Category Archives: Marriage

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep (Luke 20)

Scripture reading – Luke 20

Putting today’s Scripture reading in its historical context, remember Jesus is ministering in the midst of the week He will be betrayed by Judas, face a mock trial, and be crucified.

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the introductory verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders (“the chief priests and the scribes…with the elders”), came and confronted Him in the Temple (20:1). They demanded by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2; Matthew 21:27-27; Mark 11:27-33).

Jesus, evidencing divine wisdom and discernment into the heart of man answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”  (20:3b-4). Fearing the people, the leaders refused to answer (20:5-7). Then, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (20:8).

Parable of the Wicked Tenants (20:9-19)

Jesus then turned from the hypocrites who masqueraded as devout religious men, and taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19; Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12).

The parable told the story of tenants [religious leaders] who labored in their master’s [God the Father’s] vineyard [Israel] while he was away. When the master sent his trusted servants [prophets] to collect the profits he was due from the vineyard, those who labored there refused. Those wicked men beat the servants, and sent them away. Finally, the master sent his own son and heir [picture of Jesus Christ] (20:13), and reasoned the tenants would surely pay his son respect and his due (20:13). The laborers [chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes], however, rose up and slew their master’s son (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of the parable was that those who rejected the Son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18). The application was so obvious, the chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus, and thus renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

A Question Concerning the Resurrection (20:27-38)

Over the years, I have had some ask me if the husband and wife relationship is bound in heaven. This is especially a concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.  While I am convinced the saints of God will know one another in heaven, I am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven. We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage (20:35).

Jesus, having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), turned to His audience, and warned His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation”  (20:46-47).

Closing thoughts – The proud and pious often are the same in the world, and their presence is found as much in the church as it is in the realm of education and politics. As it was in Christ’s day, so it is today—there are many who burden others with a demand to be favored, often while they ravage the poor and vulnerable.

Remember: Reject Christ, and you will surely suffer His judgment one day. He who knows the hearts of men, will see past the religious veneer and every man will receive his due according to his works (Matthew 16:27).

* 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.

Bitterness: A Cancer that Destroys Everything (Mark 11)

Scripture reading – Mark 11

We are reminded the Gospel of Mark is one of the three Synoptic Gospels (the others being the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), and today’s Scripture reading is a parallel to our study of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-16). His entrance into the city set in motion the final days that concluded with His appointment with the Cross.

Having already considered His grand coronation as the King of Israel, I forego another detailed study of Jesus’ approach to the city, and the great crowd that greeted Him. Remember though, He was greeted as “He that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (11:9-10). Yet, in a few days many of those same voices would scorn Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

Mark 11 also recorded the miracle when Christ cursed the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves, and it withered and died (11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-22). Both Mark and Matthew noted Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Temple.

Faith and Forgiveness (11:22-26)

Two topics, “Faith” and “Forgiveness,” are the subject of Mark 11:22-26, and the LORD’s instructions for both are beautiful in their simplicity and convicting in their application (11:22-26). Christ’s challenge on faith and prayer was followed by the admonishment: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (11:25-26).

One of the most besetting sins in the 21st century church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner, motivated by love for God and love for others. Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls, and like cancer in the body, it sometimes spreads until “many be defiled” spiritually, and infected emotionally and physically (Hebrews 12:15).

Closing thoughtsIf you harbor an unforgiving spirit, be sure it will not only rob you of joy, but also hinder your prayers.

Have you been infected by an angry, unforgiving, bitter spirit? Are you are harboring bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights during your youth?  Perhaps you are a parent, and find yourself struggling with bitterness because a child has disgraced you and the family by foolish, sinful actions.  Has your marriage become embittered, because of harsh words and broken vows?

Believers are commanded to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).  When you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no justification for an unwillingness to forgive others!

Warning: An unwillingness to forgive is indicative of a soul that has never entered into God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

* 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 Dilemma of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (Matthew 19; Mark 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 19; Mark 10

Today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 19 and Mark 10, begin with a question that has troubled many down through the centuries, and continues to be misunderstood in our day: “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2)

The issue of divorce was a matter of debate in Jesus’ day, and the Pharisees approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and diminish His following. In an effort to place Jesus at odds with the Law, and their own liberal interpretation of the Law concerning divorce, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every [any] cause?” (19:3)

There were two schools of thought on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

One school, known as Hillel, held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and was adhered to by the Pharisees and the majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel, a judge in Israel, taught a man could divorce his wife for any reason. Yet, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. A second school, named Shammai after its founder, represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Shammai argued divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce became a widespread practice among the Jewish people, and some Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces (and often for the most absurd reasons). In contrast, those same Pharisees refused to allow a wife to divorce her husband for any cause!

Wisely, rather than take the side of the adherents of Hillel or Shammai, Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question on marriage and divorce, and directed them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce is a Violation of Biblical Principles and Precepts

Divorce violates the Creator’s plan and design for man and woman. Citing the writings of Moses, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24)

Divorce is a violation of God’s design for marriage which is “one flesh” (19:5). A man is commanded to leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (19:5-6a). A man’s bond with his wife is to overshadow all human relationships. Though man and woman come together as two distinct lives, husband and wife are to be “one flesh,” physically, emotionally, and spiritually (19:6).

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage. God decreed what He “hath joined together, let not man put asunder”(19:6b). It was God’s design, and His command, that what He had “joined (or yoked) together,” no man, court, or judge had the power or authority to “put asunder” (meaning to separate).

The Pharisees disregarded Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce. They asked: “Why did Moses then command [charge; order] to give a writing [certificate; bill; paper] of divorcement, and to put her away [dismiss; divorce]?” (19:7) Those hypocritical religious leaders were not interested in God’s standard, design, or plan for marriage. They were looking to justify their sin, and disallow the sanctity of marriage. They suggested Moses as a defense for their distorted interpretation of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus answered their question, rebuking, and exposing their wickedness as a violation of God’s will and design for marriage (19:8). Leaving no room for ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly: “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (19:9)

Closing thoughts – Divorce was never God’s plan, and the only grounds for divorce is “fornication,” meaning sexual conduct with anyone who is not one’s spouse (19:9a). Jesus’ conclusion came as a shock to His disciples, who suggested, “it is not good to marry” (19:10).

Remembering God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, our Creator observed Adam, and said, “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God, therefore, made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). Adam and Eve were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

Lesson: Divorce is a rejection of God’s plan and design for mankind, and He is the witness of all covenant vows of marriage (Malachi 2:14b).

* 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 Prodigal Son, and the Question of Divorce (Luke 15; Luke 16)

Scripture reading – Luke 15; Luke 16

Today’s devotional reading continues our study of the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 15 and 16 contain some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD. The Lost Sheep (15:4-10), The Prodigal Son (15:11-32), The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love. Because the latter used a man’s proper name (Lazarus), some suggest it was in fact an actual story, and should not fall into the category of an allegory (parable).

Luke 15

The parable of The Prodigal Son (15:11-32) is among the most beloved of all the parables. Notice there are three main characters in the tale: the loving father, the prodigal who was the younger son, and the eldest son who was proud and unforgiving. Because the tale is so well-known, I will limit my observations to a few remarks.

The first two verses reveal the setting and circumstances that prompted the story: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (15:1-2).

As you read the drama between the father, and his sons, notice the parallel between the actors in the parable and those mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. The “publicans and sinners” were like the rebellious younger son, who “wasted his substance with riotous living…and began to be in want,” yet, were received by Christ (15:14). The Pharisees and scribes, like the elder brother who refused to accept his younger brother, resented and criticized Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners (15:2, 28-30). Of course, the father who received his younger son, forgave and restored him as a son, was a picture of Christ’s love for sinners (15:2b, 20-24).

Luke 16

This chapter opens with The Parable of the Unjust Steward (16:1-12), and concludes with the dramatic story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). In the midst of the chapter are five verses that seem to interrupt the flow of the narratives, until we remember they embodied Christ’s response to his adversaries (16:14). The Pharisees, often used the occasion of Jesus teaching the people as an opportunity to criticize and confront Him. Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) began to “deride” Jesus, openly mocking Him before the people.

Rather than retreat, Jesus answered the derision of the Pharisees and used the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  He accused those religious leaders of aspiring for men’s venerations, and unmasked the hypocrisy He knew was in their hearts (16:15).

The Pharisees, who considered themselves experts in the law of God, listened as Jesus said, “16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (16:16-17).

John the Baptist was the bridge from the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, to Christ, and His preaching the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17). Then, Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and adultery— “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (16:18).

The Pharisees had failed to uphold the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33). Those hypocrites had mislead the people, and misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

Closing thoughts – I close today’s devotional with a few parting thoughts.  The first, God’s will and His design of marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. Furthermore, the Scriptures are abundantly clear–God hates divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away,” Malachi 2:16).  On a personal, and closing note: I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, and I cite three proof scriptures for my authority in the matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 – “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 – “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

So much more might be said on the subject of marriage and divorce, but I will address that topic at another time.

* 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.

Jesus Knows the Hearts of Men (Luke 5, John 2)

Scripture reading – Luke 5, John 2

We continue our chronological study of the Gospels, and return to Luke’s account of Jesus calling His first disciples. You will notice how each of the Gospel writers add dimensions and color to the same events. Never in error, but each presenting the LORD’s ministry from his perspective as inspired and guided by the Holy Ghost (2 Timothy 3:16).

Luke 5

As Jesus walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (referred to here by its Roman name, “Gennesaret,” 5:1), a great crowd followed Him and desired He would teach “the word of God” (5:1). Providentially, Jesus came upon two empty ships, for Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, James and his brother John “were gone out of them, and were washing their nets” (5:2). Jesus entered Simon Peter’s ship, “sat down, and taught the people out of the ship” (5:3b). When He finished teaching, He asked Peter to launch out and drop his nets into the deeper waters (5:3-4).

Peter resisted, and stated they had fished all night and had “taken nothing (5:5). Yet, he complied to Jesus’ request, and was rewarded with so many fish his net began to brake (5:6). Peter called his “partners,” James and John, who launched out to help, and both ships were so full “they began to sink” (5:7). Acknowledging he had witnessed a miracle, Peter fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (5:8). “And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (5:10). We are reminded the call to be a follower of Christ should never be half-hearted. Simon Peter, Andrew (though not named), James and John had this testimony: “for when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (5:11).

Several miracles follow that confirmed Jesus was no mere prophet or teacher, for he healed “a man full of leprosy” (5:12-16), and raised up a paralytic that was confined to his bed (5:17-26). There was also the miracle conversion of Levi, a reviled publican, who left his lucrative post as a tax collector, and became Jesus’ disciple when he heard, “Follow me” (5:27-28). Like the fishermen, “he left all, rose up, and followed [Jesus]” (5:28). Levi’s life, whom we know as Matthew and the author of the Gospel of Matthew, was so transformed, he hosted a banquet at his house, and invited his peers, his fellow publicans, to meet Jesus (5:29).

Closing thoughts – The proud, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees were provoked that Jesus would “eat and drink with publicans and sinners” (5:30). He responded to their objections with three illustrations (5:31-39) that were summed up in this: You cannot apply patches of righteousness to an unrighteous person.  The unrighteous must become [new] righteous. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

John 2 – The First Miracle

The first verse of John 2 begins with a statement that connects us with events recorded in the preceding chapter. We read, “and the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there” (John 2:1). I believe it was the “third day” since Nathanael expressed his faith in Christ, saying, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (1:49).

Jesus arrived in Cana of Galilee and joined His mother, Mary. Together, they attended a wedding celebration (2:1), and one to which Jesus and His disciples were invited (2:2). The wedding feast would serve as the setting for Jesus’ first public miracle. There, He turned water into wine (2:1-11), and in doing so “manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (2:11). With that miracle, the faith of the disciples grew from Philip’s confession when he said Jesus was “the son of Joseph” (1:45), to those men believing He was the Messiah (2:11).

Jesus then went up to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed (2:13-23). As He entered the Temple, He was sickened at the sight of the corruption He found there. The Temple had become commercialized, men exploited (2:14) those who came to worship and give offerings.

With righteous indignation, Jesus fashioned a “scourge of small cords” (2:15a), and “drove them all out of the Temple, and the sheep ,and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables” (2:15b). The commotion was so great, that Temple officials demanded of Jesus, “What sign [i.e., sign of authority] shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (2:18) In other words, what right do you have to take upon yourself the purging of the Temple?

Jesus answered with a sign, but not one they understood until His death, burial, and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). The Jews were incredulous that Jesus would claim he had the power to raise up the Temple in three days, citing the edifice had taken 46 years to build (2:20).

John interjected his own explanation, and confessed neither he or the disciples realized Jesus was speaking of His bodily resurrection, “the Temple of His body” (2:21-22).

Jesus began to perform miracles in Jerusalem and there were “many who believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did” (2:23). He, however, “did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (2:24-25).

Closing thoughts – There were many who believed Jesus, for they observed His miracles; however, He knew their hearts, and He did not believe in them (2:24-25). The prophet Jeremiah professed, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The LORD declared to Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10). The LORD admonished the prophet Samuel, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Believer, God knows your heart better than you know yourself!

* 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.

Spiritual Scandal: Unequally Yoked (Ezra 10)

Scripture reading – Ezra 10; Nehemiah 1

* We conclude our study of the Book of Ezra with today’s Scripture reading. This is the first of two devotionals. The second will be an introduction to the Book of Nehemiah.

Soon after he arrived in Jerusalem (Ezra 8), the leaders of the people came to Ezra with devastating news. Ezra was told, “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations…2For they have taken of their [the heathen nations]daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed [the Jews] have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass” (9:1-2).

Overwhelmed with grief, Ezra understood the sins of the people had put the nation in danger of God’s judgment. Rending his robe, and plucking out his hair and beard, Ezra “sat down astonied” (9:3), as the people “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” gathered around him (9:4). “At the evening sacrifice” (9:5), Ezra began to pray to God and confessed the sins that had polluted the land (9:5-11).

Ezra then charged the people to obey the law of God (Deuteronomy 7:1-3), and separate from the heathen, and “give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever” (9:12).

Ezra 10 – A Spiritual Crisis: Unequally Yoked Marriages

Ezra’s prayer before the Temple, and his confession of the sins of the nation, so moved the people that they “wept very sore” (10:1). One of the men, “Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam” (whose family was guilty of marrying unbelieving wives, 10:26), answered Ezra and confessed, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing” (10:2).

What hope could there be for a nation that had not only sinned against the LORD, but compromised their bloodline by intermarrying with the heathen nations? There was only one path forward, and it was to repent and turn from their sins to God. The great wickedness of Israel required a radical separation that would inevitably divide families, and sever relationships (10:3).

The Severity of the Solution Suggested the Seriousness of the Sin. (10:1-8)

Such wickedness could not be treated lightly, and Shechaniah proposed a covenant be established between the nation and God, saying, “put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law” (10:3).

Tragic, you say? Yes, but when believers follow a path of sin, they sacrifice more than their fellowship with the LORD, they also damage the perception the heathen have of God. Continuing to speak on behalf of the people, Shechaniah challenged Ezra and assured him, “this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it” (10:4).

Ezra then made a proclamation, and gave the nation three days to assemble in Jerusalem (10:7-8). Those who failed to come before the congregation were warned they would forfeit not only their lands and possessions, but also their worship and fellowship with the congregation (10:8).

Public Confrontation (10:9-10)

Two of the principal tribes, Judah and Benjamin, assembled in Jerusalem “within three days… and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain” (10:9). Speaking honestly and sparing no words, Ezra confronted the people, “and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel” (10:10).

Though heart-rending, there was only one solution, so Ezra commanded, “make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives” (10:11).

Public Confession and Personal Separation (10:12-15)

The congregation assented to Ezra’s challenge, and answered “with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do” (10:12). Yet, because of the rain, and the great number who had taken wives of the heathen, it was suggested that a committee of leaders be formed and tasked with the responsibility of seeking out those who had taken wives of the heathen (10:13-15).

Personal Separation (10:16-44)

On the date appointed, the names of the guilty were presented to Ezra, who sat down and began to “examine the matter” (10:16). Named among those culpable were “the sons of the priests,” even the sons of Jeshua, the high priest (10:18-22), who “put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass” (10:19). Ten Levites had taken heathen wives, along with one Temple singer, and three gatekeepers of the Temple (10:23-24). The list of the guilty also included 84 men of the congregation (10:25-43), all who “had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children” (10:44).

Closing thoughts – Believer, it is the will of God that His people not be yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Should you find yourself unequally yoked with an unbeliever, it is God’s will that you “come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

It was God’s will for Israel to separate from their heathen wives; however, the same does not apply to a believer married to an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:12-14). God’s people should not partner with nor marry unbelievers; however, should a believer be married to an unbeliever, they are to treat the bond of marriage as sacred to the end their spouse might receive Christ as their Savior (1 Corinthians 7:12-14).

Marriage is more than a physical union, it is also a spiritual institution sanctified and established by God (Ephesians 5:25, 28-33; 1 Peter 3:7).

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.

Divine Providence: The Invisible Hand of An All-Loving God (Esther 1; Esther 2)

Scripture reading – Esther 1; Esther 2

The Book of Esther is one of only two books in the Bible that never mentions God by name (the other is the Song of Solomon). That fact, however, cannot dismiss the indisputable evidences of divine providence seen throughout the pages of this book. Chronologically, the historical events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah.

What is divine providence?

Simply defined, providence means “to foresee” or “to see before.”  In his book, “The Hand of God in History,” Hollis Read, a 19th century historian writes, “History, when rightly written, is but a record of providence; and he who would read history rightly, must read it with his eye constantly fixed on the hand of God.”

Many great minds have attempted to define providence. T. Dewitt Talmage, a 19th century clergyman observed: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer said of divine providence, “[God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, stated, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

I add to the chorus of others who have defined Divine Providence my own definition:

Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of His creation, and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose which is His glory and my good (Romans 8:28-29). The providence of God is practical, personal, and cannot be divorced from His divine purpose.” 

The apostle Paul suggested the same, writing: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Book of Esther is a testimony of divine providence in the life of Esther, a young Jewish maiden, and the preservation of the Jews, God’s chosen people. The LORD sovereignly guided the affairs of a secular empire to fulfill His divine purpose and end. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Esther 1 and Esther 2.

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

Ahasuerus (also known in history as King Xerxes I) was king of Persia (the region of modern Iran), and reigned from 486 BC to 465 BC. He was the fourth of five kings to rule the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. He was the grandson of Cyrus the Great, and the son of King Darius I. In his day, Ahasuerus was ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (1:1). Divided into 127 provinces, Persia embraced all of today’s Middle East (1:4). Yet, the Persian empire was already past its zenith. According to Greek historian Herodotus, the events recorded in Esther 1 would have occurred before Ahasuerus attacked Greece and suffered the loss of the Persian navy.

Three lavish feasts were recorded in Esther 1. The first lasted 180 days (1:3-4), and the second, though lasting only seven days, was greater than the first and was a scene of sin and drunken debauchery (1:5-8). The third feast, apparently coinciding with the king’s drunken, weeklong banquet, was hosted by Queen Vashti for the women of the city (1:9).

Drunk with wine, and apparently at a loss of his senses, King Ahasuerus commanded his beautiful queen to parade herself before his guests (1:10-11). Queen Vashti, however, refused to obey the king’s command (1:12), and her refusal created a royal crisis (1:13-18) for the drunken king. Too proud to humble himself and accept his queen was the wiser, Ahasuerus issued a decree and forever banished Vashti from her throne and his palace (1:19-22).

Esther 2

A Defeated King and A Virgin Who Became Queen (Esther 2:1-7)

Having suffered his first defeat and the loss of his navy, Ahasuerus returned to his throne and “remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her” (2:1). The king’s rash banishment of Queen Vashti (1:19-22), set in motion a series of events that propelled a Jewish maiden named Hadassah (her Babylonian name was Esther, 2:7), from the anonymity of a maiden, to the throne of Persia.

Some 50,000 people of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had returned to Israel (Ezra 1); however, many Jews had chosen to remain in Babylon, and among them was a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7). Mordecai, had taken Hadassah into his household after the deaths of her parents and brought her up as his daughter (2:7). Though tragic, the premature deaths of Esther’s parents, and her adoption by Mordecai, were part of God’s sovereign, providential plan for her life.

A Royal Marriage (2:8-17)

Esther’s life is a lasting testimony of God’s grace, and her beauty and humble demeanor gained her favor with “Hegai, keeper of” the king’s harem (2:8). “Out of the king’s house: [Hegai] preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women” (2:9). As discreet as she was beautiful, Esther obeyed Mordecai and did not reveal to any she was Jewish (2:10, 20).

Every maiden completed her season of purification, and was summoned by the king to his chamber (2:14), but the king found no delight in any of the women (2:15). Esther, who had “obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her” (2:15), was called before Ahasuerus. “The king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti” (2:17).

Closing thoughts (2:18-23) – In God’s providence, Mordecai learned of a plot to assassinate the king. Giving the names of the insurgents to Esther, she endeared Mordecai to the king (2:22), and his loyalty was recorded “in the book of the chronicles before the king” (2:23).

Think about it: Because she had experienced the deaths of her father and mother, Esther’s life might have been defined by bitterness. Instead, she chose to accept the LORD’s will with grace and submission, and was honored to serve the LORD as queen of Persia.

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.

“Who is Teaching Johnny?” (The Four Be’s of Parenting) – this Sunday at Hillsdale.

You are invited to join me as I continue a brief, “politically incorrect” family-life series titled, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” this Sunday, May 15, 10:30am.

The morning worship service will be broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org (Tampa, FL) and www.DailyTestify.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Harden Not Your Heart (Jeremiah 2; Jeremiah 3)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 2; Jeremiah 3

Jeremiah 2 and 3 are not only historically rich in detail, but spiritually relevant for our day. Unfortunately, the length of our text dictates today’s focus center on Jeremiah 2. As you will see, the prophet employed a lot of symbolism to teach spiritual truths the LORD had instructed him to deliver to Judah.

The LORD Loved Israel as a Groom Loves His Bride (Jeremiah 2:1-3)

You will notice the analogy of God’s people behaving like an adulterer is found in both Jeremiah 2 and 3. Jeremiah was commanded to go to the city of Jerusalem, and remind the people how the LORD loved Israel as a young groom loves his bride (2:1-3).

Israel had been a bride to the LORD in the wilderness, and He had loved and cherished the people (2:2). Choosing Israel, the LORD set the nation apart from the heathen for Himself (2:3). He was the protector of His people. Yet, Israel had rejected the LORD, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and broke their covenant with Him.

Ten Symbols of Israel Spiritual Adultery (Jeremiah 2:4-37)

1) Disloyal – Israel had become an adulterer (2:4-12)

Like an adulterer forsakes the love of her husband, Israel had forsaken the LORD (2:4-5). The LORD questioned, “What iniquity have your fathers found in me?” (2:5a) In other words, What have I done that you would break your covenant with me?

Jeremiah reminded the people how the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. When they thirsted in the desert, He provided them water. He gave them “a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof” as their inheritance (2:7a). Yet, by their sins and idolatry, the people defiled the land God had given them for an inheritance (2:7). Like a loving, longsuffering husband, the LORD longed for wayward Israel to return to Him (2:9-12).

2) DepartedBroken Cisterns: Israel had departed. (2:13)

Cisterns are underground caves, dug out of stone to retain water. By plastering the inside of a cistern, the people were able to store drinkable water. Using the imagery of a cistern, the LORD declared Israel had “forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (2:13). In other words, Israel had rejected the LORD, broken covenant with Him, the sustainer of life, and “the fountain of living waters” (2:13a). The people had embraced error, and fashioned themselves idols. In effect, they contented themselves with cisterns that could “hold no water” (2:13b), nor satisfy a spiritual thirst. (Note – John 4:13-14where Jesus introduced Himself as the “well of water springing up into everlasting life,” John 4:14).

3) Disregarded – The LORD had declared, “Israel is my son” (Exodus 4:22), but the people had rejected Him and become slaves (2:14-19).

Seven Portraits of a Backslider (2:20-37)

4) Determined – Like a stubborn ox refuses a yoke, Israel refused to bear their covenant with the LORD (2:20).

5) Degenerate – Israel had become like a wild vine (2:21).

6) Defiled – Israel had committed iniquity, and no sacrifices could purge her sins (2:22).

7) Despairing – Israel was like wild animals, lost and wandering (2:23-25).

8) Disgraced – Israel’s idolatry was her humiliation, and shame; like the shame and humiliation a thief suffers when discovered (2:26-27).

9) Disobedient – Like rebellious children (2:30), the people continued in their disobedience, and though chastised, they refused to repent (2:30-35).

10) Despised – Judah would become captives, prisoners of war, for the LORD would reject them. They would bear the shame and sorrow they had witnessed when Israel was led away captive (2:36-37).

Closing thoughts – I conclude with three observations.

1) Any decisions you make apart from God’s leading, will eventually lead to bondage. Israel and Judah had broken covenant with the LORD, and took paths that left them enslaved to sin, and eventually slaves of Babylon.

2) Sins may have generational consequences (Exodus 20:5). The influence of one’s sinful choices may be carried forward for generations.

3) Hardening one’s heart, and rejecting the LORD’s forgiveness, can lead one to despair, “There is no hope” (2:25).

Hebrews 3:1515While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.