Category Archives: Peace

The Millennial Kingdom and the River of Life (Ezekiel 46; Ezekiel 47)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 46; Ezekiel 47

Our study of the Millennial Kingdom continues, even as our study of The Prophecies of Ezekiel nears the end. Thank you for taking this journey with me, and for persevering through difficult passages that were unfamiliar to some.

We have considered the Temple of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom (Ezekiel 40:48-41:26), its dimensions, courtyards, sanctuaries, and décor (Ezekiel 41:16-21). Ezekiel had witnessed the glory of the LORD filling the Temple (42:15), and recorded the ordinances and laws that the priests and Levites would follow in its administration (Ezekiel 43-44). The prophet was instructed to record the division of the land, beginning with the sacred district where the priests and Levites would reside (Ezekiel 45).

Ezekiel 46 – Worship in the Millennial

In the Millennial Kingdom, Israel will worship the LORD on the Sabbaths, and on the New Moon. The “Prince” of Jerusalem ((45:7-8; 46:2), whom I suggested will be a government official serving the LORD as administrator, was observed by Ezekiel entering the east gate of the Temple grounds (46:2). The prince, the representative of the people, came to the Temple for worship, entering through the east gate even as the people entered through the north and south gates (46:3).

Guidelines were given for the sacrifices (46:4-8), which the prince was obligated to bring for the priests to offer on his and the people’s behalf. The prince was to enter and depart by the east gate, while the people were to enter by either the north or south gates, and depart from the one opposite of that which they entered (46:8-9). The prince and the people would worship together, with him being in their midst (46:10).

Ezekiel recorded the procedure for offerings and worship on the feast days (46:11), as well as the freewill offerings of the prince (46:12). There will also be an observance of daily sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom (46:13-15). A one-year-old male lamb will be offered every morning, along with a grain offering accompanied by oil (46:14-15).

Regulation of Land Inheritances During the Millennial Kingdom (46:16-18)

As noted in the previous devotional (Ezekiel 45), the prince of the millennial kingdom will have sons, and bequeath to them a portion of his lands. The sons could not divide the lands and assign any portion to another not of the prince’s family (46:16). Should the prince give land to a servant, it would be returned to the prince on the Year of Jubilee (every 50 years, 46:17). Furthermore, the prince was forbidden to take possession of lands that belonged to the people (46:18).

Kitchens of the Temple (46:19-24)

Two sets of kitchens are noted as places the priests would prepare and cook the trespass and sin offerings. There will be kitchens located on the west side near the buildings of the priests, and designated for the priests and the preparation of their meals (46:19-20). Four kitchens, located in the four corners of the Temple courtyard (46:21-22), will be used by the priests to prepare and cook the sacrifices of the people (46:23-24).

Ezekiel 47 – The River of Life in the Millennial Kingdom

A “Pure River of Water of Life” (Revelation 22:1-2) flowed from the Temple (47:1), its waters bringing new life to the land of Israel. The source of the river was the Temple (47:1), and its waters began as a trickle, flowing east, southeast, and only ankle deep at first (47:2-3). As the waters flowed, the river became deeper, moving from the ankles (47:3), to the knees (47:4), the waist (47:4), and finally so deep the river was uncrossable (47:5).

The Purpose of the River of Life (47:6-12)

Beginning in the Temple, the waters brought new life, and transformed the land by nourishing the trees, bringing sustenance and healing to the desert (47:7-8). Flowing into the Dead Sea, its waters were seen teeming with all manner of fish (47:9), and fisherman cast their nets and brought in an abundance of fish (47:10). While salt marshes provided salt for the people (47:11), the waters of the river nourished fruit trees whose leaves never withered (47:12; Psalm 1:3).

The Boundaries of the Land (47:13-21)

While Ezekiel 48 will identify the division of the land among the Twelve Tribes of Israel, we find instructions regarding the inheritance of Joseph’s sons (Ephraim and Manasseh), who would each receive a portion (47:13-14). The north, east, and southern boundaries of the land are given, with the Mediterranean Sea serving as the western border (47:15-21). The land will be divided “according to the tribes of Israel” (47:21).

Guidelines for Strangers (Gentiles) in the Midst of Israel (47:22-23)

Being assured the children of Israel will receive all the LORD promised in His covenant, we conclude with an additional guideline and provision for “the strangers” (non-Hebrews) who identified themselves with the LORD and the children of Israel. The distinction between Jew and Gentile will be done away, and the “stranger” that lived among the children of Israel will be given an inheritance among God’s people (47:23).

Closing thoughts – Perhaps you have experienced broken promises. There are some who promise friends and family an inheritance, only to have others swoop in like thieves and steal what was pledged. There are others who beguile loved ones, leading them to believe they are valued and will be remembered in a tangible way, yet knowing they have no plans to fulfill their promises. The LORD, however, is faithful and true to His promises. What He promises, He will certainly fulfill. What a blessed promise believers have, and one no thief can wrest away from us. Christ has promised:

John 14:1–21Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Moab is Fallen, and the King is the LORD of Hosts (Jeremiah 48)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 48

Our study of the prophecies of God’s judgment against the Gentile nations continues with Jeremiah 48. Today’s Scripture is a pronouncement of judgment against Moab, a people descended from Lot and his incestuous relationship with his daughter following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:37).

Babylon’s crushing defeat of the Egyptians (Jeremiah 46), and the Philistines (Jeremiah 47), would be followed by the utter humiliation and destruction of the Moabites (Jeremiah 48).

Jeremiah 48:1-3 recorded the names of several cities of Moab that would be captured by the army of Babylon. Though the people fled their homes, and sought refuge in other cities, there was no escape for them (48:4-6).

What sins of Moab demanded God’s judgment? (48:7-30)

The Moabites were a proud people, who placed their faith “in [their] works” (perhaps the ramparts they had built about their walled cities). They boasted in their “treasures” (wealth), and believed Chemosh, the Moabite god would save them (48:7). Like a rich man reveling in his wealth, Moab had “been at ease” from its founding (48:11). The nation boasted of its “mighty and strong men” (48:14), and was guilty of magnifying itself against the LORD (48:26). Proud, boastful, arrogant, the Moabites were a stubborn nation (48:29).

The Consequences of Moab’s Sins (48:7-30)

Every city of Moab would be destroyed (48:8), and left desolate (48:9). The nation was doomed, for the people were complacent, and the LORD determined their blood would be shed like wine poured out of a cup, and then crushed (48:11b-12). Moab would suffer the destruction of its cities, and her strong men would be killed, for the “King, whose name is the LORD of hosts” had declared it (48:15). The major cities of Moab were to be laid waste (48:18-24), and her power (described as “the horn of Moab”) would be “cut off” (48:25).

The LORD’s Lament Over Moab (48:31-39)

Lest any believe the LORD is heartless and unmoved when a nation is brought low, we are given a description of God’s sorrow in the midst of His judgment. It is the LORD we find howling over Moab (48:31), as he laminated the troubles and sorrows of the people. They had lost everything. The harvest was lost, the wine presses dried up, and the joys and laughter of those who tread out the grapes was silenced (48:32-33).

Even as the Moabite cities were laid waste, the LORD wept over the people. Though His judgment was righteous, and He was putting an end to their idolatry (48:35), His heart was heavy for the people shaved their heads and cut their beards (outward signs of mourning, 48:37). Everywhere, in every home and in every street, there was sorrow (48:36-38). Moab would become an object of scorn (48:39).

Closing thought – We should take from today’s lesson a reminder of how much the LORD despises a proud nation. For Moab’s pride, the LORD declared Babylon would swoop in like an eagle (48:40), and that nation’s soldiers would be terrified as God destroyed everyone that “magnified himself against the LORD” (48:44).

For Moab, all was lost and their sons and daughters would be taken captive (48:46). Yet, in spite of so great a judgment, the final verse revealed the LORD was not finished with Moab. We read this promise to that defeated people, “47Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab In the latter days, saith the Lord. Thus far is the judgment of Moab” (48:47).

The LORD is merciful, even in the midst of His judgment.

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

An Answer for “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me” (Jeremiah 45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 45

Having concluded his last prophetic message to the remnant of Judah that fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 44), Jeremiah’s chronological narrative was interrupted for a brief chapter. Jeremiah 45 recalls an earlier discourse between the prophet and Baruch, who served as Jeremiah’s scribe (Jeremiah 36:8). The historical setting of the conversation between the two men came “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah” (45:1). For context, Jehoiakim was the king who cast the prophecies of Jeremiah into a fire (Jeremiah 36:20-26). There were yet two kings who followed Jehoiakim (his successor Jehoiachin, who reigned for three months, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah).

Penning the revelation concerning the destruction of Jerusalem a second time (Jeremiah 36:27-32), so overwhelmed Baruch he groaned in his spirit. Discouraged, and visibly shaken by God’s imminent judgment, the scribe found himself serving a prophet who was not only unpopular, but also imprisoned.

Jeremiah 45

The LORD Commanded Jeremiah to Confront Baruch (45:1-3)

Jeremiah 45:1-3 – “1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake [pronounced] unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of [according to] Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch; 3 Thou [Baruch] didst say, Woe [cry out] is me now! for the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] hath added[increased] grief [afflictions] to my sorrow [pain; grief; anguish]; I fainted [exhausted; wearied] in my sighing[groaning’s; mourning; distress], and I find no rest [comfort; ease; resting place].”

The scribe’s focus was himself, and the LORD revealed to Jeremiah the spiritual state of his friend (45:1-2). Baruch was discouraged and overwhelmed. Jeremiah 45:3 exposed the spirit of a man whose spiritual zeal had waned because he lost sight of God’s sovereignty. The LORD instructed Jeremiah to be a faithful minister, and to instruct Baruch to not place his hope and affections on temporal, earthly things.

 Jeremiah 45:4 – Thus shalt thou [Jeremiah] say unto him [Baruch], The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I [the LORD] have built [established; construct] will I [the LORD] break down [throw down; pluck down; destroyed], and that which I [the LORD] have planted I [the LORD] will pluck up [destroy; tear away], even this whole land.

Reminded God is sovereign, He had the right and authority to build up or to tear down, and no man should question His will. The LORD had determined that the Temple would be burned, the palaces destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem laid waste. Jeremiah 45:5 may strike you as an unnecessary rebuke of a faithful scribe, until you understand the context.

Jeremiah 45:5 – And seekest [require; beg; strive after] thou [Baruch] great things [high; greater; proud thing] for thyself [Baruch]? seek [require; beg; strive after] them not: for, behold, I [the LORD] will bring [come in; enter; give; advance] evil [bad; adversity; affliction; distress] upon all flesh [person; mankind; bodies], saith the LORD: but thy [Baruch] life [soul; person; heart] will I [the LORD] give [deliver; commit; give up; abandon] unto thee [Baruch] for a prey [spoil; possessions; booty; plunder] in all places whither thou goest [walk; depart; follow].

Jeremiah counseled Baruch not to sacrifice God’s calling for promotion or personal aspirations. As a point of background: Baruch’s brother served as a counselor to king Jehoiakim. While his brother enjoyed a prominent role in the king’s palace, Baruch found himself serving a prophet that was despised, persecuted, and imprisoned.

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah’s rebuke is as relevant to us as it was to Baruch. Is it not easy to fall prey to seeking “great things for thyself?” (45:5a) It is easy to focus upon the immediate cost of serving the LORD, but fail to recognize the greater risk, should we disobey Him. The LORD revealed the king, his advisors (including Baruch’s brother), and all the people would fail. Yet, the LORD promised to give Jeremiah’s scribe that which was greater than fame and promotion—LIFE!

The LORD said, “thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (45:5). What a wonderful promise! Baruch, don’t seek things for yourself, and I will give you LIFE!

What are you seeking? Riches, possessions, titles and fame perish! In the LORD, LIFE is forever!

Matthew 6:19-21 19  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

A Cry for Mercy, and the Fruit of Peace (Psalm 79)

Scripture reading – Psalm 79

The content of Psalm 79 makes a strong case for it to be a song that was contemporary with the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, and the destruction of that great city. This is the second of two devotionals for today, and is taken from Psalm 79.

The psalmist cried to God, for there was no other to whom he could appeal (79:1). Nebuchadnezzar’s army (“the heathen”) had invaded Judah, defiled the Temple, and left the bodies of the dead in the streets (79:1-2). The blood of the slain flowed through the streets like streams of water. There were none to bury the dead and spare their loved ones the indignity of being carrion for birds and beasts (79:3). The psalmist complained, the suffering of Jerusalem gave occasion for the heathen to mock God’s people, who had “become a reproach to [their] neighbors” (79:4).

A Cry for Pity, Mercy, and Vengeance (79:5-12)

The writer did not appeal to the injustice of God’s wrath, however, he asked, “How long, Lord? wilt thou be angry for ever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire?” (79:5) The sins of Judah, had brought God’s wrath upon the nation. Yet, should the heathen be unpunished for their abuses, and wickedness? (79:6)

The psalmist reminded the LORD how the wicked had “devoured Jacob” [slaughtered Israel and Judah], and “laid waste His dwelling place” (the Temple, 79:7). He begged for the LORD’s mercy (79:8), and appealed to Him to save His people, not because of their merit, but for the sake of His testimony among the nations (79:9). He reasoned, “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God?” (79:10)

Calling for God’s vengeance, he implored the LORD to hear the sigh of the prisoners, and save those “that are appointed to die” (79:11). Reminding the LORD the heathen took pleasure in the travails of His people, he prayed God would exact vengeance “sevenfold” saying, “they have reproached thee, O Lord” (79:12).

Closing thought – What was the basis for the psalmist’s prayer for deliverance? It was the LORD’s covenant with Israel and Judah. He reminded the LORD, “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture” (79:13a; 95:7; 100:3). Confessing his humility on behalf of the nation, the psalmist promised, “we will give thee thanks for ever: We will shew forth thy praise to all generations” (79:13b).

The sorrows and sufferings that befell Jerusalem and Judah was because of their wickedness; yet, the psalmist remembered the LORD’s promises of grace and mercy. He understood the LORD chastened Israel and Judah because they were His people, and whom He loves He chastens (Hebrews 12:6).

A personal invitation – You may be bearing the weight of God’s chastening. Remember, He is gracious and merciful. Like a loving father, who chastens a son, the LORD loves you and He corrects you to the end your life  “yieldeth [bears] the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised [trained; disciplined]thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Pity the Nation Governed By the Wicked (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75; Psalm 79

Continuing our chronological study of the Bible, today’s Scripture reading begins a brief departure from our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah. For the next five days, we will consider a compilation of writings that were contemporary to the fall of Jerusalem.

Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 are attributed to Asaph, a Levite musician who was a contemporary of King David. As noted in earlier devotions, there were several psalms credited to Asaph; however, there is some debate regarding whether or not Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 were penned by Asaph, or authored by a member of his household after the fall of Jerusalem. There is much about the content of both psalms that lend themselves to being a record of the devastation left in the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s army. This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Psalm 75 challenges believers to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth. Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving and praise. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God, The Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, and “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved” (75:3). God’s judgment, however, is righteous, and He assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, and the foundations of the world.

All in Authority are Subject to God. (75:4-8)

Lest some leaders feel they are above the law and judgment of God, the LORD admonished: “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How different our world would be if those who wield authority remembered they were nothing without God! Civil governments are ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the ruler of a nation, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

Though the Foundations of Nations are Shaken, May the Saints Sing Praises to God (75:9-10)

The psalmist painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers who fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Yet, the believer’s faith rests not in man, but in the LORD. We should boldly declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob [Israel]” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – We are living in uncertain times when the nations of the world are shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority. Nevertheless, God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath. While fools sing their own praises and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

The wise man remembers, “God is the judge: He putteth down [humbles; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts]another” (75:7).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Harden Not Your Heart (Jeremiah 2; Jeremiah 3)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 2; Jeremiah 3

Jeremiah 2 and 3 are not only historically rich in detail, but spiritually relevant for our day. Unfortunately, the length of our text dictates today’s focus center on Jeremiah 2. As you will see, the prophet employed a lot of symbolism to teach spiritual truths the LORD had instructed him to deliver to Judah.

The LORD Loved Israel as a Groom Loves His Bride (Jeremiah 2:1-3)

You will notice the analogy of God’s people behaving like an adulterer is found in both Jeremiah 2 and 3. Jeremiah was commanded to go to the city of Jerusalem, and remind the people how the LORD loved Israel as a young groom loves his bride (2:1-3).

Israel had been a bride to the LORD in the wilderness, and He had loved and cherished the people (2:2). Choosing Israel, the LORD set the nation apart from the heathen for Himself (2:3). He was the protector of His people. Yet, Israel had rejected the LORD, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and broke their covenant with Him.

Ten Symbols of Israel Spiritual Adultery (Jeremiah 2:4-37)

1) Disloyal – Israel had become an adulterer (2:4-12)

Like an adulterer forsakes the love of her husband, Israel had forsaken the LORD (2:4-5). The LORD questioned, “What iniquity have your fathers found in me?” (2:5a) In other words, What have I done that you would break your covenant with me?

Jeremiah reminded the people how the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. When they thirsted in the desert, He provided them water. He gave them “a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof” as their inheritance (2:7a). Yet, by their sins and idolatry, the people defiled the land God had given them for an inheritance (2:7). Like a loving, longsuffering husband, the LORD longed for wayward Israel to return to Him (2:9-12).

2) DepartedBroken Cisterns: Israel had departed. (2:13)

Cisterns are underground caves, dug out of stone to retain water. By plastering the inside of a cistern, the people were able to store drinkable water. Using the imagery of a cistern, the LORD declared Israel had “forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (2:13). In other words, Israel had rejected the LORD, broken covenant with Him, the sustainer of life, and “the fountain of living waters” (2:13a). The people had embraced error, and fashioned themselves idols. In effect, they contented themselves with cisterns that could “hold no water” (2:13b), nor satisfy a spiritual thirst. (Note – John 4:13-14where Jesus introduced Himself as the “well of water springing up into everlasting life,” John 4:14).

3) Disregarded – The LORD had declared, “Israel is my son” (Exodus 4:22), but the people had rejected Him and become slaves (2:14-19).

Seven Portraits of a Backslider (2:20-37)

4) Determined – Like a stubborn ox refuses a yoke, Israel refused to bear their covenant with the LORD (2:20).

5) Degenerate – Israel had become like a wild vine (2:21).

6) Defiled – Israel had committed iniquity, and no sacrifices could purge her sins (2:22).

7) Despairing – Israel was like wild animals, lost and wandering (2:23-25).

8) Disgraced – Israel’s idolatry was her humiliation, and shame; like the shame and humiliation a thief suffers when discovered (2:26-27).

9) Disobedient – Like rebellious children (2:30), the people continued in their disobedience, and though chastised, they refused to repent (2:30-35).

10) Despised – Judah would become captives, prisoners of war, for the LORD would reject them. They would bear the shame and sorrow they had witnessed when Israel was led away captive (2:36-37).

Closing thoughts – I conclude with three observations.

1) Any decisions you make apart from God’s leading, will eventually lead to bondage. Israel and Judah had broken covenant with the LORD, and took paths that left them enslaved to sin, and eventually slaves of Babylon.

2) Sins may have generational consequences (Exodus 20:5). The influence of one’s sinful choices may be carried forward for generations.

3) Hardening one’s heart, and rejecting the LORD’s forgiveness, can lead one to despair, “There is no hope” (2:25).

Hebrews 3:1515While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Morality of a Nation Determines its Destiny. (Nahum 2; Nahum 3)

Scripture reading – Nahum 2; Nahum 3

Though only three chapters long, Nahum’s description of the fall and destruction of Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria, captures the imagination. Nahum 1 reveals God had determined to judge Nineveh for the sins of the Assyrian nation. Nahum 2 is a prophetic description of the siege of Nineveh, and its fall. Nahum 3 states the reasons for God’s judgment against Nineveh.

Nahum 2 – The Destruction of Nineveh

Nahum prophetically warned an enemy [Babylon] would attack Nineveh, “dasheth [it] in pieces,” scattering and dispersing its people (2:1). The prophet seemed to mock the futility of defending the city, and implored the people to, “Keep the munition [walls], watch the way, make thy loins [themselves] strong, fortify thy power mightily” (2:1).

Nahum remembered how Assyria had plundered (“emptied” and “marred”) Judah and Israel, but with the fall of Nineveh, some of “the excellency [splendor; glory] of Jacob… [and] Israel,” would be restored (“turned away”). (2:2)

The Terror of Babylon’s Invasion (2:3-5)

The bloodshed of the battle is graphically portrayed as Nahum described the shields and garments of Babylon’s “mighty” and “valiant men” stained red with blood (2:3a). Chariots, described as bearing “flaming torches,” most likely described ancient “scythed chariots” enhanced with steel blades. The chariots of Babylon would race through the streets of the city, jostling “one against another in the broad ways” (2:4).

The Assyrian king unsuccessfully summoned men to the city walls for his “worthies” (warriors), who did “stumble [and stagger] in their walk” (2:5), perhaps being drunken when they were summoned.

The Fall of Nineveh (2:6-13)

History chronicles how the Tigris River overflowed its banks, and weakened the foundation of the walls of Nineveh. Nahum prophesied, “6The gates of the rivers shall be opened, And the palace shall be dissolved” (2:6). Scholars suggest that “Huzzab” was the name of the queen of Babylon, and she and her maids were led away, beating their breasts in anguish (2:7). As prophesied, when the Tigris flooded the city, Nineveh became “old like a pool of water,” and the people of the city fled, and none looked back (2:8).

As Assyria had spoiled other nations, she was herself spoiled of gold and silver (2:9). The once glorious city would be “empty, and void, and waste” (2:9). A reference to “young lions” [a symbol of Assyria and Babylon] was probably a description of young Assyrian soldiers who would perish in the battle with Babylon (2:11-12)

God had determined Nineveh’s days, considered her wickedness, and declared: “I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts, And I will burn her chariots in the smoke, And the sword shall devour thy young lions: And I will cut off thy prey from the earth, And the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard” (Nahum 2:13).

Nahum 3 – The Cause for God’s Judgment

The Sins of Nineveh (3:1)

Nahum 3 gives a vivid picture of Nineveh’s destruction and the slaughter of its inhabitants. With a terrifying pronouncement, Nahum declared: 1Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery; The prey departeth not” (3:1).

The Invasion and Slaughter of Nineveh (3:3-4)

The terror of battle is described as Babylon’s chariots raced through the city: “2The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, And of the pransing [dashing] horses, and of the jumping chariots” (3:2). No doubt, the iron wheels mortally rolled over so many bodies there was no “end of their corpses” (3:3).

God’s Contempt for the Sins of Nineveh (3:4-17)

Assyria had become like the goddess the people worshiped– “Ishtar,” the goddess of war and sexual fertility (3:4). They were a godless, immoral, warring, and merciless people. God declared, “I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, And I will shew the nations thy nakedness, And the kingdoms thy shame” (3:5). Figuratively speaking, the LORD would pull Nineveh’s skirt over her face, and the nations of the world would mock and reproach her (3:5-7). No one would mourn the fall of that city, and there would be none to comfort her.

Like other great cities, the Assyrians believed Nineveh was impregnable. Nahum declared, that city would fall as had “No” (the ancient city of Egypt known as Thebes, that was once the capital of northern Egypt, 3:8). None had been able to save “No” (Thebes), though that city had an alliance with Ethiopia, Egypt, “Put” (descendants of Ham’s son, Genesis 10:6), and “Lubim” (believed to have been Libya). All had been conquered by Assyria, and soon Nineveh would go the way of those great cities (3:9-11).

Like ripe figs fall to the ground when shaken by the wind, the walls of Nineveh would fall to Babylon (3:12). The men of the city would become as women (3:13a), and the waters of the Tigris would weaken the defenses of the city (3:14). Following the flood waters, fire and the swords of Babylon would devour the inhabitants of Nineveh like locusts that prey upon the countryside (3:15-17).

Closing thoughts – The fate of Nineveh was sealed, and her king and nobles, like sleeping shepherds, had failed the people (3:18). The wickedness, idolatry, and immorality of the people had moved the city beyond God’s patience, and the evil they had committed against others would soon befall that great city (3:19).

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 a people, and eventually destroys a nation.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

No Nation is Too Big to Fail (Nahum 1)

Scripture reading – Nahum 1

Our chronological Scripture reading brings us to the Book of Nahum. Only three chapters in length, it is a book easily overlooked. The superscription to the book, Nahum 1:1, identified both the subject and the author: “1The burden [judgment] of Nineveh. The book of the vision [prophecy] of Nahum the Elkoshite [meaning the prophet was a citizen of Elkosh] (1:1).

Nahum is considered a minor prophet, indicating the book that bears his name is brief, but no less inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). While little is known of Nahum, much is known concerning the subject of his prophecy; Nineveh, the ancient capital city of the Assyrian empire (1:1). Because the prophetic content of the book is the destruction of Nineveh (Nahum 1:1), we can place the date of Nahum’s ministry in the 7th century B.C.

You may remember how the LORD had sent His prophet Jonah to Nineveh, nearly a century before Nahum (Jonah 1:2). Jonah, knowing the wickedness of Nineveh, longed to see the people of that city judged. Nevertheless, God spared Nineveh when the king and people of the city repented of their sins (Jonah 3:4-10).

A century later, Nineveh would not be spared God’s judgment. The prophet Nahum declared the imminent destruction of Nineveh, and the overthrow of the Assyrian empire by a coalition of the Medes and Babylon.

The Nature and Sovereignty of God (1:2-8)

Preaching with the authority of a man whose confidence was in the LORD, Nahum proclaimed the divine nature of God, saying: “2God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth[takes revenge], and is furious [rages]…He reserveth wrath for his enemies” (1:2).

“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power [Almighty; great in power][He is Creator] The Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm [symbols of judgment], And the clouds are the dust of his feet. [He walks and rides upon the clouds; Psalm 68:4; Isaiah 19:1] 4He [rules] rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, And drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, And the flower of Lebanon languisheth. [Bashan, Carmel, and Lebanon were known for their fertile soils] [God is the sustainer of creation, and] 5The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, And the earth is burned at his presence, Yea, the world, and all that dwell therein” (1:3-5).

The LORD is Just and Good (1:6-7)

No man “can stand before [God’s] indignation” (1:6). “The Lord is good [altogether good; right], a strong hold [fortress; rock; place of safety] in the day of trouble; and he knoweth [cares for and understands] them that trust [confide; hope; flee to for protection] in him. (1:7).

Prophecy of Nineveh’s Destruction (1:8-11)

Nahum declared Nineveh’s destruction would be like “an overrunning flood” (1:8). History affirms Nahum’s prophecy was fulfilled literally and figuratively. That great city was destroyed by a flood of waters, when the Tigris River overflowed its banks and eroded the city’s foundations. The prophecy was also fulfilled figuratively, for the army of Babylon flowed into the city like a flood, and leveled it.

As prophesied, it was the “utter end” of Nineveh, for it would never be rebuilt (1:8-9). Verse 11 may be a reference to king Sennacherib, whose army destroyed Israel, but he was sorely defeated by God when he laid siege to Jerusalem (1:10-11).

Prophecy Concerning Judah (1:12-13)

God had used Assyria to afflict Israel and Judah for their disobedience; however, Nahum prophesied that nation would “be cut down” (1:12), and God’s people would no longer be afflicted by them. The LORD declared, “I break his [Assyria’s] yoke from off thee [Judah], And will burst thy bonds [chains] in sunder” (1:13).

Closing thoughts – Nineveh and Assyria would be destroyed, and there would be “no more of thy name be sown [no heirs]: Out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image [idols and gods destroyed]: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile” (1:14).

The people of Judah were promised the day would come when they would receive “good tidings, that publisheth peace!” (1:15a) Assyria would be no more, and Judah would be at peace. Once again, the people would enjoy their feast days, and worship the LORD freely (1:15b). “The wicked [would] no more pass through thee; He [Assyria] is utterly cut off” (1:15c).

Today, more than 2700 years later, the ruins of Nineveh lie as a testament to the judgment of God (lying across the river from the ruins of Nineveh, is the city of Mosul in today’s Iraq). The boundaries of that great city are estimated to have been some 30 miles in length, and 10 miles deep, serving a reminder to all people and nations who reject God:

No nation or people are too big to fail.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Set Thine House in Order; For Thou Shalt Die” (2 Kings 20; 2 Kings 21)

Scripture Reading –2 Kings 20; 2 Kings 21

Having concluded our study of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, I am reminded he had prophesied during the reigns of four kings of Judah, with Hezekiah being the fourth (Isaiah 1:1). By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, had fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, had been destroyed, and the citizens of Israel taken captive. Following their pattern, Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations, and in time they intermarried with the remnant of Israel. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people, would become known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 – The Sinful Pride of Hezekiah and the Threat of Imminent Death

The narrative in 2 Kings 20 is familiar to “Heart of a Shepherd” readers, for it is a rehearsal of events we studied in Isaiah 38:1-8 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26.

Our Scripture reading picks up the story of the life and times of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hezekiah had been a beloved leader of Judah, and the LORD blessed the nation because its king loved the LORD. Leading by example and edict, Hezekiah led the people in a time of spiritual revival, and restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments. He repaired the Temple, revived worship and offerings, and destroyed the worship of idols throughout the land.

2 Kings 20 follows a great victory God had given Judah over Sennacherib, king of Assyria (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37:36). Soon after Judah’s victory, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing to Hezekiah the news of the king’s impending death. Isaiah warned the king, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

Think about it: How would you respond if you were given a terminal diagnosis?

Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints. The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). He blocked out everything and everyone, and cried to the LORD, saying, “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently]” (2 Kings 20:3).

The king began to rehearse his walk with the LORD, and how he had kept God’s covenant. He claimed God’s covenant promise, and clung to the hope the LORD would heal him.

After he had delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah went to the Temple, where the LORD found the prophet in “the middle court,” and commanded him: “5Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord” (20:5).

Isaiah assured Hezekiah the LORD would heal him “on the third day” (20:5) and would “add unto [his] days fifteen years” (20:6). Tragically, Hezekiah made a grave decision when he greeted ambassadors from Babylon, and in pride, showed them the treasuries of his kingdom (20:12-13). Isaiah, learning of the strangers in the king’s house, confronted the king and questioned him (20:14-15). When Hezekiah confessed his actions, Isaiah condemned the king and prophesied all the Babylonians had seen would be taken away, and his own sons would be forced to serve the king of Babylon (20:16-18).

Hezekiah accepted the prophecy of God’s judgment with humility (20:19), and the chapter concludes with him dying fifteen years later, and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Unlike his father Hezekiah, Manasseh set a course of wickedness that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). He established idolatry in the land (21:3), desecrated the Temple (21:4), and offered his son as a sacrifice to idols (21:6).

Manasseh’s sins provoked God’s wrath, and by breaking covenant with God, robbed that nation of the blessings God had promised He would pour out upon the land (21:8). Instead, the king “seduced [beguiled the people] to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (21:9).

The LORD sent prophets who confronted the sins of the king and Judah (Jeremiah 2:9-13; Amos 9:7; Habakkuk 1:5), but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned how Jerusalem would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

Closing thought – Manasseh died, but was not buried in the tomb of the kings in Jerusalem (21:17-18). His son Amon reigned in his stead, and like his father, “walked in, and served the idols…and worshipped them” (21:19-22). Amon was slain by his servants after reigning for two years (21:23), who were themselves slain by the people (21:24).

Following the glorious reign and revival under Hezekiah, Judah had plunged into a depth of depravity that would have been unimaginable in the previous generation. In one generation, Judah went from a spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that included human sacrifice.

A nation, society, church, and ministry is one generation removed from a steep descent into sin that demands God’s judgment.

Are we that generation?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 64; Isaiah 65)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 64; Isaiah 65

Isaiah 64 – Isaiah’s Intercessory Prayer to the LORD

Continuing our study of Isaiah, the prophet foretold God’s judgment of Judah, and the imminent destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Isaiah had confessed the sins of His people (Isaiah 63:17-19), and acknowledged their disobedience would bring judgment. In the immediate, Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. There was also, however, a far-reaching implication of the prophecy that is still future.

Isaiah’s Appeal for God to Display His Power (64:1-5a)

The prophet longed for the LORD to come down to His people as He did on Mount Sinai when God had revealed His presence to Israel in thunder, lightning, and a thick cloud (Exodus 19:16-19). Isaiah prayed for God’s vengeance upon the enemies of His people (64:2). He longed for the LORD to display His power (64:3), and remind the people He was their Creator (64:4-5a).

Isaiah Confessed the Sins of His Nation (64:5b-7)

The prophet not only confessed the sins of Judah, but he also confessed the universality of man’s sin. That is, without exception, all men and women are sinners by birth (64:5). Isaiah confessed, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [our best attempt at keeping the law and commandments] are as filthy rags[bloody, soiled rags]” (64:6).

Isaiah observed the sinful hearts of the people, and acknowledged, there was “none that calleth upon [the LORD’s]name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee” (64:7a). He acknowledged, the LORD Who is Holy and therefore will not look upon sin, had turned his face (his blessings and mercies) from the people. As a nation, they were consumed and enslaved by their wickedness (64:7b).

A Call for Humility and Surrender (64:8-12)

Realizing the helpless, hopeless state of the nation, Isaiah confessed, “O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (64:8).

Like clay that yields to the hands and will of a potter for his purpose, we as believers are to acknowledge the LORD is sovereign, and yield to His desire to fashion us according to His will (64:8b).

Closing thoughts – Isaiah concluded His prayer, reminding the LORD, “we are all thy people” (64:9b). He prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem (64:10) and the Temple (64:11). Perhaps a prayer the people would pray in Babylon during their captivity, Isaiah prayed,

“Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?”(Isaiah 64:12)

Isaiah 65 – God’s Response to Isaiah’s Prayer

Salvation Offered to the Gentiles (65:1)

Isaiah 65 opens with the LORD saying, “1I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, Unto a nation that was not called by my name” (65:1).

The Lord’s heart was evident towards His unholy people.  He allowed himself to be called by those who did not ask, and be found by those who had not sought. Indeed, they were estranged from the Lord as the depth of their sins had served as a barrier of separation; yet the Lord was still seeking His people through the words of the prophet.

Israel Rejected the LORD, and He Would Use Babylon to Punish the People (65:2-5)

Israel had rebelled, and refused God (65:2). They had turned to idols (65:3), and practiced the occult, consulting with the spirits of the dead (65:4; Isaiah 8:19). The people had disobeyed the law, and eaten “swine’s flesh” (65:4b; 66:3, 17; Leviticus 11:7). They were proud, and self-righteous, saying, “Come not near to me; for I am holier than thou” (65:5a). As a nation, they had become a stench, “a smoke” in the LORD’s nose (65:5b).

God’s Warning to the Rebellious (65:6-7)

Isaiah revealed the LORD writes down our sins (65:6a), and warned: “I will not keep silence, but will recompense [repay]” (65:6). Indeed, the sins of every generation, fathers and sons, will be punished (65:7). Yet, though all have sinned, the LORD is a loving and forgiving God, and promised He would “not destroy them all” (65:8).

Understanding a grape gatherer does not destroy all the grapes, if there are a few bad grapes, the LORD would not destroy all men, but would save a remnant (65:8-9), for there would be some to seek the LORD (65:10-16).

Isaiah 65:17-66:24 is a prophetic portrait of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. 

Our study of Isaiah 65 concludes with God affirming He would make all things new (65:17). We know the effects of sin impacts our earth, and the curse of sin, and the depravity of man has infected, and affected all creation (Romans 1:18-32). Isaiah prophesied there was coming a day when “the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind,” and God has promised, “behold, I create new heavens and a new earth” (65:17). In that day, believers will rejoice, and “the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying” (65:19; Revelation 7:17; 21:4). The citizens of the Millennial Kingdom will not know death in the same way we understand death today (65:20).

The people of the Millennial Kingdom will be engaged in meaningful work, and all their labor will be blessed (65:21-23). Believers will enjoy fellowship with the LORD, and want for nothing (65:24), and all nature will dwell together in peace (65:24-25).

Isaiah 65:2525The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, And the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: And dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith