Category Archives: Church

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

Scripture reading – Ezra 4; Ezra 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezra 5

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Four Beasts, Four Kingdoms, and God Who is Sovereign (Daniel 7)

Scripture reading – Daniel 7

An old adage goes, “Hindsight is 20\20,” and that is certainly true when we are privileged to look at Bible prophecy “in the rearview mirror.” Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the midst of The Book of Daniel, and its engaging and illuminating prophecies. I do not have time or space for an in-depth study of the prophecy recorded in Daniel 7, yet, I pray a simple study and interpretation of today’s Scripture will be a blessing,

Daniel 7

With the historical events of the rise and fall of Babylon behind us (Daniel 1-6), the next six chapters of our study will be prophetical (Daniel 7-12). The year before us is 553 BC, and was “the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1). Perhaps remembering the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Daniel 7), “Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters” (7:1). As you will see, Daniel’s dream paralleled Nebuchadnezzar’s great image and was a vision of future events.

I suggest there are three parts to Daniel’s dream (7:2-14), with the first section being of four beasts that represented four kings and their kingdoms (7:2-6). The second part of the dream was a dramatic, and terrible transformation that occurred to the fourth beast (7:7-12). The third section was a heavenly vision of the LORD sitting on His throne (7:13-14).

Four Beasts and Four World Empires (7:2-8)

Awakened from his sleep, Daniel wrote, “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea” (7:2). The “great sea” was the “sea of humanity,” and represented the Gentile nations of the world (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:1, 15). “The four winds of the heaven [that] strove upon the great sea” (7:2) portrayed the judgment of God coming from all directions…the east, north, south, and west winds.

The four beasts of Daniel’s dream were a parallel of the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s great image (Daniel 2) that foretold four great Gentile kingdoms. The first beast was depicted as a lion with the eagles’ wings (7:4). Like the head of gold of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, it was a symbol of Babylon. The prophets often depicted Babylon as a lion and eagle (Jeremiah 4:7, 13; 48:40; 49:19, 22; 50:17; Habakkuk 1:6, 9). The “lion-hearted” man was said to have his wings plucked, and to “stand upon the feet as a man” (possibly reminding us how Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled for seven years until he acknowledged God, and then his beastly heart was replaced with “a man’s heart” 7:4).

The second beast in Daniel’s dream resembled a bear with three ribs in its mouth (7:5). Corresponding to the silver arms and chest of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:32, 39), the bear represented the Medes and Persians who would overwhelm Babylon in a night. The bear was portrayed as rising up on one side, and must symbolize how the Persians would become the greater of the Medo-Persian kingdoms. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth might represent three kingdoms that were overcome, but that would be mere speculation on my part.

The third kingdom was represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads (7:6). We have the privilege of looking back on history, and know Greece would supplant Persia as the world empire, and was portrayed in Nebuchadnezzar’s image as having a belly and thighs of brass (2:32, 39). The swiftness of the leopard was a tribute to the speed with which Alexander the Great led Greece, conquering the world in three years’ time (334-331 BC). When Alexander died as a young king of 32 years, Greece was divided into four regions and ruled by four generals, hence, the four wings and heads of the leopard (7:6).

Rome, portrayed as a “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly” beast with “great iron teeth” was the fourth beast of Daniel’s dream (7:7). Equivalent to the legs of iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33, 40), Rome was portrayed as a brutal kingdom. The ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33-35) are represented in Daniel’s dream as the ten horns of the fourth beast (7:7). Representing the strength of a beast, the horn served in the Bible as a symbol of kings (1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 132:17).

The Antichrist: The Rise of the “Little Horn” (7:19-20)

Daniel observed a “little horn” arose in the midst of ten horns (a league of ten kingdoms), and dislodged three horns (kings) in its rise to power (7:8). The prophetic significance was a king would arise in the midst of what would be the Roman Empire, and rise above other kings to reign (7:19-20). Students of prophecy believe the “little horn” will be the antichrist of the last days, for he is depicted as having “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (indicative of pride, boasting, and blasphemy, 7:8, 11, 20, 25). He will be the enemy of the saints, and will reign for 3.5 years (“a time,” being one year; “and times,” two years; “and the dividing of time,” a half year, 7:25).

Closing thoughts (7: 9-14, 26-28) – The reign of the “little horn” (antichrist) will fail, and be destroyed (7:11, 26), when God, who is “the Ancient of days” sits in judgment (7:9-10).  When Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” descends from “the clouds of heaven” (7:13), the “little horn” (antichrist) will be judged and cast into the lake of fire (7:11; Revelation 19:20). Christ, the “Son of man,” will be sovereign of a perpetual kingdom (7:14, 28; Mark 14:61-62) and will rule the world a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-8). We join Daniel in being overwhelmed by the vision of history that is yet to be (7:28), but resting in the sovereignty of God and His promises.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Millennial Kingdom: The Prince, the Land, and the Sacrifices (Ezekiel 45)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 45

Continuing our focus on the Millennial Kingdom, when Christ will reign from His throne in the new Temple, and new Jerusalem, today’s devotional brings us to the division of the land in the Millennial Kingdom.

Ezekiel 45

Remembering His covenant with the children of Israel, the LORD directed Ezekiel to record the dimensions of the land as it will be divided among the Twelve Tribes in the Millennial Kingdom (Ezekiel 45-48).

The Division and Consecration of the Sacred District (45:1-8)

An offering of thanksgiving would begin the division of the land to be dedicated to the LORD. Here will be located the Temple, and the lands for the priests and Levites. Assuming the measurement of a rod (reeds) is 10.5 feet, the sacred district will be 49.7 miles long and 39.8 miles wide (45:1). Located within the district will be the Temple grounds which will be 5,250 feet square (45:2).

The “holy portion of the land” for those priests who minister in the Temple (the sons of Zadok), will measure 49.7 miles long and 19.9 miles wide (Ezekiel 48:8-12). The portion assigned to the Levites will be 49.7 miles in length, and 19.9 miles wide (45:5; Ezekiel 48:13-14). Measurements for the city of Jerusalem, in which the Temple will be located, were 49.7 miles long and 9.9 miles wide (45:6).

Who is the Prince? (45:7-8)

Ezekiel 45:7 chronicles two portions of land over which the “prince” will preside.  Consider with me, Who is the prince? He was first mentioned in Ezekiel 44:1-3, and will be mentioned several times in today’s study.

Some have asserted the prince is the LORD Jesus Christ. Yet, there are several considerations that make that impossible. For instance, the prince offers “a bullock for a sin offering” (45:22). In Ezekiel 46, the prince will worship and offer sacrifices at the Temple (46:2). He is also described as having sons, and giving his sons an inheritance (46:16-18). Therefore, I believe the prince, though a great man, will be an official serving the LORD, and overseeing the governing of Jerusalem and Israel (45:8).

The Establishment of a Just Society (45:9-11)

The world of Ezekiel’s day, and the captivity of God’s people in Babylon was in many ways like our own. Sin, ungodliness, violence, and depravity have defined man’s existence since the fall (Genesis 4), and so it was and continues to our day. Reminiscent of Romans 1, we live in a world that has rejected the LORD, His Law, and Commandments (Romans 1:20). Words like, vain, foolish, immoral, unrighteous, and unmerciful only begin to paint the picture of mankind’s depravity (Romans 1:21-31). Yet, Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will be one of perfect justice (45:9-11). Government will not oppress the people (45:9), and the weight and measurements of commodities will be fair and right (45:10-12), because God’s righteous Law will prevail.

Stewardship and Offerings of the Millennial Kingdom (45:13-17)

The people of the Millennial will bring to the prince the offerings and dues required (45:13-16). He will allot the necessary portion and sacrifices on the Feast Days, New Moon (monthly service), and for Sabbath worship (45:17). Three annual feasts (festivals) will be observed in the Messiah’s kingdom. The New Year (45:18-20) will require the sacrifice of “a young bullock without blemish” for the purpose of cleansing the Temple (no doubt reminding the priests of their own sins, 45:18).

The sacrifice and offerings of the Passover Feast (45:21-24) will remind God’s people they were delivered from slavery to sin (Exodus 12:1-3, 14-20; Leviticus 23:48; Numbers 28:16-25).  Here also, the prince prepares himself to offer “a bullock for a sin offering” (45:22).

The Feast of the Tabernacles will be the third annual festival observed in the Millennial Kingdom. As it was for Israel in the wilderness, it will be a testimony of the LORD’s promise and power to bring His people home (45:25;Leviticus 23:33-44; Numbers 29:12-38). The sacrifice and offerings will be the same as for the Passover Feast.

Closing thoughts – Why will the people bring sacrifices and offerings in the Millennial Kingdom? Like the sacrifices of the Old Testament, they will serve as a testimony of one’s faith in God’s grace and mercy, and His willingness to forgive sin. Like our observance of the Lord’s Supper, the sacrifices of the Millennial will serve as a picture of Christ’s sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-18; Psalm 51:16-17).

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

What Does God Require? Cool or Holy Ministers? (Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42

Our consideration of the new Temple of the Millennial Kingdom continues with a description of the outer and inner sanctuaries of the Temple (Ezekiel 41-42). Rather than belabor the dimensional details of the Temple (height, length, breadth), I will highlight the various aspects of the Temple grounds that includes the walls, doors, courtyards, buildings, and the Temple itself.

The Outer Sanctuary of the Millennial Temple (40:48-41:26)

The heavenly messenger led Ezekiel up the steps and through the portico of the Temple (40:48-49), and into the outer sanctuary (41:1-2) which measured 70 feet long and was 35 feet wide (41:2).

The Inner Sanctuary – “The Most Holy Place” (41:3-5)

The inner sanctuary was a perfect square that measured 35 feet by 35 feet. Unlike the Tabernacle and the earlier Temples (Solomon’s, and Zerubbabel’s built after the Babylonian captivity, and Herod’s Temple), the Millennial Temple did not have a veil that separated the inner sanctuary from the outer sanctuary.

Other Details of the Temple (41:6-26)

Ezekiel noticed there were side rooms of the Temple that stood three stories, with 30 rooms on each floor (41:6). Connecting the floors was a winding staircase that extended from the ground floor to the upper floors (41:7). The foundation of the Temple was elevated, and stood 10.5 feet high (41:8). There was a separate building at the west end of the Temple, but its use was not identified (41:12). The measurement of the Temple was 175 feet square (41:13-15).

The Décor of the Temple (41:16-21)

The walls, floor and ceiling of the Temple were covered with wood, as were the long, narrow windows (41:16-17). The walls of the Temple were of paneled wood (41:17), and were carved with an alternating pattern of cherubim and palm trees (41:18-20).

Before going further, let’s visit the subject of the missing veil. Beginning with the Tabernacle and continuing through the Temple era, a veil separated the outer court of the sanctuary from the innermost room of the Temple known as the Holy of Holies (also the “Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place”). The veil represented a barrier of separation that was between sinful man and God who is holy. It served the purpose of preventing men from seeing or entering into the presence of God (Exodus 26:31-35). When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, the veil was torn from the top to the bottom, for His sacrifice removed the barrier between God and sinners (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-23; 1 Peter 3:18).

The Furniture of the Temple (41:21-26)

The tabernacle and earlier Temples were furnished with the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, upon which there were two cherubim that faced one another (all gold-plated, Exodus 25:10; 37:1-9). This was the place of God’s presence on earth. In the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, only a wood altar (perhaps used for burning incense), 3.5 feet square, and standing 5.25 feet tall was found in the most holy place (41:22).  Double doors served as the panel between the outer and inner sanctuary (41:23-24).  Carved cherubim and palm trees decorated the panels of the doors, and the narrow windows were decorated with palm trees and wood overhangings (41:25-26).

Ezekiel 42 – Buildings for the Priests (note 40:44-46)

Located in the outer court of the Temple, and against the wall of the inner court, were buildings for priests. We are given the dimensions of the buildings (42:2-3), as well as the fact they stood three stories tall (42:3b). The upper floors of the buildings were narrower than the first, making room for walkways (42:4-6). A wall separated the priests’ building from the outer court (42:7-9). On the south side of the Temple was a second building for the priests, and its dimensions were identical to the first (42:10-12).

The Purpose of the Priests’ Buildings (42:13-14)

The buildings for the priests provided a place to prepare for their ministry in the Temple. They were described as “holy chambers” (42:13), for there the priests prepared to minister before the LORD. It was in the “holy chambers” that food offerings were stored, and to be eaten (42:13). This was also the place the priests were to change out of their priestly “garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people” (42:14). The priests were not to wear their priestly robes outside the Temple complex. Also, they were not to wear the clothes of their secular lives when ministering for the LORD in His holy Temple.

Closing thoughts (42:15-20) – Our study concludes with the angelic messenger leading Ezekiel out the east gate, where he measured the wall that surrounded the Temple area. It was perfectly squared, with the north, south, east, and west walls being 5,250 feet in length (42:15-20). The outer wall of the Temple complex provided a separation between the world, and God and His holy Temple.

The Holiness of God and the Doctrine of Separation – I suggest the overriding lesson from today’s study is the reminder God is Holy, and deserves and demands we be the same. Today’s churches advertise, “come as you are,” and even pastors have succumbed to being “cool” and wearing ripped jeans, and even shorts. While the clothes of the priests reminded everyone the LORD required holiness (Leviticus 20:7), it appears that preachers and believers of this generation are more interested in looking “cool” than they are in being holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Warning: You Will Reap What You Sow! (Ezekiel 35)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 35

After prophesying against the spiritual shepherds of Israel, for they had put themselves before the welfare of the people (Ezekiel 34:2-6), Ezekiel prophesied “against mount Seir” (a name for the region of Edom, 35:2). The Edomites, descendants of Esau, the brother of the patriarch Jacob, were located in the region southeast of Israel, and south of the Dead Sea. They had despised Israel and Judah, and were guilty of taking pleasure in the sorrows and sufferings of those nations.

Ezekiel 35

The LORD came to Ezekiel, and commanded His prophet to prophesy against Edom, saying, “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O mount Seir [Edom], I am against thee, and I will stretch out mine hand against thee, and I will make thee most desolate. 4I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord” (35:3-4). Following the destruction of Edom as a people and nation, their land would be left uninhabited, and their cities laid waste, that they might know the God of Israel was “the LORD” (35:4).

The Edomites Hated God’s People (35:5-9)

They were related to the tribes through the line of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, and were sons of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Edom had a long history of hatred and violence against the children of Israel. The Edomites had shed the blood of Israel, and provoked God’s wrath (35:5). The LORD therefore, determined the blood of Edom would be shed, the people killed, and their land left desolate (35:6-7). The slaughter of the people would be so complete, it was foretold the mountains, valleys, and hills would be filled with the bodies of the slain (35:7-9). The cities of Edom would not be rebuilt, and the people would know that which was done was of the LORD (35:9).

The Edomites Coveted Israel’s Inheritance (35:10-11)

Taking pleasure in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Jews being led away captive to Babylon, the Edomites claimed the land the LORD had given Israel and Judah as an inheritance (35:10). Through His prophet, the LORD declared the Edomites would reap what they had sown, and the LORD would glorify His name in their judgment (35:11).

The Edomites Slandered Israel, and Defied God (35:12-14)

Edom mocked and scorned the “mountains of Israel” (i.e., the leaders of Israel). When Jerusalem fell, the Edomites rejoiced and aspired to claim the land for themselves (35:12). They boasted against Israel’s God, and provoked Him to declare, “I have heard them” (35:13).

Having provoked the wrath of the LORD, Ezekiel declared the nations of the earth would rejoice when Edom was left desolate (35:14). The prophet Malachi would look back upon the judgment of Edom, and remember the LORD declared, “I hated Esau (Edom), and laid his mountains and his heritage waste” (Malachi 1:3).

Closing thoughts (35:15) – Edom took pleasure in the overthrow of Jerusalem, and the desolation of Israel and Judah. The LORD, being just, declared the Edomites would suffer the same sorrows (35:15a).  What Edom (“mount Seir, and all Idumea)” had sown as a nation, they would reap, to the end the people would know the God of Israel was Sovereign and that He was “the LORD” (35:15b).

Times change, and nations come and go, but the principle of Sowing and Reaping is a constant, immutable truth.

Galatians 6:77Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“Four Universal Principles for Life, Family, and Nation” (Ezekiel 22), Sunday AM, May 29, 2022

Two fundamental problems at the root of America’s moral implosion:

1) The first is Spiritual. – All men are sinners. (Rom. 3:23)

2) The second is the erosion of marriage, and the traditional family.

When a nation rejects the spiritual precepts of God’s Word, it takes a path of self-destruction that results in God’s judgment.

Four Parenting Principles: 1) Consistent, 2) Cautious, 3) Chargeable (Accountable), 4) Committed

Wise parents have the distinct advantage to discern their child’s character, strengths and weaknesses.

 

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Two Adulteress, One Pot of Boiling Scum, and the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (Ezekiel 23; Ezekiel 24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23; Ezekiel 24

Our Scripture reading, consisting of two chapters (Ezekiel 23 and 24), are introduced with Ezekiel recounting, 1The word of the Lord came…unto me, saying, Son of man” (23:1; 24:1-2). “Son of man” reminded Ezekiel, though he was a priest by lineage, and a prophet by calling, he was nevertheless a man with the weaknesses and failings of men. “Son of Man” was also a frequent title Christ used of Himself (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 11:19; Mark 2:28; Luke 19:10), reminding His followers He was the “Son of God” by nature (John 1:14; 3:16; Galatians 4:4-5), and the “Son of Man” by birth (being conceived by the virgin Mary).

Ezekiel 23

Two Sisters Who Became Adulterers (23:1-21)

The LORD came to Ezekiel with a parable of two sisters, and a mother (23:2). The mother was symbolic of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (23:2), and the daughters represented the divided kingdoms. Samaria, identified as the elder sister “Aholah,” symbolized the ten northern tribes known as Israel (23:4). The city of Jerusalem was identified as “Aholibah,” and symbolized Judah, the southern kingdom (23:4)

The Sins and Wickedness of Samaria (23:4-10)

Samaria and Jerusalem were guilty of spiritual adultery, for they had turned from the LORD to the gods of other nations. Forsaking her covenant with the LORD, Samaria turned to Assyria, and embraced that nation’s idols with their wicked, immoral practices (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). A century had passed since the LORD gave Samaria over to Assyria, and that northern Israel was stripped of its wealth, and her sons and daughters taken into captivity (23:9-10)

The Sins and Wickedness of Jerusalem (23:11-21)

Jerusalem followed in the sins of Samaria, portrayed in Ezekiel 23 as that nation’s sister (23:11). Privileged to have the Temple representing the presence of the LORD in her midst, the sins and wickedness of Jerusalem exceeded those of Samaria. Ezekiel was to declare, Jerusalem “was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms” (23:11).

Like Samaria, Jerusalem turned from the LORD, sought the favor of Assyria (2 Kings 16:5-18; Isaiah 7:1-25), and defiled herself with the idols of that heathen nation (23:13). When Assyria fell to Babylon, Jerusalem turned to the idols of that nation, and lusted for the great men of the Chaldeans (23:14-16). Rejecting the LORD, the kings of Jerusalem had flirted with Babylon like an adulterous woman (23:15-16). Rather than favor, Babylon abused Jerusalem, shamed and humiliated the people (23:17-18). Failing to turn to the LORD, the king of Jerusalem turned to Egypt for help and failed (23:19-21; 2 Kings 23:26-24:2).

God Determined to Judge Jerusalem and Judah (23:22-35)

As with Samaria, so it was with Jerusalem, for the LORD determined that city would be judged for her wickedness and spiritual idolatry. Ezekiel prophesied the LORD would bring a great army against Jerusalem (23:22-23), and fulfill the judgment He had determined against the city (23:24). The soldiers of Babylon would show no mercy to the people, and would take their children captive (23:25-29). As the cup of God’s wrath would be poured out, Jerusalem would fall (23:30-35).

Consequences of Sin, and the Righteous End of God’s Judgment (23:36-49)

Lest any question God’s justice, Ezekiel declared the sins of Jerusalem (23:36-42), and God’s judgment (23:43-47). Why did the LORD bring upon His people all of this sorrow and suffering? It was to the end they might feel the weight of their sins, repent and know the God of Israel is “the Lord God” (23:48-49).

Ezekiel 24 – A Boiling Caldron

Briefly, Ezekiel 24 records the parable of a boiling pot, that represented God’s final judgment on Jerusalem. It was on the day the LORD came to Ezekiel with the parable (24:1), that Nebuchadnezzar began his final siege of Jerusalem (24:2). The parable was addressed to the rebels of Judah (24:3), and the boiling pot represented Jerusalem (“the blood city, 24:6a). The fire in the parable identified the wrath of God’s judgment, and the scum in the pot symbolized the sin and wickedness of Jerusalem (24:6-11). In their rebellion, the people of Jerusalem became a filthy, lewd people whose sins stipulated God’s judgment (24:12-13). Indeed, until His justice was satisfied, God’s judgment would not cease (23:14).

The Sign from the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (24:15-27)

Our devotion concludes, not with a parable, but a sign. The LORD revealed to Ezekiel: “Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire [Ezekiel’s wife] of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down” (24:15-16). Ezekiel’s refusal to mourn the death of his wife in public, was to serve as a sign for the people to refrain from mourning the news of Jerusalem’s fall (24:17-23).

Closing thoughts (24:24-27) – Why were the people to abstain from mourning in public, after they received the news of Jerusalem’s fall?

They were not to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the city, but rather the sins and wickedness of the people that had necessitated its ruin it (24:24-25). To that end, it was the LORD’s desire that His people would, in the midst of their private sorrows, come to hear and know Him as LORD (24:27).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Pity the Nation Ruled by Wicked, Immoral Leaders (Ezekiel 19)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 19

There were some of the children of Israel who asserted God was unjust, supposing their sorrows and travails were come upon them because of the sins of their fathers (Ezekiel 18). Ezekiel answered their erroneous claims, and declared a sinner’s individual responsibility for his sins  (18:4), and “everyone” would be judged “according to his [own] ways” (18:29).

The Lioness and Her Cubs (19:1-9)

Ezekiel 19 addressed the influence wicked rulers had upon Israel, and in particular Judah.

Ezekiel commanded the people of the captivity to “take … up a lamentation for the princes of Israel” (19:1). The “princes” were the last kings of the Davidic dynasty (until Christ reigns on the earth in the Millennial Kingdom). Three wicked kings were described, and can be identified. They are: Jehoahaz (19:3-4), Jehoiachin (19:5-9), and Zedekiah (19:14).

The “lioness” of this lamentation was Israel, and the young lion cubs were the kings of Israel (19:2). Jehoahaz was the first king, and he was described as one who “learned to catch the prey; it devoured men” (19:3). You may remember Jehoahaz was 23 years old when he became king (2 Kings 23:31-33; 2 Chronicles 36:1-3). He was like a lion, a tyrant, and “devoured men” (19:3b). He was notoriously wicked, and was removed from his throne, and taken prisoner by Neco, king of Egypt after reigning for three months (19:4).

Jehoahaz ascended to the throne after Jehoiakim; however, he was not mentioned in Ezekiel 19, because he died in battle, and his son Jehoiachin reigned in his stead (2 Kings 24:7-16; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10). Like Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin was described as “a young lion” who devoured men, for he was a ruthless and heartless king (19:6). Indeed, he was everything a king should not be, for he destroyed the homes and cities of his people, and terrorized them through “his roaring” (19:7). His rebellion provoked Nebuchadnezzar, who came and took him away prisoner to Babylon (19:8-9).

When Israel was a Fruitful Vine (19:10-13)

Ezekiel 19:10-13 painted a beautiful, poetic picture of Israel in the days of her glory (19:10). Israel, and perhaps, in particular Jerusalem, was described as a fruitful vine, “planted by the waters,” and “full of branches” (kings, 19:10). Under David’s reign, who was followed by his son Solomon, Israel was at her zenith as a great, and powerful nation. The nation was “fruitful and full of branches” (19:10), and her rulers were like “strong rods for the sceptres” (19:11). In that age, Jerusalem had been exalted among the nations of the earth (19:11).

A succession of wicked kings, however, spelled the doom of the nation, and consequently, brought God’s judgment (19:12). Jerusalem and Judah would be “plucked up in fury,” and “cast down to the ground” (19:12). Nebuchadnezzar would come as an east wind (19:12). The glory and riches of Jerusalem would be dried up, and the dynasty of David (“her strong rods”) broken and consumed (19:12). “Planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground,” described the captivity of the children of Israel in Babylon (19:13).

Ezekiel 19:14 brings us to Zedekiah, the third king whose reign was described in this chapter. He was the last of the kings of the Davidic line until Christ. Of Jerusalem and Judah we read: “Fire [God’s judgment] is gone out of a rod of her branches [Zedekiah, the last king], which hath devoured her fruit, so that she [Jerusalem] hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule” (19:14).

Closing thoughts – Ezekiel 19 concluded with a pitiful call to sorrow: “This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation” (19:14). Lament, lament, for Jerusalem will be destroyed, and Judah will be left desolate. King Zedekiah would witness the deaths of his sons, whose eyes would be put out, and he would be taken prisoner to Babylon where he would die.

Lesson: Corporate Guilt and Judgment: Fathers do not bear the guilt of their children’s sins, nor children the condemnation of their father’s sins (Ezekiel 18). Nevertheless, the evil ways of a leader, and the consequences of his sins, will come to bear upon the lives of those he leads.

Proverbs 14:34 – “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Pity the nation ruled by wicked, immoral leaders.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The End, of The End is Come (Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8

Continuing our study of the book of Ezekiel, we remember he was a young priest (1:1-2) when the LORD called him to be His prophet. He was among the first removed from Jerusalem before the fall of that city, and was commissioned to prophesy to the Jews of the captivity in Babylon. In Ezekiel 7, the message to the children of Israel was a message of doom and judgment.

Fourfold Warning to Worshippers of Idols (7:1-4)

With the words, “An end, the end is come,” the fate of Israel and Judah was sealed (7:2). God’s judgment was imminent, the land of Israel would fall to Nebuchadnezzar’s army (7:2). God’s patience with the sins and abominations of His people was exhausted, for they had provoked Him to anger, and the LORD declared He would not show them pity (7:4). All of this, that the people might “know” and acknowledge Him as LORD (7:4).

God’s Purpose for Executing Judgment (7:5-9)

Declaring “an evil, an only evil, behold is come” (7:5), we read the emphatic announcement of judgment: “the end is come…the morning is come…the time is come, the day of trouble is near” (7:6-7). What was the basis of God’s judgment? It was to reward His people for their sinful ways and abominations (7:8-9).

The Description of God’s Judgment (7:10-27)

Though prophesied more than two and one-half millennia ago, there is much to be learned from the decay, death, and destruction of Judah as a nation. As you read this passage, remember Ezekiel is prophesying to the Jews living in captivity in Babylon, while Jeremiah was prophesying in the midst of Jerusalem and warning the people of that which was to come. Provoked to anger by the pride of His people (7:10), none living in Judah would be spared God’s judgment (7:11).

We find here several tragic traits of a rebellious people, and a dying nation. (7:12-27)

The first, a failed economy. The general trade of buying and selling failed (7:12), and the seller could not recover or be made whole (7:13). A dying nation refuses to hear and heed the warnings of prophets (portrayed here as the blowing of the trumpet, 7:14). There is a prevalence of death, as “the sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within” (7:15). Death became an ever-present reality, as the sword was symbolic of violence and war, pestilence is sickness and disease, and famine caused by failed crops and an inability to import food (caused by the siege).

Troubles and trials had brought with them a perpetual state of sorrow, for the moaning of the people sounded like the cooing of the “doves of the valleys” (7:16). Uncertainty and anxiety were portrayed as physical weakness, as fear, sorrows, and shame overtook the nation (7:16-18).

Ezekiel 7:19 returns to the failed economy of Judah and Jerusalem, for the people realized too late their wealth and possessions could not save them (7:19a). With food shortages and little provisions to “fill their bowels,” the people cast their gold and silver in the streets of the city (7:19b).  Their once beloved gold which had adorned their women and decorated their shrines, became spoils for the wicked (7:20-21). Even the LORD’s Temple was plundered and defiled (7:22).

Impoverished, and defeated, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to “make a chain” that served as a symbol of the captivity (7:23). Lest some accuse Him of injustice, the LORD declared, “I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).

Ezekiel 8

Ezekiel 8 gives us again a supernatural revelation of God’s glory. Ezekiel was in his house, and with him the “elders of Judah” (8:1), when “the hand of the Lord God fell there upon [him]” (8:1). As He had when He first appeared to Ezekiel (1:26-28), the LORD displayed the likeness of His heavenly glory (8:2). In the vision, the Spirit of the LORD lifted Ezekiel up, and he was taken to the Temple where he beheld an idol he described as “the image of jealousy” (8:3).

Ezekiel saw “the glory of the God of Israel” (8:4) like that he had seen before, but as he lifted up his eyes, he also saw the “image of jealousy” in the LORD’s sanctuary (8:5-6). In the next verses, the LORD revealed to Ezekiel the desperate wickedness that was practiced by the elder and religious leaders of Judah (8:6). The Spirit of the LORD commanded the prophet to look through a hole in the wall of the Temple, and enlarge it where he peered into, and passed through a door into a secret chamber (8:7-9).

In the chamber, which was a secret room in the Temple, Ezekiel spied on the walls drawings of creatures, beasts, and idols (8:10). Then he saw 70 religious’ leaders of Jerusalem worshipping idols and offering incense to them (8:11), who declared “The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth” (8:12).

Yet, Ezekiel was to see an even greater wickedness in the Temple, for in one room there were women worshipping Tamuz, a fertility god whose worshippers were known to practice gross immorality. In another room of the Temple there were 25 men who worshipped the sun (8:16).

Closing thoughts – Though the LORD need not justify His ways and judgments to any man, yet, He asked Ezekiel, “Hast thou seen this, O son of man?” (8:17). Consider how far the nation had departed from the LORD, His Law and Commandments. They had defiled the Temple with idols (8:1-18), and their elders who were entrusted with teaching the Law and exercising righteous judgment, were guilty of idolatry in secret places. There was no hope for the nation, and in His anger, God declared He would not have pity on the people, and neither would He hear their cry. It was too late.

I cannot say if it is too late for you or your nation to repent. Nevertheless, do you see the signs of God’s judgment in your world? Violence, wars, natural disasters, disease and pandemics, gross immorality, and rumors of impending hunger…

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“The LORD Shall Judge His People” (Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the introductory chapters of “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Ezekiel 1 records God’s call to a young priest named Ezekiel (1:1-3), and details his testimony of the sight of God’s glory sitting on His heavenly throne (1:26-28). The LORD spoke directly to Ezekiel in chapter 2, and commissioned him to be His prophet to the captives of Judah living in Babylon (2:3). Forewarned the children of Israel were “ a rebellious nation” (2:3), Ezekiel was commissioned to speak the words of the LORD and “not be afraid” of the people (2:6), “whether they [would] hear, or whether they [would] forebear” (2:7).

Ezekiel 4 – The Coming Judgment Against Judah and Jerusalem

From the setting in Ezekiel 4, we understand Jerusalem was under siege, but not yet fallen to Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Remembering Ezekiel was living in Babylon, he and the people were anxious for news from Jerusalem. The LORD came to Ezekiel, and in dramatic fashion, commanded the prophet to symbolically portray the siege of Jerusalem.

As a sign of the siege, Ezekiel was instructed to draw a map of the city on a clay tile, and create around it a mound of soil symbolic of the fortifications Babylon raised up against Jerusalem (4:1-3). Taking an iron pan, he placed it between himself and the walls of the city he built. Leaving no doubt as to the certainty of God’s judgment, the prophet was commanded to lie on his left side facing his model of the city for 390 days (4:4). Each day represented a year of God’s judgment against Israel, with the ten northern tribes being the first taken into captivity. The prophecy was thus, Israel would be judged by God 390 years for her sins (4:5).

Ezekiel was then to lie on his right side, and face his model of Jerusalem for 40 days (again, a day representing a year of God’s judgment, 4:6-7). He was instructed to be bound, symbolizing the people of Jerusalem would be bound and led away into captivity (4:8).

The Sufferings and Afflictions of Jerusalem (4:9-17)

Ezekiel would not see the suffering of Jerusalem, but the LORD made him to know the sorrow that would befall the people. Because the siege of the city would cut off the importation of food, Ezekiel was instructed to observe a meager diet, serving as a symbol of Jerusalem’s famine (4:9-12).

The LORD then commanded Ezekiel to consume the unclean, defiled food of the Gentiles, serving as a symbol of the desperate hunger of the people (4:13). The prophet protested, saying he had never eaten that which the law declared unclean (4:14; Deuteronomy 12:15-18; 14:3-21). He was also instructed to use human waste as fuel for a fire to bake bread, something that was forbidden by the law (4:15; Deuteronomy 23:9-14). All this was meant to serve as a symbol of the desperate suffering of Jerusalem (4:16-17).

Ezekiel 5 – The Signs of Jerusalem’s Humiliation and Judgment

To illustrate God’s judgment against Jerusalem, the LORD commanded Ezekiel to shave his head and beard (signs of sorrow and humiliation). He was then instructed to divide his hair in three-parts (5:1), and illustrate the imminent fall and suffering of Jerusalem. Each part of his hair served as a symbolic portrayal for how the people would perish.

He was instructed to burn one part of his hair, symbolizing the people perishing by fire, and disease (5:2a, 12a). He was to scatter a second portion of his hair, portraying one-third of Jerusalem’s inhabitant would die by the sword (5:2b,12b). The third part of his hair, was to be bound in the hem of his robe, a testimony that a remnant of Jerusalem’s population would be spared (5:3, 12c). Of that remnant, however, some would be slain (5:3-4). (As noted in in earlier readings in 2 Kings 25:22-26, and Jeremiah 40:9-12.)

Why did the LORD judge Jerusalem? (5:5-17)

 The inhabitants of Jerusalem were guilty of three great sins. They were chosen by God, blessed with His Law and Commandments, and His presence (represented in His Temple), but the people had broken covenant with the LORD, and rejected His judgments. In doing all this, their wickedness exceeded the heathen nations (5:6-8).

Having rejected the LORD, the people worshipped idols, and in the depths of their depravity turned to cannibalism, as “fathers [did] eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons [did] eat their fathers” (5:9-10). Lastly, they had defiled the Temple, and erected and worshiped idols within the holy sanctuary (5:11-12).

Closing thoughts – Jerusalem’s destruction served as testimony of God’s righteous indignation (5:13). The ruins of the city would become a reproach for the sins and wickedness of God’s people, and served as a warning to other nations (5:14-15).

For 21st century believers, we should remember what befell Jerusalem is a reminder God is just, His Word is true and what He promises will come to pass (5:16-17). Every generation must remember, “Vengeance belongeth unto [the LORD] and no sin shall go unpunished (Hebrews 10:30b). “The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30c-31).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith