Category Archives: Death

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 7-9)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 7-9

Like most prophets in their generation, Jeremiah’s cry for Judah to turn back to the LORD, was despised and went unheeded by Judah. For four decades, the prophet faithfully preached the Word of the LORD, but was reviled by His own people and experienced the scorn of the nation’s leaders who persecuted and imprisoned him.

Jeremiah 7 – The words Jeremiah was commanded to preach in the very threshold of the Temple were frightening and foreboding. 

I am struck by the hypocrisy of Judah.  In their wickedness, the people had sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (7:30-31), yet they continued the pretense of worshipping the LORD in His holy Temple (7:1-2, 4)!  They made a show of public worship, but Jeremiah exposed their abhorrent sins. The people oppressed the orphans and widows (7:6). They shed the blood of the innocent. They were thieves, murderers, adulterers, and idolaters who offered sacrifices to idols (7:6-11).

The LORD warned Jeremiah, “they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee… This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished” (7:27-28). Jeremiah warned, “the land shall be desolate” (7:34).

Jeremiah 8 – “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” 

The people continued in their wickedness in spite of Jeremiah’s warnings, and refused to repent of their sins and turn to the LORD.  So calamitous would be the LORD’s judgment that not even the bones of the dead would be spared indignity (8:1-2). The horror and hardships of captivity would be so grave the people would prefer death over exile (8:3).

Judah had become a nation that cried for peace (8:11, 15), but there would be no peace because the people had rejected the God of Peace!  “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” summed up the imminence of God’s judgment (8:20).

Jeremiah 9 – The “weeping” prophet laments the sins of his people and the judgment that would befall them.

Jeremiah’s heart was so overcome with grief that tears failed him. Had he been allowed, the prophet would have retreated to the isolation of the wilderness rather than live in the midst of “adulterers” and wicked men (9:2).

The LORD’S condemnation of the wicked in Jeremiah’s day is relevant to 21st century believers. We read, “They bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant [strong; mighty; heroic] for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil [sin; wickedness; ] to evil, and they know [understand; acknowledge] not me, saith the LORD” (9:3)

One wonders why a statement of the obvious, the failure to be “valiant for the truth,” was necessary (9:3)?

Is that not the fundamental sin, the spiritual flaw of many believers? Is that not the core issue of Bible preaching churches and religious institutions of our day?

The hypocrisy in Jeremiah’s day is rivaled by our day. The LORD condemned Judah for failing to “speak the truth” (9:5). A man would speak “peaceably to his neighbor… but in heart” would lie in wait to ambush and entrap him (9:8).

Proud, stubborn, boasting, incorrigible, murderer, thief, adulterer, idolater…these were the sins named among God’s people. Such wickedness does not merit mercy or forgiveness; however, is that not the very expression of grace? In spite of Judah’s sins, the LORD continued to invite His people to remember that He was loving and just.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 – “23  Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24  But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Cry of a Compassionate Prophet” (Jeremiah 4-6)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 4-6

Our study in the Book of Jeremiah continues with chapters 4-6 as our Scripture reading, and Jeremiah 4 as the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

We have so far considered: The calling of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet to Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 1); the assertion that Israel and Judah, though beloved by the LORD, as a husband loves his wife (Jeremiah 2:1-12), had rebelled and broken their covenant with the God (2:13-37); finally, Jeremiah’s declaration that the LORD had divorced His people for their spiritual adultery and failure to obey His commandments (3:1-5, 20-24).

Jeremiah 4

Israel, consisting of the northern ten tribes, has been removed from her land and the people taken into captivity by Assyria, nevertheless, the LORD extended to His people an invitation:

Jeremiah 4:1 –  “If thou wilt return [turn back; i.e. repent], O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away [detest; depart from] thine abominations [idols] out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove [no longer wander; i.e. the LORD would have compassion on].”

What a comfort that verse should be to believers. While the sins and wickedness of Israel were almost incomprehensible (immorality, worship of idols, child sacrifices), the LORD was still pleading for the people to repent, promising He would have compassion on them.

Moving from His invitation to Israel (4:1-2), Jeremiah was commanded to appeal to Judah (the southern tribes) to repent of her sins. Illustrating how sin hardens the hearts of a nation, Jeremiah used two metaphors.

The first, a sin hardened heart is like a farmer’s field that needs plowing before it can be planted. Jeremiah called upon the people of Judah to recognize the hardness of their hearts. Painting a picture of a farmer breaking up the ground with a plow to prepare it for planting, Jeremiah encouraged the people to, “Break up your fallow ground [with a plow], and sow not among thorns [which would choke out new growth]” (4:3).

The second picture is that of a sin-calloused heart: Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (4:4a). Jeremiah concluded the call to repent with the warning that, should Judah not repent of her sins, God would pour forth His fury like fire, and “burn that none [could] quench it, because of the evil of [their] doings” (4:4).

The balance of Jeremiah 4 is a vivid portrait of the future days of God’s judgment (4:5-31).

Reminding Jeremiah, he has been called to be a spiritual watchman for the LORD, God commanded His prophet, “Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities [fortified; walled]” (4:5).

Jeremiah was to call the people to retreat into the city, warning their adversary, like a lion, was coming from the north, identified as “the destroyer of the Gentiles” (4:7). We know this adversary was Babylon and the lion its king, Nebuchadnezzar (4:7).

Understanding the path of destruction Judah would soon face, Jeremiah warned the judgment of God would be swift, like a “dry wind” and a “full wind” (4:11-12). The sight of Nebuchadnezzar’s army would move “the heart of the king” to perish (4:9) and his chariots would come like a whirlwind, his horses swifter than eagles (4:13).

Realizing the dreadful judgment of the LORD and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah wept and cried out to the LORD (4:19-20).

Jeremiah 4:19-20 – “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20  Destruction upon destruction [lit. disaster upon disaster] is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.”

The destruction that would soon descend upon Judah and Jerusalem is graphic in detail (4:23-31).

Before I close today’s devotional commentary, allow me to draw your attention to the catalyst of God’s judgment for it is the same today as it was in Jeremiah’s day. The people had rejected God, despised His Law and Commandments, embraced wickedness, and become spiritually oblivious to discern good and evil (4:22).

I will close allowing Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome to be the sum of the wickedness of man that demands the judgment of God.

Romans 1:21-22 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Wicked Know No Shame (Zephaniah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Zephaniah 1-3

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Zephaniah, a minor prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (1:1).

Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.

Zephaniah was tasked with pronouncing God’s judgment on His people in frightening and graphic details. He warned Judah, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD” (1:2). Nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD: “I will consume man and beast… fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea…Judah…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (1:3-4).

“The Day of the Lord” is an oft repeated phrase in Zephaniah 1 and was a warning of the day of God’s vengeance (1:7, 8, 14, 18).

Remember the prophecies often have an immediate and future application. In the immediate, the “day of the LORD” was the day of God’s judgment against Judah when Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the prophetic application, the “day of the LORD” is still future and will be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ when He comes in judgment.

Zephaniah 1:10 mentions “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The fish gate was the gate that led to the fish market, but you may wonder why is this important. The answer is a historical fact: King Nebuchadnezzar passed through the fish gate when Babylon conquered Jerusalem! The destruction of the city and the captivity of the people would be so thorough that it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (1:12a).

The people lived in denial saying, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (1:12b). Even the strongest men of Judah would cry out on the day of God’s judgment (1:13). How terrible is the day of God’s final judgment?

Zephaniah 1:15 – “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Zephaniah 2 – An Exhortation to Repent

Remembering the LORD is longsuffering, we are not surprised to read that the prophet Zephaniah called upon Judah to repent and, “seek…the LORD, all ye meek of the earth…seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” (2:3).

Because of their wickedness, Zephaniah prophesied the judgment of God against four major Philistine cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron” (2:4). The Moabites and Ammonites would fall to Babylon as divine punishment for their abuses of Israel (2:8-11). The Ethiopians (of the lineage of Cush whose land was southeast of Egypt on the continent of Africa) would be slain (2:12). Assyria and its great capital city, Nineveh, would be utterly destroyed by Babylon. The destruction of Nineveh so complete it would be uninhabitable, a wasteland and a haven for wild beasts (2:13-15).

Zephaniah 3 – The Necessity of Divine Judgment Against Jerusalem

Zephaniah laid out the case regarding the wickedness of Jerusalem that demanded God’s judgment (3:1-4). That city had become “filthy and polluted,” and was a violent city (3:1). Her civil leaders (princes and judges) were like “roaring lions…wolves” that gnaw the bones of the poor and helpless (3:1). Her spiritual leaders (prophets and priests) were “treacherous” and violent (3:4).

Zephaniah assured the people of Judah, the LORD was just and He would not “do iniquity…He brings His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame” (3:5).

What an appalling statement! Innocence was lost. Moral purity disdained. The politicians and religious leaders were so given to sin and wickedness that they felt no shame! Though their wickedness was widely known, they felt no sense of humiliation. In spite of God’s judgment of other nations’ sins, Judah had failed to be moved to repent of her sins (3:6-7).

Zephaniah’s ministry closed with not only a warning of the day when God would gather the nations of the earth to be judged (3:8), but also when He will gather the remnant of Israel from all nations who will call upon and serve Him (3:9).

In that day, the day of the LORD, sin, shame, and pride will be removed (3:11-14), God’s people will rejoice for the LORD is King (3:14-17), and the people will be restored to the LORD who will dwell in the midst (3:18-20).

What a glorious day that will be!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The morality of a nation determines its destiny. (Nahum 1-3)

Scripture reading – Nahum 1-3

Our Scripture reading today is the Book of Nahum.  Only three chapters long and authored by the man whose name it bears, it is a book easily overlooked.  Numbered among the minor prophets, Nahum was a servant and prophet of God of whom little is known. Because the prophetic content of the book is the destruction of Nineveh (Nahum 1:1), the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire, we can place the date of Nahum’s ministry in the 7th century B.C.

A century earlier, when Jonah was God’s prophet, Nineveh had been spared destruction when the king and the citizens of that city repented of their sins, but now for its abuses of Israel, Nineveh would not be spared. Nahum warned of imminent destruction of Nineveh, and the overthrow of the Assyrian empire by a coalition of the Medes and Babylon.

Nahum declared God’s holy nature (1:2-3) and warned the people that the LORD whom the prophet described as “jealous…furious… slow to anger (meaning, patient and longsuffering), and great in power, and [Just] will not at all acquit the wicked” (1:2-3).

In the midst of his prophecies against Nineveh (1:4-6, 8-14), Nahum reminded the people of Judah, “The LORD is good [altogether good; right], a strong hold [fortress; rock; place of safety] in the day of trouble [distress; affliction]; and he knoweth [perceive; understands; cares for] them that trust [confide; hope; flee to for protection] in Him” (1:7).

The Assyrian empire seemed invincible in Nahum’s day.  Its borders encompassed Palestine and reached as far south as Egypt.  Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary describes Nineveh, the Assyrian capital city:

This “exceeding great city” lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient cities. (1) Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature.

Nahum 2 describes the armies that God would draw upon to fulfill His judgment against Nineveh and the Assyrian empire.  The prophet describes the invasion of Assyria (2:1-4) and the capture of the city and its leaders (2:5-13).

Nahum 3 gives us a vivid picture of Nineveh’s destruction and the slaughter of its inhabitants.  Nahum 3:8-19 reminds us no nation, city, or people are too big, great or powerful to escape God’s judgment.  Nahum ends with a question our own nation and leaders would be wise to ponder:

Nahum 3:19 – “There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?

Nineveh’s wickedness, its idolatry and immorality, moved it beyond God’s patience and the city and nation were doomed.  The evil the nation had committed against others would now fall upon that great city.

May that truth serve as a warning to our nation, institutions, churches and homes. Solomon writes the same truth in a proverb he taught his son.

Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness [moral uprightness] exalteth [elevates] a nation: but sin is a reproach[shame] to any people.”

Make no mistake, the morality of a nation determines its destiny.  When a people have a passion for righteousness they are blessed, however, sin inevitably humiliates and eventually destroys.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A God Who Hears and Answers Prayer (2 Chronicles 32-33)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 32-33

Today’s Scripture reading is an abridged version of the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah that has been considered in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s devotional commentary will focus solely on 2 Chronicles 32.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel to the north opened the way for Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1).

King Hezekiah consulted with his leaders and determined to enforce the city walls and deprive Assyria’s army of water by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city (32:2-5). Displaying his faith and confidence in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people:

2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him8  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

Sending messengers and writing letters to the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned their confidence in the king. The king of Assyria also spoke against the God of Israel, asserting their God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Finally, Sennacherib declared that Hezekiah had deceived the people of Jerusalem, leading them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character and the offense Sennacherib had raised against the God of Israel?

2 Chronicles 32:20 – “Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.”

Isaiah describes this moment observing that “Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the [Assyrian] messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD” (Isaiah 37:14-17).

Hezekiah’s focus was not on the threats of his enemy or his own strengths. The king’s faith and hope were in the LORD who heard the king’s prayer and “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:20).

Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory God alone was due (32:25).  The king was “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26), God restored his health.

Permit me to close with an observation and application. 

King Solomon taught his son, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime. A leader’s character does matter!  Whether it is the leadership of a nation, state, city, church or school, a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on people.

Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Set Thine House In Order; For Thou Shalt Die” (2 Kings 20-21)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 20-21

Our study of the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah will soon end. By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, has fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, has been destroyed and the citizens of Israel taken away captive. Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations who in time would intermarry with the remnant of Israelites. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people with Israel would be known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 (note also 2 Chronicles 32:24-26; Isaiah 38:1-8)

The narrative found in 2 Kings 20 is familiar for it is a rehearsal of events we have studied in both Isaiah 38:1-8and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26

Hezekiah was the king of Judah and Judah had been blessed because its ruler loved the LORD.  Hezekiah had led the people in a time of spiritual revival by both example and edict. He restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments, Temple worship and sacrifices, and destroyed the places of idol worship throughout the land.

Israel had fallen to Sennacherib, king of Assyria; however, God had answered Hezekiah’s prayer and spared Judah. The “Angel of the LORD” destroyed the army of Assyria, slaying 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36).

Soon after Judah’s victory over Assyria, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing the news of impending death to the King. Isaiah said to the king, “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

How would you respond if your doctor gave you a terminal diagnosis? Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints.

The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). In other words, Hezekiah blocked out everything and everyone, and then he cried out to the LORD. He then began to rehearse his walk with the LORD and how he had kept God’s covenant. The king prayed,

2 Kings 20:3 – “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently].”

Hezekiah claimed God’s covenant promise and clung to the hope God would heal him. Having delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah rejoiced when the LORD commanded him to turn back and tell Hezekiah that God heard and would answer his prayer (20:5). Isaiah assured the king that the LORD would heal him (20:5) and “add unto thy days fifteen years” (20:6).

2 Kings 20 concludes with Hezekiah dying fifteen years later and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Tragically, unlike his father Hezekiah, King Manasseh set a course of wickedness in Judah that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). Idolatry (21:3), desecrating the Temple (21:4), and human sacrifice were the practice of the king and Judah (21:6).

The LORD sent prophets to confront the sins of the king and Judah, but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned that Jerusalem and Judah would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

I close observing the swift departure of Judah from the righteous reign of Hezekiah into a depth of depravity that would have defied the imagination of the previous generation. From spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that demanded God’s judgment…one generation.

A nation is one generation from a steep descent into sin that will demand God’s judgment. Are we that generation?

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“We are the Clay, and Thou Our Potter” (Isaiah 64-66)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 64-66

Today’s Scripture reading is Isaiah 64-66; however, today’s devotional commentary will focus on the closing verses of Isaiah 63 and Isaiah 64.

Isaiah 63

To put Isaiah 64 in context, I invite you to look back to Isaiah 63, the chapter preceding today’s devotion, and consider a series of cries Isaiah made to the LORD for Israel and Judah (63:15-19).

Isaiah petitioned the LORD that He would show mercy and compassion to His people (63:15b). He reminded God that He alone was the Father and Redeemer of Israel. (63:16).  The prophet prayed for the LORD to return and help His people (63:17b), and reminded Him that He had chosen Israel to be a holy people, but their enemies had destroyed the Temple (63:18, a future event).  Though alienated from God by their sins, the people reminded the LORD, “We are thine” (63:19).

Isaiah 64 – Three Cries to the LORD

We consider three cries to the LORD that are recorded in Isaiah 64. The first was a cry for the LORD to save His people from their adversaries (64:1-4). In the immediate, the enemy who would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple would be Babylon. However, this is also a far-reaching prophecy that is still future. The description of “when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil” (64:2) is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ at the climax of the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 21:11-19).

Isaiah prayed for the LORD to come and execute judgment (64:3) and prove He alone is God, and He helps those who wait on His coming (64:4).

The second cry was one of confession (64:5b-8). Isaiah confessed the universality of man’s sin.

Without exception, we are all sinners by birth (64:5) and the problem of sin is universal. Isaiah confessed, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [our best attempt at keeping the law and commandments falls short] are as filthy rags [bloody, soiled rags]” (64:6).

Isaiah observed that the hearts of the people were so hardened by sin that there was “none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee” (64:7a). The LORD Who is Holy and will not look upon sin, had turned his face (his blessings and mercies) from the people and they were consumed and enslaved by their wickedness (64:7b).

Realizing the helpless, hopeless state of the nation, Isaiah confessed, “O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (64:8).

Like clay in a potter’s hands who shapes, and fashions it into a vessel that reflects his will and purpose, believers should acknowledge God is sovereign and it is His desire to fashion us as the work of His hand (64:8b).

We close with Isaiah’s cry for forgiveness on behalf of Israel and Judah (64:9-12).

Isaiah reminded the LORD, “we are all thy people” (64:9b). Recollecting that we are considering events that had not yet happened, but would when Nebuchadnezzar’s army lay siege to Jerusalem, Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, “our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee” destroyed by fire (64:10-11).

No doubt a prayer that the people would pray in Babylon during their captivity, Isaiah prayed, “Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?” (Isaiah 64:12)

Isaiah 65-66 is God’s answer to Isaiah’s questions. We are blessed to look back on history and know God did hear the prayers of His people, and Israel did return to her land as a nation.

Truth – God is never slack concerning His promises!

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 9-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josiah is Made King II KIngs 22:1

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 1-4

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

2 Kings 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Kings 2

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

2 Kings 3

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

2 Kings 4 – Four miracles performed by Elisha. 

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18

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

1 Kings 22 – The Tragic Death of King Ahab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith