Category Archives: Doctrine

“I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

The Book of Ezra revealed there were adversaries who disrupted, and for 15 years curtailed the work on the Temple. They had made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3). Those same enemies accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  When Darius became king of Persia, the enemy accused the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6). This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Haggai 2

The LORD countered the voices of the enemies and critics, and sent His prophets (Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra 5:1), who encouraged the people saying, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel (the civic leader), saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (2:4).

Assuring the people the LORD would fill the new Temple with His glory (2:7), Haggai declared, “8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. 9The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (2:8-9).

How did the LORD fill the second Temple with His glory, especially since there is no record of such an event as it was with Solomon’s Temple? (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Though the second Temple lacked the beauty and splendor of the first, unbeknownst to the Jews, the LORD Himself would one day grace its halls with His bodily presence. Jesus, the incarnate, virgin born Son of God would be dedicated there as an infant (Luke 2:25-38). As a boy, he would be found both listening and questioning the rabbis regarding the Word of the LORD in the Temple court (Luke 2:46-52). As a man, Christ brought to the Temple a message of hope and peace for all men (2:9; Luke 4:17-22).

A Question of Holiness and Contamination (2:10-19)

Haggai’s fourth message to God’s people was recorded in the closing verses of this brief book. Stirred by the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were building the Temple with a zeal that would finally see it completed. The sermon was delivered two months after the third message, and the subject was on God’s stipulations for purity and holiness (as opposed to that which is unholy and “unclean,” 2:12-13). The implication of the lesson was, the LORD only accepts and blesses that which is righteous (2:14). When God’s people sin, they sacrifice His blessings, and invite His judgment (2:15-19).

A Challenge to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)

On the same day he delivered the fourth message to the people building the Temple, Haggai had a final revelation for Zerubbabel, the leaders and governor of Judah (2:20-23). Who was Zerubbabel? He was a leader of the tribe of Judah, but more importantly, he was of the linage of David, and named in the lineage of Christ (2:6; Matthew 1:12-13).

The LORD made a far-reaching promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth” (2:21). Babylon had been overthrown, and Persia ruled the world, but the LORD reminded Zerubbabel He alone was sovereign and nations rise and fall within His divine providence (2:22). No king or kingdom is so strong that the LORD will not overthrow and “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen” (2:22).

Closing thought – Haggai closed with a wonderful, Messianic promise (2:23). The LORD revealed Zerubbabel was chosen by “the LORD of hosts,” and one of his lineage would bear the “signet” (typically a ring monarchs used to seal covenants or legal documents in wax). The Messiah would come not only through David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16), but also through Zerubbabel, for he had been chosen! (2:23).

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 Miracle of Israel’s Presence (Ezra 1; Ezra 2)

Scripture reading – Ezra 1; Ezra 2

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with our focus being the Book of Ezra. Ezra, the author, will not be introduced to until chapter 7; however, he has given us a record of Judah’s return from Babylonian captivity to the Promised Land.

A Historical Perspective

If you are a student of history, you are aware it is a miracle for any people to return from captivity, and once again become a nation. Apart from Israel, I can give no example of an ancient people who recovered from the desolation Israel suffered. The nations of Philistia, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Amalek, Phoenicia, the Hittites, and Amorites no longer exist. The great empires of Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome are mere footnotes in the history of mankind; yet, there is one populace identifiable as an ancient people in today’s world – the Jews.

Although a powerful, influential nation during the reigns of David and Solomon, Israel was and is geographically no more than a sliver of land. Never a great population, or known for military conquests, the Jews, though beloved and despised continue to exist. Of all ancient peoples, why have the Jews continued as a distinctive people?

The presence of a Jewish people in the 21st century is a testimony of God’s Covenant promises to Abraham. God’s promise to bless Abraham and his seed as the stars of heaven, is a promise which continues to this day (Genesis 22:17). Not only has God been faithful to His covenant promises with Abraham, He has also been faithful to His promises to all those who by faith in Christ, become sons of Abraham, of which the apostle Paul wrote, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Ezra 1

The Book of Ezra opened with a statement that set the date and timeline of our study, for it was “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that…the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom” (1:1). The year was about 538 B.C., and the proclamation was issued when Daniel, though aged, was still God’s prophet to God’s people in Babylon. Daniel was near the end of his ministry (having been captive in Babylon for 70 years), but the LORD had chosen a young priest named Ezra to serve Him and His people. While Daniel ministered to a generation who suffered the consequences of their sins, Ezra would be priest to a new generation that would return to Israel, and rebuild their lives and nation.

What an exciting time! Remembering, “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), the opening verses of Ezra remind us the God of Israel is Sovereign over heaven and earth (1:1-2). Having conquered Babylon, Cyrus, declared the God of heaven had moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).

The Liberty to Go Home (1:3-11)

Fulfilling the LORD’s promise to restore Israel and Judah to their land, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return home. The king challenged them, asking, “3Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him 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).

Facing formidable hardships, for Jerusalem was in ruins and the Temple destroyed, only a small number (estimated 50,000), responded to the call. Those Jews who chose not to return home, were challenged to financially support those willing to return, providing them with silver, gold, goods, and beasts, “beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem” (1:4).

Only two of the twelve tribes (Judah and Benjamin) responded to the challenge to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (1:5). The Spirit of God also stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites, who were moved “to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem” (1:5).

As commanded by the king, the remaining Jewish people in Babylon gave of their wealth and possessions to support those returning to Israel (1:8). Also, king Cyrus retrieved the gold and silver vessels of the Temple that were taken by Nebuchadnezzar (1:8). After accounting for the number of vessels, the king sent them with those going “up from Babylon unto Jerusalem” (1:11).

Ezra 2 – A Census of Families

A census was taken of those departing Babylon, and returning to Israel. The names of families and households were forever recorded in the Word of God, and we will briefly consider them by their occupations. Two men were principal leaders of those returning: Zerubbabel represented the civic leadership of the people (2:2; Haggai 1:14), while Jeshua represented the spiritual leadership (2:2; 3:2; Haggai 1:14). Individual families were recorded (2:3-20), as well as the villages and cities of their lineage (2:21-35). There were priests (2:36-39), Levites (identified as singers and gatekeepers, 2:41-42), and servants who oversaw the menial tasks of the Temple (2:43-54). There were also families identified as “the children of Solomon’s servants” (2:55-58).

There were also some who accompanied and identified with the children of Israel; however, when the records were examined, there was no record of their lineage (2:59-60). Some aspired to be priests, but when it was found there was no genealogical record of their lineage, they were put out of the priesthood (2:61-63).

Closing thoughts (2:64-70) – The total of those who returned to Jerusalem was 42,360; however, it is believed the number did not include children 12 years and younger. Altogether, I suppose there were more than 50,000 who left the comforts and pleasures of Babylon, and embraced the liberty of believing God’s promises and trusting Him. Sadly, I fear the same might be observed in our day.

Are you numbered among those who live by faith, love the LORD, and obey His Word?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Scripture reading – Daniel 7

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

Daniel 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Décor of the Temple (41:16-21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Pity the Nation Governed By the Wicked (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75; Psalm 79

Continuing our chronological study of the Bible, today’s Scripture reading begins a brief departure from our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah. For the next five days, we will consider a compilation of writings that were contemporary to the fall of Jerusalem.

Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 are attributed to Asaph, a Levite musician who was a contemporary of King David. As noted in earlier devotions, there were several psalms credited to Asaph; however, there is some debate regarding whether or not Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 were penned by Asaph, or authored by a member of his household after the fall of Jerusalem. There is much about the content of both psalms that lend themselves to being a record of the devastation left in the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s army. This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Psalm 75 challenges believers to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth. Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving and praise. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God, The Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, and “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved” (75:3). God’s judgment, however, is righteous, and He assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, and the foundations of the world.

All in Authority are Subject to God. (75:4-8)

Lest some leaders feel they are above the law and judgment of God, the LORD admonished: “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How different our world would be if those who wield authority remembered they were nothing without God! Civil governments are ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the ruler of a nation, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

Though the Foundations of Nations are Shaken, May the Saints Sing Praises to God (75:9-10)

The psalmist painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers who fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Yet, the believer’s faith rests not in man, but in the LORD. We should boldly declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob [Israel]” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – We are living in uncertain times when the nations of the world are shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority. Nevertheless, God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath. While fools sing their own praises and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

The wise man remembers, “God is the judge: He putteth down [humbles; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts]another” (75:7).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53) – (republished for today’s Passover\Good Friday observance)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 continues the prophetic portrait of God’s suffering “servant” that began in Isaiah 52 with this astonishing description: “many were astonied [appalled; horrified] at thee; His visage [appearance] was so marred [disfigured] more than any man, And his form [appearance] more than the sons of men” (52:14).

Isaiah’s prophecy foretold the sorrows (53:1-3), suffering (53:4-9), and sacrificial death of the Messiah (53:10-12), and as you will see, it is in harmony with the description of Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross found in the Gospels.

The Messiah’s Suffering (53:1-3)

The unbelief of the Jews was foretold in verse 1, where we read, “Who hath believed our report [message]?” (53:1; John 12:38-41; Romans 10:16)

Isaiah 53:2 revealed the coming Messiah would have a humble demeanor. Isaiah states that He shall have “no form nor comeliness [no natural beauty]; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty [natural beauty] that we should desire him.” Though His coming was foretold by the prophets, Isaiah revealed He would be “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows” (53:3).

The Messiah’s Substitutionary Atonement (53:4-5, 7-9)

The LORD stated to Ezekiel, “Behold, all souls are mine…the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Knowing all men and women are sinners, and the penalty of sin is death, how might God’s mercy, and His demand for justice be satisfied? The answer to that most important question is found in Isaiah 53.

Consider six ways in which the Messiah would satisfy God’s judgment and the penalty of man’s sin. (53:4-9)

1) The Messiah would bear and carry “our griefs, and… our sorrows [punishment]“ (53:4a). He was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (53:4b; Philippians 2:8).

2) He would suffer our wounds, was chastened for our sins, and God placed the full weight of our sins upon Him: “He was wounded [defiled; polluted] for ourtransgressions [our rebellion against God’s law], he was bruised [beaten] for our iniquities [guilt; wicked, crooked ways]: the chastisement [reproof; correction for] of our peace was upon him” (53:5a).

3) He would be scourged, and bear the “stripes [wounds, blows]” we deserved (53:5). Under Jewish law, the condemned would receive 39 lashes. Under Roman law, whose jurisdiction Christ was judged, scourging was so brutal some men died before they suffered the fate of the cross.

4) The Messiah would be treated unjustly, but never protest the injustices He would suffer: “He was oppressed [driven like a beast], and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter [to be sacrificed], and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (53:7; John 1:29; Matthew 26:63; 27:14; 1 Peter 2:23).

5) The Messiah would be rushed to judgment: “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people [Israel] was he stricken” (53:8). Jewish law required two days reprieve before execution; thus, giving opportunity for new evidence to come to light, the family to visit, and the condemned to search his soul. Under Roman law; however, Jesus was shown no mercy and was crucified on the day He was tried (John 18:12, 24; 19:16).

6) The Messiah would make “his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (53:9). Christ fulfilled that prophecy in exact detail. He was crucified on the cross in the midst of two thieves (John 19:31), and His lifeless body was buried in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60).

The Messiah’s Death Satisfied God’s Judgment (53:4, 6, 10)

The Messiah would die, not for His sins, but for our sins. Isaiah prophesied, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows [punishment]: yet we did esteem [pass judgment upon Him in ignorance] him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted [as one with leprosy]” (53:4).

The Messiah was to bear the guilt and burden of our sins, for “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:6; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

Closing thoughts – Like an innocent sacrificial lamb, the Messiah had done nothing to deserve death, for “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” [not sinned in word or action]” (53:9b). The Messiah’s death would satisfy God’s judgment, for “it pleased the LORD to bruise [crush] Him; He hath put Him [Jesus] to grief: when thou shalt make His soul [life] an offering for sin” (53:10a).

In the eternal counsel of the Godhead, it was determined that Christ’s suffering and death would satisfy God’s judgment against sin (53:11; Revelation 13:8).

Why did it please God to crush His Son with the weight of man’s sin? “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.(John 3:16)

Christ’s death satisfied the penalty of sin, and His resurrection proved the curse of sin was satisfied. Sin and the grave no longer have the victory.

Romans 10:9 – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Day of the LORD (Zephaniah 1) – The second of two daily devotionals.

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 35; Zephaniah 1

This is the second of two devotionals for Saturday, April 2, 2022. 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

Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, and served during the reign of Josiah (1:1b).  Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was of that king’s lineage. As noted in previous devotionals, though a child-king, Josiah set his heart to serve the LORD and obey His commandments (2 Chronicles 34:1-3). Perhaps the influence of the prophet Zephaniah was the impetus for the reforms led by the king.

Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.

Zephaniah’s pronouncement of God’s judgment was frightening and graphic. He warned Judah, nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD. Quoting “the word of the LORD” (1:1), Zephaniah prophesied: “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 sins and idolatry of Judah demanded God’s judgment, for the people had “turned back from the Lord…[and] not sought the Lord, nor inquired for him” (1:6).

“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).

The wicked would not be spared God’s judgment (1:7-8). The LORD declared He would punish the young leaders (“princes”) and “the king’s children” (1:7-8). Why? They had failed to adorn themselves in the distinctive robes of their offices (perhaps the priesthood) and according to the law (Deuteronomy 6:8). Instead, they were “clothed in strange apparel” (perhaps the fashion of the heathen, or the robes like the priests of Baal and Molech, 2 Kings 10:22).

The Terror of God’s Judgment (1:10-18)

Remember, 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, and Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the far-reaching implication, the “day of the LORD” is still future and will be fulfilled at the Second Coming of Christ.

Zephaniah 1:10 mentioned “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The fish gate was the second most important entrance into Jerusalem, with the “Sheep Gate” being the primary gate through which sheep were led to be sacrificed at the Temple. Why was the fish gate 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 it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (1:12a).

Tragically, the people of Judah lived in denial of the imminent threat of God’s judgment, and said, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (1:12b). Yet, Zephaniah warned, the strongest men of Judah would be unable to save themselves, and would cry bitterly on the day of God’s judgment (1:14).

Consider the terror of the day of God’s judgment: “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”(1:15). The trumpets would sound the alarm (1:16), and men would become “like blind men, because they [had]sinned against the LORD” (1:17). Blood of men would be poured out into the streets, and “neither their silver nor their gold [would] be able to deliver them” (1:18).

Closing thought – In spite of the prophet’s warnings, and king Josiah’s effort to call the nation to repent and turn to the LORD, the revival had been short lived.  Soon after Josiah’s death the people returned to idolatry, and the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, and leading the people into captivity.

Remember, we will “all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… [and] every knee shall bow to [the LORD], and every tongue shall confess to God. 12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Time for Repentance Was Past (2 Kings 22; 2 Kings 23)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22; 2 Kings 23

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, we return to the Book of the Kings, with Josiah, reigning as king of Judah. 2 Kings 22-23 is a contemporary account of the reign of Josiah, and a parallel account of the same is recorded in 2 Chronicles 34-35.

2 Kings 22 – The Glorious Reign of Josiah

Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years), was the son of Amon, a wicked king who reigned two years before he was assassinated by his servants (21:23). Though only eight years old when he became king, Josiah did “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father [being of David’s lineage], and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

Repairing the Temple (22:3-7)

In the 18th year of his reign, when he was 26 years old, Josiah set his heart to begin a renovation of the Temple (22:3). We are not told why the Temple had fallen into disrepair, perhaps out of neglect, but the king sent a scribe of his court and commanded a portion of the silver brought by the people to the Temple, was to be used to pay wages to those who labored in the Temple (22:4-6). Those who handled the money were so above reproach, they were not pressed to give an account, “because they dealt faithfully” (22:7).

Discovery of the Book of the Law (22:8-20; 2 Chronicles 34:8-18)

In the course of repairing the Temple, the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8), who then “gave the book to Shapan (the king’s scribe), and he read it” (22:8). Shapan, then brought the “book of the law” to Josiah, and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes,” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah was so overwhelmed by the words of the law, and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), that he commanded, “13Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us (Deuteronomy 28; Leviticus 26)” (22:13).

Five men of Josiah’s court, including Hilkiah the priest, went to a prophetess named Huldah (22:14), and consulted with her concerning all that was written in the law (22:14). Speaking the word of the LORD, the prophetess confirmed the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate, and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah, however, because his “heart was tender,” before the LORD (22:18-19), was assured he would be spared the sorrow of witnessing the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem (22:20).

Consideration – With the shadow of judgment hanging over his beloved nation and people, what was Josiah’s response?

2 Kings 23 – A National Reformation of Judah

Josiah set his heart to begin a spiritual reformation in Judah (2 Kings 23). Gathering the leaders and people of Judah and Jerusalem, the king “went up into the house of the Lord…and he [the king] read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord” (23:2).

Standing in the midst of the people, the king renewed Israel’s covenant with the LORD, “to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood [and affirmed] to the covenant” (23:3).

Purging Wickedness (23:4-19)

The king then commanded a cleansing of the Temple, and a purging of every element of idolatry (23:4-6). Indicating the depth of depravity to which Judah and Jerusalem had descended, we read, Josiah “brake down the houses of the sodomites” [homosexuals; male prostitutes] located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah continued his spiritual crusade, and commanded only in Jerusalem would priests offer sacrifices to the LORD (23:8-9). He destroyed Tophet, and purged the “valley of the children of Hinnom” where the people had offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to Molech (23:10). Because horses were considered sacred by the heathen, “he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given [dedicated] to the sun…and burned the chariots of the sun with fire” (23:11).

The spiritual reform then moved to Bethel, where Jeroboam had established idolatry among the northern ten tribes (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

A Spiritual Renewal (23:20-25)

Josiah observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19). His reign was celebrated in Judah, and in the annals of that nation’s history, there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Josiah was killed in battle with the king of Egypt, and his body was returned to Jerusalem where he was buried in his sepulchre (23:29-30). He was succeeded by two sons in quick succession (Jehoahaz, who was bound and taken prisoner to Egypt, 23:30b-33; and Eliakim his brother, whose name was changed to Jehoiakim, 23:34-37).

Closing thoughts – In spite of the great revival under Josiah, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of that king, had sealed the fate of the nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).

For Judah, the hour to repent was past. While the LORD is patient and longsuffering, He is also just and holy. As it was in the days of Noah before the flood, so it is through the ages, for the LORD has forewarned: “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The End is Only the Beginning (Isaiah 66)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 66

Our study of Isaiah concludes with today’s Scripture reading of Isaiah 66. Our next Scripture assignments will put in a historical context, the life and times of Isaiah.

Isaiah 66

The final chapter of Isaiah begins with a striking reminder: The Incomparable Glory of the LORD (66:1-2). The LORD declared, “the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: Where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest?” (66:1).

The Lord dwells in heaven, yet He asked His people to consider His glory, reminding them that all the heavens were His, and the Earth was but a footstool in His sight. Of a truth, His people had forgotten the sanctity and holiness of the Lord. They had forgotten that the Lord looks for those who are “poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at [His] word” (66:2). God seeks a man of humility whose heart is “poor” (humble), “contrite” (broken), and “trembleth” (fearing and revering) Him (66:2; Psalm 51:17).

God Despises Hypocrisy (66:3-4)

To worship the LORD with less than a humble, broken, and reverential heart is repugnant to the LORD. The sacrifices of the wicked are unacceptable to the LORD! (66:3)

God is Judge (66:5-6)

The LORD chooses the punishment of the wicked, and we should remember He is just (66:4). Believers who “tremble,” revere, and obey God’s Word, will be hated by some they call brethren (66:5a). Isaiah foretold, there will be some who will “cast you out” of the congregation for faithfully bearing the name of the LORD (66:5b). Yet, “the LORD [will] be glorified,” the wicked “shall be ashamed” (66:5), and God will punish His enemies (11:6).

Jerusalem: Her Travail, and Homecoming (66:7-14)

There are various opinions on the interpretation of Isaiah 66:7-14; however, I believe the most fitting is that Jerusalem is typified as the woman in labor in these verses. Though torn and divided by war in our day, Isaiah prophesied there would be a day when Jerusalem would be a city of rejoicing (66:10), worship, and comfort (66:11).

In that day, Jerusalem will be a place of peace, and Gentile nations will come to that city where Christ reigns, and will be nourished and comforted (66:12-13; 2:2; 60:4; Revelation 21:24-26). The hearts of God’s people will rejoice, and His enemies will be punished (66:14).

Second Coming of Christ (66:15-21)

The coming of the LORD is a terrifying picture to lost sinners, and a triumphant expectation for believers. Isaiah foretold “the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, To render his anger with fury, And his rebuke with flames of fire” (66:15). The wicked will perish “by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead [pass judgment] with all flesh,” and many will be “slain of the Lord” (66:16). The wicked “shall be consumed together, saith the LORD” (66:17).

Eternity (66:22-24)

Declaring again “the new heavens and the new earth” (66:22), the children of God are promised they will continue as God’s people forever (66:22b). The worship of the LORD will be continual, from month to month (“one new moon to another”), and week to week (“from one sabbath to another”). In that day, “all flesh” will come to Jerusalem to worship the LORD (66:23).

Closing thoughts – Lest some believe hell and the lake of fire are limited to the New Testament, Isaiah 66:24 reminds us of a perpetual place of fire and torment for those who have transgressed God’s Commandments, and rejected Christ as Savior.

Isaiah 66:24 – “24And they shall go forth, and look Upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: For their worm shall not die, Neither shall their fire be quenched; And they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”

Reminder: The end is only the beginning! (Revelation 20:11-15)

Where will you spend eternity?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Battle of Armageddon (Isaiah 63)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 63

Isaiah had exhorted the people to prepare for the coming of the LORD. They were to remove all obstacles that stood in the way, and “lift up a standard” (a flag) indicating they were ready to receive the LORD (62:10-11). Isaiah 63 continues that scene with the Battle of Armageddon as the setting, and the victorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 63

The Second Coming of Christ is the subject of Isaiah 63:1, where we read, 1Who is this that cometh from Edom, With dyed garments from Bozrah?” (63:1a). The LORD was described as coming from Edom, a representation of the Gentile nations that will be aligned against Israel. “Bozrah,” meaning “grape gathering” was a fitting place for the setting of God’s judgment that is portrayed as a winepress (63:1).

Garments Stained with Blood (63:2-6)

Christ will come as Judge and King at a time the nations of the world will be gathered against Israel, and laying siege to Jerusalem. Coming in wrath against the sins of the nations, Isaiah described Christ as “travelling in the greatness of his strength,” that He might save His people (63:1b).

The question was proposed, “2Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” (63:2). Comparing the crushing of grapes in a winepress, to the coming of Christ, it was observed that the LORD’s robe will be stained red with blood (Revelation 19:13), like a wine presser’s robe was stained red with the juice of grapes (62:2-3). As the wine presser crushes grapes with his feet, the LORD promised He would crush the enemies of His people (63:3-6; Revelation 14:19, 20; 19:15).

The Judgment and Redemption of Christ (63:7-14)

I believe God’s people are speaking in Isaiah 63:7, where we read, “I will mention the lovingkindnesses [love, mercy, and compassion] of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord” (63:7a). In spite of all Israel had suffered, they would realize the LORD was worthy of praise because of His love and compassion (63:7b). They would remember how the LORD had chosen them, saying, “Surely they are my people, Children that will not lie [i.e. break covenant]: So he was their Saviour” (63:8).

Of course, the people broke their covenant, but when they suffered afflictions because of their sins, the LORD pitied them, and identified with their sorrows (63:9a). He loved them, would redeem them, and like a mother carries her nursing infant, the LORD had compassion on His people (63:9).

The LORD Yearned for Israel to Repent (63:10-14)

The history of Israel has been one of rebellion, and grieving the Holy Spirit. By their sins, the people had made the LORD their enemy, and out of love He disciplined them (63:10).

Some of that nation remembered how the LORD had loved and cared for them as His people. He had given them Moses to lead them through the Red Sea, and the LORD had guided them through the wilderness (63:10-12). Keeping His promise, the LORD gave His people rest in their land (Joshua 23:1).

Closing thoughts – A Cry for Deliverance (63:15-19)

In their afflictions, they cried to the LORD for mercy and compassion (63:15). They remembered He was their Father, and the Redeemer of Israel (63:16).

Isaiah then prayed the LORD would return and help His people (63:17b). He reminded the LORD, He had chosen Israel to be a holy people, and 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).

I close, being comforted by the assurance, 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith