Category Archives: Fundamentalism

The End is Come, and the Word of God is Silenced (Amos 7; Amos 8)

Scripture reading – Amos 7; Amos 8

Continuing his prophetic ministry, Amos delivered to the people of Israel five prophetic visions of imminent judgment. This devotional will consider the first four judgments recorded in Amos 7-8.

Amos 7 – Three Visions of Judgment

A Vision of Grasshoppers [Locusts] (7:1-3)

Locusts (identified as grasshoppers) were, and are, a devastating event for people living in an agrarian economy. Eating and destroying everything in their path, locusts can be so thick in number that they turn the light of day into darkness. In ancient times, the massing of locusts would potentially lead to famine for a people and nation.

God showed to Amos a judgment of locusts that would befall Israel, devouring the second growth of crops (the first crop being that which the king taxed, 7:1). Amos pled with the LORD for Jacob (Israel), stating that Jacob was a small nation, and if met with devastation, how would they survive? The LORD “repented” and had compassion on the people (7:3). Though the sins of the nation invited God’s judgment, the LORD heard the prayer of His prophet and determined to withhold judgment for a season.

A Vision of Fire (7:4-6)

Fire is a symbol of judgment throughout the Scriptures, and the LORD used the same to warn Amos that God’s judgment on Israel would be so destructive, it would consume everything (7:4). Again, Amos interceded for Israel and reasoned with the LORD, saying, “O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: By whom shall Jacob [the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel] arise? for he is small” (7:5). The LORD heard his prophet’s intercessory prayer, “repented,” and said, “This also shall not be” (7:6).

The Vision of a Plumb Line (7:7-9)

A plumb line was a tool used by builders to ensure the blocks of a wall were laid straight. Attaching a weight to twine or rope, the plumb line would give block layers a straight line to follow as they raised up the walls of a city or building.

God gave Amos a vision of a plumb line, with the LORD Himself standing “upon a wall…with a plumbline in His hand” (7:7). The LORD questioned His prophet, and asked, “Amos, what seest thou?” (7:8a). Amos identified the plumb line, and the LORD said, “Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more” (7:8).

The plumb line was a symbol of a perfect standard, and one by which a man’s work could be judged. In this vision, the plumb line was a symbol of God’s perfect standard for His people…His Law and Commandments. Israel had rejected God’s perfect standard, and was condemned as a nation and people (7:8).

God’s judgment was inevitable, and Amos did not pray for God to spare Israel. The people had failed to obey God’s Law, and refused to measure themselves by His plumb line. Therefore, “the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam [the first king of a divided Israel] with the sword” (7:9).

Amos’ Confrontation with the Spiritual and Political Leaders of Israel (7:10-17)

The words and prophecies of Amos reached the ears of “Amaziah the priest of Bethel,” and he defamed God’s prophet to Jeroboam II, the king of Israel (7:10-11). Amaziah served as priest to the false gods of Israel at Bethel (where Jeroboam I had erected a golden calf for the people to worship). That heathen priest attacked the character and ministry of God’s prophet, and accused Amos of conspiring against Israel. He warned Jeroboam II that the prophet had prophesied he would “die by the sword,” and Israel would be conquered and “led away captive out of their own land” (7:11).

Amaziah had sought to intimidate Amos, and demanded the prophet return to Judah, “and there eat bread, and prophesy” (7:10). Desiring to silence Amos, Amaziah warned, “prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (7:13). Rather than heed God’s warning of judgment against Israel, Amaziah ordered the prophet be silent and “prophesy not again” (7:13).

Amos, however, was undeterred, and refused to be silent. He boldly asserted how he had not sought to be a prophet, and neither was he “a prophet’s son” (7:14). He “was an herdman [shepherd], and a gatherer of sycomore fruit [a farmer]: 15 [Saying] the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (7:14-15).

Amos then answered Amaziah with a personal, prophetic warning directed to that wicked priest. He foretold the great judgments that would befall his household: His wife would become a “harlot in the city,” his sons and daughters would “fall by the sword” (his lineage would die), the land would be divided, “and Israel [would] surely go into captivity” (7:17).

Amos 8

The Fourth Vision (8:1-3)

The imminence of God’s judgment was foretold, as “a basket of summer fruit” that was ready to be harvested (8:1). The LORD warned, “The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” (8:2).

Israel had passed the point of repentance and the “songs of the temple,” would turn to the howls of sorrow and death (8:3). At the time of God’s judgment, there would be so many dead bodies there would be no place or time for a proper burial (8:3).

The End is Near (8:4-10)

The abuses of the rich and powerful, and how they had oppressed the poor (8:4-6), would be answered with God’s judgment. God promised He would not forget their wickedness (8:7-9). Israel’s feasts days and songs would be turned to sorrows and hopeless lamentations (8:10).

Closing thoughts – What would mark the end of days, and the judgment of God? Famine! (8:11-13)

Not a famine of food and water, but a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD” (8:11). The Word of God would be silent, and the prophets no more. Men would “seek the word of the LORD,” and young men and women would “faint for thirst” (8:13). It would be too late, and the Word of the LORD would not be found (8:12-13).

Believer, like Israel of old, that day is upon us, and the Word of God is falling silent.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Now That I Have Your Attention: A Renewed Appeal From Outside the Bubble

* In 2017 I penned a series of articles on this website, and stated at that time my concerns for the failings of leaders who had taken the helm of what were once flagship ministries in Fundamentalism. Sadly, my concerns have proved somewhat prophetic, for the cancer of spiritual compromise has only intensified in the past 5 years. The following is that 2017 article, and I repeat it as a timely warning…if some within the bubble do not soon speak out, historic fundamentalism will be lost to this generation, and the LORD will turn to another people to bear His immutable Word. 

I have pondered the root cause for a lack of vitality in Bible fundamentalism that is contributing not only to the failings of our institutions, but more importantly, the weakening of our churches (understanding the weaknesses observed in fundamental institutions once hailed as citadels of the faith are symptomatic of compromises within our local churches).   As much as it pains me to state it, I have observed a near universal characteristic in the senior leadership of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and seminaries that is the catalyst to compromise:

God’s Men Have Failed to Stand on Immutable Principles.

Twenty-first century Bible fundamentalism is facing a moral crisis in leadership that has given rise to a tolerance of sin and pervasive carnality in our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.

Take a lesson from the life of King David.

I suggest the failures and shortcomings of historical flagship ministries in fundamentalism reveals a pattern of compromise among Christian leaders who, facing the duress of their children’s sinful choices, have become pragmatic and weak.  A tolerance of sin has emerged in our homes, pulpits and chapel platforms that is leading our youth, churches, and schools down a path of ruin.

Consider the consequences of David’s failed leadership after his moral failures left him enfeebled and unwilling to address the sins and moral failures of his adult children.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a scandalous sin that forever damaged his reign as king (2 Samuel 11).  His notorious sins gave cause for his enemies and members of his own household to disdain him.  Confronting David with the words, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), the prophet Nathan warned, “the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10).  The sins David had committed in secret eventually bore the bitter fruit of public humiliation “before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  Weakened by his own failures, David’s leadership faltered and he failed to address the sins of his sons.

When Amnon, a son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-19), we read the morally compromised king’s response was merely, “he was very angry” (2 Samuel 13:21).  David’s failure to confront Amnon’s sin gave cause to Absalom to revenge his sister’s disgrace and plot the murder of his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:20-29).  Fearing the consequences for murdering his half-brother Amnon, Absalom fled Israel and lived as an exile in Geshur for three years (2 Samuel 13:34, 37).

In spite of Amnon’s death, we read, “king David longed to go forth unto Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:30).   Every loving parent understands David’s longing for his prodigal son; however, there were issues greater than paternal affections in question.

Would the king be a man of integrity?  Would he rule his kingdom judiciously, knowing his own son was a fugitive from justice and guilty of murder?

Such is the dilemma of spiritual leadership: When our sons and daughters turn from the LORD and the instructions of their youth, we may long for peace and their love and affection, but we should not compromise our principles and convictions.

Among the qualifications of a pastor is he is to “ruleth [preside over] well his own house, having his children in subjection [under control] with all gravity [dignity; respect]” (1 Timothy 3:4).

Why is it important for Christian leaders to evidence an ability to manage the children in their households? Paul’s answer: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Pastor’s with children “in their households” is the topic of 1 Timothy 3:4; however, the principle found in 1 Timothy 3:5 serves as a warning to churches and Christian institutions.

Be wary of spiritual leaders who fail to rule their households for they will invariably fail to “take care of the church.”  Adult sons and daughters are no longer children under the management or rule of their parents, and as much as we are pained to accept it, they bear their choices and associated consequences.   As it was for David, so it is for all who are spiritually minded parents.

Will we be men and women of integrity if our adult children walk contrary to the Word of the LORD and spiritual principles?

For those in spiritual leadership, the cost of compromise extends far beyond our family relationships and affects our churches, schools and institutions.   I need not enumerate the tragedy that followed David’s failure to be a man of integrity and conviction.  His weak response to his son’s sins incited Absalom to lead a rebellion against David (2 Samuel 14:23-24, 33; 15:1-6), fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy and humiliating his father in front of the nation (2 Samuel 15:7-16:23). Twenty thousand men perished in battle before David took back his throne; however, even then David’s heart was such toward his son he commanded his men to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5).

Such is the way of spiritual leaders when they promote paternal affections over eternal principles.

My generation, my peers who are pastors, administrators, and professors in Bible fundamental colleges and seminaries have, under family duress, compromised immutable spiritual principles because our children and grandchildren have rejected the guiding principles of God’s Word.

Make no mistake, our compromises have become mortal wounds for our churches and institutions. If pastors, churches, and the boards of our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries do not soon repent, the demise of Bible fundamentalism is sure.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith
Edited and revised – Copyright © 2022 – Travis D Smith

Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Cater to the carnal and you do so at your peril.

An appropriate follow up to my earlier post is warranted, and I believe this five year old post, dated March 27, 2017, serves as a testimony that I have been following the decline of Bible fundamentalism for more than a decade.

Whether secular or religious, a transition in leadership is a critical period in any organization’s history.

Numerous examples come to mind. Churches once numbered in the pinnacle of biblical fundamentalism, have faltered after undergoing a change of pastoral leadership; some falling from their fundamentalist legacy, others altogether failing as ministries.  Deacon boards and church members, demanding a change in pastoral leadership, often steer ministries from their fundamentalist heritage and too often to dissolution.  Sadly, churches departing from their heritage and appeasing the carnal is continuing across our nation.

I have observed the same pattern in the last 15 years in fundamental Christian institutions. Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, and Clearwater Christian College all faltered and failed following transitions in leadership. Many of our fundamental Christian colleges and universities have accommodated the demands for accreditation and become “board run” institutions (in my opinion reflecting the spirit of the Israelites who demanded, “make us a king to judge us like all the nations” – 1 Samuel 8:5).

Board members of those institutions share the responsibility for steering those schools from the fundamental moorings of their founders. They have moved away from their alumni and constituents, and gone adrift in a morass of pragmatic ideas that are void of spiritual principles.

Warning: Cater to the carnal and you do so at your peril.

Copyright © 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Warning Knell: Pseudo-Fundamentalists Are Systematically Destroying the Legacy of Biblical Fundamentalism

Heart of A Shepherd followers,

I generally limit posts to daily devotionals on my http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com website. There are, however, some things I come across in my readings that give me pause to not only think, but to share.

Bob Jones University Fashion Show – December 2021

I am currently reading a book authored by a man I do not know and judging from his references, would probably not follow. Nevertheless, Owen Strachan’s recently published book, Christianity and Wokeness, has awakened in me a sensitivity to a frightening reality:

We are not only witnessing a systematic dismantling of our American culture and the broad spectrum of churches in the United States, but a decaying of what has been known for more than a century as historic Bible fundamentalism.

Owen Strachan makes the following observation in his book:

“Though fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals earned a reputation as pugnacious, with the image of the ‘Fightin’ Fundamentalist’ enduring in our time, in actual historical fact, the fundamentalists didn’t fight nearly enough. They lost, and lost, and lost some more. They lost their churches, they lost their seminaries, they lost their missions agencies, they lost their parachurch organizations, and they kept on losing until there was very nearly nothing else left to lose.”1

If my Bible-fundamentalist peers will be honest, for the past two decades we have observed the consequences of compromise when leadership fails to maintain a separatist position in both personal and ecclesiastical fellowship.

Bob Jones University Fashion Design hosted by Fashion Design Seniors, December 2021

Failing to maintain a distinct doctrine of separation has led to a precipitous loss of fundamental churches, schools (Tennessee Temple University, Pillsbury Baptist College, Northland Baptist College, Clearwater Christian College), seminaries (Calvary Seminary), and missions’ agencies.

Unless board members of fundamental churches, schools, universities, mission board agencies, and parachurch organizations (camps) repent for their compromises and purge the leadership leading their institutions, the losses will continue until we have “nearly nothing else left to lose.”2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

1 Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021), 55.
2 Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Spiritual Integrity will Choose the LORD! (2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16

Today’s Scripture reading continues a study of King Asa’s reign in Judah. Because the events in 2 Chronicles 16 were considered in our prior study of 1 Kings 15, the focus of this devotional will be 2 Chronicles 15.

The Prophet Azariah’s Exhortation to King Asa (15:1-7)

The “Spirit of God” moved Azariah, the Lord’s prophet, to meet the king, and challenged Asa with the conditions of God’s blessings. Azariah prophesied, “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (15:2). Azariah continued, “3Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law5And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries” (15:3, 5).

So it is for any nation, people, or man who rejects the LORD. “Without the true God,” and without a faithful preacher, “and without the law” (15:3), a society descends into lawlessness, and there is no peace! Yet, there is still hope if men will “turn unto the LORD,” and seek Him (15:4). However, should a nation continue to reject the LORD, it will surely be vexed, and troubled (15:6).

Azariah concluded his exhortation to king Asa, saying, “7Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded” (15:7; note Deuteronomy 31:6-7; Joshua 1:6-7, 9; Ephesians 6:10).

King Asa’s Revival (15:8-15)

We have learned how Asa began his reign with a heart that was “good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (14:2). He had “commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law, and the commandment” (14:4).

Yet, as we come to today’s passage, the heart of Asa had waned in his commitment to the LORD. Fifteen years had passed since he became king (15:10), and like many who grow older and weary, he became less vigilant. The king and Judah had become tolerant of “abominable idols,” and the altar of the Temple had fallen into disrepair (15:8).

Who might have diminished Asa’s passion for the LORD? (15:16-19)

Sadly, I must suggest it was possibly the influence of his own family. Asa’s grandmother, Maachah the widow of Rehoboam, mother of Abijah, and the Queen Mother during Asa’s reign (15:16) would have had a prominent place and influence in the kingdom.

In his zeal to serve the LORD, Asa had to deal with his own household, and that was accomplished in this: “[King Asa] removed [Maachah] from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron” (15:16).

God rewarded Asa’s reform, and the people of Judah sought the LORD “with their whole desire” (15:15), “there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa” (15:19).

Closing thoughts – Many believers face the spiritual challenge that confronted King Asa. He had tolerated the sins of his grandmother, and failed the LORD. In accommodating his grandmother’s wickedness, he was weakened and inevitably sin robbed him and Judah of God’s blessings.

One of the greatest challenges we face is that of addressing the sins of our loved ones. A rebellious son or daughter who has rejected his or her foundational training leads parents to a heartrending dilemma: Lovingly confront the sin and wrath of a rebel, or accommodate the sin and betray the LORD and His Word.

Caution – As it was with Asa, so it is with many spiritual leaders: When a leader permits sin to go unchallenged in his household, the influence of his compromise will rob him and his ministry of God’s blessings. Sadly, the testimony of that truth is seen in the steady decline, and failure of our churches, schools, and Christian colleges to heed God’s Word.

“Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” (15:7)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: You Write Your Own Obituary When You Leave Your Spiritual Base (2 Chronicles 11-12)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11; 2 Chronicles 12

I remind you that 2 Chronicles was penned after the Babylonian captivity, and was a historical record of the time of the kings in Israel, whose history was recorded prior to the Babylonian captivity in the Book of 1 Kings.

2 Chronicles 11

The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading were the subject of an earlier devotional in 1 Kings 12, and follows the northern ten Tribes’ succession from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who were loyal to the king. Rehoboam had raised up an army to put down the insurrection, however, God had forbidden him to go to war against his brethren (2 Chronicles 11:1-4; 1 Kings 12:21-24). Rehoboam then set out to improve the defenses of the cities in Judah, and built walls to fortify his strong holds (11:5-12).

Remaining loyal to Rehoboam, and rejecting the idolatry of northern Israel, the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts,” leaving their lands and houses (11:14a). Adding to his wickedness, Jeroboam not only established his golden calves as objects of worship in Israel, he also rejected the priests of the LORD, and “ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

Jeroboam’s disobedience, and his rejection of God launched an exodus out of the northern tribes of those who had “set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel [and] came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers” (11:16). The departure of those faithful to the LORD left Israel weakened, for “they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.”

A record is given in the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 11 regarding king Rehoboam’s personal life (his wives, concubines, and children). Most notably are the names found in 2 Chronicles 11:20: “20And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.”

A point of explanation is necessary regarding Maachah (11:20). The Hebrew word for “daughter” described a female offspring, albeit daughter, granddaughter, or even a great granddaughter. Because we know Absalom [the rebel son of king David], had only one daughter and she was named Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), we must conclude that Maachah was in fact an offspring of Absalom, but was most likely his granddaughter. So, we learn that Rehoboam’s favorite wife was Maachah, who was his second cousin, and the mother of Abijah who would suceed him as king (11:22; 12:16, 13:1).

2 Chronicles 12

2 Chronicles 12 is a review of the tragic events we have considered in an earlier study of 1 Kings 14. This final chapter in Rehoboam’s life serves as a reminder to all, and especially those who are leaders, of what becomes of a man, family, or organization when its leader(s) forsake the LORD, by forsaking His law and commandments. Strong, and confident in his early years as king, Rehoboam failed the most important step to success in spiritual leadership: “He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14).

Failing to follow in the spiritual footsteps of his father, “it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (12:1). The tragic consequences of his failure to humble himself before the LORD and obey His law, led Israel away from the LORD, and invited God’s judgment.

The tool of God’s judgment was Shishak, king of Egypt, who came against Jerusalem with a coalition of peoples: “Lubims (i.e., Libyans), the Sukkiims (possibly a tribe of Arabia), and the Ethiopians of Africa (12:2). With 1200 chariots, and 60,000 cavalrymen, Shishak “took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem” (12:4; 1 Kings 14:25-26).

Prophecy Against Rehoboam and Judah (12:5-12)

The LORD sent Shemaiah who prophesied to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah that it was their sins that had given cause for the LORD to bring Shishak against Jerusalem (12:5). However, because Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves before Him, the LORD was merciful, and spared Jerusalem from destruction (12:6-7). Yet, He did not spare Rehoboam and Judah the humiliation of becoming servants to the king of Egypt (12:8).

“Shishak king of Egypt…took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house…[and] he carried away also the shields of gold [used in pageantry] which Solomon had made” (12:9; 1 Kings 14:26). Masking his humiliation, Rehoboam commanded “shields of brass” be fashioned to replace his father’s golden shields (12:10-11).

Closing thoughts – Rehoboam reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, nevertheless, his reign was scarred by his failure to prepare “his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14). The peace Israel had enjoyed during the reign of his father Solomon was lost, and “there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually” (12:15). Rehoboam the son of Solomon died, and “Abijah his son reigned in his stead” (12:16) over a nation that was now divided, and no longer sheltered by the LORD’S blessing.

A leader, institution, and nation that rejects the LORD, His law and commandments will surely be judged.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Deborah: Prophetess and Judge (Judges 4-5)

Scripture reading – Judges 4-5

A personal note from the author of a Heart of a Shepherd: Passages with difficult, unfamiliar, and hard to pronounce names may be taxing, but I challenge you to persevere, and allow the ancient names of men, and places to serve as a reminder that God has preserved every word for His purposes. The names, though forgotten by man, are not forgotten by the LORD. The geographical locations may be unknown, but are real places, nonetheless, where historical events occurred. Agnostics, and atheists have scoffed at historical events found only in the Scriptures, but archaeological excavations in the past two centuries have unearthed evidences that support the Bible narrative as an accurate rendering of history.

Judges 4 – The Spiritual Cycle Continues: Sin, Servitude, Sorrow, and Salvation

With the death of Ehud, the second judge of Israel (Judges 3:12-30), “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (4:1), continuing the cycle of sin, servitude, sorrow, and salvation. Because Israel had sinned against the LORD, He “sold them [children of Israel] into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor” (4:2). For twenty years, Israel suffered under the military rule of Sisera, captain of Jabin’s army, who commanded nine hundred chariots, not including foot soldiers (4:2-3).

When the LORD heard Israel’s cry, He moved on the heart of “Deborah, a prophetess…[who] judged Israel at that time” (4:4). She “sent and called Barak…and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?” (4:6).

Deborah prophesied that God had commanded Barak to muster ten thousand soldiers, promising to draw Sisera and his chariots “to the river Kishon,” where they would be defeated by Barak (4:6-7). Barak, however, was a reluctant leader, and he would not rally Israel’s men of war without Deborah’s promise to go with him (4:8). Deborah agreed to Barak’s terms, but she warned he was sacrificing his honor, “for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9).

Time and space prevent a thorough commentary on the battle between Barak’s ten thousand men who came out of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali (4:10), against Sisera’s army of nine hundred chariots (4:13). The LORD was with Israel, and Sisera’s army was thoroughly defeated (4:14-16). When he realized the battle was lost, Sisera fled the battlefield on foot, and sought shelter in the “tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace [a covenant or treaty of peace] between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite [the Kenites were a nomadic people]” (4:17).

“Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle” (4:18).

The events that follow are graphic, and fulfill Deborah’s warning that “the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9). Realizing Sisera, and his army were defeated, Jael took advantage of his exhaustion, and while he slept, she took a hammer, and drove a tent stake through his temple, killing him (4:19-21).

Barak, in pursuit of Sisera, came to Jael’s tent, and learned his enemy was dead (4:22). On that day, “God subdued…the king of Canaan…and the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed…until they had destroyed Jabin, the king of Canaan” (4:23-24).

Judges 5 – A Song of Victory

Israel’s victory over Jabin, and the defeat of his captain Sisera, was celebrated in a song that praised the LORD for avenging Israel, and memorialized how He had heard, and answered the cry of His people (5:1-3).

Deborah’s song recalled Israel’s distresses (5:8-11), and how the people had turned from the LORD to idols. Israel’s enemies had disarmed the people (5:8), and they could not draw water from a well, without fearing archers (5:11). There was no justice found at the gates of the city (where judges held court).

The balance of the song recalls how the LORD stirred Deborah to call upon Barak to rally the men of Israel (5:12-13). Some of the tribes responded to the call to arms (5:14-15a, 18). There were other tribes whose shameless failure was memorialized, for they had failed to go to war with their brethren (5:15b-17, 23).

The song concludes with a testament of praise to Jael, for how she had driven a stake through the temples of Sisera (5:24-26a), and how “she smote off his head” (5:26b). The LORD blessed Israel during Deborah’s rule as judge, “and the land had rest forty years” (5:31).

We have seen a spiritual cycle in Israel: Sin leads to Servitude (slavery), bearing the bitter fruit of Sorrow, until the people call upon the LORD for Salvation. That cycle is seen in the lives of individuals, families, churches, schools, and nations.

When a people, and nation embrace moral depravity, it will inevitably become the servant, and slave of its enemies.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Just (Deuteronomy 19-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 19-20

Moses’ challenge to Israel returned to the subject of cities designated as cities of refuge (19:1-13). After defining the boundaries of the tribes, Israel was to designate three cities of refuge on each side of the Jordan, “that every slayer may flee thither” (19:3).

There would be a total of six cities of refuge in Israel. (19:2-13)

The law recognized a distinction between an accidental killing, described as one who “killeth his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past” (19:4), and murder, an intentional killing provoked by hate, and committed by lying in wait (19:11).

An example of an accidental killing was given (19:5), and proved the necessity for the cities of refuge to be at a distance from one another in the land. The elders of the cities of refuge were to give opportunity to a slayer to prove a killing was an accident, and he was innocent of murder (19:6, 10). A city of refuge was not to give sanctuary to a murderer (19:11-13).

Remove Not the Ancient Landmarks (19:14)

Once the ownership of land was established, its borders were marked, either by natural boundaries, or by a column of rock and stone. Because a man’s land was the means by which he supported his family, it was a serious offense for a thief to move a landmark, and thereby encroach upon the land of another.

Two or Three Witnesses Were Required to Convict (19:15-19)

The LORD required Israel to take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and no man might be convicted of an offense without his sin being established by “two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses” (19:15). It was a serious matter when a man brought a “false witness” against another (19:16). The priests and the judges would weigh the testimony, and after diligently inquiring, should a man be guilty of bearing a false witness, he would suffer the punishment of the crime for which he had “testified falsely against his brother” (19:18-19).

The law was summed up in this: “life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (19:21).

Instructions for Going to War (Deuteronomy 20)

Israel’s invasion into Canaan would necessitate years of battles; however, they were not to be afraid of their enemies (20:1a). The men of Israel were to go to war, finding their courage from the LORD, and believing the God who “brought [them] up out of the land of Egypt” would be with them (20:1). When they prepared themselves for battle, the priest was to speak to the people, and remind them:

“Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (20:3-4).

Exemptions from Enlistment (20:5-9)

To go to battle required a man to be fully committed to the cause, and distractions in the heat of battle could be disastrous to the man, and his fellow soldiers. Four groups of men were exempted from military service in Israel: A man who had “built a new house, but not dedicated it,” was allowed to return to his house (20:5). A man who had “planted a vineyard,” but “not yet eaten of it,” would return home (20:6). Should a man be “bethrothed,” but not yet taken her to wife, he could return to his house (20:7). Recognizing the disastrous influence of fear in the midst of battle, a man who was “fearful and fainthearted,” would be allowed to “go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart” (20:8).

Laying Siege to a City (20:10-20)

If the people of a city “were very far off,” and willing to pay tribute, Israel was to offer terms of peace (20:11). Should terms for peace be rejected, every man of the city was to be slain, “but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle,” and all other spoil would be taken by Israel (20:14).

Those nations that dwelled in Canaan, the land the LORD had promised Israel for an inheritance, were to be destroyed. “The Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites,” were to be destroyed, lest the heathen teach God’s people “to do after all their abominations” (20:18).

The land was the inheritance of God’s people, therefore the LORD required the army spare the fruit trees when laying siege to a city. The trees that were not fruit bearing, Israel was to “build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued” (20:20).

I close, inviting you to again notice the LORD’s grace and favor when He gave His Law and Commandments. His judicial system for Israel, was just, and no one was to rush to judgment. Desiring truth, any witness that dared distort law and justice with a false testimony, would find himself facing the punishment of the crime for which they had falsely accused another.

Micah 6:8b…What doth the Lord require of thee, But to do justly, and to love mercy, And to walk humbly with thy God?”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith