Category Archives: Leadership

The End is Come, and the Word of God is Silenced (Amos 7; Amos 8)

Scripture reading – Amos 7; Amos 8

Continuing his prophetic ministry, Amos delivered to the people of Israel five prophetic visions of imminent judgment. This devotional will consider the first four judgments recorded in Amos 7-8.

Amos 7 – Three Visions of Judgment

A Vision of Grasshoppers [Locusts] (7:1-3)

Locusts (identified as grasshoppers) were, and are, a devastating event for people living in an agrarian economy. Eating and destroying everything in their path, locusts can be so thick in number that they turn the light of day into darkness. In ancient times, the massing of locusts would potentially lead to famine for a people and nation.

God showed to Amos a judgment of locusts that would befall Israel, devouring the second growth of crops (the first crop being that which the king taxed, 7:1). Amos pled with the LORD for Jacob (Israel), stating that Jacob was a small nation, and if met with devastation, how would they survive? The LORD “repented” and had compassion on the people (7:3). Though the sins of the nation invited God’s judgment, the LORD heard the prayer of His prophet and determined to withhold judgment for a season.

A Vision of Fire (7:4-6)

Fire is a symbol of judgment throughout the Scriptures, and the LORD used the same to warn Amos that God’s judgment on Israel would be so destructive, it would consume everything (7:4). Again, Amos interceded for Israel and reasoned with the LORD, saying, “O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: By whom shall Jacob [the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel] arise? for he is small” (7:5). The LORD heard his prophet’s intercessory prayer, “repented,” and said, “This also shall not be” (7:6).

The Vision of a Plumb Line (7:7-9)

A plumb line was a tool used by builders to ensure the blocks of a wall were laid straight. Attaching a weight to twine or rope, the plumb line would give block layers a straight line to follow as they raised up the walls of a city or building.

God gave Amos a vision of a plumb line, with the LORD Himself standing “upon a wall…with a plumbline in His hand” (7:7). The LORD questioned His prophet, and asked, “Amos, what seest thou?” (7:8a). Amos identified the plumb line, and the LORD said, “Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more” (7:8).

The plumb line was a symbol of a perfect standard, and one by which a man’s work could be judged. In this vision, the plumb line was a symbol of God’s perfect standard for His people…His Law and Commandments. Israel had rejected God’s perfect standard, and was condemned as a nation and people (7:8).

God’s judgment was inevitable, and Amos did not pray for God to spare Israel. The people had failed to obey God’s Law, and refused to measure themselves by His plumb line. Therefore, “the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam [the first king of a divided Israel] with the sword” (7:9).

Amos’ Confrontation with the Spiritual and Political Leaders of Israel (7:10-17)

The words and prophecies of Amos reached the ears of “Amaziah the priest of Bethel,” and he defamed God’s prophet to Jeroboam II, the king of Israel (7:10-11). Amaziah served as priest to the false gods of Israel at Bethel (where Jeroboam I had erected a golden calf for the people to worship). That heathen priest attacked the character and ministry of God’s prophet, and accused Amos of conspiring against Israel. He warned Jeroboam II that the prophet had prophesied he would “die by the sword,” and Israel would be conquered and “led away captive out of their own land” (7:11).

Amaziah had sought to intimidate Amos, and demanded the prophet return to Judah, “and there eat bread, and prophesy” (7:10). Desiring to silence Amos, Amaziah warned, “prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (7:13). Rather than heed God’s warning of judgment against Israel, Amaziah ordered the prophet be silent and “prophesy not again” (7:13).

Amos, however, was undeterred, and refused to be silent. He boldly asserted how he had not sought to be a prophet, and neither was he “a prophet’s son” (7:14). He “was an herdman [shepherd], and a gatherer of sycomore fruit [a farmer]: 15 [Saying] the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (7:14-15).

Amos then answered Amaziah with a personal, prophetic warning directed to that wicked priest. He foretold the great judgments that would befall his household: His wife would become a “harlot in the city,” his sons and daughters would “fall by the sword” (his lineage would die), the land would be divided, “and Israel [would] surely go into captivity” (7:17).

Amos 8

The Fourth Vision (8:1-3)

The imminence of God’s judgment was foretold, as “a basket of summer fruit” that was ready to be harvested (8:1). The LORD warned, “The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” (8:2).

Israel had passed the point of repentance and the “songs of the temple,” would turn to the howls of sorrow and death (8:3). At the time of God’s judgment, there would be so many dead bodies there would be no place or time for a proper burial (8:3).

The End is Near (8:4-10)

The abuses of the rich and powerful, and how they had oppressed the poor (8:4-6), would be answered with God’s judgment. God promised He would not forget their wickedness (8:7-9). Israel’s feasts days and songs would be turned to sorrows and hopeless lamentations (8:10).

Closing thoughts – What would mark the end of days, and the judgment of God? Famine! (8:11-13)

Not a famine of food and water, but a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD” (8:11). The Word of God would be silent, and the prophets no more. Men would “seek the word of the LORD,” and young men and women would “faint for thirst” (8:13). It would be too late, and the Word of the LORD would not be found (8:12-13).

Believer, like Israel of old, that day is upon us, and the Word of God is falling silent.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe to the Nation That Turns from the LORD and His Law” (Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5

Our study of the prophecies of Isaiah brings us to Isaiah 4 and 5. Remembering chapter breaks and verse numbers are the effort of editors to assist Bible students, I am in agreement with some that Isaiah 4:1 concludes the previous chapter’s topic and the judgment Isaiah prophesied would befall Jerusalem. Drawing a vivid picture of God’s judgment, the prophet described the desperation of that time.

So many men would die in the battle described in Isaiah 3, that there would be seven women to every man (4:1). Isaiah 4 continued with the prophecy of a future time when Israel would be restored to the land, and Christ Himself will reign (“the branch of the LORD”, 4:2).

Isaiah 5

Employing an agricultural parable, Isaiah described God’s love and care for His people (5:1-7). With the LORD pictured as a farmer, His loving favor for Judah was portrayed as his “well-beloved.”

The LORD’s Loving Preparation for Israel (5:1-2)

God promised to plant his vineyard (a symbol of Israel), upon the best ground, “a very fruitful hill,” (5:1). “He fenced it,” and removed stones [heathen nations] that would hinder the growth of His “vineyard,” and chose the best vines (5:2). He built a “watchtower” (the Temple) in the midst (5:2c).

The LORD’s Disappointments (5:2-4)

Yet, when the LORD inspected His people (“vineyard”), He found “wild grapes” in the midst (5:2). What were the wild grapes? The sins of the people, for they had broken His covenant, and were guilty of idolatry, and all manner of wickedness (5:3-4).

Two Consequences that Befall a Nation That Rejects God (5:5-7)

The first consequence that befell Judah was God’s promise to remove His loving, providential care of His people (“take away the hedge…break down the wall” – 5:5).

The LORD promised He would eliminate the nation’s economic prosperity, and “lay it waste” (5:6). Judah would become like an untended vineyard, overgrown with “briers and thorns” (5:6). Leaving no doubt the prophet was warning Israel and Judah the judgment that would befall those nations, we read: “7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah his pleasant plant: And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; For righteousness, but behold a cry” (5:7).

Six Woes: Elijah’s Warning of God’s Judgment (5:8-23)

Among the sins that provoked God’s wrath, notice six that demanded His judgment. The wealthy were guilty of greed and covetous, and exploited the people (5:8-10). God declared their greed would be rewarded with desolation (5:9), and their investments (“vineyard”) would be unprofitable (5:10).

The people were guilty of pursuing a narcissistic, drunken lifestyle. They would rise  “early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink,” and continue until night (5:11). Their drunken feasts were accompanied by seductive music, so that they gave no thought of the LORD and His providences (5:12).

They were proud, and deceived “with cords of vanity” (5:18), they taunted the LORD (5:19). Having rejected God’s Law and Commandments, they refused moral absolutes. Lacking spiritual discernment, they called “evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (5:20).

They were arrogant and conceited, “wise in their own eyes” (5:21). They perverted justice, and exploited the innocent and weak, and would also “justify the wicked for reward [bribes] (5:23).

Warning: God’s Judgment is Coming (5:24-25)

The “wild grapes” of Israel had provoked God’s judgment, and the fruit of that nation was rebellion, idolatry, and immorality. The leaders did not fear the judgment of God, and Isaiah warned, the LORD had “stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them” (5:25).

The Instruments of God’s Judgment (5:26-30)

Though not named here, Isaiah warned, the LORD would bring against Israel and Judah enemies who would come swiftly, and show the people no mercy. Their adversaries would not tire (5:27), and like the roar of young lions, they would thirst for blood (5:29). The armies of their enemies would sweep over the land like the waters of a storm (5:30).

Closing thoughts – The Assyrians were the first to come, and they took Israel (the northern ten tribes) captive (2 Kings 17:1-41). After Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar led his army against Judah, and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and took the people captive (2 Kings 25:1-30).

Woe to a nation and people who reject God’s Law and Commandments!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“The Sins and Signs of a Failing Nation and a Dying Culture” – part 2 (Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading. The focus is Isaiah 3.

The Bible is filled with examples of godly men who did not have the luxury of ignoring the wickedness and perversity of their leaders or nation. Zechariah was stoned to death when he condemned the sins of Judah and her king (2 Chronicles 24). God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn that wicked nation, except they repent the city would be destroyed. John the Baptist lost his head when he dared confront the wickedness and adultery of King Herod. And so, we come to Isaiah, whom God called to assail the wickedness of Judah and her kings.

The Removal of “the Stay and the Staff” (3:1-4)

A study of history reveals the rise and fall of nations follows the pattern of sin and wickedness we find in Isaiah 3.  We read, “1For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, Doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff” (3:1).

Interpreting this verse in context, you find God was removing from Judah that nation’s leaders. The “stay” (masculine form, meaning support or protector) represented that nation’s loss of “manly men,” who had been strong leaders in Judah. The removal of the “staff” (feminine form, meaning a support), meant the nation would have a void of godly, influential women (3:1).

Judah’s rebellion against God invited His judgment, and the losses are enumerated in Isaiah 3.

There would be a shortage of bread and water (“the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water” (3:1). The nation would want for male leaders, men of integrity described as, “the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient” (3:2).

A second tier of leadership, the backbone of a nation, would be lost. There would be no “captain of fifty [lower military officers], and the honourable man [men of integrity], and the counseller [wise men], and the cunning artificer [skilled workers; i.e., carpenters, mechanics], and the eloquent orator [persuasive speakers]” (3:4)

Judah Turned to Weak, Incompetent Men for Leaders (3:4-6)

With a void of spiritual, “manly men” leaders (3:7-9), the people turned to foolish, inexperienced leaders, dominated by brazen women (3:12, 16-23). The people chose “children [weak] to be their princes, and babes [immature] shall rule [have dominion or power] over them (3:4). With weak, inexperienced, unprincipled leaders, Judah became a lawless, oppressed society (3:5). Those weak leaders were proud and emboldened “against the ancient [elderly]” (3:5), and “base [without a moral compass] against the honourable [men of rank]” (3:5).

How did those weak, spineless, effeminate leaders come to be in authority? They were not chosen because of their character, but because of their influence (having acquired wealth by inheritance, 3:6).

Judah Turned to Domineering Women for Leaders (3:12, 16-23)

Instead of nurturing and protecting the youth of the nation, women diminished their femininity, and became worse brutes than men (3:12 – “women rule over them…they which lead thee cause thee to err, And destroy the way of thy paths”). The women of the nation, identified as “the daughters of Zion,” were proud and immodest (3:16), haughty, and flirtatious with “wanton [painted] eyes” (3:16).

Closing thoughtsLike most nations that fail, Judah was destroyed, not from an enemy without, but from an enemy within.

What becomes of a nation that chooses weak men, and proud women to lead? The strong women would be afflicted with disease (3:17). They would be reduced to the poverty of a household slave (3:18-24). Their fine jewelry (3:18-21), and costly apparel would be taken (3:22-23), and their well-groomed hair would be replaced by baldness (3:24).

Yet, there was still hope. Though the majority of Judah had turned to wickedness, not all were faithless. God promised He would not forget the righteous, and would avenge His people (3:10-24, 25-26).

Do the signs of a dying nation sound familiar?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Prophecies of Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

As you read today’s Scripture, take time to not only reflect on its prophetic application to the house of Judah, but the lessons we might take from the study that are applicable to our day.

Remembering the prophetic ministry of Isaiah spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah (1:1), scholars place Isaiah 2 during the reign of Uzziah who reigned 52 years. He enjoyed a brilliant and prosperous rule (2 Chronicles 26:5-15) until his heart was lifted up with pride, and he sinned against the LORD (2 Chronicles 26:16).

As Goes the Leaders, So Goes the Nation (Isaiah 2:1-5)

Stricken with leprosy, the humiliated king had been thrust out of the Temple, and forced to live in a separate house outside the palace complex (2 Chronicles 26:20; 2 Kings 15:5a). Uzziah entrusted the day-to-day governing of Judah to his son (2 Chronicles 26:21; 27:1-2), meaning the duties of government were in the hands of a younger man who lacked his skills and experience.

As with many prophecies, the prophecies of Isaiah carry both an imminent, and far-reaching application. Some of what we read in Isaiah 2 was a foretelling of events that occurred in the prophet’s lifetime (for instance Isaiah described the exaltation of Judah and Jerusalem, and 2 Chronicles 26:6-8 verified there were nations that admired, and paid tribute to Judah during Uzziah’s reign).

However, much of Isaiah’s prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.

For instance, not “all nations” have made their way to Jerusalem, nor said among themselves, “let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob” (2:3). With the constant warring of nations against nations in our day, we have not seen fulfilled a time of universal peace (2:4).

The Great Tribulation (2:6-9)

Briefly, I suggest you consider the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 2:6-9 to be that which will not be fulfilled until the Great Tribulation. The desperate times of Isaiah’s day, are true of our day. The circumstances of that time, are parallel to our time.

The LORD had forsaken His people, because they had turned away from Him, His Law, and Commandments.

To what had the people turned? “Soothsayers” from the east (eastern mysticism, 2:6; 1 Timothy 4:1), and embraced the ways of “strangers” (foreigners, people outside God’s covenant relationship with Israel, 2:6). Rather than trusting the LORD, Judah had placed its faith in riches, and its confidence in its military might (“full of horses…chariots,” 2:7). The nation worshipped gods of their own making, fashioned by their hands (2:8), and proud men were brought low (2:9).

The Second Coming of Christ (2:10-22)

Supposing my interpretation of this passage is fulfilled at the close of the Great Tribulation, the events described in Isaiah 2:10-22 are yet to be fulfilled.

When Christ returns in His heavenly glory, and His coming is heralded as the Judge and Conquering King, the people of the earth will flee His presence (2:10, 19, 21; Revelation 6:15-16), and the proud will be humbled (2:11, 17-18). The people and nations of the earth will be brought to their knees (2:12-22), and the LORD alone will be exalted (2:17).

Closing thoughts – The Millennium Kingdom of Jesus Christ will restore Israel to her prominence among the nations of the earth, and Jesus Christ will reign as King of kings, and LORD of lords upon the throne of David (2:2-5; 4:2-6).

Christ’s reign will usher in a time of universal peace, for He will “judge among the nations, And shall rebuke many people: And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruninghooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

This concludes part 1 of today’s devotional study. Part 2 will follow, and focus on Isaiah 3.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation” – part 2 – (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

As we begin our study of Isaiah, I invite you to picture in your mind a setting that is a heavenly courtroom, with God sitting on His throne, and with the nation of Judah the defendant.

The Case: The Ingratitude of Judah vs. The Love and Grace of God (1:1-2)

Two witnesses were commanded to hear the charge against Judah: the “heavens” and the “earth” (1:2). The LORD charged Judah, saying, “I have nourished and brought up children [people of Judah], and they have rebelled against me(1:2).

How had the LORD nourished and brought up His people? He had chosen Abraham and established His Covenant with his lineage (Genesis 12). He had entrusted Israel with His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20). He had sent prophets who taught the people, and chastened the nation when it strayed. Yet, we read, “They have rebelled against me” (1:2c), rejected His Law, and His offer of love and grace.

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

The First Charge – Rebellious Ingratitude (1:3-4)

While a dumb ox knows its owner, and a donkey appreciates its master’s stall, Israel was a people that “doth not consider” (1:3). Consider what? The sins of the people had blinded them, and they gave no thought to the LORD’s care, love, and provision. The prophet Jeremiah would observe: “For my people [are] foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish [foolish; silly] children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22).

They had become a sinful, wicked people, and were burdened with “iniquity” (the weight of their sin and guilt, 1:4). They had “forsaken the LORD” (1:4), despised His Law and Commandments, and had “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (1:4).

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

The LORD questioned Judah, asking, “Why should ye be stricken [beaten; punished] any more? ye will revolt [rebel] more and more [again and again]: the whole head [whole body] is sick [diseased], and the whole heart faint [sick; feeble].” The stench of Judah’s sins had reached heaven, and the people were infected by wickedness (1:6).

The Consequences of Judah’s Sins (1:7-9)

The sins of nation had resulted in the land being destroyed (“your country is desolate”), “cities burned with fire,” and their riches plundered by foreigners (“strangers” – 1:7). So dreadful was the judgment, if the LORD had not shown the people mercy, Judah “should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah [utterly destroyed with no soul spared]” (1:9).

The Second Charge – Religious Insincerity (1:11-20)

God charged the people as being pious hypocrites (1:11-12), and He declared He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings (1:11). They trampled upon the courts of the Temple, and had given no thought to His presence and holiness in the Temple (1:12). The LORD declared:

“Bring no more vain [false; deceitful; empty] oblations [non-blood offerings – flour, fruit, oil]; incense [perfume; sweet incense] is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome] unto me…it is iniquity [wicked; vanity], even the solemn meeting [sacred assembly for worship]” (1:13-14).

Even their prayers had become an abomination: “When ye spread forth [lay open; stretch forth; display] your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers [supplications], I will not hear [hearken; listen]: your hands are full [overflowing] of blood. [shedding of blood]” (1:15).

In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD extended a pardon if the people would repent of their sins (1:16-18). He called upon the nation, “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins [faults; offences] be as scarlet [color of blood], they shall be as white [purified; without blemish] as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Offering a conditional pardon, the LORD appealed to the people, “If ye be willing [consent] and obedient [hearken; obey], ye shall eat [consume] the good [beauty; blessings] of the land” (1:19); but warned, “if ye refuse [unwilling] and rebel[disobey; provoke], ye shall be devoured [eat up; consumed] with the sword [knife; dagger]: for the mouth [commandment; Word] of the LORD hath spoken it. [pronounced; declared]” (1:20).

The Third Charge – Three Reprehensible Injustices (1:21-23)

Understanding the leaders of a nation are a reflection of the character of the people, I conclude today’s study inviting you to consider three nauseous traits of those who govern a dying nation.

The leaders of Judah were vile, having rejected God’s Law, and were “companions of thieves,” enriching themselves by illicit gain (1:23). The leaders lacked integrity, and were guilty of loving gifts (bribery), and shameless self-promotion (“followeth after rewards” – 1:23; Exodus 23:8; Micah 3:11-12). Finally, the leaders had abused and exploited the weak (“the fatherless…the widow” – 1:23d; Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

Closing thoughts – Take a moment and reflect on your nation, its leaders, and government. Are the failed character traits of Judah’s leaders the same as you see in your society–vile, lacking integrity, and abusing the weak?

Warning – The sinful traits of a nation’s leaders reflect its citizens, and demand God’s judgment (1:24-31).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Cursed Be the Man Who Usurps God’s Authority (2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we return to 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26, parallel passages of the same historical events. Though the names of kings might be confusing and their deeds soon forgotten, what is important is that we take from our study of the Scriptures an insight into the ways of the LORD, and His sovereign rule in the affairs of men and nations.

2 Kings 15 – Kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.

His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah.  He was only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, and would reign as king fifty-two years (15:1-2).

2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a “several” [separate] house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).

To understand the cause for the king’s leprosy (which in the Scriptures is a symbol of the dreadfulness of sin), we turn to 2 Chronicles 26.

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah in 2 Kings 15) remarkable achievements are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26, which also gives us the cause for his successes: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah [the high priest], who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he [Uzziah] sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah had been a successful warrior (26:6-8), for “God helped him…and his name spread abroad” (26:7-8). He had reinforced the fortification of Jerusalem, and to secure the land he “built towers in the desert, and digged wells” (essential in the dry, arid wilderness, 26:10). I especially admire the mention of Uzziah’s heart for the agrarian way of life, for we read, “he loved husbandry” (i.e., he loved to farm, (26:10).

Yet, this king with a farmer’s heart, was also a gifted administrator, who numbered and ordered his army, providing for his soldiers the necessary implements for war (26:11-15). Perhaps he was also a gifted engineer, and strategist, for he is said to have “made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal” (26:15a). What those “engines” of war were, is a matter of speculation, but Uzziah achieved the admiration of his friends and foes (26:15b).

Tragically, when he was at the pinnacle of success in his 52-year reign over Judah, we read, “But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16).

Why did the LORD afflict King Uzziah (i.e., Azariah) with leprosy, a dreaded disease that would follow him to his grave?

Uzziah was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy– PRIDE (26:16). Forgetting his successes had come because of the LORD’s blessings, Uzziah’s “heart was lifted up to his destruction” (26:16), and he foolishly usurped the role of the priest and entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).

Bloated with pride from his achievements, the king treaded upon ground God had reserved for the priesthood.

The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy which evidenced on his forehead (26:19). The law regarding leprosy demanded a leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46) to avoid the spread, and seeing the blight on the king’s face, the priests expelled Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20).

As a leper, Uzziah lived the rest of his life in a separate house from the palace. Because he was a leper, he was not buried in a royal tomb, but was instead buried in a field near the place where kings were buried.

Closing thoughts – What a tragedy! The legacy of the great king gave testimony of his skill as a warrior, builder, administrator, but sadly—tainted as a leper. Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah) life, in spite of his achievements, read simply, “He [was] a leper” (26:23).

I wonder what counsel Uzziah might offer, if given an opportunity to counsel a 21st century believer? Perhaps he would warn:

Sinful pride, and one’s failure to honor the Lord and keep His Commandments, will not only risk your legacy, but your life.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

History is “HIS-Story” (2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14

We are in the midst of the era of the kings in Israel and Judah. I encourage you to not allow yourself to become frustrated, attempting to retain the names of all the kings. What is important is to remember that history is “His-Story,” and a testament to the sovereignty and providence of the LORD.

2 Kings 13

The northern ten tribes known as Israel, continued in sin, following the “sins of Jeroboam” who had made two golden calves and “made Israel to sin” (13:2). The sins of the kings of Israel, and their evil influence on the people, was a continual provocation of God’s wrath (13:3). Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy, Hazael king of Syria, and his son Benhadad, continually oppressed Israel (13:4). Yet, when the LORD delivered the people from their enemies, Israel would turn back to their sins and idolatry (13:5-6). Joash (also named Jehoash) succeeded his father Jehoahaz, and he followed in the sins of his father (13:8-13)

The Death of Elisha, God’s Prophet (13:14-21)

We find Elisha, God’s prophet in Israel and the successor of the prophet Elijah, terminally ill (13:14). Although he had often opposed the kings of Israel, king Joash, respected the prophet and came to his bedside and “wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (13:14).

Elisha’s homegoing was not as dramatic as Elijah’s (for he had been taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot), nevertheless, he was honored by the visit of the king and he offered Joash two symbolic and prophetic blessings (13:15-19). The first, Elisha asked Joash to shoot an arrow out the window to the east, and he prophesied the LORD would deliver Israel from Syria (13:16-17). The second symbol, Elisha commanded the king to strike the floor with arrows, which Joash obeyed and struck the floor three times (13:18). The dying prophet was suddenly indignant, for he said had Joash struck the floor more than three times he would have been assured that Syria would be destroyed (13:19).

A miracle followed Elisha’s death and burial, for the body of another man was cast into his grave, and touching the bones of the prophet, was raised from the dead (13:20-21).

2 Kings 13 concluded with a reminder, though Israel had disobeyed the LORD, and broke covenant with Him, God never forgot His “his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet” (13:23).

2 Kings 14

This chapter records a succession of kings and their sons who ruled over Judah and Israel. Amaziah, the son of Joash, became king of Judah (14:1-2), and “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did” (14:3). King David, though not a perfect man, was a man whom God said was “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). Amaziah served the LORD much of his life, but in his last years forsook the LORD, His law, and commandments.

Soon after becoming king, Amaziah sought a covenant of peace with Jehoash the king of Israel; however, that wicked king rose up against Judah, attacked Jerusalem, and broke down a section of the wall of the city. He also took away “all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria” (14:14).

A second king named Jeroboam, probably named after the founding king of the northern ten tribes, became king of Israel in 2 Kings 14:23, and he continued in the idolatry that had been established by his namesake (14:24).

Our Scripture reading concludes reminding us of the grave consequences Israel suffered as a nation for her sins. Consider verse 26: “For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel” (14:26). Yet the Lord had compassion for Israel and remembered them, for “…the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (14.27).

The pride and arrogance of Israel’s kings, and the idolatry and wickedness of the people, are drawing to a close. What is true of a man, is also true of a nation, for,  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Yet, “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited to Pastor Smith’s Study of Proverbs: An Exposition of “Uncommon Common Sense”

Pastor Smith continues his verse-by-verse study of the Proverbs of Solomon, this Wednesday, January 12, 6:30 pm. 

The focus of this week’s study is Proverbs 19:15-29 and will be broadcast live on http://www.DailyTestify.com, and http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.
Student notes are available by sending your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com. Requests must be received by 4:00pm today.

(Please note a weekly time of prayer begins at 6:15, but will not be broadcast.)

With the heart of a shepherd,
Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pay Day Shall Surely Come Someday (2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues in 2 Chronicles 24, and you will notice a parallel of events we considered in our prior devotional from 2 Kings 12. Of course, 2 Kings was authored prior to the Babylonian captivity, while 2 Chronicles is believed to have been written by Ezra after the children of Israel returned from exile.

The Reign of Joash (24:1-27)

2 Chronicles 24 gives additional details to the years that Joash reigned as king of Judah. Once again, we are reminded that the king “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). There is also the record that Jehoiada the high priest had taken for Joash “two wives; and he begat sons and daughters” (24:3).

Repairing the Temple (24:6-14)

As we found in 2 Kings 12, Joash had commanded the Temple be repaired (24:4-6). Scripture gives us the cause for those repairs stating: “For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim” (24:7).  The identity of “the sons of Athaliah” is not given; however, they had stripped the Temple of the LORD, and furnished the heathen temple to Baal with its treasures.

The means of collecting monies to rebuild the Temple and pay its workers is recorded (24:8-12), and there was enough given by the people to not only “set the house of God” in order and finish it, but also to make new vessels of gold and silver for offering sacrifices (24:14).

The Death of Jehoiada, the High Priest (24:15-16)

Incredibly, Jehoiada the high priest lived to be 130 years old. What a wonderful, rich life this servant of the LORD had lived. His testimony in Israel was such that he was given a burial worthy of kings.

The Faith of the Saints is Never More Than One Generation from Extinction (24:17-22)

Soon after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah sought his permission to leave “the house [Temple] of the LordGod of their fathers” (24:17), and “the king hearkened unto them” (24:17). What follows is a great tragedy, and a warning to all who call upon the LORD. Jehoiada’s presence in Judah had been a powerful one, and his influence upon king Joash began when he was little more than an infant. The king had faithfully served the LORD under the shadow and guidance of the high priest, but his death revealed the weak spiritual state of the king and leaders of Judah.

With the king’s blessing, the leaders of Judah established groves for idol worship and prostitution (24:18), and provoked the LORD who poured out His wrath “upon Judah and Jerusalem for…their trespass” (24:18). Yet, the LORD sent prophets to call the nation to repent, “but they would not give ear” (24:19).

Then, “the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you” (24:20).

How did the leaders of Judah respond to the preaching of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada? “They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord” (24:21). Even king Joash, who had enjoyed the love and mentoring of Zechariah’s father his whole life, “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his [Zechariah’s] father had done to him, but slew his son” (24:22). As he was dying, Zechariah rebuked the king, “The Lord look upon it, and require it [avenge his murder] (24:22).

Sin Begats Sin, Murder Begats Murder (24:23-27)

At the end of that same year, a Syrian army lay siege to Jerusalem, killing all the leaders among the people, and taking the spoils of Jerusalem to “the king of Damascus” (24:23). Judah’s lust for sin, and the depravity of the people had left the nation so weakened that a mere “small company of men” was all that was necessary for Syria to conquer “a very great host,” for the people “had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers” (24:24).

Closing thoughts – The glorious reign of Joash came to an inglorious end, for he suffered “great diseases,” until “his own servants conspired against him for [shedding] the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed” (24:25). Unlike the honorable burial that had been given to Jehoiada the priest, Joash was not buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (24:25).

Warning: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith