Category Archives: Hope

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed.” (Ezekiel 6; Lamentations 3:22)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 6

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we will consider one chapter, Ezekiel 6. The LORD came to His prophet (6:1), addressing him once again as “Son of man,” Ezekiel was given a mandate. “Set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them” (6:2).

The Destruction of the Places of Idol Worship (6:2-7)

Why prophesy against the mountains? The mountains were one of Israel’s and Judah’s principal places of idolatry. Indeed, from reading verse 3, it appears the whole countryside of the nation was full of places of idol worship. The mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys were all places of idolatry where all manner of evil was committed in the name of worship (6:3).

What was Ezekiel to prophesy towards those places, and the people who worshipped idols? In a word—judgment! The LORD warned, “Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places…your altars…and your images shall be broken” (6:3b-4).

Not only would the idols be destroyed, but those who worshipped and placed their idols above the Creator, would be slain and their bodies stacked among the idols. Adding an even greater humiliation, the bones of the dead would find their resting place scattered among their broken altars (6:4-5). Of those  who rejected the LORD, every vestige of their lives would be destroyed. Their homes and cities would be laid waste (6:6b). With none to bury them, the “slain [would] fall in the midst” (6:7).

The Promise of Mercy to a Remnant (6:8-10)

In His mercy, God spared a few, a remnant, who would be scattered among the nations (6:8). Those who were spared, would remember how they sinned against the LORD, and broke His heart with their idolatry (6:9). They would loathe their wickedness, and all they suffered, and would remember, “know” and confess the God of Israel is LORD (6:10).

The Cause for God’s Judgment (6:11-14)

To demonstrate God’s disgust with the “evil abominations” of His people, Ezekiel was to, “smite with [his] hand, and stamp with [his] foot” (6:11). Because they sinned against the LORD, the children of Israel would die “by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (6:11).

Closing thoughts – Why would all this come upon Judah? Why would so many perish, and their lifeless bodies be left among their altars in hills, mountains, and groves? (6:13).

It was to the end the people would know the LORD is God “when their slain men [would] be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.” (6:13)

What have we learned? Though the LORD is merciful, He is also just and has no tolerance for sin!  In the words of Jeremiah,

Lamentations 3:22–2322It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

From Despair to Triumphant Faith (Habakkuk 3)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 3

Our study of Habakkuk concludes with today’s Scripture reading of Habakkuk 3. The sinfulness the prophet witnessed in Judah and Jerusalem provoked Habakkuk to question the LORD, “Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?” (1:3a). The prophet reasoned, “For spoiling and violence are before me: And there are that raise up strife and contention” (1:3b).

The LORD answered Habakkuk’s complaint, and revealed how He would raise up the Chaldeans (Babylon) to punish Judah and the nations for their wickedness (1:5-11). Habakkuk asked, why would God employ a wicked nation to punish the sins of His people? (1:12-17) The LORD answered His prophet’s inquiry in a vision (2:1), and the judgment that would befall Babylon for its wickedness (2:2-19). Accepting the imminent judgment of Judah, the prophet declared God’s sovereignty, saying, “the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20).

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk’s Prayer (3:1-2)

Habakkuk 3 commences as a prayer (3:1-2), and is followed by a poem best described as a psalm or song. While there is some debate among scholars regarding the definition of “Shigionoth” (3:1), many agree the word was a musical notation. Reinforcing that conclusion is postscript at the close of the book: “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (3:19).

Having his questions answered, and understanding the inevitable judgment that would fulfill the LORD’s revelations, Habakkuk prayed: “O Lord, I have heard [listened to] thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make known; In wrath remember mercy” (3:2).

The Sovereignty and Providence of the LORD (3:3-15)

Looking to the future through the eyes of faith, Habakkuk remembered the ways and works of the LORD in the past. He remembered how the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness (3:3). For “God came from Teman” (the south), and the Holy One from mount Paran” (located in the Sinai desert), and then penned, “Selah” (pause and think about that, 3:3a). When Israel encamped in Sinai, there the LORD descended from heaven, and “His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of his praise” (3:3b). Though a nation of slaves, the LORD strengthened the faith of Israel with a display of His majesty and glory. He gave witness to the “horns [symbol of power and authority] coming out of his hand: And there was the hiding of his power” (3:4).

Recalling what the LORD did for Israel in the past, Habakkuk was confident He would bring upon the nations a “pestilence” (for God uses plagues to punish the wicked), and they would tremble and be shaken at His presence (3:6). The prophet proposed three questions (3:8), and remembered God used nature to do His bidding and bring judgment upon the wicked. Portrayed removing His bow and arrows out of their sheath (3:9a), God had used the flood waters of the Nile (Exodus 7:20-21), and the troubled waters of the Red Sea, to cause Pharoah and Egypt to submit to His will (Exodus 14:15-28; 15:8-10).

Habakkuk described the effect of God’s wrath in natural terms, making mention of how the mountains tremble, and waters overflow their banks (3:10). Even the sun, moon, and stars are shaken in their courses by the judgment of the LORD (3:11; Joshua 10:12-14; Isaiah 38:8; 2 Kings 20:9-11). When the LORD moves in judgment upon the nations of the world, fierce lightnings pierce the sky like “the light of arrows…[and His]glittering spear” (3:11).

Habakkuk warned, no man or nation could stand before the wrath of God. Yet, the LORD would remember His covenant and not forsake His people (3:12-13a). Babylon would wreak havoc on Judah, and destroy the poorer, weaker nations. Nevertheless, that wicked nation would be punished, and humiliated, for it would not withstand the wrath of God (3:13-14).

The Prophet’s Response to God’s Revelation (3:16-19)

Realizing the judgment of God was imminent, Habakkuk was overcome with emotion. His heart trembled, his voice failed, and his strength dissipated (3:16a). Yet, his hope was restored when he remembered when trouble comes, the LORD comes as well (3:16b). Crops would fail, and flocks and herds would be no more (3:17). In spite of sorrows that were to come, Habakkuk declared, “18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18).

Closing thoughts – How could the prophet rejoice, even as he acknowledged troubles were imminent?

Habakkuk did not derive his hope from pleasant circumstances, but from his faith that his joy was “in the God of [his] salvation” (3:18). Though trials were at hand, Habakkuk declared, “The Lord God is my strength, And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet [fast and agile like deer], And he [the LORD] will make me to walk upon mine high places” (3:19).

With faith in the LORD, and trusting Him for strength, Habakkuk declared he could conquer mountains! (3:19)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

What If There was No Resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 15-16

The central doctrine of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Paul’s exposition of the Gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (15:1-4), makes 1 Corinthians 15 one of the greatest and most pivotal chapters in the New Testament.

Consider the heart of the Gospel (15:3-4)

1) “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (15:3; Isaiah 53:5-7).

2) “He was buried” (15:4a), thus leaving us no doubt Jesus was dead, and his body was lifeless when it was removed from the cross.

3) “He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (15:4b; Psalm 16:10; Matthew 12:40).

Eyewitnesses validated Christ’s resurrection from the dead (15:5-9).

Numbered among the eyewitnesses was “Cephas” (the apostle Peter), and “the twelve” disciples, less the traitor Judas (15:5). Jesus was also “seen of above five hundred brethren at once,” and as Paul penned the letter the majority of those witnesses were still alive (15:6). One named James was a witness of Jesus’ resurrection, and most scholars believe he was the half-brother of Jesus (15:7a), who was the head of the church in Jerusalem (15:13-21). Other witnesses were men identified as apostles (15:7b). The number of apostles is not given; however, there were seventy whom Jesus had sent out in Luke 10:1, 17.

Paul, who had been temporarily blinded by the LORD’s heavenly glory on the road to Damascus, numbered himself among the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 9:1; 2 Corinthians 12:1), writing, “last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (15:8).

The fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not only the central doctrine of Christianity, it is also the motivation for boldly, and unapologetically declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ (15:10-19).

Preaching a Savior who was sacrificed on the Cross, but did not rise from the dead, would be a hollow, lifeless, hopeless message. There is no Gospel, no good news, no hope of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life if Christ is not raised from the dead. I close with Paul’s assurance.

1 Corinthians 15:20–2220 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [the first of many who will be raised from the dead] of them that slept [who died in faith, believing]. 21 For since by man [Adam, the first man] came death, by man [Jesus Christ, the Second Adam] came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

We are the sons and daughters of Adam, and were born with a sinful nature, and under the curse and penalty of sin (15:22a; Romans 6:23a). When we confess our sin, and believe Christ paid the penalty of our sin by His substitutionary death on the cross, we are promised we “shall all be made alive” (15:22b). To be “made alive,” is to be revived in our spirit (i.e. our inner man), and promised one day our bodies will be raised from the dead to life.

How can this be?

Romans 5:19 19 For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus Christ] shall many be made righteous. [Christ’s righteousness imparted to us by faith]

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8

* Today’s devotional will be taken from Jeremiah 7. A future devotional will consider Jeremiah 8.

Like most prophets of their generation, Jeremiah’s cry for Judah to turn back to the LORD, went unheeded. The prophet faithfully preached the Word of the LORD, and for four decades was reviled by His people and persecuted by the leaders of Judah.

As we come to Jeremiah 7, we find the LORD has commanded Jeremiah to go to the Temple, and stand in the “gate of the LORD’s house,” and preach: Amend your ways and your doings” (7:3). In other words, Do Right! If the people would “Do Right” [turning from their sins, and obeying the LORD and His Commandments] the LORD promised, “I will cause you to dwell in this place (7:3).

Jeremiah 7

I am struck by the hypocrisy of Judah!  They sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (7:30-31), yet continued a pretense of worshipping the LORD in His holy Temple (7:1-2, 4)!  They made an exhibition of public worship (7:2), “saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord” (7:4), yet, their hearts were far from the LORD.

The Condition of God’s Blessings (7:5-10)

Announcing the conditions of God’s blessings, Jeremiah exhorted the people to amend their ways, and do right (7:5). Tragically, the people rejected God’s Word, and placed their “trust in lying words” (7:8).

Breaking their covenant with the LORD, they disobeyed His Commandments. They were thieves (8th commandment), murderers (6th commandment), adulterers (7th commandment), liars (9th commandment), and idolaters who “walked after other gods,” breaking the 1st and 2nd commandments (7:6-11); Exodus 20).

The Temple – “A Den of Robbers” (7:11-16)

Though the people portrayed an outward air of spiritual piety, Jeremiah warned the LORD knew what manner of people they were, for they had turned His house into a “den of robbers” (7:11; note – Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). The prophet reminded the people what had become of Shiloh, the place their fathers had worshipped before the Temple was constructed, and the Philistines had destroyed. Jeremiah warned, if they continued in their sins, the LORD would destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, just as Shiloh had been desecrated and destroyed (7:12-15; Psalm 78:60-64).

As with “Ephraim” before (name for the northern ten tribes of Israel, 7:15), the fate of Judah was sealed. The LORD charged Jeremiah, saying, “pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (7:16).

The Degeneracy of Judah (7:17-20)

Judah was guilty of open idolatry, and the LORD questioned Jeremiah, “17Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” (7:17). Failing to keep covenant with the LORD and obey His Law and Commandments, Judah gave offerings to the “queen of heaven,” and “drink offerings unto other gods” (7:18).

God declared with amazement, “19Do they provoke me to anger? saith the Lord: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?” (7:19) Like the curse of sin that afflicts creation (Romans 8:22), the LORD declared His wrath and judgment would fall upon the whole of Judah, including man, beast, tree, and “the fruit of the ground” (7:20).

The Fate of Judah as a Nation was Sealed (7:21-27).

No excess of offerings would satisfy the wrath of God (7:21). The LORD had taught their forefathers, He preferred obedience over sacrifice (7:22-23; 1 Samuel 15:22), but they refused His words, and continued “in the imagination of their evil heart” (7:24). He sent prophets (7:25), but they continued in their sins, and “did worse than their fathers” (7:26). The LORD exhorted Jeremiah to be prepared for the people to reject him, saying, “they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee” (7:27).

Closing thoughts – The virtues, and sins of a people dictate the future of a nation (7:28-34).

Speaking the Word of the LORD, Jeremiah warned, “This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished” (7:28). The LORD commanded Jeremiah to tell the people, “29Cut off thine hair [a sign of mourning], O Jerusalem, and cast it away…for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath” (7:29).

The sins of the people sealed the fate of the nation. They profaned the Temple with idolatry (7:30), and maintained a show of public worship in the Temple. Their tragic offense, that of worshipping idols, led them to a most grievous sin of sacrificing their sons and daughters (7:31-32). In the very place of their abominations, Jeremiah warned, their dead bodies would be fed upon by carrion-eating birds and wild beasts (7:33).

What a tragic portrait we have of the fate of that sinful people! The streets of the cities would grow silent, and laughter and mirth would fail. The joys of young love would cease (7:34a), “for the land [would] be desolate” (7:34).

Summing up the imminence of God’s judgment, Jeremiah warned, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and [the people are] not saved” (8:20).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

What Does the LORD Require of You? (Isaiah 58)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 58

If we could condense the whole of Isaiah 58 to just one word, that word would be “hypocrisy.” The chapter opens with the LORD instructing Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, And shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1).

Unlike some fainthearted preachers in our day, the prophet was not to sugarcoat the Word of the LORD. He was to lift up his voice, not sparing a word, and herald God’s warning of judgment like a trumpet calling soldiers to battle.

What were the transgressions and sins of God’s people? (58:2-5)

They were religious phonies, hypocrites, whose ways were acceptable, but whose heart and motives for following the Lord’s paths were based on selfish reasons. Though outwardly pious, the Lord looked past their actions and saw deep into their hearts (58:2). They, like many today who say they worship the Lord, had lost the “why” behind their actions, leaving in their wake emptiness, strife and selfish gain (58:3a).

The LORD answered their complaints, saying, “Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure [i.e., you go seeking joy; delight], and exact [oppress; demand; collect] all your labours [they gave and forgave nothing]” (58:3b). What they did in worship was not out of love to the LORD, but that He might be obligated to them.

Outwardly they fasted, but they were contentious and quarreling among themselves (58:4). Their fasting and praying in “sackcloth and ashes,” gave an appearance of piety, but the LORD asked, “Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” (58:5)

The Fasting God Favors (58:6-7)

Fasting had become a religious ritual, but it was not the fasting God had commanded His people to observe (58:6a). What would please the LORD? What was the fasting God favored? Before they approached the LORD in their fasting and prayers, God commanded them to address the sins and wickedness in their lives (58:6b-7).

How might men prepare their hearts to worship the LORD? To worship the LORD, we must be willing to forgive those who have offended us, and “loose the bands of wickedness” committed by others (58:6b). God will not hear our prayers, nor honor fasting, if we harbor bitterness, and oppress others (58:6c; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

What honors the LORD? We honor the LORD, when we feed the hungry, and give shelter to the poor (58:7a; Luke 10:30-36). We invite God’s blessings, when we clothe the naked, and give aid to our family (58:7b; Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10).

The Rewards to Those Who Repent of Hypocrisy and Obey the LORD (58:8-14)

1) Light and good health (58:8a)
2) Covered in the righteousness of God, and His glory.
3) The LORD will hear and answer prayer. (58:9)
4) We become a blessing to others. (58:10)
5) The LORD promises to guide us. (58:11a)
6) The LORD will satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of our souls. (58:11b)
7) The LORD will strengthen us. (58:12a)
8) The LORD will give His people a new name: “The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths [or broken walls] to dwell in” (58:12b).

Closing thoughts – The Means of Delighting the LORD, and Enjoying His Blessings (58:13-14)

The people had ritualized fasting (which God did not command), and neglected and abused the Sabbath, which the LORD had commanded. The fourth commandment states, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”(Exodus 20:8), but the people spent the Lord’s Day pursuing pleasure, and neglected to honor and worship Him (58:13). The LORD promised, if His people would honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy, He would fill them with joy, bless them, and give them an inheritance (58:14).

Are you honoring the LORD, not just in your practice, but in your heart? What place have you given Him in your life? What does the LORD require of you?

Romans 12:1–21I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Seek the LORD, for His Ways are Not Your Ways! (Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55

Following the prophetic portrait of a rejected, suffering, and dying Savior in Isaiah 53, we read a call for Israel to “break forth into singing” in Isaiah 54.

Isaiah 54

Once again, the portrait of a husband and wife was given – the barren wife being Israel, and the LORD, the loving husband. In the immediate, the setting was Israel’s future restoration to the land after the Babylonian captivity. Yet, there are also elements in this chapter that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns to reign in His Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17).

The LORD of Salvation (54:2-3)

With her years of captivity fulfilled, Israel would be invited by the LORD to return to Him, and be restored to their land. Isaiah prophesied the blessings of the LORD would be so great, the people would have to enlarge their tents, and make room for an exploding population (54:2-3). Some Gentiles, coming by faith, would be numbered among the nation as believers.

The Sustaining God (54:4-10)

With the assuring exhortation, “Fear not” (54:4), Isaiah prophesied Israel would put her captivity and years of humiliation behind her, and that nation would have no cause for fear, and no reason for shame (54:4).

Why such confidence that all would be forgiven? Isaiah reminded the people who their God was: “Thy Maker[Creator] is thine husband; The Lord of hosts is his name [He is the God of War]; And thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The [Sovereign] God of the whole earth shall he be called” (54:5).

The LORD assured Israel of His unconditional love (54:6-10). Though the nation had forsaken Him, God promised He would never forsake His people (54:6-8). Like a loving father (Hebrews 12:5-11), the LORD had chastened Israel for a season, but Isaiah assured them He would restore them to their land. As certainly as He kept His promise to never again destroy the earth with flood waters, the LORD would keep His covenant with Israel. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills moved out of their places, the LORD’s kindness and mercies toward Israel would never be removed (54:10).

The Promise of a Glorious Future: The Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17)

Israel was promised that the nation would be restored to her homeland, and the city of Jerusalem be rebuilt (54:11-12). Yet, the city described here, whose foundations the LORD would lay is, in my opinion, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-21 describes the beauty of that heavenly city).

In the Millennial Kingdom, the people will come and “be taught of the Lord; And great shall be the peace of thy children” (54:13). They will walk in righteousness, and there will be nothing to fear (54:14). The LORD will be the protector of His people, and any who might oppose them will fail (54:15).

Closing thoughts – The LORD created men who engineer and make weapons of war, and He has used their war machines to execute His judgment upon nations (54:16).

Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55 began with a glorious invitation: “Ho [Listen], every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, And he that hath no money; Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (55:1).

The spiritually thirsty and poor were invited to come to the LORD, but not with money. The LORD’s invitation was to come, and submit to His offer of salvation, executed by His grace. The salvation offered by the LORD is offered to all by God’s grace and loving favor (Romans 3:23-24; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

What did the LORD promise to those who would come with a spiritual thirst? He promised life (eternal life), “an everlasting covenant[security], and “mercy” (55:3).

Isaiah 55:6-13 is one of the great invitations in the Scriptures: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, Call ye upon him while he is near” (55:6). Repent, “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (55:7).

The LORD promised mercy and forgiveness to all who repent, but warned: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord (55:8-9).

Closing thoughts – Consider with me the emphasis on the preeminence of the Word of God.

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word [truth; revelation] be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [ineffectual; empty; i.e. having no effect], but it shall accomplish [do; make] that which I please [take pleasure or delight in], and it shall prosper [succeed] in the thing whereto I sent it.

God’s Word convicts, and brings forth the fruit of repentance and redemption. The LORD promises, His Word will fulfill its purpose. Whether you are a preacher, teacher, or student of the Bible, take heart: God has promised His Word is powerful, and it will accomplish His purpose!

Hebrews 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Longsuffering, Mercy, and Grace of God (Isaiah 30; Isaiah 31)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 30; Isaiah 31

You will discover many of the chapters in the Book of Isaiah are lengthy, and challenging. It is my desire to strike a balance between Devotional and Commentary in these daily, chronological writings for www.HeartofAShepherd.com. I pray these efforts prove to be a blessing to you.

Isaiah 30 – The Reproof of Judah for Trusting Egypt

The Foolishness of Those Who Trust in Men (30:1-7)

Isaiah 30 is a prophecy of woe against Jerusalem. Facing the threat of the Assyrian king, the leaders of Judah foolishly turned to Egypt for help rather than turn to the LORD (30:1-7). Incensed by the rejection of His love and compassion, Isaiah declared, “Woe to the rebellious children [Judah], saith the Lord, That take counsel, but not of me…2That walk to go down into Egypt [seeking aid], and have not asked at my mouth; To strengthen” (30:1-2). Isaiah warned, because the leaders of Judah had turned to Pharaoh, and sought safety “in the shadow of Egypt,” the nation would be humiliated and confused (30:3). Isaiah prophesied Judah’s attempt to purchase Egypt’s protection would be in vain (30:7).

The Character of Judah and a Declaration of God’s Judgment (30:8-11)

Isaiah 30:8-17 paints a graphic portrait of Judah’s rebellion against God. Because Judah rejected the words of the prophets, the LORD commanded Isaiah to “note in a book” the warning of His judgment (30:8). Consider the character of the people: Rebellious, lying, refusing to “hear the law of the LORD” (30:9). They were intolerant of  the words of the prophets, saying, “Prophesy not unto us right things, Speak unto us smooth things, Prophesy deceits: 11Get you out of the way, Turn aside out of the path, Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (30:10-11).

Is that not the sentiment of many who profess to be believers in our day? The churches of the 21st century have little or no tolerance for God’s Truth. In my opinion, the church has become what Paul warned as characteristic of the last days before Christ’s Second Coming: “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” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

A Declaration of God’s Judgment (30:12-17)

For failing to turn to the LORD and trust Him, Judah would become a crumbling wall (30:13), and the nation would be crushed like a broken shard of pottery (30:14). Yet, in spite of their sins, if the people returned to Him, God promised to extend rest and peace (30:15). Judah, however, refused. The people boasted they would be swift and save themselves (30:16), but the LORD promised an enemy would be swifter (30:16-17).

An Offer of Grace and the Millennial Kingdom of Christ (30:18-26)

Understanding prophecies often have both an immediate and far-reaching implication, the prophet revealed the LORD’S promise to one day bless and restore Judah (30:18). We read, “therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: For the Lord is a God of judgment: Blessed are all they that wait for him” (30:18).

I believe the Millennial Kingdom is the subject of Isaiah 30:19. Isaiah foretold the day when “the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem” (30:19a). When that day comes, God’s people will no longer weep, and will enjoy the LORD’s grace and favor. When they call upon Him, the LORD will hear, and answer their prayers (30:19b).

In the immediate, Judah would face a season of adversity, but the LORD promised He would send faithful “teachers (30:20), who would teach the people, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (30:21). What is the way of the LORD? It is His law and commandments (Exodus 20). When that day comes, the people will destroy their idols (30:22), and the LORD will once again make Israel a fruitful land (30:23-24).

Of course, the Millennial Kingdom will not come until after the “great slaughter” (the Battle of Armageddon, 30:25). Then the land will be blessed with streams of water, the moon and sun will be bright, and the light and glory of the LORD will fill the earth (30:26; Revelation 21:23; 22:5). The LORD will heal the broken hearts and lift the spirits (30:26c).

God’s Promise to Destroy Assyria (30:27-33)

The prophets foretold, and history supports Assyria’s failure to defeat Judah, and conquer Jerusalem. In the hour when all Judah’s attempts to save herself failed, the LORD intervened, and His judgment passed over the Assyrian army like floodwaters (30:27-28). With their adversaries removed, Isaiah promised the people would rejoice in song, and go up to Mount Zion to worship “the Mighty One of Israel” (30:29).

Demonstrating His power and presence (30:30), “through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod” (30:31). “Tophet,” a symbol of hell located in the valley of Gehenna, reminds us that the lake of fire awaited not only the king of Assyria, but all lost sinners (Revelation 20:5).

Isaiah 31

Isaiah 31 continues the LORD’s rebuke of Judah for turning to Egypt, and trusting man to save the nation (31:1-2). We read, “3Now the Egyptians are men, and not God… they all shall fail together” (31:3). The LORD warned, He would come as a lion, and would roar against Assyria, and would defend Jerusalem (31:4-5).

Our study closes with the LORD once again extending to Judah an opportunity to repent and turn to the LORD (31:5-7). Assyria would be defeated, and the fire of God’s judgment consume them (31:8-9).

Closing thoughts – Someone reading this devotional may realize, like Judah of old, you find yourself in the same miserable, backslidden state. You may lack an appetite for spiritual truth, minimize your sins, and rationalize your rebellion by living in defiance of God’s authority.

As the LORD was with Judah, so He is with sinners…He is waiting for you to turn from your sins to Him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Despair, Death, and Desolation (Hosea 12; Hosea 13)

Scripture reading – Hosea 12; Hosea 13

We continue our chronological Scripture reading in Hosea, and will soon transition to the prophecies of Isaiah, a contemporary of Hosea. While Hosea’s ministry has been primarily focused upon Israel (also identified as Ephraim, the largest of the ten tribes in the north), Isaiah’s ministry was to Judah (the southern kingdom). The majority of today’s text addresses the wickedness of Israel; however, Hosea also addressed the “controversy” the LORD had with Judah because of that nation’s sins (12:2-6).

Hosea 12 – The LORD Chastens His People

Facing the imminent threat of Assyria’s invasion, the leaders of Israel added to that nation’s sin by seeking a treaty with Assyria, and establishing an agreement with Egypt.

Israel was a Wayward, Dishonest People (12:1, 7-8)

Thus, we read, “Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: He daily increaseth lies and desolation; And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt” (12:1). Ephraim feeding and following the wind is a reference to his idolatry. Among the sins of Israel was the use of false weights in commerce, and an exploitation of the poor (12:7). The people of Ephraim (i.e., Israel) boasted how they became rich, and in pride dared any to find fault in them (12:8).

The LORD Condemned the People (12:9-11)

Reminding the people how He had saved Israel, and taken them from bondage (12:9); the LORD declared He would drive the people out of their homes. Israel would live in tents as they did during the wilderness years (12:9b).

Yet, the Lord was merciful, and sent prophets to warn the nation (12:10). Hosea condemned the idolatry in Gilead. He warned the altars where sacrifices were offered, would be destroyed, and made “heaps in the furrows of the fields” (12:11).

A Story of God’s Providence (12:12-14)

Hosea retold how Jacob (the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel), had fled from his brother Esau (Genesis 29), and served as a shepherd seven years to earn the hand of his wife, Rachel (Genesis 29:18-30; Genesis 30-32). The LORD had also called Moses to bring “Israel out of Egypt” (12:13). For all He had done for Israel, the people rebelled, and committed a great wickedness against the LORD, and provoked His wrath (12:14).

Hosea 13

“Ephraim” (Israel) continued in sin, and sacrificed to idols (13:1-2).  The sins of the nation increased “more and more” (13:2), as they encouraged their brethren to kiss and worship calves (13:2).

Hosea warned, like the morning cloud and the dew of the morning is soon disappeared, Israel would soon pass. Like the chaff scattered by the wind, and the smoke of a chimney, Israel would be scattered abroad among the nations (13:3).

The LORD Loved Israel (13:4-6)

The LORD loved Israel, and was jealous to be their God (13:4a). Rather than turn to the LORD, Israel’s leaders turned to Egypt for help, and the LORD reminded them only He could be their Savior (13:4b). He loved and cared for them, but they rejected Him as their God (13:5-6).

God Determined to Judge Israel (13:7-8)

Like a lion and a leopard, the LORD promised Israel’s enemies (Assyria) would come suddenly and pounce upon them as a prey (13:7). Like an angry mother bear, the people would be ravaged for their sins, and devoured like a lion (13:8).

Israel’s Self-destructive Ways (13:9-13)

With the admonition, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself,” the LORD reminded the people He was their only hope (13:9). He had desired to be Israel’s king, but the people rejected Him and had demanded to have a king like the other nations (13:10; 1 Samuel 8). God then gave the people what they demanded, and now in His wrath, their king was taken away (13:11)

Hosea warned, the sins of Ephraim were recorded, and those done in secret were known to the LORD (13:12). The people had been foolish, and rejected the opportunity to repent. Like a mother in labor, but whose son cannot be born, they would suffer extreme pain and sorrows (13:13).

God’s Promise to Deliver Israel (13:14-16)

Though God’s judgment would be borne by all Israel, the LORD promised a believing remnant would be ransomed and redeemed (13:14). Those who rejected Him, would see His judgment (13:15). The east wind (i.e., Assyria) would “come up from the wilderness” (13:15), and the land would dry up, and the wealth of the nation would be spoiled (13:15).

Samaria, the capital city of Israel, was to be destroyed, and none would be spared. The infants, and “women with child [would] be ripped up” (13:16).

The stage was now set for Hosea’s final appeal to Israel. Unless the people confessed their wickedness, and repented, all would be lost.

Closing thoughts – Let us learn from Israel’s history the grave consequences of sin, as individuals, families, churches, and a nation. I fear there are few who realize God’s hatred for sin, and His unfailing, unconditional love for sinners (Romans 5:8). If we did, we would be among those who cry out like the prodigal, “I have sinned, against heaven” (Luke 15:18, 21).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“An Amazing Story of Grace, Forgiveness, and Enduring Love” (Hosea 1)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1

Hosea was the first of the minor prophets (minor in the sense that their books are not as lengthy as those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was God’s prophet to Israel (the northern ten tribes), and was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah (whose ministry focused primarily on Judah).

Scholars believe his ministry would have spanned sixty or more years, for he was prophet during “the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel” (1:1). Hosea’s ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

The Book of Hosea chronicles the ministry of one man who courageously, and faithfully warned God’s people that their wickedness and rebellion had provoked the wrath of God, and His judgment was imminent.

Hosea 1 – Romancing an Unfaithful Wife

The Command (1:1-2)

The book of Hosea opens with a startling command: “The Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (1:2).

Hosea was probably a young man when the LORD commanded him to take a wife. As a prophet, he would have had a testimony that was honoring to the LORD and worthy of His calling. Yet, the LORD commanded Hosea to take a wife who would bring shame and dishonor to his life and ministry. Some may debate if “Gomer” (1:3) was a harlot when he took her as his wife, and if not, then she would soon evidence the bent of the “children of whoredoms” (1:2).

The children of Israel had broken their covenant with the LORD, and played the spiritual harlot. Even so, Hosea was to marry a woman who would break the marriage covenant and bring heartache and disgrace to his ministry (1:2).

The Children (1:3-9)

Hosea “took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim” (1:3), and she conceived and gave birth to three children. Her firstborn was a son, whom the LORD commanded Hosea to name “Jezreel” (1:4) meaning “God sows” or “God scatters.” His name foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth.

Gomer then gave birth to a daughter, whom God commanded be named, “Lo-ruhamah” (1:6), implying “Love withdrawn” or “Not Loved.” The LORD had determined He would no longer “have mercy upon the house of Israel” and would “take them away” (1:6-7). Lo-ruhamah’s name was a reminder the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional; however, the people had broken their covenant with Him and disobeyed His law and commandments. The LORD would therefore withdraw His loving protection of them as a nation.

Hosea’s third born was a son whom he named, “Loammi” that interpreted meant, “not my people” (1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery, and the LORD had determined He would divorce them as His people.

The Comfort (1:10-11)

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them. Affirming His love and covenant with the people, “the children of Israel would grow as a people, and their number would “be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered” (1:10). Though in the immediate, they would be displaced from their homes and land as a nation, Hosea prophesied there would come the day when the LORD would declare, “Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 1:11 has not been fulfilled to date, and the remnant of Jews in the modern nation of Israel are much like Gomer, for they are spiritual adulterers with the world. There is a day coming when “the children of Judah and the children of Israel [will] be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head” (1:11). Who will rule Israel? The LORD Jesus Christ when He comes as Judge and King.

Closing thoughtsHosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” was a model of the LORD, and his wife Gomer was a dramatic reminder that Israel had broken her covenant with the LORD, and had turned to serve and worship idols. Israel’s spiritual adultery demanded God’s judgment, but His love would not forget, or cast them aside forever (Zechariah 10:9).

What a wonderful, loving, and longsuffering God we serve! Great is His faithfulness!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Prophetic Messages Against Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon (Isaiah 20; Isaiah 21)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 20; Isaiah 21

The volume of prophetic messages of judgment may be tiring, but I hope you will persevere with this “Heart of a Shepherd” devotional series. For some, the statements threatening God’s judgment might seem inconsequential (for they were stated in the 7th century BC); however, they are factual and archaeology has only amplified the veracity of the Scriptures.

Remembering God is immutable, and the nature of man has not changed, we can be confident the Old Testament Scriptures are relevant, and applicable for us in this century. Today’s Scripture reading will consider Isaiah 20-21.

Isaiah 20 – A Prophetic Message Concerning Egypt and Ethiopia

Isaiah 20:1 gives us the names of two prominent men: Tartan, who was the captain of Assyria’s army during the reigns of Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:17), and Sargon, his successor. The background setting was the siege of Ashdod, a Philistine seaport on the Mediterranean.

It was in the time of the siege of Ashdod (20:1) that the LORD commanded Isaiah to declare to Judah the judgment that would soon befall Egypt (20:2-3). Why Judah? The prophecies of Egypt’s doom were to serve as warning to Judah to not trust in man.

The LORD directed Isaiah to remove his outer robe (described as “the sackcloth”), and put off his sandals (20:2). We read, “he did so, walking naked and barefoot” (20:3). Isaiah’s message and his physical appearance certainly garnered the attention of God’s people (although he was not entirely without clothes, but would have worn his undergarments, and considered naked without his “sackcloth”).

Isaiah declared and interpreted his prophecy from the LORD, and stated how Assyria would overthrow Egypt and Ethiopia, and humiliate the captives of those nations. The proud citizens of those countries would be led away, “Young and old, naked and barefoot, Even with their buttocks uncovered, To the shame of Egypt” (20:4).

Judah should have reasoned, if Egypt would be unable to avoid a humiliating defeat, surely God’s people would have cause to turn to the LORD and not look to Egypt for help in her time of need (20:5).

The “isle” in Isaiah 20:6 is probably a reference to Judah, whose coastline was on the Mediterranean Sea. With the defeat and humiliation of Egypt, and the threat of Assyria, Judah would have been left asking, “Whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: And how shall we escape?” (20:6).

Isaiah 21 – A Prophecy of Doom for Babylon, Edom, and Arabia

Three nations are the objects of prophetic doom in Isaiah 21. Isaiah 21:1-9 describes the fall of Babylon (“the desert of the sea,” 21:1a), and identifies the conquerors of that great city: “Elam” (i.e., Persia) and “Media” (21:2).

The Scriptures record, and history concurs, how Babylon did loot Jerusalem, and stripped the Temple and palaces of their gold and silver. Isaiah prophesied Babylon would suffer what it had afflicted on other nations, and the spoiler would become the spoiled (21:2).

Isaiah was Pained by the Vision of Babylon’s Fall (21:3-5)

Foreseeing the downfall of Babylon, Isaiah was physically, and emotionally moved by the vision of carnage (20:3). The prophet’s heart raced, he became paralyzed with fear, and experienced sleepless nights (21:4).

Because we have the prophet Daniel’s record of the night Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5), we understand the description of that city’s narcissistic pursuit of sin and drunkenness, leading to that fall of the Babylonian empire (21:5; note also 22:13).

Isaiah Declared Babylon’s Fall (21:6-10)

Though Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the people taken captive, God’s people had cause for hope as they looked to the future. The LORD commanded Isaiah to tell the nation to “set a watchman” in expectation of Babylon’s fall to be fulfilled (21:6-9). Isaiah prophesied, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen; And all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (21:9).

Prophesy Concerning Edom (21:11-12)

We are given a brief prophecy concerning the Arabian people of “Dumah” (21:11). Dumah was a son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:3). Apparently, the people of his lineage (a Bedouin people) would fall to Assyria, be delivered, only to fall to Babylon (21:12).

Prophecy Concerning Arabia (21:13-17)

Caravans generally cross the sands of the desert, but the Dedanim people were described as lodging in the forest (where they must have retreated in their flight from Assyria’s army, 21:13). The Dedanimite people would be shown compassion by “the inhabitants of the land of Tema” (21:14). Though they would escape the swords of Assyria, it was only temporary (21:15). In one year’s time, the Dedanimites would be all but annihilated as a people (21:17).

Closing thoughts – The whole region of the Middle East was in turmoil in Isaiah’s day, even as it is in our day. The LORD sent His prophets to Israel and Judah, who foretold God’s judgments against the nations, but His people did not turn from their sins and trust in the LORD.

The signs of God’s judgment were to be seen everywhere, but Israel and Judah continued in their sins until there was no hope. The people had the LORD’S Law and Commandments, and the word of His prophets, nevertheless, they rushed on to their own demise.

Are we any different?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith