (Daniel 1:8).

Daniel pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work, and providentially “brought Daniel into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince [chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined) by Nebuchadnezzar, they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

Closing thoughts (1:17-20) – We will see in our study, how the testing of Daniel’s faith prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

In closing, I invite you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive heart, and his sensitivity to the authority in his life: 1) He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); 2) He was sincere in his appeal (1:12); 3) He was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); 4) He was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

Following Daniel as a perfect model of faith and convictions, every believer would do well to examine his own spirit, manner, convictions, and relationship with the authorities in his life.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Let God, Be God (Habakkuk 1; Habakkuk 2)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 1; Habakkuk 2

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the brief, prophetic book that chronicles the musings and prophecies of Habakkuk. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, and his lamentations over Judah’s sins and understanding of the imminent threat of Nebuchadnezzar’s army moved the prophet to question the LORD. Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were an appeal to the LORD for Judah, and a longing that they would understand His ways.

Habakkuk 1 – Evil in the World

Habakkuk 1 recounts the sins of Judah (1:1-4), with the prophet pondering how long Judah would go unpunished (1:2). He grieved over the sins of the people, and wondered why God would tolerate them (1:3). There was strife and unrest in the nation. When men sought justice, they found none (1:3b, 4), for the wicked ruled the land, and the judgments of the courts were twisted and unjust (1:4).

God’s Answer to His Tolerance of the Nation’s Sins (1:5-11)

The LORD replied to Habakkuk’s questions, saying, “5Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously” (1:5a). In other words, “Habakkuk, look around, for I am about to bring a great judgment upon Judah.”

What judgment had the LORD planned for His people? He declared, “I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, Which shall march through the breadth of the land, To possess the dwelling places that are not theirs” (1:6). God had chosen Babylon to punish the nations for their wickedness, and Judah was among them. Nebuchadnezzar’s army was described as “terrible and dreadful” (1:7). The Chaldeans would come upon horses as swift and agile as leopards, and the men riding them as ferocious as wolves (1:8). Babylon would spread across the land like a violent horde, and gather up prisoners “as the sand” (1:9). Proud and arrogant; Babylon would lay siege to strongholds, and take them (1:10-11).

Why did God employ a heathen nation to punish His people? (1:12-17)

Habakkuk, endeavoring to make sense out of what made no sense, questioned the LORD: “Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; And, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction” (1:12). LORD, are you not the Eternal One? Are you not “LORD” [Yahweh, God’s covenant name with Israel]? You are “my God,” and the “Holy One” of heaven.

Habakkuk, understood God’s covenant with Israel, and had faith the nation would not altogether perish. He acknowledged the LORD had ordained Babylon to judge His people (1:12). Yet, knowing the LORD is “of purer eyes than to behold evil,” he questioned why He took a wicked nation to punish His people (1:13).

Habakkuk reasoned Judah was like nothing but “fishes of the sea” before Babylon (1:14). He continued the metaphor of the fish, and cried to the LORD knowing the mistreatments His people would suffer (1:15). He was anxious the heathen would rejoice in Judah’s sufferings, and offer the spoils of battle as sacrifices to their gods (1:16-17).

Habakkuk 2 – A Vision

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1). God responded, commanding Habakkuk to record a vision upon clay tablets, and preserve His answer for others (like ourselves) to ponder (2:2).

The immediate answer to the prophet’s questions may be summed up in one word: Wait (2:3). We read, “For the vision [of God’s judgment] is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: Though it [God’s judgment] tarry, wait for it; Because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (2:3).

Proud Babylon Will Be Judged (2:4-19)

God knows the hearts of men, and the soul “lifted up [and] is not upright” is known to the LORD (2:4a). Yet, “the just [who obey and keep the Law and Commandments] shall live by his faith” (2:4b).

Closing thoughts – The Chaldeans were blind to their wickedness, but the LORD knew their sins. He denounced Babylon, and stated several grievances against that nation: drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19). Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sins and sufferings of Judah (1:1-4), and chapter 2 ends with a reminder: God is Sovereign.

Believer, the nations of our day are in chaos, and the wickedness of society dismays us; however, let all who know the LORD be reminded:

“The Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20).

In a word: Wait! Wait on the LORD! (2:3)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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Is This the End? (Isaiah 22)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 22

Our study in “The Book of the Prophet Isaiah” continues with a prophetic judgment directed to “the valley of vision” (22:1).

Because Judah is identified as the object of the prophecy (22:8), and the “city of David” is named as the subject of a siege (22:9), we know Isaiah 22 is a prophecy against Jerusalem.

Having witnessed the devastation suffered by Israel (the northern tribes), one would hope the people of Judah (the southern kingdom) would have repented and humbled themselves before God. Instead, we read concerning Jerusalem, “Thou that art full of stirs [noise; shouting], a tumultuous city, a joyous city [jubilant; full of revelers](22:2).

The citizens of Jerusalem mirrored the sinful, narcissistic spirit of the rich fool when he said, “eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). They took pleasure in their sins, and rejected the warning that the judgment of God was imminent. Isaiah warned, the day of judgment was forthcoming and men would be slain in the streets (22:2) and the leaders of the people would flee before the enemy (22:3-7).

Isaiah prophesied Jerusalem’s defenses would fail (22:8-11a), and still the people refused to turn to the LORD (22:11b).  Instead of repenting of their sin, the people resolved to “eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die”(22:12-14). The LORD declared of Judah, “Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, Saith the Lord God of hosts” (22:4).

A Denunciation of the Treasurer of Jerusalem (Isaiah 22:15-19)

The LORD then commanded his prophet to take a personal message of judgment to the treasurer of Jerusalem named “Shebna” (22:15). Like politicians of our day, Shebna had enriched himself with ill-gotten gain. Flaunting his wealth, he had carved out of rock an elaborate sepulchre that was worthy of a king (22:16). Isaiah prophesied, Shebna would be carried away, die in captivity (22:17-19), and his tomb would belong to another.

The LORD Raised Up Eliakim, A Godly Leader (22:20-25)

In Shebna’s place, the LORD promised to raise up Eliakim, a man whom the LORD described as “my servant” (22:20). Unlike Shebna who abused his position, Eliakim would conduct himself like “a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah” (22:20-21). He would prove to be an honorable man (22:22), and the LORD promised he would serve like a “nail in a sure place” (in other words, a well-placed leader, 22:23). He would bring “the glory of his father’s house” (22:24).

Yet, for Judah it was too late (22:25).

Though a godly man was at the forefront of the nation’s leadership, the judgment of God was inevitable (22:25). Though he was a great leader, and the hope of some hung on him, Eliakim would be like a nail removed from its place. He would be unable to prevent the inevitable judgment of the LORD.

Closing thoughts – It was too late for ancient Judah, and it may be too late for many nations in our world to escape God’s judgment. Sadly, like the people of Judah, the church has assimilated the sins and pleasures of the world. I fear there are few who give any thought to God’s judgment.

You cannot know when the LORD has sealed your fate, but I urge you to not be like the rich man in Luke 12 who heard too late:

Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to the Proud (Amos 6)

Scripture reading – Amos 6

Amos 6

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of woes against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1). Both nations are characterized as being “at ease” (meaning carefree, overly-confident, careless); however, the focus of chapter 6 is primarily upon Israel (the northern ten tribes).

Amos’ Admonition to the Careless Leaders of Israel (6:2-6)

Three great heathen cities are identified in Amos 6:2, and held before Israel as examples of cities greater than Jerusalem and Samaria, that would succumb to a greater enemy (which history reveals as Assyria). Calneh was an ancient city identified as Nimrod, who also founded Babel (6:2a). Hamath was the capital city of Syria (6:2b), and Gath was one of the principal cities of the Philistines.

After identifying those great Gentile cities, for all would fall before the armies of the Assyrian empire, Amos challenged the careless leaders of Israel, “Be they better than these kingdoms? Or their border greater than your border?” (6:2). Amos questioned if the leaders of Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them (6:2). Though they had been warned, there were some who refused to believe and “put far away the evil day” until the “seat of violence” was at the gates of the city (6:3).

They were guilty of self-indulgence, and oppressed the poor of Israel, while the wealthy immersed themselves in extravagant luxury (6:4-6). They were lethargic, and gluttonous (6:4). They desired to be pleasured with music (6:5), were guilty of excessive drinking, and anointed themselves with expensive perfumes, yet, they gave no thought to the sorrows and sufferings of their countrymen (6:6).

The Judgment to Befall the Wealthy, Self-indulgent of Israel (6:7-11)

The ones who had oppressed the poor while pampering themselves in wealth and possessions were the first to be exiled and taken into captivity (6:7). God had sworn an oath of judgment against those who were filled with pride and presumption (6:8).

Amos painted a picture of destruction and devastation that would befall Israel, and the great majority of the people of Israel would perish (8:9). So many would die, the people would resort to cremation (usually reserved for criminals) to dispose the bodies of the dead (6:9-10). The destruction of houses described in Amos 6:11 is believed to have been caused by an earthquake.

Five Things That Should Not Be (6:12-13)

Amos wisely illustrated God’s wisdom by referencing nature as the teacher.  The first and second teaching points are easy to understand: Horses should not run on rocks (for they risk falling and either hurting themselves or their rider), and oxen should not plow over a rock strewn field (for there is little reward, 6:12b).

Amos continues to offer wisdom in terms that register deep with mankind. Polluting justice runs contrary to God’s divine order (6:12C), and is much like perverting the sweetness of righteousness with bitterness (6:12d). Finally, whether a nation or a man, it is foolish to boast of one’s strength, for boasting will inevitably come to nothing and prove you wrong (6:13).

Closing thoughts – For all the pride and boasting of Israel’s leaders, Amos delivered the inescapable fact of God’s judgment. All would be fulfilled as the LORD had promised and Amos had prophesied. Assyria would destroy the strongholds of Israel, and the proud and oppressed would be carried away into captivity (6:14).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Vanity of Vanities” (Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2

On January 1, 2021, I began writing daily Bible devotionals for www.HeartofAShepherd.com. Nearing the end of the first year of our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures; today’s Scripture reading brings us to the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 1 – Vanity of Vanities

Unlike the Book of Proverbs which challenged us with couplets of wisdom written by Solomon as a young father, the Book of Ecclesiastes was penned in the latter years of the king’s life. His youth far spent, and the frailty of the daily haunt of his old age, Solomon’s outlook on life had turned to regret. Asserting himself as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem (1:1), Solomon wrote:

Ecclesiastes 1:2 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”

What happened to Solomon? He was, apart from the LORD Jesus Christ, the wisest of men. How did a man of wisdom, understanding, insight, and discernment come to look at life as empty, vain, and meaningless?

Solomon was a man of great accomplishments. He had built the Temple in Jerusalem, and the very presence of the LORD dwelled there. He had constructed a magnificent palace, built cities, and fortified the remote cities of His kingdom. Israel had prospered under his reign, and came to inhabit all the LORD promised Abraham’s heirs as their inheritance. How did Solomon come to ask, “What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (1:3)

Consider several principles with me that we might take from today’s Scripture reading.

The first: Your perspective on life affects your contentment in life. Solomon came to realize, a life that fails to pursue God’s will and purpose will inevitably become full of labor, and without meaning (1:3). Time marches on — one generation passes, and another comes (1:4). The sun rises, and the sun sets; the wind blows, the rivers run, and “all things are full of labour…there is no new thing under the sun” (1:4-9).

A second principle: It’s not your chronological age, but your spiritual perspective that dictates your outlook on life (1:12-14). Like a sophomore student attending college and pondering the philosophy of men apart from the revelation of God, Solomon came to conclude “I have seen all the works [of men] that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

A third principle found in Ecclesiastes 1 is: Living in the past will rob you of both your joy, and passion for life (1:15-18). Solomon had been looking back on life and all he had achieved (1:16). In this, he concluded his pursuit of knowledge and pleasure (“madness and folly”) had only increased his sorrows (1:18).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life was empty?  The answer to that question is found in 1 Kings 11:3-4, where we read: “And he [Solomon] had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:3-4).

Solomon’s heart had turned from the living and true God, to worship other gods, and the sum of his life had become, “Vanity, all is vanity!”

* This concludes the first of two devotionals for today. You are invited to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily devotionals in the box to the right of this devotion, and have future devotionals sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Alcohol: “To Drink, or Not to Drink?” Is that the Question? (Proverbs 20)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 20

You will find that Proverbs 20 is a chapter rich in spiritual truths that seem to challenge nearly every aspect of life. From the admonition concerning wine and “strong drink” in verse 1, to the affirmation of biblical chastening described as “the blueness of a wound” in verse 30, spiritual principles abound. A daily devotional gives little opportunity to address the whole chapter, and so I have determined to tackle one that is being overlooked, if not rejected by some believers. Consider the first verse:

Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Should you be willing to embrace this proverb as simply as it is stated, its truth and application are both simple and undeniable. Consider a restatement of that proverb with this author’s amplification of word meanings:

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine [fermented wine] is a mocker [scorner; holds in derision], strong drink [intoxicating drink] is raging [roar; troubled; clamorous]: and whosoever is deceived [stray; mislead] thereby is not wise [almost always condemned].”

There are many in the 21st century Church who argue for tolerance in the matter of alcohol, and have embraced the imbibing of “strong drink” as a matter of liberty. Such an argument is a grave departure from the historical stance of Bible believers. Sadly, the silence of the pulpit in the matter has only perpetuated the acceptance of wine and alcohol. So, we ask the question, “To drink, or not to drink?” What do the Scriptures teach?

Paul challenged pastors to be sober [lit. temperate], “not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:3). In the Epistle of Titus, Paul called on pastors (i.e., “bishops”) to be “blameless…not given to wine” (Titus 1:7). He also cautioned older women to be “not given to much wine” (Titus 2:3).

Modern societies enjoy the blessing of fresh, pure water; however, that was not the case in ancient times. There was a risk of unsanitary, unpurified water in Solomon’s day, and that of the apostles. To kill germs and bacteria in drinking water, wine would be mixed with the water making it safe to drink (the mix was 8 parts water, and 1 part wine).

Lacking modern refrigeration we enjoy, juices would ferment in the heat, making it necessary to water down the wine to slow down the fermenting process and sterilize the water. Today’s strong wine and alcohol go through a distilling process that was unknown in Bible times, with the purpose of elevating alcohol content. Unlike the wine in the Bible that was watered down, today’s strong drink is imbibed for its intoxicating properties.

What spiritual applications might we take from Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Concerning pastors: Because the Scriptures admonish pastors to be “not given to wine,” and understanding the wine of Bible times was not nearly as intoxicating as it is today, we can state unapologetically: A man who indulges in wine or alcohol is unfit for the pastorate. Old Testament priests were not to “drink wine nor strong drink” (Leviticus 10:9), and certainly God’s standard would be no less for his preachers.

Concerning believers: Solomon admonished his son to not drink wine or strong drink (20:1), nor keep company with drunkards. Solomon wrote, “20Be not among winebibbers; Among riotous eaters of flesh: 21For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:20–21). The virtuous wife and mother of Proverbs 31 (believed to have been Bathsheba), warned her son who was heir to the throne: “4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; Nor for princes strong drink: 5Lest they drink, and forget the law, And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4–5).

Paul admonished believers to not risk causing another believer to stumble and fall, therefore, “It is good neither to eat flesh [i.e., meat offered to idols], nor to drink wine” (Romans 14:21).

Some might quote 1 Timothy 5:23 as grounds for taking liberty with wine and alcohol. We read, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Timothy had some stomach ailments, and proving the young preacher was not in the habit of drinking wine, Paul urged him to take some wine for medicinal purposes (in the absence of medicines at our disposal today).

Closing thoughts – There are many verses, principles, and illustrations that support an absolute intolerance of wine and alcohol in the life of a believer (Hosea 4:11; Daniel 1:8, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In addition, our society abounds with examples of damages caused by alcohol use: Physical (cancer of the esophagus, mouth, pharynx, and larynx), gross immorality caused by the effect of lowering inhibitions, and spiritual failures.

1 Corinthians 6:9–109Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

You matter, and there is hope to escape the ravages of alcohol! You can reach this author at HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith