Category Archives: Israel

If You Had One Wish…What Would You Choose?

September 19, 2017

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 1-5

We come today to a new history book in our daily reading in the Old Testament.  2 Chronicles, like 1 Chronicles, are parallel books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings.   While 1 Kings and 2 Kings are written from the viewpoint of man; 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, covering the same age as the Book of Kings, are written from God’s perspective.

1 Chronicles concluded with King David’s benediction on his life and exhortation for Israel to give allegiance to Solomon as king and support him in the greatest undertaking of his life and reign as king…building a Temple for the LORD in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 29:1-25).   With understated fanfare, David, Israel’s greatest king, “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

2 Chronicles opens with Solomon sitting on his father’s throne and the power and blessing of God resting upon him (2 Chronicles 1:1).   Solomon began his reign where all men should begin their day…he worshipped the LORD (1:2-6).   God appeared to Solomon “and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee” (1:7).

What an incredible proposition!  Solomon, ask what you will and I shall give thee!  I wonder, what would you request should you have opportunity to ask for something, for anything, and it would be granted?    Would you ask for riches?  Possessions?  Power?  Popularity?  Fame?   The answer to that question reveals a lot about your character!

Solomon’s humble request no doubt puts us all to shame!  His request was not for those things which is the pursuit of carnal, worldly-minded men.   Solomon’s desire revealed a heart of deep humility.

2 Chronicles 1:10 –  “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?”

God commended Solomon for his request and promised to reward him with not only wisdom and knowledge, but also “riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (1:12).   The closing verses of 2 Chronicles 1 reveal the vastness of Solomon’s wealth as the LORD blessed him as He had promised.

2 Chronicles 2–4 gives us the record of Solomon directing the building of the Temple as his father David had instructed him.  The design, the carvings of wood and the gold that overlaid the walls and doors made the Temple Solomon built one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

With the Temple complete (5:1), Solomon directed the golden vessels assembled by his father David and the ark, representing the earthly presence of God among His people, be brought to the Temple (5:2-9).   With the ark in the “holy place”, the people celebrated with singing, trumpets and cymbals praising the Lord, saying, “For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever” (5:13).

Having reflected on the glorious beginning of Solomon’s reign and his humility before the LORD; it saddens me to recall the spiritual and moral failures that would overshadow his accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge.  Of Solomon, we read:

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

That same truth has played out in the lives of some I have known.  Too many saints go to their graves, remembered, not for their accomplishments, but for the tragedy of their moral failures.

Friend, don’t allow that to be true of you; discipline your heart, thoughts, eyes and affections.   Follow Job’s example:

Job 31:1 – “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

LOOK AND LIVE!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-24

The historical context of today’s scripture reading, Numbers 21-24, finds Israel near the end her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness after she left Egypt.   The generation that departed Egypt and refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan and possess it had perished.  Miriam, Moses’ sister, died in the opening verse of Numbers 20 (20:1) and Aaron, his brother and the high priest of Israel, died in the closing verses of Numbers 20 (20:28).

The final six months of Israel’s 40 years wandering in the wilderness is the setting of Numbers 21 where we find Israel murmuring against Moses and the LORD (21:4-5).  Like their parents who had perished in the desert, this new generation followed the sinful, faithless pattern of their fathers and mothers, became discouraged and accused God and Moses of leading them “out of Egypt to die in the wilderness” (21:5).

The LORD answered their murmuring with “fiery [poisonous] serpents” and “much of the people of Israel died” (21:6).   Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to intercede and pray the LORD  would “take away the serpents” (20:7).

God answered Moses’ prayer and provided a way of salvation, instructing His servant to fashion a serpent of brass and suspend it in the air above the people (21:8).  The LORD promised, if the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9).  It was that same symbol Jesus referred to when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross when He said:

John 3:14-16“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

My friend, as the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to look to and be spared death, Jesus Christ is the answer for the curse of sin of all sinners.

The invitation to Israel is the invitation to all…Look to the Cross…See with eyes of faith Jesus Christ crucified for your sin…and Live.

1 John 5:11-13 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

LOOK and LIVE!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to the Nation That Celebrates Perversity and Attacks Morality!

September 15, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-4

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (Amos 1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.   When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

“Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and the nation maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom; making no pretense of worshipping the LORD, that nation built an altar in Bethel and offered sacrifices to a golden calf.

Amos, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), was a courageous prophet.  With the word of the LORD upon his lips, he delivered a series of prophecies against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5)… Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8)… Tyre (1:9-10)… Edom (1:11-12)… Ammon (1:13-15)… and Moab (2:1-3) all were warned the judgment of God was imminent.

Turning his focus from the six Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged “because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God sent prophets, but the people said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

In chapter 3 Amos prophesied reminding the people the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) as His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, rejected the LORD and He set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1).

Adding to the Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments come to this?  How could they be so blind they lost sense and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts becomes desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

My friend, the same condemnation is true of our beloved United States!

The lunacy of atheism coupled with the perversity of humanism is so entrenched in government, education, religion and media it has crippled our judgment as a society.   Having rejected God and His Laws, our moral judgment as a nation is twisted and perverted and we “know not to do right” (3:10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Please Pray: God sometimes calls a nation to repent through natural cataclysmic events.

September 8, 2017

Scripture Reading – Joel 1-3

I found today’s scripture reading especially graphic in light of the devastating blow suffered by Houston from Hurricane Harvey and the path of destruction Hurricane Irma is leaving as she makes her way across the Caribbean and towards South Florida today.  Adding to the calamity in our region of the world is the news of a major earthquake in southern Mexico this morning.

A novice reader of the Bible recognizes the prophet Joel is writing about a national disaster in terms that are symbolic, nevertheless powerful.  Joel is describing the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14) and the impending judgment of God against Judah.

The Book of Joel describes three catastrophic invasions.  The enemy in Joel 1 is a natural enemy…a plague of locusts that destroys the crops leaving both men and beasts starving (1:7, 10-12, 16-20).

The enemy in Joel 2 is the impending invasion by the armies of Assyria (2:1-27) described in verse 20 as “the northern army” (or the army to the north).   Joel was to sound the alarm, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion” (2:1)… warn Judah an enemy was coming.  Describing the swath of destruction, Joel warns, “the day of the LORD cometh…A day of darkness and of gloominess…a fire devoureth before them…before their face the people shall be much pained” (2:1-6).

Why? Why was the LORD bringing this upon Judah?  That the people might turn…to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:12-13).  Reminding the nation the LORD is “gracious and merciful” (2:13), Joel called upon Judah to repent of her sins and turn to the LORD.

Joel prayed for a national revival:  “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children…17  Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).

Knowing the LORD is gracious and merciful, Joel promised if the people repented, God would restore the nation, bless the land and “restore to you the years that the locust have eaten…26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied” (2:18-26).

Joel 3 is a future event…the regathering of the Jews to Judah and Jerusalem (3:1) and the Gentile nations gathering against Israel (3:2) in what I believe is the final battle…Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).   Remembering the ill-treatment suffered by the Jews down through the centuries (3:3-8),  the LORD promises to make war against the Gentiles (3:9-17).   Two Gentile nations are specifically named for destruction… “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah” (3:19).   Egypt representing that great nation south of Israel and Edom the Arab nations to the north and east of Israel.

I close today’s devotional commentary with a personal observation as one who lives in the path of a hurricane the mayor of Miami describes as “epic”.   In a few days, after the storms have passed and the toll on life and property is assessed, there will be a national debate bordering on hysteria about the cause of these massive storms.   Some of the discussion will be sensible and scientific; however, media bias and liberal politicians will beat their drums and bewail “Climate Change” and reproach humanity as the cause.

A mere handful might dare broach the Biblical and historical reality God often calls a people to repent of their sin through natural cataclysmic events.

I am not suggesting the devastation suffered by Houston, the Caribbean and the potential of suffering in Florida from Hurricane Irma is the judgment of God.   However, I will confess the United States has turned from God, His Laws and precepts.

America is guilty of gross sins…the negligence of justice; the celebration of gross immorality; and the deaths of 60 million infants.  Of such a people we read, “for blood it defileth [corrupts; pollutes] the land [earth; country]: and the land cannot be cleansed [purged; atoned; forgiven] of the blood that is shed therein” (Numbers 35:33).

Pray for Texas, Florida and our nation to turn back to the LORD.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Sovereign of Wind and Water

September 6, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 105-107

We have three psalms before us for our scripture reading, Psalm 105, Psalm 106 and Psalm 107.

Psalm 105 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving and rehearses the LORD’s providential care of Israel, His chosen people.  The contextual timeline of the psalm begins with Abraham, runs through Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and the nation’s wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years.

Psalm 105 is a testimony of God’s care of Israel in the wilderness by a cloud to cover their journey in the day and a fire to light their way at night (105:39).   When they were hungry the LORD gave them quail for meat and manna for bread.  When they were thirsty, water gushed out of the rock (105:40-42).   When the people murmured and tempted Him, the LORD was longsuffering and remembered His covenant promise to Abraham and brought his seed into the land He had promised where they might serve Him and “observe His statutes, and keep His laws” (105:45).

Like Psalm 105, Psalm 106 is a song of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD (106:1).  Psalm 106 reflects on God’s loving care and provision for Israel in spite of the unfaithfulness of the people.  The psalm becomes a penitential psalm (a psalm of confession and repentance) when the psalmist recalls the sins of his forefathers and identifies with them his own bent to sin (106:6).   The bulk of the psalm remembers the LORD’s providential care of Israel in the wilderness and His patience with His people in spite of their sin and rebellion (106:7-48).

Hebrew scribes divide the Book of Psalms into five books: Book 1 consists of Psalms 1-41; Book 2 consists of Psalms 42-72; Book 3 consists of Psalms 73-89; Book 4 consists of Psalms 90-106; and the fifth book is Psalms 107-150.  Psalm 107 is the first psalm in the fifth and last Book of the Psalms.

Psalm 107 begins with a call to give thanks to the LORD for redeeming Israel out of Babylon (107:2-7).   The psalmist remembers how the LORD preserved His people in exile and restored them to the land He had promised Abraham would be his inheritance.  The psalmist writes:

Psalm 107:8-9 – “Oh that men would praise [give thanks] the LORD for His goodness [grace; mercy; loving-kindness], and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9  For He satisfieth [fills] the longing [seeking; hungry] soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness [good and pleasant things].”

Why should Israel praise the LORD and give thanks?

Because the LORD is good, merciful and a God of grace! 

When His people turned from Him, the LORD humbled them in prison and when they cried out He heard their cry and delivered them (107:10-16).  When they sinned and became sick, He healed them (107:17-22).   When rocked with trouble and turmoil, like seamen at sea caught in the fury of a storm who call out to the LORD, Israel called upon the LORD and He heard their cry and quieted their troubles (107:23-32).

Psalm 107:33-43 is especially pertinent for the United States after witnessing the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey ravaging the coast of Texas and the worrisome approach of Hurricane Irma for Florida.

Remembering God is Sovereign of nature, the psalmist reminds us the LORD, “turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness…35 the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings” (107:33-35).

Friend, God is just, and He blesses the land for the sake of the righteous and brings judgment upon the land because the wicked dwell therein (107:36-41).

Wise are they who understand the way of the LORD and walk in His commandments for “they shall understand [regard; be instructed in] the lovingkindness [mercy; goodness; grace] of the LORD” (107:43).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Wise Pour Themselves Into Those Who Will Succeed Them!

September 5, 2017

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 20-24

With the Ark of God safe in Gibeon and his recent victory over the Ammonites and Syrians, David settled into a time of spiritual and physical complacency.   We read, “at the time that kings go out to battle” (1 Chronicles 20:1), “David tarried at Jerusalem” (20:1).

The LORD continued to bless Israel’s army under General Joab and David relished the spoils of war that came from conquests (20:2-8); however, it was in this same time David committed an egregious sin against the LORD.   2 Samuel 11 reveals David committed adultery with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah and, to conceal his sin he sent Uriah into the heat of the battle where he perished.  The prophet Nathan warned David his life would forever be shadowed by the consequences of his sins (2 Samuel 12:10-14) and his family would be the source of his sorrows.

David’s reign began evidencing a series of missteps apart from the LORD’s will and in pride he dismissed the counsel of his most trusted advisor.  We read, “Satan stood up [withstood as an adversary] against Israel, and provoked [persuaded; enticed] David to number [i.e. a census] Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1).   Of this same event, 2 Samuel 24:1 states the LORD was angry with Israel and moved David to number the people.  Taking both passages, we understand Satan initiated the numbering of the people within David’s proud heart (1 Chronicles 21:1) while the LORD permitted the census to His own end and purpose (2 Samuel 24:1).

General Joab, David’s most trusted advisor, bravely withstood David (21:2-3); however, “the king’s word prevailed against Joab” (21:4) and the census was made (21:5).  Too late, David confessed his sin against the LORD for numbering the people (21:7-8); however, the displeasure of the LORD was set upon Him.  David was mercifully given the opportunity to choose which of three consequences would befall him and Israel (21:10-12).

Rather than perish at the hand of his enemy, David entrusted himself and Israel to the LORD’s chastisement and 70,000 in Israel perished (21:13-17).  The plague and the loss of lives stopped when David purchased the threshing floor of Ornan, made an altar in that place and sacrificed to the LORD (21:18-28).

The significance of the place the plague stopped and where David erected an altar and sacrificed cannot be overstated for it was the same place Abraham offered his son Isaac and Solomon would build the Temple (Genesis 22; 1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Knowing the years of his life were drawing to a close, David devoted his life to preparing the workmen and materials that would be required for Solomon to build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-19).  David instructed Solomon and imparted to his son his duty to embrace God’s promises and build the Temple in Jerusalem (22:6-16).

Leaving no doubt who should be his successor, David “made Solomon his son king over Israel” (23:1) and set forward an organization of the priests and Levites who were to serve in the Temple (23:2-32; 24:1-31)).

There are many lessons we could take from today’s study; however, I will leave you with one…

David wisely accepted the temporalness of his earthly life and prepared his son to not only be king, but also charged him with the privilege for which God had chosen him… “build an house for the LORD God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 22:6-11).

Friend, you would be wise to follow David’s example and heed a caution concerning this earthly life found in Psalm 90.

Psalm 90:10 – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten [70 years]; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years [80 years], yet is their strength [i.e. pride] labour [toil; grief; misery] and sorrow [mourning]; for it is soon [i.e. hurry; too soon] cut off [passed], and we fly away [i.e. our years take flight].”

Wise men and women “number” [prepare; count] the days of their lives and, like David, “apply [lit. pass on] [their] hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

The wise pour their lives into those who will eventually succeed them!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord”

September 4, 2017

Scripture Reading – Numbers 13-16

Continuing in our study of the Book of Numbers, we find Israel encamped at the threshold of the land God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be the inheritance of their seed.  The events in today’s scripture reading, Numbers 13-16, are among the most dynamic in Israel’s 40 years of wanderings in the wilderness; unfortunately, this devotional commentary must be brief and highlight only a few observations of the many that could be made.

The LORD directed Moses to send men, one from each tribe, to “see the land…the people…what the land is…what the cities they be” (13:1-19).   Moses challenged the men, “be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land” (13:20).  The spies were gone for 40 days and returned with “a branch with one cluster of grapes” that was so full of fruit the men “bare it between two upon a staff” (13:23-25).

The spies confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:27); however, they also reported the people of the land were strong, lived in walled cities and “the children of Anak”, along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites dwelled there (13:29).

Hearing the challenges the nation must face to claim the land God had promised, unsettled the people and Caleb, one of the spies spoke up and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).   However, ten of the spies sowed doubt among the people saying, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…we saw giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:31-33).

Caleb urged the people “go up…we are well able” (13:30); however, ten of the spies urged, “we be not able to go up” (13:31).

What made the difference in those observations?   What set Joshua and Caleb apart from the other spies?   After all, the twelve spies had seen the same things, but came to conclusions that were vastly opposite.  The report Caleb and Joshua gave was different from the others in two ways: Focus and Faith.

  • Focus: Caleb and Joshua focused, not on the size of the obstacles, but on the size of their God.
  • Faith: Caleb and Joshua’s faith was not in their abilities, but in the person and promises of God.

Are you facing giants?  Has fear, faithlessness and complacency crept into your heart and thoughts?

You see, Israel’s enemy was not giants or the nations living in the land.   Israel’s enemy was her lack of faith in God.  The LORD admonished the prophet Jeremiah, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).

The man God blesses places his faith in the LORD Who has the solution to every problem and the resources to achieve every goal in His will!

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. [8] For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith