Category Archives: Islam

A Nagging Wife, a Hen-pecked Husband, and the Birth of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Genesis 16)

Scripture reading – Genesis 16

Today’s Bible reading (Genesis 16) brings us to both a crisis of faith, and a spiritual crossroads. We will comprehend how one man’s failure to trust God has carried consequences that have shadowed the world, 4,000 years after Abram’s sojourn on the earth.

Years had passed, and Abram’s longing for a son had gone unmet (Genesis 12:2-3). He had complained to the LORD, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3). God responded to Abram’s complaint, and graciously assured him that the offspring of his lineage would be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).

Genesis 16 – “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children.” (16:1)

Childlessness in Abram and Sarai’s culture was a matter of shame, and was considered a judgment of God. Children were important to a family, and their presence in the home was believed to be a testament of God’s love and blessing. If a wife was unable to bear a son, the tradition of ancient cultures was that she would present one of her maids to bear children to her husband.

In spite of God’s promises, and assurances, a crisis of faith took hold on Abram’s heart when his wife Sarai murmured, “Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (16:2).

Abram was eighty-six years old (16:16), and Sarai seventy-six years old, when his faith waned under the pressure of his wife’s grumbling (the word “voice” indicates a loud, thundering sound, like the bleating of a flock of sheep, 16:2). Sarai was barren, and despondent; and contrary to God’s will, she pressed Abram to abandon his faith in God’s promise, and give her a son by Hagar, her Egyptian maid (16:3).

Abram yielded to Sarai’s plea, and went in unto her servant. When Hagar conceived (16:4), instead of the joy she had yearned for, the conception and birth of Ishmael provoked jealousy and division in Sarai’s household (16:4).

“Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong [sin; violence; unrighteousness] be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised [cursed; contemptible] in her eyes: the LORDjudge between me and thee” (16:5).

Abram and Sarai had sinned. They had failed to trust God, broken the sanctity of their marriage, and entangled Hagar in their sin.

Sarai blamed the consequences of their sin on Abram, and called for God’s judgment on them both saying, “the LORD judge [pronounce sentence; condemn; execute judgment] between me and thee” (16:5).

Abram failed to repent of his adultery with Hagar, and allowed Sarai to mistreat her (16:6b). Seeking to escape Saria’s harshness, Hagar fled into the desert (16:6b), and stopped at “Shur,” a region on the border of northeastern Egypt (16:7).

“The angel of the LORD found [Hagar]” and said to her, “Return to thy mistress, and submit [humble; be the weaker, the lesser] thyself under her hands” (16:9), and “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered [counted] for multitude [abundance; i.e. too great to be counted]. 11  And the angel of the LORD said [commanded] unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael [lit. – God will hear]; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction [trouble; depression; humiliation]” (16:10-11). (Genesis 16:7 is the first mention of the “angel of the LORD” in Scripture, and I believe was a theophany, a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.)

Ishmael’s character, and that of his lineage, was described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand [power; strength] will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (16:12).

Ishmael, the son of Abram and Hagar, would become the forefather of the Ishmaelites, and a branch of today’s Arabic nations. His ancestors have been nomads of the desert for four millennium.

Copyright – 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-13)

Scripture reading – Genesis 12-13

After a lengthy study of the life and afflictions of Job, we return to our study of the Book of Genesis, chapters 12-13. Genesis 11 concluded with the Scriptures focusing on the lineage of Shem, through whose bloodline Abram (i.e. Abraham) would be born (11:26). Abram is not only a central figure in the Scriptures, he is also one of the pivotal men in history, and three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, consider him to be a foundational character in their faith.

Genesis 12 – God’s Covenant with Abram and His Lineage

The LORD came to Abram in Genesis 12, and commanded him to separate from his country, his kindred (relatives), and the influence of his extended family (12:1).  God promised, if Abram obeyed, He would covenant with him to fulfill seven promises (12:2-3).  Although he was elderly (75 years old, 12:4) and childless, God promised to bless Abram with a son, make him great, his name famous, and that through his lineage “all families of the earth [would] be blessed” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ, 12:3).

Abram obeyed God, and he traveled from Haran to Canaan, the land he had been promised as his inheritance (12:5-6). When the LORD appeared once again to Abram, He rehearsed His covenant promises, and “there [in Canaan] builded [Abram] an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him” (12:7). Continuing his sojourn in Canaan, Abram arrived at Bethel, and again “he builded an altar unto the LORD” and worshipped Him (12:8).

Genesis 12:10-20 – A Crisis of Faith

Abram’s resolve to obey the LORD was soon tested by a crisis of faith when “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning his faith in God to provide and keep His promises, Abram left Canaan and journeyed to Egypt, putting in jeopardy all of God’s covenant promises, including giving him and his wife Sarai a son in their old age (12:10-13).

Sarai was a beautiful woman, and Abram feared she would be taken from him, and he would be put to death. Rather than trust the LORD, he requested that Sarai would tell others that she was his sister and not his wife (12:11-13). When Sarai’s beauty came to Pharaoh’s attention (12:14), he took her into his harem to become one of his wives (12:15), and thereby put at risk God’s covenant promise that she would bear a son and heir to Abram.

In spite of Abram’s faithlessness, God intervened and spared Sarai, sending a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealing to the king that he had been deceived by Abram (12:17-19). Providentially, Pharaoh did not harm Abram, and sent him, Sarai, and his household out of Egypt (12:20).

Genesis 13 – “A Lot to Remember”

Genesis 13 reminds us that Abram was a mere mortal. Although he was a man of faith, and an object of God’s grace, he once again faced the consequences of another failure: He had failed to leave all of his kindred and his father’s household (12:1). Abram had journeyed to Canaan with his brother’s son (13:1), and there arose a strife between his servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7).

Abram’s and Lot’s wealth exceed our imaginations. Including their servants, and their families, their households might have consisted of hundreds of men, women and children. For example, when Lot’s family and  possessions were taken captive in Genesis 14:14, Abram took 318 armed men of his household to pursue and rescue Lot’s family. Assuming those men had wives and children, the members of Abram’s household alone would have numbered more than a 1,000.

It was a major undertaking for Abram and Lot to move their flocks and herds to new pastures, and the caravan formed by their households would have stretched far into the distance. When they encamped, hundreds of tents would have dotted the valley and hillsides where Abram and Lot pitched their tents.

Seeking to avoid conflict, Abram suggested he and Lot separate, divide their households, and graciously offered his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9).

Failing to defer to his elder, Lot betrayed his covetous spirit, and chose the best of the land for himself (13:10). The land he chose included the cities in the plain, and among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13). After Lot departed, God once again renewed His covenant promises with Abram (13:14-18).

I close inviting you to observe some major distinctions between Abram and Lot.

Abram’s love for the LORD, and Lot’s love for the world were incompatible. Abram’s affections were eternal, and God-centered; Lot’s affections were earthly, and self-centered. Unlike his uncle, there is no mention in the Scriptures of Lot building altars for worship, or offering sacrifices to the LORD.

We will see in future devotionals that Lot continued to move closer to Sodom [a city that was indicative of gross wickedness], and further away from Abram and the LORD.

Which way is your life moving? Closer to the LORD, or closer to the world (1 John 2:15)?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Men of Persia: Your Ancestors Were the Wisest of Men! (Matthew 2)

Scripture reading – Matthew 2

Matthew 2 is our assigned Scripture reading, bringing us to a fascinating event in antiquity: The journey of “wise men from the east” who came to Jerusalem (2:1) enquiring, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” (2:2)

Matthew 2

Four centuries of turmoil had preceded the birth of Jesus. The Jews had waited four hundred years for the prophecies of a coming Messiah to be fulfilled. The Temple had been rebuilt, the walls of Jerusalem repaired, and Israel was restored in the land God had promised Abraham would be an inheritance of his lineage.

As a nation and people, Israel was not at peace. Malachi had prophesied the people would suffer God’s judgment for breaking covenant with the LORD, and Israel had experienced the assault of Greece that was soon followed by the armies of Rome. Self-appointed “Messiahs” had come and gone, and Jewish rebellions had been swiftly crushed. Israel was oppressed by taxations and the idolatrous ways of Rome.

Still, the Jews waited for their Messiah, a Deliverer, a political Savior, a leader who would cast off the tyranny of Rome, and revive the glory years of Israel as a kingdom. When Christ was born, Israel was looking, waiting, and longing for a Messiah King, and so, we read,

Matthew 2:1 – “1Now when Jesus was born in Beth-lehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.”

Bethlehem of Judaea, had been the birthplace of King David, and was the city where Micah prophesied the Christ child would be born (Micah 5:2). Joseph and Mary, both of whom were of the lineage of David, fulfilling the decree of Caesar Augustus that the people should be registered in their ancestral homelands, had journeyed to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5). Arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph had been unable to find lodging, and the couple sought shelter in a stable where Mary gave birth to her Son (Luke 2:6-7) whom her husband named Jesus (Matthew 1:25).

Weeks, months, and likely as much as two years, passed before “wise men from the east” (2:1) arrived in Jerusalem.

These “wise men” were doubtless attended by a great caravan of soldiers and servants, as the journey from Persia to Judaea would have taken months, and been known well in advance of their arrival in Jerusalem.

The presence of a powerful company of Persians seeking an infant “King of the Jews” (2:2) had been troubling to King Herod (2:3). He was a puppet of Rome, an illegitimate monarch, an Edomite who lived in constant fear of assassination and the swift reprisals of Caesar Augusts, the Roman emperor. Herod’s role was to keep the peace by pacifying the Jews, but also enforcing the laws and taxations required by Rome to maintain its far-flung armies and the lavish lifestyle of the emperor.

The rumor of an infant king, a legitimate heir to David’s throne, was intolerable to a man like Herod. After learning there was a prophecy that foretold the birth of Christ in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), the king dispatched the wise men to the city, suggesting that he would soon follow to worship the new born king (2:4-8). We read,

Matthew 2:9–10 9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

There has been much debate about the star that served as a guiding light for the wise men and led them from the east to the house in Bethlehem where Jesus, His mother, and Joseph lodged (2:11). Perhaps it was a physical star, miraculously employed by God to guide these wisest of men from the east. Or the star might have been the shekinah glory of God that guided them. It matters not; what does matter is that “the star” led the wise men to Jesus, and “when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him” (2:11).

Think about it: Before there was a prophet named Mohammed; before there was a religion called Islam; before there was a clash of cultures divided over religions, there were men of Persia, “wise men” who comprehended a prophecy that a King of the Jews would be born!

Perhaps with the knowledge of prophecies that foretold the birth of a Messiah King and had been passed down from the prophet Daniel, wise men of Persia read in the heavens, the birth announcement of the King of the Jews (2:2).

An infant King whom the wisest of men would “come to worship” (2:2).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Let Us Never Forget 9\11

So much has changed in our world since the morning of September 11, 2001. It might be argued that whatever innocence (or naivety) that remained in our society, was suddenly rent from the heart of our nation when Islamic terrorists, in an unprovoked attack, struck a blow at the soul of America.

The World Trade Center, an international symbol of American capitalism collapsed in a pile of rubble. The Pentagon, a symbol of our nation’s military might, suffered a direct hit.  The crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, became a symbol of American heroism as average citizens determined they would not go to their deaths as helpless victims.

“We the People” became one that day as sorrow, anger, and patriotic zeal spanned the differences that often divide us. Race, religion, and political ideologies were set aside for an all too brief season as we grappled with an assault on our individual freedoms and sanctity as a nation.

We congregated in America’s churches, sought solace in each other’s company, wept and prayed. For a time, there was hope of a spiritual awakening, a humility and sincere turning back to the LORD that would bring revival in the hearts and souls as a nation. Instead, we find America torn asunder by petty partisanship, and violence that not only afflicts our cities, but assaults our sensibilities of law and justice.

King David asked, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1). The answer: Because the nations, the political governing bodies of the world, are opposed to God, and the people of the earth are by nature, rebellious. The greater question to ponder is, “Why is God so patient, so longsuffering with sinners?”

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Never Forget Those Who Died…and Those Who Stood: I Am a Proud American!

SEVENTH IN A PACKAGE OF NINE PHOTOS.–– An explosion rips through the South Tower of the World Trade Towers after the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175, which departed from Boston en route for Los Angeles, crashed into it Sept, 11, 2001. The North Tower is shown burning after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the tower at 8:45 a.m. (AP Photo/Aurora, Robert Clark)

Are the Sons of Esau the Hordes of ISIS? (Genesis 35-37)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 35-37

We find Jacob leading his family spiritually and physically to Bethel, the place he had first met with and worshipped the LORD more than 20 years before (35:1).  Indicating how far his family had strayed from the LORD, we read that Jacob commanded his household to, “Put away the strange gods that are among you” (35:2).  Arriving at Bethel, Jacob rebuilt the altar and led his family to worship the LORD (35:6-7).

Jacob’s return to Bethel was not without its sorrows.  Deborah, the maid of his mother Rebekah, was the first to die (35:8).  Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph, died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son (35:16-18).   Adding to the sorrows was the death of his father Isaac (35:28-29).

I fear Genesis 36 holds little to excite the average believer.  This chapter is the birth record of the sons born of Esau’s lineage. While the sons of Esau shared a physical lineage with the Hebrews (tracing their ancestry to Isaac and Abraham), they, like their father Esau, did not value their spiritual heritage nor share in God’s covenant promises with the descendants of Abraham.

The sons of Esau became the fathers of kingdoms we recognize in the Scriptures as the nomadic tribes of the Arabian Desert.  Their descendants became enemies of Israel and their bitter strife continues in the Middle East to our day.

Esau had become a wealthy and powerful man (36:6-8) who, following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), chose to keep peace with his brother Jacob and remained in Seir (32:3).  Seir, located in Edom, was the land on Israel’s southern border stretching from the salt marshes of the Dead Sea eastward to the desert (36:6-8).  This area includes the ancient and once forgotten city of Petra.  We read an important statement in Genesis 36:8, “Esau is Edom.”

Esau was the father of a people who became known as the Edomites. When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, the Edomites refused to allow them to pass through their land (Numbers 20:18-21).  The Edomites were adversaries of King Saul and King David (1 Kings 11:14-16).  When King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Israel, the Edomites became allies with Babylon and participated in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.

The birth of Amalek (36:12), the father of the Amalekites and the grandson of Esau, marks the birth of another people that would become enemies of Israel.   It was the Amalekites who, during Israel’s years in the wilderness, fought against Joshua and Israel while Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses during a battle (Exodus 17:8-16).  We read in 1 Samuel 15 that King Saul warred against the Amalekites.

Why did God have the names of Esau’s lineage recorded in Genesis 36 and why is it important to 21st century believers?

One reason is I believe the roots of the conflict and strife we are witnessing in the Middle East and our 21st century world is traced to a people whose ancestry is that of Esau in origin.  We identify the enemies of modern Israel as Palestinians, Muslims, proponents of Islam, and the followers of the prophet Mohammed.   In the most basic sense, they are all sons of Esau.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is My Shield! (Genesis 15-16)

* Today’s Bible Reading is Genesis 15-16, Psalm 8, and Matthew 6.

God had assured Abram he would have an heir (Genesis 12:1-3), a son born to him and his wife Sarah (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5).   Though he oft faltered in his faith, we read, “[Abram] believed the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (15:6).

God revealed Abram’s heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13) and would return to Canaan with great possessions (fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude, Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 closes with God marking the boundaries of the land He would give Abraham and his lineage (15:18-21).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children”(16:1).  Eight-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five, Abram’s faith waned. Sarai’s never-ending complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates they were constant), like the bleating of sheep) and her barrenness moved the man to make a faithless decision. Abram turned his back on God’s promises and yielded to Sarah’s proposal he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Instead of joy, the news Hagar was with child by Abram, brought division and sorrow into the home (16:4-10). Rather than validate Saria’s failure to bear a son was Abram’s fault, Hagar conceived a son by Abram and looked upon Sarai’s barrenness with disdain. Sarai reproved Abram (Genesis 16:5) and then drove Hagar from the home (Genesis 16:6-7).

Ishmael, son of Abram born to Hagar, would become father to a great people (Genesis 16:8-11).  His character is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”];his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren”(Genesis 16:12).  The fulfillment of that prophecy is evident in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

I close today’s devotion with an observation:  God assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”, his protector and defender (15:1).  Abram not only had God’s promises, but His assurance He was with him!

My friend, God is no less to us.

Psalm 56:3– “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Devil is Behind the World’s Hatred of the Jews and Israel

Friday, December 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Revelation 12-17

Today’s scripture reading is a prophecy of the last half of the Tribulation years.  Because the length of the assigned reading is far too long for a brief devotional commentary, I will limit today’s devotional to Revelation 12.

From the time of his fall, Satan and the angels who followed his rebellion (described as “the third part of the stars” who were cast out of heaven – Revelation 12:4; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17), have warred against God.  Satan’s failed rebellion in heaven continued on earth when he, in the form of a serpent, tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God (Genesis 3).

Revelation 12 is a prophetic portrait of the war of the ages and is set in the second half of the Seven Years Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22).

The woman described in Revelation 12:1 is the nation of Israel; identified by the twelve stars in her crown representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is this woman, symbolic of Israel, that is the focus of Satan’s final stand against God.  Israel, pictured as a woman with child suffering labor pains, is an image of persecution (12:2).  The birth of the child being delivered is symbolic of Israel’s coming  Messiah.

The “great red dragon” is Satan (12:3-4) and the “seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads” (12:3) represent nations and thrones that are confederates in the devil’s unrelenting attack on Israel.

Revelation 12:4 describes the rebellion Satan led among the angels in heaven when his heart was lifted up in pride (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17).  After being cast out of heaven (12:7-9), the devil’s focus was to destroy God’s promise of a Savior Redeemer by annihilating the Hebrew people.

The woman (Israel) gives birth to a son in Revelation 12:5b, describing Christ’s birth (His virgin mother Mary being a daughter of Israel of the tribe of Judah) and His ascension to heaven, “caught up unto God”  (reminding us of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ascension – Acts 1:9).

Revelation 12:7-12 turns our focus back to heaven and the rebellion of one-third of the angels led by the “great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (12:9a).  The devil “was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (12:9b).

Adding to the Devil’s deviant resume’ is his title, “the accuser of our brethren” (12:10). We understand from Job 1-2 that Satan, although cast out of heaven, has access before the throne of God and is the persecutor of the Jews and believers.

The cross, rather than a symbol of defeat, became a symbol of victory and salvation with the resurrection of Christ from the dead (12:10b-12a).  Having failed to prevent Christ’s resurrection, the devil pours out his wrath on Israel and “persecuted the woman [Israel] which brought forth the man child” (meaning Christ, 12:13).

Israel’s flight from persecution during the Tribulation is described as “the woman …given two wings of a great eagle”, possibly drawing upon the picture of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings” (Exodus 19:4).  As the trials and troubles of the last years of the Tribulation increase, some of Israel will find a safe place in the wilderness and be spared (12:14); others will become the object of the devil’s wrath as the nations of the earth align against the Jews (12:15-17).

The Hebrew people have been, and continue to be, the object of hate and persecution in the world.  Anti-Semitism is increasing dramatically and its horrid head is visible in the Middle East, throughout Europe, and in the United States.  None of these facts should surprise us. Christ warned His Disciples The Great Tribulation would bring a time of trouble like the world has not seen (Matthew 24:21).   The spirit of anarchy, rioting, violence, and terrorist attacks we are witnessing in our society are ominous signs the Tribulation years are upon us.

Friend, take courage; we know the end of the story and the defeat of Satan’s rebellion is certain.  When Christ comes again, he will defeat Satan and crush the nation’s aligned with him (Rev. 19:11-21).  After the Millennial years, the devil and his demons will be condemned to the lake of fire for ever (Revelation 20:3, 7-10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and The Most Powerful Monarch Bows to His Will.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 33-36

Unlike his father Hezekiah, under whose reign Judah experienced revival (2 Chronicles 30:1-9) when he destroyed the places of idol worship (2 Chronicles 31), Manasseh began to reign as king of Judah when he was twelve years old, reigning fifty-five years, but he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

There were no bounds to the depths of depravity to which Manasseh stooped.  He rebuilt the groves of prostitution where Baal was worshipped, desecrated the Temple, practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing his own children to idols, participated in witchcraft, and led Jerusalem to commit wickedness “worse than the heathen” (33:9).  What a horrible biography of depravity and wickedness, practiced by the young king and tolerated by his advisors and the masses!

I marvel how a godly king like Hezekiah who led Judah in spiritual revival; might have a son like Manasseh who succeeded his father as king and proceeded down a path of evil that exceeded the wickedness of the heathen (33:9).  If you will allow a personal observation (after all, this is a commentary); I am oft amazed how men in authority influence a people, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, and leave in their wake the destruction of families, communities, nations and the deaths of millions of men and women.

As a product of the 20th century and a student of its history, I reflect on the century past (the rise of Communism, Nazi-fascists, militant Islamists, and our present-day conflict with anarchists of all stripes…political and religious) and understand the tragic consequences that befall nations that choose wicked, unprincipled, godless leaders.  King Solomon taught his son the same, writing:

Proverbs 29:2 – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

In spite of his evil ways, we read, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s patience and longing to forgive and restore His people!  Being reminded God’s ways are not our ways, the LORD sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and fetters and brought him to Babylon” (33:11).  Reminding us to not give up on wayward sinners, in the throes of his suffering and humiliation, Manasseh “besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13  And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God” (33:12-13).

Having repented of his sins, God restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem and he began a crusade to fortify the walls of the city, removing the traces of his own wickedness in tearing down places of idol worship,  repairing the Temple altar and commanding “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:13-16).

Manasseh, by example and edict, led the nation to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; however, he was unable to reverse the effect of his sins on Amon, his son who did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23) until his servants assassinated him in the palace (33:24).

Being reminded of God’s grace, Josiah, the son of Amon and grandson of Hezekiah, turned from the sins of his father and followed his grandfather’s example and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 34-35:1-19).  Josiah’s death on the battlefield (35:20-24) and how the prophet Jeremiah and the people mourned his death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

2 Chronicles 36 records the final days of Judah as a nation before Babylonian captivity.  Long prophesied by the prophets, the burning of the Temple, ruin of the palaces, destruction of Jerusalem, and the people being led away captive to Babylon for seventy years were fulfilled (36:1-24).

Today’s scripture reading concludes with a reminder:  God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “ 22  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: America is Not Too Big to Fail!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jeremiah 47-52

Today’s scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of the prophecies of Jeremiah in this book that bears his name.  These final chapters, Jeremiah 47-52, predict the devastating invasion of Babylon’s army (“waters rise up out of the north” – Jeremiah 47:2) and the forthcoming destruction of the nations that were Israel’s ancient adversaries.

The annihilation of the Philistines (Jeremiah 47), the Moabites (Jeremiah 48), the Ammonites and Edomites (Jeremiah 49); even the destruction of Babylon (Jeremiah 50-51) is all predicted.   We can take many lessons from the judgment and destruction suffered by those proud nations that resisted the God of Israel and made themselves enemies of His people.   The Sovereignty of God over nations and the eradication of Israel’s ancient foes is the great lesson we take from Jeremiah’s prophetic revelations.

Jeremiah 52 records the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah.   The sins and rebellion of the people had exhausted God’s longsuffering and He determined to deliver Judah for judgment.   Jeremiah’s record of the suffering of God’s people includes famine, the captivity of king Zedekiah, the slaying of his sons, his eyes “put out” and his imprisonment until he died.   Jeremiah’s book concludes with the king’s palace and the Temple being plundered  (52:12-23) and the people of Judah led away captive to Babylon (52:24-30).

Some closing thoughts on the nations of the world and the sovereignty of God: Politicians and societal experts of the 19th century aspired to “Utopia”, a world of peace and justice where humanity lived in perfect harmony and every man pursued the common good. Unfortunately for those idealists, their ideology of atheism and the good in man was proven false by the atrocities of war and oppression of humanity in the 20th century. From the holocaust and atrocities committed by the Armies of the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) to the crimes against humanity committed by Communist regimes (particularly the old Soviet Union, Vietnam and China), modern nations prove they are no more humane than their ancient counterparts.

One would think any aspirations for “Utopia” that survived the 20th century have surely been extinguished by the barbarity committed by the followers of militant Islam (ISIS, Taliban and Hamas) in the dawning of the 21st century; however, such is not the case.  Crucifixion, stoning, beheading, drowning, fiery deaths, poisonings and mass killings in the name of religion and the perversity and wickedness of modern man are on full display in the Middle East and around the world.

Babylon’s mighty army dominated the ancient world and her city walls appeared impenetrable; however, God declared war and against that nation (Jeremiah 50-51) and Babylon  faltered under the weight of her sin and fell.

Citizens of the United States would do well to remember the LORD bears the sword of judgment (Jeremiah 47:6-7) and no people or nation is beyond His justice or too big to fail.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith