Category Archives: America

The End is Come, and the Word of God is Silenced (Amos 7; Amos 8)

Scripture reading – Amos 7; Amos 8

Continuing his prophetic ministry, Amos delivered to the people of Israel five prophetic visions of imminent judgment. This devotional will consider the first four judgments recorded in Amos 7-8.

Amos 7 – Three Visions of Judgment

A Vision of Grasshoppers [Locusts] (7:1-3)

Locusts (identified as grasshoppers) were, and are, a devastating event for people living in an agrarian economy. Eating and destroying everything in their path, locusts can be so thick in number that they turn the light of day into darkness. In ancient times, the massing of locusts would potentially lead to famine for a people and nation.

God showed to Amos a judgment of locusts that would befall Israel, devouring the second growth of crops (the first crop being that which the king taxed, 7:1). Amos pled with the LORD for Jacob (Israel), stating that Jacob was a small nation, and if met with devastation, how would they survive? The LORD “repented” and had compassion on the people (7:3). Though the sins of the nation invited God’s judgment, the LORD heard the prayer of His prophet and determined to withhold judgment for a season.

A Vision of Fire (7:4-6)

Fire is a symbol of judgment throughout the Scriptures, and the LORD used the same to warn Amos that God’s judgment on Israel would be so destructive, it would consume everything (7:4). Again, Amos interceded for Israel and reasoned with the LORD, saying, “O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: By whom shall Jacob [the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel] arise? for he is small” (7:5). The LORD heard his prophet’s intercessory prayer, “repented,” and said, “This also shall not be” (7:6).

The Vision of a Plumb Line (7:7-9)

A plumb line was a tool used by builders to ensure the blocks of a wall were laid straight. Attaching a weight to twine or rope, the plumb line would give block layers a straight line to follow as they raised up the walls of a city or building.

God gave Amos a vision of a plumb line, with the LORD Himself standing “upon a wall…with a plumbline in His hand” (7:7). The LORD questioned His prophet, and asked, “Amos, what seest thou?” (7:8a). Amos identified the plumb line, and the LORD said, “Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more” (7:8).

The plumb line was a symbol of a perfect standard, and one by which a man’s work could be judged. In this vision, the plumb line was a symbol of God’s perfect standard for His people…His Law and Commandments. Israel had rejected God’s perfect standard, and was condemned as a nation and people (7:8).

God’s judgment was inevitable, and Amos did not pray for God to spare Israel. The people had failed to obey God’s Law, and refused to measure themselves by His plumb line. Therefore, “the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam [the first king of a divided Israel] with the sword” (7:9).

Amos’ Confrontation with the Spiritual and Political Leaders of Israel (7:10-17)

The words and prophecies of Amos reached the ears of “Amaziah the priest of Bethel,” and he defamed God’s prophet to Jeroboam II, the king of Israel (7:10-11). Amaziah served as priest to the false gods of Israel at Bethel (where Jeroboam I had erected a golden calf for the people to worship). That heathen priest attacked the character and ministry of God’s prophet, and accused Amos of conspiring against Israel. He warned Jeroboam II that the prophet had prophesied he would “die by the sword,” and Israel would be conquered and “led away captive out of their own land” (7:11).

Amaziah had sought to intimidate Amos, and demanded the prophet return to Judah, “and there eat bread, and prophesy” (7:10). Desiring to silence Amos, Amaziah warned, “prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (7:13). Rather than heed God’s warning of judgment against Israel, Amaziah ordered the prophet be silent and “prophesy not again” (7:13).

Amos, however, was undeterred, and refused to be silent. He boldly asserted how he had not sought to be a prophet, and neither was he “a prophet’s son” (7:14). He “was an herdman [shepherd], and a gatherer of sycomore fruit [a farmer]: 15 [Saying] the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (7:14-15).

Amos then answered Amaziah with a personal, prophetic warning directed to that wicked priest. He foretold the great judgments that would befall his household: His wife would become a “harlot in the city,” his sons and daughters would “fall by the sword” (his lineage would die), the land would be divided, “and Israel [would] surely go into captivity” (7:17).

Amos 8

The Fourth Vision (8:1-3)

The imminence of God’s judgment was foretold, as “a basket of summer fruit” that was ready to be harvested (8:1). The LORD warned, “The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” (8:2).

Israel had passed the point of repentance and the “songs of the temple,” would turn to the howls of sorrow and death (8:3). At the time of God’s judgment, there would be so many dead bodies there would be no place or time for a proper burial (8:3).

The End is Near (8:4-10)

The abuses of the rich and powerful, and how they had oppressed the poor (8:4-6), would be answered with God’s judgment. God promised He would not forget their wickedness (8:7-9). Israel’s feasts days and songs would be turned to sorrows and hopeless lamentations (8:10).

Closing thoughts – What would mark the end of days, and the judgment of God? Famine! (8:11-13)

Not a famine of food and water, but a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD” (8:11). The Word of God would be silent, and the prophets no more. Men would “seek the word of the LORD,” and young men and women would “faint for thirst” (8:13). It would be too late, and the Word of the LORD would not be found (8:12-13).

Believer, like Israel of old, that day is upon us, and the Word of God is falling silent.

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

“Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4; Amos 5)

Scripture reading – Amos 4; Amos 5

We have seen that Amos was a shepherd (herdsman) when God called Him out of obscurity (1:1) to serve as His prophet to Israel (the northern ten tribes). Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity, making Amos’ message of doom all the more unpopular with the leaders and common people of both nations.

Amos 4-6 records a series of forewarnings the prophet delivered to Israel, calling that nation to repent of its wickedness. If not, Amos warned the judgment of God was imminent.

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

Male or Female: The Kine (Cows) of Bashan (4:1-3)

Amos 4 is rich in detail, and a point of interest that is timely for our day concerns the “kine of Bashan” (1:1). Bashan was part of the rich pasture lands located on the east side of the Jordan River. Bashan was known for its well-fed cattle, and thus the people of that region were addressed metaphorically in Amos 4:1-3 as the “kine of Bashan.”

While the word “kine” is female in gender (4:1), the pronoun “you” is masculine in the Hebrew (4:2). Thus, the warning of God’s judgment for oppressing the poor and crushing the needy was addressed to either strong females, or emasculated male leaders. Knowing homosexuality is the pinnacle of wickedness for a dying nation and people (Romans 1:26-27), I believe that sin represented a fullness of man’s departure from the Law, thereby naturally receiving God’s judgment. Amos warned the LORD had determined to send the people away (“take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks”), and no place in Samaria would be a refuge (1:3).

A Series of Judgments (4:4-11)

The LORD scorned the hypocrisy of the people who brought sacrifices to Bethel and Gilgal. They had maintained an outward form of worship, while continuing in their wickedness.

The LORD had sent a series of judgments upon the nation, but each time the people had refused to repent and return to the LORD (4:6-11). They had suffered famine (4:6), and drought (4:7-8), but would not repent. He sent plagues and mildew upon the crops, and the nation suffered plagues comparable to those experienced in Egypt, yet Israel would not turn to the LORD (4:10). Cities in Israel were destroyed by fire, reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah, but the people still would not turn from their sin to the LORD (4:11).

An Ominous Warning (4:12-13)

Obstinate, rebellious, and hypocritical, Amos warned the people, “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (4:12). Amos urged the people to prepare to face the Creator’s judgment, warning that (4:13b) He knows every thought of man. He is everywhere, and “treadeth upon the high places of the earth” (4:13c).

Who is the LORD? He is “the God of hosts” (4:13d).

Amos 5 – A Lamentation for Israel

Though Amos was charged with the non-enviable task of warning Israel of pending judgment, he was nevertheless moved to sorrow and compassion for that rebellious people. That prophet’s lament for the “house of Israel” is recorded in Amos 5:1-3.

Amos foretold how Israel would be overthrown and suffer utter devastation. No longer pure, Amos writes, “the virgin of Israel is fallen,” and she would never rise from the ashes of her ruin (5:2a). The prophet foretold, the people would be removed from their land, and no one will come to her aid (5:2). One-tenth of the people would be all that remained in the land (5:3).

God’s Longsuffering (5:4-9)

In spite of their sins, the LORD longed to show compassion to Israel, and He invited the people, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live” (5:4). Amos admonished the people to forsake Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba, for those sacred places would “come to nought” (5:5). Again, Amos exhorted the people, “6Seek the Lord, and ye shall live” (5:6a).

The prophet reminded Israel how the LORD was the Creator of the constellations (5:8a). Their God was sovereign, and the sustainer of creation (causing the sun to rise dispelling the darkness, and He controls the waters of the sea, 5:8b). Amos warned, no stronghold would be safe from His judgment (5:9).

Israel’s Sins Invited God’s Judgment (5:10-15)

Israel had rejected God’s Truth, and had no tolerance for preachers of God’s Word. They “[hated] him that rebuketh in the gate, and they [abhorred] him that speaketh uprightly” (5:10). The wealthy were guilty of taxing the “poor,” and they flaunted their wealth, building great stone cut houses (5:11a). They had planted vineyards, but Amos warned they would not live to enjoy their ill-gotten gains (5:11b).

Closing thoughts – Speaking for the LORD, Amos condemned Israel for the same sins we observe in our day: The righteous were oppressed, bribes perverted justice, and judges favored the rich, and denied the poor justice, fairness and impartiality (5:12). Amos declared, the prudent would keep silent on that day of judgment (5:13). Why? Most likely because they would accept the suffering of the nation as the fate it was due, and therefore God’s plan and purpose (5:13).

With the passion of a faithful preacher, Amos called upon Israel to “seek good, and not evil, that ye may live…Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate” (5:14-15).

Pronouncements of “Woe!” close the chapter (5:18-27).  The people had continued making a pretense of worship (5:21-22), but God knew their hearts (5:23), and Amos warned:

God’s judgment would soon run over the nation like flood waters.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe to the Nation That Turns from the LORD and His Law” (Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5

Our study of the prophecies of Isaiah brings us to Isaiah 4 and 5. Remembering chapter breaks and verse numbers are the effort of editors to assist Bible students, I am in agreement with some that Isaiah 4:1 concludes the previous chapter’s topic and the judgment Isaiah prophesied would befall Jerusalem. Drawing a vivid picture of God’s judgment, the prophet described the desperation of that time.

So many men would die in the battle described in Isaiah 3, that there would be seven women to every man (4:1). Isaiah 4 continued with the prophecy of a future time when Israel would be restored to the land, and Christ Himself will reign (“the branch of the LORD”, 4:2).

Isaiah 5

Employing an agricultural parable, Isaiah described God’s love and care for His people (5:1-7). With the LORD pictured as a farmer, His loving favor for Judah was portrayed as his “well-beloved.”

The LORD’s Loving Preparation for Israel (5:1-2)

God promised to plant his vineyard (a symbol of Israel), upon the best ground, “a very fruitful hill,” (5:1). “He fenced it,” and removed stones [heathen nations] that would hinder the growth of His “vineyard,” and chose the best vines (5:2). He built a “watchtower” (the Temple) in the midst (5:2c).

The LORD’s Disappointments (5:2-4)

Yet, when the LORD inspected His people (“vineyard”), He found “wild grapes” in the midst (5:2). What were the wild grapes? The sins of the people, for they had broken His covenant, and were guilty of idolatry, and all manner of wickedness (5:3-4).

Two Consequences that Befall a Nation That Rejects God (5:5-7)

The first consequence that befell Judah was God’s promise to remove His loving, providential care of His people (“take away the hedge…break down the wall” – 5:5).

The LORD promised He would eliminate the nation’s economic prosperity, and “lay it waste” (5:6). Judah would become like an untended vineyard, overgrown with “briers and thorns” (5:6). Leaving no doubt the prophet was warning Israel and Judah the judgment that would befall those nations, we read: “7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah his pleasant plant: And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; For righteousness, but behold a cry” (5:7).

Six Woes: Elijah’s Warning of God’s Judgment (5:8-23)

Among the sins that provoked God’s wrath, notice six that demanded His judgment. The wealthy were guilty of greed and covetous, and exploited the people (5:8-10). God declared their greed would be rewarded with desolation (5:9), and their investments (“vineyard”) would be unprofitable (5:10).

The people were guilty of pursuing a narcissistic, drunken lifestyle. They would rise  “early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink,” and continue until night (5:11). Their drunken feasts were accompanied by seductive music, so that they gave no thought of the LORD and His providences (5:12).

They were proud, and deceived “with cords of vanity” (5:18), they taunted the LORD (5:19). Having rejected God’s Law and Commandments, they refused moral absolutes. Lacking spiritual discernment, they called “evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (5:20).

They were arrogant and conceited, “wise in their own eyes” (5:21). They perverted justice, and exploited the innocent and weak, and would also “justify the wicked for reward [bribes] (5:23).

Warning: God’s Judgment is Coming (5:24-25)

The “wild grapes” of Israel had provoked God’s judgment, and the fruit of that nation was rebellion, idolatry, and immorality. The leaders did not fear the judgment of God, and Isaiah warned, the LORD had “stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them” (5:25).

The Instruments of God’s Judgment (5:26-30)

Though not named here, Isaiah warned, the LORD would bring against Israel and Judah enemies who would come swiftly, and show the people no mercy. Their adversaries would not tire (5:27), and like the roar of young lions, they would thirst for blood (5:29). The armies of their enemies would sweep over the land like the waters of a storm (5:30).

Closing thoughts – The Assyrians were the first to come, and they took Israel (the northern ten tribes) captive (2 Kings 17:1-41). After Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar led his army against Judah, and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and took the people captive (2 Kings 25:1-30).

Woe to a nation and people who reject God’s Law and Commandments!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“The Sins and Signs of a Failing Nation and a Dying Culture” – part 2 (Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading. The focus is Isaiah 3.

The Bible is filled with examples of godly men who did not have the luxury of ignoring the wickedness and perversity of their leaders or nation. Zechariah was stoned to death when he condemned the sins of Judah and her king (2 Chronicles 24). God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn that wicked nation, except they repent the city would be destroyed. John the Baptist lost his head when he dared confront the wickedness and adultery of King Herod. And so, we come to Isaiah, whom God called to assail the wickedness of Judah and her kings.

The Removal of “the Stay and the Staff” (3:1-4)

A study of history reveals the rise and fall of nations follows the pattern of sin and wickedness we find in Isaiah 3.  We read, “1For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, Doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff” (3:1).

Interpreting this verse in context, you find God was removing from Judah that nation’s leaders. The “stay” (masculine form, meaning support or protector) represented that nation’s loss of “manly men,” who had been strong leaders in Judah. The removal of the “staff” (feminine form, meaning a support), meant the nation would have a void of godly, influential women (3:1).

Judah’s rebellion against God invited His judgment, and the losses are enumerated in Isaiah 3.

There would be a shortage of bread and water (“the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water” (3:1). The nation would want for male leaders, men of integrity described as, “the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient” (3:2).

A second tier of leadership, the backbone of a nation, would be lost. There would be no “captain of fifty [lower military officers], and the honourable man [men of integrity], and the counseller [wise men], and the cunning artificer [skilled workers; i.e., carpenters, mechanics], and the eloquent orator [persuasive speakers]” (3:4)

Judah Turned to Weak, Incompetent Men for Leaders (3:4-6)

With a void of spiritual, “manly men” leaders (3:7-9), the people turned to foolish, inexperienced leaders, dominated by brazen women (3:12, 16-23). The people chose “children [weak] to be their princes, and babes [immature] shall rule [have dominion or power] over them (3:4). With weak, inexperienced, unprincipled leaders, Judah became a lawless, oppressed society (3:5). Those weak leaders were proud and emboldened “against the ancient [elderly]” (3:5), and “base [without a moral compass] against the honourable [men of rank]” (3:5).

How did those weak, spineless, effeminate leaders come to be in authority? They were not chosen because of their character, but because of their influence (having acquired wealth by inheritance, 3:6).

Judah Turned to Domineering Women for Leaders (3:12, 16-23)

Instead of nurturing and protecting the youth of the nation, women diminished their femininity, and became worse brutes than men (3:12 – “women rule over them…they which lead thee cause thee to err, And destroy the way of thy paths”). The women of the nation, identified as “the daughters of Zion,” were proud and immodest (3:16), haughty, and flirtatious with “wanton [painted] eyes” (3:16).

Closing thoughtsLike most nations that fail, Judah was destroyed, not from an enemy without, but from an enemy within.

What becomes of a nation that chooses weak men, and proud women to lead? The strong women would be afflicted with disease (3:17). They would be reduced to the poverty of a household slave (3:18-24). Their fine jewelry (3:18-21), and costly apparel would be taken (3:22-23), and their well-groomed hair would be replaced by baldness (3:24).

Yet, there was still hope. Though the majority of Judah had turned to wickedness, not all were faithless. God promised He would not forget the righteous, and would avenge His people (3:10-24, 25-26).

Do the signs of a dying nation sound familiar?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Prophecies of Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

As you read today’s Scripture, take time to not only reflect on its prophetic application to the house of Judah, but the lessons we might take from the study that are applicable to our day.

Remembering the prophetic ministry of Isaiah spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah (1:1), scholars place Isaiah 2 during the reign of Uzziah who reigned 52 years. He enjoyed a brilliant and prosperous rule (2 Chronicles 26:5-15) until his heart was lifted up with pride, and he sinned against the LORD (2 Chronicles 26:16).

As Goes the Leaders, So Goes the Nation (Isaiah 2:1-5)

Stricken with leprosy, the humiliated king had been thrust out of the Temple, and forced to live in a separate house outside the palace complex (2 Chronicles 26:20; 2 Kings 15:5a). Uzziah entrusted the day-to-day governing of Judah to his son (2 Chronicles 26:21; 27:1-2), meaning the duties of government were in the hands of a younger man who lacked his skills and experience.

As with many prophecies, the prophecies of Isaiah carry both an imminent, and far-reaching application. Some of what we read in Isaiah 2 was a foretelling of events that occurred in the prophet’s lifetime (for instance Isaiah described the exaltation of Judah and Jerusalem, and 2 Chronicles 26:6-8 verified there were nations that admired, and paid tribute to Judah during Uzziah’s reign).

However, much of Isaiah’s prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.

For instance, not “all nations” have made their way to Jerusalem, nor said among themselves, “let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob” (2:3). With the constant warring of nations against nations in our day, we have not seen fulfilled a time of universal peace (2:4).

The Great Tribulation (2:6-9)

Briefly, I suggest you consider the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 2:6-9 to be that which will not be fulfilled until the Great Tribulation. The desperate times of Isaiah’s day, are true of our day. The circumstances of that time, are parallel to our time.

The LORD had forsaken His people, because they had turned away from Him, His Law, and Commandments.

To what had the people turned? “Soothsayers” from the east (eastern mysticism, 2:6; 1 Timothy 4:1), and embraced the ways of “strangers” (foreigners, people outside God’s covenant relationship with Israel, 2:6). Rather than trusting the LORD, Judah had placed its faith in riches, and its confidence in its military might (“full of horses…chariots,” 2:7). The nation worshipped gods of their own making, fashioned by their hands (2:8), and proud men were brought low (2:9).

The Second Coming of Christ (2:10-22)

Supposing my interpretation of this passage is fulfilled at the close of the Great Tribulation, the events described in Isaiah 2:10-22 are yet to be fulfilled.

When Christ returns in His heavenly glory, and His coming is heralded as the Judge and Conquering King, the people of the earth will flee His presence (2:10, 19, 21; Revelation 6:15-16), and the proud will be humbled (2:11, 17-18). The people and nations of the earth will be brought to their knees (2:12-22), and the LORD alone will be exalted (2:17).

Closing thoughts – The Millennium Kingdom of Jesus Christ will restore Israel to her prominence among the nations of the earth, and Jesus Christ will reign as King of kings, and LORD of lords upon the throne of David (2:2-5; 4:2-6).

Christ’s reign will usher in a time of universal peace, for He will “judge among the nations, And shall rebuke many people: And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruninghooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

This concludes part 1 of today’s devotional study. Part 2 will follow, and focus on Isaiah 3.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation” – part 2 – (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

As we begin our study of Isaiah, I invite you to picture in your mind a setting that is a heavenly courtroom, with God sitting on His throne, and with the nation of Judah the defendant.

The Case: The Ingratitude of Judah vs. The Love and Grace of God (1:1-2)

Two witnesses were commanded to hear the charge against Judah: the “heavens” and the “earth” (1:2). The LORD charged Judah, saying, “I have nourished and brought up children [people of Judah], and they have rebelled against me(1:2).

How had the LORD nourished and brought up His people? He had chosen Abraham and established His Covenant with his lineage (Genesis 12). He had entrusted Israel with His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20). He had sent prophets who taught the people, and chastened the nation when it strayed. Yet, we read, “They have rebelled against me” (1:2c), rejected His Law, and His offer of love and grace.

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

The First Charge – Rebellious Ingratitude (1:3-4)

While a dumb ox knows its owner, and a donkey appreciates its master’s stall, Israel was a people that “doth not consider” (1:3). Consider what? The sins of the people had blinded them, and they gave no thought to the LORD’s care, love, and provision. The prophet Jeremiah would observe: “For my people [are] foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish [foolish; silly] children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22).

They had become a sinful, wicked people, and were burdened with “iniquity” (the weight of their sin and guilt, 1:4). They had “forsaken the LORD” (1:4), despised His Law and Commandments, and had “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (1:4).

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

The LORD questioned Judah, asking, “Why should ye be stricken [beaten; punished] any more? ye will revolt [rebel] more and more [again and again]: the whole head [whole body] is sick [diseased], and the whole heart faint [sick; feeble].” The stench of Judah’s sins had reached heaven, and the people were infected by wickedness (1:6).

The Consequences of Judah’s Sins (1:7-9)

The sins of nation had resulted in the land being destroyed (“your country is desolate”), “cities burned with fire,” and their riches plundered by foreigners (“strangers” – 1:7). So dreadful was the judgment, if the LORD had not shown the people mercy, Judah “should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah [utterly destroyed with no soul spared]” (1:9).

The Second Charge – Religious Insincerity (1:11-20)

God charged the people as being pious hypocrites (1:11-12), and He declared He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings (1:11). They trampled upon the courts of the Temple, and had given no thought to His presence and holiness in the Temple (1:12). The LORD declared:

“Bring no more vain [false; deceitful; empty] oblations [non-blood offerings – flour, fruit, oil]; incense [perfume; sweet incense] is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome] unto me…it is iniquity [wicked; vanity], even the solemn meeting [sacred assembly for worship]” (1:13-14).

Even their prayers had become an abomination: “When ye spread forth [lay open; stretch forth; display] your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers [supplications], I will not hear [hearken; listen]: your hands are full [overflowing] of blood. [shedding of blood]” (1:15).

In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD extended a pardon if the people would repent of their sins (1:16-18). He called upon the nation, “Come now, and let us reason together…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 like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Offering a conditional pardon, the LORD appealed to the people, “If ye be willing [consent] and obedient [hearken; obey], ye shall eat [consume] the good [beauty; blessings] of the land” (1:19); but warned, “if ye refuse [unwilling] and rebel[disobey; provoke], ye shall be devoured [eat up; consumed] with the sword [knife; dagger]: for the mouth [commandment; Word] of the LORD hath spoken it. [pronounced; declared]” (1:20).

The Third Charge – Three Reprehensible Injustices (1:21-23)

Understanding the leaders of a nation are a reflection of the character of the people, I conclude today’s study inviting you to consider three nauseous traits of those who govern a dying nation.

The leaders of Judah were vile, having rejected God’s Law, and were “companions of thieves,” enriching themselves by illicit gain (1:23). The leaders lacked integrity, and were guilty of loving gifts (bribery), and shameless self-promotion (“followeth after rewards” – 1:23; Exodus 23:8; Micah 3:11-12). Finally, the leaders had abused and exploited the weak (“the fatherless…the widow” – 1:23d; Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

Closing thoughts – Take a moment and reflect on your nation, its leaders, and government. Are the failed character traits of Judah’s leaders the same as you see in your society–vile, lacking integrity, and abusing the weak?

Warning – The sinful traits of a nation’s leaders reflect its citizens, and demand God’s judgment (1:24-31).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Now That I Have Your Attention: A Renewed Appeal From Outside the Bubble

* In 2017 I penned a series of articles on this website, and stated at that time my concerns for the failings of leaders who had taken the helm of what were once flagship ministries in Fundamentalism. Sadly, my concerns have proved somewhat prophetic, for the cancer of spiritual compromise has only intensified in the past 5 years. The following is that 2017 article, and I repeat it as a timely warning…if some within the bubble do not soon speak out, historic fundamentalism will be lost to this generation, and the LORD will turn to another people to bear His immutable Word. 

I have pondered the root cause for a lack of vitality in Bible fundamentalism that is contributing not only to the failings of our institutions, but more importantly, the weakening of our churches (understanding the weaknesses observed in fundamental institutions once hailed as citadels of the faith are symptomatic of compromises within our local churches).   As much as it pains me to state it, I have observed a near universal characteristic in the senior leadership of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and seminaries that is the catalyst to compromise:

God’s Men Have Failed to Stand on Immutable Principles.

Twenty-first century Bible fundamentalism is facing a moral crisis in leadership that has given rise to a tolerance of sin and pervasive carnality in our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.

Take a lesson from the life of King David.

I suggest the failures and shortcomings of historical flagship ministries in fundamentalism reveals a pattern of compromise among Christian leaders who, facing the duress of their children’s sinful choices, have become pragmatic and weak.  A tolerance of sin has emerged in our homes, pulpits and chapel platforms that is leading our youth, churches, and schools down a path of ruin.

Consider the consequences of David’s failed leadership after his moral failures left him enfeebled and unwilling to address the sins and moral failures of his adult children.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a scandalous sin that forever damaged his reign as king (2 Samuel 11).  His notorious sins gave cause for his enemies and members of his own household to disdain him.  Confronting David with the words, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), the prophet Nathan warned, “the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10).  The sins David had committed in secret eventually bore the bitter fruit of public humiliation “before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  Weakened by his own failures, David’s leadership faltered and he failed to address the sins of his sons.

When Amnon, a son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-19), we read the morally compromised king’s response was merely, “he was very angry” (2 Samuel 13:21).  David’s failure to confront Amnon’s sin gave cause to Absalom to revenge his sister’s disgrace and plot the murder of his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:20-29).  Fearing the consequences for murdering his half-brother Amnon, Absalom fled Israel and lived as an exile in Geshur for three years (2 Samuel 13:34, 37).

In spite of Amnon’s death, we read, “king David longed to go forth unto Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:30).   Every loving parent understands David’s longing for his prodigal son; however, there were issues greater than paternal affections in question.

Would the king be a man of integrity?  Would he rule his kingdom judiciously, knowing his own son was a fugitive from justice and guilty of murder?

Such is the dilemma of spiritual leadership: When our sons and daughters turn from the LORD and the instructions of their youth, we may long for peace and their love and affection, but we should not compromise our principles and convictions.

Among the qualifications of a pastor is he is to “ruleth [preside over] well his own house, having his children in subjection [under control] with all gravity [dignity; respect]” (1 Timothy 3:4).

Why is it important for Christian leaders to evidence an ability to manage the children in their households? Paul’s answer: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Pastor’s with children “in their households” is the topic of 1 Timothy 3:4; however, the principle found in 1 Timothy 3:5 serves as a warning to churches and Christian institutions.

Be wary of spiritual leaders who fail to rule their households for they will invariably fail to “take care of the church.”  Adult sons and daughters are no longer children under the management or rule of their parents, and as much as we are pained to accept it, they bear their choices and associated consequences.   As it was for David, so it is for all who are spiritually minded parents.

Will we be men and women of integrity if our adult children walk contrary to the Word of the LORD and spiritual principles?

For those in spiritual leadership, the cost of compromise extends far beyond our family relationships and affects our churches, schools and institutions.   I need not enumerate the tragedy that followed David’s failure to be a man of integrity and conviction.  His weak response to his son’s sins incited Absalom to lead a rebellion against David (2 Samuel 14:23-24, 33; 15:1-6), fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy and humiliating his father in front of the nation (2 Samuel 15:7-16:23). Twenty thousand men perished in battle before David took back his throne; however, even then David’s heart was such toward his son he commanded his men to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5).

Such is the way of spiritual leaders when they promote paternal affections over eternal principles.

My generation, my peers who are pastors, administrators, and professors in Bible fundamental colleges and seminaries have, under family duress, compromised immutable spiritual principles because our children and grandchildren have rejected the guiding principles of God’s Word.

Make no mistake, our compromises have become mortal wounds for our churches and institutions. If pastors, churches, and the boards of our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries do not soon repent, the demise of Bible fundamentalism is sure.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith
Edited and revised – Copyright © 2022 – Travis D Smith

Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Pay Day Shall Surely Come Someday (2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues in 2 Chronicles 24, and you will notice a parallel of events we considered in our prior devotional from 2 Kings 12. Of course, 2 Kings was authored prior to the Babylonian captivity, while 2 Chronicles is believed to have been written by Ezra after the children of Israel returned from exile.

The Reign of Joash (24:1-27)

2 Chronicles 24 gives additional details to the years that Joash reigned as king of Judah. Once again, we are reminded that the king “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). There is also the record that Jehoiada the high priest had taken for Joash “two wives; and he begat sons and daughters” (24:3).

Repairing the Temple (24:6-14)

As we found in 2 Kings 12, Joash had commanded the Temple be repaired (24:4-6). Scripture gives us the cause for those repairs stating: “For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim” (24:7).  The identity of “the sons of Athaliah” is not given; however, they had stripped the Temple of the LORD, and furnished the heathen temple to Baal with its treasures.

The means of collecting monies to rebuild the Temple and pay its workers is recorded (24:8-12), and there was enough given by the people to not only “set the house of God” in order and finish it, but also to make new vessels of gold and silver for offering sacrifices (24:14).

The Death of Jehoiada, the High Priest (24:15-16)

Incredibly, Jehoiada the high priest lived to be 130 years old. What a wonderful, rich life this servant of the LORD had lived. His testimony in Israel was such that he was given a burial worthy of kings.

The Faith of the Saints is Never More Than One Generation from Extinction (24:17-22)

Soon after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah sought his permission to leave “the house [Temple] of the LordGod of their fathers” (24:17), and “the king hearkened unto them” (24:17). What follows is a great tragedy, and a warning to all who call upon the LORD. Jehoiada’s presence in Judah had been a powerful one, and his influence upon king Joash began when he was little more than an infant. The king had faithfully served the LORD under the shadow and guidance of the high priest, but his death revealed the weak spiritual state of the king and leaders of Judah.

With the king’s blessing, the leaders of Judah established groves for idol worship and prostitution (24:18), and provoked the LORD who poured out His wrath “upon Judah and Jerusalem for…their trespass” (24:18). Yet, the LORD sent prophets to call the nation to repent, “but they would not give ear” (24:19).

Then, “the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you” (24:20).

How did the leaders of Judah respond to the preaching of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada? “They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord” (24:21). Even king Joash, who had enjoyed the love and mentoring of Zechariah’s father his whole life, “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his [Zechariah’s] father had done to him, but slew his son” (24:22). As he was dying, Zechariah rebuked the king, “The Lord look upon it, and require it [avenge his murder] (24:22).

Sin Begats Sin, Murder Begats Murder (24:23-27)

At the end of that same year, a Syrian army lay siege to Jerusalem, killing all the leaders among the people, and taking the spoils of Jerusalem to “the king of Damascus” (24:23). Judah’s lust for sin, and the depravity of the people had left the nation so weakened that a mere “small company of men” was all that was necessary for Syria to conquer “a very great host,” for the people “had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers” (24:24).

Closing thoughts – The glorious reign of Joash came to an inglorious end, for he suffered “great diseases,” until “his own servants conspired against him for [shedding] the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed” (24:25). Unlike the honorable burial that had been given to Jehoiada the priest, Joash was not buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (24:25).

Warning: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith