Category Archives: Church

“HIS-STORY: The Cyclical Nature of God’s Providences and Man’s Fallen Nature”

You are invited to Hillsdale Baptist Church for this Sunday’s 10:30am worship service as Pastor Smith continues his prophetic series with our current focus on the writings and prophecies of Joel, the prophet of Judah.

Like other Old Testament prophets, Joel’s prophecies carried not only an imminent application to God’s people in his day, but were also a foretelling of events that are not yet come to pass. In fact, many of the headline news events we are observing in today’s world appear to be setting the stage for the fulfillment of prophecies we read in Joel 2-3.

There is, as the title of this blog states, a cyclical nature in history that evidences not only the sovereign, providential hand of God, but also the sinful, fallen nature of mankind. There is the rise, glory, decay, and eventual destruction of nations. There is a recurring pattern in the history of humanity that is one of spiritual darkness, followed by emerging light, that eventually fades away once again to darkness. There are times when there is a glimmer of hope for a national revival, a spiritual awakening, and renewal. Eventually, however, the depraved nature of humanity seems determined to eclipse the light entirely.

In this repeated cycle of spiritual light and darkness, where do you think we are as individuals, families, communities, churches, and as a nation? I fear we are seeing a growing darkness that is determined to extinguish the LIGHT. I sense an oppression that is already at war with Biblical faith, traditional family values, and our Constitutional freedoms as a nation and people.

There are many things to be learned from history, but the most important is that God is sovereign and we can be confident in His promises and providences. Jesus Christ is KING, LORD, and is Coming Again!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“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

The Third World War (Daniel 7-9)

Scripture reading – Daniel 7-9

Reading chronologically through the Bible in one year is a wonderful challenge; however, I sometimes find myself doing little more than a “fly-over” when it comes to writing devotional commentaries on passages of Scripture that captivate my heart and move my spirit.  The prophetic scenes found in the Book of Daniel continue to astonish me as I reflect upon events that have come to pass, and consider those things which are yet future.  What a stunning testimony for the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21)!

You might have noticed the first six chapters of Daniel were narrative in style, and historical in content. We have followed the rise of Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar’s consolidation of the nations of his day into the first world empire. Among the nations conquered was Judah, and the remnant of Israel after Assyria had taken the northern ten tribes captive a century earlier. Judah became subservient to Babylon in 605 BC, and to ensure that nation’s compliance, Nebuchadnezzar had taken in the first captivity the sons of Jewish nobility.

Among the captives was a young teen named Daniel. Though only a youth, Daniel was already dedicated to the LORD, His Law and Commandments. God blessed his faithfulness, gave him favor, and promoted him to the highest offices of both the Chaldean and Medo-Persian Empires. Daniel’s longevity in his service to heathen kings was a testimony of his character, talents and integrity. While other rulers of the Babylonian kingdom were purged from office during transitions of kings and kingdoms, Daniel’s character earned him the trust of both Chaldean and Persian kings.

Daniel 7 – A Panoramic, Prophetic View of History

Daniel 7 begins a panoramic, prophetic view of history that commences with the rule of “Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1) and continues through the reign of “Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes” (9:1). Daniel 7 chronologically precedes Daniel 5 [which recorded Babylon’s fall to the Medes and Persians].

Daniel 7 occurs during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign (7:1), whose rule marked the beginning of the end of the Chaldean Empire. Daniel 7 recorded the first of 4 visions, providing us with a prophetic landscape of Gentile Empires beginning with Babylon and ending with the Second Coming of Christ and His Millennium Kingdom.

Daniel’s dream in chapter 7 parallels the great image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. Notice that Daniel’s dream was a three-part vision that revealed six kingdoms (7:2-14).

The Sea (7:2-3) was symbolic of humanity and the four beasts represented four great world empires.

In the Scriptures, Sea and Water are figurative of humanity and the nations of the world (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:1, 15). “The four winds of the heaven” (7:2) violently moving the Sea represent God’s judgment on the nations of the earth. Wind generally moves north, south, east or west; however, the four winds coming simultaneously from all directions reflect a violent judgment.

Four earthly kingdoms are represented by four beasts: A lion with wings like an eagle (7:4; most likely Babylon); a bear with three ribs in its mouth (7:5; most likely the Medes and Persian empires); a leopard with four wings on its back and four heads (7:6; most likely Greece); and a beast described as “dreadful and terrible” and having ten horns (7:7; most likely Rome).

A fifth kingdom, represented by an eleventh horn and described as a “little horn” emerges from the head of the fourth beast (7:8). The “little horn” is the Antichrist (7:8). The Scriptures reveal he will be a man far greater and more evil than the earthly kings who had gone before him. He is described as having human eyes [“eyes like the eyes of man,” indicating superior intelligence] (7:8), and a mouth that boasts “great things” (7:8)

The sixth kingdom announces the triumphant Second Coming of Christ who is described as the “Ancient of Days” and is seen sitting on the throne of Heaven (7:9). From His throne He will judge the nations of the earth (7:10) and will reign a thousand years (7:13-14). Daniel conveys the glorious appearance of Jesus Christ, writing,

Daniel 7:13-14 – “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with [sitting on] the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they [perhaps angel messengers] brought Him near before Him. 14  And there was given Him [Christ, the Messiah] dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

I close with an invitation for you to consider some immutable truths we can take from our study. The first, God is sovereign of all nations (Romans 13:1-6). History, past, present, and future is HIS-STORY. The second, that God is omniscient; He knows the beginning and the end. He knows and directs the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms.

When Daniel grasped the magnitude of history and realized the last days when the antichrist appears in the Great Tribulation, he confessed, “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me” (7:15).

What an advantage we have over Daniel. We can look back in history and realize that the visions of the rise and fall of nations Daniel observed in his dream have come to pass. Surely, we have cause to anticipate with confidence what God has promised He will fulfill!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited to, “The King of Kings is Coming!” – Sunday, September 13, 2020

Good morning! You are invited to join Hillsdale Baptist Church for our public worship services this Sunday morning. We are looking forward to an uplifting day of worship in music and a message in the 10:30am service on the Sovereignty of God.

Our Children’s Rally time begins at 9:00am in the Friendship Hall and is followed by Kid’s Choir (9:15am-9:45am) with Music Pastor Steve Armstrong. Our Children transition to their Sunday School classes at 9:45am.

Teen and Adult Bible Studies all begin in their individual classes at 9:15am. Pastor Brian Barber will be teaching the auditorium class and broadcasting live at 9:15am on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Pastor Smith is continuing his prophetic series in Hillsdale’s 10:30am service with a message titled, “The King of Kings is Coming,” a study in the sovereignty of God taken from the Book of Joel, chapter 1. Please click on the links to print out your student notes for today’s message.

The King of Kings is Coming (part 2) – September 13, 2020 AM student blank

The King of Kings is Coming (part 2) – September 13, 2020 AM student blank

Reminder: Hillsdale’s 9:15am Bible studies and 10:30am worship service are open to the public and also broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

New Jerusalem and the Millennial Temple of the Messiah (Ezekiel 43-45)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 43-45

Ezekiel is ministering to a people in captivity whose homeland has been left desolate. The Temple was in ruins and Jerusalem was destroyed. For many, the hope of returning to their land had died with the nation. It was in the hour when all seemed lost, that the ministry of Ezekiel became one of encouraging the people that there was hope. The LORD had not forsaken His people, nor had He forgotten His promise to restore them to their land.

The LORD, in a vision, sent a messenger to Ezekiel (40:1-4), “a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass” (40:3), who commanded the prophet to open his eyes and ears, and see and declare to “the house of Israel” all that he would be shown (40:4).

Ezekiel 40-44 – The LORD revealed to Ezekiel the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom when Christ would reign upon the earth.

Ezekiel recorded the dimensions of the New Temple: The outer court, its gates, and rooms (40:5-26); the inner courtyard of the Temple grounds (40:27-47). The dimensions of the Temple porch (40:48-59), its outer sanctuary (41:1-2), and inner sanctuary (41:3-5) were recorded. There were also buildings outside the Temple that were for the priests who were ministering in the Temple (42:1-20).

Ezekiel 43 – The Glory of the LORD Filled the Millennial Temple

The Temple of the Messiah in the Millennium Kingdom continues to be the focus of Ezekiel 43 and Ezekiel 44. The messenger then brought Ezekiel in the vision to look on the New Temple and he watched as “the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory” (43:2).

What an incredible sight and sound that must have been! What wonderful news for a people who had lost everything! The news of a new Jerusalem and a new Temple must have moved the people to rejoicing!

Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of God filling the Temple moved him to fall upon his face before the LORD (43:3). Ezekiel writes,

Ezekiel 43:4-64  And the glory of the LORD came into the house [Temple] by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. 5  So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house. 6  And I heard him [the LORD] speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.

According to Zechariah 6:12-13, the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom will be built by the LORD and He will sit upon His throne in the Temple.

The LORD spoke to Ezekiel and revealed that His throne would “dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever” (43:7). The presence of the LORD would move the hearts of the people to repent, and be “ashamed of their iniquities” (43:10).

We read that there was “the law of the house [Temple]” (43:12). What was the law of the Temple?

The law of the Temple was this: “Upon the top of the mountain [upon which the Temple was built and where the LORD ruled from His throne] the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy” (43:12).

Unlike the Temples that had gone before and been polluted by the sins of the people, this Temple would be perpetually holy because the LORD Himself was seated on the throne not only as the KING, but also as PRIEST. The author of Hebrews writes,

Hebrews 4:14-1514 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

The apostle John shared a similar experience with Ezekiel when the LORD revealed to Him “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).

Revelation 21:3-53  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

What a glorious day that will be when the LORD Jesus Christ reigns and there will be no more tears, death, sorrow, crying, or pain.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Failure of Israel’s Pastors (Ezekiel 34-36)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 34-36

We have seen that Ezekiel was a priest (1:3) whom God called to be prophet to His people of the Babylonian captivity. With the siege of Jerusalem ended, the Temple plundered, and the walls and city of Jerusalem in piles of rubble, the attention of God’s prophet now turned to the failure of the religious leaders of Israel.

Ezekiel 34 – The Tragedy When Spiritual Leaders Fail God’s People

Ezekiel 34 is an indictment of the “shepherds of Israel” (the religious leaders), for their self-righteous, ungracious spirit. Consider the Character (34:1-10), the Conduct (34:16b-18), and the Calamity of the “shepherds of Israel” (34:19-21).

The Corrupt Character of Spiritual Shepherds (34:1-10)

Ezekiel 34:2b – “…Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”

The shepherds (pastors) of Israel were self-centered consumers. They had put their interests above the needs of the people (34:2). They had saved the best of the sacrifices for themselves, rather than give the LORD the best (34:3). They had eaten the best portions of men, killed the best of the flock, clothed themselves in fine wool, but failed to spiritually feed the flock of God.

The pastors had neglected the needy (34:4a), failed to attend the sick (34:4b), and failed to set right those whose bones were broken (34:4b). When the sheep (people) strayed, they failed to gather them and protect them from wild beasts (heathen invaders) (34:5-6). Instead of leading the people, the pastors had terrorized them “with force [harsh, sharp] and with cruelty [cruel, severe](Ezek. 34:4).

The spiritual shepherds of Israel had neglected the sheep by failing to lead them to green pastures where they might have prospered (Psalm 23; John 10).

The Conduct of the Bad Spiritual Shepherds (34:16b-18)

The shepherds were inconsiderate of the spiritually weak and immature (34:18). The pastors had allowed the strong to “[eat] up the good pasture…tread down [stamped upon] with [their] feet the residue of your pastures” (34:18). The shepherds had neglected the weaker sheep and allowed the stronger to “foul the residue” (34:18b) and make it unfit for the weaker sheep.

The shepherds were also insensitive (34:20. They had allowed spiritual bullies to “thrust with side and with shoulder and “pushed all the diseased [weak and sick] with [their] horns” (34:21).

 The Calamity When Spiritual Shepherds Fail the Sheep (34:19-21)

Israel’s shepherds had failed the people and robbed them of an opportunity to enjoy God’s best. Like sheep neglected by their shepherd, God’s people had been forced to “eat that which [had been] trodden” and “drink that which [had been] fouled with [their] feet” (34:19). The shepherd’s insensitivity to the sheep had resulted in the sheep being scattered (34:21).

I close inviting you to consider the love and passion of the LORD, the Good Shepherd who is a model of grace and forgiveness (34:11-16a).

Like a Good Shepherd, the LORD loved His people and promised, “I will bring them…gather them…to their own land…[and] feed them” (34:13b-14a). The people “lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture…and…lie down…I will seek that which was lost, and bring again…and will bind up…and will strengthen” (Ezek. 34:14-16a).

It comes as no surprise that Jesus Christ’s description of Himself as the Good Shepherd reflects the longing of the LORD we find in Ezekiel 34.

Matthew 18:11 – For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Is the LORD Jesus Christ your Shepherd?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Hindsight is 2020” and a New Opportunity from the “Facebook Graveyard”

Shutterstock ID 1536302510

Do you remember the hope and anticipation of the start of this New Year? Advertisers, billboards, news reporters, corporations, schools, and churches were striving to outdo one another with catchy themes for 2020.

“Good & Plenty – Class of 2020!”

“2020 – A Class with a Vision!”

“Class of 2020 – We’ve Got Perfect Vision!”

“Class of 2020 – We Have the Vision!”

“Now You’re Seeing 20/20!”

I think, “Hindsight is 2020”, is the most appropriate slogan for this crazy year. In fact, the only thing predictable about 2020 is there is nothing predictable! The Coronavirus crisis presented us with an ever-expanding vocabulary. Words and terms like herding, social distancing, flatten the curve, pandemic, quarantine, and masks are not only part of our lexicon, they are a reality for our lives.

If there is one place that should be predictable and timeless, it is the Church. In a world characterized by fickleness and volatility, I pray you will find Hillsdale exceptionally predictable, traditional, and purposely biblical in both our doctrine and practice. Our passion is “to do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), and to love you, our neighbor as we desire to be loved (Luke 10:27).

“From the Facebook Graveyard”

The Word of God is not a book given to political correctness or the whims of societal change. The Bible is a timeless guide, a book of absolutes, about a Savior, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). This past week the censors for Facebook, without any warning, “disabled” all of my Facebook accounts, including my account dedicated solely to daily devotions, “Heart of A Shepherd, Inc.”

I have moved my daily devotions to a fresh new social media called “MeWe”, and you can follow my posts at www.mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

pastorsmith@hillsdalebaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” (Jeremiah 26-29)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 26-29

Jeremiah 26 – Kill the Prophet!

The nation of Judah has suffered the humiliation of Babylon taking away King Jeconiah in chains (Jeremiah 24:1), and having the treasuries of the Temple and the king’s palace plundered. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has also taken away Judah’s brightest youth (Daniel 1:3-5) and skilled laborers (Jeremiah 24:1; 29:1-2). With a succession of wicked kings on Judah’s throne, and the nation cursed with false prophets and priests, there is a foreboding death and destruction that hangs over the land.

Jeremiah 26:1-10 – “Thus saith the LORD…Diminish not a Word”

Jeremiah has been a faithful prophet of the LORD; however, he has grieved the scorn of his people, and the wrath of Judah’s leaders. In spite of the hardships he has suffered, the LORD commands His prophet to return to “Stand in the court of the LORD’S house (Temple) and…diminish not a word” (26:2).

When Jeremiah’s courageous declaration of God’s Word was ended (26:3-7), the priests and the prophets stirred up the people who said to the prophet, “Thou shalt surely die” (26:8). The uproar was so great that the “princes of Judah” (i.e. leaders) intervened and established a public trial for Jeremiah “in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house” (26:9-10).

Jeremiah 26:11-24 – God’s Prophet on Trial

The wicked priests and false prophets accused Jeremiah of preaching a message of doom against Jerusalem, which they justified him being put to death (26:11). Jeremiah, however, rose to his own defense and declared his authority as God’s prophet saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard” (26:12).

Knowing the “princes of Judah” held in their hands the power of life or death, Jeremiah boldly declared the conditions of God’s loving forgiveness. He encouraged the people to, “amend [their] ways [i.e. do good] and [their] doings, and obey the voice of the LORD” (26:13) and God would withhold the judgment he had determined against them.

The leaders of the people considered two cases to justify Jeremiah’s acquittal (26:16-23). The first was the case of the prophet Micah (26:18-19) who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah and whose life was spared because the king and the people had repented of their sins (Micah 3:12). The second case for acquittal was that of the prophet Urijah (also known as Uriah) who prophesied during the reign of Jehoiakim (26:20-23). Urijah had fled to Egypt; however, the king’s men returned him to Judah and the king slew him and cast his body into a commoners grave (26:23).

Jeremiah, by contrast with Urijah, had not fled nor failed to execute his office as God’s prophet. One man named Ahikam, interceded that the judges would not “give [Jeremiah] into the hand of the people to put him to death” (26:24).

Note – There is much history that transpires in Jeremiah 27-28 and I hope to return to this passage in another year. For the sake of context, this devotional commentary will consider the prophecy found in Jeremiah 29.

Jeremiah 29 – The Prophecy of Seventy Years of Captivity in Babylon

Jeremiah 29 records a letter Jeremiah sent to those whom Nebuchadnezzar had first taken captive to Babylon (29:1-4). Jeremiah prophesied to those in captivity that seventy years would pass before they would be restored to their homeland (29:10).

Rather than allow all hope to fail, Jeremiah instructed his people in Babylon to set their roots in Babylon for a season and “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7).

Jeremiah encouraged the people to dismiss the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9). The prophet foretold their captivity would last seventy years (29:10). Assuring the people of God’s love and forgiveness, Jeremiah declared the LORD’S assurances of His benevolent thoughts, His longing for the people to repent of their sins and call upon Him, and His promise to restore them (29:11-13).

False prophets would become the scourge of the exiles in Babylon and not only raised the false hope of a short captivity (29:15-23), but also attacked the integrity and ministry of Jeremiah (29:24-29). One false prophet named Shemaiah, sent a letter from Babylon to Jerusalem and accused Jeremiah of being a mad man, a false prophet, a man who had preached a message of hopelessness and counseled the people that the captivity would be long (29:26-29).

Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah must have been a great discouragement to the prophet. God, however, counseled his prophet to send a letter to the people in Babylon saying, “Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie… he [Shemaiah] hath taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:31-32)

Like some of you, I identify with the sorrows of Jeremiah. God’s command to “diminish not a word” of the LORD (26:2) put him on the receiving end of personal attacks that were unreasonable in nature. Shemaiah’s letter, meant to disparage the prophet and stir an uprising against him, was resolved when the LORD vindicated Jeremiah by exposing Shemaiah as a false prophet (29:31). Shemaiah and his family would be punished (29:32).

1 Samuel 26:9 – “Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe be Unto the Pastors” (Jeremiah 23-25)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 23-25

Jeremiah 23:1-2 – A Denouncement of Unfaithful Pastors

As a pastor, I find the opening verses of Jeremiah 23 disturbing. “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (23:1).  In addition to priests, numbered among the “pastors” were most likely the king and civil servants of his realm. Rather than benevolent men who shepherded the people in love and obedience to God’s Word, the pastors had abused and scattered the people. They had failed to “visit,” meaning to shepherd, oversee, or care for the people (23:2).

Jeremiah 23:3-8 – The Messiah King and the Millennial Kingdom

The LORD did not leave Judah without hope, and declared a day when “the remnant of my flock” (Israel and Judah) would be gathered “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (23:3). In that day, the LORD promised to appoint spiritual “shepherds…which shall feed [His people]: and they shall fear no more…neither shall they be lacking” (23:4).

Leaving no doubt who will be King in the Messianic Kingdom, we read, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).

Who is this “righteous branch” of David’s lineage of David? (23:5) Only one man could fulfill this prophecy and He would be the Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-5:11).

Though Israel exists as a nation today, it is not righteous and its government is secular. There is no king who is of David’s lineage or reigns in righteousness. However, when Christ comes as Judge and conquering King, He will gather His people to their land from “out of the north country, and from all countries” where they have been scattered (23:8).

Jeremiah 23:9-32 – The False Prophets and Their Error

Knowing the judgment that His people would suffer, Jeremiah writes, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets” (23:9). False prophets had become the curse of the nation, and in a searing indictment of their sins, Jeremiah identified the ungodly character of the false prophets and their effect on the people: “The land is full of adulterers” (23:10) and the prophet and priest were hypocrites, “profane,” polluted and corrupt (23:11, 23:13).

The sins of the nation were so egregious that the LORD likened them to “Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (23:14).  Engrossed in their sins and lacking spiritual discernment, the people believed the assurances of the false prophets who said, “No evil shall come upon you” (23:17). The LORD, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (23:21).

Jeremiah 23:33-36 – Judah’s Contempt for God’s Message and Messenger

Embracing the lies of false priests and prophets, the people ridiculed God’s prophet. The LORD instructed Jeremiah, when the people, their prophets and priests ask, “What is the burden of the LORD?” (23:33), he was to say, the “burden of the LORD” was that He had forsaken them (23:33b).

Jeremiah 23 concludes with a stern warning to any who pretended to bear “the burden of the LORD” as His messenger:

Jeremiah 23:39b-40 – “I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: 40  And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.”

James states a similar warning to preachers and teachers of God’s Word (James 3:1).

James 3:1 – “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers; instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater [larger; greatest] condemnation [judgment; punishment; i.e. sentence].”

The work of the preacher is a great calling, as is the opportunity of teaching God’s Word. Whether a pastor or a lay Bible teacher, it is a privilege to teach God’s Word; however, we dare not treat it lightly for we will face the greater judgment.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith