Category Archives: Peace

God is With You in The Midst of Trials

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezra 1-5

The setting of the Book of Ezra, a contemporary of Haggai, is the end of the 70-year Babylonian captivity.  Remembering, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1), the opening verses of Ezra serve as notice the God of Israel is the Sovereign God of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:1-2).

Having conquered Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus, declared the God of heaven moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).  Fulfilling the LORD’S promise to restore Israel as a nation, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return to their land (Ezra 1:3).

The hardships that laid before the remnant that returned to Judah would be formidable.  The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, its walls reduced to rubble, and the Temple destroyed.  After seventy years in captivity, many of God’s people had embraced the Babylonian culture and only a small minority were willing to accept the challenge of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 2).

Under Ezra’s leadership, the people rebuilt the altar (3:1-6), laid the Temple foundation (3:7-9), and paused to celebrate and praise the LORD as a free people (3:10-11).

Consider three qualities God’s people share when they set aside personal agendas in favor of the will and purpose of the LORD (Ezra 3).

The first shared quality is a mutual purpose; “they gathered…as one man to Jerusalem (3:1).  The second, they shared a spirit of mutual sacrifice as they “gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters”, meat from their livestock, wine from their vineyards, and oil refined from their olive groves (3:7).  The third is a satisfaction of mutual joy; when the foundation was laid, “all the people shouted with a great shout” (3:11).

Unfortunately, in the midst of those celebrating the newly laid Temple foundation, were some who did not share the joy of those rebuilding the Temple (3:12-13).  A discordant sound arose from the “ancient men”, the elderly who were living in the past instead of celebrating in the moment (3:12-13).

Ezra 3:12-13 – “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  13  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”

The “ancient men” remembered Solomon’s Temple, the one destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and comparing the glory of that Temple to the foundation of the new one, became critical and scoffed at the work being done.  Through Zechariah, the LORD confronted the ancients asking, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10).  The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s question asking, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

Friend, the second Temple would not match the physical splendor and beauty of Solomon’s Temple; however, it would be greater than the first for the LORD Jesus Christ, would grace it with His physical presence as the incarnate Son of God.  Of the new Temple, Haggai prophesied:

Haggai 2:9 – The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

I close on a personal note drawing upon my experiences as the Senior Pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church these past 22 years.

Today’s scripture reading brings back memories of a series I preached in the Book of Ezra in the spring of 2004.  At the time, Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of a relocation and building program that commenced with the purchase of land at our current location in 1999, followed by the design and preparation of architectural blueprints, and the sale of our old facilities February 2003.  From groundbreaking to completion, the timeline for our new facility was to be ten months.

Hillsdale’s pastoral leaders and deacons prepared the church for what was supposed to be a temporary inconvenience of renting a public school auditorium for Sunday worship services while our new home was under construction.  Unforeseen by any of our leadership was an adversarial spirit evidenced by the contractor soon after groundbreaking.

A lack of performance forced the church to terminate the contractor and subcontractors, and embroiled the church in a prolonged legal battle with the surety bond company that, using various legal maneuvers, attempted to exhaust the will of the church and its leaders.  A ten month construction project ended up taking thirty months to complete, followed by legal battles that continued another five years costing Hillsdale hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Late July 2005, Hillsdale Baptist Church experienced the joy of holding our first services in our new home; a joy tempered by a sorrow for some who did not persevere with us to the dedication of our new home.  In the fall of 2010, the surety company and contractors were forced to settle with the church.

The toll on the church was great; however, those who persevered have been richly blessed and God glorified.  Being reminded God is Sovereign, Hillsdale’s adversaries paid a far greater price.  The contractor died in a tragic accident the very day the financial settlement for the church was under deliberation; the construction firm and the majority of subcontractors were either forced into bankruptcy or dissolved.

I close with a verse that carried me through much adversity.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trials] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tested or tried] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [provide you the strength and means to pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 128-130

Today’s scripture reading consists of three brief songs of worship in the Book of Psalms, chapters 128, 129 and 130.  As noted in previous devotions, we are in the midst of a set of Psalms known as, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) and believed to have been psalms pilgrims sang as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple for feasts days celebrated by the Hebrews.  My focus for today’s commentary is Psalm 128.

Psalm 128 is a song of rejoicing in the LORD for His many blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears and walks in the ways of the LORD (128:1).

What does it mean to fear the LORD?

The fear of the LORD is not a fear that, like Adam, flees or cowers in God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9).  It is a reverential fear; a fear that moves a man to conduct himself in a manner that is upright, honest and just.  Such a man is “blessed” (i.e. happy; joyful; satisfied) because he “walketh in His ways” (the ways of the LORD’S commandments).

Drawing upon a picture that is rural and agricultural (128:2-3); the man who fears the LORD is promised he will enjoy success in his labor, be happy in his pursuits, and fare well in life (128:2).

Wow; what a picture of a rewarding, satisfying life!  However, it gets even better!  It is one thing to be well-off, have money in savings and enjoy material success; however, it is quite another to have family in whom you take pleasure.

The world might say such a man lives a “charmed life”; however, nothing could be further from the truth!  He is not lucky; he is blessed because he fears the LORD and walks in His ways!

Unlike the wicked whose lives are cursed with the ways of sin that never satisfy, the life of a man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways is not choked with the weeds of ungodliness.  God blesses his labor (128:2) and his household enjoys the fruit of God’s blessings upon his life (128:3).

His wife is “a fruitful vine” and finds her strength in him and his children are “like olive plants”, a source of joy to his soul.  Leaving us no doubt the way of the LORD is blessed, the psalmist repeats his assertion, the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (128:4).

The closing verses of Psalm 128 serve as a benediction for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways (128:5-6).

Psalm 128:5-6 – “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6  Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

We have seen the family portraits of three generations in this psalmThe first is a portrait of a young man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), is like “a fruitful vine” …a source of joy and blessing to her household.

The second portrait is that of the man’s children who, sitting around his table, are trained and cultivated to grow up “like olive plants” and prosper (128:3).

The third portrait is one of contentment (128:5-6) and was taken in the latter years of the godly man’s life.  He is old, his back stooped in age; however, his heart aspires to see God bless his nation (128:5).  He rejoices in seeing his “children’s children”, and prays for peace (128:6).

Many reading this devotional aspire to the same.  We long for success and to be a blessing to our spouse and children.  We pray for God to pour out His blessings on our nation and, when we are old, to grant us the joy of seeing and loving our grandchildren.

My friend, those are admirable goals; however, they are the blessings of those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 1-2

Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes might raise in some a spirit of hopelessness; however, such should not be the case for children of faith whose focus and trust is in the LORD.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the pondering of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (the one exception is Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God).  The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life and, apart from the LORD, its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Penned in the latter years of his life, his youth far spent and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, Solomon’s outlook was hardly an attitude of rejoicing.  Solomon wondered, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?  One generation dies and another takes its place (Eccl. 1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (Eccl. 1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (Eccl. 1:6-7) and, in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Eccles. 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give wealth unimaginable and wisdom incomprehensible (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  He gave his heart searching for purpose apart from God and, near the end of life summed up his search saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life was empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

His soul spiritually cold, his life viewed from a horizontal, human perspective, his heart turned from God; no wonder Solomon writes thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, all is vanity!”

What a tragic end for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!  When he was young, he loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God honored his request, imparting to him not only wisdom, but also riches and power.  Tragically, in his old age, Solomon turned from the LORD and His Word.  Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God.

Eccles. 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed, troubled individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.   Every morning the man awoke melancholy and in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist listened to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties and finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 122-124

We continue our study of the Psalms titled under the heading, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134).  As mentioned in an earlier devotional, the word “degrees” has been a subject of debate with some suggesting it may refer to our modern concept of musical keys.  I believe the opening verse of Psalm 122 makes a good case that the “degrees” refer to one’s ascent to Jerusalem.  It is believed this psalm was written by David and sung by pilgrims going to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the holy feasts.  David writes,

Psalm 122:6-7 – “Pray for the peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] of Jerusalem: they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee. 7  Peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] be within thy walls, and prosperity [abundance; quietness; security] within thy palaces [citadel; castle; fortified buildings].”

There is an irony that Jerusalem, a city whose very name means “peace” or “possession of peace”, has known so little peace over three millenniums of human history.   Even in our day, Jerusalem is a city of perpetual turmoil, the target of terrorist attacks and bombings.  Surely if David were alive today he would encourage us to pray, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6a).

The call to pray for Jerusalem’s peace comes with a promise: “…they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee” (Psalm 122:6b).

Some will argue the call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the promise of rest and prosperity to those who love the Jewish people and their land and capital city is not applicable in our day.  I feel; however, the history of humanity is proof enough God blesses and prospers those nations that seek the peace of Jerusalem.  Those nations that oppress the Jewish people and hate their land and capital city have been laid waste in times of war.

Ancient Assyria, Chaldea, Greece, Rome, and the Ottoman Turks, all enemies of the Jews, are nothing more than a footnote in history.   20th century nations that oppressed the Jews are no exception; Germany, Italy and the former Soviet Union, all devastated by war and their great cities left in ruin.

In contrast, the United States has historically been the friend of Israel and unquestionably the most prosperous nation in the world.  In my opinion, much of the trouble and turmoil dividing the United States can be credited to God withdrawing His blessing from America because of President Obama’s eight-year courtship with Israel’s Middle East enemies and that administration’s isolation of Israel.

We know from the scriptures Jerusalem, Israel and the world will not experience lasting peace until the Prince of Peace returns and establishes His kingdom.  Isaiah prophesied, the Christ-child would be born whose names and titles indicate He would be God, “called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).   However, Isaiah 9:7, promising “his government and peace there shall be no end” has yet to be fulfilled.

Praying for the “peace of Jerusalem” is in fact, a prayer for the LORD Jesus Christ to come and establish His millennial kingdom.

The LORD promised, “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20); John responded with the words I pray every time Hillsdale observes the LORD’s Supper, “Even so, come, LORD Jesus” (Rev. 22:20b).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

My LORD Never Slumbers or Sleeps!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 120-121

Our scripture reading today is from a section of fifteen psalms, Psalms 120-134, titled “A Song of Degrees”.  The designation “degrees” might refer to one’s elevation or ascent to higher ground and the psalms in this section are believed by some to have been sung by pilgrims journeying up to Jerusalem for a feast day.  Others suggest the “degrees” might be a reference to our modern concept of musical keys or scales.  Today’s scripture reading is the first two of the psalms in this section, Psalms 120-121.

The author of Psalm 120 is David and it was apparently written as a reflection on a time of trouble and affliction.  The title of Psalm 120 in my Bible is, “David prays against Doeg and reproves his tongue”.  Who was Doeg and why did he cause David such distress?

When David fled from king Saul and was hungry, he requested “hallowed bread” of Ahimelech, the high priest, bread dedicated to the LORD, for himself and his men (21:1-6).  Doeg, identified as “a certain man of the servants of Saul” (1 Samuel 21:7), overheard the request and took notice it was David.

King Saul, hearing how the high priest gave aid to David and his men, commanded his servants to slay the priest and his household; however, the servants of Saul refused to harm the LORD’s priests (1 Samuel 22:16-17).  Doeg, however, had no conscience and rose up and slew eight-five priests (22:18).

With that background, we understand David writing, “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1).  There is no doubt David was downcast when he learned men who aided him had died for his sake.  Doeg perpetuated the lie David was Saul’s enemy and the king made war against David (Psalm 120:2-7).

Some refer to Psalm 121 as the “Pilgrim’s Psalm”, one the saints of God sang on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices to the LORD.

I suggest four major points for Psalm 121.  The first is the psalmist’s Pledge to seek the LORD: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help [aid]” (121:1).

I am not certain the dangers the psalmist faced; however, I know where he looked for help… “the hills” (121:1).  He did not look to himself and live by his wits or to others hoping they might come and save him.  His confidence was in the LORD.

The second point is the Promise; the psalmist was confident in the LORD’s care (121:2).

Psalm 121:2  – “My help cometh from the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], which made [created; fashioned] heaven [sky; sun, stars, moon] and earth [land].”

The psalmist was confident the LORD Who created heaven and earth was more than a spectator or bystander of His creation.    He affirmed the LORD would come to his aid in a time of trouble.

The psalmist was confident in the LORD’s Protection (121:3-7).  He looked to the LORD as his Deliverer in times of trouble and Keeper Who never slumbers or sleeps (121:3-4).

Psalm 121:3 – “He [the LORD] will not suffer thy foot [walk] to be moved [waver; shake]: he that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] thee will not slumber [sleep].”

Psalm 121:4 – “Behold, He [the LORD] that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] Israel [posterity of Jacob] shall neither slumber [sleep; i.e. be drowsy] nor sleep [slack; i.e. grow old].”

The psalmist was confident the LORD was his Protector (121:5).  Like a shepherd keeps his sheep from danger, the LORD keeps watch over His people.  The LORD is “thy shade”, a place of retreat, refreshing and where one’s strength is revived.

The LORD is also Guardian of His people (121:7) and protects them from “all evil” (121:7).

Psalm 121:7  – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thee from all evil [wickedness; bad; calamity]: He shall preserve [guard; watch] thy soul [life; person].”

That does not mean “bad things” do not happen to God’s people; however, it does mean God is able to turn “bad things” into good for those who love Him and place their trust in Him (Romans 8:28-29).  David writes the same when he assures us:

Psalm 91:9-10 – “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10  There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

Finally, we note the LORD is a Perpetual Shepherd (Psalm 121:8).

Psalm 121:8 – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore [perpetually].”

Like a shepherd keeps watch over his sheep, the psalmist assures us “the LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in” (121:8a)

What a comforting truth!  There is no place beyond the LORD’s watch. 

The LORD keeps us when we rise in the morning until we lay our head on the pillow in the evening.  The LORD keeps us when we are young and strong and when we grow old and frail.  The LORD is with us in health and sickness!  When we travel afar and when our steps lead home, the LORD is with us.   He is with us in our down sittings and our uprisings.

My friend, if you are believer you are a child of the King, forever secure in the LORD.  You can be assured, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Curse of Ingratitude

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 21-24

Our study in 2 Chronicles continues today with a nation in mourning when we read, “Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead” (2 Chronicles 21:1).

Jehoshaphat’s reign over Judah was aptly summed up in these words: He “walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32).

Jehoshaphat and his father Asa reigned over Judah sixty-six years and the LORD blessed the nation with peace and prosperity; however, the latter years of each king’s reign was stained with alliances that compromised not only their life testimonies and the nation.

King Asa made a foolish alliance with Syria in the latter years of his reign and went to his grave ruling a nation at war (2 Chronicles 16:9).  Like his father before him, Jehoshaphat’s last act as king was an alliance with the Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, “to make ships to go to Tarshish”  (2 Chronicles 20:35-36); ships that were apparently lost in a storm and “broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37).

Jehoram, unlike his father and grandfather before him, began to reign over Judah with no evidence he loved or aspired to serve the LORD (2 Chronicles 21:1).  Rather than peace and prosperity, the reign of Jehoram began with him commanding the murders of his own brethren to secure the throne of Judah and eliminate any challenge to his reign (2 Chronicles 21:2-5).

Though he ruled only eight years, Jehoram’s reign was not only a terror to his father’s household, it began Judah’s decline into all manner of evil.  Taking the daughter of Ahab, Israel’s wicked king, to be his wife, Jehoram “walked in the way of the kings of Israel…and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD” (21:6).  Jehoram’s godless example was far reaching, for “he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

God raised up Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet, to confront Jehoram (21:12-13), who warned the king his wickedness not only provoked the LORD’s judgment against Judah (21:14), but would also result in his own dreadful death described as a “great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day” (21:15).  We are not told what the intestinal disease was, but I suspect it might have been a cancer for we read, “his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases…” (26:19).  Unlike his father’s memorial service, Judah did not honor Jehoram with a king’s burial.

Continuing on a path of compromise with the wicked, one that would eventually lead to Judah’s destruction, Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, secured his father’s throne in Jerusalem and following the counsel of his mother, having his brethren slain (22:1).  Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (22:4) and followed the counsel of the idolatrous and wicked “house of Ahab” (22:4).

Ahaziah was slain after reigning only one year over Judah (22:9) and was succeeded by his wicked mother Athaliah, who ordered the slaying of all the royal line of David (22:10-12).   Josah, the infant son of Ahaziah, was spared when Ahaziah’s sister concealed him for six years while Athaliah reigned in Judah (22:11-12).

2 Chronicles 23 records the coronation and ascension of Joash to the throne led by the high priest Jehoiada and the priestly tribe of Levi (23:1-11), the slaying of Athaliah and her followers (23:12-15).  Having crowned the new king, the high priest Jehoiada boldly led the nation in revival, purging the land of the worshippers of Baal (23:16-21).

Joash began to reign when he was seven years old and Jehoiada, the high priest served as his counsel and guide (24:1-3).  Under the influence of Jehoiada, Joash set his heart to repair the temple that had fallen into decay during the six-year reign of Athaliah (24:4-7).  Joash made a proclamation for a collection to be taken from the people and the offerings of the people used to hire workman to repair the temple (24:8-14).

The high priest Jehoiada counseled and guided Joash until his death at one hundred and thirty years old (24:15-16).  With Jehoiada dead, the “princes of Judah” (24:17) were emboldened to come to the king who turned the heart of the king and the nation from the LORD and provoking His wrath (24:18).

The LORD raised up prophets to prophesy against the sins of the nation; among them was Zechariah, the son of the Jehoiada the high priest.   Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation, warning of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22).  Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

The LORD judged Joash and Judah, giving Syria victory who slew the “princes of the people” (24:22-24).  The servants of Joash rose up and slew the king while he slept on his bed and buried him without the honors given to kings (24:25).

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of Bob Jones College, reminded the student body, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (24:22a).

How could a man whose life was saved by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the merciless death of his son?

I suppose every believer can answer that question when we bear in our heart a spirit of bitterness, forgetting the LORD sacrificed His Son for our sins.  Thus we read this exhortation:

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith