Category Archives: Ministry

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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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

The Dilemma of a Backslidden Missionary (Jonah 2)

Scripture reading – Jonah 2

Returning to our study of the Book of Jonah, we find the prophet where his disobedience had taken him… facing death “in the belly of the fish” (1:17). Jonah had disobeyed the LORD because he feared He would spare Nineveh from judgment if the people repented of their sins (Jonah 4:1-2). Refusing to obey the LORD, he set sail on a ship going in the opposite direction of God’s will. Pursuing His disobedient prophet across the sea, the LORD sent a storm against Jonah’s ship, and when the sailors understood his presence was the cause of the storm, they cast him overboard, saving their lives and the ship (1:11-12). The LORD saved His unfaithful servant from drowning, by sending a great fish to swallow Jonah when he was cast into the deep (1:17).

Jonah’s Appeal (2:1-2)

Now, the heathen sailors had “cried every man unto his god” (1:5), but to no avail. Jonah, however, had not prayed to God until he found himself in the bowels of the great fish (2:1). We read, “Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God” (2:1), not out of sorrow for his sin, but because of his “affliction” (literally, his trouble, adversity, and sorrow, 2:2a). Without the LORD’S help, the prophet knew he was a dead man, for his circumstances were like “the belly of hell,” and the abode of the dead (2:2b). What a blessed hope we are given when we read when Jonah cried for help, the LORD heard his prayer (2:2c).

Jonah’s Agony (2:3-6a)

Humbled, and broken, Jonah acknowledged the LORD had chastened him for his disobedience, and all he had was because of his sin (2:3). He did not blame the sailors who cast him overboard, but accepted that God chastens His children like an earthly father chastens a disobedient child (2:3; Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:6). Jonah was troubled, for he realized his disobedience had resulted in his being “cast out of [the Lord’s] sight” (2:4a). He was a prisoner in a watery dungeon, and the belly of the fish had become his grave (2:5-6a).

Take a moment and consider what God revealed to Jonah concerning the ocean and its depths. We read, “I went down [descended] to the bottoms [base] of the mountains [mountain ranges underwater]” (2:6a). Thousands of years before the submarines of our time, God revealed to Jonah there were mountain ranges in the sea!

Jonah’s Affirmation (2:6b-10)

Reflecting on the LORD, and His faithfulness, Jonah declared, “they that observe [keep; guard; watch] lying [deceit]vanities [meaningless; purposeless] forsake [relinquish; refuse] their own mercy [lovingkindness; grace]” (2:8).  Jonah began his journey supposing he might flee from the LORD, but in the belly of the great fish he acknowledged he had forsaken God’s mercy and favor. He acknowledged that death awaits all who reject the LORD’S mercies.

Closing thoughts – From the belly of the great fish, the LORD heard Jonah’s promise to offer sacrifices as an expression of his gratitude, to give God His due, and faith that “salvation is of the LORD” (2:9). Then, “the Lordspake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

If you are running from the LORD, and your sins have taken you far from Him, remember He is only one prayer away. God hears and answers the prayer of those who confess their sin, repent, and turn to him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide from God (2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1

2 Chronicles 25 is a parallel record of events we considered in a prior study of 2 Kings 14:1-2. For that reason, today’s devotional will focus exclusively on the Book of Jonah.

Have you ever wanted to run away? Ever wanted to flee from pressures, people, pain and problems? I am certain there are many who have entertained the notion to run and hide. The book of Jonah will remind you that our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His people. He is omniscient, and knows your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles (Psalm 139:1). He knows your every thought (Psalm 139:2-3), and every word (Psalm 139:4). He is omnipresent, and His presence is inescapable (Psalm 139:7-10). The Scriptures impart a comforting and inescapable reality: “You can run, but you cannot hide from God.”

Jonah 1

Who was Jonah? (1:1-2)

Jonah was a preacher and prophet of the LORD to northern Israel, and served during the reign of the second Jeroboam (i.e., Jeroboam ben Joash). Passionate and patriotic, his life was dedicated to ministering in Israel, until the LORD interrupted his ministry commanding him to, Arise, go to Nineveh” (1:2).

Nineveh is described in the Scriptures as a “great city,” and one known for its wickedness (1:2). Located on the Tigris River in what is today, modern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, with a population of 120,000 (4:11). In ancient times, the Assyrians were known as a cruel, heartless people who buried their enemies alive, and tortured others by skinning them alive until they died. They were also a great enemy of Israel, and eventually conquered that nation, taking the people captive.

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (1:3-4)

The stench of Nineveh’s wickedness had become so grave, that the LORD had determined He would destroy the city if the people did not repent. Revealing His compassion for sinners, and His longsuffering, the LORD determined to give that great city an opportunity to repent of its sins.Jonah, however, refused to go to Nineveh to call on the people to repent (1:3). Some might argue the prophet feared the notorious cruelty of the nation. Others might suggest he did not want to aid Israel’s enemy, and feared his own people might reject him. Jonah 4:1-2, however, reveals Jonah did not want to prophesy against Nineveh for he knew the LORD was gracious, and feared He would spare the people if they repented of their sins. Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah resigned his calling, took a boat going to Tarshish (the opposite direction of Nineveh), and attempted the impossible…to escape “the presence of the LORD” (1:3).

Jonah’s Spiritual Insensitivity (1:4-6)

We read in verse 5 how Jonah “was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep” (1:5). What a poignant insight into the character of a disobedient servant of God! While the heathen battled the storm, desperate to save their lives, the prophet slept!

The ship’s captain assailed that calloused prophet, and asked in disbelief, What meanest thou, O sleeper?” (1:6) How could he be sleeping when so many lives could be lost? Here we see the spiritual profile of a backslidden believer: Emotionally detached, and distant from God and others.

The Sailor’s Interrogation (1:7-11)

The sailors cast lots, and the LORD sovereignly directed the lot to fall on Jonah (1:7). With the storm raging, the sailors demanded to know the cause of Jonah’s guilt that God had sent such a great storm that threatened all their lives. What evil? “What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (1:8)

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (1:9). He declared he had “fled from the presence of the Lord” and the storm had been sent by God to chasten him (1:10). Fearing for their lives, the sailors questioned Jonah, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” (1:11)

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (1:12-17)

Jonah instructed the sailors saying, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (1:12).

Given the desperate plight of the ship, you would think the calloused sailors would have cast the disobedient prophet overboard immediately; however, they continued to row hard hoping to bring the ship to land (1:13). Realizing all effort was for naught, the sailors cast Jonah into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging” (1:15). God mercifully spared the lives of the sailors, and providentially “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17).

Closing thoughts – Several lessons come to mind in our study of Jonah 1. We have seen God’s love for sinners and His longsuffering. In spite of Nineveh’s wickedness, the LORD sent His prophet to call the people of that city to repent (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16). We will also observe that the LORD is a God of second chances. He lovingly pursued Jonah across the sea, and saved him from drowning. Lastly, consider how a disobedient believer can peril the lives of the unsaved, leaving me to ask:

Are you periling lost souls by your disobedience?

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

How Will You Be Remembered? (2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12

If today’s Scripture reading sounds familiar, it is because we have reviewed a parallel record in our study of 2 Chronicles 22. Rather than submit an exhaustive study of the same, we will review the personalities and events found in 2 Kings 11 and 12.

2 Kings 11 – Four Historical Events

Athaliah’s Ascension to the Throne of Judah (11:1-3)

After Jehu, the newly crowned king of Israel, slew Ahaziah, the son of Athaliah, she ascended as the queen of Judah. She was the daughter of Israel’s wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel (2 Kings 8:18, 26), and the wife of Joram (also known as Jehoram) who had been king of Judah (2 Chronicles 21).

Receiving news of her son’s death, Athaliah moved quickly to consolidate her rule in Judah, and ordered the deaths of any who could potentially lay claim to the throne, including her own grandchildren. Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah escaped death when his aunt “Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram” (11:2), fled the palace and sought refuge for herself and the young prince in the Temple (11:3).

The Coronation of Joash, King of Judah (11:4-12)

Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah, and the heir to Judah’s throne, was concealed in the Temple for six years, and was under the tutelage and protection of Jehoiada the high priest (11:4). When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada established a covenant with key leaders of the priesthood and the military, and anointed the young prince as king of Judah.

The Assassination of Queen Athaliah (11:13-16)

Six years pass, and Athaliah, hearing the shouts, “God save the king!” rushed to the Temple. There she found her grandson, Joash, wearing the crown of the king, and standing at the pillar that was apparently reserved for the king (11:13-14). “Treason, Treason!” Athaliah shouted, and Jehoiada the high priest commanded she be removed from the Temple, and slain (11:15-16).

A Sacred Covenant (11:14-21)

With the wicked rule of Athaliah ended, “Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people…” (11:17). The temple of Baal and his images were destroyed, and the priest of Baal was killed (11:18). Jehoiada led Joash to the palace, and the young king “sat on the throne of the kings” of Judah, and the nation rejoiced, and Jerusalem enjoyed a season of quiet and peace (11:20).

Closing thoughts – Never underestimate the influence of leadership; whether it be the leaders of a nation, a state, a city, a church, or a school. The observation of Solomon in his proverb still holds true: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

2 Kings 12 – The Reign, and the Shame of Joash (i.e., Jehoash)

As it is with politics throughout history, Judah’s peace and prosperity was not perpetual. Joash (also spelled Jehoash), reigned forty years over Judah, and he honored the LORD, and “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (12:2). Notice the prior phrase, and how the young king remained under the tutelage of the high priest most of his reign in Jerusalem.

Jehoash Ordered the Restoration of the Temple (12:4-16).

Giving us some insight into the years before his reign, the Temple of the LORD had been neglected, and there was a great need for repairs (12:4-5). The king ordered money to be collected and repairs to begin (12:5). Yet, in the twenty-third year of his reign, “the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house” (12:6).

Jehoash challenged the priests, and questioned why they had failed to repair the Temple (12:7). The implication seemed that there had been some dishonesty and mishandling of monies given. The king commanded the priests to “receive no more money of the people” (12:7-8), except that which would be given to those who labored in repairing the Temple (12:9-15).

Hazael, King of Syria, Began to Make War (12:17-21)

Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy (2 Kings 8:10-12), the king of Syria marched through Israel, and laid siege to Jerusalem (12:17). Severely wounded in battle (2 Chronicles 24:25), rather than seek the LORD for deliverance, Jehoash paid a tribute and gave Hazael king of Syria, the treasures of the Temple and his own royal treasures (12:19).

While the king of Syria “went away from Jerusalem,” the king of Judah was weakened, and soon after, Jehoash was assassinated by his own servants (12:20). In his place, Amaziah his son became king (12:21).

Closing thoughtsWhat people remember about us is not how we begin our journey, but how we finish. Joash’s reign as king of Judah began gloriously as a boy; however, we close this chapter on his life, and remember him as a king who compromised with Syria, gave away the treasuries of the Temple, and was slain by his own servants (12:17-21).

Have you thought about how you will be remembered, not only by man, but most importantly by the LORD? All believers should aspire to Paul’s summary of his life and ministry when he wrote: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Dying Nation (2 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 10

Background of today’s Scripture reading: The LORD had commanded Jehu to annihilate the lineage of Ahab for his role in murdering the prophets of the LORD. Jehu, having been anointed king of Israel (9:1-3), had taken up his bow, and shot king Joram through the heart as he had fled in his chariot (9:23-24). With Joram dead, Jehu turned and went to the palace in Jezreel. Jezebel spied him from a window, and being a woman full of witchcraft and whoredoms, called to him with insolence. Jehu then ordered Jezebel cast out a window of a palace window falling to her death (9:32-33). As foretold, the dogs ate her flesh, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 21:23).

2 Kings 10

Jehu Secured Israel’s Throne (10:1-14)

To secure the throne of Israel, Jehu ordered the execution of all of Ahab’s lineage (10:1-7). We read, “Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab’s children” (10:1). Numbered among the seventy were no doubt grandsons of Ahab.

Making a pretense to encourage the crowning of Ahab’s heir (10:3-4), Jehu in fact had plotted to execute any who might lay claim to the throne of Israel. The leaders of Samaria realized the ruse, and refused to be a party to crowning of a king after Jehu had made himself king of Israel. Jehu then ordered the beheadings of Ahab’s lineage (10:6), and the men “took the king’s sons…and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel” (10:7). As a warning to any who might challenge his reign, Jehu ordered the heads of Ahab’s sons be stacked “in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning” (10:8). Jehu lied to the people (10:10), and suggested he had nothing to do with the beheadings, but asserted, “the LORD hath done that which he spake by His servant Elijah” (10:10). Jehu then continued his eradication of any who might have been loyal to Ahab’s household (10:11). He also ordered the deaths of 42 men who came seeking Ahaziah, and claimed kinship to the deceased king of Judah whom Jehu had slain (9:27; 10:12-14).

The Elimination of All Who Worshipped and Served Baal (10:18-27).

Ahab and Jezebel had introduced the worship of Baal, and would have had many devoted followers among them. Jehu, therefore, determined to kill all who worshipped and sacrificed to Baal. He deceived the followers of Baal, and proposed he would be more devoted to Baal than Ahab and Jezebel (10:18-19). With 80 armed men stationed outside the pagan temple, Jehu gathered the worshippers of Baal (10:20-23), and at the time appointed, ordered all slain, and the images of Baal destroyed (10:24-28).

Jehu’s Failure (10:28-30)

Removing the worship of Baal from Israel was a great thing in the eyes of the LORD. God acknowledged Jehu had obeyed his command and exterminated the household of Ahab. For his obedience, Jehu was promised his lineage would succeed him on the throne of Israel for four generations (10:30; his son Jehoahaz, grandson Joash, great grandson Jeroboam, and great-great grandson Zechariah would reign as kings in Israel). Jehu, however, had failed to purge the nation of the golden calves Jeroboam had set up in Bethel and Dan (10:29).

The Decline of Israel (10:31-36)

Though Jehu reigned as king for 28 years, his failure to “walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart” (10:31), marked the beginning of the end for that nation. Hazael king of Syria, began to invade the borders of Israel (10:32), and its lands and territories were diminished (10:33). Jehu died, and was buried in Samaria, and true to God’s promise, his son Jehoahaz “reigned in his stead” (10:35).

Closing thoughts – We have witnessed the rise and fall of kings in Israel. Jehu’s bloody reign, and his failure to purge Israel of all idolatry, marked the beginning of the final phase of that nation’s precipitous, and final decline. Without the LORD’S blessing and protection, Israel will fall to her enemies, and the northern ten tribes will be taken by Assyria.

Will the same not be true of nations in our day?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Political Corruption, and a Day of Judgment (2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9

We have observed the fierce faith and courage of the prophet Elisha in earlier devotionals, and in 2 Kings 8 we will observe his compassionate spirit.

2 Kings 8

Lands Restored to a Shunammite Mother and Son (8:1-6)

Knowing Israel would face years of famine, the prophet encouraged the mother, whose son he had raised from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35), to leave Israel and live “in the land of the Philistines seven years,” which she did (8:2). When the seven years past, she returned to Israel, only to find others had occupied her home and lands in her absence.

Providentially, her appeal to the king coincided with that ruler questioning “Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done” 8:4). As Gehazi told how Elisha had “restored a dead body to life,” the mother whose son had been raised from the dead, entered the king’s presence and appealed to him to restore her lands (8:5). The king asked if the story of her son’s resurrection was true, and she confirmed it was so. “So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now” (8:6).

Elisha Foretells the Ascension of Hazael to be King of Syria (8:7-15)

As the prophet of the LORD, Elisha’s prophetic ministry was not limited to Israel. Elisha journeyed to Damascus, and Benhadad, the king of Syria was sick, and feared he was near death (8:7). The king sent a servant named Hazael to inquire if he would recover from his disease (8:8). That servant came to Elisha, and the prophecy he received was that the king would die, and Hazael, his servant would be king (8:10). Having foretold Hazael’s future, Elisha began to weep, for the LORD had revealed how Israel would suffer under Hazael (8:11-12). Hazael was offended by the prophecy, nevertheless, Elisha assured him he would be king (8:13).

Hazael then returned to king Benhadad’s bedside, and he deceived the king and assured him he would recover from his illness (8:14). Yet, the next day, Hazael took matters into his hands, and smothered the king with a thick cloth which he had dipped in water. Benhadad was dead, and Hazael was king of Syria (8:15).

A Review of the Rise and Fall of Kings in Judah and Israel (8:16-29)

The events in 2 Kings 8:16-29, are a parallel of the same from an earlier study in 2 Chronicles 21-22. Now, Joram, king of Israel, was recovering from wounds he had suffered in battle with Syria (8:28). Ahaziah, who was king of Judah and the son of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, went down to Ramothgilead to visit the king. (8:28-29). (Jezebel, the wicked Queen mother, and wife of Ahab was still alive at this time.)

2 Kings 9

Jehu Anointed King (9:1-10)

While king Joram was away, Elisha, sent a messenger to anoint Jehu to become Israel’s next king (9:2-6). To avenge the deaths of his prophets, Jehu was charged with annihilating the lineage of Ahab, and insure there would be no heir of that wicked king’s family (9:7-10). True to the prophecy of Elijah, Joram was told, “the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her” (9:10).

Jehu’s Insurrection, and the Assassination of Joram and Ahaziah (9:13-27)

With the anointing of the LORD to be king in Israel, Jehu journeyed to Jezreel, determined to slay Joram and claim Israel’s throne (9:13-15). Jehu and his company of soldiers came within sight of Jezreel, and king Joram twice sent messengers to ask him if he had come in peace (9:17-20). Rather than return to the king, the messengers joined Jehu. Then, Joram and Ahazaih ordered their chariots “made ready,” and went out of the city to meet Jehu (9:21). When Joram asked Jehu, “Is it peace?” (meaning, have you come in peace), Jehu replied, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (9:22)

The king of Israel realized he had been betrayed, and warned Ahaziah to flee, as an arrow from Jehu’s bow pierced Joram’s heart (9:23-24). Remembering how Jezebel had murdered Naboth, and Ahab had claimed his vineyard, Jehu ordered Joram be buried in the field of Naboth (9:25-26). Jehu continued the pursuit of Ahaziah king of Judah, and he was also wounded, and died that day at Megiddo where he had fled (9:27).

The Inglorious Death of Jezebel (9:30-37)

Fulfilling the prophecies of Elijah and Elisha, Jehu came to Jezreel, and the wicked Jezebel adorned herself as a powerful queen (9:30). Looking out the window of the palace, she scorned Jehu, but he answered her asking others, “Who is on my side?… 33And he [Jehu] said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall” (9:33). Jehu’s horses and chariots then trampled Jezebel, and left her lifeless body at the city wall (9:33-34). When Jehu ordered Jezebel’s body be buried, he learned the prophecy of Elijah had been fulfilled, for the dogs had eaten her flesh (9:35-37).

Closing thoughts – We have followed the deaths of kings and queens, and the ascension of sons to be king. As it was then, so it is today. We see in our day the same political intrigue and corruption in nations of the world. Wicked men and women continue to aspire to wealth, power, and position and few give little thought to the day when “the dead, small and great, stand before God…[and will be] judged every man according to their works…and whosever [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

Are you ready for the judgment day?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Scourge of Famine and A Prophecy of Plenty (2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7

This is the second of two devotionals for today, with the first having focused on 2 Kings 6. This devotional continues the historical narrative that began in 2 Kings 6 with the Syrian invasion of Israel, and the siege of Samara, the capital city. Though there is a chapter break in our Bible, 2 Kings 7 continues the scene in Elisha’s house, where he was confronted not only by the messenger of the king of Israel (6:32), but also by the king himself, of whom Elisha said, “is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him” (6:32-33).

2 Kings 7

Elisha answered the scoffing messenger with the promise on the next day the LORD would provide so abundantly that flour and barley would be inexpensive and available to all Samaria (7:1). One elder of the city questioned Elisha, saying, “Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” (7:2a) Elisha answered the faithless man, and foretold he would see the LORD provide, but he would not live to partake of it (7:2).

Four Starving Lepers (7:3-11)

Leprosy was a terrible scourge in ancient times. Lepers truly understood what it was to “social distance,” and suffered the sorrow and loneliness of being societal outcasts.

Sitting outside the city gate of Samaria (for they would not have been permitted to enter), the lepers realized they would die of starvation, unless someone had mercy on their souls. Therefore, they determined to go to the Syrian encampment and hope they might be shown compassion. They reasoned, “let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (7:4).

Approaching the outer perimeter of the Syrian camp, the lepers found it had been abandoned in haste (7:5). The Scriptures reveal how the LORD had stirred the soldiers of Syria with the sounds of an approaching army and the noise of chariots (7:6a). The Syrians supposed the king of Israel had hired mercenaries (7:6b), and the army had left everything, including “their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life” (7:7).

Overwhelmed at their good fortune, the lepers entered a tent and gorged themselves with food, and then hoarded the silver, gold, and raiment, hiding it for themselves (7:8). They entered a second tent and began the same, until their consciences were pricked, and they remembered those who were starving in Samaria. It was not that they felt guilt for hoarding, but they feared some evil might befall them if they failed to tell others (7:9).

Four Lepers Brought Good Tidings (7:10-20)

The lepers departed, and came to the guard of the gate of Samaria, and told him the good fortune that had befallen Israel, and how the Syrians had abandoned the siege and left all their possessions for spoil (7:10-11). Israel’s king, however, feared the Syrians were lying in ambush, waiting to draw the people out of the city, and take possession of it (7:12).

A servant of the king suggested a small group be sent to scout the countryside, and locate the Syrian army (7:13-14). Agreeing to the proposal, the king sent “two chariot horses” (7:14), who found garments and vessels of the Syrians strewn along the way to the Jordan River (7:15). Returning to the city, the messengers assured the king the Syrians had fled Israel, and cast aside all their provisions in their flight (7:15b). Hearing the news, and realizing spoils of food, abundance of silver, and gold were left by the Syrians, the starving citizens of Samaria rushed out of the city, “and spoiled the tents of the Syrians” (7:16).

Closing thoughts – And so, it came to pass what Elisha had foretold. Flour and barley were sold in the gates of the city for the price he had stated. The man who scoffed that the LORD provide in abundance was trampled underfoot by the people (7:17). He had seen the provision of the LORD, but he did not eat of it as Elisha had prophesied (7:2, 20).

What a tragic ending to a glorious story of God’s care and provision for His people. The man had questioned the LORD’S prophet, but he lived to see all Elisha had prophesied come true. His lack of faith had offended God, and he died seeing the promise fulfilled, but not realizing it for himself.

Will you be numbered among those souls who refuse to trust the LORD, and reject Jesus Christ as Savior? Will you realize too late, your faithlessness has cost you your soul and eternity?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Healing of Naaman the Leper (2 Kings 5)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5

The healing, and conversion of Naaman, the “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1), is one of the most beloved stories of the Old Testament.

Who was Naaman? (5:1-7)

The opening verses of 2 Kings 5 introduce us to a man who served as one of the trusted servants of the king of Syria. He was described as “a great man with his master, and honourable” (5:1a). He was a great warrior, and a national hero of Syria (5:2). Yet, he was afflicted by leprosy, a frightening, infectious disease that was the dread of men in ancient times (5:1).

Providentially, in Naaman’s home was a young Hebrew girl that served his wife as a household slave (5:2). Though she was numbered among some taken as the spoils of war, her heart was tender toward her mistress and master. We are not told how, but the young servant had heard there was a prophet in Samaria, and she expressed to her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy” (5:3).

Receiving the words of the young girl, and her faith that the prophet of the LORD might heal him (5:4), the warrior went to the king of Syria who said, “Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment” (5:5).

With gifts in hand, Naaman traveled to Israel with an entourage, for he was the commander of the Syrian army. He came to the king of Israel with a letter from the king of Syria, “saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy” (5:6). Overcome with fear, for the demand that Naaman be healed of leprosy seemed an impossible request, and thus a provocation for conflict between Israel and Syria (5:7).

Elisha’s Intervention and Demand (5:8-13)

News of Naaman’s demand reached Elisha, and the prophet sent a messenger who asked, “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Naaman and his servants journeyed to the Elisha’s home, but the great warrior of Syria was not greeted by the prophet, but by a servant who delivered the message, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10).

Naaman was furious, not only by the slight he had suffered, but the demand that was humiliating to the proud warrior (5:11). He had supposed Elisha should have received him, and would have called on “the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place [where the leprosy was present], and restore his skin (5:11). The thought of washing his skin in the waters of the Jordan River was an offense, and he “turned and went away in a rage” (5:12). As he departed, a brave servant approached Naaman, and reasoned with him, saying, “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (5:13)

Naaman’s Humility, Obedience, and Faith (5:14-19)

The words of that servant quieted Naaman’s anger, and he did as Elisha’s servant had bid him (5:14). Coming out of the waters, his flesh was miraculously made whole as the youthful skin of a child. Naaman returned to Elisha and said to the prophet, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant” (5:15).

What a wonderful confession, and statement of faith! He believed the God of Israel was the One and True God! In gratitude, he urged Elisha to accept the gold, and silver, and garments he had brought as gifts. Elisha, however, refused the gifts, for he would not be named among those prophets who enrich themselves by accepting gifts for that which God alone should be praised (5:16).

Naaman, having acknowledged the God whom Elisha served was “God in all the earth,” made one request: That he might fulfill his duty to the king of Syria, and accompany him when he went to the temple of Rimmon (the Syrian equivalent of Baal, 5:18). Elisha gave his blessing, and Naaman departed (5:19).

The Sin and Covetous Spirit of Gehazi, Servant to Elisha (5:20-27)

The joy and triumph of Naaman’s healing, was soon overshadowed by Gehazi, a greedy, covetous man (5:20). Though the prophet had refused Naaman’s gifts, Gehazi decided to enrich himself, and lied to the Syrian to obtain his favor and gifts (5:21-23). Taking two bags of silver and garments from Naaman, Gehazi hid the gifts in the house (5:24). Elisha then questioned his servant, “Whence camest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither” (5:25).

Closing thoughts – This wonderful story of faith and healing serves as a reminder that the mercies and compassion of the God of heaven are available to all who come to Him in faith.  Tragically, the story ends with a reminder that God punishes sin.

Gehazi had enriched himself with possessions the prophet had refused. He had lied to Naaman and to Elisha, and the judgment for his sins was swift and severe. Elisha warned, Gehazi would bear Naaman’s leprosy, and the consequences would follow his household forever. Gehazi fled Elisha’s presence, and he became “a leper as white as snow” (5:27).

Leprosy became a lifelong reminder to Gehazi and his household that God hates covetousness, and lying lips. 

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith