Category Archives: Leadership

The LORD Has Chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

This is the second of two daily devotionals. The prophet Zechariah was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Both prophets ministered in Jerusalem during the post-exilic era (Ezra 1:1-2). Zechariah, a young prophet at the time, had the same task as Haggai: To challenge and exhort God’s people to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

While the prophecies of Haggai focused on encouraging the Jews to finish rebuilding the Temple, the prophecies of Zechariah had a far-reaching context. In fact, the prophecies of the latter were not only applicable to the Jews of his day, but to all believers who live in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ when He returns as the Messiah King.

Zechariah 1:1-6 – Zechariah’s Commission

Zechariah announced with exactness the date his ministry as prophet began in Jerusalem, for it was “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (520 B.C.,  1:1), and two months after the commencement of Haggai’s ministry (Haggai 1:1). Born in Babylon during the captivity, Zechariah’s ministry was to convey to the Jews the LORD’s displeasure for neglecting His house (the Temple, 1:2). Their failure provoked God’s wrath; however, the LORD was longsuffering. He commanded Zechariah to say to the people, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (1:3).

To enlighten His prophet, the LORD came to Zechariah in eight nighttime visions. The visions gave the prophet a glimpse of future blessings, and the LORD’s promise to pour out His glory on His people if they would repent of their sins and turn to Him. Briefly, today’s devotional will consider the first and second visions.

The first vision: Horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17)

Zechariah saw a “man riding upon a red horse…among the myrtle trees…and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white” (1:8). While the number of horses is not given, we notice the horses had riders (1:10-11). I believe the man on the red horse was “the angel of the LORD” (1:8-12), a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Zechariah 1:11 reveals the vision occurred at a time when the nations of the world were at peace (the Persians having subdued the nations of the Babylonian empire). The Jews, having served Babylon in captivity for seventy years, were not at peace (1:12).

 

Indicating a season of judgment would come upon the Gentile nations for their harsh treatment of His people, Zechariah cried out against the heathen and declared for the LORD, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease [peace] (1:14-15). Then, the LORD promised to show mercy, and prosper His people if they would rebuild His Temple (1:16). What a joy it would have been for the impoverished Jews to hear Zechariah prophesy, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).

The second vision: “Four horns” representing four world powers (1:18-21)

We have noted in earlier devotionals that horns were symbols of strength, power, and authority. The four horns represented four Gentile nations that had and would “scatter Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (1:18-19). Historically and prophetically, we know those nations were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (reminding us of Nebuchadnezzar’s image which represented the same nations, Daniel 2). In the vision, the LORD sent “four carpenters” [builders] who were to “cast out” or cut off the “horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it” (1:21).

Closing thoughts – The four carpenters were not identified, but we have here a wonderful reminder how the LORD had not forgotten His people, nor the wrongs they suffered. God was waiting for the Jews to repent of their sins, that He might defeat their enemies, and overwhelm them with His blessings.

Is the LORD waiting on you? He promises to bless His people when they confess their sins, repent, and turn to Him.

Psalm 51:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

The Book of Ezra revealed there were adversaries who disrupted, and for 15 years curtailed the work on the Temple. They had made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3). Those same enemies accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  When Darius became king of Persia, the enemy accused the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6). This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Haggai 2

The LORD countered the voices of the enemies and critics, and sent His prophets (Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra 5:1), who encouraged the people saying, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel (the civic leader), saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (2:4).

Assuring the people the LORD would fill the new Temple with His glory (2:7), Haggai declared, “8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. 9The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (2:8-9).

How did the LORD fill the second Temple with His glory, especially since there is no record of such an event as it was with Solomon’s Temple? (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Though the second Temple lacked the beauty and splendor of the first, unbeknownst to the Jews, the LORD Himself would one day grace its halls with His bodily presence. Jesus, the incarnate, virgin born Son of God would be dedicated there as an infant (Luke 2:25-38). As a boy, he would be found both listening and questioning the rabbis regarding the Word of the LORD in the Temple court (Luke 2:46-52). As a man, Christ brought to the Temple a message of hope and peace for all men (2:9; Luke 4:17-22).

A Question of Holiness and Contamination (2:10-19)

Haggai’s fourth message to God’s people was recorded in the closing verses of this brief book. Stirred by the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were building the Temple with a zeal that would finally see it completed. The sermon was delivered two months after the third message, and the subject was on God’s stipulations for purity and holiness (as opposed to that which is unholy and “unclean,” 2:12-13). The implication of the lesson was, the LORD only accepts and blesses that which is righteous (2:14). When God’s people sin, they sacrifice His blessings, and invite His judgment (2:15-19).

A Challenge to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)

On the same day he delivered the fourth message to the people building the Temple, Haggai had a final revelation for Zerubbabel, the leaders and governor of Judah (2:20-23). Who was Zerubbabel? He was a leader of the tribe of Judah, but more importantly, he was of the linage of David, and named in the lineage of Christ (2:6; Matthew 1:12-13).

The LORD made a far-reaching promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth” (2:21). Babylon had been overthrown, and Persia ruled the world, but the LORD reminded Zerubbabel He alone was sovereign and nations rise and fall within His divine providence (2:22). No king or kingdom is so strong that the LORD will not overthrow and “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen” (2:22).

Closing thought – Haggai closed with a wonderful, Messianic promise (2:23). The LORD revealed Zerubbabel was chosen by “the LORD of hosts,” and one of his lineage would bear the “signet” (typically a ring monarchs used to seal covenants or legal documents in wax). The Messiah would come not only through David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16), but also through Zerubbabel, for he had been chosen! (2:23).

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A New Beginning (Ezra 6, Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 6, Psalm 137

We are continuing our study of Israel’s history after the Jews returned from exile. With the decree of king Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-3), one might think the work on the Temple would be without opposition. After all, God’s people came to Zion with the affirmation of the king, his assurance of financial support, and the command for those Jews not returning to support those who were (1:4-11).

Fifty thousand Jews responded to the prospect of going home to the land God had promised Israel (2:1-70). After arriving in the land and settling in their homes, the people set about the task of building an altar (3:1-4) and laid the foundation of the Temple (3:5-11). A celebration began when the last stone of the foundation was set in its place, (3:11); however, rejoicing was soon followed by sorrow. There arose enemies who opposed the work on the Temple (Ezra 4). When they failed to halt the work (4:1-11), they appealed to the king of Persia (4:11-16) and accused the children of Israel of plotting a rebellion against the king.

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, ordered a search of the archives of the kings (4:17-22). Finding Israel and Judah had a history of rebelling against the occupation of their lands and cities, the king decreed the work on the Temple to cease (4:23-24).

Sixteen years passed, until the LORD sent His prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (5:1), who “prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem (5:1). “2Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God…and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2). Again, the enemies of God’s people rose up to oppose them, and then appealed to the king (5:3-17).

Ezra 6

King Darius commanded a search be made of the archives (6:1), where it was discovered Cyrus, king of Persia, had commanded the Temple be built (6:3). Additionally, the king  had made provision for sacrifices, and given the dimensions and material composition of the Temple (6:3-5).

In a twist of humor, and serving as a testimony to the sovereignty of God, the attempt of the enemy to derail the work on the Temple concluded with the Jews being favored by the king. King Darius not only commanded the Jews’ enemies financially support their work, but also supply what was needed for food and sacrifices (6:6-10). Giving warning to any who might oppose them, the king proclaimed, “I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this” (6:11).

Ezra 6 concluded with a glorious celebratory dedication of the new Temple (6:15-17). The priests and Levites were divided and assigned their duties “as it [was] written in the book of Moses” (6:18), and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were renewed (6:19-22).

What a wonderful, providential turn of events in the lives of God’s people! Knowing a king of Persia could not rescind a law once it was avowed, the LORD had preserved Cyrus’ decree for the Temple to be rebuilt. Darius was bound to the king’s edict, and moved to ensure it was fulfilled.

Closing thoughts – Notice Psalm 137 affords us a perspective on the sorrows the Jews bore during their years in Babylon. The children of Israel took for granted the grace and mercies of God, and continued in their sins until there was no remedy but the judgment of the LORD. God raised up many prophets to warn Israel and Judah, should they continue in their sins He would deliver them to their enemies.  Yet, they would not heed the warnings of His prophets, but continued in their sins until all was lost.

Arriving as captives in Babylon, the Jews were haunted by the memories of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Temple destroyed by fire. So, we read, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (137:1).

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Discouragement: The Devil’s Favorite Tool (Ezra 4; Ezra 5)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4; Ezra 5

With the foundation of the Temple laid, the air was filled with the sound of trumpets and cymbals, and the people “sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel” (3:11). The shouts of the younger generation, mingled with the tears of the “ancient men” (3:12), were “heard afar off” (3:13). Unbeknown to the people, their adversaries heard the noise of the celebration, and determined to halt the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1). Ezra wrote, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Ezra 4 – Four Methods the Enemy Employed to Discourage God’s People (4:1-16)

On the pretense of friendship, the adversaries came to Zerubbabel (whom I believe was identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”), and suggested Assimilation. These enemies had been a part of the Assyrian policy to resettle a conquered land with people of other nations. Though they were a wicked, idolatrous people, they said to Zerubbabel, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2). Zerubbabel and Jeshua, joined by “the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel” (4:3), rejected the pretext of assimilation, saying, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their desire to hinder rebuilding the Temple, the enemies began a campaign of Aggravation (4:4-5). As time passed, “the people of the land [foreigners occupying Judah’s land] weakened the hands [the resolve] of the people of Judah, and troubled [terrified] them in building” (4:4). They even “hired counsellors [conspirators; agitators] against them, to frustrate their purpose” (4:5).

When assimilation and aggravation failed to stop the work on the Temple, the enemy turned to Adjudication, and addressed a letter to the king of Persia, and challenged the legality and legitimacy of the work to rebuild the Temple (4:6-10).

When all else failed, the adversaries of the people made a fourth attempt to impede the work on the Temple, and brought false Accusations against the Jews. The enemy employed two tactics in their spurious charges against the Jews: Deception; though the people were building the Temple, the enemy charged them with “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12). The second tactic was Distortion, for the enemy questioned the integrity of God’s people, and implied the Jews were rebuilding the fortress of Jerusalem to the end they might rebel (4:13-15). The false accusations against the Jews were so serious, they eventually moved the king to send a letter to Jerusalem that demanded the work cease (4:23-24).

Closing thoughts – The antagonism and unrelenting attacks of their adversaries not only discouraged the people, but eventually halted the work on the Temple. Succumbing to spiritual lethargy, it seemed the enemies of Judah and Benjamin had succeeded. The work on the Temple ceased for 15 long years (Haggai 1:2-11), and the jubilation of Ezra 3, turned to sorrow and discouragement (4:24).

Lesson – Of all the implements in the devil’s toolbox, the most effective is discouragement. Believer, faithful servants of the LORD will always have detractors. Sadly, there are some in the church who feel their calling is to be a critic (by the way, they are usually the ones sitting on the sidelines of ministry).

Ezra 5

The work on the Temple had ceased, but the LORD had an answer for discouragement: He sent His prophets! “Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, [who] prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them” (5:1). Haggai preached messages that convicted (Haggai 1:5, 7, 9-11), while Zechariah preached messages of comfort and exhortation [dreams and visions]. Stirred by the prophets of God, Zerubbabel and Jeshua returned to the work, and “began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2).

Closing thoughts – No sooner had the work on the Temple begun, than the adversaries returned, asking, “Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?” (5:3). Recognizing there was nothing they could do or say to appease their adversaries, the men working on the Temple answered the question with their own question: “What are the names of the men that make this building?” (5:4) Stated in another way: What business is it of yours, who has commanded us to build? We do not see your name on the list of contractors!

The elders of the people determined they would not be stopped from building the house of the Lord. They were confident “the eye of their God was upon” them (5:5). Once again, their enemies accused the Jews to the king (5:4-5). Unwittingly, they gave him cause to search the historical records of the kings of Persia, remembering the decree of a Persian king could not be rescinded (5:6-17).

As you will see, the tide will turn in Ezra 6 when the enemies opposed to rebuilding the Temple, will be forced to finance it with their own offerings.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Crisis of Faith and Integrity (Daniel 3; Daniel 4)

Scripture reading – Daniel 3; Daniel 4

Scholars suggest a 20-year gap exists between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image (Daniel 2), and his elevation of one “in the plain of Dura,” outside the massive walls of the city of Babylon (Daniel 3:1). Assuming the passing of two decades, Daniel and his three Hebrew companions were then in their mid-30’s, in the prime of manhood, and serving as administrators in Nebuchadnezzar’s government (2:48-49). Today’s devotional will be focused on Daniel 3, though our Scripture reading includes Daniel 4.

The King’s Idol (3:1-3)

In spite of him confessing Daniel’s God was “the God of gods, the Lord of kings” (2:47), the king had gone his own way, and returned to his idolatry, worshipping and offering sacrifices to idols. Yet, the king remembered the image of his dreams, and Daniel’s interpretation that the golden head of the image represented his realm as king (2:38). The proud king, not content with an image bearing only a head of gold, determined to raise an entire image of gold. Standing an impressive 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, the golden image towered above men. Understanding the diversity of nations under his rule, Nebuchadnezzar expected all men to worship his idol (3:2-3).

A Crisis of Integrity (3:4-18)

With a day of dedication determined, a herald called “all people, nations, and languages” (3:4) to bow and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (3:4-5). With the warning, Bow or Burn, all men and women were expected to give homage to “the golden image” (3:7).  A sea of humanity gathered before the great image, and when the music was heard, all bowed before the image, with the exception of three men. The assimilation of the children of Israel into Babylonian culture had been universal, with the exception of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel’s absence was perhaps due to his travels on behalf of the king).

There were some Chaldeans who used the occasion to accuse the three Hebrew men, that prompted an inquisition before the king (3:13-15). Although angered by their refusal, and perhaps out of respect for Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar gave Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego a second opportunity to bow before his idol, but also repeated the consequences should they refuse (3:15).

Though far from their home and the godly influences of their youth, the three men proved steadfast in their convictions (Exodus 20:3-5), and recognized two outcomes for their fidelity:  “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 8But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up“ (3:17-18).

The Fire of the King’s Indignation (3:19-26)

Overcome with “rage and fury” (3:13, 19), Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace heated 7 times hotter than normal. The king then commanded his “most mighty men” (perhaps his own guard) to bind and cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the furnace (3:19-21). The fire of the furnace instantly killed the mighty men when they cast the men into the furnace (3:21-23). Sitting down to observe, the king was suddenly shaken by the sight of not three, but four men walking about in the furnace, and unscathed by its heat and flames (3: 24). Nebuchadnezzar likened the fourth to a heavenly figure, and said he was “like the Son of God” (3:26).

A Divine Intervention (3:26-27)

Humbled by the miraculous preservation of the three men, and the sight of the divine image of the fourth, the king summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego by name, calling them the “servants of the most high God” (3:26). The men emerged from the furnace (3:26), as their accusers gathered and were amazed “the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them” (3:27).

The King’s Invocation (3:28-30)

Realizing only the ropes that bound them was singed by the flames (3:27), Nebuchadnezzar confessed “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego” had sent His angel to save them (3:28). The king confessed the LORD had overruled his edict, and spared their lives “that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (3:28).

Closing thoughts (3:29-30) – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s conviction to worship no other God, inspired the king to dare any of his kingdom to speak ill of their God, and to declare “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (3:29). The men were not only preserved from death, but were promoted by the king (3:30).

Believer, you might not face a fiery furnace, but you will certainly face fiery troubles and trials. I urge you to follow Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s example. Before they faced the temptation to bow to the golden image, we can be sure they had determined in their hearts they would trust the God of heaven and only worship and serve Him.

Romans 8:35–3935Who shall separate [come between] us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation [trouble], or distress [hardships; anguish], or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Bible Prophecy: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of Four World Empires (Daniel 2)

Scripture reading – Daniel 2

Our study of the Scriptures returns to the Book of Daniel, with a fascinating chapter that presents us with a prophetic panorama of world empires. We will observe in Daniel 2 an image of a man that symbolized four successive empires: Babylon, the Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation by Daniel is the focus of today’s devotional. The historical setting of our study is “the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar” (2:1).

A Sovereign’s Dream (2:1-13)

We find Nebuchadnezzar’s “spirit was troubled” (2:1). The phrase, “Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams” (2:1), implied he was troubled by a recurring dream and perplexed he was unable to remember the dream. Unable to sleep (2:1), the king summoned his counselors and related he had a dream, and his “spirit was troubled to know the dream” (2:3). Ever willing to please the king (especially since the power of life and death was in his hands), the king’s counselors proposed, “tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation” (2:4).

Nebuchadnezzar’s response caused the wise men to panic, for he said, “the thing (dream) is gone from me” (2:5). The king was not only demanding an interpretation of the dream, but the dream itself! Shaken by his demand, the king warned his counselors, “if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill [a refuse; a heap of ruins]” (2:5). Nebuchadnezzar promised a reward for the man who interpreted his dream (2:6), but the counselors answered again, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it” (2:6).

With the threat of death over their heads, the Chaldean counselors protested, “There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter” (2:10). Provoked by their words, the king commanded every wise man of Babylon be put to death (2:12). Though Daniel and his friends were not numbered among the wise men that had appeared before the king, the command was universal, that the “wise men should be slain,” and so “they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain” (2:13)

A Servant’s Dilemma (2:14-16)

Learning the king decreed all wise men of Babylon be slain, Daniel respectfully questioned the haste of the decree, and “Arioch (the captain of the king’s guard) made the thing known to Daniel” (2:14). Daniel then sought an audience with Nebuchadnezzar (2:16a), and requested an allotment of time and “he would shew the king the interpretation” of his dream (2:16b).

A Sovereign Divine (2:17-24)

With the king’s agreement, Daniel went home, and requested “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions” (2:17), intercede for him in prayer, that God would reveal to him the king’s dream and its interpretation (2:18). The LORD answered their prayers “in a night vision” (2:19a), and Daniel worshipped the LORD rejoicing He is “God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His” (2:20). Daniel boasted, His God is sovereign of creation, for “He changeth the times and the seasons,” (2:21a), and “He removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (2:21b).

With knowledge of the “deep and secret things” revealed to him by the LORD (2:22), Daniel went to Arioch, the king’s captain, and urged him to stay the execution of the wise men (2:24). He then vowed he was able to make the king to know not only his dream, but also its interpretation (2:24).

Daniel’s Appearance Before Nebuchadnezzar (2:25-35)

Saying, “there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days” (2:28), Daniel told the king he had dreamed of “a great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible” (2:31).

The vision was of a man whose “head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay” (2:32-33). The golden head of the image was Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom (2:32a, 38), and was followed by a lesser kingdom represented as having a “breast and his arms of silver” (the Medo-Persian empire, 2:32b, 39). The brass belly of the image represented the Greek empire that succeeded Persia (2:32c, 39), and was followed by a “fourth kingdom [that was] represented as “strong as iron” (2:40a), with “legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay” (this would be Rome, 2:33, 40).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Dream (2:36-45)

The dream concluded with a violent event, for Daniel had a vision of a stone “cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces” (2:34, 40). The image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream came to a violent end, when it was crushed and broken by a stone that “was cut out without hands” (2:34a), and “smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces” (2:34b). The feet and toes of the image, representing ten nations that would emerge from the Roman empire (“the iron legs”) would be crushed and scattered by the wind like chaff (2:35). The mix of clay and iron feet represented man’s futile attempt to seek peace and unity among the nations (2:41-43). “The stone [that] was cut out of the mountain without hands” and crushed the image, would itself become the fifth kingdom that grew to become “a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (2:35).

Closing thoughts (2:46-49) –Overwhelmed with the knowledge of the dream and its meaning, Nebuchadnezzar paid homage to Daniel (2:46), who reminded the king he was merely a messenger. The king answered Daniel, “your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (2:47). The king promoted Daniel, and made him “a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon” (2:48). Daniel remembered his friends who had prayed for him, and they were set over the governance “of the province of Babylon” (2:49a). As a man second to the king in authority over Babylon, “Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (2:49b).

Do you know “the stone [that] was cut out of the mountain without hands” (2:45), and “smote the image…and filled the earth?” (2:35) The stone is none other than the LORD Jesus Christ, whom the Scriptures reveal to be “the stone which the builders rejected” (Matthew 21:42-44; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 1 Peter 2:7-8). The stone is symbolic of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom!

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

God Sought for a Man, and Found None (Ezekiel 22)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 22

The sins and wickedness of Jerusalem is the subject of Ezekiel 22. How could one nation, given the favor of the LORD like none other, sink to the depths of sin and depravity we find in this chapter? It is both frightening and convicting, when you realize how Judah’s sins parallel the sins of the 21st century. I was moved to sadness as I studied Ezekiel 22. I found myself sorrowing not only for Israel in history past, but for my own day and nation.

Indictment of Jerusalem and Her Citizens (22:1-22)

Today’s Scripture begins with the LORD summoning His prophet to serve as His prosecutor, and asking him, son of man, wilt thou judge [denounce; pass judgment], wilt thou judge the bloody city? (22:2a). The LORD answered His question, and asserted, “yea, thou shalt shew her all her [Jerusalem’s] abominations” (22:2b).

As the prosecutor of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was to charge the people of that city with two crimes (22:3): Violence (for “the city sheddeth blood”), and Idolatry (for the people had rejected the LORD, and made idols). The consequences of Jerusalem’s sins were fourfold: The LORD declared the people to be guilty, defiled, worthy of death (“for her sins had “caused [her] days to draw near,” and “a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries” (22:4-5).

Twelve National Sins (22:6-12)

The egregious nature of Jerusalem’s sins were declared boldly by the LORD through His prophet. They had become a murderous, abusive people (22:6), whose sons and daughters dishonored their parents (22:7a). They oppressed the helpless (who were non-Hebrews in their midst, as well as orphans and widows, 22:7b), despised those things that were holy, and desecrated the Sabbath (22:8). They slandered, and were immoral (22:9). They committed incest with their fathers (22:10), and adultery with those who were not their wives (22:11). Their families were scandalously incestuous (22:11), and men bribed to kill, charged exorbitant interest, and blackmailed others for gain (22:12).

God’s Judgment (22:12c-22)

Jerusalem’s wickedness was summed up in this: They had forsaken and “forgotten” the LORD (22:12c), and their sins demanded His judgment. The LORD clapped His hands at the people in disgust, for they provoked Him to anger with their fraudulent gain (22:13). Once a powerful and valiant people, Judah had become a weak, cowardice people (22:14). The LORD had determined to scatter His people among the nations of the world (22:15a), and declared He would consume their wickedness in His wrath (22:15b). All this would be done, that the people might confess and acknowledge Him as “the LORD” (22:16). In the fire of His wrath, He would purify His people of their sins (22:18).

They had become as worthless dross, impure and unholy (22:18). In His wrath, the LORD drove His people to seek shelter in Jerusalem (22:19), and that city became a boiling caldron of fiery judgment (22:20-21; 2 Kings 25:9). To what end would this great judgment fall upon Jerusalem?

Ezekiel 22:2222As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you.

Indictment of Jerusalem’s Leaders (22:23-31)

Judah’s and Jerusalem’s leaders had failed the people, and already the LORD had withheld the rains that would lead to thirst and famine (22:23). King Zedekiah and his court had become ravenous lions, devouring the people, robbing them by corrupt means, whose violence and wars made many widows (22:25).

The priests, the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem, had violated the Laws and Commandments, and desecrated the Temple with idols and sacrifices (22:25). They failed to sanctify that which was holy, nor did they keep the sabbaths (22:26).

The “princes” (political leaders) of Jerusalem and Judah were like ravenous wolves, shedding the blood of the innocent to increase their “dishonest gain” (22:27).

There were false prophets in the midst of the people who “daubed” the sins of the people with “untempered morter” (thus whitewashing their sins). They lied, made empty promises, and deceived, claiming to speak the words of the LORD (22:28).

Finally, there was an indictment of the people themselves. Like their leaders, they were guilty of extortion, theft, oppressing the poor and needy, and treating unjustly the non-Jewish people in their midst (22:29).

Closing thoughts – Was there any hope for Jerusalem? Were there any whom God might use to condemn the sins of the nation, and call the people to repent? The answer to those questions is summed up in this:

Ezekiel 22:3030And I sought for [searched and attempted to find] a man among them, that should make up the hedge [a wall], and stand in the gap [in the breach] before me for the land, that I should not destroy it [to annihilate; desolate]: but I found none [no one].

One man might have made the difference for Jerusalem; but the king, the leaders, and the people had rejected and scorned Jeremiah. Tragically, all was lost and the wrath of God would not be appeased (22:31).

Are there any willing to answer God’s call in the 21st century, and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap?”

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.

Pity the Nation Ruled by Wicked, Immoral Leaders (Ezekiel 19)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 19

There were some of the children of Israel who asserted God was unjust, supposing their sorrows and travails were come upon them because of the sins of their fathers (Ezekiel 18). Ezekiel answered their erroneous claims, and declared a sinner’s individual responsibility for his sins  (18:4), and “everyone” would be judged “according to his [own] ways” (18:29).

The Lioness and Her Cubs (19:1-9)

Ezekiel 19 addressed the influence wicked rulers had upon Israel, and in particular Judah.

Ezekiel commanded the people of the captivity to “take … up a lamentation for the princes of Israel” (19:1). The “princes” were the last kings of the Davidic dynasty (until Christ reigns on the earth in the Millennial Kingdom). Three wicked kings were described, and can be identified. They are: Jehoahaz (19:3-4), Jehoiachin (19:5-9), and Zedekiah (19:14).

The “lioness” of this lamentation was Israel, and the young lion cubs were the kings of Israel (19:2). Jehoahaz was the first king, and he was described as one who “learned to catch the prey; it devoured men” (19:3). You may remember Jehoahaz was 23 years old when he became king (2 Kings 23:31-33; 2 Chronicles 36:1-3). He was like a lion, a tyrant, and “devoured men” (19:3b). He was notoriously wicked, and was removed from his throne, and taken prisoner by Neco, king of Egypt after reigning for three months (19:4).

Jehoahaz ascended to the throne after Jehoiakim; however, he was not mentioned in Ezekiel 19, because he died in battle, and his son Jehoiachin reigned in his stead (2 Kings 24:7-16; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10). Like Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin was described as “a young lion” who devoured men, for he was a ruthless and heartless king (19:6). Indeed, he was everything a king should not be, for he destroyed the homes and cities of his people, and terrorized them through “his roaring” (19:7). His rebellion provoked Nebuchadnezzar, who came and took him away prisoner to Babylon (19:8-9).

When Israel was a Fruitful Vine (19:10-13)

Ezekiel 19:10-13 painted a beautiful, poetic picture of Israel in the days of her glory (19:10). Israel, and perhaps, in particular Jerusalem, was described as a fruitful vine, “planted by the waters,” and “full of branches” (kings, 19:10). Under David’s reign, who was followed by his son Solomon, Israel was at her zenith as a great, and powerful nation. The nation was “fruitful and full of branches” (19:10), and her rulers were like “strong rods for the sceptres” (19:11). In that age, Jerusalem had been exalted among the nations of the earth (19:11).

A succession of wicked kings, however, spelled the doom of the nation, and consequently, brought God’s judgment (19:12). Jerusalem and Judah would be “plucked up in fury,” and “cast down to the ground” (19:12). Nebuchadnezzar would come as an east wind (19:12). The glory and riches of Jerusalem would be dried up, and the dynasty of David (“her strong rods”) broken and consumed (19:12). “Planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground,” described the captivity of the children of Israel in Babylon (19:13).

Ezekiel 19:14 brings us to Zedekiah, the third king whose reign was described in this chapter. He was the last of the kings of the Davidic line until Christ. Of Jerusalem and Judah we read: “Fire [God’s judgment] is gone out of a rod of her branches [Zedekiah, the last king], which hath devoured her fruit, so that she [Jerusalem] hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule” (19:14).

Closing thoughts – Ezekiel 19 concluded with a pitiful call to sorrow: “This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation” (19:14). Lament, lament, for Jerusalem will be destroyed, and Judah will be left desolate. King Zedekiah would witness the deaths of his sons, whose eyes would be put out, and he would be taken prisoner to Babylon where he would die.

Lesson: Corporate Guilt and Judgment: Fathers do not bear the guilt of their children’s sins, nor children the condemnation of their father’s sins (Ezekiel 18). Nevertheless, the evil ways of a leader, and the consequences of his sins, will come to bear upon the lives of those he leads.

Proverbs 14:34 – “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Pity the nation ruled by wicked, immoral leaders.

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.

“Real Men Don’t Read Instructions; or Do They?” – Sunday at Hillsdale, May 22, 2022

Topic: A Biblical View of Parenting (part 3)

Text – Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Series – The Four “Be’s” of Parenting

Children do not come with an instruction’s manual; however, God has given us His Word and clear principles and precepts for the role and responsibility of parents in teaching and training their sons and daughters.

Four universal principles for Life and Family. Today’s message considers the first of the four: Be Consistent.

 

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.