Category Archives: Creation

The Dilemma of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (Matthew 19; Mark 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 19; Mark 10

Today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 19 and Mark 10, begin with a question that has troubled many down through the centuries, and continues to be misunderstood in our day: “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2)

The issue of divorce was a matter of debate in Jesus’ day, and the Pharisees approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and diminish His following. In an effort to place Jesus at odds with the Law, and their own liberal interpretation of the Law concerning divorce, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every [any] cause?” (19:3)

There were two schools of thought on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

One school, known as Hillel, held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and was adhered to by the Pharisees and the majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel, a judge in Israel, taught a man could divorce his wife for any reason. Yet, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. A second school, named Shammai after its founder, represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Shammai argued divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce became a widespread practice among the Jewish people, and some Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces (and often for the most absurd reasons). In contrast, those same Pharisees refused to allow a wife to divorce her husband for any cause!

Wisely, rather than take the side of the adherents of Hillel or Shammai, Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question on marriage and divorce, and directed them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce is a Violation of Biblical Principles and Precepts

Divorce violates the Creator’s plan and design for man and woman. Citing the writings of Moses, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24)

Divorce is a violation of God’s design for marriage which is “one flesh” (19:5). A man is commanded to leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (19:5-6a). A man’s bond with his wife is to overshadow all human relationships. Though man and woman come together as two distinct lives, husband and wife are to be “one flesh,” physically, emotionally, and spiritually (19:6).

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage. God decreed what He “hath joined together, let not man put asunder”(19:6b). It was God’s design, and His command, that what He had “joined (or yoked) together,” no man, court, or judge had the power or authority to “put asunder” (meaning to separate).

The Pharisees disregarded Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce. They asked: “Why did Moses then command [charge; order] to give a writing [certificate; bill; paper] of divorcement, and to put her away [dismiss; divorce]?” (19:7) Those hypocritical religious leaders were not interested in God’s standard, design, or plan for marriage. They were looking to justify their sin, and disallow the sanctity of marriage. They suggested Moses as a defense for their distorted interpretation of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus answered their question, rebuking, and exposing their wickedness as a violation of God’s will and design for marriage (19:8). Leaving no room for ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly: “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (19:9)

Closing thoughts – Divorce was never God’s plan, and the only grounds for divorce is “fornication,” meaning sexual conduct with anyone who is not one’s spouse (19:9a). Jesus’ conclusion came as a shock to His disciples, who suggested, “it is not good to marry” (19:10).

Remembering God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, our Creator observed Adam, and said, “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God, therefore, made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). Adam and Eve were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

Lesson: Divorce is a rejection of God’s plan and design for mankind, and He is the witness of all covenant vows of marriage (Malachi 2:14b).

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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Seek the LORD, for His Ways are Not Your Ways! (Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55

Following the prophetic portrait of a rejected, suffering, and dying Savior in Isaiah 53, we read a call for Israel to “break forth into singing” in Isaiah 54.

Isaiah 54

Once again, the portrait of a husband and wife was given – the barren wife being Israel, and the LORD, the loving husband. In the immediate, the setting was Israel’s future restoration to the land after the Babylonian captivity. Yet, there are also elements in this chapter that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns to reign in His Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17).

The LORD of Salvation (54:2-3)

With her years of captivity fulfilled, Israel would be invited by the LORD to return to Him, and be restored to their land. Isaiah prophesied the blessings of the LORD would be so great, the people would have to enlarge their tents, and make room for an exploding population (54:2-3). Some Gentiles, coming by faith, would be numbered among the nation as believers.

The Sustaining God (54:4-10)

With the assuring exhortation, “Fear not” (54:4), Isaiah prophesied Israel would put her captivity and years of humiliation behind her, and that nation would have no cause for fear, and no reason for shame (54:4).

Why such confidence that all would be forgiven? Isaiah reminded the people who their God was: “Thy Maker[Creator] is thine husband; The Lord of hosts is his name [He is the God of War]; And thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The [Sovereign] God of the whole earth shall he be called” (54:5).

The LORD assured Israel of His unconditional love (54:6-10). Though the nation had forsaken Him, God promised He would never forsake His people (54:6-8). Like a loving father (Hebrews 12:5-11), the LORD had chastened Israel for a season, but Isaiah assured them He would restore them to their land. As certainly as He kept His promise to never again destroy the earth with flood waters, the LORD would keep His covenant with Israel. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills moved out of their places, the LORD’s kindness and mercies toward Israel would never be removed (54:10).

The Promise of a Glorious Future: The Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17)

Israel was promised that the nation would be restored to her homeland, and the city of Jerusalem be rebuilt (54:11-12). Yet, the city described here, whose foundations the LORD would lay is, in my opinion, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-21 describes the beauty of that heavenly city).

In the Millennial Kingdom, the people will come and “be taught of the Lord; And great shall be the peace of thy children” (54:13). They will walk in righteousness, and there will be nothing to fear (54:14). The LORD will be the protector of His people, and any who might oppose them will fail (54:15).

Closing thoughts – The LORD created men who engineer and make weapons of war, and He has used their war machines to execute His judgment upon nations (54:16).

Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55 began with a glorious invitation: “Ho [Listen], every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, And he that hath no money; Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (55:1).

The spiritually thirsty and poor were invited to come to the LORD, but not with money. The LORD’s invitation was to come, and submit to His offer of salvation, executed by His grace. The salvation offered by the LORD is offered to all by God’s grace and loving favor (Romans 3:23-24; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

What did the LORD promise to those who would come with a spiritual thirst? He promised life (eternal life), “an everlasting covenant[security], and “mercy” (55:3).

Isaiah 55:6-13 is one of the great invitations in the Scriptures: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, Call ye upon him while he is near” (55:6). Repent, “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (55:7).

The LORD promised mercy and forgiveness to all who repent, but warned: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord (55:8-9).

Closing thoughts – Consider with me the emphasis on the preeminence of the Word of God.

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word [truth; revelation] be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [ineffectual; empty; i.e. having no effect], but it shall accomplish [do; make] that which I please [take pleasure or delight in], and it shall prosper [succeed] in the thing whereto I sent it.

God’s Word convicts, and brings forth the fruit of repentance and redemption. The LORD promises, His Word will fulfill its purpose. Whether you are a preacher, teacher, or student of the Bible, take heart: God has promised His Word is powerful, and it will accomplish His purpose!

Hebrews 4:1212For 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.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

God is Greater Than Your Idols and Enemies (Isaiah 45; Isaiah 46)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 45; Isaiah 46

Isaiah had prophesied God would send a great king conquer the nations and direct the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple (Ezra 1). In a stunning announcement, He identified the king as “Cyrus…my shepherd,” more than a hundred years before that king was born (Isaiah 44:28)! How amazing to read in Isaiah 45, that the LORD identified the future king of Persia as His “anointed” (45:1).

Why would the LORD call a heathen king His “anointed,” and to what end would he serve God (45:1)? 

The answer to that question is summed up in one word – “Sovereignty.”  The LORD is Creator, and the Sustainer and Sovereign of creation. No created being is beyond His rule and authority. Every nation, king, dictator, and president is an instrument in the hand of the LORD, and without Him the most powerful men are nothing. Consider the words of the LORD in Isaiah’s prophecy:

Isaiah 45:5-8 “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded [bind; encircle] thee [king Cyrus of Persia], though thou hast not known me:
6  That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
7  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil [not sin, but calamity; sorrow]: I the LORD do all these things.”

God is Creator and Sovereign (45:9-18)

Kings, presidents, dictators, and leaders may boast, “Look what I have wrought;” however, men are nothing without the LORD!  We are frail creatures of clay, and the LORD will have His way with us according to His eternal purposes. Isaiah admonished the foolishness of men who suppose they conduct their lives independently of God, saying, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds [i.e. broken pieces of pottery] of the earth. Shall the clay say to him [the potter] that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9)

Unlike false prophets, and the idols of men that cannot speak, see, nor reason, the LORD challenged Israel, “Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, And concerning the work of my hands command ye me?” (45:11).

God who “made the earth, and created man upon it” (45:12), declared He would raise up a ruler “in righteousness …[who would] build my city [Jerusalem], and he shall let go my captives [Jews in Babylonian captivity]” (45:13). While Cyrus would not be a righteous man, he would rule accomplish God’s righteous purpose. Israel, unlike all ancient nations that rose to greatness only to become a footnote in history, was promised she “shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation” (45:17). A great testimony of the LORD’s sovereign faithfulness is the existence of an ancient people who identify themselves as the children of Israel!

Isaiah 45:18 eliminates any possibility of evolution or the co-existence of both a Creator and an evolutionary process. What does Isaiah 45:18 tell us about creation?  “The LORD created the heavens” (the sun, stars, moons, and planets, 45:18a).  The LORD “formed the earth” (45:18b). The LORD “established” the earth, and made it perfect according to His purpose (45:18c). God declared, “I am the LORD; and there is none else” (45:18).

God’s Appeal to Gentile Nations (45:19-25)

Isaiah called upon the nations to turn from their idols, and seek the LORD. Babylon would not be saved by her idols (45:20), and the prophet urged all humanity to acknowledge the LORD (45:21). Only the LORD could save, and He declared, “I am God, and there is none else” (45:22).

Isaiah warned, “every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall swear [confess] (45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10-11) to the LORD, “and all that are incensed [wrath; angry] against Him [the LORD] shall be ashamed” (45:24).

Isaiah 46 – The Disgrace of False Gods

Confronting the heathen culture and its influence upon God’s people, Isaiah returned to a familiar theme—the disgrace and shame of men who worship idols and manmade images.

With the words, “Bel boweth down, Nebo stopped” (46:1), Isaiah confronted the gods of Babylon (Bel was the sun god, and Nebo his son). The prophet warned, the gods of Babylon would not save the city from destruction (46:2). He admonished God’s people (45:3-4), and reminded them how the LORD had given birth to Israel as a nation, and He had cared, and carried them from their youth to “old age” (46:4).

Again, Isaiah exposed the powerlessness of idols, whom men create, and worship, and reminded the people idols cannot save a people from their sins and troubles (46:5-8).

Closing thoughts – Today’s study concludes with the LORD appealing to idolaters to turn from their gods to Him, saying, For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me” (46:9). Remember, God knows “the end from the beginning,” and He has declared, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (46:10).

God is Sovereign, and His purpose will be accomplished for His people.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Creator and Sovereign of All Nations (Isaiah 37)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 37

Having heard the threats of Rabshakeh, the Assyrian general who served Sennacherib, king of Assyria, Hezekiah humbled himself before the LORD. Gripped by despair, he tore his royal robe, and prayed (37:1). He also sent leaders to Isaiah (37:2), and informed the prophet of the blasphemy and threats of the king of Assyria (37:3). Hezekiah asked of the prophet, “lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left” (37:4).

Isaiah’s Prophecy Against Assyria (37:6-13)

The prophet comforted the king’s counselors, and encouraged them, saying, “Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard” (37:6). Isaiah prophesied the LORD would send a bad report to Sennacherib, and the Assyrian king would retreat from Judah to his homeland (37:7).

Rabshakeh, the Assyrian general, “found the king of Assyria” (37:7), and learned he had received news the king of Ethiopia was coming to wage war against Assyria (37:9). Perhaps fearing the king of Ethiopia would join forces with Judah, Sennacherib ordered his general to return to Jerusalem. With the king’s letter in hand, Rabshakeh delivered an ultimatum to Hezekiah, threatening to destroy Jerusalem as he had the capitals of other nations (37:10-13). Sennacherib mocked Hezekiah’s faith in the LORD (37:11), and boasted no king or nation had withstood Assyria’s army.

Hezekiah’s Response to Sennacherib’s Letter (37:14-20)

When Hezekiah read Sennacherib’s letter, we read, he “went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord” (37:14), and prayed (37:15). He worshipped and praised the LORD, and remembered the Ark with two cherubim represented the throne of God in the midst of His people. He acknowledged the God of Israel was God alone, and there was no other. He is the God “of all the kingdoms of the earth,” and Creator of “heaven and earth” (37:16).

Remembering how “the kings of Assyria [had] laid waste all the nations, and their countries” (37:18), and their gods had not saved them, Hezekiah called on the LORD. He asked God to not only save His people, but to make His name great, “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only” (37:20).

Isaiah’s Prophecy of Hope (37:21-25)

Isaiah sent a message to Hezekiah, assuring the king his prayers were heard, and “the virgin, the daughter of Zion” (Jerusalem) would be delivered from the king of Assyria (37:21). The prophet assured Hezekiah that Assyria would be punished for mocking and blaspheming the LORD (37:22). Sennacherib had reproached the LORD (37:23), and boasted he was greater than all kings. He boasted he had conquered the mountains (symbolic of nations), and “cut down the tall cedars…and the choice fir trees” (both symbolic of great leaders, 37:24). The king of Assyria boasted he would dig wells, and drink the waters of other nations (37:25).

The LORD’s Rebuke (37:26-29)

The LORD rebuked Sennacherib for his insolence, and reminded the king he was nothing without Him (37:26). The king of Assyria had not acknowledged he was a mere tool, a vessel God used to punish other nations for their wickedness (37:26). The LORD had empowered Sennacherib to conquer the fortresses of other nations (37:27). Indeed, there was nothing the king of Assyria had done without the LORD’S knowledge (37:28).

Isaiah then prophesied, the king of Assyria would be punished, and led away in the manner a large beast is tamed. The prophet warned, the LORD would “put [His] hook in thy [the king’s] nose, and [His] bridle in thy [the king’s]lips” (37:29).

A Sign of Hope for Judah (37:30-32)

The LORD gave Isaiah a sign he was to give the king of Judah. Assyria had terrorized the land, and the people had been unable to work their fields, but the LORD promised the land would volunteer and bear fruit the first and second years (37:30a). In the third year, the people would sow their fields and harvest their crops (37:30b). Also, though scattered abroad, a remnant of Judah remained and would repopulate the nation (37:31-32).

Prophecy Against Sennacherib (37:33-37)

The LORD promised the siege of Jerusalem would fail (37:33), and the Assyrians would return to their homeland (37:34). The city would be spared, not because of the defenses of that great city, but because the LORD declared, “I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (37:35).

Then the LORD sent forth His angel, and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were slain (37:36). Sennacherib, and the remnant of his army, returned to Assyria. Tragically, the mighty king of Assyria, was assassinated by two sons, leaving their brother, Esar-haddon to reign over Assyria (37:33-38).

Closing thoughts – King Hezekiah, though he first turned to Egypt to come to his aid, did humble himself, repent of his sin, and the LORD heard and answered his prayer. Jerusalem was spared, Sennacherib was humiliated, and Hezekiah and all Judah were reminded that God is sovereign over the nations, and is the Creator, and LORD.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Reign of a Righteous King (Isaiah 32)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 32

Remembering that prophecies often have an immediate application, and a far-reaching implication, we come to Isaiah 32. After foretelling the devastating judgment against Assyria (31:8-9), Isaiah continued his prophecy concerning Judah’s future.

Isaiah 32

The Millennial Kingdom (32:1-5)

Commentators suggest the king that is prophesied to “reign in righteousness” (32:1) was Hezekiah. Given his long reign and faithfulness to the LORD, there may be some standing for that suggestion. In my opinion, however, only one King has the honor and right to be declared as reigning “in righteousness” and that is the LORD Jesus Christ.

Who but Christ will give understanding and sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and understanding to “rash” (sin-hardened) hearts? (32:3-4). Christ alone can transform vile, godless men and give them generous hearts. He is able to turn the “churlish” (scoundrel) and make him “bountiful” (noble, 32:5).

Four Sins Invited God’s Judgment (32:6-7)

For any who might have protested the punishment, the prophet indicted Judah with four sins: 1) The vile and godless had spoken “villany,” for their mouths were filled with lies and curses (32:6a). 2) They were hypocrites, and led others away from the LORD and into error (32:6b). 3) They discouraged the souls of men, and left them spiritually hungry and thirsty (32:6c). 4) They planned and plotted evil, destroying men’s souls with their lies (32:7).

A Warning to Spiritually Lethargic Women (32:9-12)

Not even the women of Jerusalem and Judah were spared Isaiah’s indictment for Judah’s sins. Wealthy women, “women that [were] at ease,” and “careless [self-confident] daughters” were admonished, “give ear” to Isaiah’s warning (32:9).

Isaiah warned the days and years ahead would be full of troubles. The grapevines would fail, and the nation would face a time of famine and the harvest would not come (32:10). In that day of trouble, the women would strip themselves of their fine linens, and wear “sackcloth” (a rough cloth that was a sign of mourning, 32:11). They would “lament for the teats” (most likely a sign of distress, indicating mothers would be unable to feed their infants, 32:12).

The Land and Cities Would Be Distressed by God’s Judgment (32:13-14)

With the people taken away and in captivity, the land would be overgrown by “thorns and briers,” and the once bustling cities would fall silent and empty. The palaces would be destroyed, and the cities would become places where wild beasts would roam unhindered and unmolested (32:14).

The Millennial Kingdom Transformation (32:15-18)

God’s judgment would render the land fruitless, and eventually be overtaken by the wild. The LORD, however, promised the day would come when He would pour out His spirit upon the land (32:15a). Creation would be renewed, “and the wilderness [would become] a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest” (32:15).

In that day, justice and righteousness will reign in the land (32:16), and the redeemed will enjoy peace, quietness, and security (32:17). God’s people will live in peace, and dwell secure in their homes (32:18).

Closing thoughts – The judgment of God was imminent, and Isaiah prophesied how “hail” (a natural disaster, and a sign of judgment in the Scriptures) would fall upon “the forest” (most likely a symbol for Assyria, 32:19). For a brief season, Judah would have peace, but the Babylonian empire was already spreading, and did soon overtake all Judah and Jerusalem.

Isaiah foresaw a time of peace in the distant future. A time when wars would cease, and the people would be at peace, and able to cultivate their lands, and sow beside still waters. The earth will then be so fruitful, even beasts will wander about undisturbed (32:20).

The world of our day is far from the peace Isaiah promised would come. The news of wars, and conflict abounds, and a hopelessness shadows heart and home. Believers can take comfort in this: The day is coming when Christ returns, and will reign as Isaiah prophesied. In that day, there will be no hunger or thirst (Revelation 7:16), 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” (Revelation 21:4).

What a happy day that will be!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Dispersal and Future Regathering of Israel (Amos 9, 2 Chronicles 27)

Scripture reading – Amos 9, 2 Chronicles 27

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the prophecies of Amos, and returns to 2 Chronicles 27 in our chronological study. The devotional will focus on Amos 9.

The LORD has given Amos five visions foretelling God’s judgment of Israel for that nation’s disobedience and rejection of His Law and Commandments. Amos 7 presented the devastating judgment of the LORD with a vision of grasshoppers (locusts, 7:1-3), a fiery judgment (7:4-6), and the vision of a plumbline that was symbolic of the Word of the LORD (7:7-9).

Amos 8 recorded a vision of “a basket of summer fruit” (8:1-3), symbolizing how Israel was like ripened fruit, ripe for God’s judgment. Amos warned, the time was coming when there would be a famine of Truth in Israel, the Word of God would be silent, and there would be no prophets (8:11-3).

Amos 9 – The Fifth and Final Judgment

A Vision of the LORD Standing in Judgment (9:1-4)

Amos 9 introduced the final judgment prophesied by Amos, and it was a vision of “the Lord standing upon the altar,” saying, “Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake” (9:1).

I believe this was the pagan altar erected by Jeroboam I, and the place where Israel had worshipped the golden calf. Amos foretold that the temple (a place and symbol of idol worship) would be brought down upon the heads of the worshippers, and all would be slain (9:1). The destruction foretold by Amos was fulfilled by the invasion of the Assyrians. Though that nation’s soldiers were known for their merciless killings, it was the LORD who employed them to carry out His judgment upon Israel.

The wrath and judgment of God would be inescapable, and the children of Israel could not flee or find refuge (9:2-4). Judgment was determined, for the LORD had “set [His] eyes upon them for evil, and not for good” (9:4).

God Had Chosen Israel, but the People Had Rejected Him (9:5-10)

Israel had forsaken the Creator, and turned to idols. They had rejected the “Lord God of hosts” (heaven’s army). They had refused the LORD who set the “stories [clouds] in the heaven,” and called up the “waters of the sea” to form them, “and poureth them out upon the face of the earth” (9:6).

Perhaps the people believed their special relationship with the LORD would spare them His judgment (for He had “brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt,” 9:7). God, however, is just and “the eyes of the LORD God [were]upon the sinful kingdom” (9:8). The LORD had determined to “destroy it [Israel] from off the face of the earth” (9:8), yet He promised to save a remnant of “the house of Jacob” (9:8).

God is sovereign, and had determined to “sift [disperse] the house of Israel among all the nations” (9:9). Amos warned, “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword” (9:10).

The prophecies of Amos did come to pass. Israel (the northern kingdom consisting of ten tribes), was the first to be taken captive, and the people were scattered “among all the nations” (9:9). Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, was graciously promised, “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8).

Vision of a New Kingdom in the Last Days (9:11-15)

Amos 9 concluded with God’s promise that He would once again establish the reign of David with a legitimate heir to His throne (9:11). When that day comes, “the remnant of Edom” (A remnant of Esau’s lineage) will gather to worship the LORD (9:12; Acts 15:15-17).

Israel as a land will once again be fruitful (9:13), and the “people of Israel” will return from being dispersed among the nations of the earth (9:14). The children of Israel will rebuild their cities, plant vineyards and gardens, and dwell in peace and security (9:14). With the LORD on His throne, Israel will be restored and never again to be expelled from their land (9:15).

Closing thoughts – That day is still future for Israel and the world; however, the coming of the LORD is near:

“Behold [look and see], he [the LORD Jesus Christ] cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him [on the cross]: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:7-8).

Even so Lord, Come Quickly!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to the Proud (Amos 6)

Scripture reading – Amos 6

Amos 6

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of woes against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1). Both nations are characterized as being “at ease” (meaning carefree, overly-confident, careless); however, the focus of chapter 6 is primarily upon Israel (the northern ten tribes).

Amos’ Admonition to the Careless Leaders of Israel (6:2-6)

Three great heathen cities are identified in Amos 6:2, and held before Israel as examples of cities greater than Jerusalem and Samaria, that would succumb to a greater enemy (which history reveals as Assyria). Calneh was an ancient city identified as Nimrod, who also founded Babel (6:2a). Hamath was the capital city of Syria (6:2b), and Gath was one of the principal cities of the Philistines.

After identifying those great Gentile cities, for all would fall before the armies of the Assyrian empire, Amos challenged the careless leaders of Israel, “Be they better than these kingdoms? Or their border greater than your border?” (6:2). Amos questioned if the leaders of Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them (6:2). Though they had been warned, there were some who refused to believe and “put far away the evil day” until the “seat of violence” was at the gates of the city (6:3).

They were guilty of self-indulgence, and oppressed the poor of Israel, while the wealthy immersed themselves in extravagant luxury (6:4-6). They were lethargic, and gluttonous (6:4). They desired to be pleasured with music (6:5), were guilty of excessive drinking, and anointed themselves with expensive perfumes, yet, they gave no thought to the sorrows and sufferings of their countrymen (6:6).

The Judgment to Befall the Wealthy, Self-indulgent of Israel (6:7-11)

The ones who had oppressed the poor while pampering themselves in wealth and possessions were the first to be exiled and taken into captivity (6:7). God had sworn an oath of judgment against those who were filled with pride and presumption (6:8).

Amos painted a picture of destruction and devastation that would befall Israel, and the great majority of the people of Israel would perish (8:9). So many would die, the people would resort to cremation (usually reserved for criminals) to dispose the bodies of the dead (6:9-10). The destruction of houses described in Amos 6:11 is believed to have been caused by an earthquake.

Five Things That Should Not Be (6:12-13)

Amos wisely illustrated God’s wisdom by referencing nature as the teacher.  The first and second teaching points are easy to understand: Horses should not run on rocks (for they risk falling and either hurting themselves or their rider), and oxen should not plow over a rock strewn field (for there is little reward, 6:12b).

Amos continues to offer wisdom in terms that register deep with mankind. Polluting justice runs contrary to God’s divine order (6:12C), and is much like perverting the sweetness of righteousness with bitterness (6:12d). Finally, whether a nation or a man, it is foolish to boast of one’s strength, for boasting will inevitably come to nothing and prove you wrong (6:13).

Closing thoughts – For all the pride and boasting of Israel’s leaders, Amos delivered the inescapable fact of God’s judgment. All would be fulfilled as the LORD had promised and Amos had prophesied. Assyria would destroy the strongholds of Israel, and the proud and oppressed would be carried away into captivity (6:14).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

My God is My Shield, and Defender (Psalm 115; Psalm 116)

Scripture reading – Psalm 115; Psalm 116

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms that are calls to worship. Leaving no doubt whom the God of Israel is, the psalmist invites people of faith to boast in Him as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and the Sovereign of all!

Psalm 115

The psalmist began his psalm as a prayer, and appealed to God to defend His name and honor (115:1). The heathen had scorned the God of creation, and dared to mock Him, asking, “Where is now their God?” (115:2) Offended by the question, the psalmist answered, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (115:3).

The focus of the author then turned to the congregation of Israel, and he reminded them that the idols of the heathen “are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands” (115:4). The wicked worships idols that “have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7They have hands, but they handle not: Feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat” (115:5-7). Oh, the foolishness of men when they deny the God of creation! They worship gods fashioned like themselves: mute, blind, deaf, and dumb! (115:8).

Turning his thoughts to the LORD, the psalmist exhorted Israel to worship the LORD, reminding the people three times: The LORD “is their help [aid] and their shield [protector; i.e., a small shield used in close combat](115:9-11). What the LORD had been in the past (for He had “been mindful” of Israel), the people were promised He would be in the future: “He will bless them that fear [Him], both small and great” (115:13).

Psalm 115 concluded, reminding believers why the LORD should be worshipped and praised: He is Creator, and “made heaven and earth” (115:15). He is Sovereign, and “the heaven, even the heavens are the LORD’S” (115:16a). As Creator, He made man the keeper of the earth (115:16b; Genesis 1:26, 28-30; 2:15).

Understanding the dead cannot praise the LORD (115:17), the psalmists declared, “we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord” (115:18).

Psalm 116

The author of Psalm 116 opened the psalm with a sincere testimony of his love for the LORD, writing, “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications” (116:1).

The psalm did not identify the affliction that had brought “sorrows of death” (116:3) upon its author; however, he described his troubles as “the pains of hell” (116:3). In the midst of his sorrows, the psalmist turned to the LORD and prayed, “O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul” (116:4b). As he reflected upon God’s character, he prayed, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful6  The LORD preserveth the simple [innocent]: I was brought low, and he helped me… 8  For [the LORD] hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling” (116:4-8).

Reflecting on the faithfulness of the LORD, and knowing He hears and answers prayer, the psalmist affirmed his devotion to the LORD with a series of vows (116:9-19).

Psalm 116:9 – I will walk before [live; i.e., conscious awareness of the presence of] the LORD in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:13 – I will take the cup of salvation [possibly the Passover cup], and call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:14 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

Psalm 116:17 – I will offer [make] to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving [praise], and will call [publicly] upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:18-19 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, 19 In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

Closing thoughts – Consider Psalm 116:15 – “Precious [honorable, and noble] in the sight [presence] of the LORD is the death [i.e., the day of death] of his saints [people of faith].”

The inevitability of death is the bane of humanity; however, from the LORD’s perspective, the death of His saints is precious, excellent and noble. All believers can say with conviction, “whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Broke the Mold When He Made You! (Psalm 139)

Scripture reading – Psalm 139

Psalm 139 is titled, “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David,” and in my opinion, is one of the most profound of all the psalms. Some of the foundational doctrines of our faith are declared here, including the revelation that God is Omniscient (139:1-6), Omnipresent (139:7-12), and He is mankind’s Originator, meaning our Creator (139:13-16).

How important are those doctrines? They are essential, fundamental principles to the faith of all Bible believers. You see, what we believe concerning God’s attributes will dictate the answer to critical life questions: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? How should I live? Where am I going?” There is, within the heart of man, a longing for purpose, and a desire to find answers to those questions.

In the 19th century, Charles Darwin, a man who had rejected God as Creator, traveled the world seeking an alternative explanation for life, and the physical universe. The result was a book he titled, “Origin of Species” (1859), and a proposition that the world and life as we know it is the result of evolution. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, though rejected as impossible by many credible scientists, has continued to be taught as “science” in secular education institutions. Tragically, several generations of students have grown up under the influence of Darwinian evolution, and failed to grasp it is an unsubstantiated theory that demands blind faith. To date, not one proof of a species evolving to a different species has ever been discovered (nor ever will)!

What does the Bible reveal in this matter of God, and man?

God is Omniscient, and He knows all that is in the heart of man (139:1-6).

The LORD knows our fears, longings, thoughts, and desires (139:1a). There is nothing concealed from Him (139:2).  He knows our secrets, our ways, and every word we have ever uttered (139:2b-4).  He also savors the noble qualities of our life (139:5-6).

God is Omnipresent (139:7-12).  He abides in every part of his creation, and there is not a place where God is not present (139:7-8).

Psalm 139:7-8 – “Whither shall I go [walk; come] from thy spirit [God’s Spirit]? or whither shall I flee [i.e., be put to flight] from thy presence [face; countenance]? 8  If I ascend up into heaven [i.e., the sky above; the stars and planets], thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Sheol; grave; pit; place of the souls of the dead], behold, thou art there.”

Because He is omnipresent, we are never beyond the LORD’S protection, love, or mercies (139:9-10).  We can take flight, but we will never be beyond His grasp.

Psalm 139:9-10  – “If I take [depart; carried away on] the wings of the morning [dawn; first beams of morning light], and dwell [abide; remain; inhabit] in the uttermost parts [end; last] of the sea; 10  Even there [flight as fast as light or the depths of the sea] shall thy hand [power] lead [guide; bring] me, and thy right hand [i.e. considered to be the stronger side] shall hold [take hold; possess; handle; grasp] me.”

When the darkest hour of life is upon you, the light of the Lord is with you (139:11-12).

Psalm 139:11-12 – “If I say [speak], Surely the darkness [i.e. misery] shall cover [bruise; break; overwhelm] me; even the night shall be light [day; light] about me. 12  Yea, the darkness [i.e. misery] hideth [obscures] not from thee; but the night shineth [shines; enlightens; gives light]  as the day: the darkness [i.e. misery] and the light [luminous light] are both alike to thee.”

God is not only Omniscient and Omnipresent; He is also our Originator… Creator, Designer, Engineer, and Architect (139:13-16).

Psalm 139:13-16 reinforces one of the great “Right-to-Life” principles against abortion in the Scriptures. When we accept that God is Creator (Genesis 1:27), and the Giver of life (Genesis 2:7), and man is created in His image (a spiritual, eternal being), we must believe human life is sacred. Abortion is, therefore, an unconscionable evil; a sin against God and humanity.

God has sovereignly determined our uniqueness. (139:13)

Psalm 139:13 – For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; soul, seat of my desire and affections]: thou hast covered [knit; weave] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].

Every man, woman, boy, and girl is unique. You are one of a kind, and there is none other like you. Modern science has proven just how unique you are.  Did you know, your ears are geometrically unique to you, as is your body odor (secreting a combination of 44 compounds).  Your fingerprints, and fingernails are unique with loops and swirls that form patterns that are distinctive to you.  In fact, even the pores of your nose form a pattern like none other!

God has impressed on man’s soul a consciousness of his Creator’s hand and design. (139:14-15)

Psalm 139:14-15 – “I will praise [give thanks] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly] and wonderfully made[distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deeds]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well[exceedingly; greatly]. 15  My substance [strength; physical frame; bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret [mother’s womb], and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth [out of human sight].

Just think about it, from the moment your were conceived, your person and days were determined (139:16).

Psalm 139:16 – Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [body; frame; bones], yet beingunperfect [embryo; unformed mass in mother’s womb]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them [before one day of my life was past].”

Closing thoughts – You are God’s unique creation and He knows you.  He created you as a free will agent, and like Charles Darwin, you have the privilege and responsibility of your choices. Be forewarned: The ability to choose brings with it the consequences of that choice.

Remember: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in Biblical Anthropology (Psalm 40; Psalm 58)

Scripture reading – Psalm 40; Psalm 58

The titles of Psalm 40 and Psalm 58 identify David as the author. Psalm 40 is addressed, “To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David.” While I cannot say with certainty the date or setting of the psalm, its subject matter parallels the circumstances the king was facing when Absalom led an insurrection against him. [On a personal note; because I am inclined to preach from Psalm 40 this Sunday, October 3, I have chosen Psalm 58 as the focus of this devotional.]

Psalm 58 is titled, “To the chief Musician, Altaschith [i.e. “do not destroy”], Michtam [poem] of David.” The setting of the psalm is uncertain, but David’s observations concerning the nature of the wicked fits well in the midst of the insurrection led by his son Absalom.

Psalm 58 – A a study in Anthropology and a challenge to the 21st century worldview of man.

Modern Anthropology is a study of man’s past, his behavior, biology, intellect, language, culture, and society (notice the study of man as a spiritual being is not a topic addressed by anthropologists). Though humanists deny the existence of a Creator, Biblical Anthropology observes man as a created, spiritual being (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 21-24). While evolutionists propose unproven (and therefore, unscientific) theories to explain man’s origin and person, creationists accept the Genesis creation account by faith. I believe God created mankind in his likeness (Genesis 1:27), and men and women are eternal beings with soul and spirit (Genesis 2:7).

Two Opposing, Incompatible Worldviews

The world today is dominated by an atheistic, militant, evolutionary worldview, known as Humanism.  Humanists rule secular education, and they view humanity through a lens that not only rejects God as Creator, but discards the observable evidences of man’s spiritual depravity.

The humanists observe societal problems (crimes, violence, murder, rape, child abuse, human trafficking, et al), and explain them as environmental concerns; thus, man is a victim, not of his choices, but of his environment. The Word of God, by contrast, declares man’s problem is a spiritual one of the heart; and all are born sinful, morally depraved beings (Romans 3:10, 23).

Psalm 58 is a brief exposition of the character of sinful man. Penned 3,000 years ago, the psalm affords us an insight into the societal problems of our day, minus the political jargon that denies, and masks the wickedness of men. With that explanation as our background, allow me a brief exposition of Psalm 58.

The Failure of God’s People (58:1)

If the setting of Psalm 58 is the time of Absalom’s insurrection, then the two questions that introduce the psalm are springing from the heart of a father that is dismayed by what has befallen him, his household, and kingdom. The majority of Israel had followed Absalom’s rebellion, and David asked them: “Do ye indeed speak righteousness?” (58:1a) In other words, do you assume your cause is righteous, because you have a great following? Have you forgotten, you are but men yourselves? (58:1b)

The Character of the Wicked (58:2-5)

Man is sinful from conception, and wickedness is fixed in his heart. It is man’s nature to be violent (58:2). From the womb, man is turned aside from God, and is full of lies and deceit (58:3). His tongue is full of poison, like the bite of a viper, and cannot be restrained (58:4-5).

The Judgment of the Wicked (58:6-9)

David’s focus turns from the character of the wicked to God’s judgment, and their certain punishment. The king cried to the LORD to break the teeth of those who desired to devour, and destroy him (58:6). He prayed the strength of the wicked would melt away, like melting snow. When his enemy bends the bow to shoot, David prayed they would be cut in pieces (58:7). He cried to the LORD that his enemies would fade as the trail of a snail, and shrivel in the heat of the day. He longed that those who wished to destroy him would be as a stillborn babe, and their devices never see the day (58:8). Indeed, let the wicked be taken “away as with a whirlwind” (58:9).

The Rejoicing of the Righteous (58:10-11)

The psalm concluded with David anticipating the righteous rejoicing in God’s justice (58:10). Though the godly are not seeking vengeance, they are living in anticipation that the LORD rewards the righteous, and is a sovereign Judge.

Closing thoughts – While humanists, and the disingenuous claim the heart of man is good, God observes the heart of man is “evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) and “deviseth mischief continually” (Proverbs 6:14).

Let all who are redeemed be reminded, the wicked will not escape punishment and the righteous will be vindicated!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith