Category Archives: Devotional

Nehemiah: More Than a Cupbearer (Nehemiah 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 1-4

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Nehemiah. Permit me an opportunity to restate the timeline that brings us to Nehemiah 1.

King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Judah in 606 B.C., and in 586 B.C. Babylon’s army had destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem. Seventy years after Judah was first conquered, the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled when Cyrus, king of Persia, issued an edict in 536 B.C. giving the Jews liberty to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1).

Under the leadership of the prophet Zerubbabel, the Jews began to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1-6). Opposed by their enemies, and discouraged, the building of the Temple languished for many years as the Jews neglected construction on the LORD’S house, and turned to building their homes and planting crops. The Temple was completed around 458 B.C. (Ezra 6).

Some sixty years later, the LORD moved on the heart of a scribe named Ezra, who led a second group of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 7). Ezra’s task was to teach God’s Law and Commandments, call the people to repent of their sins, and renew worship and sacrifices in the Temple.

The Book of Nehemiah gives us a history of how the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt and the challenges and difficulties Nehemiah and the people encountered. The year is around 446 B.C., and Artaxerxes is king of Persia (Nehemiah 1:1).

Today’s devotional commentary is limited to Nehemiah 1.

Nehemiah 1 – Who was Nehemiah? 

“I was the king’s cupbearer” (1:11), and with that simple phrase, Nehemiah introduces himself in a way that belied the office he held as the most trusted servant to the most powerful king in the world.

Living in the king’s palace, Nehemiah’s life was one of wealth and privilege.  He was more than his title implies; the role of the cupbearer was that of a king’s closest aid; his confidant, and counselor.  Artaxerxes, king of Persia, trusted Nehemiah with his life. As the king’s cupbearer, he was charged with guarding the king from assassination attempts, being the first to taste the king’s food and sipping his wine.

In spite of the comforts and privileges he enjoyed as a cupbearer, Nehemiah’s heart was burdened for the remnant of his kinsman, the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem.  When men of Judah came from Jerusalem to the king’s court, Nehemiah eagerly inquired concerning the welfare of his brethren and the state of things in Jerusalem (1:2).

The report left Nehemiah shaken and overwhelmed with grief. (1:3-4).

Some ninety years had passed since Zerubbabel led the first exiles to Judah to rebuild the Temple. Nevertheless, the walls of Jerusalem had not been rebuilt and the suffering of the people was a great reproach to the LORD. Nehemiah was so moved he writes, “I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (1:4).

The balance of chapter 1 is Nehemiah’s record of his prayers to the LORD over the course of days, weeks, and months. Consider the character of Nehemiah’s prayers: With passion and humility, he worshiped the LORD in his prayer (1:5). He prayed for his nation (1:6a) and identified with the personal and corporate sins of his family and people (1:6b). He rehearsed and claimed the covenant promises the LORD had made to Israel (1:8-11).

Closing with a prayer for God to grant Him mercy and favor (1:11), Nehemiah waited four months (2:1) for the LORD to move on the heart of the king to be open to his petition.

James 5:16b – “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Wednesday Night Bible Institute and LifeSteps Classes

Dear Heart of A Shepherd Followers and Hillsdale Family Members,

You are invited to join Hillsdale’s Wednesday evening Bible studies, beginning with tonight’s Teen Bible Study\Activity at 6:00pm, AWANA Clubs for Preschool-6th Grades at 6:15 PM, and a time of prayer in our Adult Bible classes that also begins at 6:15 pm.

Around 6:35\6:40 pm, Pastor Smith’s Bible Institute Class series titled, Character Studies in Proverbs, will meet in Cox Hall and also be broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Tonight’s study is from Proverbs 6:1-19, and will focus on four topics: Financial Bondage (6:1-5), A Warning to Sluggards (6:6-11), The Character of the Wicked (6:12-15), and Seven Things God Hates (6:16-19).

The following are student notes for tonight’s study in Proverbs 6. 01 – Enemies of a Man’s Soul – Proverbs 6 – September 23, 2020 student blank notes without verses

A copy of Pastor Smith’s student notes with his word studies is available by emailing your request to HeartofAShepherd@gmail.com. 

Although not live streamed, Hillsdale is also offering two additional Wednesday evening classes (6:30pm). Mrs. Sheilah Smith is teaching a Ladies’ class titled, “Ancient Paths.” a study of the Covenants of the Scriptures.

Travis and Tanya Henry are teaching a Family Life Class that covers marriage, family, and parenting.

Don’t forget to sign up or call the church office to enjoy Dinner with our church family each Wednesday ($4.00 ea) in the Friendship Hall (5pm-6pm).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

Divine Providence: The Invisible Hand of An All-Loving God (Esther 1-5)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

The Book of Esther is known as one of only two books in the Bible that never mentions God by name (the other is the Song of Solomon). That fact, however, cannot dismiss the indisputable evidences of divine providence seen throughout the pages of this book. Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

What is divine providence?

Simply defined, providence means “to foresee” or “to see before.”

The late Dr. Edward M. Panosian, my Bible college history professor who sparked within me a passion for history, quotes in his book, The Providence of God in History, the observation of 19th century historian Hollis Read: “History, when rightly written, is but a record of providence; and he who would read history rightly, must read it with his eye constantly fixed on the hand of God.” 1

Many great minds have attempted to define providence. T. Dewitt Talmage, a 19th century clergyman observed: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer said of divine providence, “[God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, stated, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

I add to the chorus of others who have defined Divine Providence my own definition of the same: Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of His creation, and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose which is His glory and my good. The providence of God is practical, personal, and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose. 

The apostle Paul suggested the same, writing: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Book of Esther is a testimony of both God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and the preservation of His chosen people. The LORD sovereignly guided the affairs of a secular empire to fulfill His divine purpose and end. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Esther 1 and Esther 2:1-7.

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

King Ahasuerus (also known in history as King Xerxes I) was king of Persia. He was the fourth of five kings to rule the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. He was the grandson of Cyrus the Great, and the son of King Darius I. He reigned over Persia (modern Iran) from 486 B.C. to 465 B.C.

Ahasuerus was ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (1:1), including one hundred twenty-seven provinces that embraced all of today’s Middle East (1:4). Nevertheless, the Persian empire was past its zenith and the events recorded in Esther 1 occurred, according to Greek historian Herodotus, before Ahasuerus attacked Greece and suffered the loss of the Persian navy.

Three lavish feasts are recorded in Esther 1. The first lasted one hundred-eighty days (1:3-4). The second feast, though lasting only seven days, was greater than the first and was a scene of sin and drunken debauchery (1:5-8). The third feast, apparently coinciding with the king’s drunken, weeklong banquet, was hosted by Queen Vashti for the women of the city (1:9).

Drunk with wine, and apparently at the loss of his senses, King Ahasuerus commanded his beautiful queen to parade herself before his guests (1:10-11). Queen Vashti, however, refused to obey the king’s command (1:12). Her refusal created a royal crisis (1:13-18) for a drunken king too proud to humble himself and accept that his queen was the better and wiser of the two. Enraged, Ahasuerus issued a royal decree that forever banished his queen from her throne and the king’s palace (1:19-22).

Esther 2:1-7– A Defeated King and A Virgin Who Became Queen

Having suffered his first defeat and the loss of his navy, Ahasuerus returned to his throne and then “he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her” (2:1). The king’s rash banishment of Queen Vashti (1:19-22), had set in motion a series of events that propelled a Jewish maiden named Hadassah, whose Babylonian name was Esther (2:7), from the anonymity of a maiden, to the throne of Persia.

Although some 50,000 people of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had returned to Israel (Ezra 1), there were many who had chosen to remain in Babylon, among those was a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7). Mordecai, had taken Hadassah into his household after the deaths of her parents and brought her up as his daughter (2:7). The premature death of Esther’s parents, and her adoption by Mordecai, were both part of God’s sovereign, providential plan for her life.

1Edward M. Panosian, The Providence of God in History (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1996), p. 21.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ the King (Zechariah 10-14)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 10-14

Today’s Bible reading concludes our study of the Book of Zechariah, the prophet to the post-exilic people of the Babylonian captivity. Of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, only Judah and Benjamin had returned to Judah following the edict of Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1).

Though he began his ministry as a young prophet, and was a contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah was nevertheless a bold prophet who did not shy from his calling. Whether confronting the sins of his people and calling them to repentance, or assuring them with the prophecies and promises of a coming Messiah, Zechariah was faithful and true to the Word of the LORD.

As we have seen, Zechariah was privileged with foretelling some of the great Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament Scriptures and fulfilled by Jesus Christ in His first coming. For today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to consider Zechariah’s prophecies in light of the Messiah King, Jesus Christ.

The Messiah would come to Jerusalem “riding upon an ass, And upon the colt the foal of an ass” and He would be called King. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:37; Mark 11:7-11)

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; Lowly, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass.

The Messiah would be betrayed. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 26:14-16)

Zechariah 11:12-13 – And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised [i.e. prized or appraised] at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

The Messiah’s price would be used to purchase a potter’s field. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10)

The Messiah would be pierced: Romans soldiers pierced Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; John 20:25-27)

Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, The spirit of grace and of supplications: And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, And shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Notice that the prophecies of Zechariah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, our Savior Redeemer, in exact detail.

Surely, Christ is coming again as the prophets foretold, and as He promised! Even so Lord, come quickly! (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Has Chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 1-4

Today’s Scripture reading introduces us to the prophecies of Zechariah, a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Both prophets were called by the LORD to minister in Jerusalem during the post-exilic era (Ezra 1:1-2). Zechariah, a young prophet at the time of this writing, had the same task as Haggai: To challenge and exhort God’s people to rebuild the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

The focus of Haggai’s prophecies was to encourage the people to finish rebuilding the temple. The prophecies of Zechariah had an even far-reaching context; one that was not only applicable to the world of his day, but also to the world at the Second Coming of Christ when He returns as the Messiah King.

Zechariah 1:1-6 – Zechariah’s Commission to the Work of the Prophet

Zechariah announced with exactness the date his ministry as prophet began in Jerusalem: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (1:1). We know from history that the date was 520 B.C., two months after the commencement of Haggai’s ministry (Haggai 1:1).

Zechariah would have been born in Babylon during the seventy years of captivity. Like Haggai, his ministry was to convey to God’s people the LORD’S displeasure for their neglect of His house (the Temple, 1:2). Their failure to build the Temple had provoked God’s wrath; however, the LORD is longsuffering. Zechariah was commanded to go to the people and “say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (1:3).

Zechariah 1:7-4:14 – Eight Nightly Visions

To enlighten His prophet, the LORD came to Zechariah in eight nighttime visions that are recorded in Zechariah 1:7-6:8. These eight visions gave the prophet a glimpse of the future blessings and the glory the LORD would pour out on His people if they would repent of their sins and turn to Him. I will list five of the eight visions, but will only consider the first for today’s devotional.

The first of the eight visions was of horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17). The second vision was of “four horns” that each represented four world powers (1:18-21). The third vision was of a man who was seen surveying with “a measuring [the city of Jerusalem with a] line in his hand,” (2:1-13). A fourth vision was of “Joshua the high priest” wearing “filthy garments,” but given a “change of raiment” (3:1-10), symbolic of Israel repenting, being cleansed of her sin and restored.

Zechariah’s fifth vision was of a golden lampstand (“candlestick of gold”) that presented “seven lamps” supplied with oil by “two olive trees.” The olive oil flowed into a bowl that supplied the seven lamps with oil (4:1-14).

Time nor space permits me to focus on the eight visions the LORD revealed to Zechariah; however, I will draw your attention to the first vision (1:8-17).

Zechariah saw a “man riding upon a red horse” who was seen “among the myrtle trees…and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white” (1:8). While the number of hoses is not given, we notice that the horses had riders (1:10-11). I believe the man on the horse was “the angel of the LORD” (1:8-12) and a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. This same is true of the man seen surveying the city of Jerusalem in Zechariah’s third vision (2:1-13).

Zechariah 1:11 shows that this vision occurred at a time when the Gentile nations of the world were at peace (the Persians having subdued the nations of the Babylonian empire). The Jews; however, were not at peace after being oppressed by Assyria, and serving Babylon in captivity for seventy years (1:12).

Indicating a season of judgment was to come upon the Gentile nations for their harsh treatment of His people, Zechariah was commanded to cry out against the heathen nations and declare for the LORD, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15  And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease” (1:14-15).

The LORD promised to show mercy, and prosper His people if they would rebuild His Temple (1:16). What a joy it would have been for the Jews to hear Zechariah prophesy, saying,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).

God had not forgotten His people, nor the wrongs they had suffered. The LORD was waiting for His people to repent of their sins, that He might overwhelm them with His blessings.

Is the LORD waiting on you? He will bless His people when they confess their sins, repent, and turn to Him.

Psalm 51:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Consider you ways!” (Haggai 1-2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1-2

The book of Haggai falls chronologically at the conclusion of Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). Incredibly, eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, had declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him an house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by an edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3).

As is too often seen when great works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and then set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar), who served as governor of Judah, and was of the Davidic line (named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13), the preparations to lay the Temple foundation were halted when adversaries opposed the work and discouraged the people (Ezra 4).

It was at this time, a time of discouragement, that God raised up two prophets to minister in Judah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, both mentioned in Ezra 5:1, were contemporaries in Judah. Though the book of Haggai is only two chapters in length, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation, “Get to work!”

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes.  For ten years, from 530 BC to 520 BC, the Temple was neglected while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not finished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps even yourself?  Most of us do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD. However, we might often be guilty of procrastination and suggesting by our words and attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

The LORD had been longsuffering with His people; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent His prophet Haggai to rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), warning the people that the LORD was withholding His blessings from the nation, and their labor in the fields would be futile until the Temple was built (1:6-11).

The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops), but what they had failed to do.

Haggai left no doubt why the people were struggling, laboring much while harvesting so little, and detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in obtaining comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

Haggai 1:9 – Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Godly men that they were, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).

Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is With You in The Midst of Trials (Ezra 1-3)

Scripture reading – Ezra 1-3

Our chronological Scripture reading schedule brings us today to the Book of Ezra and the return of the Jews to their homeland. Jeremiah had prophesied the captivity of Judah would last seventy years (Jeremiah 25:9-11), and when it was finished, the Jews would return their homeland. True to His Word, God remembered the prophecies of Jeremiah and “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (1:1).

Ezra 1 is a testimony that God is faithful to His promises.

Permit me a recap of historical events that led up to the miraculous return of God’s chosen people to their homeland. The following dates are approximate; however, they give us a timeline that serves as a reminder that“HIS-STORY” is a testimony of God’s sovereignty and providential dealings with His people.

Solomon’s Temple is believed to have been completed in 949 B.C. In 722 B.C. the Northern Kingdom known as Israel, fell to Assyria. Nebuchadnezzar first subdued Jerusalem and Judah in 606 B.C., taking Judah’s King Jehoiakim captive, along with several other Jewish youth, among them Daniel (Daniel 1:3-4). The 606 B.C. date was the commencement of the seventy years of captivity that Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 25:9-11). Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Medo-Persian armies conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.

In 536 B.C., seventy years after the first Babylonian captivity, Cyrus of Persia became the sole regent of the Babylonian empire and issued an edict proclaiming, “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (1:1-2).

Seventy years after the first captivity began, God moved on the heart of Cyrus to free the Jews to “go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem” (1:3).

Consider two extraordinary events found in the opening verses of Ezra. The first, that God moved on the heart of a heathen king to finance the rebuilding of His Temple in Jerusalem. The second, that Cyrus issued and edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland.

The same LORD who moved the heart of a pagan king to do His will, is the same God who controls the heart of every authority in your life. King Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

After granting the Jews liberty to return to their homeland, only a small number, less than 50,000, shared the vision and heart for returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (1:5). With the exception of some priests and Levites, only two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were represented in the number who were sensitive to the Spirit of God and were willing to leave Babylon and begin the task of rebuilding the Temple and Jerusalem.

Why were the other tribes not moved to return to the land God had promised His people for an inheritance? I fear they had been in Babylon too long (taken captive by Assyria 136 years prior to Judah’s captivity). The Babylonian culture was part of them and they had no heart of longing for the land of their ancestry. Sadly, the majority of the Jews treasured Babylon, and their hearts were not in Jerusalem.

Where is your treasure?

 Matthew 6:19-2119 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 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Hosts and Their Opposition to the Prayers of the Saints (Daniel 10-12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 10-12

Daniel 10-12 is the fourth and final vision of Daniel. Daniel 10 introduces the vision. Daniel 11:1-35 revealed the immediate future, while Daniel 11:36-12:4 was a revelation of the distant future and a time we know as the Tribulation: “the time of the end” (11:36) in which the antichrist will appear. Daniel’s final vision concludes with a revelation of the Great White Throne (12:4-13) and God’s final judgment.

Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Daniel 10 and the introduction of the final vision.

Daniel 10:1-9 – A Heavenly Messenger

Writing in the third person, Daniel employs his Chaldean name Belteshazzar (no doubt the name he employed in his official capacity as an officer of the king’s court), and revealed a transition of leadership in Babylon citing the time of his fourth and final vision as, “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1).

The date of the vision was about 536 B.C., about the time of Daniel’s experience in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6) and soon after King Cyrus had issued his edict, freeing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1). Fifty thousand captives had returned to Israel, but soon after their arrival they faced opposition that not only hindered the work on the Temple, but finally succeeded in stopping it altogether.

Daniel, serving as an official in the Persian court, must have been privy to the opposition his brethren were facing in Israel and that may have been the cause for his “mourning three full weeks” (10:2). Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, and about the time of the Passover, “in the four and twentieth day of the first month” (10:4), God sent a messenger to Daniel as he “was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel” (the Tigris River, 10:4).

The messenger, described as “a certain man” (10:5), was so brilliant in appearance (10:5-6) that Daniel and his companions were terrified, though only Daniel saw the vision (10:7). With a voice that sounded “like the voice of a multitude” (10:6) and was accompanied by a great earthquake, Daniel’s companions fled (10:7), leaving Daniel alone to see the “great vision” (10:8).

Though the man in Daniel’s vision was not identified, I am of the opinion he was a pre-incarnate appearance of the LORD Jesus Christ.  The prophet was so overwhelmed by the heavenly presence of the man, that he felt himself to be utterly corrupt and physically weak (10:8). Lying prostrate before the man and his face to the ground, the voice and words of Daniel’s visitor brought on a “deep sleep” (10:9).

Daniel 10:10-21 – Revelation of an Unseen Spiritual Battle: The Angels of the LORD vs. The Demons of Darkness

Daniel was suddenly awakened when a hand touched him, lifting him up on his knees and the palms of his hands (10:10). The hand of this second visitor is not identified; however, he was an angel and might have been the angel Gabriel who had appeared twice before in Daniel 8:16 and Daniel 9:21. Comforting the prophet with his salutation, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent” (10:11a), Daniel stood to his feet still trembling (10:11b).

Daniel 10:12-21 gives us a great insight into an invisible spiritual conflict between the LORD and His angels, and Satan and his demons of darkness.  The angel informed Daniel that he had been sent by the LORD on the first day when he had prayed (10:2-3, 12); however, he had been hindered in his mission by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” who had resisted him twenty-one days until Michael the archangel had come to assist him (10:13).

The angel stated the purpose of his mission in coming to Daniel saying, “I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people [the believing Jews] in the latter days [the time of tribulation]: for yet the vision is for many days” (10:14). Hearing the news of what would become of God’s people at the end of the ages, Daniel once again fell to the ground, dumbstruck and deeply troubled by the vision (10:15-17). Strengthened by the touch and encouraging words of his angelic visitor (10:16, 18-19), Daniel was ready to receive the prophecy that would follow (Daniel 11-12).

I close inviting you to consider the revelation of an invisible, spiritual warfare that is being waged by the angels of heaven against the demonic angels (10:20). Two great and wicked fallen angels are identified as “the prince of Persia,” and one who will follow him, “the prince of Grecia” (10:20b).

The next time you pray and grow anxious waiting on the LORD to answer your prayer, remember: There is an evil host of angels that are actively opposing God’s work on earth. They influence and possess men and women in the great halls of government, wield power for evil in society, and are ever encouraging wicked men and women to oppose God and commit evil against His people.

Ephesians 6:11-1211  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

From Grazing to Grace (Daniel 4-6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading is lengthy (Daniel 4, 5, and 6), and for that reason I will limit my devotional commentary to one chapter, Daniel 4.

Daniel 4 – A Testament to the Tragedy of Sinful Pride

King Nebuchadnezzar was one of history’s greatest rulers and was a man whose life was a testimony to the sovereignty of God. He was, in the words recorded by the prophet Jeremiah, the servant of the LORD when God employed the king’s ambition and judged Judah for that nation’s sin and rebellion (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). While there is some dispute as to whether or not Nebuchadnezzar died a man of faith, there is certainty that his life was a testimony of God’s providence and grace.

We find Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted with a spiritual malady, of his own choosing, that is the nemesis of mankind–Pride.

Solomon warned his son, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is the rotten root of man’s sinful nature and is at the core of man’s wickedness. We read in the psalms,

Psalm 10:2 – “The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor…”

Psalm 10:4 – “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”

Nebuchadnezzar was no stranger to pride. He was the most powerful figure in the world of his day. His accomplishments are nearly unrivaled: A mighty warrior, a great administrator, a visionary and master-builder. His tenure as king spanned 43 years (605 BC-562 B.C.) and during his reign, Babylon grew from a city-state to an empire. Babylon encompassed an estimated 14 square miles and was fortified by a triple line of walls, the outermost wall being 300 feet high and 80 feet across at the top (wide enough for four chariots to race abreast).

Daniel 4 finds Nebuchadnezzar enjoying the “golden years” of his reign. He was “at rest” (4:4a), and his war years were behind him. The king was enjoying the fruits of his labor and the spoils of war; however, we find him troubled by a dream, a vision that he demanded interpretation.

After the king’s magicians and astrologers failed to interpret his dream (4:7), Nebuchadnezzar summoned Daniel (4:8) and expressed his confidence that God had given him a gift for interpreting dreams (4:9). The king proceeded to tell Daniel his dream (4:10-18), and when he was finished, we read that Daniel was speechless for an hour. (4:19).

Nebuchadnezzar, seeing that Daniel (also known by his Chaldean name, Belteshazzar) was troubled by the meaning of his dream (4:19), exhorted him to interpret his dream.

Daniel answered the king’s command by tactfully preparing him for the bad news saying, “My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies” (4:19c).

Daniel then explained the dream saying, the tree was a symbol of the king’s power and accomplishments (4:20a, 22b); however, like the tree, he would soon be cut down, deemed insane, and driven from the palace where he would spend seven years living like a wild beast.

Daniel urged Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his pride (4:27), warning the king that only when he would acknowledge the sovereignty of God in the earth (4:26) would he be healed and restored as king.

Twelve months passed (4:29) while God patiently waited for the king to repent of his sinful pride and acknowledge Him as Sovereign.

One day the king was walking about the terrace of his palace, and looking out upon the city he boasted with sinful pride, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (4:30)

The king had refused to humble himself, and his pride exceeded God’s patience. God had given the king 12 months to repent, however, when the time of God’s judgment had come there was no delay.

Daniel 4:31 – While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.

The king was driven out of his palace and lived like a wild beast. When seven years of humiliation had passed, we read, “Nebuchadnezzar lifted up [his] eyes unto heaven, and [his] understanding returned unto [him] (4:34a). The king acknowledged God’s rule, power, and the breadth of His eternal kingdom.

Nebuchadnezzar confessed that the God of heaven is immutable and His kingdom and reign is eternal, “from generation to generation” (4:34b). As He had promised, God restored the king to his throne (4:36), as he confessed, that the “King of heaven” is just and He is able to bring low the proud (4:37).

Friend, you cannot know when you might refuse to hear God’s voice for the last time. You cannot know when you might hear your last invitation, your last opportunity to confess your sin and repent.

Ecclesiastes 9:12 – “For man also knoweth not his time…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith