Category Archives: Morality

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

“God’s Longsuffering Love” (Hosea 1-7)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1-7

Today’s Scripture reading is the first seven chapters of the Book of Hosea. Written by the prophet Hosea, he was the first of the “minor prophets” in the Old Testament (minor in the sense their writings are much shorter than those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel).

There is a general consensus that Hosea’s public ministry spanned 60 years or more, beginning in 748 B.C. His ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

Hosea’s preaching, though sometimes mentioning Judah, was predominately concentrated on the northern ten tribes known as Israel. While maintaining some outward form of worshipping the LORD, Israel had rejected God’s commandments and turned to worshipping and sacrificing to idols.

The Book of Hosea records the ministry of one faithful man who courageously warned His people of God’s imminent judgment should they continue in their wickedness and rebellion. I will limit today’s commentary to Hosea 1-3.

Hosea 1

The book of Hosea opens with the LORD commanding the prophet to, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms” (1:2a). Why such an incredulous command to His prophet?

The LORD was using Hosea’s marriage to a woman who would commit adultery as an illustration of His unfailing love for Israel whom He said had “committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (1:2b).

There is some debate if the woman named Gomer (1:3), whom Hosea took as his wife, was a prostitute before he married her. Regardless, the fact is that the prophet took a wife, who after bearing three children (1:3-4, 6, 8-9), left her husband, committed adultery, and became a prostitute.

For the sake of interpretation, Hosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” is a model of the LORD. Gomer, Hosea’s wife, is a picture of Israel who had broken her covenant with the LORD and turned to serve and worship idols.

Gomer gave birth to three children and their names were reminders of Israel’s broken covenant with God. The firstborn was a son named Jezreel (meaning “God will scatter”- 1:3-4), and foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth. The second born was a daughter named Loruhamah (meaning “love withdrawn” or “not loved” – 1:6). Her name is a reminder that, while the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional, when the people disobeyed and broke their covenant with Him, He withdrew His loving protection of them as a people. The third born was Loammi (meaning “not my people” – 1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery and the LORD had determined to divorce His people.

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising that, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them, and would one day gather them together in the land (1:11). In His grace, the LORD promised, “in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 2

Hosea was heartbroken when Gomer left him and he pled with his children, “Plead with your mother…let her therefore put away her whoredoms” (2:2). Gomer, like Israel, would not heed Hosea’s pitiful plea for her to return to her husband and children (2:3-23).

Hosea 3

Hosea 3 uses the prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer as a backdrop to a portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. In the same way, Gomer had committed whoredom, breaking her marriage covenant and rejecting her husband’s love (3:1), Israel had left the LORD, broke her covenant with Him, and committed spiritual whoredom with the gods of her pagan neighbors.

In spite of her transgressions and the shame she had brought upon her household, God commanded Hosea to find his wife and bring her back to his home.  Incredibly, Hosea found Gomer wasted away and being sold in the slave market (3:2) where he purchased her for half the price of a common household slave: “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley” (3:2).  Taking his adulterous wife home, Hosea promised to be her husband and renew their marriage covenant (3:3).

Hosea’s love for Gomer was a demonstration of God’s forgiving, unconditional love and compassion for Israel (3:4-5). Israel had forsaken the LORD and committed spiritual whoredom; however, Hosea prophesied that though Israel would be without a king for many days, God would restore the people to the land “in the latter days” (3:5).

The “latter days” of Israel’s restoration, not only as a nation (which took place briefly after the Babylonian captivity, and then again in 1948 as a modern state), is still future. Though the Jews are back in their land, yet Israel as a believing people is not. In the future they will come to “seek the LORD their God” (3:5a) with all their heart and devotion and come to “fear [revere] the LORD and His goodness” (3:5b).

The “latter days” or the “last days” (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2) are still future; however, the day is coming when the LORD Jesus Christ will sit on David’s throne as Judge and King of kings (Matthew 19:28; Luke 1:32-33).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Be a Fool: Character Does Matter! (2 Kings 9-11)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 9-11

My first memory of a public debate concerning the significance of a man’s character in public office dates to the presidential races of the late 20th century. In today’s world, the subject of character and integrity has become so unimportant that it is no longer a topic for discussion or debate!

What is character? Character is a moral compass, an internal standard that charts a man’s course in life and determines his conduct and destiny. A man’s character is defined by his moral values and can prove to be either a blessing or curse to others.

The opening verses of 2 Kings 11 are illustrative of the matter of character and indicative of the depths of depravity a soul will descend when driven by a covetous heart set upon power, position and possessions.

True to His promise that the lineage of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel would be cut off (9:8-9), the LORD moved on the heart of His prophet Elisha to send a young priest with oil and anoint Jehu to be king of Israel (9:1-7). Obeying the LORD’s command, Jehu then set out to kill every heir of Ahab’s seed and found not only Joram, king of Israel, but also Ahaziah, the king of Judah, and Jehu slew both kings (9:22-28).

Jehu’s next act was to order that Jezebel be cast down from the window of her palace (9:30-33). Fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy, Jezebel’s body was consumed by dogs (9:34-37).

When the news of Ahaziah’s death reached Jerusalem, the king’s mother (daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) moved immediately to secure the throne of Judah for herself.  Queen-mother Athaliah commanded that every son of King Ahaziah be slain (11:1). In spite of his grandmother’s murderous rampage, Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah was spared when his aunt hid him and his nurse in her house. Joash was later moved to the Temple where he would be kept secretly for six years (11:2-3).

Josiah is Made King II KIngs 22:1

In the seventh year of queen Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada, a priest in the Temple, called together the commanders of Judah’s armies and revealed that Joash, the son of the late king Ahaziah was alive (11:4-11).  Swearing allegiance to Joash, the military leaders crowned him king of Judah (11:12) and Jehoiada ordered that Athaliah be executed outside the Temple grounds (11:13-16; 2 Chronicles 23:12-15).

Following the death of Athaliah, the nation of Judah enjoyed a season of spiritual revival (2 Kings 11:17-21). Jehoiada renewed the nation’s covenant with the LORD “that they should be the LORD’S people” (11:17) and directed the destruction of the altars of Baal (11:18).

Although only seven years old (11:21),  Jehoash (i.e. Joash), was profoundly influenced by the high priest, and “all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet” (11:20).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Oh Lord, Hear Our Cry and Heal Our Land” (1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 17 complement one another with historic details that indicate the presence and providence of God’s guiding hand in human history.

1 Kings 16 – A Succession of Wicked Kings in Israel

While Asa, the third king of Judah, reigned for forty-one years and that nation enjoyed a season of revival and peace (15:11-14), the northern ten tribes known as Israel, went through a succession of wicked kings who doomed that nation to all manner of sin, idolatry, and violent assassinations (1 Kings 16).

Knowing God uses the penchant of wicked men to work His design for man, the LORD sent the prophet Jehu to remind Baasha that he was king because God had ordained it (16:2a). That does not mean God ordained the assassination of the former king, but that he used Baasha’s intent to accomplish His divine purpose.

1 Kings 16 gives us a record of a rapid succession of wicked kings. King Baasha died and his son Elah became the fourth king of Israel (16:6-8). Elah reigned only one year before he was slain in an assassination plot by Zimri (16:10-20). Zimri became the fifth king of Israel, but took his own life by setting fire to the palace when Omri laid siege to the city (16:16-20). A brief division of Israel as a nation followed with half the nation following Tibni (16:21-22) and the other half following after Omri (16:21-23).

After Tibni’s death, Omri united Israel, made himself king (16:23-24), setting the stage for the rise of the most notorious king and queen in Israel’s history:

“Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him…Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead” (16:25, 28).

There are few men or women in history whose infamy is so appalling that the mere mention of their name paints in one’s mind a picture of gross, notorious wickedness. King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel defined wickedness in the extreme (16:29-33). Of Ahab we read, he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (16:33).

2 Chronicles 17 – A Revival in Judah

Having learned from the failures of his father, Jehoshaphat, son of King Asa, became Judah’s fourth king and “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings [sins and wickedness]of Israel” (17:3-4).

While the people of Israel suffered oppression due to the wickedness of their kings, Judah returned to a time of spiritual revival. King Jehoshaphat turned his heart to the LORD and began to walk in the way of God’s Law and Commandments (17:4), God began to bless Judah. After tearing down the idol places, Jehoshaphat dispatched throughout Judah five leaders, two priests, and nine Levites who were charged with instructing the people in “the book of the law of the LORD” (17:7-9).

God blessed Jehoshaphat and the “fear of the LORD” fell upon Judah’s neighbors who began paying tribute to Judah (17:10-11).

Jehoshaphat’s love and dedication to the LORD and His Commandments, inspired “mighty men of valour” to rally around him in Jerusalem and Judah began to enjoy a season of peace and prosperity (17:13-19).

A concluding thought: I doubt many would debate that we are living in a time of sorrow and uncertainty. The plague of locusts in Africa threatens widespread famine, while the menace of a pandemic has afflicted hundreds of thousands, killed many, and crippled the world’s economy. Accompanying that terror is widespread lawlessness and violence in our nation that might well plunge our nation into a civil war.

What hope is there for these troubled times?

The answer is the same as it was in Judah’s day: We need leaders who, like Jehoshaphat, will lead our nation to repent of her sins, turn to the LORD, and walk in the ways of His Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, 10, 12-13).

Only then will the LORD hear our cry and heal our land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Tragic Legacy: How will you be remembered? (1 Kings 15, 2 Chronicles 13-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 13-16

Once again, we find 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 13-16 are parallel records of the same events. In today’s reading we find historical record in 2 Chronicles to be more detailed and giving us a greater insight into the drama between Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

1 Kings 15

1 Kings 15 records a succession of kings reigning over Israel and Judah.  Judah’s King, Rehoboam, died and his son Abijam was crowned king and reigned only three years (15:1-2). Continuing in the sins of Solomon and Rehoboam (15:3-8), his life was cut short and his son Asa ascended to the throne of Judah (15:8) and reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem (15:10).

The reign of Asa was a glorious time in Judah, and the king began leading the nation back to the LORD (15:11). The sodomites (male prostitutes) that had found refuge in Judah during Rehoboam’s reign (15:24) were driven out of the land in Asa’s reign (15:12). Even Asa’s mother was not spared the reform as she was deposed from her throne as Queen mother for worshipping idols (15:13).

A contemporary of Asa in Judah was Baasha king of Israel (15:16) who designed to make war against Judah (15:17) until Asa emptied the treasuries of the Temple and his palace to pay for a league with the king of Syria (15:18-21). As we will learn in 2 Chronicles 16, his decision to align himself with the king of Syria was not the will of the LORD (2 Chronicles 16:7-10).

2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Chronicles continues the same history, adding more detail and insight into the LORD’S dealings with both Judah and Israel. There was a succession of kings of David’s bloodline in Judah and some, particularly, King Asa, followed the will of the LORD and led the nation in spiritual revival (2 Chronicles 14:2-7).

In Israel, however, there was a succession of kings who continued that nation’s rebellion and rejection of the God of Israel.

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace, and prosperity, until the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Asa turned from the LORD and put his trust in his reasoning apart from the LORD (2 Chronicles 16). When Baasha, king of Israel, led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and sought a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Though successful in the immediate, Asa’s decision to seek a league with Syria was foolish and offended God. A prophet named Hanani declared Asa’s lack of faith would haunt him the rest of his life, and he would face wars until his death (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and imprisoned the prophet, and then “oppressed” some of the people who were no doubt critical of the king’s decisions (16:10).

Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a critical disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest gout, but I wonder if it was not gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa, whose heart was not right with the LORD, turned to his physicians and not to the LORD.

A great memorial was held upon Asa’s death, however, his lifetime of serving the LORD was marred by his faithlessness and rebellion in his later years (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

Pay Day Someday! (2 Chronicles 10-12)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 10-12

You will find that today’s Scripture reading in 2 Chronicles parallels events that are recorded in our preceding reading assignment (1 Kings 12-14).

2 Chronicles 10 – A Tragic Time in Israel’s History

Following the death of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31), his son Rehoboam ascended the throne and all Israel came to Shechem to make him king (10:1).

Unfortunately, all was not well in Israel. Though not yet physically divided, the nation was spiritually duplicitous and Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4). The LORD had warned Solomon that his failure to keep the Law and Commandments would be punished by Israel being divided by one of his own servants. The identity of that servant is revealed as Solomon’s old adversary, Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:2-3).

Evidencing the foolishness of his youth and inexperience, Rehoboam faced the grievances of Israel, lacking both grace and humility (10:4-5).  Rejecting the counsel of his father’s older and wiser advisors (10:6-7), Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and the king’s harshness provoked the people to rebel (10:8-14).

Remembering the LORD is sovereign, we read, “So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God” (10:15).  The ten northern tribes of Israel, after hearing the king’s words, “went to their tents” (10:16) and “rebelled against the house of David” (10:19).

2 Chronicles 11 – A Nation Divided

Under Jeroboam, the ten northern tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of the south, Judah and Benjamin, became one nation known as Judah. King Rehoboam had thought to raise an army to seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4). Dissuaded from civil war, Rehoboam set about building fortresses (11:4-12) to strengthen Judah against the battles that would be provoked by a divided kingdom.

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates the swift decline of a nation that rejects God (11:13-15).

We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts [borders; i.e. cities and lands in Israel]… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off [i.e. cut them off] from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually. He instituted a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15). Thankfully we read that there were a few left in Israel who “set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel” and they continued to worship in Jerusalem (11:16).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised the wisdom passed on to him by his father; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:17-23).

2 Chronicles 12 – The Menace of Pride and Arrogance

Comfortable in his palace and with Judah secured and strengthened, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).

The LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah. The prophet Shemaiah declared that the sins of Rehoboam were to be punished by the LORD delivering his kingdom over to serve Egypt (12:1-5). Hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, the king and his leaders humbled themselves before the LORD, Who in His mercy, spared Judah from destruction (12:5-8).

Adding to Judah’s humiliation, Shishak removed “shields of gold which Solomon had made” from the walls of the palace (12:9).  Rehoboam, perhaps to save face in front of his people, contented himself with a counterfeit of the glory that once belonged to his kingdom, and “made shields of brass” to replace the “shields of gold” (12:10).

What a tragedy! Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, masked the miserable state of the nation!

I close pondering what lessons we might take from today’s Scripture.

Is it possible that, like Judah of old, our nation’s wealth and prosperity has deceived us? In the same way Rehoboam became servant to Egypt and counterfeited the loss of his “shields of gold” with brass shields, I fear we have become a nation enslaved to a mounting debt we owe to enemies committed to our own demise.

The United States has rejected the LORD, His Word, Law and Commandments. Is it possible our nation’s pursuit of the pleasures of sin has blinded us to the warnings of the evangelists of old… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Kingdom is Divided (1 Kings 12-14)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 12-14

When Jeroboam learned that Solomon was dead and his son Rehoboam reigned in his stead (11:43-12:1), he returned from Egypt where he had found refuge (12:3).

1 Kings 12 – The Precipitous Decline of Israel and the Threat of Civil War

Summoned by the northern ten tribes, Jeroboam asserted himself to speak on behalf of the tribes of Israel, and petitioned that King Rehoboam would relieve the heavy burden of taxation and servitude under which the people had suffered during Solomon’s reign (12:3-4).

Though having the advantage of his father’s counselors (12:6-7), Rehoboam, dismissed them and heeded the counsel of his peers who stoked his pride and ambition (12:8-11). Rehoboam’s arrogance set in motion a rebellion that threatened civil war in Israel and led to the division of the kingdom (12:12-33).

The northern ten tribes calling themselves “Israel,” made Jeroboam the first king (12:19-20). Those tribes not only rebelled against King Rehoboam, but also set themselves against God. They abandoned worship at the Temple in Jerusalem and made themselves “two calves of gold” (12:19-20, 25-30).

Because the priests of Levi refused to follow Jeroboam’s insurrection, he “made priests of the lowest of the people” (12:31) and erected and altar in Bethel that “he had devised of his own heart” (12:31).

1 Kings 13 – Great Wickedness in the Northern Ten Tribes (Israel)

1 Kings 13 gives us the beginning history of a divided Israel represented by the ten tribes of the north that had rebelled against Rehoboam. The rebellious tribes followed Jeroboam into idolatry (13:1-34), and it appears he acted not only as king, but also as priest over the people (12:33-13:1).

We read that Jeroboam “returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places” (13:33). The description of Jeroboam’s priests as the “lowest of the people” illustrates how little regard he placed on worship and the priesthood. He gave no thought of a man’s birth, lineage, or character when he chose priests for Israel, as stipulated by God.

1 Kings 14 – The Spiritual and Moral Decline of Judah

1 Kings 14 begins as a prophecy against Jeroboam and reveals his lineage would be cut off.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over Judah; however, his reign was marked by wickedness and the nation’s decline into all manner of sin and ungodliness (14:21-24). Even in Judah, idol worship flourished and the depth of that nation’s wickedness is expressed in this: “There were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations”(14:24).

Not even the invasion of the armies of Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt, caused the people of Judah to turn their hearts to the LORD (14:25). Raiding the treasures of Solomon, Shishak also took the shields of gold that decorated the walls of Solomon’s palace to Egypt (14:25-26).  Adding to the disgrace, Rehoboam instructed that shields of brass be substituted for the shields of gold that were removed by the king of Egypt (14:27-28).

God’s warning to Solomon that his sins would be the catalyst for a divided kingdom were fulfilled and we read, “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (14:31).

Our devotion ends with the news that “Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried” (14:31); reminding us that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

 

Living Life in A Rearview Mirror (Ecclesiastes 7-12)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 7-12

Today’s Scripture reading covers the latter half of the book of Ecclesiastes; however, my devotional commentary will focus on the closing chapters, Ecclesiastes 11-12.

While the book of Proverbs chronicles Solomon’s wise instructions for a son that would one day be king, the book of Ecclesiastes reflects the pondering of that same man facing the inevitable close of his earthly life–the frailty of old age and death.

Solomon’s reflections on his earthly sojourn began with the observation, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He concludes with the same, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

Empty, vain, unsatisfactory, meaningless, hopeless, and worthless… What a tragic commentary on life from a man born into privilege, power, and wealth!  What might we learn from such a man?  What words of wisdom can we glean from one deemed so wise, with so much to say?

For the sake of brevity, I invite you to consider three exhortations from King Solomon: Rejoice (11:9-10); Remember (12:1); and Revere (12:13-14).

Rejoice in your youth, but know God will be your Judge (11:9-10).

 Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. 10  Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Remember your Creator while you are young (12:1).

Ecclesiastes 12:1 – Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Revere God, Keep His Commandments and Be Ready for His Judgment (12:13-14).

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty [purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Vanity of vanities; what a tragic summary of a man’s life if his life is empty and meaningless!

To his credit, Solomon was not silent regarding the sorrows and joys of this life. He warned and exhorted the generations that would follow… Rejoice in your youth…Remember your Creator and His Commandments…and Revere the LORD knowing He will “bring every work into judgment” (12:14).

A closing exhortation to youthful readers: Adopt spiritual principles that will guide you to paths of righteousness, and avoid the ways of the foolish who squander their lives in sinful dissipations that leave them with sorrows and regrets.

Enjoy your youth, but remember your Creator for “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What would you do today, if you knew there was no tomorrow? (Proverbs 27-29)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 27-29

Our Scripture reading continues in Proverbs, chapters 27, 28, and 29. For the sake of brevity, I will limit today’s devotional commentary to Proverbs 27:1-3.

Proverbs 27:1 – “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” [note – Luke 12:19, 20James 4:13]

What would you do today, if you knew there was no tomorrow?  What would change in your priorities?  Who would you call or visit to express a word of gratitude or affection?  Who would you seek out to make right a wrong?  Who would you forgive, putting off bitterness and embrace in love?

Procrastination is a terrible malady of man!  Too many of us go through life putting off to tomorrow what should and could have been done today!  I believe that is the point of Proverbs 27:1. Do not defer, put off, or procrastinate to tomorrow the good that you might do today.

Lost sinners procrastinate confessing their sin and trusting Jesus Christ as Savior (Hebrews 4:7Acts 24:252 Corinthians 6:2).  Believers put off confessing their sin, serving others, singing praises, teaching, and witnessing to lost loved ones, only to be filled with remorse when they realize there will be no tomorrow.

Challenge: Make a list of things you hope to accomplish today, or one day, and set dates and goals for accomplishing them before you face no tomorrows. Turn off the television, stop surfing the internet, disengage from social media, and redeem today as though it were your last—it may be!

James 4:14, 17 – “14  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away…17  Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Proverbs 27:2 – There are few things as repulsive as one who glories in boasting their own achievements.

Proverbs 27:2 – “Let another man praise [boast; celebrate; sing your praises] thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [speech].”

The Book of Proverbs is a king’s instructions to his son who would one day be king. Fearing that his son’s heart might be lifted up with pride, Solomon urged him to be a young man whose demeanor was one of humility.

Having been born into a household of wealth and privilege, one might imagine the temptation for a young prince to be carried away by the grandeur of the palace, with servants ever ready to do his bidding.  Solomon taught his son that it is uncomely for a man to praise himself [or as some say, “to beat his own drum”].

Few things are as repulsive as a man or woman who crow about their own achievements.  Unfortunately, it is the nature of men to “proclaim every one his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6). Such a man has forgotten the raw clay out of which he was taken. Though praise and accolades are rewarding, they ring hollow when expressed by one’s own lips.

Why is a braggadocio, self-asserting spirit so repugnant to God? 

Because it is the spirit of pride and not the Spirit of God.

Think about it: How much of your conversations with others is focused on yourself?  Are you given to bragging and boasting?  Look at your social media page to find the answer.

Proverbs 27:3 – A fool’s wrath is a great burden to all.

Proverbs 27:3 – “A stone [building stone] is heavy, and the sand weighty [burden]; but a fool’s [silly, immoral] wrath [anger; indignation] is heavier [more grievous] than them both [a fools wrath takes a physical and emotional toll heavier than building stones and sand].”

What was Solomon thinking when he observed that the wrath of a fool is heavier than both a heavy stone and weighty sand?

Having undertaken the construction of the Temple and his palace, Solomon knew well the physical weight of sand and stone. The king was familiar with the design and use of heavy stones that were required for constructing an enduring place of worship for Israel.

The heavy stones mentioned in Proverbs 27:3 are most likely the great building blocks used in constructing the Temple and other public buildings.  Estimates are that some of the stones weighed from a few tons to as much as 160 tons.  Sand, like building blocks, is also heavy in volume and a great burden to move.

The fool is the subject of Proverbs 27:3. He is not intellectually deficient. This fool is one that is spiritually defiant, morally corrupt, and a hater of wisdom and instruction.  He opposes God (Psalm 14:153:1), hates spiritual truth (Proverbs 1:22), and is a grief and heaviness to his father and mother (Proverbs 10:117:25).

Solomon observes that the wrath of a fool takes a physical toll and is heavier than building stones and sand.  How so?

While stones and sand are physically heavy and difficult to move, the weight of a fool’s wrath is both a physical burden and an emotional weight to his family, friends and acquaintances.

Without question, the wrath of a fool takes a physical toll on all who associate with him. Many are the parents who go to early graves with heavy hearts, emotionally overwhelmed and physically devastated by the distress of a fool’s wrath.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith