Category Archives: Peace

The LORD Has Chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 1-4

Today’s Scripture reading introduces us to the prophecies of Zechariah, a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Both prophets were called by the LORD to minister in Jerusalem during the post-exilic era (Ezra 1:1-2). Zechariah, a young prophet at the time of this writing, had the same task as Haggai: To challenge and exhort God’s people to rebuild the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

The focus of Haggai’s prophecies was to encourage the people to finish rebuilding the temple. The prophecies of Zechariah had an even far-reaching context; one that was not only applicable to the world of his day, but also to the world at the Second Coming of Christ when He returns as the Messiah King.

Zechariah 1:1-6 – Zechariah’s Commission to the Work of the Prophet

Zechariah announced with exactness the date his ministry as prophet began in Jerusalem: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (1:1). We know from history that the date was 520 B.C., two months after the commencement of Haggai’s ministry (Haggai 1:1).

Zechariah would have been born in Babylon during the seventy years of captivity. Like Haggai, his ministry was to convey to God’s people the LORD’S displeasure for their neglect of His house (the Temple, 1:2). Their failure to build the Temple had provoked God’s wrath; however, the LORD is longsuffering. Zechariah was commanded to go to the people and “say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (1:3).

Zechariah 1:7-4:14 – Eight Nightly Visions

To enlighten His prophet, the LORD came to Zechariah in eight nighttime visions that are recorded in Zechariah 1:7-6:8. These eight visions gave the prophet a glimpse of the future blessings and the glory the LORD would pour out on His people if they would repent of their sins and turn to Him. I will list five of the eight visions, but will only consider the first for today’s devotional.

The first of the eight visions was of horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17). The second vision was of “four horns” that each represented four world powers (1:18-21). The third vision was of a man who was seen surveying with “a measuring [the city of Jerusalem with a] line in his hand,” (2:1-13). A fourth vision was of “Joshua the high priest” wearing “filthy garments,” but given a “change of raiment” (3:1-10), symbolic of Israel repenting, being cleansed of her sin and restored.

Zechariah’s fifth vision was of a golden lampstand (“candlestick of gold”) that presented “seven lamps” supplied with oil by “two olive trees.” The olive oil flowed into a bowl that supplied the seven lamps with oil (4:1-14).

Time nor space permits me to focus on the eight visions the LORD revealed to Zechariah; however, I will draw your attention to the first vision (1:8-17).

Zechariah saw a “man riding upon a red horse” who was seen “among the myrtle trees…and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white” (1:8). While the number of hoses is not given, we notice that the horses had riders (1:10-11). I believe the man on the horse was “the angel of the LORD” (1:8-12) and a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. This same is true of the man seen surveying the city of Jerusalem in Zechariah’s third vision (2:1-13).

Zechariah 1:11 shows that this vision occurred at a time when the Gentile nations of the world were at peace (the Persians having subdued the nations of the Babylonian empire). The Jews; however, were not at peace after being oppressed by Assyria, and serving Babylon in captivity for seventy years (1:12).

Indicating a season of judgment was to come upon the Gentile nations for their harsh treatment of His people, Zechariah was commanded to cry out against the heathen nations and declare for the LORD, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15  And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease” (1:14-15).

The LORD promised to show mercy, and prosper His people if they would rebuild His Temple (1:16). What a joy it would have been for the Jews to hear Zechariah prophesy, saying,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).

God had not forgotten His people, nor the wrongs they had suffered. The LORD was waiting for His people to repent of their sins, that He might overwhelm them with His blessings.

Is the LORD waiting on you? He will bless His people when they confess their sins, repent, and turn to Him.

Psalm 51:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“HIS-STORY: The Cyclical Nature of God’s Providences and Man’s Fallen Nature”

You are invited to Hillsdale Baptist Church for this Sunday’s 10:30am worship service as Pastor Smith continues his prophetic series with our current focus on the writings and prophecies of Joel, the prophet of Judah.

Like other Old Testament prophets, Joel’s prophecies carried not only an imminent application to God’s people in his day, but were also a foretelling of events that are not yet come to pass. In fact, many of the headline news events we are observing in today’s world appear to be setting the stage for the fulfillment of prophecies we read in Joel 2-3.

There is, as the title of this blog states, a cyclical nature in history that evidences not only the sovereign, providential hand of God, but also the sinful, fallen nature of mankind. There is the rise, glory, decay, and eventual destruction of nations. There is a recurring pattern in the history of humanity that is one of spiritual darkness, followed by emerging light, that eventually fades away once again to darkness. There are times when there is a glimmer of hope for a national revival, a spiritual awakening, and renewal. Eventually, however, the depraved nature of humanity seems determined to eclipse the light entirely.

In this repeated cycle of spiritual light and darkness, where do you think we are as individuals, families, communities, churches, and as a nation? I fear we are seeing a growing darkness that is determined to extinguish the LIGHT. I sense an oppression that is already at war with Biblical faith, traditional family values, and our Constitutional freedoms as a nation and people.

There are many things to be learned from history, but the most important is that God is sovereign and we can be confident in His promises and providences. Jesus Christ is KING, LORD, and is Coming Again!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Let Us Never Forget 9\11

So much has changed in our world since the morning of September 11, 2001. It might be argued that whatever innocence (or naivety) that remained in our society, was suddenly rent from the heart of our nation when Islamic terrorists, in an unprovoked attack, struck a blow at the soul of America.

The World Trade Center, an international symbol of American capitalism collapsed in a pile of rubble. The Pentagon, a symbol of our nation’s military might, suffered a direct hit.  The crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, became a symbol of American heroism as average citizens determined they would not go to their deaths as helpless victims.

“We the People” became one that day as sorrow, anger, and patriotic zeal spanned the differences that often divide us. Race, religion, and political ideologies were set aside for an all too brief season as we grappled with an assault on our individual freedoms and sanctity as a nation.

We congregated in America’s churches, sought solace in each other’s company, wept and prayed. For a time, there was hope of a spiritual awakening, a humility and sincere turning back to the LORD that would bring revival in the hearts and souls as a nation. Instead, we find America torn asunder by petty partisanship, and violence that not only afflicts our cities, but assaults our sensibilities of law and justice.

King David asked, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1). The answer: Because the nations, the political governing bodies of the world, are opposed to God, and the people of the earth are by nature, rebellious. The greater question to ponder is, “Why is God so patient, so longsuffering with sinners?”

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Good Things, and Why You Should Embrace Them (Lamentations 3-5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 3-5

Jeremiah’s lamentations take on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. While today’s Scripture reading is Laminations 3-5, today’s devotional commentary will be limited to chapter 3.

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah has lived to see all that he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poorest people after Babylon conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, the prophet gazes out upon a scene of devastation. The Temple has been destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem have fallen.

Lamentations 3:1-21 is a testimony of the prophet’s afflictions.

Alienated from God, the heavy burden of discipline upon him, Jeremiah felt as though the LORD had turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed in his distress, but felt as though God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). In his sorrows, the prophet felt trapped, abandoned, wounded in heart (3:9-13). Mocked by his own people (3:14) and nearly overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18), Jeremiah was despairing of life (3:19) until he turned his focus from his circumstances to the LORD (3:20-21).

Lamentations 3:21-66 – Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that are the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace]that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases].
23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness[steadfastness].”

Jeremiah continues, “The LORD is good [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good;” however, notice there is a twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of God.

1) First, we must learn to “wait [hope] for Him” (3:25a).

It is easy to counsel others to be patient and wait on the LORD; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.

Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you have been hurt?  To wait when you are ill?  Do you wait on the LORD when you have been mistreated or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait on the LORD when a loved one makes choices that grieve your heart?  “Patience is a virtue,” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply. Jeremiah’s counsel in the midst of deep distress is “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

2) Second, we must truly “seek Him” (3:25b).

What does it mean to seek the LORD? Be diligent to search Him out by reading, inquiring, and meditating in His Word. To seek the LORD one must obey His Law and Commandments, and follow His will (3:40; Jeremiah 29:13)

I close inviting you to consider the things that are said to be “good[pleasant; beautiful; right; pleasing] in Lamentations 3:26-27.

Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”

It is good for a believer to “hope” (3:26a). This “hope” is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul.  It is hope that awaits with anticipation God’s answer to prayer. It is hope that springs from faith that is predicated on the knowledge that God hears and answers prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises.

It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait in silence. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  (I fear the pews of churches are filled with many who are neither patient or quiet!)

Thirdly, it is good when a son bears the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). 

Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”

In the midst of his own afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged that it is a good thing when young men bear the yoke of manhood with its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Many parents coddle their youth and insulate them from a harsh reality: Life can be difficult, even harsh, but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. 

Lesson – Parents rob children of a “good” thing when they fail to make them bear the burdens, blessings, and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Jerusalem is Become a Widow; Judah is Gone Into Captivity” (Lamentations 1-2)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 1-2

Introduction to Lamentations – The Aftermath of Jerusalem’s Fall

The Book of Lamentations, though only five chapters in length, is powerful, poetic, and a devastating portrait of the consequences of sin. The book is as its name suggest, a book of laments. We find in its pages five laments, penned and enunciated by the prophet Jeremiah, as he gazes upon the rubble that was once the beautiful city of David. Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations records the old prophet’s cries of grief, his groanings over Jerusalem and Judah.

Jeremiah had faithfully served as God’s prophet through the reigns of five successive kings of Judah. He had warned God’s people that judgment was inevitable if the nation did not repent, turn from her sins, and turn to God.  The kings persecuted the prophet and the people rejected the Word of the LORD. With the city destroyed and the majority of the people taken away to Babylon, Jeremiah and a few poor citizens remained in Judah to work the land and serve Babylon.

The focus of today’s devotional commentary will be limited to Lamentations 1.

Lamentations 1 – Jeremiah’s Lament: Jerusalem’s Humiliation

Remembering the Temple is a pile of smoldering rubble and the palaces, homes, and walls of Jerusalem lie in ruin, we can understand Jeremiah’s lament over Jerusalem, the city he describes “as a widow” (1:1) and whose people are “tributary,” serving as forced labor in Babylon (1:1).

Jeremiah pictures Jerusalem as a bereaved widow whose sorrows cannot be appeased, and who finds no comfort for “her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies” (1:2). The cause for the suffering and sorrows of the city is summed up in this: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed” (1:8a).

Jeremiah described Jerusalem’s plight and all the people had suffered because of their sins: Famine, humiliation, distress, the consuming fire of God’s wrath, the burden of sin, the loss of her army, sorrow, rejection and scorn had become Jerusalem’s plight (1:9-17).

The LORD was Waiting for His People to Confess Their Sins and Turn to Him (1:18-22).

In a prayer of intercession, Jeremiah confessed the sins of His nation (1:18-19). Declaring the righteousness of the LORD, the prophet confessed for Jerusalem: “I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity” (1:18).

Following his confession to the LORD, Jeremiah made four pleas for Jerusalem and her displaced people (1:20-22).

The first plea was that the LORD would see Jerusalem’s suffering (1:20a). The second, that the LORD would hear the confession of His people (1:20b). Thirdly, Jeremiah prayed for the LORD to show compassion upon His people who were dying (1:20c).

Finally, the prophet closed with an imprecatory plea: That the LORD would remember the wickedness of Babylon and that nation would suffer the afflictions she had assailed on Jerusalem (1:22).

* A closing note for those who might want to “dig a little deeper;” notice that Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are each twenty-two verses long.  There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each of the verses in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 begin with a word using the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in other words, like our A-Z in English).  Lamentations 4 is sixty-six verses long and the Hebrew alphabet in that chapter begins couplets that are three verses each.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Gathering Storm Clouds of God’s Vengeance (Jeremiah 46-48)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 46-48

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the beginning of a series of prophecies against the Gentile nations that had abused Israel and Judah. These final chapters, Jeremiah 46-52, predict the devastating invasion of Babylon’s army (“waters rise up out of the north” – Jeremiah 47:2) and the forthcoming destruction of those nations that were Israel’s adversaries.

Jeremiah 46 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Egypt

Knowing the LORD declared King Nebuchadnezzar as, “My servant,” we begin to understand the manner in which God would use the rise of Babylon to humble those nations that had afflicted His people.

Babylon’s overwhelming defeat of Egypt was predicted (46:1-2), even as that nation’s Pharaoh rallied his army (46:3-8) and hired mercenaries to go to war with Egypt’s army (46:9). In spite of Egypt’s greatness and her vast wealth, God warned, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon [would] come and smite the land of Egypt” (46:13).

Reminding us of God’s sovereignty over the nations, the question was asked, “Why are thy valiant men swept away?” The answer, “because the LORD did drive them” (46:15).

Egypt had passed the time of repenting of her sins (46:17) and Jeremiah warned, her “destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north” (46:20). And who was that enemy that would come out of the north (46:24)?

Jeremiah 46:26 – And I will deliver them [the people of Egypt] into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 47 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Philistia

Have you ever wondered what became of the Philistines, Moabites, and Ammonites? The answer is found in the closing chapters of Jeremiah’s prophecies. Those ancient people and their nations were defeated by the armies of Babylon, removed from their lands, and ultimately assimilated into other nations and people.

Jeremiah prophesied against Philistine cities and their inhabitants: Gaza, Tyrus, Zidon, Ashkelon would all be destroyed by “water [that would] rise up out of the north [i.e. Babylon], and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein: then the men [of Philistia]shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl” (47:2).

Jeremiah 48 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Moab

Jeremiah prophecy of doom continues with a warning to the cities of Moab, Israel’s ancient enemy (48:1-3). We read, “Moab is destroyed; her little ones [the children of Moab] have caused a cry to be heard” (48:4). The destruction and suffering brought upon Moab by Babylon would be complete, her “cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein” (48:9).

No village, town, or city would be spared God’s judgment. The LORD warned Nebuchadnezzar, addressing the king as His servant, His agent of judgment, that he would be judged should he “[keep] back his sword from blood” (48:10). Jeremiah 48:11-25 gives us a graphic portrait of the defeat and suffering of Moab.

Why such suffering? Why obliterate the Moabites as a people? Because a spirit of pride had moved Moab as a nation to “[magnify] himself against the LORD” (48:42).

Is there any good news for God’s people in today’s Scripture reading? Absolutely; there was a message of hope and comfort found in the closing verses of Jeremiah 46.

Jeremiah 46:27-28 – “27  But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. 28  Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.”

Unlike the heathen whose nations are lost to history, God promised He would not forget His people identified as “my servant Jacob” and represented in Israel and Judah (46:27).

The LORD promised to one day gather them together from the nations of the world and restore them to their land (Isaiah 19:16-25) and “The LORD Our Righteousness” will reign (Jeremiah 23:5-8).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“I Have Loved Thee With An Everlasting Love” (Jeremiah 30-31)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 30-31

The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Jeremiah 30.

The timeline for Jeremiah 30 follows Babylon conquering all of Judah with one exception, Jerusalem, the capital city. Many of the inhabitants of Judah are already captives in Babylon and the fear, suffering, and despair they feel on behalf of Jerusalem is almost overwhelming.

When all seemed lost, the LORD came to Jeremiah and commanded him to write in a book a word of hope (30:1-2). The prophecies recorded in Jeremiah 30-31 had not only an immediate implication that would be fulfilled in seventy years (29:10), but also a future hope that would be fulfilled following “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (30:7).

Jeremiah 30 – A Message of Comfort and Hope

The first prophecy was a promise of a day of restoration when both Israel and Judah would be restored to their land. With the exception of Israel and Judah, the populations of all other ancient nations have been assimilated into the populations of their captors. God, however, kept His Covenant promise to preserve the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12). The LORD assured His people, “I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah…I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” (30:3).

Jeremiah also foretold a day of great judgment (30:4-7). A terrible, foreboding time of sorrow, terror, war and famine (30:5). In the immediate, the days described led up to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and Jerusalem’s destruction. However, in the future, prophetic sense it is a period Christ described in the New Testament as the “Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:21-31; Mark 13:19-27). Though Israel would be hated of all nations, God promised Israel, “he [Israel] shall be saved out of it” (30:7).

A day of salvation is also foretold (30:7c-11). The yoke of servitude Israel would bear in the Babylonian captivity, the LORD promised, “I will break his [Babylon’s] yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve [i.e. enslave] themselves of him [enslave Israel]” (30:8). Faithful to His promise, seventy years would pass (25:11-12) and God’s people would be freed by Cyrus king of Persia, to return to their homeland where they would rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-3) and Jerusalem.

Jeremiah also prophesied of a future day when Israel would “serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I [the LORD] will raise up unto them” (30:9). This Messianic promise will be fulfilled at the close of the Great Tribulation when Christ returns to reign in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom. Although still future, the LORD promised Israel and Judah, “I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee” (30:11).

God promised His divine protection of His people, assuring them that those nations that have oppressed Israel and taken them captive, will themselves be oppressed and destroyed (30:16).

The LORD promised His people, “I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds” (30:17). In that day, Jerusalem will be rebuilt (30:18) and God’s people will give thanks and rejoice (30:19) and the LORD will say, “ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (30:22).

I will close today’s devotional commentary with a beautiful, poetic expression of God’s love for His people. Promising His grace and repeating His promise to renew His covenant with Israel, which the people had broken in their wickedness, we read,

Jeremiah 31:1, 3 – “I [will] be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people… I have loved thee [Israel] with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (31:1, 3).

Though Israel had broken their covenant with the LORD, God never stopped loving His people and promised He would one day reconcile them to Himself.

How is it possible for a sinner to be reconciled to God? By faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, His death, and bodily resurrection from the grave!

Romans 5:8-10 – “8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Wicked Know No Shame (Zephaniah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Zephaniah 1-3

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Zephaniah, a minor prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (1:1).

Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.

Zephaniah was tasked with pronouncing God’s judgment on His people in frightening and graphic details. He warned Judah, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD” (1:2). Nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD: “I will consume man and beast… fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea…Judah…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (1:3-4).

“The Day of the Lord” is an oft repeated phrase in Zephaniah 1 and was a warning of the day of God’s vengeance (1:7, 8, 14, 18).

Remember the prophecies often have an immediate and future application. In the immediate, the “day of the LORD” was the day of God’s judgment against Judah when Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the prophetic application, the “day of the LORD” is still future and will be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ when He comes in judgment.

Zephaniah 1:10 mentions “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The fish gate was the gate that led to the fish market, but you may wonder why is this important. The answer is a historical fact: King Nebuchadnezzar passed through the fish gate when Babylon conquered Jerusalem! The destruction of the city and the captivity of the people would be so thorough that it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (1:12a).

The people lived in denial saying, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (1:12b). Even the strongest men of Judah would cry out on the day of God’s judgment (1:13). How terrible is the day of God’s final judgment?

Zephaniah 1:15 – “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Zephaniah 2 – An Exhortation to Repent

Remembering the LORD is longsuffering, we are not surprised to read that the prophet Zephaniah called upon Judah to repent and, “seek…the LORD, all ye meek of the earth…seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” (2:3).

Because of their wickedness, Zephaniah prophesied the judgment of God against four major Philistine cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron” (2:4). The Moabites and Ammonites would fall to Babylon as divine punishment for their abuses of Israel (2:8-11). The Ethiopians (of the lineage of Cush whose land was southeast of Egypt on the continent of Africa) would be slain (2:12). Assyria and its great capital city, Nineveh, would be utterly destroyed by Babylon. The destruction of Nineveh so complete it would be uninhabitable, a wasteland and a haven for wild beasts (2:13-15).

Zephaniah 3 – The Necessity of Divine Judgment Against Jerusalem

Zephaniah laid out the case regarding the wickedness of Jerusalem that demanded God’s judgment (3:1-4). That city had become “filthy and polluted,” and was a violent city (3:1). Her civil leaders (princes and judges) were like “roaring lions…wolves” that gnaw the bones of the poor and helpless (3:1). Her spiritual leaders (prophets and priests) were “treacherous” and violent (3:4).

Zephaniah assured the people of Judah, the LORD was just and He would not “do iniquity…He brings His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame” (3:5).

What an appalling statement! Innocence was lost. Moral purity disdained. The politicians and religious leaders were so given to sin and wickedness that they felt no shame! Though their wickedness was widely known, they felt no sense of humiliation. In spite of God’s judgment of other nations’ sins, Judah had failed to be moved to repent of her sins (3:6-7).

Zephaniah’s ministry closed with not only a warning of the day when God would gather the nations of the earth to be judged (3:8), but also when He will gather the remnant of Israel from all nations who will call upon and serve Him (3:9).

In that day, the day of the LORD, sin, shame, and pride will be removed (3:11-14), God’s people will rejoice for the LORD is King (3:14-17), and the people will be restored to the LORD who will dwell in the midst (3:18-20).

What a glorious day that will be!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The hour of revival had past, and it was too late! (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35). 2 Kings was a contemporary history record; however, 2 Chronicles was authored while Israel and Judah were in captivity. Both are historical accounts of the promise of blessings (when kings obey the LORD’s Law and Commandments) and judgment (when those same kings rebel and disobey the LORD). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the accounts in 2 Kings 22-23.

2 Kings 22

The glorious reign of Josiah, the grandson of King Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years) and the son of Amon (a wicked king who reigned two years), was a period of revival in Judah.

Josiah began to reign when he was eight years old, and perhaps because of the influence of his mother, he chose to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

The king commanded that the Temple be repaired (22:3-7), and in the course of doing so the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8). The “book of the law” was taken to King Josiah and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah, overwhelmed by the words of the law and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), sent messengers to enquire of a prophetess named Huldah (22:13-14). Huldah confirmed to the king that the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah was assured that he would not see the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in his lifetime because his “heart was tender” and he had humbled himself before the LORD (22:18-19).

2 Kings 23

Josiah set his heart to begin a national reformation of Judah, and one that reached northward to the land and remnant of Israel (2 Kings 23). Gathering all the leaders and people of Judah, the king renewed Judah’s covenant with the LORD (23:1-3).

The king commanded the Temple be cleansed of idolatry and all the elements associated with such wickedness destroyed, ground to powder, and burned (23:4-6). Demonstrating the depth of depravity to which Judah had descended, we find there were “houses of the sodomites” (homosexuals) located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah took his crusade for reformation to Bethel where Jeroboam, the first king of the northern ten tribes, had established idolatry (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough that he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

Josiah also observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).

The reign of Josiah was celebrated in Judah. In the annals of Judah’s history there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Nevertheless, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of King Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of Manasseh, had sealed the fate of that nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).

Three rebellious kings followed Josiah in quick succession (23:31-37) and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, began to overshadow the land (2 Kings 24).

For Judah, the hour of revival had past, and it was too late.

Genesis 6:3 – “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A God Who Hears and Answers Prayer (2 Chronicles 32-33)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 32-33

Today’s Scripture reading is an abridged version of the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah that has been considered in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s devotional commentary will focus solely on 2 Chronicles 32.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel to the north opened the way for Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1).

King Hezekiah consulted with his leaders and determined to enforce the city walls and deprive Assyria’s army of water by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city (32:2-5). Displaying his faith and confidence in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people:

2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him8  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

Sending messengers and writing letters to the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned their confidence in the king. The king of Assyria also spoke against the God of Israel, asserting their God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Finally, Sennacherib declared that Hezekiah had deceived the people of Jerusalem, leading them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character and the offense Sennacherib had raised against the God of Israel?

2 Chronicles 32:20 – “Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.”

Isaiah describes this moment observing that “Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the [Assyrian] messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD” (Isaiah 37:14-17).

Hezekiah’s focus was not on the threats of his enemy or his own strengths. The king’s faith and hope were in the LORD who heard the king’s prayer and “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:20).

Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory God alone was due (32:25).  The king was “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26), God restored his health.

Permit me to close with an observation and application. 

King Solomon taught his son, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime. A leader’s character does matter!  Whether it is the leadership of a nation, state, city, church or school, a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on people.

Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith