Category Archives: Faith

God’s Word Will Endure and His Judgment Will Not Fail (Jeremiah 18-22)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 18-22

We continue in our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah with our Scripture reading being chapters 18-22. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Jeremiah 18.

Jeremiah 18:1-10 – The Potter’s House

The setting of Jeremiah 18 is “the potter’s house” (18:1-3).  God commanded Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house and observe the potter as he fashioned lumps of clay on the potter’s wheel. (A potter’s wheel consisted of two horizontal disks joined by a rod; the lower disk the potter moved with his feet and the upper disk was the surface on which the artisan shaped lumps of clay into vessels.)

The prophet observed the potter fashioning two vessels with his hands.  The first is described as “marred” (18:4), perhaps because a pebble or some other flaw was present in the clay. After removing the impurity, the potter then crushed the clay and began again fashioning the lump into a new vessel that “seemed good” (18:4).

For Jeremiah, the work of the potter was a portrait of the LORD who described Himself as having chosen the nation of Israel as a potter chooses clay (18:5-6).  God asked Israel, “cannot I do with you as this potter?” (18:6), leaving no doubt the implication of the potter’s work with the clay. God warned the potter’s work with the clay was a metaphor of His sovereign authority to “pluck up…pull down…[and] destroy” (18:7) the nation because of its disobedience.

Though He had determined to judge the nation for its sins, God assured the people of His love and mercy if they would “turn from their evil” (18:8). Like the clay yielded to the potter’s hands to be reshaped and fashioned for his purpose, the LORD longed to restore Israel to Himself and bless the nation (18:10).

Jeremiah 18:11-17 – Judah’s Irrational Decision to Reject the LORD

The LORD commanded Jeremiah to go to the people and warn them that God had determined to judge them if they continued in their sins (18:10). Rather than fearing the LORD and repenting, the people rejected His invitation saying, “There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (18:12).

The foolishness of rejecting the LORD’s mercy was astounding! God appealed to Jeremiah to tell the people to consider how reckless, how unreasonable they were to reject the LORD (18:13-15). Judah had set upon a ruinous path following after gods that were not gods at all (18:15). The ruins of Judah’s lands and villages would be a lasting testimony of God’s judgment, and other nations would look with wonder upon the ruins of her lands and villages (18:16). The LORD would turn His face from His people and they would be taken captive and scattered (18:17).

Jeremiah 18:18-23 – Judah Rejected the Message and the Messenger and Jeremiah Prayed for Justice and Vengeance

Rather than heed the warning of God’s prophet, the people were emboldened in their sin and boasted they had their own priest, wise men, and prophet (18:18a). Angered by Jeremiah’s boldness, they plotted against him saying, “Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words” (18:18b).

Hearing the plots against him and the pit his enemies had prepared to entrap him, Jeremiah prayed to the LORD, “Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them” (18:20).

Realizing how entrenched the people were in their sin and their resolve to continue in their wickedness, Jeremiah prayed not only that he would be vindicated as the LORD’S prophet, but that the God’s judgment would proceed as He had determined (18:21-23).

Take heart dear friend, for God is faithful to His promises. His justice will not fail, and He hears and answers the prayers of the righteous.

Matthew 5:18 – “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“I Am With Thee…I Will Redeem Thee” (Jeremiah 14-17)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 14-17

Today’s Scripture reading continues Jeremiah’s prophetic warnings concerning the judgment that would soon befall Judah. It is believed by the date of our text that Judah has been invaded and Jerusalem besieged by King Nebuchadnezzar. The sorrow and desperation of God’s people and the reality that He had determined His judgment was a great sorrow for Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 14 – A Judgment of Drought

Knowing God often chastises a nation physically for its sin and wickedness, we are not surprised to read that there was a “dearth,” a drought in Judah. The LORD had withheld rain and there was a great famine (Jeremiah 14:1-22). “There was no rain in the earth” (14:4) and cows delivered their calves, but forsook them because there was no grass (14:5).

In the midst of the famine, and desperate for help, the people began to pray to the LORD, making a pretense of confessing and repenting of their sins (14:7-9). But God, who knows what lies is in the hearts of men (Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Romans 8:27), knew the people were not sincere and would not turn from their sins.

The LORD announced His judgment would not be deterred (14:10-12).

Jeremiah’s heart being heavy with sorrow interceded for Judah, and suggested the sins of the people was due to false prophets who had led them astray (14:13). The LORD conceded the presence of false prophets in Judah; however, He declared, “I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them” (14:14).

Nevertheless, the people had disobeyed God and turned from His Law and Commandments. They had persecuted the prophets of the LORD and turned to false prophets. Because of their wickedness, the LORD declared the people would die by famine and the sword (14:16).

Jeremiah 14 continues with the prophet weeping day and night (14:17). Babylon had invaded the land and the presence of death and judgment was everywhere. Jeremiah observed,

Jeremiah 14:18a – If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine!”

Understanding the magnitude and decisiveness of God’s judgment, Jeremiah wondered, “[LORD], Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!” (14:19)

Interceding for his people, Jeremiah identified with and confessed the sins of Judah (14:20) and implored the LORD, “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake [i.e. remember Israel was identified with God who chose them], do not disgrace the throne of thy glory [heaven’s throne]: remember, break not thy covenant with us” [remember Your covenant promises] (14:21).

Jeremiah confessed that only God could save Judah (14:22).

Jeremiah 15 – The Inevitability of God’s Judgment

Judah’s wickedness had passed the point of no reprieve and the LORD responded to Jeremiah’s intercessory prayer (14:20-22).  Judgment would come upon the nation and the death and destruction that would spell the end of Judah was described in vivid detail (15:1-9).

Jeremiah 15:10-21 gives us a window into the soul of the prophet when he cried out to the LORD and lamented the sorrows and rejection he had suffered as God’s prophet (15:10).  Though he had become an object of scorn and persecution (15:15), Jeremiah found refuge and hope in God’s promises (15:18-21).

Jeremiah 15:20-21 – “…I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 21  And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.”

What a blessed promise for those who endure persecution and put their trust in the LORD!

1 Corinthians 15:57-58 – “57  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Your God? (Jeremiah 10-13)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 10-13

Our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah continue today with our Scripture reading comprising Jeremiah 10-13. Jeremiah 10 will be the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. He was a man of passion who loved the LORD and faithfully proclaimed His Word from His calling as a young man (Jeremiah 1:6-8) to the fall of Jerusalem and the first years of Babylonian captivity. He endured the scorn of his people, the persecution of his nation’s leaders, and wept as Judah fell to Babylon. His reputation as the “weeping prophet” is borne out by the sorrows that are recorded in the book that bears his name and in the Book of Lamentations, his second book.

Jeremiah challenged the people to contrast the false gods whom they worshipped (10:1-5) with the God of Israel who had revealed Himself to Israel (10:6-11).

Jeremiah 10:1-5 – Jeremiah Mocked the Idols Men Worshipped.

Describing the absurdity of worshipping idols conceived and made by men, Jeremiah pictured a man cutting down a tree, carving and shaping an idol from the wood (10:3), then overlaying it with silver and gold (10:4).

Mocking the idea of anything man might make being a god worthy of worship, Jeremiah stated the impotence of such a god: It cannot move about of its own will (10:4b); it cannot speak (10:5a); in fact, it must be carried about by one foolish enough to worship and sacrifice to its image (10:5b). Jeremiah admonished the people, “Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (10:5c).

Jeremiah 10:6-11 – There is None Like the God of Heaven.

I will step away from my role as an author and allow the Scriptures to declare the majesty of God without commentary.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 – “6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is greatin might. 7  Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:10 – But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:12 – He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

Jeremiah 10:16 – The portion of Jacob is not like them: for He is the former [framer; potter; maker] of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.

Who is Your God? (10:6-16)

My God is the Great One, unlike any other (10:6). He is the King and Sovereign of all nations (10:7). He is incomparable in His person, majesty, and wisdom (10:7b). He is Truth (10:10a). He is the God of life (10:10b). He is the Eternal, Everlasting King, the Sovereign of Creation (10:10c). He is a God of righteousness and justice (10:10d).

My God is the One and Only Creator (10:12a) and sustains the earth by His power (10:12b) and in His wisdom He set the expanse of the heavens (10:12c). He is the God of Jacob (10:16a) and Israel is His chosen inheritance (10:16b).

My God is the “framer,” the maker, the creator of all things (10:16b). He is “the LORD of hosts,” the Commander and Master of the angels of heaven (10:16c).

Who Is Your God?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 7-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 4-6

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

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

Jeremiah 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Jeremiah: God’s Prophet to a Nation on the Brink of Judgment” (Jeremiah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 1-3

Our chronological Bible reading schedule brings us to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, and marks the 219th Scripture reading assignment of 2020. For the sake of brevity, today’s devotional commentary will serve as an introduction to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and focus solely on Jeremiah 1.

The book of Jeremiah is biographical and prophetic, chronicling the life and experience of a man of God who stood alone in his day. Written by the prophet whose name it bears, the Book of Jeremiah accounts for the ministry of a faithful prophet. Fifty-two chapters long and spanning fifty-four years, from Judah’s revival years during the reign of King Josiah, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC.

Jeremiah 1 – The Prophet of God

Jeremiah’s ministry was to a people who had turned from God. Israel had broken God’s covenant and disobeyed His commandments. It was for such a time the LORD called one man to stand in the gap and warn His people that should they not repent all would be lost.

Jeremiah’s ministry began during Josiah’s reign (est. 640 BC to 609 BC) and continued through the reigns of four wicked kings: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah died (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36).

He was a Levite by birth. His father Hilkiah was a priest and he was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses (1:1). Anathoth, his hometown, was only about three miles northeast of Jerusalem (1:1; Joshua 21:15-19), and there is little doubt Jeremiah was familiar with the politics of Jerusalem.

The LORD made a wonderful revelation when He called Jeremiah to be His prophet.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 – “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified [consecrated; set apart] thee, and I ordained [appointed] thee a prophet unto the nations.”

In the same way God knew Jeremiah from the moment of conception, He knows you. He knows your talents, gifts, and abilities. He knows your strengths and weaknesses.

Jeremiah protested, “LORD God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (1:6).

Jeremiah was not a child in the chronological sense, but he was a young inexperienced man. The thought of being God’s prophet in the midst of an ungodly nation was no doubt intimidating and overwhelming.

God answered Jeremiah’s objection with the assurance, “I am with thee” (1:8b).

Jeremiah 1:7-8 – “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. 8  Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.”

The breadth of Jeremiah’s ministry and message was universal. (1:9-10)

Jeremiah 1:9b-10 – “The LORD said unto me [Jeremiah], Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 10  See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

From heaven’s perspective, Jeremiah was a messenger of the LORD. From man’s perspective, he was a troublemaker, perhaps an antagonist, called “to root out [sin], and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (1:10).

We will see in our study of Jeremiah that he was a prophet who was hated and despised by his people. The LORD warned him, “they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (1:19).

What a wonderful encouragement to those God has called to teach and declare His Word! The LORD is with us!

Let us, in the words of the apostle Paul, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Wicked Know No Shame (Zephaniah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Zephaniah 1-3

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

Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zephaniah 2 – An Exhortation to Repent

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

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

Zephaniah 3 – The Necessity of Divine Judgment Against Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

What a glorious day that will be!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The hour of revival had past, and it was too late! (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35). 2 Kings was a contemporary history record; however, 2 Chronicles was authored while Israel and Judah were in captivity. Both are historical accounts of the promise of blessings (when kings obey the LORD’s Law and Commandments) and judgment (when those same kings rebel and disobey the LORD). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the accounts in 2 Kings 22-23.

2 Kings 22

The glorious reign of Josiah, the grandson of King Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years) and the son of Amon (a wicked king who reigned two years), was a period of revival in Judah.

Josiah began to reign when he was eight years old, and perhaps because of the influence of his mother, he chose to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

The king commanded that the Temple be repaired (22:3-7), and in the course of doing so the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8). The “book of the law” was taken to King 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, overwhelmed by the words of the law and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), sent messengers to enquire of a prophetess named Huldah (22:13-14). Huldah confirmed to the king that the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah was assured that he would not see the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in his lifetime because his “heart was tender” and he had humbled himself before the LORD (22:18-19).

2 Kings 23

Josiah set his heart to begin a national reformation of Judah, and one that reached northward to the land and remnant of Israel (2 Kings 23). Gathering all the leaders and people of Judah, the king renewed Judah’s covenant with the LORD (23:1-3).

The king commanded the Temple be cleansed of idolatry and all the elements associated with such wickedness destroyed, ground to powder, and burned (23:4-6). Demonstrating the depth of depravity to which Judah had descended, we find there were “houses of the sodomites” (homosexuals) located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah took his crusade for reformation to Bethel where Jeroboam, the first king of the northern ten tribes, had established idolatry (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 that he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

Josiah also 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).

The reign of Josiah was celebrated in Judah. In the annals of Judah’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).

Nevertheless, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of King Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of Manasseh, had sealed the fate of that 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).

Three rebellious kings followed Josiah in quick succession (23:31-37) and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, began to overshadow the land (2 Kings 24).

For Judah, the hour of revival had past, and it was too late.

Genesis 6:3 – “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Nahum 1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 32-33

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

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permit me to close with an observation and application. 

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith