Category Archives: Depression

A New Beginning (Ezra 6, Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 6, Psalm 137

We are continuing our study of Israel’s history after the Jews returned from exile. With the decree of king Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-3), one might think the work on the Temple would be without opposition. After all, God’s people came to Zion with the affirmation of the king, his assurance of financial support, and the command for those Jews not returning to support those who were (1:4-11).

Fifty thousand Jews responded to the prospect of going home to the land God had promised Israel (2:1-70). After arriving in the land and settling in their homes, the people set about the task of building an altar (3:1-4) and laid the foundation of the Temple (3:5-11). A celebration began when the last stone of the foundation was set in its place, (3:11); however, rejoicing was soon followed by sorrow. There arose enemies who opposed the work on the Temple (Ezra 4). When they failed to halt the work (4:1-11), they appealed to the king of Persia (4:11-16) and accused the children of Israel of plotting a rebellion against the king.

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, ordered a search of the archives of the kings (4:17-22). Finding Israel and Judah had a history of rebelling against the occupation of their lands and cities, the king decreed the work on the Temple to cease (4:23-24).

Sixteen years passed, until the LORD sent His prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (5:1), who “prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem (5:1). “2Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God…and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2). Again, the enemies of God’s people rose up to oppose them, and then appealed to the king (5:3-17).

Ezra 6

King Darius commanded a search be made of the archives (6:1), where it was discovered Cyrus, king of Persia, had commanded the Temple be built (6:3). Additionally, the king  had made provision for sacrifices, and given the dimensions and material composition of the Temple (6:3-5).

In a twist of humor, and serving as a testimony to the sovereignty of God, the attempt of the enemy to derail the work on the Temple concluded with the Jews being favored by the king. King Darius not only commanded the Jews’ enemies financially support their work, but also supply what was needed for food and sacrifices (6:6-10). Giving warning to any who might oppose them, the king proclaimed, “I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this” (6:11).

Ezra 6 concluded with a glorious celebratory dedication of the new Temple (6:15-17). The priests and Levites were divided and assigned their duties “as it [was] written in the book of Moses” (6:18), and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were renewed (6:19-22).

What a wonderful, providential turn of events in the lives of God’s people! Knowing a king of Persia could not rescind a law once it was avowed, the LORD had preserved Cyrus’ decree for the Temple to be rebuilt. Darius was bound to the king’s edict, and moved to ensure it was fulfilled.

Closing thoughts – Notice Psalm 137 affords us a perspective on the sorrows the Jews bore during their years in Babylon. The children of Israel took for granted the grace and mercies of God, and continued in their sins until there was no remedy but the judgment of the LORD. God raised up many prophets to warn Israel and Judah, should they continue in their sins He would deliver them to their enemies.  Yet, they would not heed the warnings of His prophets, but continued in their sins until all was lost.

Arriving as captives in Babylon, the Jews were haunted by the memories of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Temple destroyed by fire. So, we read, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (137:1).

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.

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.

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.

Three Good Things You Should Embrace (Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3

Our brief study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” continues today. While Lamentations 3 will be the primary focus of this devotional, I am suggesting a brief outline of Lamentations 2.

Lamentations 2

Jerusalem is Destroyed (2:1-9)

Jeremiah continued to lament the calamity of Jerusalem and observed how the Lord had “covered the daughter of Zion [Jerusalem] with a cloud in his anger” (2:1). Knowing David pronounced the Temple “the footstool of our God” (1 Chronicles 28:2), the prophet bemoaned the LORD “remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!” (1:1) Though it was Nebuchadnezzar whose army destroyed Jerusalem; Jeremiah left no doubt it was the fierceness of God’s judgment that devoured the people. The rebellion of the people moved the LORD to become the enemy of His wayward people (2:2-5).

All Jerusalem was a scene of destruction as the city and its Temple laid in ruins. Yet, it was the LORD who gave the altar, Temple, and the palaces “into the hand of the enemy” (2:7). As Jeremiah looked upon the city, he observed, “9Her gates are sunk into the ground…Her king and her princes are [captives] among the Gentiles: the law is no more” (2:9).

Lamentations 2:10-14 turned the focus from the city and the king, to the sorrows the people suffered. The leaders of the city sat in silence, as they mourned the deaths and destruction that was about them (2:10). Jeremiah was so overcome with grief, his tears failed, and his heart ached (2:11), as the city he loved was ravaged by famine (2:11-13).

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah then reminded the people how their sins brought them to a state of ruin and sorrow. The prophet declared, “the Lord hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word…He hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, He hath set up the horn [power; strength] of thine adversaries” (2:17). Overcome with grief and hunger, mothers turned to cannibalism, and did “eat their fruit” (2:20). Young and old laid dead in the streets, and there were none to bury them (2:21).

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah’s lamentations took on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. The prophet had lived to see all he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poor, Jeremiah gazed upon a scene of devastation. The Temple was destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem were fallen.

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

Jeremiah’s Afflictions (3:1-19)

In his sorrows, Jeremiah confessed the afflictions he carried for the suffering of His people. He felt alienated from God (3:2), as though the LORD was turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed, but it seemed God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). He felt trapped, abandoned, and wounded in heart (3:9-13). He was scorned by his people (3:14), and overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18). He despaired of life (3:19) until his focus turned to the LORD (3:20-21).

Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions (3:21-66)

In the midst of sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that inspired the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah wrote, It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace] that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases]. 23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness [steadfastness]” (3:22-23). Remembering the LORD’s mercy and faithfulness, Jeremiah declared, “The LORD isgood [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

Notice, a believer must meet two conditions to know the goodness of the LORD (3:25). The first, he must “wait for Him” (3:25). Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you hurt?  Will you wait when you are ill?  When you have been mistreated or misunderstood, do you wait on the LORD?  Jeremiah’s counsel to those who are in distress is, “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

Also, to trust the LORD’s goodness, you must “seek Him” (3:25b). What does it mean to seek the LORD? It means to seek and obey Him (3:40). You seek the LORD when you read, meditate, and obey Him (3:40;Jeremiah 29:13).

Closing thoughts – In closing, I invite you to consider three things Jeremiah described as “good.”  It is good to “both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD” (3:26). Hope is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul. Hope anticipates that God hears and will answer prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises. It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer in His time. Finally, it is good for a son to bear the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). In the midst of his afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged it was a good thing for young men bear the yoke of manhood with all of its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Life can be difficult, and even harsh; but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. What about you? Will you hope, seek, obey, and trust the LORD?

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.

Jeremiah’s Lament: Jerusalem’s Humiliation (Lamentations 1)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 1

Though only five chapters long, the book known as “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” is powerful, poetic, and a devastating portrait of the consequences of sin. As its name suggests, Lamentations is a record of the laments, cries, and groanings of Jeremiah.

Gazing upon the rubble of what was once the beautiful and renown city of David, God’s prophet was overwhelmed with the sorrow and afflictions that had befallen his stubborn people. Jeremiah faithfully served the LORD through the reigns of five successive kings of Judah. He had discharged his sacred duty as God’s prophet, and warned the people what would become of the nation if they did not repent of their sins. Yet, the kings of Judah despised and persecuted him, and the people broke covenant with the LORD rejecting His Laws and Commandments. Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people removed to Babylon. Left behind was Jeremiah and a few poor Jews to work the land and serve Babylon.

Lamentations 1

The opening verses of chapter 1 painted a dismal picture of what became of a bustling city once filled with people, but now figured like a bereaved widow, and a tributary (slave) to Babylon (1:1). Jerusalem’s friends and allies were become her enemies (1:2)

Judah’s Sorrows (1:3-7)

The people of Judah were no longer a free people who enjoyed the blessings of their covenant with the LORD. That nation had become like Israel before her (i.e., the ten northern tribes), a nation in bondage (1:3-4). As is the nature of sinners, only in captivity would the people remember the blessings they had taken for granted (1:7a). They remembered their families, homes, and lands, and the sabbaths their enemies mocked (1:7b).

Jerusalem’s Shame (1:8-12)

The cause for Jerusalem’s demise was summed up in this: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore, she is removed” (1:8a). The LORD had chosen Zion for His Temple, and the sanctuary of His presence among His people; nevertheless, the people “turned backward” (1:8b), and found “no comforter” (1:9). Their possessions became spoils for their enemy (1:10), and the heathen entered the sanctuary of the LORD and defiled it (1:10). Suffering famine, the people were impoverished (1:11), and the ruins of the city remained as a testimony to the wrath of God’s judgment (1:12).

Jerusalem’s Suffering (1:13-17)

Consider with me briefly, the consequences of Jerusalem’s wickedness. We find the distress of the city, described figuratively as a consuming fire and a snare (1:13). The sins of the city were a heavy yoke wrapping them like a wreath after the LORD delivered them to their Babylonian masters (1:14). Jerusalem was a defenseless city, for her army was fallen, and her youth crushed (1:15). The joy of music and dance was silenced by sorrow and perpetual tears (1:16). While the people spread their hands toward heaven and called upon the LORD, there was “none to comfort her” (1:17a). To her enemies, Jerusalem was like a “menstruous,” unclean woman (1:17).

Closing thoughts (1:18-22) – Our Scripture reading concludes with Jeremiah calling upon the LORD in a prayer of intercession and confessing the sins of his people. Declaring the righteousness of the LORD, the prophet confessed on Jerusalem’s behalf: “I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity” (1:18).

Jeremiah asked the LORD to see his distress and sorrow, and have compassion upon Jerusalem’s suffering (1:20a). He confessed the sins of His people (1:20b), and asked the LORD to have compassion on those dying (1:20c).

The prophet’s prayer concluded with an imprecatory petition (1:22) as he called upon the LORD to exercise vengeance upon Babylon. Jeremiah prayed, “Let all their wickedness come before thee; And do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: For my sighs are many, and my heart is faint” (1:22).

* A closing note for those who might want to “dig a little deeper;” notice that Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are each twenty-two verses long.  There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each of the verses in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 begin with a word using the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in other words, like our A-Z in English).  Lamentations 4 is sixty-six verses long and the Hebrew alphabet in that chapter begins couplets that are three verses each.

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.

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

An Answer for “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me” (Jeremiah 45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 45

Having concluded his last prophetic message to the remnant of Judah that fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 44), Jeremiah’s chronological narrative was interrupted for a brief chapter. Jeremiah 45 recalls an earlier discourse between the prophet and Baruch, who served as Jeremiah’s scribe (Jeremiah 36:8). The historical setting of the conversation between the two men came “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah” (45:1). For context, Jehoiakim was the king who cast the prophecies of Jeremiah into a fire (Jeremiah 36:20-26). There were yet two kings who followed Jehoiakim (his successor Jehoiachin, who reigned for three months, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah).

Penning the revelation concerning the destruction of Jerusalem a second time (Jeremiah 36:27-32), so overwhelmed Baruch he groaned in his spirit. Discouraged, and visibly shaken by God’s imminent judgment, the scribe found himself serving a prophet who was not only unpopular, but also imprisoned.

Jeremiah 45

The LORD Commanded Jeremiah to Confront Baruch (45:1-3)

Jeremiah 45:1-3 – “1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake [pronounced] unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of [according to] Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch; 3 Thou [Baruch] didst say, Woe [cry out] is me now! for the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] hath added[increased] grief [afflictions] to my sorrow [pain; grief; anguish]; I fainted [exhausted; wearied] in my sighing[groaning’s; mourning; distress], and I find no rest [comfort; ease; resting place].”

The scribe’s focus was himself, and the LORD revealed to Jeremiah the spiritual state of his friend (45:1-2). Baruch was discouraged and overwhelmed. Jeremiah 45:3 exposed the spirit of a man whose spiritual zeal had waned because he lost sight of God’s sovereignty. The LORD instructed Jeremiah to be a faithful minister, and to instruct Baruch to not place his hope and affections on temporal, earthly things.

 Jeremiah 45:4 – Thus shalt thou [Jeremiah] say unto him [Baruch], The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I [the LORD] have built [established; construct] will I [the LORD] break down [throw down; pluck down; destroyed], and that which I [the LORD] have planted I [the LORD] will pluck up [destroy; tear away], even this whole land.

Reminded God is sovereign, He had the right and authority to build up or to tear down, and no man should question His will. The LORD had determined that the Temple would be burned, the palaces destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem laid waste. Jeremiah 45:5 may strike you as an unnecessary rebuke of a faithful scribe, until you understand the context.

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

Jeremiah counseled Baruch not to sacrifice God’s calling for promotion or personal aspirations. As a point of background: Baruch’s brother served as a counselor to king Jehoiakim. While his brother enjoyed a prominent role in the king’s palace, Baruch found himself serving a prophet that was despised, persecuted, and imprisoned.

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah’s rebuke is as relevant to us as it was to Baruch. Is it not easy to fall prey to seeking “great things for thyself?” (45:5a) It is easy to focus upon the immediate cost of serving the LORD, but fail to recognize the greater risk, should we disobey Him. The LORD revealed the king, his advisors (including Baruch’s brother), and all the people would fail. Yet, the LORD promised to give Jeremiah’s scribe that which was greater than fame and promotion—LIFE!

The LORD said, “thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (45:5). What a wonderful promise! Baruch, don’t seek things for yourself, and I will give you LIFE!

What are you seeking? Riches, possessions, titles and fame perish! In the LORD, LIFE is forever!

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

Copyright © 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.

Treachery, Faithlessness, and Judgment (Jeremiah 41; Jeremiah 42)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 41; Jeremiah 42

We return to our study of Jeremiah’s prophecies following the destruction of Jerusalem. After taking captive all the nobility, leaders, and skilled craftsmen of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar left behind a poor remnant of uneducated vinedressers and farmers (39:8-10). One Jewish man named Gedaliah was appointed by the king of Babylon to serve as governor of Judah (39:14; 40:5). Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, then set Jeremiah at liberty and promised his protection; however, Jeremiah chose to remain with the remnant in Judah (40:4-6).

Johanan, a faithful man, hearing rumors of conspiracy to slay Gedaliah, warned him of the threat (40:13-14). The governor of Judah, however, dismissed the warning, saying, “thou speakest falsely of Ishmael” (40:16b).

Jeremiah 41 – The Treachery of One’s Brethren

Slaying of Gedaliah (41:1-3)

Sometime later, the governor of Judah set forth a banquet, and among his invited guests were Ishmael (identified as “of the seed royal”) and others who served the king (41:1). Ten men accompanied Ishmael who, unbeknownst to Gedaliah, were conspiring to assassinate him (41:2). Rising from the meal, Ishmael betrayed Gedaliah’s trust, and slew him (41:2). Knowing the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar would fall upon them, and perhaps hoping to hide his identity, Ishmael and his murderous company slaughtered all who were in attendance at the banquet, including officials of Babylon (41:3).

The Murderous Rampage of Ishmael (41:4-10)

Two days later and before his treachery was known (41:4), Ishmael met 80 men who journeyed from the north and were going to worship in Jerusalem (41:5). Seeing the ruins of Jerusalem, the men mourned over the sight, and were joined by Ishmael who pretended to weep with them (41:6). With murderous intent, Ishmael invited the men to meet with Gedaliah (41:6). Entering the city, however, Ishmael set upon the men with swords thereby slaughtered 70 men. Ten men appealed to Ishmael’s greed, and were spared for they bribed him with a promise of “treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey,” 41:8).

To conceal his murderous spree, Ishmael cast the bodies of the slain men into a pit (an empty cistern), and set out with a remnant of the people he forced to “go over to the Ammonites” (41:10).

Johanan Pursued Ishmael to Exact Revenge (41:11-18)

Having slain the governor of Judah and the officers of Babylon, Ishmael fled Judah. Johanan, who had warned Gedaliah there was a conspiracy for his life, followed in pursuit of the assassins (41:11-12). Coming upon Ishmael before he crossed the river, the people he kidnapped rejoiced at the sight of Johanan and his company, and ran to them (41:13-14). Ishmael and his men “went to the Ammonites,” and were never heard from again in the Scriptures (41:15).

Johanan, and those he saved, returned to the region of Bethlehem and tarried there as they considered their future. Fearing Nebuchadnezzar would seek revenge for the deaths of Gedaliah and the men of Babylon, the people prepared “to go to enter into Egypt” (41:16-18).

Jeremiah 42 – The Fate of a People

A Spiritual Crossroads (42:1-6)

Johanan, and the people with him, came to the Jeremiah, and appealed to the prophet to pray and advise them regarding God’s will (42:1-3). Acknowledging they were a poor remnant, they promised to do all the LORD revealed to His prophet (42:4). Three times they affirmed their commitment to obey the LORD, “Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God” (42:5-6).

The Will and the Word of the LORD (42:7-18)

After the tenth day, the LORD revealed to Jeremiah His will (42:7). The prophet then summoned the people (42:8), and he declared not only the will of the LORD, but the conditions the people must meet if they were to enjoy His blessings (42:9).

The LORD promised to bless the people, but only if they remained in the land He had promised Israel as an inheritance (42:10). If they would obey Him, the LORD promised to build them into a great people; give cause for Babylon to show compassion and grant them mercy (42:10-12). Yet, if they refused to obey the LORD and departed to Egypt, they would suffer the sword, famine, and death (42:13-16). Disobey the LORD and they would not escape His judgment (42:17-18).

A Foolish, Disobedient People (42:19-22)

Though they vowed to obey the LORD, the people were insincere (42:19). They desired  Jeremiah pray for them, but when they heard the will of the LORD was to remain in the land, they refused and determined to go to Egypt (42:21). Leaving no doubt, the consequences of disobedience, Jeremiah declared, “Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn” (42:22).

Closing thoughts – Because they disobeyed the LORD, the things the people feared followed them to Egypt. There, in that nation that is a symbol of the world in the Scriptures, they suffered the deaths and sorrows of a disobedient people: Sword (war, and violent deaths), Famine (scarcity of food), and Pestilence (disease).

Think about it: Are those not the sorrows that haunt our world? The sword (violence in the streets, and war), rumors of food shortages, and disease: Are we not facing the heavy darkness of God’s judgment?

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.

A Cry for Mercy, and the Fruit of Peace (Psalm 79)

Scripture reading – Psalm 79

The content of Psalm 79 makes a strong case for it to be a song that was contemporary with the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, and the destruction of that great city. This is the second of two devotionals for today, and is taken from Psalm 79.

The psalmist cried to God, for there was no other to whom he could appeal (79:1). Nebuchadnezzar’s army (“the heathen”) had invaded Judah, defiled the Temple, and left the bodies of the dead in the streets (79:1-2). The blood of the slain flowed through the streets like streams of water. There were none to bury the dead and spare their loved ones the indignity of being carrion for birds and beasts (79:3). The psalmist complained, the suffering of Jerusalem gave occasion for the heathen to mock God’s people, who had “become a reproach to [their] neighbors” (79:4).

A Cry for Pity, Mercy, and Vengeance (79:5-12)

The writer did not appeal to the injustice of God’s wrath, however, he asked, “How long, Lord? wilt thou be angry for ever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire?” (79:5) The sins of Judah, had brought God’s wrath upon the nation. Yet, should the heathen be unpunished for their abuses, and wickedness? (79:6)

The psalmist reminded the LORD how the wicked had “devoured Jacob” [slaughtered Israel and Judah], and “laid waste His dwelling place” (the Temple, 79:7). He begged for the LORD’s mercy (79:8), and appealed to Him to save His people, not because of their merit, but for the sake of His testimony among the nations (79:9). He reasoned, “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God?” (79:10)

Calling for God’s vengeance, he implored the LORD to hear the sigh of the prisoners, and save those “that are appointed to die” (79:11). Reminding the LORD the heathen took pleasure in the travails of His people, he prayed God would exact vengeance “sevenfold” saying, “they have reproached thee, O Lord” (79:12).

Closing thought – What was the basis for the psalmist’s prayer for deliverance? It was the LORD’s covenant with Israel and Judah. He reminded the LORD, “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture” (79:13a; 95:7; 100:3). Confessing his humility on behalf of the nation, the psalmist promised, “we will give thee thanks for ever: We will shew forth thy praise to all generations” (79:13b).

The sorrows and sufferings that befell Jerusalem and Judah was because of their wickedness; yet, the psalmist remembered the LORD’s promises of grace and mercy. He understood the LORD chastened Israel and Judah because they were His people, and whom He loves He chastens (Hebrews 12:6).

A personal invitation – You may be bearing the weight of God’s chastening. Remember, He is gracious and merciful. Like a loving father, who chastens a son, the LORD loves you and He corrects you to the end your life  “yieldeth [bears] the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised [trained; disciplined]thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

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.

Jerusalem is Fallen, and God Reigns! (Jeremiah 38-39)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 38; Jeremiah 39

With the army of the Chaldeans (Babylon) encamped outside the walls of the city, the people within faced a time of suffering that was horrible to behold. Famine and disease afflicted the nation (38:1), yet the king and his counsel refused to heed Jeremiah’s warning that all would perish if the city did not surrender to Nebuchadnezzar.

Jeremiah 38 – Singing the Prison Blues

Four men of the king’s counsel were named in Jeremiah 38:1, who had set themselves against Jeremiah and charged him with treason. Before he was imprisoned, the prophet foretold only those who went “forth to the Chaldeans [would] live” (38:2), for Jerusalem would fall “into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army” (38:3).

Wicked Counsel (38:4-6)

Obstinate and foolish, the king’s officials (“princes”) disparaged Jeremiah to the king, and accused the prophet of discouraging the people, and weakening their resolve to defend the city (36:4). Zedekiah, true to his wicked character, betrayed God’s prophet into the hands of his enemies (36:5). Those men then “cast Jeremiah into the dungeon [where] there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (36:6).

Ebedmelech: A Man of Courage and Conviction (38:7-13)

Providentially, there was a man named Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian, who realized the injustices suffered by Jeremiah, and interceded for God’s prophet. Ebedmelech petitioned the king to save the old prophet from the dungeon (38:8), knowing he was “like to die for hunger in the place” (38:9). Zedekiah honored Ebedmelech’s request, and commanded 30 men to deliver Jeremiah from the prison, to “the court of the prison” (38:10-13).

Zedekiah’s Secret Consultation with Jeremiah (38:14-24)

Soon after, Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah, and in secret, enquired of the prophet, “I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me” (38:14). The king wanted to know what would become of him and the nation, but Jeremiah did not trust the king, and feared he would both reject his words and kill him (38:15). The king answered Jeremiah’s fears, and assured the prophet he would not be harmed (38:16).

Tragically, nothing had changed in what God had purposed and foretold through his prophet, and Jeremiah counseled the king he must surrender the city, or death and destruction would befall the king’s family and his city (38:20). Refusing to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, would surely bring mocking from the women of the king’s household for heeding the counsel of his “friends” (38:21-22). Finally, the king’s harem and his children would become slaves in Babylon, and the city would be burned to the ground (38:23).

Zedekiah Rejected the Prophet’s Counsel (38:24-28)

Fearing the wrath of men, rather than the judgment of God (38:19), Zedekiah demanded Jeremiah would tell no one of his conversation with the king (38:24-25). Should some ask what he said to the king, Jeremiah was to answer he had requested the king not return him to the dungeon (38:26).

Closing thoughts – Those men who hated Jeremiah came demanding what he had spoken to the king, and Jeremiah answered as the king instructed (26:27). “So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken” (38:28).

Jeremiah 39 – The Final Phase: The Fall of Jerusalem

The Babylonian siege lasted 18 months, and the sorrows and afflictions that arose within the city in that time were overwhelming and recorded in the Book of Lamentations (Lamentations 4:4-5, 9-11, 18). Zedekiah, having failed to heed Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, was forced to flee the city (39:4), but the Chaldean army pursued him (39:5).

Nebuchadnezzar commanded king Zedekiah and his entourage to appear before him, where he sat in judgment (39:5). As the king of Judah looked on, his sons were slain “before his eyes” as were also “all the nobles of Judah” (39:6) Lastly, Zedekiah’s eyes were put out, and he was bound in chains, and carried away to Babylon (39:7).

The city of Jerusalem was burned, its buildings destroyed, the remnant of those who survived the siege were led away to Babylon, leaving only the poorest of the people to occupy the land (39:8-10).

In an ironic, but providential twist of fate, Nebuchadnezzar released Jeremiah from prison and directed his servants care for his needs, releasing the prophet to go home (39:11-14; 40:1-6).

Closing thoughts – History is truly “His [God’s] Story,” and a testimony of the providential working of God Who is Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all things.  The LORD is El Shaddai, Almighty God and able to direct the evil purposes of men to the ends that are good for His people and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).

Whatever circumstances you face, or whoever your enemy might be, they are not greater, nor are they beyond the sovereignty of El Shaddai – Almighty God!

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.