Category Archives: Attitude

“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

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Cursed Be the Man Who Usurps God’s Authority (2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we return to 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26, parallel passages of the same historical events. Though the names of kings might be confusing and their deeds soon forgotten, what is important is that we take from our study of the Scriptures an insight into the ways of the LORD, and His sovereign rule in the affairs of men and nations.

2 Kings 15 – Kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.

His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah.  He was only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, and would reign as king fifty-two years (15:1-2).

2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a “several” [separate] house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).

To understand the cause for the king’s leprosy (which in the Scriptures is a symbol of the dreadfulness of sin), we turn to 2 Chronicles 26.

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah in 2 Kings 15) remarkable achievements are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26, which also gives us the cause for his successes: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah [the high priest], who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he [Uzziah] sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah had been a successful warrior (26:6-8), for “God helped him…and his name spread abroad” (26:7-8). He had reinforced the fortification of Jerusalem, and to secure the land he “built towers in the desert, and digged wells” (essential in the dry, arid wilderness, 26:10). I especially admire the mention of Uzziah’s heart for the agrarian way of life, for we read, “he loved husbandry” (i.e., he loved to farm, (26:10).

Yet, this king with a farmer’s heart, was also a gifted administrator, who numbered and ordered his army, providing for his soldiers the necessary implements for war (26:11-15). Perhaps he was also a gifted engineer, and strategist, for he is said to have “made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal” (26:15a). What those “engines” of war were, is a matter of speculation, but Uzziah achieved the admiration of his friends and foes (26:15b).

Tragically, when he was at the pinnacle of success in his 52-year reign over Judah, we read, “But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16).

Why did the LORD afflict King Uzziah (i.e., Azariah) with leprosy, a dreaded disease that would follow him to his grave?

Uzziah was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy– PRIDE (26:16). Forgetting his successes had come because of the LORD’s blessings, Uzziah’s “heart was lifted up to his destruction” (26:16), and he foolishly usurped the role of the priest and entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).

Bloated with pride from his achievements, the king treaded upon ground God had reserved for the priesthood.

The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy which evidenced on his forehead (26:19). The law regarding leprosy demanded a leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46) to avoid the spread, and seeing the blight on the king’s face, the priests expelled Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20).

As a leper, Uzziah lived the rest of his life in a separate house from the palace. Because he was a leper, he was not buried in a royal tomb, but was instead buried in a field near the place where kings were buried.

Closing thoughts – What a tragedy! The legacy of the great king gave testimony of his skill as a warrior, builder, administrator, but sadly—tainted as a leper. Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah) life, in spite of his achievements, read simply, “He [was] a leper” (26:23).

I wonder what counsel Uzziah might offer, if given an opportunity to counsel a 21st century believer? Perhaps he would warn:

Sinful pride, and one’s failure to honor the Lord and keep His Commandments, will not only risk your legacy, but your life.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Dilemma of a Backslidden Missionary (Jonah 2)

Scripture reading – Jonah 2

Returning to our study of the Book of Jonah, we find the prophet where his disobedience had taken him… facing death “in the belly of the fish” (1:17). Jonah had disobeyed the LORD because he feared He would spare Nineveh from judgment if the people repented of their sins (Jonah 4:1-2). Refusing to obey the LORD, he set sail on a ship going in the opposite direction of God’s will. Pursuing His disobedient prophet across the sea, the LORD sent a storm against Jonah’s ship, and when the sailors understood his presence was the cause of the storm, they cast him overboard, saving their lives and the ship (1:11-12). The LORD saved His unfaithful servant from drowning, by sending a great fish to swallow Jonah when he was cast into the deep (1:17).

Jonah’s Appeal (2:1-2)

Now, the heathen sailors had “cried every man unto his god” (1:5), but to no avail. Jonah, however, had not prayed to God until he found himself in the bowels of the great fish (2:1). We read, “Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God” (2:1), not out of sorrow for his sin, but because of his “affliction” (literally, his trouble, adversity, and sorrow, 2:2a). Without the LORD’S help, the prophet knew he was a dead man, for his circumstances were like “the belly of hell,” and the abode of the dead (2:2b). What a blessed hope we are given when we read when Jonah cried for help, the LORD heard his prayer (2:2c).

Jonah’s Agony (2:3-6a)

Humbled, and broken, Jonah acknowledged the LORD had chastened him for his disobedience, and all he had was because of his sin (2:3). He did not blame the sailors who cast him overboard, but accepted that God chastens His children like an earthly father chastens a disobedient child (2:3; Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:6). Jonah was troubled, for he realized his disobedience had resulted in his being “cast out of [the Lord’s] sight” (2:4a). He was a prisoner in a watery dungeon, and the belly of the fish had become his grave (2:5-6a).

Take a moment and consider what God revealed to Jonah concerning the ocean and its depths. We read, “I went down [descended] to the bottoms [base] of the mountains [mountain ranges underwater]” (2:6a). Thousands of years before the submarines of our time, God revealed to Jonah there were mountain ranges in the sea!

Jonah’s Affirmation (2:6b-10)

Reflecting on the LORD, and His faithfulness, Jonah declared, “they that observe [keep; guard; watch] lying [deceit]vanities [meaningless; purposeless] forsake [relinquish; refuse] their own mercy [lovingkindness; grace]” (2:8).  Jonah began his journey supposing he might flee from the LORD, but in the belly of the great fish he acknowledged he had forsaken God’s mercy and favor. He acknowledged that death awaits all who reject the LORD’S mercies.

Closing thoughts – From the belly of the great fish, the LORD heard Jonah’s promise to offer sacrifices as an expression of his gratitude, to give God His due, and faith that “salvation is of the LORD” (2:9). Then, “the Lordspake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

If you are running from the LORD, and your sins have taken you far from Him, remember He is only one prayer away. God hears and answers the prayer of those who confess their sin, repent, and turn to him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide from God (2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1

2 Chronicles 25 is a parallel record of events we considered in a prior study of 2 Kings 14:1-2. For that reason, today’s devotional will focus exclusively on the Book of Jonah.

Have you ever wanted to run away? Ever wanted to flee from pressures, people, pain and problems? I am certain there are many who have entertained the notion to run and hide. The book of Jonah will remind you that our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His people. He is omniscient, and knows your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles (Psalm 139:1). He knows your every thought (Psalm 139:2-3), and every word (Psalm 139:4). He is omnipresent, and His presence is inescapable (Psalm 139:7-10). The Scriptures impart a comforting and inescapable reality: “You can run, but you cannot hide from God.”

Jonah 1

Who was Jonah? (1:1-2)

Jonah was a preacher and prophet of the LORD to northern Israel, and served during the reign of the second Jeroboam (i.e., Jeroboam ben Joash). Passionate and patriotic, his life was dedicated to ministering in Israel, until the LORD interrupted his ministry commanding him to, Arise, go to Nineveh” (1:2).

Nineveh is described in the Scriptures as a “great city,” and one known for its wickedness (1:2). Located on the Tigris River in what is today, modern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, with a population of 120,000 (4:11). In ancient times, the Assyrians were known as a cruel, heartless people who buried their enemies alive, and tortured others by skinning them alive until they died. They were also a great enemy of Israel, and eventually conquered that nation, taking the people captive.

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (1:3-4)

The stench of Nineveh’s wickedness had become so grave, that the LORD had determined He would destroy the city if the people did not repent. Revealing His compassion for sinners, and His longsuffering, the LORD determined to give that great city an opportunity to repent of its sins.Jonah, however, refused to go to Nineveh to call on the people to repent (1:3). Some might argue the prophet feared the notorious cruelty of the nation. Others might suggest he did not want to aid Israel’s enemy, and feared his own people might reject him. Jonah 4:1-2, however, reveals Jonah did not want to prophesy against Nineveh for he knew the LORD was gracious, and feared He would spare the people if they repented of their sins. Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah resigned his calling, took a boat going to Tarshish (the opposite direction of Nineveh), and attempted the impossible…to escape “the presence of the LORD” (1:3).

Jonah’s Spiritual Insensitivity (1:4-6)

We read in verse 5 how Jonah “was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep” (1:5). What a poignant insight into the character of a disobedient servant of God! While the heathen battled the storm, desperate to save their lives, the prophet slept!

The ship’s captain assailed that calloused prophet, and asked in disbelief, What meanest thou, O sleeper?” (1:6) How could he be sleeping when so many lives could be lost? Here we see the spiritual profile of a backslidden believer: Emotionally detached, and distant from God and others.

The Sailor’s Interrogation (1:7-11)

The sailors cast lots, and the LORD sovereignly directed the lot to fall on Jonah (1:7). With the storm raging, the sailors demanded to know the cause of Jonah’s guilt that God had sent such a great storm that threatened all their lives. What evil? “What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (1:8)

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (1:9). He declared he had “fled from the presence of the Lord” and the storm had been sent by God to chasten him (1:10). Fearing for their lives, the sailors questioned Jonah, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” (1:11)

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (1:12-17)

Jonah instructed the sailors saying, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (1:12).

Given the desperate plight of the ship, you would think the calloused sailors would have cast the disobedient prophet overboard immediately; however, they continued to row hard hoping to bring the ship to land (1:13). Realizing all effort was for naught, the sailors cast Jonah into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging” (1:15). God mercifully spared the lives of the sailors, and providentially “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17).

Closing thoughts – Several lessons come to mind in our study of Jonah 1. We have seen God’s love for sinners and His longsuffering. In spite of Nineveh’s wickedness, the LORD sent His prophet to call the people of that city to repent (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16). We will also observe that the LORD is a God of second chances. He lovingly pursued Jonah across the sea, and saved him from drowning. Lastly, consider how a disobedient believer can peril the lives of the unsaved, leaving me to ask:

Are you periling lost souls by your disobedience?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

History is “HIS-Story” (2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14

We are in the midst of the era of the kings in Israel and Judah. I encourage you to not allow yourself to become frustrated, attempting to retain the names of all the kings. What is important is to remember that history is “His-Story,” and a testament to the sovereignty and providence of the LORD.

2 Kings 13

The northern ten tribes known as Israel, continued in sin, following the “sins of Jeroboam” who had made two golden calves and “made Israel to sin” (13:2). The sins of the kings of Israel, and their evil influence on the people, was a continual provocation of God’s wrath (13:3). Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy, Hazael king of Syria, and his son Benhadad, continually oppressed Israel (13:4). Yet, when the LORD delivered the people from their enemies, Israel would turn back to their sins and idolatry (13:5-6). Joash (also named Jehoash) succeeded his father Jehoahaz, and he followed in the sins of his father (13:8-13)

The Death of Elisha, God’s Prophet (13:14-21)

We find Elisha, God’s prophet in Israel and the successor of the prophet Elijah, terminally ill (13:14). Although he had often opposed the kings of Israel, king Joash, respected the prophet and came to his bedside and “wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (13:14).

Elisha’s homegoing was not as dramatic as Elijah’s (for he had been taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot), nevertheless, he was honored by the visit of the king and he offered Joash two symbolic and prophetic blessings (13:15-19). The first, Elisha asked Joash to shoot an arrow out the window to the east, and he prophesied the LORD would deliver Israel from Syria (13:16-17). The second symbol, Elisha commanded the king to strike the floor with arrows, which Joash obeyed and struck the floor three times (13:18). The dying prophet was suddenly indignant, for he said had Joash struck the floor more than three times he would have been assured that Syria would be destroyed (13:19).

A miracle followed Elisha’s death and burial, for the body of another man was cast into his grave, and touching the bones of the prophet, was raised from the dead (13:20-21).

2 Kings 13 concluded with a reminder, though Israel had disobeyed the LORD, and broke covenant with Him, God never forgot His “his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet” (13:23).

2 Kings 14

This chapter records a succession of kings and their sons who ruled over Judah and Israel. Amaziah, the son of Joash, became king of Judah (14:1-2), and “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did” (14:3). King David, though not a perfect man, was a man whom God said was “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). Amaziah served the LORD much of his life, but in his last years forsook the LORD, His law, and commandments.

Soon after becoming king, Amaziah sought a covenant of peace with Jehoash the king of Israel; however, that wicked king rose up against Judah, attacked Jerusalem, and broke down a section of the wall of the city. He also took away “all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria” (14:14).

A second king named Jeroboam, probably named after the founding king of the northern ten tribes, became king of Israel in 2 Kings 14:23, and he continued in the idolatry that had been established by his namesake (14:24).

Our Scripture reading concludes reminding us of the grave consequences Israel suffered as a nation for her sins. Consider verse 26: “For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel” (14:26). Yet the Lord had compassion for Israel and remembered them, for “…the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (14.27).

The pride and arrogance of Israel’s kings, and the idolatry and wickedness of the people, are drawing to a close. What is true of a man, is also true of a nation, for,  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Yet, “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Scourge of Famine and A Prophecy of Plenty (2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7

This is the second of two devotionals for today, with the first having focused on 2 Kings 6. This devotional continues the historical narrative that began in 2 Kings 6 with the Syrian invasion of Israel, and the siege of Samara, the capital city. Though there is a chapter break in our Bible, 2 Kings 7 continues the scene in Elisha’s house, where he was confronted not only by the messenger of the king of Israel (6:32), but also by the king himself, of whom Elisha said, “is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him” (6:32-33).

2 Kings 7

Elisha answered the scoffing messenger with the promise on the next day the LORD would provide so abundantly that flour and barley would be inexpensive and available to all Samaria (7:1). One elder of the city questioned Elisha, saying, “Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” (7:2a) Elisha answered the faithless man, and foretold he would see the LORD provide, but he would not live to partake of it (7:2).

Four Starving Lepers (7:3-11)

Leprosy was a terrible scourge in ancient times. Lepers truly understood what it was to “social distance,” and suffered the sorrow and loneliness of being societal outcasts.

Sitting outside the city gate of Samaria (for they would not have been permitted to enter), the lepers realized they would die of starvation, unless someone had mercy on their souls. Therefore, they determined to go to the Syrian encampment and hope they might be shown compassion. They reasoned, “let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (7:4).

Approaching the outer perimeter of the Syrian camp, the lepers found it had been abandoned in haste (7:5). The Scriptures reveal how the LORD had stirred the soldiers of Syria with the sounds of an approaching army and the noise of chariots (7:6a). The Syrians supposed the king of Israel had hired mercenaries (7:6b), and the army had left everything, including “their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life” (7:7).

Overwhelmed at their good fortune, the lepers entered a tent and gorged themselves with food, and then hoarded the silver, gold, and raiment, hiding it for themselves (7:8). They entered a second tent and began the same, until their consciences were pricked, and they remembered those who were starving in Samaria. It was not that they felt guilt for hoarding, but they feared some evil might befall them if they failed to tell others (7:9).

Four Lepers Brought Good Tidings (7:10-20)

The lepers departed, and came to the guard of the gate of Samaria, and told him the good fortune that had befallen Israel, and how the Syrians had abandoned the siege and left all their possessions for spoil (7:10-11). Israel’s king, however, feared the Syrians were lying in ambush, waiting to draw the people out of the city, and take possession of it (7:12).

A servant of the king suggested a small group be sent to scout the countryside, and locate the Syrian army (7:13-14). Agreeing to the proposal, the king sent “two chariot horses” (7:14), who found garments and vessels of the Syrians strewn along the way to the Jordan River (7:15). Returning to the city, the messengers assured the king the Syrians had fled Israel, and cast aside all their provisions in their flight (7:15b). Hearing the news, and realizing spoils of food, abundance of silver, and gold were left by the Syrians, the starving citizens of Samaria rushed out of the city, “and spoiled the tents of the Syrians” (7:16).

Closing thoughts – And so, it came to pass what Elisha had foretold. Flour and barley were sold in the gates of the city for the price he had stated. The man who scoffed that the LORD provide in abundance was trampled underfoot by the people (7:17). He had seen the provision of the LORD, but he did not eat of it as Elisha had prophesied (7:2, 20).

What a tragic ending to a glorious story of God’s care and provision for His people. The man had questioned the LORD’S prophet, but he lived to see all Elisha had prophesied come true. His lack of faith had offended God, and he died seeing the promise fulfilled, but not realizing it for himself.

Will you be numbered among those souls who refuse to trust the LORD, and reject Jesus Christ as Savior? Will you realize too late, your faithlessness has cost you your soul and eternity?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Elisha is God’s Prophet (2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7

Our study of the life and times of the prophet Elisha, the successor to Elijah, continues with today’s study of 2 Kings 6 and 7. Though the miracles performed by Elisha were not as public as those of Elijah, his ministry in Israel was powerful, and God’s anointing on His servant was undeniable. This is the first of two devotionals for today.

2 Kings 6

A Floating Iron Axe Head (6:1-7)

Our study of 2 Kings 6 opens with a company of prophets who petitioned Elisha to move the “sons of the prophets” to a new location near the Jordan River. The prophet blessed the relocation, and the men began cutting down wood to construct a new dwelling (6:4). In the process of the work, an axe head that had been borrowed, came off its handle and fell into the water (6:5). Because iron was rare, and expensive in ancient times, the loss of the axe head was a regrettable loss (6:5). Elisha asked where the axe head had been lost, and then took a stick and tossed it onto the water, and “the iron did swim” (6:6). Following the prophet’s command, the servant “put out his hand, and took it” (6”7).

Elisha’s Revelation of Syria’s Plot to Conquer Israel (6:8-12)

The Syrian king became flustered, and was outraged when he realized someone was preempting his plans for an ambush, and warning the king of Israel. Outraged, the king of Syria suspected there was a traitor in the midst, until “one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (6:12).

Elisha Foils a Syrian Attempt to Kidnap Him (6:13-23)

The king of Syria sent a large number of soldiers on a mission to surround Dothan, and to abduct Elisha (6:13-14). When Elisha’s servant realized the city was surrounded, he asked, “Alas, my master! How shall we do?” (6:15).

Calling upon the LORD, Elisha answered the fears of his servant, and prayed “I pray thee, open his [his servant’s]eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (6:17). The servant realized an unseen heavenly host had surround Samaria, and were ready to come to the defense of the city of Samaria.

Rather than pray for the Syrians to be destroyed, Elisha prayed that the enemy would be struck with blindness (6:18). Blind and helpless, Elisha assured the Syrians saying, “follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek” (speaking of himself, 6:19). Blind and helpless, the prophet led the Syrian soldiers some twelve miles, and into “the midst of Samaria,” the capital city of Israel. Arriving in Samaria, Elisha prayed, and the LORD lifted the blindness of the Syrians (6:20). Imagine their terror when they realized they had been guided into the midst of their enemy (6:20b).

The king of Israel questioned Elisha excitedly, “My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?” (6:21); however, the prophet cautioned the king and suggested the Syrians were his prisoners, and he should provide them bread and water (6:22). When the king of Israel had nourished his enemies, he sent them away. Is it any wonder that “Syria came no more into the land of Israel?” (6:23)

Samaria: Plagued by a Siege, Famine, and Foolish King (6:24-33)

Some years passed when Ben-hadad (literally, “son of Hadad”) the Syrian king, laid siege to Samaria, Israel’s capital city (6:24). With the city cut off by the siege, the citizens of Samaria soon exhausted their food supplies, and were reduced to buying and selling “an ass’s head” (an unclean beast), and eating the dung or waste of doves (6:25).

In the midst of the famine, the king of Israel was one day seen walking upon the walls of the city, when a woman called to him saying, “This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. 29So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son” (6:28-29).

Hearing the desperation, the king in a public act of sorrow, “rent his clothes…and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh” (6:30). Yet, the words spoken by the king were not words of humility or contrition, but words of pride and defiance. Daring not to attack the God of Israel directly, the king threatened Elisha with beheading, saying, “God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day” (6:31).

The king of Israel sent a messenger to search for Elisha, who found him with the elders of the city (6:32). Elisha, sparing no words concerning the evil character of the king, assailed his messenger, saying, “See ye how this son of a murderer [for the king was the son of Ahab] hath sent to take away mine head?” (6:32). The servant of the king answered Elisha’s rebuke, threatening the prophet saying, “Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (6:33)

Closing thoughts – Rather than sincere humility and brokenness before the LORD, the king of Israel blamed that nation’s afflictions on God’s prophet, and wished to kill him. The king’s messengers, bearing the evil spirit of his king, despised the LORD, and scoffed at the suggestion He would provide for Samaria.

We will see in the next chapter, 2 Kings 7, that God will answers Israel’s cry, and drive the Syrians out of Israel. The famine will end, and the messenger who scorned the LORD will be punished, and die.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Prophet Elisha, and the Spirit of Elijah (2 Kings 3; 2 Kings 4)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 3; 2 Kings 4

Our study of the second book of the Kings continues with the prophet Elisha taking a prominent place in Israel as the man of God. The death of King Ahab, and the ascension of his son Jehoram to the throne of Israel, gave opportunity for the king of Moab to challenge Israel’s demand for tribute (3:4-5).

2 Kings 3

Facing his first challenge as king of Israel, Jehoram numbered his soldiers, and solicited the help of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle?” (3:7a). Remembering the family ties the king of Judah had with the king of Israel (for Jehoshaphat had taken a daughter of Ahab to be the wife of his son), the kings agreed to go to war, saying, “I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses” (3:7).

Agreeing to attack Moab by going south to Edom, and then northward on the westside of the Dead Sea through Edom, the king of Edom joined the kings of Israel and Judah to war against his northern neighbor (3:8). Seven days into their journey, “there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them” (3:9). Three armies and no water was a crisis only God could resolve, and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah asked, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?” (3:10)

A sad irony at this point, it appears none of the kings had sought the LORD’S blessing, and even the godly king of Judah had failed to call a prophet for counsel until the extremity of his need. A servant of Israel’s king answered the king of Judah, and said, “Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah” (3:11).

Elisha, though he had been known as Elijah’s servant, was providentially the counsel of not one king, but three kings who sought his wisdom: “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him” (3:12).

Evidencing the faith and spirit of Elijah, Elisha rebuked Jehoram, the king of Israel, saying, “What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother [i.e. false prophets of Baal]. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab” (3:13). Elisha asserted, he would give the word of the LORD, not for Jehoram, but because he had respect for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah (3:14).

Sending for a musician, the prophet apparently delivered the word from the LORD with a song, and instructed the kings, “Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches” (3:16). Though the kings would see no wind or sign of rain, they were to prepare reservoirs to contain the waters the LORD promised He would send for the men and their animals (3:17). Elisha promised their obedience and step of faith would be rewarded, and the LORD would deliver the Moabites into the hands of the kings (3:18-21).

When the Moabites heard the kings had come to war against them, they prepared for war and rose up early in the morning. Looking over the desert, “the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood” (3:22). Because the red of the waters looked like blood, the Moabites mistakenly believed the armies had turned on one another (3:23). When they came upon the encampment, the Israelites rose against the Moabites, and drove them back through their own cities (3:24-25).

When the king of Moab realized the battle was lost, he sought to break through a line of Edomite soldiers (3:26). In desperation, and apparently to appease his false gods, the king of Moab sacrificed his eldest son, and the heir to his throne, “and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall” (3:27). Such an act was abhorrent to God’s people, but stirred the Moabites to a “great indignation against Israel,” and the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom “returned to their own land” (3:27)

2 Kings 4

Briefly, notice in 2 Kings 4 that Elisha’s ministry as the prophet of God to Israel was validated by four miracles. The first was multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).   The second miracle brought blessing to a childless woman and her elderly husband with a son as a reward for their household serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  A third miracle raised that same couples’ son from the dead (4:18-37).  Finally, Elisha turned a pot of poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

Closing thoughts – While the miracles performed by Elisha gained him standing in Israel and before the people, they nevertheless had no lasting effect on moving the nation to turn to the LORD.

Repentance and revival come through brokenness, humility, prayer, surrender, and obedience.

2 Chronicles 7:14 14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Elijah’s Departure, and Elisha’s Promotion (2 Kings 2)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 2

“And it came to pass,” and with those words, so began the last stage of the prophet Elijah’s life. After a long, and courageous ministry as God’s prophet to Israel, the day of promotion had come, for “the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2:1).

Elijah’s Final Journey (2:2-9a)

Elisha, the man chosen by the LORD to be His prophet to Israel, was with Elijah at Gilgal, when the old prophet said, “Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Beth-el” (2:a). Elisha, however, protested, and said, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el” (2:2b).

Elijah and Elisha journeyed from Gilgal (the ancient place where Israel had first encamped in the Promised Land, Joshua 5:9), and they came to Bethel where Elijah was met by “the sons (or a company) of the prophets” (2:3). The prophets asked Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day?” (2:3b). Elisha acknowledged he was aware the old prophet would soon depart, and perhaps with a heavy heart answered, “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace” (2:3).

Departing Bethel, Elijah offered Elisha to stay at Bethel, but the young prophet declared, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho” (2:4). At Jericho, that ancient oasis in the desert, Elijah was met by a company of prophets who queried Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace” (2:5).

Elijah once again prevailed upon Elisha to stay at Jericho, “for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan [River]” (2:6). Again, Elisha would not remain behind, and insisted on journeying with Elisha to the Jordan (2:6). Departing from Jericho, the prophets of that town followed Elijah and Elisha from a distance, and observed the waters of the river part when Elijah struck the river with his mantle (2:9).

Elisha’s Request (2:9b-10).

The two prophets stood on the western shore of the Jordan, and Elijah questioned his young protégé, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee” (2:9b). Knowing he would soon face the challenge of being the prophet to Israel without Elijah, Elisha made a bold, but insightful request, and said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (2:9c). Feeling the weight of his calling, and the responsibility of facing a rebellious people without his mentor, Elisha’s request for a double anointing of the Spirit’s power was an acknowledgement that his task was beyond his strength and ability. Elijah assured Elisha, should God give him opportunity to see him taken up to heaven, then his request for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit would be granted (2:10).

Elijah’s Glorious Departure (2:11-13)

Continuing their journey, suddenly the heavens opened and “a chariot of fire, and horses of fire” appeared, “and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2:11). Showing his affection for Elijah, Elisha cried out to the old prophet, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2:12). In an act of sorrow, Elisha tore his clothes, and then “took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him” (2:13).

Three Miracles Confirmed God’s Anointing on Elisha (2:14-25)

Standing on the shore of the Jordan, Elisha took Elijah’s mantle, struck the river, and said, “Where is the LordGod of Elijah?” (2:14). The waters parted, and Elisha went to the other side (2:14). Seeing Elisha perform the same miracle as Elijah, the prophets exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha” (2:15).

Having sought, but not finding Elijah (2:16-18), some men of Jericho came to Elisha contending the water of that city was bad, and the ground was infertile. Elisha went to the spring that watered the oasis, and casting in salt, the water was purified (2:19-22).

The third miracle was a tragic one, for as Elisha approached Bethel, young children came out of the city, “and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head [perhaps in the manner it was said Elijah had gone up to heaven]” (2:23). Elisha rebuked the children “in the name of the LORD” (2:24). Immediately, “there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them”(2:24).

Closing thoughts – The LORD left no doubt that Elisha was a man of God, and He sternly defended the honor of His prophet. We do not know the homes from which those children came, but they did not manifest a fear of the God of Israel, and together they taunted and scorned His servant. Tragic as it was for 42 children of that city to be struck down, it was nevertheless and act of justice that sent throughout Israel the news: There was a prophet in Israel, and his name was Elisha.

God’s will is for His servants to be respected, and we read, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1). Let no believer take lightly the consequences of failing to render “honour to whom honour” is due (Romans 13:7).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith