Category Archives: Israel

Don’t Give Up Hope!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 37-42

Not only is today’s reading a lengthy one, it also has details with numbers and measurements that are sure to leave the average reader wondering what possible application could this have to a 21st century student of God’s Word.   For the sake of brevity, I suggest a simple outline of chapters 37 through 42.

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic illustration of Israel’s resurrection as a nation (remember, the prophet is ministering to the Jews in Babylon after the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem).   My younger readers might enjoy watching a video\audio clip of “Dry Bones” (I avoid referring to it as a “gospel song” since there is hardly a gospel lesson in the recording; however, the classy style of the “Delta Rhythm Boys” compared with today’s “recording artists” is worth the watch).   Ezekiel 37 is not only a prophetic picture of Israel’s resurrection as a nation, but also the unification of the people divided into two nations since Solomon’s reign.

Ezekiel 38 prophesies events that are yet to occur on an international scale against Israel.  There is neither time or space to enter into the debate of the nations portrayed in this chapter; however, it is my opinion this is a prophecy there is a day when the ruler of the north (38:14) which I believe is Russia (38:2 – “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”) will lead an invasion of Middle Eastern nations (identified as “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya” – 38:5) against Israel.   Ezekiel 38:14-39:18 details the invasion of the armies and their defeat.  The LORD intervenes and Israel’s victory will be so overwhelming that the burial of the dead will take seven months (39:14).

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years less one and the time of the writing of Ezekiel 40 was in “the five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).   Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart as a nation to build a new temple (the last destroyed in 70 AD) and worship the LORD.  The plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the future temple are given in Ezekiel 40-42.

Our scripture reading today concludes with Ezekiel 42; however, chapter 43 continues the narrative concerning the future temple with the promise the heavenly glory of the LORD Himself will fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:2-4).

As I close, consider this: The LORD wanted His people to never give up hope!

Remember Ezekiel’s immediate audience was His own people who were captives in Babylon.  Many had witnessed the devastating destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  Humanly speaking, all was lost and apart from divine intervention, the Jews would be numbered among those nations that had come and gone; their cities covered by the sands of the desert and the people assimilated into the populations of the earth and forgotten.

However, such was not the case with God’s chosen people with whom He covenanted to be their God.  God promised Abraham he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), a promise not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus Christ.  The Jews rejected Christ at His first coming as a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53); however, at the end of the Tribulation they will see Him come as a conquering King and He will rule from Jerusalem and the people will worship Him during the Millennial in a new temple.

In the midst of reading the numbers and dimensions of a future temple, consider the revival of joy and hope among God’s people when they were reminded God had not forgotten them and all was not lost!  The day was coming when a new temple would be built and God’s glory would once again fill the temple and the world would know the LORD is in the midst of His people!

Friend, don’t give up hope…remember, this same LORD promised His disciples He was going away to “prepare a place” for them and “will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-4).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An Exhortation for Preachers, Bible Teachers and Believers

Friday, July 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 31-36

Continuing our reading in Ezekiel, we noted in prior chapters God’s love and jealousy for Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 25-30).  The rebellion of His people invited His judgment; however, the pleasure the heathen nations took in Israel’s suffering provoked God’s wrath and He warned they would fall to Babylon.  Named among those nations is Egypt whose treasures would be taken by king Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-21).

Ezekiel 31 continues God’s warning of judgment against Egypt.  Nebuchadnezzar and his Chaldean army’s devastating overthrow of ancient Assyria, likened in chapter 31 unto the great oaks of Lebanon, served as God’s warning to Egypt (31:1-18).

Ezekiel continues his prophecy of judgment against Egypt in chapter 32, prophesying that nation’s calamity would serve as a warning to other nations (32:1-10).   Giving no room for ambiguity, Egypt’s fall to Babylon is ascertained (32:11-15).   Picturing Hell for what it is, a place of death and torment for the lost who reject the LORD (32:17-32), the Egyptians are forewarned they will make their graves with those nations that have gone before them.

Ezekiel 33-35 moves the focus from Egypt’s imminent destruction to the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility as God’s watchman.

The task of a prophet is not an enviable one and the message he delivers is often despised and rejected by his listeners.  While the message of an Old Testament prophet is often foretelling, his focus is never exclusively future events.  Ezekiel, like  Jeremiah, Isaiah and others, was to remind Israel of her glorious past, discern the present times and declare God’s judgment should the people continue in their sins (33:1-9).

It is the latter work of the preacher\prophet, the forth telling and unapologetic declaration of God’s Word, that has all but been silenced by the 21st century church.  I have heard of church boards and schools that purpose to depart from the Bible fundamental legacy of the church and court pastors and administrators who disavow the role of the watchman.   

Rather than confront the sins of the Church, the pulpiteers of our day offer up drops of honey and philosophical charm to a generation of professing believers given to sin.  Fearing noxious labels like legalist and mean-spirited, pastors are failing to serve as “watchmen”.  The sound of the trumpet warning the people of God’s judgment is silent and pastors and Bible teachers are guilty of soft-pedaling God’s call and command to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Lest some take my observation to task, I remind you the duty of the New Testament pastor is to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Be forewarned my pastor peers; the blood of a generation will be on our heads should we fail as God’s watchman (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel, living as a captive in Babylon and far from Jerusalem, called His people to repent (33:1-20).  When the news of Jerusalem’s fall reached him, the LORD consoled him, though the people refuse to heed his warning, they would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

Ezekiel rebukes unfaithful “shepherds” for their failure to lead the people (Ezekiel 34).  Failing to guide and nourish them, the “shepherds” took advantage of the weak and abused their roles as the spiritual caregivers of Israel (34:1-8).  Having failed in their duty, the LORD warned, “I am against the shepherds” (34:9-10).

In spite of the dire state of His people, the LORD assured His prophet that He would gather them together as a loving shepherd gathers His sheep (34:11-31).

I close today with a charge to ministers and Bible teachers who are faithful shepherds of God’s people.

Our task as preachers and teachers of Truth is not appreciated by many and some might say we are failures.  Be faithful friend and take solace in this; one day some will “know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33)!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 19-20

Today’s devotional reading brings us to Jesus’ last days before Judas’ betrayal, the abandonment of His disciples and His crucifixion.

Luke 19 is rich in much that characterized our LORD’s earthly ministry.  His love for sinners, seen in the story of His meal in the home of Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector of Jericho (19:1-10); His challenge to be faithful and vigilant in His parable of the pounds (19:11027); and His love and sorrow for the citizens of Jerusalem knowing God’s judgment would come on the people and city after they rejected Him (19:28-44).

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the opening verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders of Judaism, confronted Him in the Temple demanding by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2).  Our beloved LORD, evidencing divine wisdom and insight into the heart of sinners answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4  The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” (Luke 20:3b-4). When the Jewish leaders refused to answer, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Luke 20:8).

Turning from hypocrites masquerading as devout religious men, Jesus taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19) and told the story of servants laboring in their master’s vineyard while he was away on a prolonged journey.  When the master sent trusted servants to collect the profit he was due from the vineyard, those laboring in the vineyard refused them and sent them away.  Finally, the owner of the vineyard sent his son (20:13); however, the laborers in the vineyard rose up and slew him (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of that parable was those who rejected the son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18).   The chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus and renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

I have had some ask over the years about the relationship of husband and wife and if they are bound in heaven.  This is an important concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.   I believe the saints of God will know one another in heaven and am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven.  We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35).

Having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), Jesus warned His disciples, 46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46-47).

As it was then, so it is today–religious leaders, rather than serve the people as shepherds and servants, often burden their churches with an expectation they should be favored while they ravage the poorest and weakest to enrich themselves and make a pretense of religious piety.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 25-30

The historical context of today’s reading finds both Israel and Judah in captivity after God’s people rebelled and turned away from His law and commandments.   Having rejected the warnings of His prophets, the LORD judged those nations as He promised; however, He never forsook them.  Ezekiel 25 reminds us God is jealous for His people.

After destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar’s army took the people of Judah captive to Babylon.   Witnessing the calamity of God’s people, the heathen nations rejoiced in their sorrows and sufferings.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and despised the heathen’s joy in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14) and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel and Judah (25:15-17).

Ezekiel 26-30 continues the prophet’s warning to the nations that their pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel would be rewarded with their own judgment.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia would fall to Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19).  Zidon, a city north of Tyrus, would also suffer the calamity and destruction that was the fate of Tyrus and neighboring nations who reveled in the destruction of Jerusalem (28:20-24).   Ezekiel 28 ends with the blessed promise God would gather His people from Babylonian exile and restore them to their land (28:25-26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Egypt too would be judged for her sins against Israel and her treasures would be the reward of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-16) as Babylon served God’s purpose for bringing judgment against that nation (29:17-21) and her neighbors (30:1-26).

There is a lesson in today’s reading that nations of the 21st century would be wise to heed:

There are grave consequences for those people and nations that take joy in the sorrows and sufferings of the Jews and Christians.

The atrocities committed against the Jews in the Second World War and the virtual annihilation of those nations that perpetrated them (Nazi Germany and fascist Italy) stands as a testimony that God loves His own, even when His people turn from Him.

Many reading this brief devotional are unaware those nations and people occupied by the Soviet Union and overwhelmed by Communist oppression in the years that followed World War II were guilty of crimes against the Jews on a scale that is unfathomable.   Eastern European nations that fell into the Soviet bloc of nations and suffered under communism were themselves guilty of murderous acts against the Jews and suffered their own sorrows until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I close with illustrative verses of God’s love for Israel and a warning for all who harm His people.

Zechariah 1:14 – “…Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

Zechariah 2:8 – “…he that toucheth you [Israel] toucheth the apple [pupil] of His eye[meaning the eye of the LORD].

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”

Warning: Mistreat God’s people and take pleasure in their sorrows and you will inevitably suffer the same, for God is a jealous God.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is the Final Judge and Justice Will Prevail!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 81-83

We continue in our reading and study of the Book of the Psalms each Wednesday and today our assignment is Psalms 81, 82 and 83.   Of course, these psalms are hymns of praise Israel would sing as they worshipped the LORD in His Temple.

Psalm 81 calls the people together to worship, reminding them of the LORD’s love and providential care for Israel.  The occasion is a Jewish holiday (81:3); however, the exact holiday is not stated.   I believe it might have been the Passover since the psalm makes reference to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (81:5-6) and the nation’s journey out of Egypt and in the wilderness (81:7-10).

Psalm 82 focuses on the failure of judges  to exercise righteous judgments in the affairs and disputes arising among the people.   The psalmist reminds the judges and others in positions of leadership, God is the final judge (82:1); “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (82:2).

Reminding us nothing has changed concerning the hearts of sinners, the leaders and judges in Israel were apparently accepting bribes and granting favors to the wicked, at the sacrifice of the good and well-being of the “poor, fatherless, and needy” (82:3-4).   The psalmist admonishes the judges; “do justice to the afflicted and needy… rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (82:3b, 4b).

Psalm 82:5 reminds us when the balances of justice are weighed in favor of the wicked, darkness prevails (82:5a) and the principles of truth and righteousness are “out of course” (82:5b).

On a personal note: Though founded upon spiritual principles that are foundationally Biblical, it is my observation America’s judicial system is skewed by unjust politicians, lawyers and judges who too often rule in favor of the wicked.   Sadly, justice is for sale to the highest bidder in some courts and the poor, needy, and middle class suffer injustices.

Psalm 82:6 reminds those who judge (and I believe this is applicable not only in civil courts, but also when judgment is required of the church in matters of discipline) they are to weigh judicial matters of law and justice as God’s earthly representatives (“…all of you are children of the most High” – 82:6).

Let all who are in authority and bear the trust of God and the people in civil, academic and spiritual matters be reminded God is the final judge and all will be held accountable for their sphere of influence and judgments (82:7-8).

Romans 14:11-12 – For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Some People Cannot Be Trusted

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 6-10

The history in today’s scripture reading consists of five chapters and is too broad and the spiritual lessons too many to do justice; however, that is our task if we are to read through the Bible in one year. For the sake of today’s devotional commentary, I will pick out one highlight and make a few brief observation.

Consider the integrity evidence by a young prophet under Elisha’s tutelage (2 Kings 6:1-7).   Surely a minor miracle in light of Elisha’s many miracles; nevertheless God raising an iron axe head from the waters of the Jordan River after Elisha cast a stick on the water is a miracle only God’s blessing can explain (6:6-7)!

Elisha was overseer to a school for prophets and was preparing the next generation to serve the LORD. When the school outgrew its meeting place, the students proposed building a larger facility on the Jordan River (2 Kings 6:1-2). After Elisha gave his approval, the students set about building until a borrowed axe head fell from its handle and into the water. The poor student who had borrowed the axe bemoaned his loss and the expense to replace it (6:5). Elisha had sympathy for his student’s plea and God blessed raising the axe head from the waters.

Should you be left wondering where the lesson on integrity is found in this story, I ask you to consider the young prophet’s confession of his loss and recognition of his indebtedness and duty to return it to its owner (6:5).

Small thing you say? Insignificant?  No, I have known too many occasions where believers failed the integrity test in small things.  Something they accidentally broke, misplaced and lost, or borrowed with seemingly no conscience or concern they were obligated to replace or repay the owner for their loss.

Of course such men and women are unworthy of one’s trust in anything consequential.

Luke 16:10 “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Commonality of Leprosy and Sin

Monday, July 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 13-15

The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.  Leprosy known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD); is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Leprosy is treatable, even curable in the 21st century; however, in ancient times it was a dreaded disease not only feared, but also inevitably leading to its victims separation from society and assignment to leper colonies.

In Leviticus 13, the LORD directs Moses and Aaron in the steps He required to address leprosy in Israel including diagnosing the disease and the exclusion of lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).   Lepers were required to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), warning any who approached they were carriers of the disease.

Should the leper be deemed healed of the disease, steps and sacrifices are prescribed in Leviticus 14 to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rituals for purification, the leper was deemed clean and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).

As a point of application, leprosy is the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people.  Notice in chapter 13 the number of times leprosy is described as “unclean” (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59).  Leprosy is more than a surface issue of the skin and the outward man; leprosy inevitably effects the tissues, nerves and eventually causes the extremities to rot and decay.  In a real sense, it so scarred the body it was well-nigh an unbearable ugliness.

Such is the way of sin.  Liberals would have us believe man is born innocent and it is man’s environment (i.e. home, society, religion) that is the cause of man’s societal deprivations.  Rather than innocence, God’s Word declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The apostle Paul, likening sin to a physical ailment writes, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

At the heart of problems in our society is the problem of sinful hearts.  Jesus taught His disciples, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20  These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:19-20).

Without a human cure for leprosy, lepers hoped for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention that would be verified by examination and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

In the same way, mankind has no cure for sin.  Twenty-first century society, doctors and judges prescribe counseling, psychiatry and drug-therapy for lawbreakers and prisoners deemed to have “mental-disorders”; however, these all fall short of addressing the heart of the issue, which is the issue of the heart.

In the same way there was no cure for leprosy without the LORD, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin and placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  It is for this reason Jesus Christ bore the penalty of our sins on the cross. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith