Category Archives: Leadership

Be Strong in the LORD and Bold in Your Witness! (Acts 7; Acts 8)

Scripture reading – Acts 7; Acts 8

Recorded in Acts 7 and 8 are two of the great pivotal points in the maturing of the early church: The death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church (Acts 7); and the conversion of Saul the great persecutor of the church (Acts 8).

We first met Stephen in Acts 6 when he was named among the seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the rapidly growing congregation. Though there is some debate, I believe the seven were the first Deacons, one of only two Biblical offices in the New Testament church, the other being the Pastor\Elder (1 Timothy 3).

The role of the seven was defined as serving tables (Acts 6:2), meaning the menial, but intimate care of the members of their assembly. Particularly noteworthy was the spiritual character that was demanded of those who would be Deacons. Those men were to be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

Of the seven chosen, Stephen, was specifically distinguished as a man, “full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8). His testimony and boldness in faith, spiritual wisdom, and power in the spirit made him a formidable witness among those in the synagogues (6:9-10).

As it was with Christ, so it was for Stephen; the enemies of the Gospel were determined to silence him. After arresting Stephen, evil men were employed to bring false accusations against him (6:11-13). Hurling lies against his character, those who sat in the council were amazed, for his countenance was “as it had been the face of an angel” (6:15).

Having heard the charges of his accusers, Stephen was asked by the high priest, “Are these things so?” (7:1).

Stephen’s defense reflected a breadth and depth of knowledge in the Old Testament Scriptures, that made his argument before the council powerful and convicting (7:2-53). He systematically set forth a historical case for Christ beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon (7:2-50). Concluding his defense, Stephen fearlessly rebuked the council, exposed their hypocrisy, and charged them and their fathers with the deaths of the prophets (7:51-53).

Rather than answer Stephen’s indictment, the lawless members of the council broke their laws, and without an answer or passing judgment, stoned him to death (7:54-58).

The religious hypocrites were guilty. They were guilty of the blood of the prophets, and having already rejected Jesus Christ, they added to their condemnation the blood of Stephen. There was, however, one exception in that crowd of mockers: “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul”(7:58). Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church, would soon come face to face with the reality of a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

Closing thought – I trust Stephen’s knowledge of the Scriptures, and his courageous example will stir your heart to study the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and embolden your faith to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

The Calling of a Shepherd: “Feed my sheep” (John 21; Acts 1)

Scripture reading – John 21; Acts 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the Gospels, and introduces us to a book titled, “The Acts of the Apostles.” John 21, the final chapter in the Gospel of John, presents a unique perspective into the days and weeks that followed Christ’s resurrection, before His ascension to heaven. Jesus had promised to meet His disciples in Galilee, and they were to go “into a mountain where [He] had appointed them” (Matthew 28:16). Only seven of the eleven disciples are named (21:2), with no indication where the others might have been.

“I Go a Fishing” (21:3-11)

Simon Peter, ever the impulsive one, and possibly weary of waiting on Jesus, announced to the others, “I go a fishing” (21:3a). Rather than dissuade him from leaving the place Jesus had asked them to wait, the other disciples said to Peter, “We also go with thee” (21:3). So, they all went down to the “sea of Tiberias” (the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee), and fished through the night and “caught nothing” (21:3).

When it was morning, the disciples saw a man standing on the shore, but did not know “it was Jesus” (21:4). Jesus called to the men, “Children, have ye any meat?” (21:5), and then commanded them, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find” (21:6). Desperate and weary, the disciples did as they were told, and the catch of fish was so great “they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (21:7).

John, once again describing himself as “that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord” (21:5a). Without hesitation, Peter gathered his outer robe (for he had probably worn only a loin cloth in the boat), and “did cast himself into the sea” (21:7) and came to Jesus. The other disciples followed Peter by boat, “dragging the net with fishes” (21:8). When they came to shore, “they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (21:9) Jesus asked, “Bring of the fish which ye have now caught” (21:10). Then, Peter went to assist the disciples, and dragging the net to shore, found they had drawn up 153 large fish, and “yet was not the net broken” (21:11).

What lessons might we take from this occasion? (21:9-13)

Several spiritual truths come to mind, with the first being particularly obvious…Peter and the other disciples had failed to wait on the Lord. They were commanded to go “into a mountain” (Matthew 28:16), but instead they abandoned their place and went to the lake to fish. Having disobeyed the LORD, the disciples fished all night, but all they had to show for their labor were empty nets.

As they came to Jesus, they heard Him say, “Come and dine” (21:12). Jesus had wonderfully, and graciously prepared to care for their needs. Fish and bread warmed over hot coals were waiting for them! What a wonderful reminder, God will supply our needs if only we will trust and obey Him! (21:13) We are reminded, this occasion was “the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead” (21:14).

Closing thoughts (21:14-25) – The balance of the chapter records the dramatic moment between Jesus and Peter, when the LORD asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (21:15) More than what? Perhaps it was the boat and nets of Peter’s former profession, for he was a fisherman when Jesus called him to be His disciple (Matthew 4:18-19).

Three times Jesus asked Peter, “lovest thou me?” (21:15, 16, 17). We read, “Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (21:17). The essence of Jesus’ question was this: Do you love me enough to leave everything, and be a shepherd to my sheep?

I wonder, have you been called to serve the LORD, but like Peter, have left His will and said, “I go a fishing” (21:3)

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

The Character of a True Disciple (Matthew 11; Luke 11)

Scripture reading – Matthew 11; Luke 11

Our Scripture reading is Matthew 11 and Luke 11. Our devotional will be taken from Matthew 11.

Matthew 11

Coming to Matthew 11, Jesus commanded His disciples to depart “and teach and preach” in the cities and villages of Galilee (11:1). Jesus continued alone and great crowds followed Him. Many listened to Him teach, witnessed His miracles, and were preoccupied with wondering: Is Jesus the long-awaited Messiah? Would He deliver Israel from Roman occupation and restore the nation to her glory? Even John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod, questioned and “sent two of his disciples, who asked, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (11:2-3)

Blessed like no other region in all history, the cities and villages about Galilee were privileged to have Christ living in their midst. Though they heard Jesus teach, and witnessed miracles of healing no man could do apart from God’s power, yet, there were many who rejected Him. Like discontented children (11:16-17), they were never satisfied and were harsh in their criticisms of John the Baptist for not eating and drinking as they (11:18). Yet, those same critics would turn about and condemn Jesus, saying, He was “gluttonous…a winebibber…[and] a friend of publican and sinners” (11:19).

Jesus condemned the cities and villages of Galilee, for they had benefited from His presence and ministry, though many lacked faith (11:20-24). Comparing Chorazin and Bethsaida to Tyre and Sidon (two Phoenician cities of ancient days known for their wickedness), Jesus warned, “I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (11:22). Even Capernaum did not escape Jesus’ admonishment, for He likened that city to the wickedness of Sodom, warning, “it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (11:24).

“Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48) was the spiritual principle Jesus illustrated when He compared Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum with ancient cities known for notorious wickedness. In the day of God’s judgment, Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better than self-righteous Capernaum (11:21-24). Imagine how much worse God’s judgment might be upon our generation that has multiple copies of Scripture in our homes, and the freedom to gather and hear the Word of God preached and taught.

Closing thoughts (11:25-30) – The Pharisees and scribes oppressed the people with their harsh, onerous traditions and interpretations of the Law. Yet, the salvation Jesus offered was simple and good (11:25-27). Matthew 11 concluded with an invitation to those who bear the weight of sin: Come to Christ by faith and obtain that which works can never attain (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). His invitation was a simple, threefold command.

Matthew 11:28–3028Come [follow] unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden [physically and spiritually weary], and I will give you rest. 29Take [take up] my yoke upon you [be my disciple], and learn of me [submit; obey]; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What a contrast to the harsh, demanding legalist of Jesus’ day, for He was “meek and lowly in heart,” and promised rest (11:29-30). Submissive followers of Christ do not find the Laws and Commandments of the LORD burdensome and legalistic!  Sincere believers will love, obey, and find “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3), and find rest for their souls in His eternal Truth.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

Calling All Sinners (Matthew 9, Luke 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

We continue our study of the Gospels and the early ministry of Jesus. In Matthew 9, Jesus not only established His authority to forgive sins, but also demonstrated His compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day. Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7).

A Miracle of Forgiveness and Healing (9:1-8)

Like Mark (2:2-12) and Luke (5:17-26), Matthew recorded the account of Jesus forgiving a paralytic man his sins, and raising him from his bed (9:1-8). Matthew took notice how the scribes whispered among themselves, saying, “This man blasphemeth” (9:3). Jesus, exercising His divine omniscience, knew “their thoughts” and asked, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4)

What a bold rebuke of those proud, religious experts in the Law! Jesus proposed to them a question, and asked: “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” (9:5) To prove His divine authority to forgive sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to do what no other man could: “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (9:6). Jesus not only stated the man’s sins were forgiven, He proved He had authority over sickness and disease to make the man’s body whole. The paralytic, obeying Jesus’ command, rose from his bed and walked home (9:7). What an incredible moment! All who witnessed the miracle “marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (9:8)!

A Friend of Sinners (9:9-13)

Matthew recorded the day Jesus invited him to be a disciple (the same was recorded in Mark 2:14 and Luke 4:27-28). That same evening, Matthew hosted supper in his home and invited his fellow publicans and sinners to dine with Jesus (9:10). “When the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (9:11)

Why eat with publicans and sinners? (9:11-13)

For the same reason the sick, not the strong and healthy, seek a physician (9:12). You see, men who are too proud to see their sin, are too blind to see their need of a Savior. Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and not to persuade self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to repent. The LORD had compassion for sinners who were humbled under the weight of their sin, and willing to repent (9:13).

Closing thoughts – In addition to the paralytic whom He healed (9:2-7), Jesus raised the daughter of a leader of the synagogue from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), healed a woman that had “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), gave sight to two blind men (9:27-30), delivered a man from a demon (9:32-33), and healed “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

With multitudes following Him, Jesus was “moved with compassion” (9:36-38), for He saw they were weary, scattered, and like “sheep having no shepherd” (9:36). He saw the potential (for “the harvest…[was] plenteous”, 9:37a). He saw the need, for “the labouers are few” (9:37b). He called upon believers to “pray…that He [would]send forth labourers into his harvest” (9:38).

In the words of Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

Have You Offered the LORD Your Best? (Malachi 1)

Scripture reading – Malachi 1

Our 2-year chronological study of the Scriptures began January 1, 2021, has brought us to Malachi, the final book of Old Testament. Authored by the prophet whose name it bears; it is believed to have been written around 400 BC (though some scholars suggest an earlier date making him a contemporary of Nehemiah). Like Ezra and Nehemiah, Malachi’s ministry would have been to the remnant of Jews and their children that had returned from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem. Malachi’s prophecy is the last word of prophecy from the LORD in the Old Testament Scriptures, until Israel heard the “voice of one [John the Baptist] crying in the wilderness” (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23).

Malachi 1

Unlike the earlier prophets whose lineages were recorded, we know nothing about Malachi apart from his writing. Malachi described his ministry as, “The burden [weight and importance] of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi” (1:1). Though less than a century had passed since the Jews returned to their homeland, we see tragic evidences of backsliding from the first verses of the book.

Malachi’s Burden (1:2-5)

The prophet declared God’s love for Israel, writing, “I have loved you, saith the LORD” (1:2a). Yet, rather than acknowledge God’s love, the people obstinately asked, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” (1:2b). What an affront to the LORD who had wonderfully restored Israel to their land, and blessed the people as they rebuilt the Temple, Jerusalem, and their homes. In spite of the love and grace He had extended to the nation, the people questioned God’s favor (1:1-5).

Malachi answered the people, and reminded them of examples of God’s love and grace (1:2b-5). The LORD had chosen Jacob (Israel) and rejected Esau, although he was the eldest brother (1:2-3). When Israel and Judah were taken into captivity, Edom was also laid waste. Yet, Israel was restored to her land, while Edom was left impoverished (1:3). The LORD remembered His covenant with Israel, but with Edom He had no covenant or obligation (Isaiah 34:6; Psalm 137:7). Surely Israel had cause to see God’s unconditional, everlasting, unfailing love and favor (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Romans 5:8; Jeremiah 31:3-4).

Condemnations of Unfaithful Priests (1:6-14)

Tragically, we find the priests had failed the LORD and His people. The LORD had declared He loved Israel as a father loves a son (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1); yet, though a son is commanded to honor his father and mother (Exodus 20:12), the priests had dishonored the LORD by polluting His offerings and thereby defaming His name (1:6a). Some priests dared to challenge Malachi’s assertion, and demanded, “Wherein have we despised [the LORD’s] name” (1:6b).

Malachi rebuked the priests, and boldly asserted the people had brought inferiors offerings, and the priests had sacrificed less than God’s Law required (Deut. 15:19-23; Leviticus 22:17-33). They had had offered “polluted bread” (food), and sacrificed animals that were blind, lame, and sick (Malachi 1:7-8, 13). They dared offer God what human authorities would reject (1:8b).

The pretense of worship so offended God, that Malachi admonished the priests it would be better to “shut the doors” of the Temple and offer no sacrifices. Such is the offense when God’s people offer the LORD less than their best (1:10, 14).

Malachi then declared a great prophecy, and one that has in part come to pass. Though priests and the children of Israel had trifled with the LORD, Malachi declared the LORD would be glorified among the Gentiles. He prophesied, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name shall be great among the Gentiles; And in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: For my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts” (1:11).

Sadly, the people whom God had chosen, and with whom He established His covenant, had once again turned from the LORD and despised His offerings (1:13). The LORD, faithful to His Word and covenant, warned, “cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, And voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing” (1:14).

Believer, what is your attitude when giving the LORD your tithes, time, and talents? Do you treasure the things that are eternal, or covet the things of this earth that are temporal and fleeting? (Matthew 6:21, 31-33)

Have you given Him your heart?

Romans 12:1 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

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.

“O Lord, Remember Me” (Nehemiah 13; Psalm 126)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 13; Psalm 126

Our study in Nehemiah concludes today. We have followed Nehemiah’s rise from serving as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1-2), to the governorship of Judah. He could have chosen a life of ease and luxury in the king’s palace, but he could not rest when he heard the travail of the Jewish exiles in Jerusalem. With a heart for God’s people, he undertook building the walls of the city.

Like any great work, Nehemiah had critics and enemies. Yet, his faith in the LORD sustained him, and his courage was undiminished. With unwavering determination, he seemed to do the impossible, for the walls that had been in ruins for nearly 150 years were rebuilt in 52 days (6:15). Even his enemies realized what they had witnessed was more than the work of a man, “for they perceived…[the] work was wrought of [Israel’s] God” (6:16). With great pomp and circumstance, the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-42), and the people brought tithes and offerings to the Temple to support the priests, Levites, and singers (12:43-47).

Nehemiah 13 – A Call for Sanctification and Separation

A Failure to Separate (13:1-3)

On the day the walls were dedicated, the book of the law of Moses was read aloud “in the audience of the people” (13:1). The reading of “the book of Moses” brought to the people’s attention a gross violation of God’s commandments. Remembering the trespass of the Ammonites and Moabites against Israel, the people realized those people were forbidden from coming “into the congregation of God for ever” (13:1). Hearing the grievances committed by those nations (Numbers 23-24), the people “separated from Israel all the mixed multitude” (13:3).

An Enemy in the Midst (13:4-9)

We were introduced to Nehemiah during the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia and Babylon (1:1). Coming to chapter 13, we find Nehemiah had departed from Jerusalem, and returned to the king’s court in the 32ndyear of his reign (13:6). In his absence a stunning event occurred when Eliashib, the high priest, made provision for Tobiah to dwell in one of the great chambers of the Temple (13:4). Tobiah, Nehemiah’s nemesis who had opposed him and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (2:20, 19, 4:3, 6:17-19), had come to live in a chamber of the Temple!

To provide a place for Tobiah, Eliashib converted one of the Temple chambers where the tithes and offerings were stored (13:5). When Nehemiah returned from his visit to the king, he was astonished to find not only had his enemy taken up residence in the city, but unbelievably, he was dwelling in one of the chambers of the Temple (13:7)! He was furious, for the high priest had failed to sanctify and treat as holy what was set apart for the LORD (13:8). With zeal, he cast Tobiah out of the chamber and purged it of “all [his] household stuff” (13:8). He then “commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought [he] again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense” (13:9).

Sin of Neglect (13:10-14)

Nehemiah soon realized the Levites and the singers were not ministering in the Temple (13:10). An investigation revealed the people had not given their tithes and offerings as they should, and their neglect had forced the Levites and the singers to return to their fields to provide for their families (13:10). Defiantly bold, Nehemiah gathered the leaders and confronted them, asking, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” (13:11) Personally, I admire his next statement: I “set them in their place” (13:11c).

Proving he was a gifted administrator, Nehemiah appointed “treasurers over the treasuries” as the people began bringing their tithes and offerings to the Temple (13:13). Expressing the heart of a faithful minister, he prayed, “14Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof” (13:14).

Broken Covenant (13:15-22)

The people had covenanted with the LORD to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy (Nehemiah 10:31; Exodus 20:8). Yet, upon his return to Jerusalem, Nehemiah found the they had failed to keep their vow to the LORD (13:15-22). The Jews had secularized the Sabbath, and treated it like any other day (13:16). Then, Nehemiah confronted the leaders and asked, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”  (13:17). Notice how Nehemiah did not trifle with sin. Regardless of their excuses, he regarded their actions as an “evil thing” for they had profaned, and defiled the Sabbath.

Nehemiah then sent his own guards to shut the gates of the city, and thereby prohibit any trade on the Sabbath (13:19). In spite of the prohibition, some merchants came on the Sabbath, and finding the gates shut, camped outside the walls (13:20). Nehemiah confronted the merchants himself, and sent them away (13:21).

Closing thoughts (13:23-31)

Our study of Nehemiah’s life concludes with him realizing a grave sin was present among the Jews, for some “had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab” (13:23). Though their fathers were Hebrews, the children of those mixed marriages “could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people” (13:24). Their mothers were heathen, idolatrous women, and the children of those unequal marriages could not understand the language of the Hebrews, nor would they have been taught in the Scriptures.

Nehemiah’s response is telling for any who make light of being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). He confronted the Hebrew men, and “contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves” (13:25).

What a sight that must have been! Nehemiah’s spirit was stirred, and his passion mirrored his concern. He reminded the people the great sorrow Solomon’s mixed marriages had brought on his household (13:26). Even the high priest’s son was carried away with ungodliness, and Nehemiah wrote, “I chased him from me” (13:28).

Having cleansed the priesthood of wickedness, Nehemiah appointed priests and Levites to their work, and prayed, “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31).

God wonderfully heard and answered Nehemiah’s prayer, for his work and words recorded in the book that bears his name, is forever inscribed by the LORD.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

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.

Finishing Strong: Dedication of the Walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11; Nehemiah 12)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 11; Nehemiah 12

Nehemiah 11

As we near the conclusion of our study in the Book of Nehemiah, I remind you that although the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the city itself was not habitable. In an earlier passage we read, “the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded” (7:4). With the Temple built and the walls of Jerusalem completed, the challenge was now for some to commit themselves to building their homes and residing in the city. After all, what was a large city without a great population?

Three segments of Israel’s inhabitants were needed to repopulate the city.

With the majority of the city in ruins, Jerusalem resembled a place of poverty more than a place of privilege. To resettle the city, “the rulers of the people” determined to cast lots, and one of every ten people from Israel would dwell in Jerusalem that they might guard and protect the city (11:1). Some moved to Jerusalem because the lot fell on their household, but others “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (11:2).

Nehemiah 11-12 presented a great list of men, some named and others known only by their deeds. Here we find the names of men and deeds that would be forgotten if it were not for God having Nehemiah record them in His Word. From the tribe of Judah, there were 468 men described as “valiant men” (11:6).  Of the tribe of Benjamin, 928 men resettled into Jerusalem (11:7-8).

Priestly families moved to Jerusalem, among whom there were 822 priests who labored at the Temple (11:10-12), and an additional 242 priests were noted in Nehemiah 11:13, along with 128 priests described as “mighty men of valour” (11:14). There were priests who “had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God”(11:16), and others who were charged with “the thanksgiving in prayer” (11:17). Another 172 priests served as porters, or gatekeepers of the Temple (11:19). Those men and their families were necessary to fulfill the ministry of seeing Jerusalem restored to her glory as the “holy city” (11:1).

The balance of Nehemiah 11 gives the names of cities where the people were settled. The cities of Judah were identified in Nehemiah 11:25-30, and the cities that belonged to the tribe of Benjamin were named in Nehemiah 11:31-36.

Nehemiah 12 gives a chronicle of the names of priests and Levites (12:1-26), and the details of the worship service when the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-47).

Closing thought – Reading the latter half of Nehemiah 12, we appreciate the preparations that went into the day of “the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem” (12:27).  All the Levites were invited to come to the city, and “keep the dedication with gladness” (12:27). Notice also the prominence of music during the dedication services. There were musicians playing instruments (12:27, 36), singers (12:28, 42), and sons of priests playing trumpets upon the wall (12:35). Sacrifices for the dedication of the wall were offered, and the rejoicing of the people was so loud “the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off” (12:43).

Today’s Scripture reading concludes with the people bringing their tithes and offerings out of the fields to the Temple, for “Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites” (12:44-45).

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.

Forgotten by Man, But Not by God (Nehemiah 9; Nehemiah 10)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 10

Nehemiah had served king Artaxerxes as governor of Judah, and completed the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and securing the city. A man of wisdom and spiritual discernment, Nehemiah deferred the spiritual health of the nation to Ezra, who was a priest and a scribe of the law among the people (8:1).  When Ezra read the Scriptures to the congregation, they responded with remorse for their sins, repented, and affirmed they would obey the law (8:9-18).

Nehemiah 9

Having observed the Feast of the Tabernacles, the people assembled as a congregation, and determined to separate themselves from “all strangers” (non-Hebrews, 9:2). Gathering to worship the LORD, the Levites read the Scriptures and reminded the people the God of Israel was Creator of heaven and earth (9:6), had chosen Abraham and established a covenant with his lineage (9:7-8).

Reviewing the providences of the LORD, the people were reminded He had called Moses, and led Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and the wilderness (9:9-12). God had met Israel on Mount Sinai, and given the people His “judgment…laws, good statutes and commandments” (9:13). The LORD provided bread and water in the wilderness, and when their hearts were lifted up with pride, He showed mercy and compassion (9:14-21). He fulfilled His covenant to Abraham, and giving Israel the land, He drove the Canaanites out of their homes and cities (9:22-25). When Israel disobeyed and rebelled, the LORD sent prophets who “testified against them” (9:26-29). When people hardened their hearts, He did not forsake them, for He is “a gracious and merciful God” (9:30-31).

The people confessed the LORD had kept His covenant, and showed them mercy (9:32). Looking back on the years of captivity, they affirmed all that came upon them was deserved, for the LORD had “done right, but [they had] done wickedly (9:32-33). So, the leaders of the nation renewed covenant with the LORD, signed their names, and sealed it (9:38).

Nehemiah 10 – Your Service is Important to God

Who signed and sealed the covenant between the LORD and the nation? Nehemiah 10 gives us the names of those who affixed their names to the covenant. Admittedly, Nehemiah 10 would be an easy chapter to pass over. Eighty-four men are named (10:1-27), and though they have little meaning to 21st century believers, they serve as a reminder that the LORD does not forget those who are His.

Nehemiah was first to sign the covenant (10:1), and he was followed by the leaders of the priests (10:2-8), Levites (10:9-13), and 44 other leaders identified as “chief of the people” (10:14-27).

“The rest of the people,” following their leaders, verbally affirmed their agreement with the covenant (Nehemiah 10:28-29). The people promised their sons and daughters would not become unequally yoked with unbelievers (“the people of the land,” 10:30; 2 Corinthians 6:14). It was critical for the people to individually affirm their faith and understanding of what God required, and acknowledged both the reward (blessings) and consequences (curses) that come to a covenant people (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).

Closing thoughts and applications – Several ordinances were acknowledged by the people, including the observance of the Sabbath day (10:31), and a Temple tax of one-third shekels (10:32; though Exodus 30:11-16required one-half shekel, but the lesser amount here might have been due to the poverty of the people).

Various offerings were renewed, including the “wood offering,” used for sacrifices and to keep a perpetual fire burning on the altar (10:34; Leviticus 6:12-13). The “firstfruits offering” was re-established, and served as a reminder God requires tithes of our first and best (10:35, 36-37; Proverbs 3:9). Every firstborn son was to be dedicated to the LORD, and redeemed by offering a lamb (10:36; Exodus 34:19-20). Also, the people were taught their tithes and offerings were to support the Levites (10:37-39; Leviticus 27:30-34), and they in turn were to tithe of the tithes given to them and their households (10:37b-38; Leviticus 27:30-34).

Having been instructed in the demands of the Law, and accepting both its blessings and curses, the people affirmed their covenant with the LORD saying, “we will not forsake the house of our God” (10:39b).

I close, reminding every believer of his obligation to not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

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.

Spiritual Revival: A New Beginning (Nehemiah 8; Nehemiah 9)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 8; Nehemiah 9

With the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt (Nehemiah 7:1), Nehemiah established both the civic and religious leadership in the city (7:1). He appointed his “brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many” (7:2). Nehemiah also appointed watchmen, and set the time for the gates of the city to be opened and closed (7:3).

God then moved on Nehemiah’s heart to take a census by genealogy (7:5). An accounting was to be established of all who resided in Jerusalem and Judah, and establish those who had a legitimate record of their lineage by tribe, clans, and families (7:6-60). The census revealed there were some that claimed to be of Israel, but there was no record of their lineage (7:61-62). Some claimed to be of the priesthood, but their names and families were not recorded (7:63-64).

Today’s Scripture reading is lengthy (Nehemiah 8-9), and my devotional commentary will be limited to Nehemiah 8. With the walls rebuilt, Nehemiah turned his effort from building the walls of Jerusalem, to rebuilding a people and nation (8:1-13:31). He had served as governor of Judah, under the authority of Artaxerxes, king of Persia. To labor beside Nehemiah, the king had chosen a young priest named Ezra (whom we met in earlier devotions, 8:1; Ezra 7). He was a student of God’s Word (Ezra 7:6), and “had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD” (Ezra 7:10). Like Nehemiah, Ezra was sent to Jerusalem by the king of Persia, and told to teach the people “the laws of thy God” (Ezra 7:25).

Nehemiah 8

With the people gathered together “as one man,” and with one heart, “they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel” (8:1). As you read Nehemiah 8, consider what I believe are the keys to a spiritual awakening for a people and nation.

Four Keys to a National Revival (8:2-10)

The first key to a spiritual revival is the reading and prominence of the Scriptures (8:1-2). The people requested “the book of the law of Moses” be read in public (8:1). So, Ezra brought forth the scrolls upon which the law was written, and read “the law before the congregation,” that all “could hear with understanding” (8:2).

Secondly, the people respected the Scriptures (8:3-6), and listened attentively as Ezra read “the book of the law” (8:3). Adding dignity to the reading, a raised platform was constructed for the occasion, and 13 men stood beside Ezra as he read the Scriptures (8:4). Elevated above the heads of the people, when Ezra opened the scroll, “the people stood up” (8:5), and he then praised the LORD before he read the Scriptures (8:6a). When the prayer concluded, “the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (8:6).

A third key to revival is revelation (8:7-8), for the Scriptures must not only be read, but also explained. Thirteen men were charged with the responsibility of explaining the Scriptures that the people might “understand the law” (8:7). Fulfilling the role of expositors, those men “read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (8:8). It was not enough to read the Scriptures; the task of a Bible teacher is to give clarity, make application (“the sense”), and convict (meaning to “understand the reading,” 8:8).

Reverence is the fourth step of revival, and is summed up in three attitudes: remorse, repentance, and rejoicing (8:9-10). When the people heard the law and commandments, they “wept” (8:9b), sorrowed (8:10b), and godly sorrow turned to rejoicing (8:10c).

Closing thoughts (8:11-18) – The Levites quieted and calmed the people, and instructed them “to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (8:12). When the people understood they were to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles for seven days, they obeyed (8:13-14), and gathered branches and made booths on their rooftops and in their courtyards (8:15-17). Remembering God’s care and faithfulness to Israel during the wilderness years, the people observed the Feast of the Tabernacles with a joy that had not been seen since the days of Joshua (8:17).

Our devotional concludes with a spirit of revival I wish were true of all believers, for the people with “very great gladness,” gathered every day to hear the reading of “the book of the law of God” (8:18).

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.

Confronting Your Enemies (Nehemiah 6; Nehemiah 7)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 6; Nehemiah 7

We have observed many qualities in Nehemiah’s life that serve as an inspiration for people everywhere. He was a man of humility and prayer, for when he heard his brethren suffered in Jerusalem, he “sat down and wept, and mourned…and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).

He was passionate about his work on the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:12-18), and undeterred by the criticism and scorn of his enemies (Nehemiah 2:19-20). He was a skilled administrator (Nehemiah 3), and bold in his faith (Nehemiah 4). Where others enriched themselves, Nehemiah sacrificed and carried more than his share of the burdens (Nehemiah 5). Lastly, and most importantly, he was a man who fear and revered the LORD (Nehemiah 5:15, 19).

Nehemiah 6 – A Model Shepherd

Familiar enemies appeared once again in Nehemiah 6, and I am struck by three qualities of spiritual leadership evidenced in Nehemiah’s response. He was honest (a rare quality in our day of braggadocios self-promotion, 6:1). We read, “Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies,heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates” (6:1).

While his enemies said he “had builded the wall, and that there was no breach” (6:1), Nehemiah set the record straight, and confessed, “I had not set up the doors upon the gates” (6:1). Minor detail you say? Perhaps, but it was an honest admission. Nehemiah was not a man given to “little white lies” or exaggerations. He did not misrepresent his work, and spoke the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25).

Nehemiah was also uncompromised, and unwavering in his priorities (6:2-3). When his enemies proposed he meet with them “in the plain of Ono,” he refused for he discerned they would do him harm (6:2c). So, he “sent messengers unto them [his enemies], saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (6:3).

An open, libelous letter accused Nehemiah of plotting an insurrection against the king, and revealed another important quality of leadership: He was an insightful, discerning man (6:4-9). Four times his enemies appealed to him to meet them, and the fifth time they attacked him in “an open letter” filled with lies (6:5). How did Nehemiah respond? He boldly replied to their lies (6:8), and prayed for strength, saying, “O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9).

Yet, the enemy was not finished, for when the “open letter” failed to discourage Nehemiah, they bribed a priest to tempt him to cower, and seek shelter within the Temple (6:10). Nehemiah saw through the evil motives of his enemies, and answered their attacks with spiritual discernment and conviction (6:11-14).

In spite of the opposition, and temptation to be discouraged, the wall about Jerusalem “was finished…in fifty and two days” (6:15). The walls of the city had been in disrepair for nearly 150 years, and one man led the rebuilding in 52 days! Even the enemies “perceived that this work was wrought of…God” (6:16).

The concluding verses of Nehemiah 6 give a tragic insight into the character of some “nobles of Judah” (6:17-19). While Nehemiah modeled selfless leadership, there were influential Jews in Judah who conspired with the enemy. Those men “sent many letters unto Tobiah” (the same Tobiah that was the enemy of Nehemiah and opposed the work on the wall, 2:10, 19; 4:3, 7; 6:1, 12, 14, 17).

The motive of the “nobles of Judah” is not stated, but we can certainly deduce their goal was to enrich themselves. They would have continued their trade with the heathen of the land, even at the sacrifice of their own people. Though Tobiah had proven to be a formidable enemy of Nehemiah, those nobles touted “his good deeds,” and no doubt took Nehemiah’s words and distorted them. Nehemiah was honest, uncompromised, and discerning. He knew his enemy, and recognized “Tobiah sent letters to put [him] in fear” (6:19).

Closing thoughts – Imagine how different our families and churches might be if this generation had men and women like Nehemiah. Will you face the enemy of God and His people, and determine to be Honest, Uncompromised, and Spiritually Discerning?

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.