Category Archives: Attitude

“Woe is Me!” (Isaiah 5-8)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah foretold the judgment of God upon Judah in a succession of four distinct woes pronounced against the nation should the people not repent of their sins and turn to the LORD (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30).

Notice that three of the woes address Judah and the fourth was exclaimed by Isaiah when he witnessed God sitting on His heavenly throne. Knowing the woes express the character of a people who had rejected God, His Laws, and Commandments, I invite you to contemplate how the spiritual condition of Judah parallels our own nation.

The first woe (Isaiah 5:20) condemned Judah for rejecting God’s Laws, leaving the people with the dilemma of no moral absolutes.

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Such is the condition of our nation and world.  Allow me to illustrate this point with one of many examples I could name: “Gay Marriage”.

The biblical and historical definition of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27, 2:18, 21-24; Matthew 19:5-6; Ephesians 5:31) has been under assault for two decades. Politicians, judicial courts, secular schools, and liberal churches have assailed the sanctity of marriage and embraced wickedness and depravity. Condemning moral virtue, our society champions the lunacy of men marrying men and women marrying women (Romans 1:26-27) and demands the judgment of God.

A second woe described the people as unteachable (Isaiah 5:20).

Isaiah 5:21 – “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent [wise, shrewd] in their own sight!”

Paul’s letter to believers living in Rome describes that same spiritual malady in these words: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).

Who is a fool? Those who reject TRUTH and are unteachable (“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” – Psalm 14:1; 53:1). When a man rejects His Creator (Romans 1:23), God abandons him to sinful passions that are expressed in the depth of his depravity: “vile affections…unseemly…reprobate” (Romans 1:24-32).

A third woe illuminated the narcissistic nature of the people of Judah and their loathing of the righteous.

Isaiah 5:22-23 – “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine [drunkards], and men of strength to mingle strong drink [boasting of their drunkenness]: 23 Which justify [acquit] the wicked for reward [bribe], and take away the righteousness [innocence; justice, rights and liberties] of the righteous from him!”

The fourth woe is one Isaiah stated of himself.  Shaken by a vision of the LORD sitting on His heavenly throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), Isaiah saw the manner of man he was and was overwhelmed by his sinfulness. The prophet confessed:

Isaiah 6:5“…Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

The LORD was looking for a man who would declare His final warning to Judah before effecting His judgment. Isaiah, his lips purged from sin by a “live coal…off the altar” (Isaiah 6:6-7), and with a fire burning in his soul, heard God ask:

“Who shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered saying, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A closing thought: I believe I have made the case that the sinful conditions of Judah in Isaiah’s day are the same as those we see in our nation and world. The world has rejected the LORD and His Commandments, and become morally bankrupt (no right or wrong).  We have ejected God from public places and become unteachable. We are slaves to temporal pleasures (boasting of our vices and despising righteousness). The ominous clouds of God’s imminent judgment are clearly seen. Who among us will be humbled by the knowledge of our sinfulness and pray with Isaiah,

“Woe is me… mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts…Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Once again, our study of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are parallel passages of the same historical events. While the names of the various kings might be confusing and their acts forgotten, what we should take from our Scripture reading is the way and manner in which God sovereignly deals with his servants and people.

2 Kings 15 – Time marches on and 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.  Only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, Azariah would reign as king for 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 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).

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e. Azariah) remarkable accomplishments are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26 and the secret to his successes is stated: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah was a warrior (26:6-8), builder (26:9), and a farmer (26:10). He was also a gifted administrator who numbered and organized his army, and provided them the necessary implements for war (26:11-15).

Why would God afflict King Uzziah (i.e. Azariah) with leprosy, a dreadful disease that would follow him to his grave?

The king was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy; one that affects and infects the soul: PRIDE (26:16).

2 Chronicles 26:16 – 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.

In an act of sinful pride, the king usurped the role and office of the priest and foolishly 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 successes, the king trampled upon ground that was 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 on his forehead (26:19).

The law concerning leprosy demanded the leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46). Seeing the leprosy on the king’s face, the priests moved to expel Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20). Uzziah lived the rest of his life as a leper in exile from the palace. As a leper, he was denied burial in the royal tomb, and was buried in a field near to the place where kings were buried.

What a tragedy! The great king whose legacy should have been that he was a great warrior, builder, and administrator, dies with his testimony in tatters. What lesson might we take from this sad historical record? What would Uzziah advise us if he could speak?

I believe he would warn, “Trifle with the pulpit, usurp the role of a spiritual leader, and you do so at the risk of your legacy, if not your life.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Orders the Starts and Stops! (Jonah 1-4)

Scripture reading Jonah 1-4

The Book of Jonah is today’s Scripture reading assignment. Though only four chapters in length, this historical drama is powerful and telling: Nineveh, a wicked, idolatrous city, unaware of the imminence of God’s judgment and the threat of annihilation. The LORD and Sovereign Creator is holy and just, but also merciful and loving toward sinners. Jonah, a reluctant, rebellious prophet, defied God’s command to warn Nineveh and call the people to repent of their sins.

Have you ever wanted to run?

You may remember a childhood tantrum that resulted in your threat to take your little red wagon and run away from home. To your chagrin, your mother pretended to take you up on your plan, and even offered to help you pack!  If you were strong willed, you might have even followed through with strong determination! Fortunately, for a child, minutes can seem like hours and a hundred yards like a mile. Upon returning home from your self-willed excursion, your mom probably greeted you, “Well, you’re back! Wash your hands and get ready for dinner!”

Two lessons come to the forefront of this scenario: The first, “What is best for you is not always what you think is best.”  The second, may not be realized until years later; although you could not see her, your mother never took her eyes off you!

Some 2800 years ago, a passionate, patriotic and popular preacher in Israel named Jonah received God’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh…” (1:2). 

Nineveh was a great city with a population of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11). However, Nineveh was also a wicked city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and a great adversary of Israel!

Possibly fearing his nation’s enemy or the rejection of His own people, Jonah refused to preach against Nineveh, later confessing he feared the LORD would spare that city from destruction!  Jonah resigned his calling as God’s prophet (Jonah 1:3), paid his fare, and took a ship for Tarshish, a city on the western most edge of the known world in his day (1:3).

In his flight from the LORD, Jonah soon found himself caught in a great storm and the sea threatening to take him and his fellow passengers to a watery grave (1:4-6).  Evidencing the callousness of a backslidden sinner, Jonah slept in the bottom of the ship until he was awakened by the sailors. Jonah confessed he was a prophet of the LORD and the storm was sent by God to chastise him. Fearing for their lives, the sailors reluctantly cast Jonah into the sea where he was swallowed by a great fish providentially provided by the LORD.

We read that Jonah confessed his sin and “prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (2:1) and “He heard me” (2:2). 

The prophet understood his miserable state was a watery grave unless the LORD delivered him (2:9-10).  The LORD mercifully answered Jonah’s prayer and “spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

Jonah obeyed the LORD, went to Nineveh and began warning that great city, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). 

Amazingly, the people of Nineveh believed the word of that reluctant prophet and repented (3:5-9).  Hearing Nineveh’s penitent cry, the LORD was moved with compassion and set aside His judgment (3:10).

Jonah 3:10 – “And God saw [looked;; beheld; perceived] their works [behavior; deeds], that they turned [turned back] from their evil [sinful; wicked] way; and God repented [reckoned; moved with compassion] of the evil [destruction; bad—not sin], that he had said that he would do [make; wrought; perform; accomplish] unto them; and he did it not.”

We would number Jonah among the greatest preachers and prophets of all time, if he had also longed to see Nineveh repent. Jonah, however, did not rejoice in the LORD’s compassion, or the city being spared His judgment. We read:

Jonah 4:1-2 – “But it displeased [so angry he trembled] Jonah exceedingly [overcome with anger], and he was very angry [incensed; burned with anger]. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God], and said [charged], I pray thee [lit. “Ah, now!”], O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful [full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment].”

Jonah was angry that God had spared a city that was the enemy of Israel. Jonah then left Nineveh, built a temporary dwelling outside the city, and sat down and waited to see if God would destroy the city (Jonah 4:5).

Here we find a characteristic of men who abandon their calling…they are more interested in temporal comforts than they are in lost souls (4:6). 

Jonah 4:6 – “And the LORD God prepared [appointed; told] a gourd, and made it to come up [ascend; mount up]over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver [preserve; recover; escape] him from his grief [lit. sin; evil; wickedness; distress; misery]. So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

Jonah became angry and despaired of life when the LORD destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine. “God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd? And he said, I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (4:9).

God then challenged Jonah to consider his priorities, along with his foolish, self-centered attitude.

Jonah 4:10 – “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:”

This brief biography of Jonah’s life ends with a question:

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?”

There may be someone reading this devotion who has quit on God and taken a ship to your own Tarshish. 

I understand the temptation that comes with hard times, difficult people, harsh criticisms and little encouragement. To quit is appealing in the midst of disappointments, especially when a “gourd” promises you rest and comfort. However, such a path comes at the sacrifice of the best part…the will of the LORD.

Take a lesson from Jonah’s life: God orders the starts and stops, not man! 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and Will Accomplish His Purpose (2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25)

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25

2 Kings 14, and 2 Chronicles 25 are records of the same historical events: The reigns of Joash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah.

I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy and had been guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24).  During Joash’s reign, Judah had experienced a spiritual renaissance and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died (24:15), and Joash heeded the counsel of wicked men.

Someone has observed the path of sin will always take you further than you ever planned to go, and so it was with Joash. He forgot the kindness of his lifelong friend, the chief priest Jehoiada (24:22), and eventually fell in with those men who stoned to death the prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:20-22). Tragically, Joash’s reign ended when he was assassinated by his servants who avenged the slaying of Zechariah (24:24-26).

Joash’s son, Amaziah became king in Judah (24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart” (25:2).

It is that last phrase, “but not with a perfect heart” (25:2), that will shadow the life and reign of Amaziah.  Amaziah exacted justice for his father’s assassination, killing those who murdered his father; however, unlike other kings, he did not prevail upon the families of the assassins, and spared the lives of their sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah organized his army in preparation for war with Edom (descendants of Esua, who lived on the east side of the Dead Sea); however, he foolishly hired mercenary soldiers out of Israel (25:6). When God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah that hiring idol worshipping mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7), the king heeded the warning and sent the soldiers of Israel home (25:10).

As Amaziah led his army into what would be a glorious victory over Edom, the mercenary soldiers from Israel, for the slight of not going to war and taking the spoils of battle, turned and attacked cities along the border of Judah (25:13).

Remembering Amaziah was a man who lacked “a perfect heart” for the LORD, we read he committed idolatry (25:14) following his victory over Edom and foolishly worshipped the idols of Edom! The LORD sent a prophet who warned the king he had provoked God’s wrath for foolishly worshipping the gods of the very people he had defeated (25:15-16). His heart lifted up with pride, Amaziah rejected the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill him (25:16).

Fresh off his victory over Edom, Amaziah initiated a call to war against Joash, king of Israel. Joash warned Amaziah to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19). Blinded by pride and heeding the counsel of his peers (25:17), Amaziah, went to war and was defeated by Joash who took him prisoner (25:21-23).

With King Amaziah as his prisoner, Joash broke down the northern wall of Jerusalem and plundered the treasuries of the palace and the Temple (25:21-24).

I close with a principle concerning the sovereignty of the LORD.

Sinful pride distorts the thoughts within man, and Amaziah deluded by victory, refused to heed the warning sent to him in a fable by Joash, king of Israel (25:18-20). We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).

Amaziah refused the prophet’s warning and rejected the caution of Israel’s king. The king’s pride led to Judah’s humiliating defeat, the disgrace of being taken prisoner, the eventual plundering of the Temple, and pilfering of the palace treasuries (25:21-23). The king suffered his final humiliation when his servants conspired to slay him (25:28).

Warning: Pride distorts a man’s thinking, blinds him to his faults, and invariably brings him to ruin. In the words of Solomon:

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [arrogance] goeth before destruction [calamity; breach], and an haughty [proud; self-sufficient] spirit before a fall [ruin].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Tragedy: When We Forget the Kindness of Others (2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our Scripture reading focuses on two parallel accounts of the life and times of Joash (i.e. Jehoash), the young king of Judah, who began to reign when he was seven years old, and Jehoiada who served as the chief priest in the Temple and was the spiritual mentor for the king until his death at 130 years old.

2 Kings 12

Jehoash ascended to the throne of Judah when he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:3-4, 12) and under the influence of the chief priest Jehoiada, the young king began a revival of worship in the Temple (12:2). The Temple had been neglected and fallen into disrepair during the reign Queen-mother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 24:7).

The king, therefore commanded that offerings be collected and dedicated to repairing the “house of the LORD” (12:4-6). When he realized the repairs were not being made as he had commanded (2 Chronicles 24:5), the king demanded a report on the state of the offerings (12:7-8) and ordered that the money given by the people would be secured and the repairs a priority (12:9-16; 2 Chronicles 24:8-13).

2 Kings 13 – Death of Elisha

There is an interesting dynamic recorded here between the great prophet Elisha and Joash, the king of Israel (13:14). Although we read that the king “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (13:11), he nevertheless respected the old prophet and his ministry in Israel. King Joash came to Elisha’s death bed and “wept over” the venerable prophet saying, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2 Chronicles 24:11).

Elisha left the king with one final prophecy, that Israel would defeat Syria in three battles (13:15-19); however, the nation would fail to completely destroy their adversary (13:19).

To complete today’s devotional, I invite you to turn your attention to 2 Chronicles 24 and the record of the death of the chief priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:15-16), and the assassination of Jehoash (i.e. Joash) who reigned forty years over Judah (2 Chronicles 24:1, 24-25).

2 Chronicles 24 – The Death of the Priest Jehoiada and the Conspiracy to Kill King Joash

Jehoiada, the chief priest and mentor of King Joash (i.e. Jehoash), died at the age of 130 (24:15). Without his godly, aged mentor, the king was soon encouraged by younger leaders in Judah to tolerate idol worship in the kingdom (24:17-18).

Having turned to idols, Judah provoked the LORD’S wrath against the nation. Restraining His judgment for a season, the LORD mercifully sent prophets to call the people to repent (24:19). One of those faithful prophets was Zechariah, the son of the late chief priest Jehoiada (24:20), who had been the king’s spiritual mentor.

Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation and warned of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22). Rather than heed the words of the prophet, the king conspired with the young leaders and killed the son of the man who had spared his life when he was an infant (2 Kings 11:3).

Zechariah was stoned to death, even as he warned the LORD would avenge his death (24:21-22). Fulfilling Zechariah’s dying prophecy, the stage was set for Jehoash to be wounded in battle against the King of Syria (24:23-25a). Recovering from his wounds suffered in battle, the king was slain by his servants (24:25b-26).

Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest, who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of then, Bob Jones College, reminded the students, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him” (24:22a).  How could a man whose life was spared by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the cruel death of his son?

Bitterness! When Joash’s sin was exposed and confronted, rather than repent, the king became enraged! You and I can avoid the same folly if we will heed Ephesians 4:31-32.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Be a Fool: Character Does Matter! (2 Kings 9-11)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 9-11

My first memory of a public debate concerning the significance of a man’s character in public office dates to the presidential races of the late 20th century. In today’s world, the subject of character and integrity has become so unimportant that it is no longer a topic for discussion or debate!

What is character? Character is a moral compass, an internal standard that charts a man’s course in life and determines his conduct and destiny. A man’s character is defined by his moral values and can prove to be either a blessing or curse to others.

The opening verses of 2 Kings 11 are illustrative of the matter of character and indicative of the depths of depravity a soul will descend when driven by a covetous heart set upon power, position and possessions.

True to His promise that the lineage of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel would be cut off (9:8-9), the LORD moved on the heart of His prophet Elisha to send a young priest with oil and anoint Jehu to be king of Israel (9:1-7). Obeying the LORD’s command, Jehu then set out to kill every heir of Ahab’s seed and found not only Joram, king of Israel, but also Ahaziah, the king of Judah, and Jehu slew both kings (9:22-28).

Jehu’s next act was to order that Jezebel be cast down from the window of her palace (9:30-33). Fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy, Jezebel’s body was consumed by dogs (9:34-37).

When the news of Ahaziah’s death reached Jerusalem, the king’s mother (daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) moved immediately to secure the throne of Judah for herself.  Queen-mother Athaliah commanded that every son of King Ahaziah be slain (11:1). In spite of his grandmother’s murderous rampage, Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah was spared when his aunt hid him and his nurse in her house. Joash was later moved to the Temple where he would be kept secretly for six years (11:2-3).

Josiah is Made King II KIngs 22:1

In the seventh year of queen Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada, a priest in the Temple, called together the commanders of Judah’s armies and revealed that Joash, the son of the late king Ahaziah was alive (11:4-11).  Swearing allegiance to Joash, the military leaders crowned him king of Judah (11:12) and Jehoiada ordered that Athaliah be executed outside the Temple grounds (11:13-16; 2 Chronicles 23:12-15).

Following the death of Athaliah, the nation of Judah enjoyed a season of spiritual revival (2 Kings 11:17-21). Jehoiada renewed the nation’s covenant with the LORD “that they should be the LORD’S people” (11:17) and directed the destruction of the altars of Baal (11:18).

Although only seven years old (11:21),  Jehoash (i.e. Joash), was profoundly influenced by the high priest, and “all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet” (11:20).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips (2 Kings 5-8)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5-8

Our Scripture reading covers four chapters; however, today’s devotional will focus only on 2 Kings 5.

2 Kings 5

With Elijah’s dramatic departure into the presence of the LORD (2 Kings 2), Elisha became the principal prophet in Israel. Several miracles, including those recorded in 2 Kings 4, validated that Elisha was Elijah’s successor and proved the power of God rested upon him.

The news of God’s anointing upon Elisha reached the household of a man named Naaman, “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1). We read that Naaman “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great in size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was a physical affliction…leprosy. Apart from a miracle, there was no cure. A leper would eventually face exclusion from the living, as the dreaded disease slowly ate away his face, limbs, and extremities of his body.

Providentially, a slave girl from Israel shared with Naaman’s wife that there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  Hearing there was hope for the captain of his armies to be healed, the king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel with gifts and a letter to the king requesting that his servant might be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was an impossible one for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).

When Elisha understood the king of Israel’s distress, he requested that Naaman be sent to his household, assuring the king, “let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Imagine the drama as Naaman, the great captain of Syria, arrives at Elisha’s house. His plight with leprosy was no doubt visible and this great warrior found his body plagued with a curse that not only stole his dignity, but would inevitably rob him of life.

Rather than the dramatic miracle healing he had hoped, Elisha sent a messenger and commanded Naaman to take a path of humiliation and “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10). Naaman’s response brings to light the fact that Naaman not only had an affliction of the flesh, his soul was also cursed and blinded with another disease…pride.

Naaman was enraged (5:11-12). Instead of some great, ceremonial act of healing, the prophet’s demand that he wash himself in Israel’s small Jordan River (5:9-10) was an affront to the man of Syria. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants prevailed upon him and persuaded their master to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Miraculously healed, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman then responded with a moving statement of his faith in the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel, and swore that he would never again offer sacrifices to other gods (5:17-18).

The closing verses of 2 Kings 5 turns the spiritual lens of this passage from Naaman’s dramatic statement of faith to the petty, covetousness of “Gehazi, the servant of Elisha” (5:20). Knowing Elisha had refused Naaman’s reward for healing him of leprosy, Gehazi determined he would not allow the moment to pass without seeking opportunity to enrich himself (5:20-22).

Without Elisha’s knowledge, Gehazi followed after Naaman and when the captain of Syria saw him he halted. Stepping down from his chariot, Naaman greeted Elisha’s servant with a question of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21). Gehazi responded with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), but then lied by suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward. Naaman granted Gehazi’s request who then took and hid the gifts (5:23-24) before returning to Elisha (5:25).

With the keen discernment of a spiritual man, Elisha questioned his servant “whence comest thou” (5:25). Gehazi lied, answering, his master, “Thy servant went no whither” (5:25). Knowing the covetous, disingenuous spirit of Gehazi, Elisha pronounced God’s judgment on his unfaithful servant who was immediately smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).

There are many spiritual lessons we might take from 2 Kings 5. One is that Naaman’s sinful pride nearly robbed him of not only the physical healing of his body from leprosy, but also the spiritual healing that came to his soul when he believed and confessed, he would only offer sacrifices to the LORD hereafter (5:17).

Another spiritual lesson is the reminder that God hates covetousness and lying lips: Gehazi coveted Naaman’s reward and then lied to Elisha. The consequences of his sins was not only that leprosy would plague him the rest of his life, but his children would also bear the curse of their father’s sins (5:27).

I close being reminded there are seven things the LORD despises and that will invite His judgment (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Proverbs 6:16-19 – “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A New Era, A New Prophet: Elisha (2 Kings 1-4)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 1-4

With no introduction, the Book of 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings ended.  The old prophet Elijah is in the last days of his earthly ministry and his protégé Elisha is prepared to take up his “mantle,” literally and figuratively (2 Kings 2:13). Due to the length of today’s reading, I will focus on a few highlights from each of the four chapters.

2 Kings 1

Israel’s King Ahaziah, the son of Ahab and Jezebel (1:2), reigned two years before he fell through the lattice work of an upper window and suffered what would be a terminal injury (1:2). Wondering if he might recover from the fall, the king sent servants to enquire of the pagan god Baalzebub (1:2).  Yahweh, however, intervened and sent Elijah to confront the king’s messengers.  After reproving the king for sending his servants to enquire of Baalzebub, Elijah announced that a premature death would befall the king (1:3-4).

When his couriers returned, Ahaziah questioned why they had returned so soon (1:5). The messengers then explained how they had met a prophet who rebuked them for turning to Baalzebub and then prophesied the king’s death (1:6).

Distressed, Ahaziah demanded “what manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?” (1:7) Hearing the physical description of the prophet, Ahaziah exclaimed, “It is Elijah the Tishbite” (1:8).

Determined to exact revenge on the prophet, the king sent a captain and fifty soldiers to demand that Elijah come to the king. Elijah boldly contested the demands of the wicked king and declared, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty” (1:10). A second time, Ahaziah sent a captain and fifty soldiers demanding Elijah come to the king and those men were also consumed when “the fire of God came down from heaven” (1:12). When King Ahaziah sent the third captain and his fifty soldiers to meet Elijah, they came with humility and a reverential fear of the man of God (1:13-14).

Elijah, bearing the power of God on his life and ministry, stood courageously before the king who was laying upon his bed and prophesied, “Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die” (1:16). Ahaziah died and Jehoram, his younger brother, reigned in his stead as King of Israel (1:17).

A brief explanation: You will notice in 1 Kings 1:17 the mention of two men named Jehoram. There was the Jehoram who became the king of Israel after his brother Ahaziah died. Another Jehoram was the son of Jehoshaphat, the godly king who reigned in Judah.

2 Kings 2

2 Kings 2 records the momentous occasion when God sent a fiery chariot to take up Elijah to heaven. Witnessing Elijah’s departure, Elisha was blessed with a double portion of the old prophet’s spirit (2:9-11).

2 Kings 3

Elisha served as God’s prophet before the kings of three nations in 2 Kings 3. The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom all learned God had a prophet in the land and that prophet was Elisha.

2 Kings 4 – Four miracles performed by Elisha. 

The first miracle, multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).  The second miracle, blessing a childless, elderly woman and her husband with a son, as a reward for their serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  Raising that same elderly couples’ son from the dead was Elisha’s third miracle (4:18-37).  The fourth miracle was turning a poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Dead Man Walking: Ahab’s Tragic Death (1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18

As noted in earlier devotions, 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 are parallel accounts of the same historical events. The focus of today’s devotion is 1 Kings 22.

1 Kings 22 – The Tragic Death of King Ahab

1 Kings 21 concluded with the prophet Elijah prophesying that Ahab, king of Israel, and his wife Jezebel would die horrifying deaths for murdering Naboth for his vineyard (21:17-24). Hearing the prophesy of his own death, Ahab had humbled himself and God spared him (21:27-29).

1 Kings 22 is the climax of King Ahab’s reign over Israel.  Three years had passed since Syria and Israel warred (22:1) and in the third year, Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, visited Ahab who asked if Judah would be Israel’s ally and go to war against Syria (22:2-4).

You might wonder what motive Judah had to be Israel’s ally.  The answer is revealed when we read, “Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people” (22:4).  Jehoshaphat and Ahab had become family by marriage; Jehoshaphat’s son having married Ahab’s daughter (2 Kings 8:16-18).

Evidencing the judgment of a wise king, Jehoshaphat desired the LORD’s direction before going to battle and requested, “Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day” (22:5).

Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and gathered nearly four hundred of his own prophets who prophesied the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory on the battlefield over the king of Syria (22:6).  Godly Jehoshaphat was not satisfied and enquired if there was not another prophet in Israel, one who had not compromised himself with Ahab’s prophets (22:7).

Ahab confessed there was one prophet whose name was “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22: 8); however, Ahab confessed, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8).

Ahab sent a servant to invite Micaiah to prophesy, who warned the prophet that the other prophets were of “one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which isgood” (22:13).

In a twist of irony, Micaiah prophesied exactly what Ahab wanted to hear (22:15); however, the king rebuked him and demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” (22:16).

Micaiah prophesied that Ahab would die and Israel would be “scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (22:17).  Acknowledging his own self-fulfilling sentiment, Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, “Did I not tell thee that he [the prophet Micaiah] would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (22:18).

Micaiah completed his task as God’s prophet and his prophesy was proven true when Ahab was slain in battle, dying in his chariot (22:34-35). The words of Elijah were fulfilled when Ahab’s blood was washed from his chariot and “the dogs licked up his blood” (22:38; note 21:19).

I close with an observation: While Ahab was committed to prophets who would tell him what he wanted to hear, Jehoshaphat desired a true word of prophecy (22:5-7).

A word to the naive: Dismiss the warning of faithful, God-fearing men and you do so to your own demise.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Unconscionable Demand, A Gift of Grace, a Foolish Covenant, and a Tragic End (1 Kings 20-21)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20-21

Our Scripture reading is rich in drama and too long and involved for one devotional commentary. I encourage you to read both chapters, while I limit our devotional study to 1 Kings 20. By God’s grace, I hope to return to this great drama in another year.

1 Kings 20 – A Fearless Adversary and An Unconscionable Demand

Recalling Judah’s alliance with Benhadad, king of Syria (1 Kings 15:18-20), we find the armies of Syria and thirty-two other kings aligned against Ahab, king of Israel (20:1).

King Benhadad issued three demands to Ahab, each demand increasing in its severity. The first demand was for an unequivocal surrender of Ahab’s gold, silver, his wives, and his children (20:3-4).

Disgracefully, King Ahab capitulated to the first demand and it was soon followed by a second demand. Emboldened, Benhadad magnified his incursion into Israel’s autonomy and announced that his servants would not only plunder the treasuries of the palace, but the households of his servants (20:5-7).

Realizing there would be no end to his adversaries’ demands, King Ahab called his leaders to conference (20:7). The king shared how he had conceded his own household to Benhadad, however, his adversary’s second demand was to invade their homes and take their possessions. Ahab’s elders counseled him, “Hearken not unto him, nor consent” (20:8).

Refusing to accept Benhadad’s terms (20:9), the Syrian king threatened he would not rest until Ahab was dead (20:10). Empowered by the counsel of his elders, Ahab responded to Benhadad, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off” (20:11). If you will allow, I suggest a modern adage that sums up Ahab’s response is: “Don’t count your chicks until they hatch!”

Drunk with wine and clearly not possessing the good judgment of a warrior king, Benhadad ordered the kings of his alliance to make their armies ready for battle (20:12).

God mercifully, in an act of grace and in spite of the wickedness of King Ahab, sent a prophet to the king. The prophet encouraged Ahab, “Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

Assured he would have the support of the young leaders of Israel (20:14), Ahab numbered his soldiers, and preempted a battle with Syria.  God gave Israel the victory (20:15-21); however, Benhadad escaped and the prophet warned Ahab he must prepare Israel’s army for a second battle that would follow the next year (20:22).

In spite of their defeat, the Syrians began to boast that Israel’s God was “not God of the valleys” (20:23, 28). The kings in alliance with Benhadad were reassured they would defeat Israel in the plains (20:24-27).

Facing an enormous Syrian army that had gathered in the plains, God sent a prophet to assure Ahab, “Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (20:28).

Seven days later, with their armies arrayed in battle, the LORD gave Ahab victory, and Israel slew one hundred thousand soldiers (20:29). Fleeing the battlefield to seek safety in the city of Aphek, another twenty-seven thousand Syrians died when the wall of that city fell and crushed them (20:30).

Fresh off his victory, King Ahab foolishly entered into an alliance with Benhadad who, following the counsel of his servants, depicted the humility of a defeated foe hoping that his life would be spared (20:30b-32). Failing to seek the LORD in the decision, Ahab made a covenant with the Syrian king and soon learned it was a disastrous decision for himself and Israel (20:33-34).

To portray the folly of Ahab’s covenant with Benhadad, God sent a young prophet who disguised himself as a wounded soldier (20:35-38). When the king passed by, the prophet, masquerading as a casualty of war, called to the king.  The young prophet’s true identity concealed, he explained how he had unwittingly allowed his enemy to escape and his penalty would be either to “pay a talent of silver” or forfeit his life (20:40).

King Ahab, rather than spare the “wounded soldier” and extend to him mercy and pardon, instead condemned the man (20:40). The young prophet then revealed that Ahab had pronounced his own judgment (20:41), revealing the king’s failure to kill his adversary would cost him his own life (20:42;22:34-38). Rather than repent of his sin, Ahab returned to Samaria knowing his failure to obey the LORD (20:42) had sealed his own fate (20:43).

I close with an oft spoken, but true adage: Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith