Category Archives: Leadership

Who Is Your God? (Jeremiah 10-13)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 10-13

Our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah continue today with our Scripture reading comprising Jeremiah 10-13. Jeremiah 10 will be the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. He was a man of passion who loved the LORD and faithfully proclaimed His Word from His calling as a young man (Jeremiah 1:6-8) to the fall of Jerusalem and the first years of Babylonian captivity. He endured the scorn of his people, the persecution of his nation’s leaders, and wept as Judah fell to Babylon. His reputation as the “weeping prophet” is borne out by the sorrows that are recorded in the book that bears his name and in the Book of Lamentations, his second book.

Jeremiah challenged the people to contrast the false gods whom they worshipped (10:1-5) with the God of Israel who had revealed Himself to Israel (10:6-11).

Jeremiah 10:1-5 – Jeremiah Mocked the Idols Men Worshipped.

Describing the absurdity of worshipping idols conceived and made by men, Jeremiah pictured a man cutting down a tree, carving and shaping an idol from the wood (10:3), then overlaying it with silver and gold (10:4).

Mocking the idea of anything man might make being a god worthy of worship, Jeremiah stated the impotence of such a god: It cannot move about of its own will (10:4b); it cannot speak (10:5a); in fact, it must be carried about by one foolish enough to worship and sacrifice to its image (10:5b). Jeremiah admonished the people, “Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (10:5c).

Jeremiah 10:6-11 – There is None Like the God of Heaven.

I will step away from my role as an author and allow the Scriptures to declare the majesty of God without commentary.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 – “6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is greatin might. 7  Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:10 – But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:12 – He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

Jeremiah 10:16 – The portion of Jacob is not like them: for He is the former [framer; potter; maker] of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.

Who is Your God? (10:6-16)

My God is the Great One, unlike any other (10:6). He is the King and Sovereign of all nations (10:7). He is incomparable in His person, majesty, and wisdom (10:7b). He is Truth (10:10a). He is the God of life (10:10b). He is the Eternal, Everlasting King, the Sovereign of Creation (10:10c). He is a God of righteousness and justice (10:10d).

My God is the One and Only Creator (10:12a) and sustains the earth by His power (10:12b) and in His wisdom He set the expanse of the heavens (10:12c). He is the God of Jacob (10:16a) and Israel is His chosen inheritance (10:16b).

My God is the “framer,” the maker, the creator of all things (10:16b). He is “the LORD of hosts,” the Commander and Master of the angels of heaven (10:16c).

Who Is Your God?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Jeremiah: God’s Prophet to a Nation on the Brink of Judgment” (Jeremiah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 1-3

Our chronological Bible reading schedule brings us to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, and marks the 219th Scripture reading assignment of 2020. For the sake of brevity, today’s devotional commentary will serve as an introduction to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and focus solely on Jeremiah 1.

The book of Jeremiah is biographical and prophetic, chronicling the life and experience of a man of God who stood alone in his day. Written by the prophet whose name it bears, the Book of Jeremiah accounts for the ministry of a faithful prophet. Fifty-two chapters long and spanning fifty-four years, from Judah’s revival years during the reign of King Josiah, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC.

Jeremiah 1 – The Prophet of God

Jeremiah’s ministry was to a people who had turned from God. Israel had broken God’s covenant and disobeyed His commandments. It was for such a time the LORD called one man to stand in the gap and warn His people that should they not repent all would be lost.

Jeremiah’s ministry began during Josiah’s reign (est. 640 BC to 609 BC) and continued through the reigns of four wicked kings: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah died (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36).

He was a Levite by birth. His father Hilkiah was a priest and he was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses (1:1). Anathoth, his hometown, was only about three miles northeast of Jerusalem (1:1; Joshua 21:15-19), and there is little doubt Jeremiah was familiar with the politics of Jerusalem.

The LORD made a wonderful revelation when He called Jeremiah to be His prophet.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 – “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified [consecrated; set apart] thee, and I ordained [appointed] thee a prophet unto the nations.”

In the same way God knew Jeremiah from the moment of conception, He knows you. He knows your talents, gifts, and abilities. He knows your strengths and weaknesses.

Jeremiah protested, “LORD God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (1:6).

Jeremiah was not a child in the chronological sense, but he was a young inexperienced man. The thought of being God’s prophet in the midst of an ungodly nation was no doubt intimidating and overwhelming.

God answered Jeremiah’s objection with the assurance, “I am with thee” (1:8b).

Jeremiah 1:7-8 – “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. 8  Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.”

The breadth of Jeremiah’s ministry and message was universal. (1:9-10)

Jeremiah 1:9b-10 – “The LORD said unto me [Jeremiah], Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 10  See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

From heaven’s perspective, Jeremiah was a messenger of the LORD. From man’s perspective, he was a troublemaker, perhaps an antagonist, called “to root out [sin], and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (1:10).

We will see in our study of Jeremiah that he was a prophet who was hated and despised by his people. The LORD warned him, “they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (1:19).

What a wonderful encouragement to those God has called to teach and declare His Word! The LORD is with us!

Let us, in the words of the apostle Paul, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The hour of revival had past, and it was too late! (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35). 2 Kings was a contemporary history record; however, 2 Chronicles was authored while Israel and Judah were in captivity. Both are historical accounts of the promise of blessings (when kings obey the LORD’s Law and Commandments) and judgment (when those same kings rebel and disobey the LORD). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the accounts in 2 Kings 22-23.

2 Kings 22

The glorious reign of Josiah, the grandson of King Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years) and the son of Amon (a wicked king who reigned two years), was a period of revival in Judah.

Josiah began to reign when he was eight years old, and perhaps because of the influence of his mother, he chose to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

The king commanded that the Temple be repaired (22:3-7), and in the course of doing so the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8). The “book of the law” was taken to King Josiah and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah, overwhelmed by the words of the law and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), sent messengers to enquire of a prophetess named Huldah (22:13-14). Huldah confirmed to the king that the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah was assured that he would not see the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in his lifetime because his “heart was tender” and he had humbled himself before the LORD (22:18-19).

2 Kings 23

Josiah set his heart to begin a national reformation of Judah, and one that reached northward to the land and remnant of Israel (2 Kings 23). Gathering all the leaders and people of Judah, the king renewed Judah’s covenant with the LORD (23:1-3).

The king commanded the Temple be cleansed of idolatry and all the elements associated with such wickedness destroyed, ground to powder, and burned (23:4-6). Demonstrating the depth of depravity to which Judah had descended, we find there were “houses of the sodomites” (homosexuals) located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah took his crusade for reformation to Bethel where Jeroboam, the first king of the northern ten tribes, had established idolatry (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough that he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

Josiah also observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).

The reign of Josiah was celebrated in Judah. In the annals of Judah’s history there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Nevertheless, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of King Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of Manasseh, had sealed the fate of that nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).

Three rebellious kings followed Josiah in quick succession (23:31-37) and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, began to overshadow the land (2 Kings 24).

For Judah, the hour of revival had past, and it was too late.

Genesis 6:3 – “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A God Who Hears and Answers Prayer (2 Chronicles 32-33)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 32-33

Today’s Scripture reading is an abridged version of the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah that has been considered in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s devotional commentary will focus solely on 2 Chronicles 32.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel to the north opened the way for Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1).

King Hezekiah consulted with his leaders and determined to enforce the city walls and deprive Assyria’s army of water by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city (32:2-5). Displaying his faith and confidence in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people:

2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him8  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

Sending messengers and writing letters to the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned their confidence in the king. The king of Assyria also spoke against the God of Israel, asserting their God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Finally, Sennacherib declared that Hezekiah had deceived the people of Jerusalem, leading them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character and the offense Sennacherib had raised against the God of Israel?

2 Chronicles 32:20 – “Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.”

Isaiah describes this moment observing that “Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the [Assyrian] messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD” (Isaiah 37:14-17).

Hezekiah’s focus was not on the threats of his enemy or his own strengths. The king’s faith and hope were in the LORD who heard the king’s prayer and “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:20).

Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory God alone was due (32:25).  The king was “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26), God restored his health.

Permit me to close with an observation and application. 

King Solomon taught his son, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime. A leader’s character does matter!  Whether it is the leadership of a nation, state, city, church or school, a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on people.

Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Set Thine House In Order; For Thou Shalt Die” (2 Kings 20-21)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 20-21

Our study of the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah will soon end. By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, has fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, has been destroyed and the citizens of Israel taken away captive. Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations who in time would intermarry with the remnant of Israelites. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people with Israel would be known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 (note also 2 Chronicles 32:24-26; Isaiah 38:1-8)

The narrative found in 2 Kings 20 is familiar for it is a rehearsal of events we have studied in both Isaiah 38:1-8and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26

Hezekiah was the king of Judah and Judah had been blessed because its ruler loved the LORD.  Hezekiah had led the people in a time of spiritual revival by both example and edict. He restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments, Temple worship and sacrifices, and destroyed the places of idol worship throughout the land.

Israel had fallen to Sennacherib, king of Assyria; however, God had answered Hezekiah’s prayer and spared Judah. The “Angel of the LORD” destroyed the army of Assyria, slaying 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36).

Soon after Judah’s victory over Assyria, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing the news of impending death to the King. Isaiah said to the king, “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

How would you respond if your doctor gave you a terminal diagnosis? Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints.

The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). In other words, Hezekiah blocked out everything and everyone, and then he cried out to the LORD. He then began to rehearse his walk with the LORD and how he had kept God’s covenant. The king prayed,

2 Kings 20:3 – “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently].”

Hezekiah claimed God’s covenant promise and clung to the hope God would heal him. Having delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah rejoiced when the LORD commanded him to turn back and tell Hezekiah that God heard and would answer his prayer (20:5). Isaiah assured the king that the LORD would heal him (20:5) and “add unto thy days fifteen years” (20:6).

2 Kings 20 concludes with Hezekiah dying fifteen years later and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Tragically, unlike his father Hezekiah, King Manasseh set a course of wickedness in Judah that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). Idolatry (21:3), desecrating the Temple (21:4), and human sacrifice were the practice of the king and Judah (21:6).

The LORD sent prophets to confront the sins of the king and Judah, but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned that Jerusalem and Judah would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

I close observing the swift departure of Judah from the righteous reign of Hezekiah into a depth of depravity that would have defied the imagination of the previous generation. From spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that demanded God’s judgment…one generation.

A nation is one generation from a steep descent into sin that will demand God’s judgment. Are we that generation?

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“God is Our Refuge and Strength” (2 Kings 19; Psalms 46, 80, 135)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 19; Psalms 46, 80, 135

Our Scripture reading returns today to 2 Kings 19, but you will notice that it takes us to a familiar time and place that is recorded in 2 Chronicles and the Book of Isaiah.

We have already noted that Hezekiah, king of Judah, was a great king who humbled himself before the LORD (2 Chronicles 31:10), organized the priesthood, restored worship and offering sacrifices in the Temple, and decreed that the people obey the Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).

As we have noted in our study of 2 Chronicles 36, the Assyrian King Sennacherib had invaded Israel, overthrown Samaria, that nation’s capital city, and then began his campaign against Judah. Sennacherib sent an emissary named Rabshakeh who demanded Hezekiah pay tribute to Assyria. Rather than turn to the LORD, Hezekiah foolishly sought an alliance with Egypt that failed.

2 Kings 19

Facing the threat of a formidable foe, Hezekiah went to the Temple and cried out to the LORD (19:1). The king then sent messengers to Isaiah, seeking his counsel and a word from the LORD (19:2-5).

Isaiah sent an assurance from the LORD that He would send a “rumour” that would so trouble the king of Assyria, and that he would withdraw from Judah and return to his homeland where he would “fall by the sword” (19:6-7).

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was incensed by Hezekiah’s refusal and scoffed His faith in the LORD (19:10). Boasting of all the nations he had conquered and the gods of those nation’s failure to help them, Sennacherib threatened he would do the same to Judah (19:11-13). Hezekiah then cried out to the LORD and Isaiah sent a messenger to the king who assured him that God would utterly defeat Assyria (19:20-34).

The LORD kept His promise and we read, “it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they [Judah] arose early in the morning, behold, they [Assyrians soldiers] were all dead corpses” (19:35).

As Isaiah had prophesied, Sennacherib return defeated to his homeland where he was killed by his sons (19:36-37).

I close with a blessed assurance of God’s sovereignty (Psalm 46:1-3, 9-11).

Psalm 46:1-3 – “1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

Psalm 46:9-11 – “9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. 10  Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“And it came to pass” (Isaiah 37-39; Psalm 76)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 37-39; Psalm 76

After Hezekiah humbled himself before the LORD, tore down the “high (unholy) places” and restored worship and sacrifices in the Temple; “it came to pass” (37:1) that God allowed an enemy to taunt, mock, and scorn the people of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36).

Isaiah 37 – God Hears and Answers Prayer

Receiving the threats of war from Rabshakeh, the emissary of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, Hezekiah humbled himself, “rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house [Temple] of the LORD” (37:1).

Desperate for an assuring word from the LORD, Hezekiah sent messengers to Isaiah telling the prophet, “This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy” (37:3).

Isaiah encouraged the king saying, “Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me” (37:6). The LORD promised to “send a blast”, literally a spirit that would trouble the king of Assyria; a rumor that drove him to return to his country where he would be assassinated (37:7).

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, renewed his threat against Jerusalem and mocked Hezekiah’s faith in God, reminding the king of all the nations that had already fallen to his armies (37:8-13). After receiving Sennacherib’s threat, the king took the letter to the Temple, “spread it before the LORD,” and prayed: “O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only” (37:14-15, 37:20).

Isaiah sent word to Hezekiah that the LORD had heard his petition and “the king of Assyria, He shall not come into” Jerusalem (37:33). The LORD promised, “I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (37:35).

Isaiah 37 concludes with the LORD sending an avenging angel that slayed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (37:36). Sennacherib then retreated to Nineveh where he was slain by his own sons (37:37-38).

 

Isaiah 38 – A Premature Obituary: “Thou Shalt Die.”

God wonderfully answered King Hezekiah’s prayer and gave Jerusalem and the king a great triumph over Assyria. The king, no doubt rejoicing, received Isaiah who then delivered a sobering prophecy:  “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (38:1).

While that prophecy was not unusual, for it stated a reality all sinners must inevitably face, it overwhelmed Hezekiah who “turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (38:2).

The king “wept sore,” praying, “O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (38:3).

The LORD received Hezekiah’s prayer and promised to add fifteen years to the king’s life (38:4-6).  As a miraculous sign that his life would be extended, God turned the shadow on the sundial back ten degrees (38:7-8).

Isaiah 38 concludes with a psalm of thanksgiving composed by King Hezekiah, rejoicing in God hearing his prayer and extending his years (38:9-22).

Isaiah 39 – Flattery, Pride and a Foolish King

News of Hezekiah’s sickness had traveled through diplomatic channels and “Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered” (39:1).

No doubt, flattered by his guests, Hezekiah permitted the ambassadors from Babylon to see the wealth of his treasury (39:1-2). When Isaiah learned of the king’s guests, he questioned and then admonished Hezekiah (39:3-4).

Isaiah admonished the king that his arrogant decision to display the nation’s wealth would end with the king of Babylon taking away, not only Judah’s wealth, but also his sons and heirs to the throne (39:7). With humility, the king humbled himself and accepted Isaiah’s rebuke saying, “Good is the word of the LORD” (39:8).

A Spiritual Lesson Concerning Pride

I have witnessed men and women, who after experiencing a measure of success in their endeavors, permitted their hearts to swell with pride. Setting aside humility and dependence on God that was the incentive and catalyst of God’s blessings, they failed to remember, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Life Challenge: Deflect the best things men say about you, and don’t believe the worst; for somewhere in the middle is the truth about your character and person.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

How Do You Answer an Insolent Fool? (Isaiah 35-36)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 35-36

There are two timelines in today’s Scripture reading. Isaiah 35 describes the yet future Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Isaiah 36 then turns our focus back to the imminent threat of the Assyrian army that had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 35 The earth and the nations of the world after Christ’s judgment and His Millennial Kingdom

After the Second Coming of Christ, His reign on the earth will usher in a time of peace and prosperity like the world has not known since before Adam sinned.

The earth will be restored and the desert will bring forth life and flower with beauty reflecting God’s glory (35:1-2). The physically weak will be strengthened (35:3) and the fearful will be emboldened (35:4). Christ’s reign will be one of perfect justice and believers will find security in Him.

When Christ reigns the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will jump for joy (35:5), the dumb will break forth into singing (35:6), and the desert will flow with streams of water (35:6b) and bloom like an oasis (35:7). What a glorious day that will be!

The world in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will be at peace and believers will come to Zion (new Jerusalem) with “songs and everlasting joy” (35:9). In that day, the day when Christ reigns on the earth, “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35:10). What a happy day that will be!

Isaiah 36 – Isaiah 36 turns our focus from the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 35) to Isaiah’s Day, about 701 B.C.

We find Jerusalem under siege as the Assyrian armies overran and defeated Israel (taking captive the northern ten tribes). The Assyrians have conquered the outlying cities and fortresses of Judah and are encamped outside the great walls  of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36).

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe, sums up Isaiah 36-39 writing, “Hezekiah [the king of Judah] faced three crises in a short time: an international crisis (the invasion of the Assyrian army), a personal crisis (sickness and near death), and a national crisis (the visit of the Babylonian envoys).”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – The Prophets]

The events of Isaiah 36 follow a national revival that had been led by Hezekiah, King of Judah.

We read in 2 Chronicles 32:1 that Sennacherib king of Assyria invaded Judah, “after these things.” After what things? What had occurred in Judah just before the Assyrians invaded? The answer to that question is found here:

2 Chronicles 31:20-21 – “20  And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God21  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”

After Hezekiah had done that which was good, and right, he followed after truth (2 Chronicles 31:10). Hezekiah restored the Temple and worship after he had set his heart to seek God, and obey the law and commandments. Then, and only then, did he begin to prosper. And yet, after those things, an enemy threatened to overthrow the king, destroy Jerusalem, and remove God’s people out of the land.

An emissary of the Assyrian King Sennacherib named Rabshakeh, was sent to confront King Hezekiah (36:4-8) and he demand tribute be paid to the king of Assyria.

Hezekiah sent representatives to reason with Rabshakeh; however, he was insolent and reproached Hezekiah (36:4) and his faith in Judah’s God (36:7).

Somehow Rabshakeh, the Assyrian king’s emissary, had knowledge of Hezekiah’s foolish appeal to Egypt for an alliance and knew that effort had failed. Rabshakeh suggested that should the Assyrians give Judah two thousand horses, they would lack the soldiers to go to war (36:8-9).

Rabshakeh went so far as to suggest that Assyria was laying siege to Jerusalem because Judah’s God had told him to, “Go up against the land, and destroy it” (36:10).

Hearing the emissary’s message and fearing it would disturb the soldiers defending the city walls of Jerusalem, Judah’s leaders asked Rabshakeh to deliver his message in the Syrian language (36:11-12), a language that common soldiers would not understand. Instead of delivering the message as requested, the messenger raised his voice against the men on the wall, mocking King Hezekiah and his faith that God would deliver Judah (36:13-22).

Realizing they were hearing the words of an insolent man, the soldiers on the wall, “held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not” (36:21).

We will pick up our narrative on the siege of Jerusalem and King Hezekiah’s response tomorrow. I will close today’s devotion with a question and a spiritual lesson.

How do you answer an insolent fool? – SILENCE!

Proverbs 26:4-5  “Answer [speak; respond; reply] not a fool according to his folly [foolishness; stupidity], lest thou also be like [equal to; resemble] unto him. 5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise [shrewd] in his own conceit [eye; confidence; disdain].”

“Solomon warned his son in verse 4 that responding to a fool in the midst of his folly has the potential of drawing you into his folly—and you become like him—a fool!

Stated in a different way—You cannot reason with a fool!

It is a waste of time and effort to reason with a man who has rejected Truth and refuses to heed the clear exposition of God’s Word.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Millennial Reign of Jesus the Messiah (Isaiah 31-34)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 31-34

We continue our Scripture reading in the Book of Isaiah with Israel, the northern ten tribes having fallen to Assyria and its armies now threatening Judah.

Isaiah 31

King Hezekiah’s attempt to appease Assyria’s king with gold and silver had failed. Receiving news of the fall of Samaria and the inhabitants of Israel taken captive, the king of Judah sent emissaries to Egypt to seek an alliance against Assyria (31:1). Isaiah condemned the king for his failure to turn to the LORD for help and declared, “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit” (31:3).

In spite of the king’s failure to turn to God, the LORD promised He would “come down to fight for mount Zion” (31:4b) and “the LORD of hosts (would) defend Jerusalem” and “preserve it” (31:5). Isaiah called on the people to repent of their sins (31:6-7), and promised the LORD would come to their defense and “then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword” (31:8).

Isaiah 32

Isaiah 32 opens with a yet to be fulfilled promise of the coming of the Messiah who “shall reign in righteousness” (32:1). Who is the Messiah who will reign as King? Nathanael confessed that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God…the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

Jesus promised His followers He would come again (John 14:1-6) and the angels who were at His ascension promised His disciples, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

When Jesus Christ comes again, He will come as a conquering King and will sit in judgment over the nations of the earth. The apostle John wrote, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

When Christ sits on His throne in Jerusalem the curse of sin that blights and scars the earth will be removed. The eyes of the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and stammering tongues will speak (32:3-4). The barren wilderness will become a fruitful garden (32:15). There will be righteous judgment in the land (32:16), and because righteousness rules, there will be “peace…quietness and assurance for ever” (32:17).

What a contrast to our world where there is no justice in the land. Where rioting and violence, sickness and death are perpetual threats.

Lesson – When righteousness rules, there is peace (32:17).

Isaiah 33

Isaiah 33 picks up the story of King Hezekiah’s failed attempt to appease Assyria, but the prophet warned that the destroyer (Assyria) would itself be destroyed (33:1).

Though the majority of Judah had rebelled and turned from the LORD, there were a few in Judah who prayed and God heard their prayers. The faithful few prayed, “O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble” (33:2). God answered their prayers and promised to deliver Jerusalem by setting Himself against Assyria (33:10-12).

God fulfilled His promise of judgment and destroyed Assyria’s army. The defeat of Judah’s adversary was so complete that it struck fear in the hearts of the people (33:13-14).

A Messianic prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming is found in the closing verses of Isaiah 33. When Christ returns He will repel and destroy the armies of the nations of the earth that will be gathered against Jerusalem (33:17-24).

In the “New Jerusalem” where Christ will reign, there will be no sickness or sin (33:24).

Isaiah 34 speaks of God’s great and universal judgment of the nations of the world.

Isaiah 34 focuses on the “Day of the Lord’s Vengeance,” His final judgment of the nations of the world (34:8).

The nations of the world will be assembled (we know prophetically that this is the Battle of Armageddon, Revelation 19:11-21). Isaiah describes how God will pour out His wrath on the nations for how they mistreated and slaughtered His people (34:1-2). No nation will be spared the wrath of the LORD, and the earth and the heavens will be moved by God’s judgment (34:3-4).

The immediate focus of Isaiah’s prophecy was Edom (or Idumea) and its capital city “Bozrah” (34:6). Edom served as an example of what will become of the nations, when God takes vengeance on the world.

God’s judgment will be terrifying and complete: blood-soaked land, streams running dark, fire and smoke ascending, cities uninhabitable except for wild beasts (34:6-15).

Isaiah warned all the prophecies of the LORD would come to pass and “no one of these shall fail” (34:16).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Invitation: God Is Waiting to Hear Your Call (Isaiah 28-30)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 28-30

Continuing our chronological study of the Old Testament, we transition from the prophecies of Hosea, whose ministry was directed primarily to the northern ten tribes (Israel, also referred to as Ephraim), and return to Isaiah 28.

Isaiah 28 – Isaiah announced two judgments in Isaiah 28.

The first was God’s judgment against “the crown of pride” (which I believe is a reference to the royal capital city of Samaria) and “the drunkards of Ephraim,” which I interpret to be the political and spiritual leaders of the northern ten tribes (28:1-4). Referring to Assyria as “a mighty and strong one” (28:2), Isaiah prophesied the LORD would send against Ephraim a nation that would trod “under feet” (28:3) and “eateth up” (28:4).

Isaiah 28:5-6 refers to a period of time that is still future (unless one considers the reign of Hezekiah, the godly king of Judah as a partial, immediate fulfillment) and will be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming.

The second prophecy of judgment was directed to Judah, who witnessed the destruction of her brethren to the north, but continued in her sin and wickedness (28:7-15).

The wickedness of Judah was revealed in the drunkenness of her priests and prophets. Those leaders who should have called the nation to the LORD were guilty of drunkenness (28:7) and self-indulgence. Their feasts had become drunken banquets vividly portrayed as “tables…full of vomit and filthiness” (28:8).

Realizing the looming threat of Assyria, rather than repent of their sins and turn to the LORD, Judah’s leaders sought an alliance with Egypt (28:14-15; 30:1-5) that God described as “your covenant with death” (28:18).

Judah’s only hope was a Messianic prophecy: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste [not be ashamed; panic]” (28:16). The New Testament reveals the “precious corner stone, a sure foundation” is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-7; Mark 12:10; Romans 9:33).

Isaiah 29

To understand Isaiah 29, when you read “Ariel”, think of Jerusalem for we read that Ariel was “the city where David dwelt” (29:1). Isaiah 29:1-14 is the prophet’s warning of God’s imminent judgment against Jerusalem that would be fulfilled in Assyria’s siege of the capital city.

The distress, mourning, and siege of Jerusalem was a historical event that took place in 701 B.C. when Assyria defeated Israel (the northern ten tribes) and would have overwhelmed Jerusalem if the LORD had not intervened (37:36).  Knowing that prophecy often has an imminent and a far-reaching application, I believe Isaiah 29:7-8 describes the future siege when the nations of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem during the “battle of Armageddon” (Zechariah 14:1-3; Revelation 14:14-20; 16:13-21).

Isaiah 29:15-24 reminds us that the God of Heaven is Sovereign Creator and nothing escapes His knowledge or is beyond His control. The leaders of Judah were foolish, thinking God had no knowledge of their schemes, plans, and sins committed in secret (29:15).  Isaiah reasoned, no more than the potter’s clay could rise up against the potter, how foolish for man to assert of God, “He made me not?” (29:16).

Isaiah 29:17-24 is, in my opinion, a picture of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom after His Second Coming. His earthly kingdom will be glorious: The earth will be transformed and fruitful (29:17), the deaf will hear, the blind will see (29:18), and the meek and poor will rejoice (29:18).  What a glorious day that will be!

Isaiah 30A prophecy of woe against Jerusalem

Rather than turn from her sin and return to the LORD, Judah turned to Pharaoh and Egypt for deliverance from her enemies (30:1-7).  Isaiah warned, Judah’s attempt to purchase Egypt’s protection would all be in vain (30:7).

Isaiah 30:8-17 paints a graphic portrait of Judah’s rebellion against God and His Word.

The LORD commanded Isaiah to write down His warning of judgment (30:8) and to describe the rebellious nature of the people… “lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD” (30:9).

In spite of their sin and rebellion, Isaiah assured the people that God is gracious, compassionate, and just (30:18). When they cry out to Him, He will hear and answer their cry (30:19).

Isaiah 30 closes with a promise of Judah’s restoration to the land (30:18-26). Isaiah prophesied the defeat of Assyria that is, I believe, symbolic of the defeat of all the nations of the earth that will gather against Jerusalem when Christ returns and establishes His Millennial Kingdom (30:27-33; Revelation 19:11-21).

An Invitation: Someone reading today’s devotional might identify in their own life some of the sins of Judah: Hypocritical worship; a disdain for spiritual truth; a pattern of minimizing sins; excusing rebellion, and a defiance of God and authority.

There is hope for you, as there was for Judah, if you are willing to confess your sins, turn to the LORD, and seek His forgiveness.

1 John 1:8-10 – “8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith