Category Archives: Attitude

“Consider you ways!” (Haggai 1-2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1-2

The book of Haggai falls chronologically at the conclusion of Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). Incredibly, eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, had declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him an house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by an edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3).

As is too often seen when great works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and then set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar), who served as governor of Judah, and was of the Davidic line (named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13), the preparations to lay the Temple foundation were halted when adversaries opposed the work and discouraged the people (Ezra 4).

It was at this time, a time of discouragement, that God raised up two prophets to minister in Judah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, both mentioned in Ezra 5:1, were contemporaries in Judah. Though the book of Haggai is only two chapters in length, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation, “Get to work!”

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes.  For ten years, from 530 BC to 520 BC, the Temple was neglected while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not finished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps even yourself?  Most of us do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD. However, we might often be guilty of procrastination and suggesting by our words and attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

The LORD had been longsuffering with His people; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent His prophet Haggai to rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), warning the people that the LORD was withholding His blessings from the nation, and their labor in the fields would be futile until the Temple was built (1:6-11).

The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops), but what they had failed to do.

Haggai left no doubt why the people were struggling, laboring much while harvesting so little, and detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in obtaining comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

Haggai 1:9 – Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Godly men that they were, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).

Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Your Critics! (Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

Seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first Jews captive to Babylon, God had moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the people to their land (Ezra 1:1-2).

Mount Moriah, the place where the Temple was being rebuilt, had been strewn with the rubble of Solomon’s Temple for nearly fifty years. That glorious place, once called the “house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1) and served as a physical reminder of God’s presence among His chosen people; had become a testimony of God’s judgment against Israel for breaking covenant by disobeying God’s Laws and Commandments.

As we come to today’s Scripture reading (Ezra 4-6), we find the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem, encountering both disappointment and discouragement. “The ancient men, that had seen the first [Temple],” perhaps remembering the glory of the previous Temple, “wept with a loud voice” (3:12). There were also enemies without who were determined to stop the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1).

Reminding us only two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had accepted King Cyrus’ proclamation that they were free to return to their homeland, we read, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Under the pretense of friendship, non-Israelite enemies who had been resettled in Israel by Assyria, came to Zerubbabel (perhaps identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2).

Evidencing godly wisdom and discernment, Zerubbabel and other leaders of Israel, answered, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their opposition, those same enemies continued their antagonism for sixteen long years (Ezra 4:7-23; Haggai 1:1) and “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (4:4).

Ezra 4 reminds us that when God’s people are doing God’s work they will face opposition.  Israel’s enemies employed four methods of discouraging and hindering God’s work.

The first, they suggested Assimilation, an unholy alliance, a partnership that God would not have blessed (4:2-3). Zerubbabel recognized his enemies for who they were, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (4:1)! In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul stated the principle Zerubbabel employed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Aggravation was a second means Israel’s enemies employed in opposing the work on the Temple. Ezra and the leaders of Israel were strong and confident when they first confronted their adversaries (4:3); however, as time passed, “the people of the land weakened [made them weak and feeble] the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled[terrified; paralyze with fear] them in building, 5And hired counsellors [advisers; consultants; conspirators] against them, to frustrate [to cause to cease; bring to an end] their purpose” (4:4-5).

The enemy discouraged Israel with Adjudication, challenging the legality and legitimacy of the work on the Temple (4:6-10).

Fourthly, Israel’s adversaries prepared Accusations: Deception, suggesting the Jews were “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12); Distortion, attacking the character and integrity of God’s people (4:13); and Deceit, questioning their motives (4:15).

Dear friend, there will always be critics. Some people have a negative, critical outlook on life. They can become a constant source of discouragement and if you allow them, they will hinder your service and God’s work. There are many who are spectators, not participators; they are watchers, and not workers.

Take a moment and reread Ezra 3:12-13 and notice the ones who were weeping as they remembered the past, and those who were shouting for joy and living in the triumph of the moment.

It was the “ancient men” (3:12), the “priests and Levites and chief of the fathers,” who were looking back and weeping. Old friend, memories can be cherished and pleasing; however, they can also turn you into nothing more than an old critic.

I challenge you who are faithfully serving the LORD, Be Not Discouraged!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

From Grazing to Grace (Daniel 4-6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading is lengthy (Daniel 4, 5, and 6), and for that reason I will limit my devotional commentary to one chapter, Daniel 4.

Daniel 4 – A Testament to the Tragedy of Sinful Pride

King Nebuchadnezzar was one of history’s greatest rulers and was a man whose life was a testimony to the sovereignty of God. He was, in the words recorded by the prophet Jeremiah, the servant of the LORD when God employed the king’s ambition and judged Judah for that nation’s sin and rebellion (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). While there is some dispute as to whether or not Nebuchadnezzar died a man of faith, there is certainty that his life was a testimony of God’s providence and grace.

We find Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted with a spiritual malady, of his own choosing, that is the nemesis of mankind–Pride.

Solomon warned his son, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is the rotten root of man’s sinful nature and is at the core of man’s wickedness. We read in the psalms,

Psalm 10:2 – “The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor…”

Psalm 10:4 – “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”

Nebuchadnezzar was no stranger to pride. He was the most powerful figure in the world of his day. His accomplishments are nearly unrivaled: A mighty warrior, a great administrator, a visionary and master-builder. His tenure as king spanned 43 years (605 BC-562 B.C.) and during his reign, Babylon grew from a city-state to an empire. Babylon encompassed an estimated 14 square miles and was fortified by a triple line of walls, the outermost wall being 300 feet high and 80 feet across at the top (wide enough for four chariots to race abreast).

Daniel 4 finds Nebuchadnezzar enjoying the “golden years” of his reign. He was “at rest” (4:4a), and his war years were behind him. The king was enjoying the fruits of his labor and the spoils of war; however, we find him troubled by a dream, a vision that he demanded interpretation.

After the king’s magicians and astrologers failed to interpret his dream (4:7), Nebuchadnezzar summoned Daniel (4:8) and expressed his confidence that God had given him a gift for interpreting dreams (4:9). The king proceeded to tell Daniel his dream (4:10-18), and when he was finished, we read that Daniel was speechless for an hour. (4:19).

Nebuchadnezzar, seeing that Daniel (also known by his Chaldean name, Belteshazzar) was troubled by the meaning of his dream (4:19), exhorted him to interpret his dream.

Daniel answered the king’s command by tactfully preparing him for the bad news saying, “My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies” (4:19c).

Daniel then explained the dream saying, the tree was a symbol of the king’s power and accomplishments (4:20a, 22b); however, like the tree, he would soon be cut down, deemed insane, and driven from the palace where he would spend seven years living like a wild beast.

Daniel urged Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his pride (4:27), warning the king that only when he would acknowledge the sovereignty of God in the earth (4:26) would he be healed and restored as king.

Twelve months passed (4:29) while God patiently waited for the king to repent of his sinful pride and acknowledge Him as Sovereign.

One day the king was walking about the terrace of his palace, and looking out upon the city he boasted with sinful pride, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (4:30)

The king had refused to humble himself, and his pride exceeded God’s patience. God had given the king 12 months to repent, however, when the time of God’s judgment had come there was no delay.

Daniel 4:31 – While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.

The king was driven out of his palace and lived like a wild beast. When seven years of humiliation had passed, we read, “Nebuchadnezzar lifted up [his] eyes unto heaven, and [his] understanding returned unto [him] (4:34a). The king acknowledged God’s rule, power, and the breadth of His eternal kingdom.

Nebuchadnezzar confessed that the God of heaven is immutable and His kingdom and reign is eternal, “from generation to generation” (4:34b). As He had promised, God restored the king to his throne (4:36), as he confessed, that the “King of heaven” is just and He is able to bring low the proud (4:37).

Friend, you cannot know when you might refuse to hear God’s voice for the last time. You cannot know when you might hear your last invitation, your last opportunity to confess your sin and repent.

Ecclesiastes 9:12 – “For man also knoweth not his time…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“O Ye Dry Bones, Hear the Word of the Lord!” (Ezekiel 37-39)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 37-39

Jerusalem is destroyed, the Temple a pile of charred debris, and Judah as a land has been left desolate. Ezekiel was ministering to a people who were strangers among a heathen, idolatrous nation. The prophets had foretold a captivity of seventy years before God would restore His people to their beloved Promise Land; however, the news of Jerusalem’s fall had left the people in a hopeless state.

With all in ruins, and the people scattered among the nations, what hope was there to return to their homeland?

Ezekiel 37 – Dry Bones Revived

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic illustration of Israel’s resurrection after captivity, and the reunification of the people who had been divided into two nations since the close of King Solomon’s reign.

Ezekiel 37:1-14 – A Valley Full of Dry Bones

The LORD gave Ezekiel a vision of a valley that was full of dry bones and proposed the question: “Son of man, can these bones live?” (37:3)

This valley of dry bones appears to have been the scene of a great battle, and the bones were left after the flesh had decomposed. Of course, there was no life, because there was no flesh in the valley of dry bones. The prophet had long known the experience of preaching to the people of a dying nation, but now the LORD commanded Ezekiel, “Prophesy upon these bones” (37:4a).

God assured, “I will cause breath to enter into you [i.e. the dry bones], and ye shall live: 6  And I will lay sinews [tendons] upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (37:4-5).

Notice the phrase: “Ye shall know that I am the LORD” (37:5).

We have seen that phrase repeated throughout our study of Ezekiel. The purpose in God judging Israel, Judah, the Ammonites, Moabites, Assyria, and eventually Babylon has always been the same: That men would acknowledge that the God of Israel is the One True God and there is no other!

Obedient to the LORD’s command, Ezekiel began to prophesy to the valley of lifeless, dry bones (37:7). Suddenly there was a trembling in the valley as the bones began to come together, “bone to his bone… the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them” (37:7-9).

The scene before Ezekiel was a valley of lifeless bodies, perfectly whole, but with no life in them. The LORD then commanded Ezekiel, “Prophesy unto the wind [and] say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live” (37:9).

Imagine the scene: Ezekiel calling forth the wind in the name of the LORD, and suddenly there was a stirring throughout the valley as the slain “stood up upon their feet!” (37:10)

Ezekiel 37:11-14 gives us the interpretation and purpose of the vision of dry bones.

The dry bones in the valley were symbols of the “whole house of Israel,” both the northern ten tribes known as Israel, and Judah (37:11). The dry bones represented the hopeless state of God’s people (37:11b). Both Israel and Judah had become desolate lands, and the people were scattered among the nations of the world like the lifeless dry bones in the valley (37:11c).

Ezekiel’s message was to encourage the people that, though Israel appeared to be dead, and the hope of being a nation was lost, the LORD had not forgotten His covenant promises. He would gather His people and “bring [them] into the land of Israel” (37:12). He would breathe life into Israel by putting His spirit in them. The people would know that it was the LORD Who had “spoken it, and performed it” (37:14).

What lessons can you take from the valley of dry bones?

The valley of dry bones was a lifeless, hopeless scene; a national tragedy for Israel and Judah who had broken their covenant with God, and forsaken His Law and Commandments. Like the bones scattered in the valley, the people were scattered among the heathen nations. All seemed hopeless.

Your valley of dead, dry bones might be a crisis of health, a conflict with a loved one, or a besetting sin that has enslaved your soul. Remember, the same God who stirred a valley of lifeless bones and raised an army to its feet, is our God! The LORD is the giver of life and He is faithful to His promises. He will not forsake His people!

John 6:63 – “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

Romans 8:11 – “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [make alive] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

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

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Lying Prophets and Prophetesses (Ezekiel 13-15)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 13-15

We continue our study of the prophecies of Ezekiel reminding you that he was of a priestly lineage, called to be God’s prophet, and was numbered among the Jews who were captives in Babylon.

The LORD had charged Ezekiel with the task of delivering a prophecy of woes and judgments against Judah and foretelling the fall of Jerusalem. Though God commanded Ezekiel, “prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man” (11:4), the people would not repent. Today’s devotional will be taken from Ezekiel 13.

Ezekiel 13 – False Prophets Condemned

The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy…out of their own hearts” (13:2). These were false prophets who, while proposing to speak the word of the LORD, were in fact prophesying things that arose from their own hearts and thoughts (13:2-3). Rather than warning the people that God’s judgment was imminent, they led the people to continue in their sins (13:4-5). They were liars and God commanded Ezekiel to warn the false prophets, “I am against you” (13:8).

Ezekiel 13:10-16 paints an interesting parable of a flawed wall that represented the sinful lives of the people. According to the parable, the lies of the prophets covered the sins of the people in the same way a shady builder might plaster over and whitewash the construction flaws of a wall (13:10). Of course, a poorly constructed wall will not endure a great storm and the flaws of the wall will inevitably be exposed by its failure (13:12).

The same would be true of the sinful people who believed the lies of the false prophets, and were convinced their sins (the spiritual flaws that the false prophets lies had excused and concealed) would not be revealed under the scrutiny of God’s judgment. The LORD warned the people through His prophet, “So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed (i.e. plastered) with untampered morter (whitewashed)…Thus will I accomplish (and satisfy) my wrath” (13:14-15).

There were also women in the land whom Ezekiel was commanded to condemn because they projected themselves to be prophetesses, but like the false prophets, they prophesied “out of their own heart” (13:17-23).

Lying prophets and prophetesses pretended to be the LORD’s prophets, and were readily received by the people. They prophesied “visions of peace” for Jerusalem, but the LORD God had said, “there is no peace” (13:16). Like whitewash on a substandard wall, the lies of the prophets covered a tragic reality:

The people had sinned greatly against the LORD and His wrath would not be appeased.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Good Things, and Why You Should Embrace Them (Lamentations 3-5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 3-5

Jeremiah’s lamentations take on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. While today’s Scripture reading is Laminations 3-5, today’s devotional commentary will be limited to chapter 3.

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah has lived to see all that he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poorest people after Babylon conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, the prophet gazes out upon a scene of devastation. The Temple has been destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem have fallen.

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

Alienated from God, the heavy burden of discipline upon him, Jeremiah felt as though the LORD had turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed in his distress, but felt as though God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). In his sorrows, the prophet felt trapped, abandoned, wounded in heart (3:9-13). Mocked by his own people (3:14) and nearly overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18), Jeremiah was despairing of life (3:19) until he turned his focus from his circumstances to the LORD (3:20-21).

Lamentations 3:21-66 – Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that are the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace]that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases].
23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness[steadfastness].”

Jeremiah continues, “The LORD is good [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good;” however, notice there is a twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of God.

1) First, we must learn to “wait [hope] for Him” (3:25a).

It is easy to counsel others to be patient and wait on the LORD; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.

Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you have been hurt?  To wait when you are ill?  Do you wait on the LORD when you have been mistreated or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait on the LORD when a loved one makes choices that grieve your heart?  “Patience is a virtue,” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply. Jeremiah’s counsel in the midst of deep distress is “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

2) Second, we must truly “seek Him” (3:25b).

What does it mean to seek the LORD? Be diligent to search Him out by reading, inquiring, and meditating in His Word. To seek the LORD one must obey His Law and Commandments, and follow His will (3:40; Jeremiah 29:13)

I close inviting you to consider the things that are said to be “good[pleasant; beautiful; right; pleasing] in Lamentations 3:26-27.

Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”

It is good for a believer to “hope” (3:26a). This “hope” is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul.  It is hope that awaits with anticipation God’s answer to prayer. It is hope that springs from faith that is predicated on the knowledge that God hears and answers prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises.

It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait in silence. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  (I fear the pews of churches are filled with many who are neither patient or quiet!)

Thirdly, it is good when a son bears the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). 

Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”

In the midst of his own afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged that it is a good thing when young men bear the yoke of manhood with its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Many parents coddle their youth and insulate them from a harsh reality: Life can be difficult, even harsh, but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. 

Lesson – Parents rob children of a “good” thing when they fail to make them bear the burdens, blessings, and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek Them Not!” (Jeremiah 41-45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 41-45

The prophet Jeremiah has been warning Judah and her kings that the time for repentance had passed and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army and King Nebuchadnezzar was sealed. Rather than heed the prophet’s warnings, the people abused, persecuted and imprisoned Jeremiah. However, because He is a gracious God, and in spite of the nation’s wickedness, the LORD did not leave His people without hope.

Jeremiah 42

The fate of Judah was decided; however, the LORD assured the people, “Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. 12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.” (42:11-12)

Foreknowing some of the people would flee south to Egypt, Jeremiah warned the nation,  “Hear the word of theLORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; 16  Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.”  (42:15-16)

Jeremiah 43

Jeremiah warned the people, “Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant11  And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt…and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt”  (43:10-12).

Jeremiah 45

Jeremiah 45 is a brief, but fascinating passage. Comprising only five verses, the LORD lovingly addressed Baruch (45:1), the scribe who had served beside Jeremiah as he faithfully declared God’s Word. Baruch had been deeply moved by the prophecies of imminent judgment, even as he faced the same hardships, persecutions and imprisonment as the old prophet (45:2-3). The LORD commanded Jeremiah to admonish Baruch, his faithful friend and scribe, and warn him:

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

I close today’s commentary inviting you to consider the same challenge: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek Them Not!”

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 32-34

17_Weigel Engraving _Hananiah & Jeremiah 28
Emory Pitts Theology archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Word Will Endure and His Judgment Will Not Fail (Jeremiah 18-22)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 18-22

We continue in our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah with our Scripture reading being chapters 18-22. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Jeremiah 18.

Jeremiah 18:1-10 – The Potter’s House

The setting of Jeremiah 18 is “the potter’s house” (18:1-3).  God commanded Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house and observe the potter as he fashioned lumps of clay on the potter’s wheel. (A potter’s wheel consisted of two horizontal disks joined by a rod; the lower disk the potter moved with his feet and the upper disk was the surface on which the artisan shaped lumps of clay into vessels.)

The prophet observed the potter fashioning two vessels with his hands.  The first is described as “marred” (18:4), perhaps because a pebble or some other flaw was present in the clay. After removing the impurity, the potter then crushed the clay and began again fashioning the lump into a new vessel that “seemed good” (18:4).

For Jeremiah, the work of the potter was a portrait of the LORD who described Himself as having chosen the nation of Israel as a potter chooses clay (18:5-6).  God asked Israel, “cannot I do with you as this potter?” (18:6), leaving no doubt the implication of the potter’s work with the clay. God warned the potter’s work with the clay was a metaphor of His sovereign authority to “pluck up…pull down…[and] destroy” (18:7) the nation because of its disobedience.

Though He had determined to judge the nation for its sins, God assured the people of His love and mercy if they would “turn from their evil” (18:8). Like the clay yielded to the potter’s hands to be reshaped and fashioned for his purpose, the LORD longed to restore Israel to Himself and bless the nation (18:10).

Jeremiah 18:11-17 – Judah’s Irrational Decision to Reject the LORD

The LORD commanded Jeremiah to go to the people and warn them that God had determined to judge them if they continued in their sins (18:10). Rather than fearing the LORD and repenting, the people rejected His invitation saying, “There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (18:12).

The foolishness of rejecting the LORD’s mercy was astounding! God appealed to Jeremiah to tell the people to consider how reckless, how unreasonable they were to reject the LORD (18:13-15). Judah had set upon a ruinous path following after gods that were not gods at all (18:15). The ruins of Judah’s lands and villages would be a lasting testimony of God’s judgment, and other nations would look with wonder upon the ruins of her lands and villages (18:16). The LORD would turn His face from His people and they would be taken captive and scattered (18:17).

Jeremiah 18:18-23 – Judah Rejected the Message and the Messenger and Jeremiah Prayed for Justice and Vengeance

Rather than heed the warning of God’s prophet, the people were emboldened in their sin and boasted they had their own priest, wise men, and prophet (18:18a). Angered by Jeremiah’s boldness, they plotted against him saying, “Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words” (18:18b).

Hearing the plots against him and the pit his enemies had prepared to entrap him, Jeremiah prayed to the LORD, “Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them” (18:20).

Realizing how entrenched the people were in their sin and their resolve to continue in their wickedness, Jeremiah prayed not only that he would be vindicated as the LORD’S prophet, but that the God’s judgment would proceed as He had determined (18:21-23).

Take heart dear friend, for God is faithful to His promises. His justice will not fail, and He hears and answers the prayers of the righteous.

Matthew 5:18 – “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith