Category Archives: Anger

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Blessed? If so, You Will Be Persecuted! (Matthew 5-7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 5-7

Considered as Christ’s inaugural address to His followers, the “Sermon on the Mount” is an exposition of the heart of Christ the King, and a declaration of the character of those who would be citizens in His kingdom.

I do not believe it is an overstatement to declare, that, apart from the Law and Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount embodies some of the greatest truths ever known to man.

The Sermon on the Mount is not the means of salvation, but an exposition of the attitudes and character of believers who are spiritual citizens of the “Kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The sermon is Christ the King’s declaration of His will regarding the actions and attitudes of the citizens of heaven.

Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes

Sitting down on a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (5:1), Jesus taught the people a series of eight inspiring truths that we identify as the Beatitudes (5:3-12). In essence, the Beatitudes define the character of those who are sincere followers of the LORD Jesus Christ. Each Beatitude begins with the word, “Blessed,” which I suggest is a state of settled joy and contentment; a promise of joy and peace that surpasses one’s circumstances.

The Beatitudes are heavenly attitudes that are not only contradictory to society, they are in direct conflictwith the spirit of the world.

Christ taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3); however, the world says, “believe in yourself.” We read, “Blessed are they that mourn” (5:4); however, the world says, “don’t let them see you weep.”

Christ encouraged His followers, “Blessed are the meek” (5:4); but society advises, “stand up for yourself!” “Thirst for Truth, hunger for righteousness” (5:6) was the example Christ gave His disciples, but the world cheers, “eat, drink, and be merry.”

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful,” (5:7); however, society dares, “Do it to them, before they do it to you!” Christ urged, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (5:8), who seek only Him; but the worldly crowd warns, “You only go through life once.”

The world says, “Be a peacekeeper,” and be willing to compromise; however, Christ taught His followers, “Be a peacemaker,” (5:9) and seek to bring others to the Prince of Peace.

Finally, Jesus assured His followers who would find themselves as the object of derision and persecution:

Matthew 5:10–11 – “10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

The righteous face three forms of persecution (5:11).

To be reviled, is to be mocked and have disparaging things said about your character and motive.

The word “persecute” is indicative of personal attacks. Persecution may come as physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual confrontations. Persecution is often relentless and is intended to drive the believer from his home, family, friends, and work. Persecution can come as threats to the believer or his loved ones.

The third form of persecution is verbal: “and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (5:11). The arsenal of this form of persecution comes as lies, innuendoes, and sowing questions on one’s motive or sincerity. As difficult as it may seem (and it is), the attitude of the persecuted is declared in this:

Matthew 5:12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad [jumping and leaping for joy]: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

How can a believer rejoice when he is persecuted? He can rejoice in this confidence: Troubles and trial have their purpose in the providence of God.

James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [various sorts of troubles and trials]; [3] Knowing this [understanding], that the trying [proving & testing] of your faith worketh patience [steadfastness]. [4] But let patience have her perfect [complete & thorough] work, that ye may be perfect and entire [without defects], wanting [lacking] nothing.”

As much as persecution may hurt (and it does), a believer must remember that persecution is the training ground for spiritual maturity and broader spiritual opportunities. Paul challenged his spiritual son in the faith: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Believers who are committed to living out the Beatitudes will experience persecution.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6

Today’s Scripture reading entails parallel readings of the same events. Each Gospel account gives us an individual record of the life and ministry of Christ from the perspective of its human author, but as a whole, they evidence the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting us with a harmonious view of what appears to be a three-dimensional portrait. Today’s devotional commentary is from Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

Though the public ministry of Jesus was still in its infancy, nevertheless, the enemies of the LORD were present from the beginning. Performing miracles as a sign that He was the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets of Israel, Jesus was enjoying a great following of the people. There was, however, antagonists who viewed Him as a threat to their position and influence among the people.

The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they would plot to discredit and destroy Him throughout His earthly ministry, up to His divine appointment with the Cross. It was their antagonism and hatred for Jesus that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The LORD’s fourth commandment to Israel, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), was the issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus when they accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law (12:1-2) according to their standards. Passing through a farmer’s field enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were hungry and “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). Ever looking for an occasion to accuse Jesus of wrong doing, the Pharisees seized upon the opportunity to accuse His disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition.

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their stringent interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  The fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from providing for his physical hunger (after all, David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God, 12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6) as outlined in the Levitical standards in the Torah.

Entering into the synagogue on the same day, Jesus encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Citing a common practice in that rural culture, Jesus demanded of His critics, would you not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus then declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

And how did the enemies of Jesus respond not only to His teaching, He being “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), but also the healing of the man with the paralyzed hand? (12:13)

Matthew 12:1414Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. (note – Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11)

Oh, the hypocrisy! On one hand they demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God; and in the other they plotted to destroy Jesus and violate the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them (12:15).

I have found the decision to withdraw oneself is a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. The manner of Christ is one we should emulate, after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Note from the author: For those following the chronological Scripture reading schedule, remember that some events in the Gospel accounts are not in chronological order. Also, chapter and verse numbers have been added by editors to assist us in studying the Scriptures, but sometimes those helpful numbers break up the flow of events. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7; however, the Gospel of Luke records a portion of that same sermon in Luke 6:20-49. None of those facts take away from the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures; however, I hope my explanation might give you some rationale for the reading schedule.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Karma: My God Has Got the Whole World, In His Hands (Esther 6-10)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

The world calls it, “Instant Karma,” an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism. Instant Karma suggests a “payback” for one’s past actions. Of course, what one has done in the past might be good or bad, and the “payback” serve as its reward.

Instant Karma seems to suggest a “Cause and Effect” that is fatalistic and devoid of the influence of divine sovereignty and intervention. As a believer, I have faith in God’s promises. I know God is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end. I am confident, “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).

There is an undeniable principle of “Cause and Effect” in this world and it is summed up in this: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Esther 6

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king. King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I), found himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.

It is revealed that the king’s insomnia (6:1) was used by God to direct his thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end. From the king’s perspective, however, it was just another sleepless night, and thus he determined to have his servants read historical records that chronicled his reign.

Providentially, for there is no other explanation for it, the name of Mordecai, Queen Esther’s adopted father, came to the king’s attention. Ahasuerus, was reminded how Mordecai had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king (2:21-23). Recalling the event, the king wondered aloud, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).

Learning from his servants that Mordecai had not been honored for his service (6:3), the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him. Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who had successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree to exterminate all the Jews, entered the king’s court (6:4-5).

Haman was approaching on a mission to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5). In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma,” Haman listened as the king desired his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).

Haman mistakenly believed he was the man the king desired to honor, and suggested a lavish, public parade.

 Esther 6:8-9Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”

Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the very man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

Esther 7-10

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directed the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.

Haman’s wicked scheme to annihilate the Jews was not only thwarted, but he fell victim to the very gallows he had constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Dear friend, all men are free will agents; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, pastor, or parent…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and will of God.

Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor]” (Proverbs 21:1).

No man acts independent of God; after all, “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

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

What is divine providence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People! (Ezekiel 25-27)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 25-27

The focus of today’s devotional turns from God’s judgment of Jerusalem and Judah for their disobedience and idolatry, to those nations that were adversaries of Israel down through the centuries.

Ezekiel 25 – God’s Judgment of the Nations to the East and West of Jerusalem

Israel and Judah had rebelled and turned from the LORD and His judgment had befallen the nation as He had promised. Nevertheless, the LORD vowed He would not forget the oppression and hardships perpetuated by other nations against His people.

Having seen the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the heathen nations rejoiced in the sorrows and sufferings of God’s people as they were taken captive.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and He despised the heathen who rejoiced in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14), and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of His people (25:15-17).

The Ammonites, descended from Lot’s incest with his daughters, had been a constant adversary of Israel and they cheered when Babylon (“men of the east”), took possession of the land and desecrated the Temple (25:2-4). Ezekiel was to warn the people of Ammon that they would be cut off, perish, and cease to exist (25:5-7)

The Moabites, like the Ammonites, were descended from Lot’s incest with his daughters. Moab had mocked Judah and allied with Babylon (25:8-11). Like the Ammonites, they would be overcome by Babylon and would no more be a nation (25:10-11).

The Edomites, descendants of Esau, had oppressed Judah and Israel and God promised to punish their vengeful spirit (25:12-13).  Ezekiel declared the purpose for God exacting vengeance on Edom for those people to know it was the LORD who had taken vengeance against them (25:14-17).

Ezekiel 26-27 – God’s Vengeance Against Tyrus

God’s displeasure for the nations taking joy in the destruction of Jerusalem continues in Ezekiel 26-27.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia, would be assaulted by Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19) and the Scriptures go into great detail regarding the siege of that great island fortress. Ezekiel 26 describes the assaults Babylon would make against Tyrus; however, that city would not be completely destroyed until it was conquered by Alexander the Great.

The beauty and wealth of Tyrus is described in detail in Ezekiel 27:1-25. Located on the on the Mediterranean Sea, its harbor was a crossroads for international commerce in its day. Tyrus’ great fall, as well as, the reverberation of the loss of that city’s harbor and its devastating effect on other nations’ and their commerce is described in Ezekiel 27:26-36

Ezekiel prophesied of Tyrus, “thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more (27:36). Destroyed by Alexander the Great, in 332 B.C., Tyrus was never rebuilt.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Persecute God’s Messenger, But You Do So at Your Peril! (Jeremiah 32-34)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 32-34

17_Weigel Engraving _Hananiah & Jeremiah 28
Emory Pitts Theology archives

In Jeremiah 27, the prophet had been commanded by the LORD to, “Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck” (27:2) and was commanded to go to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyrus, and finally to King Zedekiah of Judah, and warn them their lands and people would all become servants to “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant” (27:6).

Notice that Nebuchadnezzar was the LORD’s “servant” (27:6). Though driven by his own passion for power and riches, the truth was that the king of Babylon was being used by God to further His divine plan of chastening for the sins of Judah.

In spite of Judah’s sins and the coming seventy years of Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah assured the people that the LORD would not forget His covenant and would restore them to their land (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Today’s devotional commentary will focus primarily on Jeremiah 32.

Jeremiah 32 – What became of Jeremiah, the LORD’s messenger, and his prophecy?

Rather than heed Jeremiah’s admonition, King Zedekiah “shut him up” (32:3), literally and physically!  As the army of Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, Jeremiah was “shut up in the court of the prison” (32:2).  Despising the prophet’s message from the LORD (32:1), the king of Judah scorned God’s messenger and treated Jeremiah with disdainfully (32:3-5).

As an act of faith in God’s promise that Judah would be restored to her land after the captivity, Jeremiah purchased a field in Judah from his cousin Hanamel (32:6-8). Purchasing land when Jerusalem was facing imminent destruction was foolish from a human perspective; however, the prophet’s actions served as a testimony that he was confident that the LORD would restore His people to their land after the Babylonian captivity (32:9-15).

Jeremiah 32:15 – “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.”

Jeremiah 32:16-25 – Jeremiah’s Prayer of Faith

Remembering Jeremiah was still imprisoned by King Zedekiah while the siege of Jerusalem was underway, the prophet meditated on the greatness of the LORD, remembering God is Creator (32:17), Merciful (32:18), “the Great, the Mighty God, [and] the LORD of hosts” (32:18).

The LORD’S counsel (i.e. purpose) is great and He is mighty in His works (32:19). He knows the ways of man and He is just, rewarding every man according to His works (32:19; 2 Corinthians 5:10). He is the God of miracles (32:20-22). He remembers His covenants with His people (32:23), but because Israel and Judah had rejected His Law and Commandments, the LORD had delivered them over to be chastened under the oppression of the Chaldeans (32:24-25).

Jeremiah 32:26-44 – God’s Judgment Will Not Fail; His Promises Are Sure

The LORD rehearsed with Jeremiah the sorrow that was to come upon the people because of the sins of Israel and Judah (32:26-44).  Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city of Jerusalem with fire and the people would suffer disease and famine (32:26-29).  God remembered the wickedness and idolatry of the people (32:30-34) and how they had sacrificed their sons and daughters to Molech (32:35).

The LORD had determined that Jerusalem would be destroyed and His people would be captives; however, He would remember His covenant and promise to return them to their land (32:36-44)

Jeremiah 33 – A Message of Hope and Comfort: The Messiah King is Coming

Jeremiah 34 – The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Captivity of King Zedekiah

I close remembering the disdain King Zedekiah and the people had for Jeremiah.

And such is the fate of many who serve as God’s messengers and faithfully declare His Word. “ For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Wicked Know No Shame (Zephaniah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Zephaniah 1-3

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Zephaniah, a minor prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (1:1).

Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.

Zephaniah was tasked with pronouncing God’s judgment on His people in frightening and graphic details. He warned Judah, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD” (1:2). Nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD: “I will consume man and beast… fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea…Judah…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (1:3-4).

“The Day of the Lord” is an oft repeated phrase in Zephaniah 1 and was a warning of the day of God’s vengeance (1:7, 8, 14, 18).

Remember the prophecies often have an immediate and future application. In the immediate, the “day of the LORD” was the day of God’s judgment against Judah when Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the prophetic application, the “day of the LORD” is still future and will be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ when He comes in judgment.

Zephaniah 1:10 mentions “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The fish gate was the gate that led to the fish market, but you may wonder why is this important. The answer is a historical fact: King Nebuchadnezzar passed through the fish gate when Babylon conquered Jerusalem! The destruction of the city and the captivity of the people would be so thorough that it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (1:12a).

The people lived in denial saying, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (1:12b). Even the strongest men of Judah would cry out on the day of God’s judgment (1:13). How terrible is the day of God’s final judgment?

Zephaniah 1:15 – “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Zephaniah 2 – An Exhortation to Repent

Remembering the LORD is longsuffering, we are not surprised to read that the prophet Zephaniah called upon Judah to repent and, “seek…the LORD, all ye meek of the earth…seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” (2:3).

Because of their wickedness, Zephaniah prophesied the judgment of God against four major Philistine cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron” (2:4). The Moabites and Ammonites would fall to Babylon as divine punishment for their abuses of Israel (2:8-11). The Ethiopians (of the lineage of Cush whose land was southeast of Egypt on the continent of Africa) would be slain (2:12). Assyria and its great capital city, Nineveh, would be utterly destroyed by Babylon. The destruction of Nineveh so complete it would be uninhabitable, a wasteland and a haven for wild beasts (2:13-15).

Zephaniah 3 – The Necessity of Divine Judgment Against Jerusalem

Zephaniah laid out the case regarding the wickedness of Jerusalem that demanded God’s judgment (3:1-4). That city had become “filthy and polluted,” and was a violent city (3:1). Her civil leaders (princes and judges) were like “roaring lions…wolves” that gnaw the bones of the poor and helpless (3:1). Her spiritual leaders (prophets and priests) were “treacherous” and violent (3:4).

Zephaniah assured the people of Judah, the LORD was just and He would not “do iniquity…He brings His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame” (3:5).

What an appalling statement! Innocence was lost. Moral purity disdained. The politicians and religious leaders were so given to sin and wickedness that they felt no shame! Though their wickedness was widely known, they felt no sense of humiliation. In spite of God’s judgment of other nations’ sins, Judah had failed to be moved to repent of her sins (3:6-7).

Zephaniah’s ministry closed with not only a warning of the day when God would gather the nations of the earth to be judged (3:8), but also when He will gather the remnant of Israel from all nations who will call upon and serve Him (3:9).

In that day, the day of the LORD, sin, shame, and pride will be removed (3:11-14), God’s people will rejoice for the LORD is King (3:14-17), and the people will be restored to the LORD who will dwell in the midst (3:18-20).

What a glorious day that will be!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 13-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith