Category Archives: Attitude

“I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

The Book of Ezra revealed there were adversaries who disrupted, and for 15 years curtailed the work on the Temple. They had made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3). Those same enemies accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  When Darius became king of Persia, the enemy accused the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6). This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Haggai 2

The LORD countered the voices of the enemies and critics, and sent His prophets (Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra 5:1), who encouraged the people saying, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel (the civic leader), saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (2:4).

Assuring the people the LORD would fill the new Temple with His glory (2:7), Haggai declared, “8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. 9The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (2:8-9).

How did the LORD fill the second Temple with His glory, especially since there is no record of such an event as it was with Solomon’s Temple? (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Though the second Temple lacked the beauty and splendor of the first, unbeknownst to the Jews, the LORD Himself would one day grace its halls with His bodily presence. Jesus, the incarnate, virgin born Son of God would be dedicated there as an infant (Luke 2:25-38). As a boy, he would be found both listening and questioning the rabbis regarding the Word of the LORD in the Temple court (Luke 2:46-52). As a man, Christ brought to the Temple a message of hope and peace for all men (2:9; Luke 4:17-22).

A Question of Holiness and Contamination (2:10-19)

Haggai’s fourth message to God’s people was recorded in the closing verses of this brief book. Stirred by the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were building the Temple with a zeal that would finally see it completed. The sermon was delivered two months after the third message, and the subject was on God’s stipulations for purity and holiness (as opposed to that which is unholy and “unclean,” 2:12-13). The implication of the lesson was, the LORD only accepts and blesses that which is righteous (2:14). When God’s people sin, they sacrifice His blessings, and invite His judgment (2:15-19).

A Challenge to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)

On the same day he delivered the fourth message to the people building the Temple, Haggai had a final revelation for Zerubbabel, the leaders and governor of Judah (2:20-23). Who was Zerubbabel? He was a leader of the tribe of Judah, but more importantly, he was of the linage of David, and named in the lineage of Christ (2:6; Matthew 1:12-13).

The LORD made a far-reaching promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth” (2:21). Babylon had been overthrown, and Persia ruled the world, but the LORD reminded Zerubbabel He alone was sovereign and nations rise and fall within His divine providence (2:22). No king or kingdom is so strong that the LORD will not overthrow and “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen” (2:22).

Closing thought – Haggai closed with a wonderful, Messianic promise (2:23). The LORD revealed Zerubbabel was chosen by “the LORD of hosts,” and one of his lineage would bear the “signet” (typically a ring monarchs used to seal covenants or legal documents in wax). The Messiah would come not only through David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16), but also through Zerubbabel, for he had been chosen! (2:23).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Discouragement: The Devil’s Favorite Tool (Ezra 4; Ezra 5)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4; Ezra 5

With the foundation of the Temple laid, the air was filled with the sound of trumpets and cymbals, and the people “sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel” (3:11). The shouts of the younger generation, mingled with the tears of the “ancient men” (3:12), were “heard afar off” (3:13). Unbeknown to the people, their adversaries heard the noise of the celebration, and determined to halt the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1). Ezra wrote, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Ezra 4 – Four Methods the Enemy Employed to Discourage God’s People (4:1-16)

On the pretense of friendship, the adversaries came to Zerubbabel (whom I believe was identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”), and suggested Assimilation. These enemies had been a part of the Assyrian policy to resettle a conquered land with people of other nations. Though they were a wicked, idolatrous people, they said to Zerubbabel, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2). Zerubbabel and Jeshua, joined by “the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel” (4:3), rejected the pretext of assimilation, saying, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their desire to hinder rebuilding the Temple, the enemies began a campaign of Aggravation (4:4-5). As time passed, “the people of the land [foreigners occupying Judah’s land] weakened the hands [the resolve] of the people of Judah, and troubled [terrified] them in building” (4:4). They even “hired counsellors [conspirators; agitators] against them, to frustrate their purpose” (4:5).

When assimilation and aggravation failed to stop the work on the Temple, the enemy turned to Adjudication, and addressed a letter to the king of Persia, and challenged the legality and legitimacy of the work to rebuild the Temple (4:6-10).

When all else failed, the adversaries of the people made a fourth attempt to impede the work on the Temple, and brought false Accusations against the Jews. The enemy employed two tactics in their spurious charges against the Jews: Deception; though the people were building the Temple, the enemy charged them with “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12). The second tactic was Distortion, for the enemy questioned the integrity of God’s people, and implied the Jews were rebuilding the fortress of Jerusalem to the end they might rebel (4:13-15). The false accusations against the Jews were so serious, they eventually moved the king to send a letter to Jerusalem that demanded the work cease (4:23-24).

Closing thoughts – The antagonism and unrelenting attacks of their adversaries not only discouraged the people, but eventually halted the work on the Temple. Succumbing to spiritual lethargy, it seemed the enemies of Judah and Benjamin had succeeded. The work on the Temple ceased for 15 long years (Haggai 1:2-11), and the jubilation of Ezra 3, turned to sorrow and discouragement (4:24).

Lesson – Of all the implements in the devil’s toolbox, the most effective is discouragement. Believer, faithful servants of the LORD will always have detractors. Sadly, there are some in the church who feel their calling is to be a critic (by the way, they are usually the ones sitting on the sidelines of ministry).

Ezra 5

The work on the Temple had ceased, but the LORD had an answer for discouragement: He sent His prophets! “Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, [who] prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them” (5:1). Haggai preached messages that convicted (Haggai 1:5, 7, 9-11), while Zechariah preached messages of comfort and exhortation [dreams and visions]. Stirred by the prophets of God, Zerubbabel and Jeshua returned to the work, and “began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2).

Closing thoughts – No sooner had the work on the Temple begun, than the adversaries returned, asking, “Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?” (5:3). Recognizing there was nothing they could do or say to appease their adversaries, the men working on the Temple answered the question with their own question: “What are the names of the men that make this building?” (5:4) Stated in another way: What business is it of yours, who has commanded us to build? We do not see your name on the list of contractors!

The elders of the people determined they would not be stopped from building the house of the Lord. They were confident “the eye of their God was upon” them (5:5). Once again, their enemies accused the Jews to the king (5:4-5). Unwittingly, they gave him cause to search the historical records of the kings of Persia, remembering the decree of a Persian king could not be rescinded (5:6-17).

As you will see, the tide will turn in Ezra 6 when the enemies opposed to rebuilding the Temple, will be forced to finance it with their own offerings.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Tears of Joy, Mingled with Tearful Memoires (Ezra 3)

Scripture reading – Ezra 3

As we have seen, the Book of Ezra marked the end of a 70-year period of captivity for God’s people. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. While the LORD sent prophets to call the people to repent, and encourage them with the promise the Jewish people would one day be restored to their land, the majority dismissed the prophets. With the fall of Babylon, many despaired of ever seeing Mount Zion. Then, king Cyrus of Persia decreed, “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (1:2).

Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, responded to the Spirit of God, and along with certain priests and Levites, returned to rebuild the Temple and city of Jerusalem (Ezra 2). Ezra 2 concluded with God’s people arriving in Jerusalem, bearing the offerings of the people who remained in Babylon. With them were the silver and gold vessels Cyrus had released from the treasuries of Babylon.

Ezra 3

Some suggest the difficult journey from Babylon to Jerusalem could have taken as much as four months. Perhaps allowing another three months for the people to rebuild their homes, villages and towns, it was “when the seventh month was come…the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem: (3:1). I suggest three observations for the sake of our study.

A Shared Purpose (3:1, 3-11)

The people “gathered themselves together as one” (3:1). Setting aside their personal interests for the sake of the whole (for they had been building their homes, and planting crops), they “gathered” as one (3:1). They worked together, worshipped together (3:3-5), sacrificed together (3:6-8), and rejoiced together (3:10-11).

A Shared Sacrifice (3:6-7)

Notice the use of the plural pronoun “they” (3:6-7). They came together to “offer burnt offerings unto the LORD” (3:6a). They gave what they could out of what they had, for “they gave money [silver and gold] also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat [from their livestock], and drink [from their vineyards], and oil [from their groves]” (3:7). They recognized the LORD was proprietor of everything they possessed (Haggai 2:8).

A Shared Joy (3:10-11)

I have learned the happiest believers are those who have set aside personal agendas for the opportunity of serving the LORD and others. Because they shared mutual purpose, and a mutual sacrifice, they shared in the celebration. It was natural that they rejoiced as one, when the final stones of the foundation were laid (3:10).

For the celebration, the priests wore their finest robes and sounded the shofar. The Levites, “with cymbals,” lifted their voices and praised the LORD according to the “ordinance of David king of Israel” (3:10). The people, singing and shouting as they praised the LORD, were so loud their voices were heard by their enemies (4:1).

Closing thoughts (3:12-13) – Unfortunately, there were some who did not share in the joy and celebration when the foundation to the Temple was laid. A discordant sound was heard in the midst of the celebration, for certain “ancient men” (elderly priests, Levites, and tribal leaders) remembered seeing the Temple of Solomon before it was destroyed (3:12). They lived in the past, and scoffed at the work that was done.

The LORD confronted the ancients through His prophet Zechariah, and asked, “who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10). The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s sentiment and asked, “Who is left among you that saw this house [the Temple] in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

They were elderly men, and it is doubtful they were numbered among those who physically labored on the foundation of the Temple. They were guilty of a sin I have observed of many through the years:

Personal observations: I have learned the voices of critics usually arise from among those who have sacrificed little.

Remember: A critical, negative spirit eventually marks you, and invariably mars you.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Three Good Things You Should Embrace (Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3

Our brief study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” continues today. While Lamentations 3 will be the primary focus of this devotional, I am suggesting a brief outline of Lamentations 2.

Lamentations 2

Jerusalem is Destroyed (2:1-9)

Jeremiah continued to lament the calamity of Jerusalem and observed how the Lord had “covered the daughter of Zion [Jerusalem] with a cloud in his anger” (2:1). Knowing David pronounced the Temple “the footstool of our God” (1 Chronicles 28:2), the prophet bemoaned the LORD “remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!” (1:1) Though it was Nebuchadnezzar whose army destroyed Jerusalem; Jeremiah left no doubt it was the fierceness of God’s judgment that devoured the people. The rebellion of the people moved the LORD to become the enemy of His wayward people (2:2-5).

All Jerusalem was a scene of destruction as the city and its Temple laid in ruins. Yet, it was the LORD who gave the altar, Temple, and the palaces “into the hand of the enemy” (2:7). As Jeremiah looked upon the city, he observed, “9Her gates are sunk into the ground…Her king and her princes are [captives] among the Gentiles: the law is no more” (2:9).

Lamentations 2:10-14 turned the focus from the city and the king, to the sorrows the people suffered. The leaders of the city sat in silence, as they mourned the deaths and destruction that was about them (2:10). Jeremiah was so overcome with grief, his tears failed, and his heart ached (2:11), as the city he loved was ravaged by famine (2:11-13).

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah then reminded the people how their sins brought them to a state of ruin and sorrow. The prophet declared, “the Lord hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word…He hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, He hath set up the horn [power; strength] of thine adversaries” (2:17). Overcome with grief and hunger, mothers turned to cannibalism, and did “eat their fruit” (2:20). Young and old laid dead in the streets, and there were none to bury them (2:21).

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah’s lamentations took on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. The prophet had lived to see all he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poor, Jeremiah gazed upon a scene of devastation. The Temple was destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem were fallen.

Lamentations 3:1-21 is a testimony of the prophet’s afflictions.

Jeremiah’s Afflictions (3:1-19)

In his sorrows, Jeremiah confessed the afflictions he carried for the suffering of His people. He felt alienated from God (3:2), as though the LORD was turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed, but it seemed God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). He felt trapped, abandoned, and wounded in heart (3:9-13). He was scorned by his people (3:14), and overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18). He despaired of life (3:19) until his focus turned to the LORD (3:20-21).

Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions (3:21-66)

In the midst of sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that inspired the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah wrote, It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace] that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases]. 23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness [steadfastness]” (3:22-23). Remembering the LORD’s mercy and faithfulness, Jeremiah declared, “The LORD isgood [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

Notice, a believer must meet two conditions to know the goodness of the LORD (3:25). The first, he must “wait for Him” (3:25). Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you hurt?  Will you wait when you are ill?  When you have been mistreated or misunderstood, do you wait on the LORD?  Jeremiah’s counsel to those who are in distress is, “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

Also, to trust the LORD’s goodness, you must “seek Him” (3:25b). What does it mean to seek the LORD? It means to seek and obey Him (3:40). You seek the LORD when you read, meditate, and obey Him (3:40;Jeremiah 29:13).

Closing thoughts – In closing, I invite you to consider three things Jeremiah described as “good.”  It is good to “both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD” (3:26). Hope is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul. Hope anticipates that God hears and will answer prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises. It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer in His time. Finally, it is good for a son to bear the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). In the midst of his afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged it was a good thing for young men bear the yoke of manhood with all of its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Life can be difficult, and even harsh; but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. What about you? Will you hope, seek, obey, and trust the LORD?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

An Answer for “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me” (Jeremiah 45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 45

Having concluded his last prophetic message to the remnant of Judah that fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 44), Jeremiah’s chronological narrative was interrupted for a brief chapter. Jeremiah 45 recalls an earlier discourse between the prophet and Baruch, who served as Jeremiah’s scribe (Jeremiah 36:8). The historical setting of the conversation between the two men came “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah” (45:1). For context, Jehoiakim was the king who cast the prophecies of Jeremiah into a fire (Jeremiah 36:20-26). There were yet two kings who followed Jehoiakim (his successor Jehoiachin, who reigned for three months, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah).

Penning the revelation concerning the destruction of Jerusalem a second time (Jeremiah 36:27-32), so overwhelmed Baruch he groaned in his spirit. Discouraged, and visibly shaken by God’s imminent judgment, the scribe found himself serving a prophet who was not only unpopular, but also imprisoned.

Jeremiah 45

The LORD Commanded Jeremiah to Confront Baruch (45:1-3)

Jeremiah 45:1-3 – “1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake [pronounced] unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of [according to] Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch; 3 Thou [Baruch] didst say, Woe [cry out] is me now! for the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] hath added[increased] grief [afflictions] to my sorrow [pain; grief; anguish]; I fainted [exhausted; wearied] in my sighing[groaning’s; mourning; distress], and I find no rest [comfort; ease; resting place].”

The scribe’s focus was himself, and the LORD revealed to Jeremiah the spiritual state of his friend (45:1-2). Baruch was discouraged and overwhelmed. Jeremiah 45:3 exposed the spirit of a man whose spiritual zeal had waned because he lost sight of God’s sovereignty. The LORD instructed Jeremiah to be a faithful minister, and to instruct Baruch to not place his hope and affections on temporal, earthly things.

 Jeremiah 45:4 – Thus shalt thou [Jeremiah] say unto him [Baruch], The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I [the LORD] have built [established; construct] will I [the LORD] break down [throw down; pluck down; destroyed], and that which I [the LORD] have planted I [the LORD] will pluck up [destroy; tear away], even this whole land.

Reminded God is sovereign, He had the right and authority to build up or to tear down, and no man should question His will. The LORD had determined that the Temple would be burned, the palaces destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem laid waste. Jeremiah 45:5 may strike you as an unnecessary rebuke of a faithful scribe, until you understand the context.

Jeremiah 45:5 – And seekest [require; beg; strive after] thou [Baruch] great things [high; greater; proud thing] for thyself [Baruch]? seek [require; beg; strive after] them not: for, behold, I [the LORD] will bring [come in; enter; give; advance] evil [bad; adversity; affliction; distress] upon all flesh [person; mankind; bodies], saith the LORD: but thy [Baruch] life [soul; person; heart] will I [the LORD] give [deliver; commit; give up; abandon] unto thee [Baruch] for a prey [spoil; possessions; booty; plunder] in all places whither thou goest [walk; depart; follow].

Jeremiah counseled Baruch not to sacrifice God’s calling for promotion or personal aspirations. As a point of background: Baruch’s brother served as a counselor to king Jehoiakim. While his brother enjoyed a prominent role in the king’s palace, Baruch found himself serving a prophet that was despised, persecuted, and imprisoned.

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah’s rebuke is as relevant to us as it was to Baruch. Is it not easy to fall prey to seeking “great things for thyself?” (45:5a) It is easy to focus upon the immediate cost of serving the LORD, but fail to recognize the greater risk, should we disobey Him. The LORD revealed the king, his advisors (including Baruch’s brother), and all the people would fail. Yet, the LORD promised to give Jeremiah’s scribe that which was greater than fame and promotion—LIFE!

The LORD said, “thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (45:5). What a wonderful promise! Baruch, don’t seek things for yourself, and I will give you LIFE!

What are you seeking? Riches, possessions, titles and fame perish! In the LORD, LIFE is forever!

Matthew 6:19-21 19  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Jeremiah’s Final Message to the Remnant of Judah (Jeremiah 43; Jeremiah 44)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 43; Jeremiah 44

Jeremiah presented to the remnant of Judah the Word and the will of the LORD (42:7-9), and the people faced the dilemma of two decisions: obey the LORD and remain in the land, with the promise of blessing saying, “I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand” (42:11); or disobey the LORD and “it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt…and there ye shall die” (42:16).

Jeremiah 43

The People Rejected Jeremiah (43:1-7)

When Jeremiah finished speaking (43:1), “proud men” rose up among the people, and said to Jeremiah, “Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there” (43:2). Rejecting the LORD and Jeremiah His prophet, the people went out of the land and down into Egypt till there were none left in Judah (43:4-7).

A Forewarning of Judgment (43:8-13)

In Egypt, at the entryway to “Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes,” there was a great oven in which bricks were fired (43:9). With the men of Judah looking on, Jeremiah took stones and set them inside the brick kiln, and declared Nebuchadnezzar would invade Egypt and spread his royal tent over the stones he had placed in the oven (43:10). Jeremiah warned, the destruction they had witnessed in Jerusalem, would follow them to Egypt (43:11-13).

Jeremiah 44

Prophecy Concerning the Jewish People in Egypt (44:1-14)

The people rejected the warnings of the prophets (44:4), and committed great wickedness by worshipping other gods and offering incense (44:5). They had witnessed the wickedness of their forefathers (44:9), yet, when God judged the nation, they refused to humble themselves and repent (44:10)

Jeremiah warned their sins had provoked God’s wrath, and the LORD would “cut off all Judah” (44:11). He recounted that all who went to Egypt would be punished, that they would be “consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt…by the sword and by the famine: they shall die” (44:11-12).

The People’s Blasphemous Response (44:15-18)

Rather than humble themselves and repent of their sins, the people were proud and stubborn. They declared they would “certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth” (44:17a). Petulant as a brazen rebellious child, the people announced they would “burn incense unto the queen of heaven [the Egyptian goddess of fertility]” (44:17b). They avowed how their idolatrous worship of “the queen of heaven” was rewarded with “plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil” (44:17). Not content with their blasphemy, they declared their troubles had come when they failed to worship “the queen of heaven” (44:18).

Jeremiah’s Answer and Final Message to the Refugees of Judah (44:19-30)

Hearing the rancorous words of the people, Jeremiah admonished them saying, “did not the Lord remember them [their sins], and came it not into his mind?” (44:21). Jeremiah avowed, “because of the abominations which [they had] committed; therefore, is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day” (44:22). The prophet refused to temper his words, and continued, saying, “Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore, this evil is happened unto you, as at this day” (44:23).

Closing thought – Jeremiah concluded his message, and declared prophetically, “The Lord God liveth” (44:26), and “all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them” (44:27). The remnant of Judah had sought refuge in Egypt, but that great nation would fall to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon” (44:30). Mercifully, in His grace, God promised a “small number” of Judah would “escape the sword” and return to Judah (44:28).

Remember: Though He is longsuffering, God is just and all men will one day face His judgment. I invite you to embrace the assurance of His saving grace by placing your faith in His Son Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

From Despair to Triumphant Faith (Habakkuk 3)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 3

Our study of Habakkuk concludes with today’s Scripture reading of Habakkuk 3. The sinfulness the prophet witnessed in Judah and Jerusalem provoked Habakkuk to question the LORD, “Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?” (1:3a). The prophet reasoned, “For spoiling and violence are before me: And there are that raise up strife and contention” (1:3b).

The LORD answered Habakkuk’s complaint, and revealed how He would raise up the Chaldeans (Babylon) to punish Judah and the nations for their wickedness (1:5-11). Habakkuk asked, why would God employ a wicked nation to punish the sins of His people? (1:12-17) The LORD answered His prophet’s inquiry in a vision (2:1), and the judgment that would befall Babylon for its wickedness (2:2-19). Accepting the imminent judgment of Judah, the prophet declared God’s sovereignty, saying, “the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20).

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk’s Prayer (3:1-2)

Habakkuk 3 commences as a prayer (3:1-2), and is followed by a poem best described as a psalm or song. While there is some debate among scholars regarding the definition of “Shigionoth” (3:1), many agree the word was a musical notation. Reinforcing that conclusion is postscript at the close of the book: “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (3:19).

Having his questions answered, and understanding the inevitable judgment that would fulfill the LORD’s revelations, Habakkuk prayed: “O Lord, I have heard [listened to] thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make known; In wrath remember mercy” (3:2).

The Sovereignty and Providence of the LORD (3:3-15)

Looking to the future through the eyes of faith, Habakkuk remembered the ways and works of the LORD in the past. He remembered how the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness (3:3). For “God came from Teman” (the south), and the Holy One from mount Paran” (located in the Sinai desert), and then penned, “Selah” (pause and think about that, 3:3a). When Israel encamped in Sinai, there the LORD descended from heaven, and “His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of his praise” (3:3b). Though a nation of slaves, the LORD strengthened the faith of Israel with a display of His majesty and glory. He gave witness to the “horns [symbol of power and authority] coming out of his hand: And there was the hiding of his power” (3:4).

Recalling what the LORD did for Israel in the past, Habakkuk was confident He would bring upon the nations a “pestilence” (for God uses plagues to punish the wicked), and they would tremble and be shaken at His presence (3:6). The prophet proposed three questions (3:8), and remembered God used nature to do His bidding and bring judgment upon the wicked. Portrayed removing His bow and arrows out of their sheath (3:9a), God had used the flood waters of the Nile (Exodus 7:20-21), and the troubled waters of the Red Sea, to cause Pharoah and Egypt to submit to His will (Exodus 14:15-28; 15:8-10).

Habakkuk described the effect of God’s wrath in natural terms, making mention of how the mountains tremble, and waters overflow their banks (3:10). Even the sun, moon, and stars are shaken in their courses by the judgment of the LORD (3:11; Joshua 10:12-14; Isaiah 38:8; 2 Kings 20:9-11). When the LORD moves in judgment upon the nations of the world, fierce lightnings pierce the sky like “the light of arrows…[and His]glittering spear” (3:11).

Habakkuk warned, no man or nation could stand before the wrath of God. Yet, the LORD would remember His covenant and not forsake His people (3:12-13a). Babylon would wreak havoc on Judah, and destroy the poorer, weaker nations. Nevertheless, that wicked nation would be punished, and humiliated, for it would not withstand the wrath of God (3:13-14).

The Prophet’s Response to God’s Revelation (3:16-19)

Realizing the judgment of God was imminent, Habakkuk was overcome with emotion. His heart trembled, his voice failed, and his strength dissipated (3:16a). Yet, his hope was restored when he remembered when trouble comes, the LORD comes as well (3:16b). Crops would fail, and flocks and herds would be no more (3:17). In spite of sorrows that were to come, Habakkuk declared, “18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18).

Closing thoughts – How could the prophet rejoice, even as he acknowledged troubles were imminent?

Habakkuk did not derive his hope from pleasant circumstances, but from his faith that his joy was “in the God of [his] salvation” (3:18). Though trials were at hand, Habakkuk declared, “The Lord God is my strength, And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet [fast and agile like deer], And he [the LORD] will make me to walk upon mine high places” (3:19).

With faith in the LORD, and trusting Him for strength, Habakkuk declared he could conquer mountains! (3:19)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

God’s Promises Never Fail! (Jeremiah 33; Jeremiah 34)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 33; Jeremiah 34

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with Jeremiah a prisoner of king Zedekiah (33:1). Though imprisoned, God’s prophet was not forsaken, and the LORD continued to put His Word in Jeremiah’s heart (33:2).

Jeremiah 33 

Who is the LORD? (33:1-13)

The LORD came to Jeremiah, and reminded His servant He is “Yahweh,” the God who makes and keeps covenant with His people (33:2). The same God who had power to create (33:2), was and is able also to keep His promises, and hear and answer prayer (33:3). The LORD encouraged Jeremiah, He would show him “great and mighty things, which [Jeremiah knew] not” (33:3).

The Character of the LORD (33:5-13)

The LORD assured Jeremiah He was just, and His judgment were sure. While the king and the leaders of Jerusalem strengthened their defenses, Jeremiah was told the battlements would fail, and their homes would be filled with the bodies of the dead (33:5).

Yet, God would not altogether forsake His people, and foretold the day when Judah would be delivered from captivity and restored to their land (33:6-7). In that day, the LORD would not only restore His people, but promised He would “cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me” (33:8).

In that day, the nations of the earth would witness Judah’s restoration, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The heathen would look upon God’s blessings in awe (33:9). The judgment of God would leave Judah desolate, and the cities in ruin. Nevertheless, the LORD promised the day would come when the cities and villages of Judah would be filled once again with the sounds of joy, and the voices of youth (33:10-13).

The Coming Messiah King (33:14-26)

There were some in Judah who rejected the prophecies of a coming Messiah King, and discouraged the people contending the God of Israel had forsaken them (33:24).

The LORD answered the naysayers, and declared, “the days come…that I will perform that good thing which I have promised15In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness” (33:14-16)

Only One can fulfill that Messianic prophecy, and He is Jesus the Christ! Only Christ is of the lineage of David (being born of the virgin Mary, who was of David’s line, and adopted by Joseph who was a “son of David,” Matthew 1:1, 20). Christ is the altogether Righteous One, and when He comes again He will rule in justice, and save His people (33:15-16). In that day, Christ will reign eternal (Revelation 19:16; 22:16), and serve as the Eternal Mediator and Intercessor of His people (Hebrews 7:24-28).

Closing thoughts – How sure are God’s covenant promises? They are as certain as the rising and setting sun (33:19-21, 25). The same God who set the seasons, and times of the rising and setting sun, will fulfill His covenant.

What did that mean for Jeremiah (who was in prison), and those who were captives in Babylon? The LORD promised, “I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them” (33:26).

Believer, may the rising and setting sun remind you: God’s promises never fail!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah 34 – Death Comes Knocking

With Nebuchadnezzar’s great army arrayed outside the walls of Jerusalem (34:1), the LORD came to Jeremiah and commanded His prophet to declare to the king the imminent the destruction of Jerusalem (34:1-2). Jeremiah warned Zedekiah he would be taken prisoner to Babylon (34:3), but assured the king he would not die by the sword, but would die in peace in that foreign city (34:4-5).

The LORD then demanded there be no slaves in Judah, and all who were servants were to be set free by their masters before the captivity (34:8-9). The people covenanted with Zedekiah to set their servants free, and to be bound by the covenant (34:10). Yet, with death and destruction knocking at the gates of the city, the foolish people broke their covenant with the king (34:11), enslaved their brethren, and invited God’s judgment for their defiance (34:12-21).

One would hope the hearts of the people would be tender, and humbled before the LORD and their king; however, they treated the king with disdain, and persecuted God’s prophet. Such is the fate of many who dare to preach God’s Word to a people or nation that rejects the LORD.

Closing thoughts Times have changed, but sinners have not.  The tragedy of 21st century “Christianity” (and I use that term in the broadest sense), is the majority of those who profess to be “Christian,” in practice shun the authority of God’s Word in their lives. Like Israel and Judah, a nation and people reject the Scriptures at their peril.

“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).

Warning: Reject the Word of God, and the Wrath of the LORD will Fall!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Yokes and Ropes: No Nation is Too Big to Fail (Jeremiah 27)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 27

For any of Judah who hoped the assurances of false prophets would prove true (for some prophesied the nation would not be condemned), Jeremiah employed the symbol of a yoke he had fashioned. The yoke, like that borne by oxen, would picture Judah’s inevitable bondage to Babylon.

Jeremiah 27

Symbols of Babylonian Bondage (27:1-7)

Coming to Jeremiah 27, we find Jerusalem and Judah dominated by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, a puppet. To urge Judah to accept their servitude as God’s will, the LORD commanded Jeremiah to fashion a yoke with bindings, and place it about his neck. (There is some debate if the prophet formed five yokes to be sent to five nations, or one yoke with a message for five nations, 27:2-3).

Five neighboring nations of Judah (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyrus, and Zidon), perhaps hoping to mount a counter offensive against Babylon, had come to Jerusalem to confer with Zedekiah (27:3). The LORD, longsuffering and compassionate, commanded Jeremiah to bear the yoke he had made, and declare the sovereignty of God over the nations (27:4), saying: “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me” (27:5).

The LORD revealed to Jeremiah His determination to give all lands, nations, and beasts “into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon,” whom He identified as “my servant” (27:6). The LORD foretold how three generations of kings would rule Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar, “his son, and his son’s son”), before that nation failed, and God’s people returned to their land (27:7).

The Dilemma of Bondage (27:8-10)

Declaring Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant, and subject to His will and purpose, Jeremiah urged Judah and the other nations to accept the yoke of their servitude to Nebuchadnezzar (27:7-8). He warned, should a nation rebel, and refuse to “put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon” (27:8), that nation would be punished, and would suffer war (“sword”), famine, and disease (“pestilence,” 27:8b).

Jeremiah warned, do not accept the lies of the false prophet, who say, “Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon” (27:9). He urged the nations, accept “the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him,” for only then would they remain in their lands (27:10-11). Should any nation resist Babylon, and refuse the yoke of servitude, they would be destroyed (27:10).

Message to Zedekiah, the Last King of Judah (27:12-15)

Jeremiah urged king Zedekiah to accept the yoke of Babylon as the fate God had determined for Judah, and “serve him and his people, and live” (27:12). The prophet queried the king, “Why will ye die?” (27:13). Why reject the yoke God has determined for you, knowing you will be destroyed? (27:13) The LORD admonished Judah, stop listening to the false prophets, “for I have not sent them…they prophesy a lie in my name” (27:14-15).

Message to the Priests and the People (27:16-22)

Some lying prophets assured the people, “the vessels of the LORD’s house,” that had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:17-23; 2 Kings 25:13-17), would “shortly be brought again from Babylon” (27:16). They lied to the people and Jeremiah warned, “Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live” (27:17).

Knowing the test of a prophet is whether or not their sayings come to pass, Jeremiah encouraged the people to ask the prophets, “make intercession to the Lord of hosts, that the vessels which are left…go not to Babylon” (27:18). Because Nebuchadnezzar had taken much, but not all the vessels from the Temple and palace (27:19-20), Jeremiah dared the people to test the prophets.

Closing thoughts – True to his words, everything Jeremiah prophesied came to pass (27:19-22). The remaining vessels were “carried to Babylon (27:22), and remained there until seventy years had passed. Then, the LORD restored the vessels, and His people to their land (27:22; Ezra 1:7-11).

Warning: Our world is filled with false prophets and preachers, but the LORD gives discernment to those who know Him by faith, and walk in His Truth.

By the way, the LORD is no less sovereign today than He was in Jeremiah’s day. No king, president, or dictator is beyond God’s sovereignty, for He has “made the earth…[and will give] it unto whom it seemed meet” (27:5).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character of Wicked Leaders, and the People They Serve (Jeremiah 22)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 22

Continuing our study in the book of Jeremiah, our “weeping prophet” was commanded by the LORD, “Go down to the house of the king of Judah” (22:1). Having experienced the rejection and wrath of men who desired not only to silence, but kill him (20:2, 10), we might imagine the emotions that welled up in Jeremiah as he entered the palace of the king.

Jeremiah 22

Supposing Jeremiah 22 continues the speech Jeremiah addressed to Zedekiah in the preceding chapter (Jeremiah 21:7), we will notice five kings of Judah are considered in this chapter. There was Josiah, whose heart was toward the LORD (22:11; 2 Kings 23:1-27). He reigned for 31 years, until he was killed in battle against Egypt (2 Kings 23:29-30).

Four kings followed Josiah’s reign, and three of the four were his sons. There was Shallum (perhaps his given name), who is identified in other Scriptures by the name he must have chosen, Jehoahaz (22:10-11). Jehoahaz (Shallum) was removed from the throne, and taken captive to Egypt where he died (22:12; 2 Kings 23:31-33).

A message of woe was stated by the prophet against Jehoiakim (22:13-23), who succeeded Jehoahaz. Jehoiakim oppressed the people, failing to pay their wages, and was despised for his lavish lifestyle (22:13-14). In contrast to Josiah whose rule was fair and just (22:16), Jehoiakim was covetous, murderous, oppressive, and extorted the people (22:17). He would be so despised, that no one would lament his death. When he was dead, the disposal of his body was no better than that of a donkey that dies, and is dragged out of the city, and “cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem” (most likely in the notorious “valley of the son of Hinnom, 22:18-19; 7:32, 19:6).

Jehoiachin or Jeconiah (i.e. Coniah, 22:24), was the son of Jehoiakim, and reigned for three months, until his sins moved the LORD to depose him. Jehoiachin, and his mother, were taken captive to Babylon (22:24-30). As God’s judgment against him, no son of Jehoiachin would ever reign as king in Judah (22:28-30).

Closing thought – Unlike their father, the sons of king Josiah (Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah) were wicked kings, and their transgressions led the nation to God’s judgment.  Led by wicked kings, Judah’s descent into sin and rebellion was swift and unabated (22:10-30). Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed, and the ruins serve as a lasting testimony of a people who had forsaken “the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them” (22:9).

When a people reject the LORD’s Law and Commandments, they will be ruled by wicked leaders who, like Jehoiakim, feed their lavish lusts, and oppress the people (22:13-14). Covetous, murderous, oppressive, and violent extortion described Jehoiakim’s reign. Are the leaders of our day not the same? (22:17)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.