Category Archives: Morality

Human Life is Sacred: Thou Shalt Not Kill! (Job 10)

Scripture reading – Job 10; (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

Note from the Author: This is a bonus devotional from today’s Scripture reading, Job 9-10. My earlier writing focused entirely on Job 9; however, I feel the central theme of Job 10 is too important for us not to take a moment to consider the sanctity (sacredness) of human life (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).

Job 10:1-6 – Job’s Petition

Job’s reply to Bildad continued in Job 10, and he confessed to God what many have felt when besieged with trials and beset by troubles: “My soul is weary of my life” (10:1a).

Job’s statement was not a threat of suicide, but an honest, transparent complaint that the sorrows and losses he had experienced had taken their toll on him physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Distressed in his soul, Job prayed, “Do not condemn me,” do not abandon me; show me why you have allowed such hardship and difficulties to fall upon me (10:2). Notice that Job’s appeal to His Creator was deeply personal, and he identified himself to the LORD as “the work of thine hands” (10:3b). He was not under any delusion that he merited God’s favor. In fact, the opposite was true. He acknowledged his “iniquity” and “sin” (10:6); however, he protested, “7Thou knowest that I am not wicked; And there is none that can deliver out of thine hand” (10:7).

Job 10:7-17 – Job’s Appeal to His Creator

The sanctity of human life is the central truth we find in these verses (10:7-17). Here is an inspiring passage that leaves no doubt that human life is consecrated from the moment of conception, and that God is intimately interested in each of us. From the unborn, to the very ancient among us, every human life is sacred, and conceived in the heart of God.

Notice Job’s description of God’s personal affection, and His attentiveness to everything about us:

Job 10:8–98Thine hands have made [shaped; formed] me and fashioned [created] me Together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. 9Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made [fashioned] me as the clay [an allusion to God creating Adam, Genesis 1:27; 2:7]; And wilt thou bring me into dust again? [implying death and decay]

God is not only the giver, and preserver of life; He is the gatekeeper for every trial and blessing that graces our lives.

Job 10:1212Thou hast granted [make; wrought; create] me life and favour [grace; loving-kindness], And thy visitation [lit. oversight] hath preserved [keep watch over] my spirit. 13And these things hast thou hid [treasured] in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.

David penned similar truths regarding the sacredness of human life, and acknowledged God as His Creator in Psalm 139:13-16.

Psalm 139:13–1613 For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; feelings]: thou hast covered [protect; defend] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].
14 “I will praise [give thanks; confess] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly; stand in awe or reverence] andwonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; distinguish; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deed]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly].
15 My substance [bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [might; body; frame; bones], yet being unperfect[embryo; unformed mass]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them [before one day of my life was past].”

God is your Creator, and He knows you personally, and intimately. He has followed your life from the moment you were conceived, and has kept you by His sovereign, providential care. In fact, He loves you so much that He has extended His grace to you, offering salvation and forgiveness of sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“In the Beginning God Created” (Genesis 1)

Scripture reading – Genesis 1

January 1, 2021 marks the start of a new journey, a new opportunity, and a new challenge as you are presented with an opportunity to subscribe to a two-year Scripture reading schedule that will take you through a chronological study of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation. Let the journey begin!

An Introduction to The First Book of Moses Called Genesis

The Bible is the most influential book in history, and Genesis is its foundation. Genesis explains the origin of all things, and is the basis of our understanding of the universe, the earth, its atmosphere, and life itself. For instance, Genesis 1:27 presents us with the complexity and uniqueness of man, who was created in the “image of God.”  The societal foundation of marriage and family are established in Genesis 2:24-25. Genesis 3 reveals the origin of sin and its consequences. The basis of language, culture, and the existence of the nations are all declared in Genesis. Genesis also unveils the commencement of God’s answer to man’s wickedness; a Son who would be born of Abraham’s lineage, through whom all nations and people would be blessed (Genesis 12), fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Warning: If you reject the Genesis account of creation you must reject the Bible!

The New Testament quotes from, or alludes to one hundred sixty-five passages in Genesis. In fact, there are more than one hundred direct quotes or references from Genesis 1-11 that are found the New Testament.

Genesis 1 – “In the Beginning God Created”

Creation declares the person and existence of the God of Creation (Romans 1:20-27), and what you believe concerning the existence, and the origin of life shapes your philosophy of life and worldview. Accepting or rejecting the Genesis account of Creation will influence the value you place on human life. If you believe, “God created man in His own image,” meaning His spiritual likeness (1:26-27), you must conclude that human life is sacred. Reject creation and you will come to the conclusion that the life of the unborn has little value.

Believe God is Creator, and the Genesis account of creation is true (Genesis 1), and you must accept that God has the sovereign authority to establish right and wrong, and define morality from immorality (1:29-31).

As you read the Genesis account of creation, you must come to a conclusion about the origin of life, and ask yourself, “Who can be trusted in the matter of the origin of life? Is evolution an unproven theory, or a scientific fact? Can you trust the Bible when it states simply, “In the beginning God created” (1:1)? Can the Bible and evolution co-exist?

The Biblical account of Creation offers no compromise with evolution, and evolution offers no compromise with the Biblical account of creation.

A literal interpretation of Genesis 1 must accept that God created the heaven and the earth in a literal six-day period (a day being 24 hours), and He rested on the seventh day (1:31-2:2). As Creator, God is Sovereign, and He is providentially involved in His creation, preserving and sustaining all the universe. “He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven” (Job 28:24). “His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (Job 34:21). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

Because God is our Creator, He has authority to oversee every facet of our lives, and to reward, or punish as He deems just in His providential will. The psalmist declared, “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Reject God as Creator, and inevitably, ungodliness will command the soul of not only an individual, but a nation (Romans 1:28-32).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

P.S. You are invited to join me on January 1, 2021, and begin a Two-Year Chronological Bible Reading Schedule that will take you from Genesis to Revelation. 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

I plan to continue writing, and publishing daily, devotional commentaries at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. It is a long journey, but it is well worth the effort, on both our parts.

“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 ages, 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 had approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), wanting to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and desiring to 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?”

There were two schools of thought (Hillel and Shammai) on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

The School of Hillel held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and it was adhered to by the Pharisees and a majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason; however, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. The School of Shammai represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Followers of Shammai argued that divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce had become a widespread practice among some Jewish people, and many Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces, often for the most absurd reasons. Of course, such oligarchy would never permit a wife to divorce her husband for any cause! Jesus answered the Pharisees question on divorce, directing them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce was, and is, a violation of several Biblical principles.

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 also 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, although two individuals, husband and wife are to be one, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage (19:6b). It was God’s plan, 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).

Disregarding Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce, the Pharisees 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 of 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 ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly:

Matthew 19:99And 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.

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 may come as a shock to some as it did to His disciples (19:10); but remember God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, for “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). They were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Rise and Fall of Lucifer (Ezekiel 28-30)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 28-30

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, today’s assignment is Ezekiel 28-30. Our devotional commentary is taken from Ezekiel 28.

Ezekiel’s Prophecies of God’s Coming Judgment of the Nations

Beginning with Ezekiel 25 and continuing through Ezekiel 32, we have the record of Ezekiel’s prophecies against those nations that had oppressed Israel and Judah.

Ezekiel 26-27 introduced us to the great city of Tyrus and the judgment that Ezekiel prophesied would befall its citizens. Located off the western coastline of Phoenicia, on the Mediterranean Sea, Tyrus was a beautiful and well-fortified city. It was a wealthy city and the commercial crossroads for trade in the ancient Middle East.

Ezekiel 28

The subject of God’s judgment against Tyrus continues with the focus on two powerful political figures: The prince of Tyrus (28:1-10) and the King of Tyrus (28:11-19).

Reflecting the pride of his city, the “prince of Tyrus” was a proud, foolish man who dared assert he was a god. The LORD condemned the prince of Tyrus and commanded Ezekiel to say, “Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas [referring to his throne in his island fortress]; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God” (28:2).

There was no hope for the “prince of Tyrus,” because he was too proud to see that he was no more than a mere mortal. He was proud: Proud of his power (28:2), his intellect (28:3), his wealth (28:4), and his self-sufficiency (28:5). It was his pride that moved the LORD to declare His judgment against the prince. The LORD warned that He would bring “strangers” against Tyrus (fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city) who would bloody their swords and defile the beauty of the city (28:7). Ezekiel prophesied the prince would be slain in the street and his body left unburied (28:8-10).

The Humiliation of the King of Tyrus (28:11-19)

The description of the King of Tyrus leaves no doubt that this king was not a man. Though titled “the king of Tyrus” (28:12), the description is of one who was created a perfect being (28:12), and an “anointed cherub” (28:12, 14). He was more than an evil king; he was the wicked one, the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, whose destiny is the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Ezekiel 28 gives us a fascinating revelation of this cherub and his great fall. Before Lucifer was given to pride and his heart lifted up against God, he was a model of perfection and “sealest up the sum” (28:12). He was “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” (28:12). He was in the Garden of Eden (28:13) and was attired in precious stones, like those worn on the breastplate of the high priest (28:13). He was musical (28:13). As the “anointed cherub,” he was stationed at the throne of heaven and walked in the presence of God (28:14). Indeed, he was perfect, until his heart was lifted up with pride (28:15).

God is holy and He will not abide sin in His sight! When pride, sin, and violence were discovered in Satan, the LORD cast him out of His presence declaring, “I will destroy thee…I will cast thee to the ground…[and] bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee” (28:16-18).

The history of man, and the rise and fall of nations, is a testimony of the devil’s presence and influence in the affairs of mankind. While it seems that evil triumphs, remember the LORD is the Alpha and Omega, and He has declared that the end of Satan will be terrifying, and he will “never…be any more” (28:19).

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“For Whom the LORD Loveth He Chasteneth” (Ezekiel 23-24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23-24

Our Scripture reading brings us to the final crisis that Ezekiel has long warned would come: The final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved capital city of Judah and all Israel. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Ezekiel 23.

Ezekiel 23 – A Tale of Two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah

The account of the final days before the fall of Jerusalem and the eradication of both Israel and Judah as nations, is vivid and graphic (23:1-2). In Ezekiel 23 we have the description of Israel and Judah symbolically represented as two sisters who had committed spiritual “whoredoms in Egypt…in their youth” (23:3).

Aholah, identified as the elder sister, was a symbolical name for the nation of Israel (identified in this passage as Samaria, the capital city of the ten northern tribes). Aholibah was the younger of the sisters and was a symbolical name for Judah, the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem (23:4).

Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) are portrayed as sisters who had rebelled, broken covenant with the LORD, and turned to other lovers (i.e. alliances with other nations). Aholah (Israel), awed by the strength and power of Assyria had made an alliance with that nation and turned from the LORD (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). Aholibah (Judah), Aholah’s sister, had sought alliance with Assyria  and also courted the favor of Chaldea (Babylon). King Hezekiah had foolishly displayed to Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassadors the wealth and treasuries of his palace and the Temple (23:11-21; Isaiah 39:1-8).

When Aholibah (Judah) realized the evil intent of Chaldea (Babylon), she appealed to Egypt for aid, but to no avail (23:21; 2 Kings 23:26-30, 31-24:2). Thus, the “lovers,” Assyria and Chaldea, had ravaged both Israel and Judah with their “chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people,” and stripped those nations bare of their wealth and people (23:22-29). God’s judgment against His people and the devastation of Israel and Judah would be an astonishment to the nations who would scorn and disparage them (23:32).

What sins had Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) committed against the LORD that would justify so great a judgment? (23:37-49)

The judgment of Israel and Judah was just because those nations had broken their covenant with God and committed spiritual adultery (23:37). The people had defiled the Temple with idols, forsaken their Sabbaths (23:38), and committed the ultimate act of wickedness and depravity: They had sacrificed their children to Moloch, and on the same day entered the Temple to worship (23:39; note Ezekiel 16:21).

The destruction of Israel and Judah was set and the horror of the people’s sufferings had been determined (23:47). The final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had begun and the days were numbered.

Ezekiel 24:2 – Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.

Why did God chasten and punish His people? Not only because He loved them, but so they would know He is “the LORD GOD” (23:49).

Hebrews 12:6 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson and Admonition to Social Drinkers (Habakkuk 1-3)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 1-3

Habakkuk was a prophet whose brief ministry served as a final warning of the LORD’s judgment on Judah for the sins of the people.  A contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s lamentation over Judah and the imminent invasion of the Chaldeans was an ominous conclusion of a succession of warnings faithfully delivered by the prophets.

Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were as much an appeal to the LORD for Judah as they were a lamentation over the devastation God’s people would soon face as the invading armies of Babylon (the Chaldeans) stormed over the land, finally destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Habakkuk 1

Habakkuk 1 is a record of Judah’s sins (1:1-4) and a warning that God would use the Chaldeans to punish the sins of His rebellious people (1:5-17).  Habakkuk questioned why the LORD would use Babylon, a heathen nation whose wickedness far exceeded the sins of Judah, to punish His people (1:12-13).

Habakkuk 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked[Babylon] devoureth the man [i.e. Judah] that is more righteous than he?”

Habakkuk 2

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1) and the LORD graciously responded (2:2-4).  The judgment of God was set against Judah; however, God had not forsaken His chosen people, therefore, “the just shall live by his faith” (2:4; note Romans 1:16-17).

Although God would use Babylon as a tool to exact justice on Judah for her wickedness, the LORD was not blind to the sins of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).  Habakkuk raised several grievances against Babylon, among them their drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19-20).

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sorrows and sufferings that would soon engulf Judah (1:1-4), but ends with the prophet praying and acknowledging the LORD’s sovereignty (3:1-2) and majesty (3:3-16).  The prophet had moved from questioning the LORD, to trusting His ways and rejoicing in His faithfulness (3:17-19).

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

I close today’s devotional drawing your attention to two verses too many 21st century believers trivialize and dismiss as they assail any who dare question their “Liberty.”

Among the sins and wickedness of Babylon, was one that was mentioned twice…wine and drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:5, 15). The Chaldeans were condemned not only for their drunkenness, but also for giving strong drink to mock and take advantage of their neighbor.

Habakkuk 2:5 – “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:”

Habakkuk 2:15 – “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

I close with a lesson all believers would be wise to heed: Wine and strong drink often chart the path to unrestrained pride, shameless adultery, uninhibited lust, and gross immorality.

Warning to parents and charlatan pastors: What you exercise in moderation, your children will practice to excess. Such a path invariably ends with heartache and ruin!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The morality of a nation determines its destiny. (Nahum 1-3)

Scripture reading – Nahum 1-3

Our Scripture reading today is the Book of Nahum.  Only three chapters long and authored by the man whose name it bears, it is a book easily overlooked.  Numbered among the minor prophets, Nahum was a servant and prophet of God of whom little is known. Because the prophetic content of the book is the destruction of Nineveh (Nahum 1:1), the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire, we can place the date of Nahum’s ministry in the 7th century B.C.

A century earlier, when Jonah was God’s prophet, Nineveh had been spared destruction when the king and the citizens of that city repented of their sins, but now for its abuses of Israel, Nineveh would not be spared. Nahum warned of imminent destruction of Nineveh, and the overthrow of the Assyrian empire by a coalition of the Medes and Babylon.

Nahum declared God’s holy nature (1:2-3) and warned the people that the LORD whom the prophet described as “jealous…furious… slow to anger (meaning, patient and longsuffering), and great in power, and [Just] will not at all acquit the wicked” (1:2-3).

In the midst of his prophecies against Nineveh (1:4-6, 8-14), Nahum reminded the people of Judah, “The LORD is good [altogether good; right], a strong hold [fortress; rock; place of safety] in the day of trouble [distress; affliction]; and he knoweth [perceive; understands; cares for] them that trust [confide; hope; flee to for protection] in Him” (1:7).

The Assyrian empire seemed invincible in Nahum’s day.  Its borders encompassed Palestine and reached as far south as Egypt.  Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary describes Nineveh, the Assyrian capital city:

This “exceeding great city” lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient cities. (1) Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature.

Nahum 2 describes the armies that God would draw upon to fulfill His judgment against Nineveh and the Assyrian empire.  The prophet describes the invasion of Assyria (2:1-4) and the capture of the city and its leaders (2:5-13).

Nahum 3 gives us a vivid picture of Nineveh’s destruction and the slaughter of its inhabitants.  Nahum 3:8-19 reminds us no nation, city, or people are too big, great or powerful to escape God’s judgment.  Nahum ends with a question our own nation and leaders would be wise to ponder:

Nahum 3:19 – “There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?

Nineveh’s wickedness, its idolatry and immorality, moved it beyond God’s patience and the city and nation were doomed.  The evil the nation had committed against others would now fall upon that great city.

May that truth serve as a warning to our nation, institutions, churches and homes. Solomon writes the same truth in a proverb he taught his son.

Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness [moral uprightness] exalteth [elevates] a nation: but sin is a reproach[shame] to any people.”

Make no mistake, the morality of a nation determines its destiny.  When a people have a passion for righteousness they are blessed, however, sin inevitably humiliates and eventually destroys.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

There was No Man, No Intercessor (Isaiah 59-63)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 59-63

We continue our chronological reading of the Scriptures with Isaiah 59-63 serving as today’s Bible reading assignment. My devotional commentary will be limited to Isaiah 59.

Isaiah 59 is a message to the wicked and serves as a terrible indictment against the sins of the nation. Consider several principal points we can take from this chapter.

The first, God longed to save Israel from judgment, but the people were unwilling to repent of their sins (59:1-2).

God was able and willing to save the people, if they cried out to Him (59:1). However, the sins of the people had alienated them from the LORD (59:2), and He refused to hear their impenitent prayers (Psalm 66:18).

The sins of Israel, like the sins of our nation, demanded God’s judgment (59:3-8).

As a whole, the society of Isaiah’s day was cruel and perverse. The hands of the people were “defiled with blood.” They were liars (59:3). There was no justice in the land and none who desired truth (59:4a). The people had put their faith in liars and conspiracies (“mischief”) that they might continue in their sin (59:4b).

They were like “cockatrice’ eggs” (i.e. newly hatched poisonous vipers), ruining and killing (59:5-6). They raced to commit evil and gave little thought to the blood they would shed or the wake of destruction they had caused (59:7). They knew nothing of peace, cared nothing for justice, and mislead any who followed them (59:8).

Isaiah 59:9-11 lists the effects of a nation’s wickedness upon society:

Lawlessness and spiritual darkness (59:9); despair and hopelessness (“grope for the wall like the blind” – 59:10); hostility (“roar all like bears” – 59:11) and mourning (“mourn sore like doves” – 59:11); injustices (“we look for judgment, but there is none” – 59:11), and despair (“salvation…is far off” – 59:11).

There was hope for Israel, but only if that nation confessed and repented of their sins (59:12), hypocrisy (59:13), injustices (59:14), abuse and persecution of the righteous (59:15).

The LORD looked upon Israel and mourned “that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 59:16). Seeing “no man” to intercede, the LORD was moved to bring “salvation…and His righteousness” (59:16). That salvation would be offered through the suffering Messiah who would be rejected (53:3), sacrificed “as a lamb to the slaughter” (53:7), and “bare the sin of many, and (would make) intercession” (53:12).

The Second Coming of Christ, His Millennial Kingdom on earth, and His judgment of the wicked is prophesied (59:17-21).

Christ will judge the wicked on the basis of His righteousness (59:17a) and will exercise vengeance on those who rejected Him (59:17b-18). Christ will return to reign as “Redeemer…to Zion” (in Jerusalem) and He will rule those who have repented of their sins (59:19-20).

Christ’s return as a Righteous King and Judge is sealed as a perpetual covenant: “My spirit…my words…shall not depart…from henceforth and for ever” (59:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith