Category Archives: Morality

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Cycle of Man’s Sins, and God’s Judgments (Ezekiel 20; Ezekiel 21)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 20; Ezekiel 21

We are continuing our study of the Prophecies of Ezekiel, and you will notice today’s Scripture reading is lengthy (Ezekiel 20-21). A full commentary on those chapters will be too much for a daily devotional, therefore, I will limit this study to a highlight and pray it is a blessing.

Ezekiel 20 – God’s Coming Judgment Against Judah and Jerusalem

Once again, the “elders of Israel” came to Ezekiel, to “inquire of the LORD, and sat before [him]” (20:1). The response of the LORD to the inquiry of those leaders is instructive, for He was offended! (20:3) The LORD demanded of Ezekiel whether or not he would be bold and asked, 4Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them?” (20:4).

A Cycle of Rebellion (20:5-29)

The lesson for the elders of Israel was that Israel had perpetually followed a cycle of rebellion. Rather than impart a new revelation, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to remind the leaders how He dealt with Israel’s rebellion in the past.

He brought Israel out of Egypt, and commanded the people saying, “I am the LORD your God” (20:5). He admonished them to put away their idols (20:6-7). Yet, the people rebelled, and refused to cast aside their idols and worship the LORD alone (20:8-9).

In the wilderness, and when Israel encamped at Sinai, the people rebelled. The LORD warned that they would be consumed in the wilderness– all that He might vindicate His name (20:14). They “despised” His judgment, and refused to walk in His Commandments, nevertheless the LORD was merciful, and “spared them from destroying them” (20:17). Though their fathers perished in the wilderness, the LORD spared their children. Yet, they “rebelled against” the LORD, until He “withdrew” His hand from them (the hand that led, protected, and provided for them as a shepherd his sheep, 20:22). They had blasphemed the LORD’s name (20:27), and committed spiritual adultery, offering sacrifices to idols (20:28).

Lessons for Ezekiel’s Generation (20:30-31)

Like their forefather’s, Ezekiel’s generation was guilty of great evils, and followed in the wicked ways of their fathers. They sacrificed to idols (20:30), and sacrificed their sons to make them “pass through the fire” (20:31). Though the LORD had chosen Israel to be His people, they lived “as the heathen…to serve wood and stone” (idols, 20:32). For those reasons the LORD asserted, “I will not be inquired of by you” (20:31).

Israel had Forsaken the LORD, But He Would Not Forsake His Covenant (20:33-44)

In spite of their wickedness, the LORD promised He would one day gather His people, though they were scattered among the nations of the world (20:33-36). He would continue to discipline them “under the rod” until He brought them back to “the bond of the covenant” (20:37). He would remove the rebels, and they would “not enter the land of Israel,” to the end His people would “know” and confess Him as LORD (20:38).

Closing thoughts (20:45-49) – To what end were God’s judgments, and to what purpose were their sorrows and sufferings? It was that His people would know and confess Him as their LORD (20:41-42, 44). Indeed, the day would come when “all flesh” would see and know that which was done was the LORD!

Ezekiel 21 – The Judgment of the Righteous and the Wicked

Living in Babylon, but knowing the city of Jerusalem was under siege and thousands would perish, was difficult for those in captivity. The elders of Israel asked Ezekiel at the conclusion of chapter 20, “Doth He [the LORD] not speak parables?” (20:49)

Preach Against Jerusalem (21:2-7)

The LORD answered the inquiry, saying to Ezekiel, “2Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel” (21:2). No longer speaking in parables, the message was clear, the prophet was commanded to “say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked” (21:3).

The judgment of the LORD was imminent, for He was ready to draw His sword and judge “the righteous and the wicked” (21:3). “All flesh,” man, woman, boy, and girl would know it was the LORD that executes judgment (21:4-5). Ezekiel was commanded to sigh, and in so doing indicate the pain and sorrow the people would suffer (21:6-7).

Prepare to Face God’s Judgment (21:8-17)

God warned, His sword of judgment was sharpened, and it would be borne by Nebuchadnezzar, the executioner of His will (21:8-11). The LORD directed Ezekiel to dramatize the sufferings of Jerusalem, saying, “Cry and howl, son of man” (21:12). Ezekiel 21:14 described the swift violence that would come upon Jerusalem, and the great slaughter that would befall the people. None would escape (21:15), and all who fled the destruction would be slain (24:16-17).

Babylon was God’s Agent of Judgment (21:18-27)

Here we find a great spiritual lesson for nations that know the LORD and reject Him. The LORD left no doubt He was employing “the sword of the king of Babylon” (18:18-20), and Nebuchadnezzar’s army would attack the Ammonites, and lay siege to Jerusalem (21:20). Though he had consulted with his idols (21:22), the LORD used the king’s superstitious ways to draw him to Jerusalem and do His bidding (21:23).

With the mounds laid up against the walls of the city, and battering rams at the gates, the people would remember it was brought upon them because of their sins, and would remember all that had been prophesied (21:24). Zedekiah, the last king of Israel’s Davidic line, would be stripped of his crown, and abased (24:25-26), until Christ returns and comes to claim His throne, “whose right it is” for God promised, “I will give it Him” (21:27).

Closing thoughts (21:28-32) – Our study closes with God’s assurance that, unlike the children of Israel who would return to their land, the judgment of the Ammonites would be final, and they would “be no more remembered” (21:32).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Pity the Nation Ruled by Wicked, Immoral Leaders (Ezekiel 19)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 19

There were some of the children of Israel who asserted God was unjust, supposing their sorrows and travails were come upon them because of the sins of their fathers (Ezekiel 18). Ezekiel answered their erroneous claims, and declared a sinner’s individual responsibility for his sins  (18:4), and “everyone” would be judged “according to his [own] ways” (18:29).

The Lioness and Her Cubs (19:1-9)

Ezekiel 19 addressed the influence wicked rulers had upon Israel, and in particular Judah.

Ezekiel commanded the people of the captivity to “take … up a lamentation for the princes of Israel” (19:1). The “princes” were the last kings of the Davidic dynasty (until Christ reigns on the earth in the Millennial Kingdom). Three wicked kings were described, and can be identified. They are: Jehoahaz (19:3-4), Jehoiachin (19:5-9), and Zedekiah (19:14).

The “lioness” of this lamentation was Israel, and the young lion cubs were the kings of Israel (19:2). Jehoahaz was the first king, and he was described as one who “learned to catch the prey; it devoured men” (19:3). You may remember Jehoahaz was 23 years old when he became king (2 Kings 23:31-33; 2 Chronicles 36:1-3). He was like a lion, a tyrant, and “devoured men” (19:3b). He was notoriously wicked, and was removed from his throne, and taken prisoner by Neco, king of Egypt after reigning for three months (19:4).

Jehoahaz ascended to the throne after Jehoiakim; however, he was not mentioned in Ezekiel 19, because he died in battle, and his son Jehoiachin reigned in his stead (2 Kings 24:7-16; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10). Like Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin was described as “a young lion” who devoured men, for he was a ruthless and heartless king (19:6). Indeed, he was everything a king should not be, for he destroyed the homes and cities of his people, and terrorized them through “his roaring” (19:7). His rebellion provoked Nebuchadnezzar, who came and took him away prisoner to Babylon (19:8-9).

When Israel was a Fruitful Vine (19:10-13)

Ezekiel 19:10-13 painted a beautiful, poetic picture of Israel in the days of her glory (19:10). Israel, and perhaps, in particular Jerusalem, was described as a fruitful vine, “planted by the waters,” and “full of branches” (kings, 19:10). Under David’s reign, who was followed by his son Solomon, Israel was at her zenith as a great, and powerful nation. The nation was “fruitful and full of branches” (19:10), and her rulers were like “strong rods for the sceptres” (19:11). In that age, Jerusalem had been exalted among the nations of the earth (19:11).

A succession of wicked kings, however, spelled the doom of the nation, and consequently, brought God’s judgment (19:12). Jerusalem and Judah would be “plucked up in fury,” and “cast down to the ground” (19:12). Nebuchadnezzar would come as an east wind (19:12). The glory and riches of Jerusalem would be dried up, and the dynasty of David (“her strong rods”) broken and consumed (19:12). “Planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground,” described the captivity of the children of Israel in Babylon (19:13).

Ezekiel 19:14 brings us to Zedekiah, the third king whose reign was described in this chapter. He was the last of the kings of the Davidic line until Christ. Of Jerusalem and Judah we read: “Fire [God’s judgment] is gone out of a rod of her branches [Zedekiah, the last king], which hath devoured her fruit, so that she [Jerusalem] hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule” (19:14).

Closing thoughts – Ezekiel 19 concluded with a pitiful call to sorrow: “This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation” (19:14). Lament, lament, for Jerusalem will be destroyed, and Judah will be left desolate. King Zedekiah would witness the deaths of his sons, whose eyes would be put out, and he would be taken prisoner to Babylon where he would die.

Lesson: Corporate Guilt and Judgment: Fathers do not bear the guilt of their children’s sins, nor children the condemnation of their father’s sins (Ezekiel 18). Nevertheless, the evil ways of a leader, and the consequences of his sins, will come to bear upon the lives of those he leads.

Proverbs 14:34 – “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Pity the nation ruled by wicked, immoral leaders.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“The Soul That Sinneth, It Shall Die” (Ezekiel 18)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 17; Ezekiel 18

Ezekiel 18 – A Parable of “Sour Grapes”

The LORD left no doubt that the sins of the people had brought sorrows and judgments upon Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. Yet, there was a question that arose in Babylon: Who was responsible for the calamities?

Speaking in a parable, some said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2) In other words, there were some who blamed Israel’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their fathers and forefathers. God rebuked that generation, and declared an enduring, universal truth: 4Behold, 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)

A Hypothetical Study of Three Generations (18:4-20)

One’s personal responsibility for sin and its consequences was the subject, and this passage answers some important questions regarding the justice and fairness of God’s judgment. 1) Are sons punished for the sins of their fathers, or fathers punished for the sins of their sons? 2) If a father chooses a godless lifestyle, is it inevitable a son will follow in his steps? Because “blame shifting” is epidemic in our day, Ezekiel 18 should interest both believer and unbeliever.

A Righteous Father (18:5-9)

God blesses a man who chooses righteousness, and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9). Such a man obeys the Commandments of the LORD. He will not commit adultery, nor oppress those who are weaker (18:6b-7a). The righteous restores the surety to a debtor, does not plunder and rob others by violence, and is charitable to those who are hungry and in need (18:7b). The righteous do not crush a debtor with exorbitant interest, and conducts himself in a lawful manner (18:8). Because he walks in accord with the statutes (ordinances and decrees) and judgments (laws) of the LORD, and deals honestly with others, he is declared just before God, and will live and prosper (18:9).

A Wicked Son (18:10-13)

What if an adult son of a righteous man refuses to follow his father’s godly example, and instead turns to a path of wickedness? Should the father be punished for the sins of a son that is a robber and murderer? (18:10) Should a father be punished because his son offers sacrifices to idols, commits adultery, abuses the poor, robs others, and is immoral (18:11-12)? When a son charges excessive interest, and oppresses debtors, should his father go unpunished? Though his father was righteous, such a son will bear the guilt of his own sins, and “shall not live…he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him” and not his father (18:13).

A Righteous Grandson (18:14-18)

Each generation bears responsibility for its sins, and God will not punish a father for the sins of his son (18:10-13). Should a son see the sins of his father, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17). A wicked father, as a wicked son, will not go unpunished for his sins (18:18-20).

Who you gonna’ blame for your troubles and sorrows? (18:20-24)

Ezekiel repeated the principle of personal, individual responsibility, writing, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (18:20). The LORD is longsuffering, and ready and willing to forgive the sinner who repents and turns from his sins (18:21-22). After all, God does not delight in seeing the wicked die in their sins (18:23).

What if a righteous man turns and follows a path of sin? (18:24a) His past righteousness will not deliver him from the consequences of his present sins (18:24b).

Closing thoughts (18:25-32) – Sinners cannot accuse the LORD of being unjust (18:25). The believer who sins will be punished (18:26), and the wicked who repents of his sins will be forgiven and live (18:27-28). Tragically, family members suffer the consequences of their loved one’s sinful choices. Yet, God is just and He will not judge and condemn the innocent for the sins of the guilty (18:29-30). God will judge every sinner “according to his ways” (18:30).

Our study concludes with a wonderful invitation: When a sinner repents, the LORD promises to give “a new heart and a new spirit” (18:31). While the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), the LORD invites all who sin, saying, “turn yourselves, and live” (18:32).

Don’t wallow in a mire of self-pity, or blame others for your sinful choices!  Repent, and live!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Greater Judgment Befalls Those Who Disdain the LORD’s Blessings. (Ezekiel 15; Ezekiel 16)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 15; Ezekiel 16

The prophecies the LORD imparted to Ezekiel continue in today’s Scripture reading. With the elders of Israel as his audience (14:1), the LORD revealed to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of divine judgment. The first prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an unfruitful vine (Ezekiel 15). A helpless, abused and adulterous woman was the second symbol of Jerusalem’s spiritual condition (Ezekiel 16). In Ezekiel 17 (a future devotional study), Jerusalem was identified as being a vine ravaged by predators.

Ezekiel 15 – An Unfruitful Vine

Israel was often seen in the Scriptures as a fruitful vine, a people the LORD chose and planted in Canaan. In Psalm 80:8, Israel was a vine the LORD “brought…out of Egypt…[and then] cast out the heathen [out of Canaan], and planted it.” Israel was also portrayed as a vineyard the LORD planted and cultivated, and yet it bore “wild (bitter)grapes” (Isaiah 5:1). So, the elders of Israel immediately recognized the analogy of Judah, and in particular, Jerusalem, drawn by Ezekiel, as an unfruitful, useless vine (15:2-3).

In God’s judgment, the wickedness of the people had rendered the vine (Israel) good for nothing, but to be cut off, and “cast into the fire for fuel” (15:4). The fire was said to have devoured the whole of the vine, and served as a prophetic picture of God’s judgment and the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah (15:6-8).

Ezekiel 16 – Jerusalem: An Abused Adulterous Wife

The second prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an abused adulterous wife (16:2). Like a husband who takes a virgin for his wife, the LORD had chosen Jerusalem (the land, and all Israel), and claimed her as His wife (16:1-7). It was noted how ancient Jerusalem had been the birthplace of Canaanite nations (16:3-4), and a place of idols, lawlessness, and immorality. Yet, the LORD chose Jerusalem as a habitation for His people (16:6), and caused that city to become a place of beauty (16:7-8).

Ezekiel 16:9-14, though addressing Jerusalem specifically, did in fact relate to how the LORD blessed Israel as His chosen people. He chose and loved Israel as a husband cherishes his wife. He cleansed (16:9) and clothed (16:10), and blessed the city with wealth (16:11). She was the LORD’s crowned jewel (16:12), and He gave the people of that city the best of everything (16:13), and her beauty was famous among the nations (16:14).

Jerusalem: An Unfaithful Wife (16:15-34)

Rather than loving and serving the LORD out of gratitude and love, Jerusalem had played the harlot. The people repaid the LORD’s favor with shame and humiliation exercised by their gross immorality. The sins committed by Israel were staggering, and the evidence of her wickedness were named by Ezekiel.  God’s people had committed spiritual harlotry (16:15-16), made idols (16:17) and sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (16:20-21).

Rather than repent and turn to the LORD, the children of Israel turned to heathen neighbors for protection (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29). Indeed, the wickedness of the people was akin to a wife playing a harlot on the street corners (16:22-34).

The Certainty of God’s Judgment (16:35-43)

After stating the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel declared His judgment (16:35-43). The nations (“thy lovers”, 16:36) to whom Israel had turned for help, would become the instruments of God’s judgment and Jerusalem’s destruction (16:36-38). The blood of the slain would run through the streets of Jerusalem, and that beautiful city would be humiliated, and her houses burned because the people had forsaken their covenant with the LORD. Ezekiel declared that God’s anger was justified, and He would satisfy His wrath (16:39-43).

The Great Wickedness of Judah (16:44-59)

With the proverb, “As is the mother, so is her daughter” (16:44), we realize the sins of Judah and Jerusalem equaled and exceeded the wickedness of the heathen nations born before her (Hittite and Amorites, 16:45). Even the sins of Jerusalem’s sisters, identified as Samaria (i.e., the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel, 16:46) and Sodom (16:48), paled in contrast to the wickedness of Jerusalem. Ezekiel reminded the leaders of Israel (14:1) how the LORD destroyed Sodom for its gross wickedness (pride, glutton, slothful, uncharitable, haughtiness, and idolatry, 16:49-50), yet the citizens of Jerusalem had exceeded the infamy of those people (16:51-52).

Closing thoughts (16:53-63) – How could the sins of Jerusalem be greater than those of Sodom and Samaria?

Judah and Jerusalem enjoyed God’s favor like no other people. Nevertheless, they despised the LORD, rejected His Law, disobeyed His commandments, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52).  In spite of the sins and rebellion of Israel, God promised He would not forget His covenant with His people, and promised He would restore them to their land (16:53-63).

Truth – Greater Judgment Befalls Those Who Disdain the LORD’s Blessings.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God Gives a Nation the Leaders It Deserves (2 Kings 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 24

Our Scripture reading returns to the book of 2 Kings where our study picks up the narrative of events that are the background of God’s judgment against Jerusalem.

Remember how Jehoiakim, the third to the last king of Judah, burned Jeremiah’s scroll warning the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent? (Jeremiah 36:20-24) The prophet warned the king his evil deeds would bring God’s judgment upon Judah (Jeremiah 36:29-31). Yet, the king continued in his sin, “and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37).

2 Kings 24

Returning to 2 Kings 24, we find Jehoiakim king in name only, for he was now a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, and subject to the whims and demands of the king of Babylon. Jehoiakim, as foolish as he was evil, set his heart against the king of Babylon and “rebelled against him” (24:1). Nebuchadnezzar responded to Jehoiakim’s rebellion, and sent mercenary raiders against Judah, to destroy the nation as the LORD “spake by His servants the prophets” (24:2). Daniel records the same in his book where we read, “1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (Daniel 1:1).

The LORD had not forgotten the sins of Manasseh and his lineage, and how Judah had shed “innocent blood,” sacrificing their sons and daughters (24:3-4). (The slaughter of the innocent ones, and the fact “the LORD would not pardon” that sin should give 21st century nations pause. Surely abortion of the unborn in our day is no less egregious in the eyes of God, and as demanding of His judgment.)

Jehoiakim died (24:5), and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. Then, Nebuchadnezzar “came up against Jerusalem” (24:10), and the king of Judah surrendered and was taken to Babylon after reigning for three months (24:8-12). Fulfilling all the LORD had foretold, Nebuchadnezzar “carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord” (24:13).

Determined to remove any threat of another uprising, Nebuchadnezzar “carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land” (24:14). Numbered among the captives was the royal household (24:15), the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1), and “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (Daniel 1:6). In addition to the poor who were able to till the land and harvest crops (24:14; Jeremiah 40:10), there were some who escaped Jerusalem and fled to neighboring nations (Jeremiah 40:8).

Zedekiah, the Last King of Judah (24:17-20)

Jehoiakim, was succeeded by his uncle, “Mattaniah his father’s brother,” whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed and changed his name to Zedekiah (24:17). He was a mere  21 years old when he became king, and “reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (24:18).

Closing thoughts – Young and foolish, Zedekiah was left with an impoverished nation that lacked leadership, and the skills for government and war. Zedekiah was the end of a long line of foolish, wicked kings. Like the kings before him, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (24:19), and “rebelled against the king of Babylon” (24:20). To rebel against Nebuchadnezzar was the height of folly; however, we will see in our next devotional that was the path chosen by Zedekiah (2 Kings 25).

Remembering history is “His Story,” I am convinced God gives a nation the leaders it deserves. Surely that is as true in our day, as it was in Judah’s day.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Will You Be Valiant for the Truth? (Jeremiah 9)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 9

Known as the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah certainly epitomized that label in Jeremiah 9. I believe it can be supposed he was continuing to stand in the gate of the Temple where the LORD had sent him to proclaim the word of the LORD to the worshippers (7:2).

Jeremiah 9 – Jeremiah’s Lament over Jerusalem

Overcome with sorrow, Jeremiah described a perpetual state of tears, saying, “1Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (9:1). He wept day and night (9:1), and wished there was a place of escape, “a lodging place of wayfaring [traveling]men” (9:2). He would rather have been a resident in the wilderness, than live in the midst of an adulteress nation of treacherous, unfaithful men (9:2).

The Wickedness and Hypocrisy in Jeremiah’s Day (9:3-16)

Standing before those who had come to make a pretense of worship in the Temple, Jeremiah did not spare words when he described their hypocrisy. We read, “They bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant [strong; mighty; heroic] for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil [sin; wickedness] to evil, and they know [understand; acknowledge] not me, saith the LORD” (9:3).

Do those words not describe our world, and churches? Preachers bend the truth with their tongues, like the bent arch of a bow (9:3a). People do not know, nor do they understand the ways of the LORD, for He is holy (9:3c). In Jeremiah’s day, there were none who could be trusted (9:4a), for everyone had become like Jacob (Genesis 27:36), a liar, and deceiver (9:4). They did not speak the truth (9:5a; Ephesians 4:25), and wearied themselves pursuing sin (9:6b).

Judah had become a nation of liars and hypocrites (9:6), and there were none “valiant for the truth” (9:3b).

Is that not the fundamental sin, the spiritual flaw of our day? There are few who “speak the truth” (9:5), and “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). There are few pastors that will, “2preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). In Jeremiah’s day, as it is in our day, when the clarion call of truth was needed, there were none “valiant for the truth” (9:3).

Judah had become a nation of proud, stubborn, conceited, and incorrigible murderers, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters (9:3-8). Yet, the LORD would have shown them mercy if they had repented and turned to Him (9:10). Taking His mercies for granted, they followed in the sinful steps of their fathers (9:12-14).

The time for repentance had past, and the LORD declared he would feed His people with “wormwood” (bitter herbs), “give them water of gall to drink” (a poisonous blend, 9:15), and scatter them among the heathen (9:16).

Three Declarations of God’s Judgment (9:17-24)

1) Jeremiah was commanded to call for the professional mourners to weep over Jerusalem; however, so many would die there would not be enough mourners to weep over the dead (9:17-21). 2) Describing the brutality of Babylon’s victory over Jerusalem, Jeremiah foretold their dead bodies would be left unburied (9:22). 3) Finally, there would be nothing the people could do to save themselves. The wise were warned their wisdom would not save them. The strength of the mighty men would not avail. The wealth of the rich man would perish with him (9:23).

There was only one thing in which men could place their hope, and that was the knowledge of God’s immutable character. He declared of Himself, “I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (9:24).

Closing thoughts – Foolish men boast in much, but the godly boast only in the character and promises of the LORD who is gracious and merciful (“lovingkindness”), just (for He judges between the righteous and the wicked), and holy (for He is wholly righteous, 9:24).

Does your heart burn with passion for the Truth? Many lament the moral decay of our society, and the carnality in our homes, churches and schools. But how many of us contend for the faith, and pursue godliness and holiness? (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 1:16).

What about you? Too many occupy churches that entertain the masses, and sit under preaching that tickles the ears, but never pierces the heart.

Are you “valiant for the truth?”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8

* Today’s devotional will be taken from Jeremiah 7. A future devotional will consider Jeremiah 8.

Like most prophets of their generation, Jeremiah’s cry for Judah to turn back to the LORD, went unheeded. The prophet faithfully preached the Word of the LORD, and for four decades was reviled by His people and persecuted by the leaders of Judah.

As we come to Jeremiah 7, we find the LORD has commanded Jeremiah to go to the Temple, and stand in the “gate of the LORD’s house,” and preach: Amend your ways and your doings” (7:3). In other words, Do Right! If the people would “Do Right” [turning from their sins, and obeying the LORD and His Commandments] the LORD promised, “I will cause you to dwell in this place (7:3).

Jeremiah 7

I am struck by the hypocrisy of Judah!  They sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (7:30-31), yet continued a pretense of worshipping the LORD in His holy Temple (7:1-2, 4)!  They made an exhibition of public worship (7:2), “saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord” (7:4), yet, their hearts were far from the LORD.

The Condition of God’s Blessings (7:5-10)

Announcing the conditions of God’s blessings, Jeremiah exhorted the people to amend their ways, and do right (7:5). Tragically, the people rejected God’s Word, and placed their “trust in lying words” (7:8).

Breaking their covenant with the LORD, they disobeyed His Commandments. They were thieves (8th commandment), murderers (6th commandment), adulterers (7th commandment), liars (9th commandment), and idolaters who “walked after other gods,” breaking the 1st and 2nd commandments (7:6-11); Exodus 20).

The Temple – “A Den of Robbers” (7:11-16)

Though the people portrayed an outward air of spiritual piety, Jeremiah warned the LORD knew what manner of people they were, for they had turned His house into a “den of robbers” (7:11; note – Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). The prophet reminded the people what had become of Shiloh, the place their fathers had worshipped before the Temple was constructed, and the Philistines had destroyed. Jeremiah warned, if they continued in their sins, the LORD would destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, just as Shiloh had been desecrated and destroyed (7:12-15; Psalm 78:60-64).

As with “Ephraim” before (name for the northern ten tribes of Israel, 7:15), the fate of Judah was sealed. The LORD charged Jeremiah, saying, “pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (7:16).

The Degeneracy of Judah (7:17-20)

Judah was guilty of open idolatry, and the LORD questioned Jeremiah, “17Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” (7:17). Failing to keep covenant with the LORD and obey His Law and Commandments, Judah gave offerings to the “queen of heaven,” and “drink offerings unto other gods” (7:18).

God declared with amazement, “19Do they provoke me to anger? saith the Lord: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?” (7:19) Like the curse of sin that afflicts creation (Romans 8:22), the LORD declared His wrath and judgment would fall upon the whole of Judah, including man, beast, tree, and “the fruit of the ground” (7:20).

The Fate of Judah as a Nation was Sealed (7:21-27).

No excess of offerings would satisfy the wrath of God (7:21). The LORD had taught their forefathers, He preferred obedience over sacrifice (7:22-23; 1 Samuel 15:22), but they refused His words, and continued “in the imagination of their evil heart” (7:24). He sent prophets (7:25), but they continued in their sins, and “did worse than their fathers” (7:26). The LORD exhorted Jeremiah to be prepared for the people to reject him, saying, “they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee” (7:27).

Closing thoughts – The virtues, and sins of a people dictate the future of a nation (7:28-34).

Speaking the Word of the LORD, Jeremiah warned, “This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished” (7:28). The LORD commanded Jeremiah to tell the people, “29Cut off thine hair [a sign of mourning], O Jerusalem, and cast it away…for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath” (7:29).

The sins of the people sealed the fate of the nation. They profaned the Temple with idolatry (7:30), and maintained a show of public worship in the Temple. Their tragic offense, that of worshipping idols, led them to a most grievous sin of sacrificing their sons and daughters (7:31-32). In the very place of their abominations, Jeremiah warned, their dead bodies would be fed upon by carrion-eating birds and wild beasts (7:33).

What a tragic portrait we have of the fate of that sinful people! The streets of the cities would grow silent, and laughter and mirth would fail. The joys of young love would cease (7:34a), “for the land [would] be desolate” (7:34).

Summing up the imminence of God’s judgment, Jeremiah warned, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and [the people are] not saved” (8:20).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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