Category Archives: Fool

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6

Today’s Scripture reading entails parallel readings of the same events. Each Gospel account gives us an individual record of the life and ministry of Christ from the perspective of its human author, but as a whole, they evidence the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting us with a harmonious view of what appears to be a three-dimensional portrait. Today’s devotional commentary is from Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

Though the public ministry of Jesus was still in its infancy, nevertheless, the enemies of the LORD were present from the beginning. Performing miracles as a sign that He was the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets of Israel, Jesus was enjoying a great following of the people. There was, however, antagonists who viewed Him as a threat to their position and influence among the people.

The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they would plot to discredit and destroy Him throughout His earthly ministry, up to His divine appointment with the Cross. It was their antagonism and hatred for Jesus that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The LORD’s fourth commandment to Israel, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), was the issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus when they accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law (12:1-2) according to their standards. Passing through a farmer’s field enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were hungry and “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). Ever looking for an occasion to accuse Jesus of wrong doing, the Pharisees seized upon the opportunity to accuse His disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition.

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their stringent interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  The fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from providing for his physical hunger (after all, David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God, 12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6) as outlined in the Levitical standards in the Torah.

Entering into the synagogue on the same day, Jesus encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Citing a common practice in that rural culture, Jesus demanded of His critics, would you not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus then declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

And how did the enemies of Jesus respond not only to His teaching, He being “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), but also the healing of the man with the paralyzed hand? (12:13)

Matthew 12:1414Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. (note – Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11)

Oh, the hypocrisy! On one hand they demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God; and in the other they plotted to destroy Jesus and violate the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them (12:15).

I have found the decision to withdraw oneself is a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. The manner of Christ is one we should emulate, after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Note from the author: For those following the chronological Scripture reading schedule, remember that some events in the Gospel accounts are not in chronological order. Also, chapter and verse numbers have been added by editors to assist us in studying the Scriptures, but sometimes those helpful numbers break up the flow of events. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7; however, the Gospel of Luke records a portion of that same sermon in Luke 6:20-49. None of those facts take away from the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures; however, I hope my explanation might give you some rationale for the reading schedule.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Karma: My God Has Got the Whole World, In His Hands (Esther 6-10)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

The world calls it, “Instant Karma,” an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism. Instant Karma suggests a “payback” for one’s past actions. Of course, what one has done in the past might be good or bad, and the “payback” serve as its reward.

Instant Karma seems to suggest a “Cause and Effect” that is fatalistic and devoid of the influence of divine sovereignty and intervention. As a believer, I have faith in God’s promises. I know God is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end. I am confident, “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).

There is an undeniable principle of “Cause and Effect” in this world and it is summed up in this: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Esther 6

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king. King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I), found himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.

It is revealed that the king’s insomnia (6:1) was used by God to direct his thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end. From the king’s perspective, however, it was just another sleepless night, and thus he determined to have his servants read historical records that chronicled his reign.

Providentially, for there is no other explanation for it, the name of Mordecai, Queen Esther’s adopted father, came to the king’s attention. Ahasuerus, was reminded how Mordecai had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king (2:21-23). Recalling the event, the king wondered aloud, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).

Learning from his servants that Mordecai had not been honored for his service (6:3), the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him. Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who had successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree to exterminate all the Jews, entered the king’s court (6:4-5).

Haman was approaching on a mission to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5). In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma,” Haman listened as the king desired his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).

Haman mistakenly believed he was the man the king desired to honor, and suggested a lavish, public parade.

 Esther 6:8-9Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”

Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the very man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

Esther 7-10

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directed the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.

Haman’s wicked scheme to annihilate the Jews was not only thwarted, but he fell victim to the very gallows he had constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Dear friend, all men are free will agents; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, pastor, or parent…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and will of God.

Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor]” (Proverbs 21:1).

No man acts independent of God; after all, “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

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

“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

How Do You Answer an Insolent Fool? (Isaiah 35-36)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 35-36

There are two timelines in today’s Scripture reading. Isaiah 35 describes the yet future Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Isaiah 36 then turns our focus back to the imminent threat of the Assyrian army that had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 35 The earth and the nations of the world after Christ’s judgment and His Millennial Kingdom

After the Second Coming of Christ, His reign on the earth will usher in a time of peace and prosperity like the world has not known since before Adam sinned.

The earth will be restored and the desert will bring forth life and flower with beauty reflecting God’s glory (35:1-2). The physically weak will be strengthened (35:3) and the fearful will be emboldened (35:4). Christ’s reign will be one of perfect justice and believers will find security in Him.

When Christ reigns the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will jump for joy (35:5), the dumb will break forth into singing (35:6), and the desert will flow with streams of water (35:6b) and bloom like an oasis (35:7). What a glorious day that will be!

The world in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will be at peace and believers will come to Zion (new Jerusalem) with “songs and everlasting joy” (35:9). In that day, the day when Christ reigns on the earth, “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35:10). What a happy day that will be!

Isaiah 36 – Isaiah 36 turns our focus from the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 35) to Isaiah’s Day, about 701 B.C.

We find Jerusalem under siege as the Assyrian armies overran and defeated Israel (taking captive the northern ten tribes). The Assyrians have conquered the outlying cities and fortresses of Judah and are encamped outside the great walls  of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36).

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe, sums up Isaiah 36-39 writing, “Hezekiah [the king of Judah] faced three crises in a short time: an international crisis (the invasion of the Assyrian army), a personal crisis (sickness and near death), and a national crisis (the visit of the Babylonian envoys).”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – The Prophets]

The events of Isaiah 36 follow a national revival that had been led by Hezekiah, King of Judah.

We read in 2 Chronicles 32:1 that Sennacherib king of Assyria invaded Judah, “after these things.” After what things? What had occurred in Judah just before the Assyrians invaded? The answer to that question is found here:

2 Chronicles 31:20-21 – “20  And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God21  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”

After Hezekiah had done that which was good, and right, he followed after truth (2 Chronicles 31:10). Hezekiah restored the Temple and worship after he had set his heart to seek God, and obey the law and commandments. Then, and only then, did he begin to prosper. And yet, after those things, an enemy threatened to overthrow the king, destroy Jerusalem, and remove God’s people out of the land.

An emissary of the Assyrian King Sennacherib named Rabshakeh, was sent to confront King Hezekiah (36:4-8) and he demand tribute be paid to the king of Assyria.

Hezekiah sent representatives to reason with Rabshakeh; however, he was insolent and reproached Hezekiah (36:4) and his faith in Judah’s God (36:7).

Somehow Rabshakeh, the Assyrian king’s emissary, had knowledge of Hezekiah’s foolish appeal to Egypt for an alliance and knew that effort had failed. Rabshakeh suggested that should the Assyrians give Judah two thousand horses, they would lack the soldiers to go to war (36:8-9).

Rabshakeh went so far as to suggest that Assyria was laying siege to Jerusalem because Judah’s God had told him to, “Go up against the land, and destroy it” (36:10).

Hearing the emissary’s message and fearing it would disturb the soldiers defending the city walls of Jerusalem, Judah’s leaders asked Rabshakeh to deliver his message in the Syrian language (36:11-12), a language that common soldiers would not understand. Instead of delivering the message as requested, the messenger raised his voice against the men on the wall, mocking King Hezekiah and his faith that God would deliver Judah (36:13-22).

Realizing they were hearing the words of an insolent man, the soldiers on the wall, “held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not” (36:21).

We will pick up our narrative on the siege of Jerusalem and King Hezekiah’s response tomorrow. I will close today’s devotion with a question and a spiritual lesson.

How do you answer an insolent fool? – SILENCE!

Proverbs 26:4-5  “Answer [speak; respond; reply] not a fool according to his folly [foolishness; stupidity], lest thou also be like [equal to; resemble] unto him. 5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise [shrewd] in his own conceit [eye; confidence; disdain].”

“Solomon warned his son in verse 4 that responding to a fool in the midst of his folly has the potential of drawing you into his folly—and you become like him—a fool!

Stated in a different way—You cannot reason with a fool!

It is a waste of time and effort to reason with a man who has rejected Truth and refuses to heed the clear exposition of God’s Word.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe is Me!” (Isaiah 5-8)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah foretold the judgment of God upon Judah in a succession of four distinct woes pronounced against the nation should the people not repent of their sins and turn to the LORD (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30).

Notice that three of the woes address Judah and the fourth was exclaimed by Isaiah when he witnessed God sitting on His heavenly throne. Knowing the woes express the character of a people who had rejected God, His Laws, and Commandments, I invite you to contemplate how the spiritual condition of Judah parallels our own nation.

The first woe (Isaiah 5:20) condemned Judah for rejecting God’s Laws, leaving the people with the dilemma of no moral absolutes.

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Such is the condition of our nation and world.  Allow me to illustrate this point with one of many examples I could name: “Gay Marriage”.

The biblical and historical definition of marriage between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27, 2:18, 21-24; Matthew 19:5-6; Ephesians 5:31) has been under assault for two decades. Politicians, judicial courts, secular schools, and liberal churches have assailed the sanctity of marriage and embraced wickedness and depravity. Condemning moral virtue, our society champions the lunacy of men marrying men and women marrying women (Romans 1:26-27) and demands the judgment of God.

A second woe described the people as unteachable (Isaiah 5:20).

Isaiah 5:21 – “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent [wise, shrewd] in their own sight!”

Paul’s letter to believers living in Rome describes that same spiritual malady in these words: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).

Who is a fool? Those who reject TRUTH and are unteachable (“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” – Psalm 14:1; 53:1). When a man rejects His Creator (Romans 1:23), God abandons him to sinful passions that are expressed in the depth of his depravity: “vile affections…unseemly…reprobate” (Romans 1:24-32).

A third woe illuminated the narcissistic nature of the people of Judah and their loathing of the righteous.

Isaiah 5:22-23 – “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine [drunkards], and men of strength to mingle strong drink [boasting of their drunkenness]: 23 Which justify [acquit] the wicked for reward [bribe], and take away the righteousness [innocence; justice, rights and liberties] of the righteous from him!”

The fourth woe is one Isaiah stated of himself.  Shaken by a vision of the LORD sitting on His heavenly throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), Isaiah saw the manner of man he was and was overwhelmed by his sinfulness. The prophet confessed:

Isaiah 6:5“…Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

The LORD was looking for a man who would declare His final warning to Judah before effecting His judgment. Isaiah, his lips purged from sin by a “live coal…off the altar” (Isaiah 6:6-7), and with a fire burning in his soul, heard God ask:

“Who shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered saying, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A closing thought: I believe I have made the case that the sinful conditions of Judah in Isaiah’s day are the same as those we see in our nation and world. The world has rejected the LORD and His Commandments, and become morally bankrupt (no right or wrong).  We have ejected God from public places and become unteachable. We are slaves to temporal pleasures (boasting of our vices and despising righteousness). The ominous clouds of God’s imminent judgment are clearly seen. Who among us will be humbled by the knowledge of our sinfulness and pray with Isaiah,

“Woe is me… mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts…Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and Will Accomplish His Purpose (2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25)

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25

2 Kings 14, and 2 Chronicles 25 are records of the same historical events: The reigns of Joash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah.

I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy and had been guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24).  During Joash’s reign, Judah had experienced a spiritual renaissance and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died (24:15), and Joash heeded the counsel of wicked men.

Someone has observed the path of sin will always take you further than you ever planned to go, and so it was with Joash. He forgot the kindness of his lifelong friend, the chief priest Jehoiada (24:22), and eventually fell in with those men who stoned to death the prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:20-22). Tragically, Joash’s reign ended when he was assassinated by his servants who avenged the slaying of Zechariah (24:24-26).

Joash’s son, Amaziah became king in Judah (24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart” (25:2).

It is that last phrase, “but not with a perfect heart” (25:2), that will shadow the life and reign of Amaziah.  Amaziah exacted justice for his father’s assassination, killing those who murdered his father; however, unlike other kings, he did not prevail upon the families of the assassins, and spared the lives of their sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah organized his army in preparation for war with Edom (descendants of Esua, who lived on the east side of the Dead Sea); however, he foolishly hired mercenary soldiers out of Israel (25:6). When God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah that hiring idol worshipping mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7), the king heeded the warning and sent the soldiers of Israel home (25:10).

As Amaziah led his army into what would be a glorious victory over Edom, the mercenary soldiers from Israel, for the slight of not going to war and taking the spoils of battle, turned and attacked cities along the border of Judah (25:13).

Remembering Amaziah was a man who lacked “a perfect heart” for the LORD, we read he committed idolatry (25:14) following his victory over Edom and foolishly worshipped the idols of Edom! The LORD sent a prophet who warned the king he had provoked God’s wrath for foolishly worshipping the gods of the very people he had defeated (25:15-16). His heart lifted up with pride, Amaziah rejected the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill him (25:16).

Fresh off his victory over Edom, Amaziah initiated a call to war against Joash, king of Israel. Joash warned Amaziah to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19). Blinded by pride and heeding the counsel of his peers (25:17), Amaziah, went to war and was defeated by Joash who took him prisoner (25:21-23).

With King Amaziah as his prisoner, Joash broke down the northern wall of Jerusalem and plundered the treasuries of the palace and the Temple (25:21-24).

I close with a principle concerning the sovereignty of the LORD.

Sinful pride distorts the thoughts within man, and Amaziah deluded by victory, refused to heed the warning sent to him in a fable by Joash, king of Israel (25:18-20). We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).

Amaziah refused the prophet’s warning and rejected the caution of Israel’s king. The king’s pride led to Judah’s humiliating defeat, the disgrace of being taken prisoner, the eventual plundering of the Temple, and pilfering of the palace treasuries (25:21-23). The king suffered his final humiliation when his servants conspired to slay him (25:28).

Warning: Pride distorts a man’s thinking, blinds him to his faults, and invariably brings him to ruin. In the words of Solomon:

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [arrogance] goeth before destruction [calamity; breach], and an haughty [proud; self-sufficient] spirit before a fall [ruin].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Tragedy: When We Forget the Kindness of Others (2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our Scripture reading focuses on two parallel accounts of the life and times of Joash (i.e. Jehoash), the young king of Judah, who began to reign when he was seven years old, and Jehoiada who served as the chief priest in the Temple and was the spiritual mentor for the king until his death at 130 years old.

2 Kings 12

Jehoash ascended to the throne of Judah when he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:3-4, 12) and under the influence of the chief priest Jehoiada, the young king began a revival of worship in the Temple (12:2). The Temple had been neglected and fallen into disrepair during the reign Queen-mother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 24:7).

The king, therefore commanded that offerings be collected and dedicated to repairing the “house of the LORD” (12:4-6). When he realized the repairs were not being made as he had commanded (2 Chronicles 24:5), the king demanded a report on the state of the offerings (12:7-8) and ordered that the money given by the people would be secured and the repairs a priority (12:9-16; 2 Chronicles 24:8-13).

2 Kings 13 – Death of Elisha

There is an interesting dynamic recorded here between the great prophet Elisha and Joash, the king of Israel (13:14). Although we read that the king “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (13:11), he nevertheless respected the old prophet and his ministry in Israel. King Joash came to Elisha’s death bed and “wept over” the venerable prophet saying, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2 Chronicles 24:11).

Elisha left the king with one final prophecy, that Israel would defeat Syria in three battles (13:15-19); however, the nation would fail to completely destroy their adversary (13:19).

To complete today’s devotional, I invite you to turn your attention to 2 Chronicles 24 and the record of the death of the chief priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:15-16), and the assassination of Jehoash (i.e. Joash) who reigned forty years over Judah (2 Chronicles 24:1, 24-25).

2 Chronicles 24 – The Death of the Priest Jehoiada and the Conspiracy to Kill King Joash

Jehoiada, the chief priest and mentor of King Joash (i.e. Jehoash), died at the age of 130 (24:15). Without his godly, aged mentor, the king was soon encouraged by younger leaders in Judah to tolerate idol worship in the kingdom (24:17-18).

Having turned to idols, Judah provoked the LORD’S wrath against the nation. Restraining His judgment for a season, the LORD mercifully sent prophets to call the people to repent (24:19). One of those faithful prophets was Zechariah, the son of the late chief priest Jehoiada (24:20), who had been the king’s spiritual mentor.

Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation and warned of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22). Rather than heed the words of the prophet, the king conspired with the young leaders and killed the son of the man who had spared his life when he was an infant (2 Kings 11:3).

Zechariah was stoned to death, even as he warned the LORD would avenge his death (24:21-22). Fulfilling Zechariah’s dying prophecy, the stage was set for Jehoash to be wounded in battle against the King of Syria (24:23-25a). Recovering from his wounds suffered in battle, the king was slain by his servants (24:25b-26).

Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest, who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of then, Bob Jones College, reminded the students, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him” (24:22a).  How could a man whose life was spared by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the cruel death of his son?

Bitterness! When Joash’s sin was exposed and confronted, rather than repent, the king became enraged! You and I can avoid the same folly if we will heed Ephesians 4:31-32.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Unconscionable Demand, A Gift of Grace, a Foolish Covenant, and a Tragic End (1 Kings 20-21)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20-21

Our Scripture reading is rich in drama and too long and involved for one devotional commentary. I encourage you to read both chapters, while I limit our devotional study to 1 Kings 20. By God’s grace, I hope to return to this great drama in another year.

1 Kings 20 – A Fearless Adversary and An Unconscionable Demand

Recalling Judah’s alliance with Benhadad, king of Syria (1 Kings 15:18-20), we find the armies of Syria and thirty-two other kings aligned against Ahab, king of Israel (20:1).

King Benhadad issued three demands to Ahab, each demand increasing in its severity. The first demand was for an unequivocal surrender of Ahab’s gold, silver, his wives, and his children (20:3-4).

Disgracefully, King Ahab capitulated to the first demand and it was soon followed by a second demand. Emboldened, Benhadad magnified his incursion into Israel’s autonomy and announced that his servants would not only plunder the treasuries of the palace, but the households of his servants (20:5-7).

Realizing there would be no end to his adversaries’ demands, King Ahab called his leaders to conference (20:7). The king shared how he had conceded his own household to Benhadad, however, his adversary’s second demand was to invade their homes and take their possessions. Ahab’s elders counseled him, “Hearken not unto him, nor consent” (20:8).

Refusing to accept Benhadad’s terms (20:9), the Syrian king threatened he would not rest until Ahab was dead (20:10). Empowered by the counsel of his elders, Ahab responded to Benhadad, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off” (20:11). If you will allow, I suggest a modern adage that sums up Ahab’s response is: “Don’t count your chicks until they hatch!”

Drunk with wine and clearly not possessing the good judgment of a warrior king, Benhadad ordered the kings of his alliance to make their armies ready for battle (20:12).

God mercifully, in an act of grace and in spite of the wickedness of King Ahab, sent a prophet to the king. The prophet encouraged Ahab, “Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

Assured he would have the support of the young leaders of Israel (20:14), Ahab numbered his soldiers, and preempted a battle with Syria.  God gave Israel the victory (20:15-21); however, Benhadad escaped and the prophet warned Ahab he must prepare Israel’s army for a second battle that would follow the next year (20:22).

In spite of their defeat, the Syrians began to boast that Israel’s God was “not God of the valleys” (20:23, 28). The kings in alliance with Benhadad were reassured they would defeat Israel in the plains (20:24-27).

Facing an enormous Syrian army that had gathered in the plains, God sent a prophet to assure Ahab, “Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (20:28).

Seven days later, with their armies arrayed in battle, the LORD gave Ahab victory, and Israel slew one hundred thousand soldiers (20:29). Fleeing the battlefield to seek safety in the city of Aphek, another twenty-seven thousand Syrians died when the wall of that city fell and crushed them (20:30).

Fresh off his victory, King Ahab foolishly entered into an alliance with Benhadad who, following the counsel of his servants, depicted the humility of a defeated foe hoping that his life would be spared (20:30b-32). Failing to seek the LORD in the decision, Ahab made a covenant with the Syrian king and soon learned it was a disastrous decision for himself and Israel (20:33-34).

To portray the folly of Ahab’s covenant with Benhadad, God sent a young prophet who disguised himself as a wounded soldier (20:35-38). When the king passed by, the prophet, masquerading as a casualty of war, called to the king.  The young prophet’s true identity concealed, he explained how he had unwittingly allowed his enemy to escape and his penalty would be either to “pay a talent of silver” or forfeit his life (20:40).

King Ahab, rather than spare the “wounded soldier” and extend to him mercy and pardon, instead condemned the man (20:40). The young prophet then revealed that Ahab had pronounced his own judgment (20:41), revealing the king’s failure to kill his adversary would cost him his own life (20:42;22:34-38). Rather than repent of his sin, Ahab returned to Samaria knowing his failure to obey the LORD (20:42) had sealed his own fate (20:43).

I close with an oft spoken, but true adage: Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pay Day Someday! (2 Chronicles 10-12)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 10-12

You will find that today’s Scripture reading in 2 Chronicles parallels events that are recorded in our preceding reading assignment (1 Kings 12-14).

2 Chronicles 10 – A Tragic Time in Israel’s History

Following the death of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31), his son Rehoboam ascended the throne and all Israel came to Shechem to make him king (10:1).

Unfortunately, all was not well in Israel. Though not yet physically divided, the nation was spiritually duplicitous and Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4). The LORD had warned Solomon that his failure to keep the Law and Commandments would be punished by Israel being divided by one of his own servants. The identity of that servant is revealed as Solomon’s old adversary, Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:2-3).

Evidencing the foolishness of his youth and inexperience, Rehoboam faced the grievances of Israel, lacking both grace and humility (10:4-5).  Rejecting the counsel of his father’s older and wiser advisors (10:6-7), Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and the king’s harshness provoked the people to rebel (10:8-14).

Remembering the LORD is sovereign, we read, “So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God” (10:15).  The ten northern tribes of Israel, after hearing the king’s words, “went to their tents” (10:16) and “rebelled against the house of David” (10:19).

2 Chronicles 11 – A Nation Divided

Under Jeroboam, the ten northern tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of the south, Judah and Benjamin, became one nation known as Judah. King Rehoboam had thought to raise an army to seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4). Dissuaded from civil war, Rehoboam set about building fortresses (11:4-12) to strengthen Judah against the battles that would be provoked by a divided kingdom.

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates the swift decline of a nation that rejects God (11:13-15).

We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts [borders; i.e. cities and lands in Israel]… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off [i.e. cut them off] from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually. He instituted a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15). Thankfully we read that there were a few left in Israel who “set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel” and they continued to worship in Jerusalem (11:16).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised the wisdom passed on to him by his father; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:17-23).

2 Chronicles 12 – The Menace of Pride and Arrogance

Comfortable in his palace and with Judah secured and strengthened, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).

The LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah. The prophet Shemaiah declared that the sins of Rehoboam were to be punished by the LORD delivering his kingdom over to serve Egypt (12:1-5). Hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, the king and his leaders humbled themselves before the LORD, Who in His mercy, spared Judah from destruction (12:5-8).

Adding to Judah’s humiliation, Shishak removed “shields of gold which Solomon had made” from the walls of the palace (12:9).  Rehoboam, perhaps to save face in front of his people, contented himself with a counterfeit of the glory that once belonged to his kingdom, and “made shields of brass” to replace the “shields of gold” (12:10).

What a tragedy! Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, masked the miserable state of the nation!

I close pondering what lessons we might take from today’s Scripture.

Is it possible that, like Judah of old, our nation’s wealth and prosperity has deceived us? In the same way Rehoboam became servant to Egypt and counterfeited the loss of his “shields of gold” with brass shields, I fear we have become a nation enslaved to a mounting debt we owe to enemies committed to our own demise.

The United States has rejected the LORD, His Word, Law and Commandments. Is it possible our nation’s pursuit of the pleasures of sin has blinded us to the warnings of the evangelists of old… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith