Category Archives: Peace

Don’t Give Up Hope!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 37-42

Not only is today’s reading a lengthy one, it also has details with numbers and measurements that are sure to leave the average reader wondering what possible application could this have to a 21st century student of God’s Word.   For the sake of brevity, I suggest a simple outline of chapters 37 through 42.

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic illustration of Israel’s resurrection as a nation (remember, the prophet is ministering to the Jews in Babylon after the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem).   My younger readers might enjoy watching a video\audio clip of “Dry Bones” (I avoid referring to it as a “gospel song” since there is hardly a gospel lesson in the recording; however, the classy style of the “Delta Rhythm Boys” compared with today’s “recording artists” is worth the watch).   Ezekiel 37 is not only a prophetic picture of Israel’s resurrection as a nation, but also the unification of the people divided into two nations since Solomon’s reign.

Ezekiel 38 prophesies events that are yet to occur on an international scale against Israel.  There is neither time or space to enter into the debate of the nations portrayed in this chapter; however, it is my opinion this is a prophecy there is a day when the ruler of the north (38:14) which I believe is Russia (38:2 – “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”) will lead an invasion of Middle Eastern nations (identified as “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya” – 38:5) against Israel.   Ezekiel 38:14-39:18 details the invasion of the armies and their defeat.  The LORD intervenes and Israel’s victory will be so overwhelming that the burial of the dead will take seven months (39:14).

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years less one and the time of the writing of Ezekiel 40 was in “the five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).   Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart as a nation to build a new temple (the last destroyed in 70 AD) and worship the LORD.  The plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the future temple are given in Ezekiel 40-42.

Our scripture reading today concludes with Ezekiel 42; however, chapter 43 continues the narrative concerning the future temple with the promise the heavenly glory of the LORD Himself will fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:2-4).

As I close, consider this: The LORD wanted His people to never give up hope!

Remember Ezekiel’s immediate audience was His own people who were captives in Babylon.  Many had witnessed the devastating destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  Humanly speaking, all was lost and apart from divine intervention, the Jews would be numbered among those nations that had come and gone; their cities covered by the sands of the desert and the people assimilated into the populations of the earth and forgotten.

However, such was not the case with God’s chosen people with whom He covenanted to be their God.  God promised Abraham he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), a promise not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus Christ.  The Jews rejected Christ at His first coming as a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53); however, at the end of the Tribulation they will see Him come as a conquering King and He will rule from Jerusalem and the people will worship Him during the Millennial in a new temple.

In the midst of reading the numbers and dimensions of a future temple, consider the revival of joy and hope among God’s people when they were reminded God had not forgotten them and all was not lost!  The day was coming when a new temple would be built and God’s glory would once again fill the temple and the world would know the LORD is in the midst of His people!

Friend, don’t give up hope…remember, this same LORD promised His disciples He was going away to “prepare a place” for them and “will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-4).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 25-30

The historical context of today’s reading finds both Israel and Judah in captivity after God’s people rebelled and turned away from His law and commandments.   Having rejected the warnings of His prophets, the LORD judged those nations as He promised; however, He never forsook them.  Ezekiel 25 reminds us God is jealous for His people.

After destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar’s army took the people of Judah captive to Babylon.   Witnessing the calamity of God’s people, the heathen nations rejoiced in their sorrows and sufferings.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and despised the heathen’s joy in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14) and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel and Judah (25:15-17).

Ezekiel 26-30 continues the prophet’s warning to the nations that their pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel would be rewarded with their own judgment.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia would fall to Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19).  Zidon, a city north of Tyrus, would also suffer the calamity and destruction that was the fate of Tyrus and neighboring nations who reveled in the destruction of Jerusalem (28:20-24).   Ezekiel 28 ends with the blessed promise God would gather His people from Babylonian exile and restore them to their land (28:25-26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Egypt too would be judged for her sins against Israel and her treasures would be the reward of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-16) as Babylon served God’s purpose for bringing judgment against that nation (29:17-21) and her neighbors (30:1-26).

There is a lesson in today’s reading that nations of the 21st century would be wise to heed:

There are grave consequences for those people and nations that take joy in the sorrows and sufferings of the Jews and Christians.

The atrocities committed against the Jews in the Second World War and the virtual annihilation of those nations that perpetrated them (Nazi Germany and fascist Italy) stands as a testimony that God loves His own, even when His people turn from Him.

Many reading this brief devotional are unaware those nations and people occupied by the Soviet Union and overwhelmed by Communist oppression in the years that followed World War II were guilty of crimes against the Jews on a scale that is unfathomable.   Eastern European nations that fell into the Soviet bloc of nations and suffered under communism were themselves guilty of murderous acts against the Jews and suffered their own sorrows until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I close with illustrative verses of God’s love for Israel and a warning for all who harm His people.

Zechariah 1:14 – “…Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

Zechariah 2:8 – “…he that toucheth you [Israel] toucheth the apple [pupil] of His eye[meaning the eye of the LORD].

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”

Warning: Mistreat God’s people and take pleasure in their sorrows and you will inevitably suffer the same, for God is a jealous God.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 72-74

Three psalms make up our scripture reading today.  Psalm 72 is believed to be David’s prayer for God’s blessings on the reign of his son Solomon; however, a careful study of the psalm brings me to believe it is ultimately a psalm describing the universal kingdom over which Christ will reign and is therefore a prophetic psalm to be fulfilled when Christ returns and sets up His righteous kingdom upon the earth (72:1-3, 7).

Solomon’s kingdom was a great kingdom; however, Christ’s future kingdom will span “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (72:8).  His will be a compassionate kingdom, “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. 13  He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (72:12-13).

Psalm 73, introduced as “A Psalm of Asaph”, is followed by ten additional psalms attributed to him.   Asaph was a priest and musician in David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalms 50 and Psalms 73-83.

Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s own journey of faith in the God of Israel.  Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness:  Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (73:1).  Unlike sinful man of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  God is always and only good to Israel and to those who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

In his heart, Asaph remembered the promises of God and the goodness of the LORD; however, in the midst of trials he struggled when he saw the wicked prosper (73:2-14).  The ungodly appeared to prosper while he faltered (73:13-14).  In other words, Asaph’s heart told him one thing (“trust the LORD”), while his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!”

Asaph appeared ready to quit his ministry as the king’s musician until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the younger generation (73:15-16).  However, when Asaph entered the “the sanctuary of God” his perspective of the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20) and he confessed “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins” (73:21).  Understanding the prosperity of the wicked is temporal (73:27), Asaph’s faith in the LORD and his desire to serve Him were renewed (73:28).

“Maschil of Asaph” is the subtitle of Psalm 74 and is an instructive or reflective poem.   Although attributed to “Asaph”, the content of the psalm describes the destruction of Jerusalem and temple (74:3, 6-8) that took place many years after David’s Asaph was dead.  Psalm 74 was most likely penned by a descendant of Asaph.

While Psalm 73 described Asaph’s personal struggles, the focus of Psalm 74 is on Israel’s struggles as a nation.  In the midst of numbering the nation’s sorrows and devastation (74:1-11), the psalmist recounts how God delivered Israel in past days (74:12-17) and cried out for the LORD to deliver His people (74:18-23).

Allow me to close by reflecting on Psalm 73 and Asaph’s renewed commitment to serve the LORD.

Although few will admit it, there are many who have known the temptation to say, “I quit!” and walk away from the burdens of marriage, family, friends, church and ministry.    In fact, for a season the ones who walk out on responsibilities appear happy, giving little thought to the ripple of consequences that might follow in the wake of their decision.   Driving Asaph’s motivation to continue his ministry was not only his love for the LORD and the king, but also his concern for how his decision would affect the next generation.  Surely that is a concern every pastor, teacher and parent should share.

May the LORD, our family, friends and the generation to follow us find us faithful!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Three Things That Are Good”

Friday, June 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Lamentations

The Book of Lamentations is only five chapters in length and is as its names suggests, five “laments” (i.e. cries; groanings; howls) over the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah.

The laments, cries and sorrows revealed in Lamentations are those of the prophet Jeremiah who, through the reigns of five successive kings, faithfully warned the people God’s judgment was inevitable if the nation did not repent, turn from her sins and turn to God.  Recorded in these five chapters are the laments of the prophet over the devastation suffered by the city, people and nation.

For those who might want to “dig a little deeper”; notice Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are twenty-two verses in length. 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 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.

Before moving to a practical spiritual application, I invite you to read Lamentations 1-5 and ponder the laments of God’s faithful prophet as he witnesses the devastation and destruction of the city and nation he loved. The sorrows and disgrace suffered by the people as a consequence of their sins needs no explanation.

Lamentations 1 records the suffering and sorrows of the capital city summed up in this: Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed” (Lamentations 1:8a). Lest some dismiss Jerusalem’s plight and credit Nebuchadnezzar and his army, the prophet makes it plain her destruction is the work of God’s judgment. Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 1:15 – “The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.”

God’s judgment against Judah, the testimony of His wrath against the city of Jerusalem, and the captivity of her king and elders continue in Lamentations 2:1-9. The focus turns from the city and her king to the people, the sorrows they suffer (2:10-14) and their humiliation before their enemies (2:15-16). Jeremiah reminds the people their sins had brought them to this for the “LORD hath done that which He had devised” (2:17).

Jeremiah’s lamentations became personal in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this book.   Jeremiah expresses his own distress and sorrow for the sufferings of His people and nation. He lived to see all he had prophesied against the nation come to pass; however, the plight of God’s people was his dilemma as well. In Lamentations 3:11-18, Jeremiah expresses his sorrows with the personal pronouns “I” and “me” and identifies the LORD as “He”.

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah gives expression to one of the most beautiful and best-known expressions of worship and hope found in the Book of Lamentations and is the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23 – “It 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].”

I close with a brief exposition of three things Jeremiah states as “good” [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] from Lamentations 3:25-27.

Lamentations 3:25 – “The LORD is good 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 the twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of the LORD.

1) The first condition: the LORD is good to those who “wait for Him” (3:25a).  Counseling others to be patient and wait on the LORD is easy; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.   Are you willing to wait upon the LORD when you have been hurt?   When you are ill?  When you have been misused or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait upon the LORD when your spouse or child makes choices that break your heart.  Too many of us are where we are today because we were not willing to “wait for the LORD.”  “Patience is a virtue” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply.

2) The second condition for experiencing the LORD’S goodness is “to the soul that seeketh” the LORD (3:25b).  To seek the LORD is to read and meditate in His Word; follow in His ways and pray.

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.”

We find two things that are good in Lamentations 3:26.  It is good for a believer to “hope”.  This hope is more than an emotional and mental aspiration; it is a practice; a discipline of heart and soul.  It is a hope that waits with expectation for prayers to be answered knowing God is faithful to His Word and promises.

It is also good for a believer to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining; literally, wait in silence for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  I am afraid the pews of American churches are filled with many who are neither patient nor quiet!

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

Finally, we come to a third good thing and that is, it is good when a son bears the yoke of manhood.

Did you know a majority of 18-35 year olds live at home with their parents in 2017?  For the most part, the Millennium generation has yet to grow up and bear the yoke of adulthood with real-life burdens.  Too many parents coddle their sons and daughters and the result is a narcissistic, lazy generation ill prepared for the sufferings and trials that inevitably come and require discipline and endurance.

Mom and dad, you rob your teens and young adults of a “good” thing when you fail to make them bear the burdens and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Forgiveness: What a blessed promise!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 66-68

Of the three psalms assigned for our scripture reading today, the best known is probably the first, Psalm 66; a psalm of praise and adoration inviting the nations of the earth to “Make a joyful noise unto God” (Psalm 66:1).

Lest someone is tempted to draw a parallel between today’s style of worship music and singing with the phrase “joyful noise” (66:1), I hasten to educate you that the “noise” is the sound of trumpets and shouts of victory and triumph.   David exhorts all people to praise the God of heaven in songs that honor His name (66:2) and invites “All the earth” to worship and sing praises to the LORD (66:4).

The focus of Psalm 66 moves from an invitation to all people to worship the LORD to God’s chosen people, Israel, praising Him (66:8-12).   David’s praise recalls how the LORD had preserved His people and brought them through times of trial and trouble (66:9-12).

Beginning with Psalm 66:13, David’s focus becomes personal: “I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows” (Psalm 66:13).

The psalm concludes with David inviting the people to hear his adoration of the LORD and “what He hath done for my soul” (66:16).  David writes of the LORD’s mercies, grace and willingness to hear his prayers and forgive his sin.

Psalm 66:17-20 17  I cried unto Him [the LORD] with my mouth, and he was extolled [exalted] with my tongue.
18  If I regard [see; perceive; observe] iniquity [sin; wickedness] in my heart, the Lord will not hear [hearken; listen] me:
19  But verily [surely] God hath heard [hearken; listen] me; he hath attended [hear] to the voice [sound] of my prayer.
20  Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy [loving-kindness; love; grace] from me.

David’s life and testimony remind us the LORD is longsuffering, patient and willing to forgive our sins if we will confess and forsake them.  The king had experienced the silence of heaven and the fate of men who “regard iniquity” and continued in sin (66:18).   With praise and confidence, David rejoiced in God hearing his prayer and extending to him His grace (66:19-20).

Some reading this brief devotional might find they are where David was–bearing a weight of sin that has left your soul listless and your heart despondent.  You are too aware of the sorrows and consequences that accompany sin.  Friend, please don’t stay there and risk a seared conscience and a calloused heart.

The apostle John promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: America is Not Too Big to Fail!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jeremiah 47-52

Today’s scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of the prophecies of Jeremiah in this book that bears his name.  These final chapters, Jeremiah 47-52, predict the devastating invasion of Babylon’s army (“waters rise up out of the north” – Jeremiah 47:2) and the forthcoming destruction of the nations that were Israel’s ancient adversaries.

The annihilation of the Philistines (Jeremiah 47), the Moabites (Jeremiah 48), the Ammonites and Edomites (Jeremiah 49); even the destruction of Babylon (Jeremiah 50-51) is all predicted.   We can take many lessons from the judgment and destruction suffered by those proud nations that resisted the God of Israel and made themselves enemies of His people.   The Sovereignty of God over nations and the eradication of Israel’s ancient foes is the great lesson we take from Jeremiah’s prophetic revelations.

Jeremiah 52 records the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah.   The sins and rebellion of the people had exhausted God’s longsuffering and He determined to deliver Judah for judgment.   Jeremiah’s record of the suffering of God’s people includes famine, the captivity of king Zedekiah, the slaying of his sons, his eyes “put out” and his imprisonment until he died.   Jeremiah’s book concludes with the king’s palace and the Temple being plundered  (52:12-23) and the people of Judah led away captive to Babylon (52:24-30).

Some closing thoughts on the nations of the world and the sovereignty of God: Politicians and societal experts of the 19th century aspired to “Utopia”, a world of peace and justice where humanity lived in perfect harmony and every man pursued the common good. Unfortunately for those idealists, their ideology of atheism and the good in man was proven false by the atrocities of war and oppression of humanity in the 20th century. From the holocaust and atrocities committed by the Armies of the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) to the crimes against humanity committed by Communist regimes (particularly the old Soviet Union, Vietnam and China), modern nations prove they are no more humane than their ancient counterparts.

One would think any aspirations for “Utopia” that survived the 20th century have surely been extinguished by the barbarity committed by the followers of militant Islam (ISIS, Taliban and Hamas) in the dawning of the 21st century; however, such is not the case.  Crucifixion, stoning, beheading, drowning, fiery deaths, poisonings and mass killings in the name of religion and the perversity and wickedness of modern man are on full display in the Middle East and around the world.

Babylon’s mighty army dominated the ancient world and her city walls appeared impenetrable; however, God declared war and against that nation (Jeremiah 50-51) and Babylon  faltered under the weight of her sin and fell.

Citizens of the United States would do well to remember the LORD bears the sword of judgment (Jeremiah 47:6-7) and no people or nation is beyond His justice or too big to fail.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Pray

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 63-65

David’s flight from his enemies into the wilderness is the setting of Psalm 63 and Psalm 64.  David sought refuge in the wilderness during two times of trouble.  The first when he fled from king Saul who out of envy and fear sought to kill him (1 Samuel 23:14-15; 24:1).  The second flight into the wilderness was when David fled Jerusalem as his son Absalom led a rebellion against him (2 Samuel 15:23).

Rather than discouragement, we find David turning his heart to the LORD and worshipping his God in the wilderness.  Far from the Tabernacle and the Ark, and without the company of a priest, David cried out to the LORD, “O God, thou art my God” (63:1).  David’s prayer, yearning and worship of the LORD gives believers a pattern we should all follow when calling upon Him (63:1-4).  Psalm 63 concludes with David expressing confidence the LORD heard his plea, would answer his prayer and deliver him from his enemies (63:5-11).

David most likely wrote Psalm 64 when he was seeking safety and refuge from his enemies (64:1-6).  After rehearsing all the evil the enemies intended for him, David’s thoughts turned to God and trusting Him to give him victory over those who sought his harm (64:7-10).

David praises the LORD in Psalm 65, expressing his gratitude for God hearing his prayers, forgiving his sins, and blessing him (65:1-4).  Reflecting on God’s Sovereignty over His creation (65:5-8), David praised the LORD for providing rain and running streams, quenching the thirst of creation and providing for the needs of all creatures (65:9-13).

There was a time American families followed a tradition of not only sharing family mealtimes, but also began every meal with “Grace”.  I have not heard that expression in years, but I remember my parents and grandparents asking, “Who would like to say grace?” or “Who would like to say the blessing?”  Both expressions of prayer acknowledged the LORD as our Provider and the source of all blessings.

The closing verses of Psalm 65 were just that, David’s acknowledgement of God’s grace and blessings.  Might I encourage you to do the same?

Take a moment before your meals, bow your head, say “Grace” and thank God for His blessings.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith