Category Archives: Morality

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

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 28-30

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

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

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

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

Ezekiel 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

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

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 1-3

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

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

Habakkuk 1

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

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

Habakkuk 2

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

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

Habakkuk 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Nahum 1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Isaiah 59-63

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“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