Category Archives: Politics

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

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.

The Judgment of the Nations (Joel 3)

Scripture reading – Joel 3

Today’s Scripture reading marks the end of the Book of Joel (only three chapters long), and an introduction to the prophetic Book of Daniel. This devotional will conclude our study of Joel. A second devotional will follow, and serve as the introduction to the Book of Daniel.

I believe this final section of our study actually began with the closing verses of Joel 2. In its immediate context, the prophecies of Joel were given as the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah recorded how the LORD intervened for the city, and sent His angel who smote 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). King Sennacherib had been forced to retreat to his homeland, where he was later assassinated by his sons (Isaiah 37:33-38).

The Day of the LORD is the prophetic day of God’s judgment, when He will take vengeance on those nations that abused Israel and Judah. With the assurance of His perpetual presence “in the midst,” Israel would know Him as “the LORD your God,” and the day would come when Israel would “never be ashamed” (2:27).

In my opinion, the “last days” began with Christ’s earthly ministry, and the prophecy of the outpouring of His Spirit was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (2:28-30; Acts 2:16-20). Nevertheless, the events recorded in the closing verses of Joel 2 and Joel 3, will not be fulfilled until the close of the Tribulation, and will mark the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.

Joel 3 – The Judgment of the Gentile Nations

A Day of Reckoning for the Nations (3:1-2)

Joel 3:1 was partly fulfilled when the LORD moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to grant the Jews liberty to return to their homeland where they would rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-3). Yet, the final fulfillment of Joel 3 will not come to pass until the close of the Tribulation. The LORD promised He will one day gather His people from the nations (3:1), and exercise judgment on the Gentile nations for their sins against Him and His people (3:2).

Enumeration of the Sins of the Gentiles (3:3-6)

The nations of the earth have forever been at war with God and His people, yet, the sins of some nation have been so egregious, they are specifically named for judgment: Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine (3:4), Egypt, and Sodom (3:19).

The sins committed against God’s people are an offense to God, and He judged the Gentile nations guilty. Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine, Egypt, and Sodom had scattered His chosen people with their persecutions, and parted the land He gave as an inheritance to Israel (3:2c). Those nations had enslaved the Jews (3:3a, 6), trafficked boys and girls as sexual slaves, and placed no more value on their lives than wine (3:3). Spoiling the gold and silver of the land, they had taken away that which was the LORD’s (3:4-6).

Justice and Judgment (3:4, 7-8)

The sins of the Gentile nations will be punished, and they will receive the recompence (be repaid) in kind for the sins they committed against the LORD and His people (3:4). The LORD determined to gather His people and restore them to their land (3:7), and the nations that enslaved them would themselves become slaves (3:8a). Their sons and daughters will be sold “to the Sabeans” (a caravan people of the southern Arabian Peninsula), and trafficked to far away lands (3:8b).

Warfare of the Nations (3:9-16)

Through His prophet, the LORD summoned the nations to gather and prepare for war (3:9). Contrary to the Millennial kingdom and its peace (when the weapons of war will be fashioned into plows, Micah 4:3), the LORD commanded the nations to “beat [their] plowshares into swords, and [their] pruninghooks into spears” (3:10). The nations of the world will assemble for battle (3:11), for the LORD was prepared to judge them “in the valley of Jehoshaphat” (its geographic al location cannot be ascertained, 3:12).

Drawing a picture of Himself as a farmer readied to harvest, the nations of the world were portrayed as ripe for judgment. The LORD’s judgment is likened to a farmer coming with his sickle sharpened, and ready to tread nations underfoot like grapes in a vine press (3:13). A multitude will gather against God’s people (3:14), but it is the LORD whose judgment will darken the sun, moon, and stars (3:15). Suddenly, He will “roar out of Zion, And utter his voice from Jerusalem; And the heavens and the earth shall shake: But the Lord will be the hope of his people, And the strength of the children of Israel” (3:16).

The Promise of the LORD’s Perpetual Presence (3:17-21)

Through the LORD’s judgment of the nations, the children of Israel and Judah will come to know Him as “the LORD [their] God” who dwells in Zion (3:17a). The city of Jerusalem would be holy, and no “strangers” (unbelievers) will “pass through her any more” (3:17b). The land will be fertile, the waters will flow, and the River of Life will flow from “the house of the LORD” (3:18). The LORD will avenge the wickedness of Egypt and Edom, for they were guilty of violence and shedding the “innocent blood” of Judah (3:19).

Closing thoughts (3:20-21) – Joel’s prophecies end with the LORD promising Judah the nation will “dwell forever” in the land, “and Jerusalem from generation to generation” (3:20). He will purge the people of their sins, and will forever dwell among them “in Zion” (3:21). Our study of Joel began with a judgment of locusts (Assyria’s army) descending upon Judah and Jerusalem (1:4), and ends with the triumph of God’s people restored to their land and the LORD reigning forever in Jerusalem (3:20-21).

The day of judgment is coming, not only for the nations, but for all men and women. Are you prepared for God’s day of judgment? When the books are opened, and “every man [and woman] will be judged “according to their works?” (Revelation 20:13), will your name be “found written in the book of life?” (Revelation 20:15)

Revelation 20:1515And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

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.

The Finale of the Nations (Ezekiel 32)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 32

Egypt continues to be the primary subject of our current study, as we conclude this section that foretold God’s judgment against all the nations of the world. The prophecy before us was given in the twelfth year of Ezekiel’s exile to Babylon.

The Inescapable Judgment of the Nations (32:1-16)

A Lament for Pharaoh, king of Egypt (32:2-6)

The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt” (32:2), and compared the harsh reign of the king to a “young lion of the nations…whale [perhaps a crocodile] among the seas,” and a trouble to his people (represented as “the waters,” 32:2). For his wickedness, the LORD foretold He would cast the net of His judgment upon Pharaoh and Egypt (32:3). The king would be dragged from his throne, and figuratively cast into the wilderness where the nations of the earth would feed upon his flesh (32:4-5). The waters of Egypt would be stained red with the blood of the people (32:6).

A Dreadful Picture of God’s Final Judgment (32:7-10)

As we have seen in earlier studies, prophecies often carry an immediate implication and a far-reaching application, and so it is in the passage before us. Ezekiel 32:7-10 describes the imminent judgment of God as a time of great darkness, even as it will be in the last days (Isaiah 13:9-11: 34:1-4; Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 6:12-17; 8:12). The heart of the nations will be troubled, and the people will shrink back in horror (32:10).

Nebuchadnezzar: The Agent of God’s Judgment (32:11-16)

Leaving no room for ambiguity, Ezekiel prophesied Egypt’s fall to Babylon was determined (32:11), and the ruthless reputation of Babylon was portrayed as “the terrible of the nations” (32:12). Nebuchadnezzar’s army would wreak havoc on the land, spoil the treasures of Egypt, and kill the people and livestock (32:12-13). The nations of the world would look upon Egypt’s sorrows and lament her fall (32:16).

The Nations Sentenced to Hell (32:17-32)

Picturing Hell for what it is, a place of death and torment for sinners who reject the LORD and His Word (32:17-32), the Egyptians were warned they would suffer the fate of other nations (32:18). Assyria was fallen to Babylon, and we read of her slain, their “graves are set in the sides of the pit [hell]” (32:23). Assyria joined other ancient nations who made their graves in hell: Elam, Meshech, Tubal, Edom, and Zidon had all borne “their shame with them that go down to the pit” (32:24-30).

Pharoah and Egypt would not be spared or favored above the nations, and Ezekiel warned, “thou shalt be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, and shalt lie with them that are slain with the sword” (32:28). The king of Egypt and his army would be “slain by the sword” (32:31), and Pharaoh would take his place “in the midst of the uncircumcised” with the eternal damned (32:32).

Closing thought – Ezekiel’s prophecies of the coming judgments of Egypt and the nations concluded with the words, “saith the LORD God” (32:32). All the LORD revealed to Ezekiel came to pass, and the people and nations of the earth that rejected the LORD perished.

I look forward to sharing with you the balance of the chapters in Ezekiel, for they foretell a glorious future for God’s people (Ezekiel 33:1-39:29).

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.

God’s Judgment of Egypt (Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we are in the midst of God’s declaration of judgment on the nations, with the subject being Egypt. The date of this prophesy is not given, and there is good reason to believe it would have followed soon after Ezekiel 29:1, which was in the tenth year, and the tenth month of Ezekiel’s exile in Babylon.

Ezekiel 30 – The Third Judgment

A Storm of God’s Judgment (30:1-9)

Following the pattern of earlier prophecies, Ezekiel was addressed as, “son of man,” and commanded to “prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the day!” (which is to say, Oh no! The day of the Lord is near, a day of clouds, 30:2). With Jerusalem under siege, Ezekiel was to pronounce a storm of God’s judgment would soon pass upon all the nations, for “the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day” (30:3). Doomed with Egypt, were her allies, including Ethiopia (Cush), Libya, Lydia, and Chub (30:5). Egypt’s pride in her strength would fail, and her lands and cities would be laid waste (30:6-7). The Egyptians would know it was the LORD, as her cities burned (30:8). When news of Egypt’s fall reached Ethiopia, her people would be terrified and say of their own demise, “lo, it cometh” (30:9).

Nebuchadnezzar, An Agent of God (30:10-19)

The king of Babylon was named as the servant, the agent of God’s wrath (30:10). Ezekiel was to declare, the “multitude of Egypt” would come to an end as the people were slain, and driven as captives out of the land (30:10-11). The rivers, streams, and irrigation canals flowing from the Nile would be destroyed, and the nation plundered (30:12). All of the great cities of Egypt would become desolate (30:13-18), that the people might know and confess “the LORD” as sovereign (30:19).

The Strength of Pharaoh Would Fail (30:20-26)

Ezekiel 30:20 introduced the fourth judgment of the LORD against the nations. It was in the eleventh year of Ezekiel’s exile when the LORD declared, “I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, lo, it shall not be bound up to be healed” (30:21). Portrayed as a man with broken arms, the strength of Pharaoh would never be reset, nor would Egypt have the strength to war over other nations again (30:21-22). The LORD would scatter the Egyptians among the nations (30:23), and Pharaoh would “groan…with the groanings of a deadly wounded man” (30:24). Thus, Egypt would come to know and confess the God of Israel is “the LORD” (30:26).

Ezekiel 31 – The Fourth Judgment

Egypt’s Judgment Compared to the Fall of Assyria (31:3-9)

Ezekiel 31 continued God’s warning of judgment against Egypt, with the fall of ancient Assyria serving as a warning to “Pharaoh” (31:2). Assyria was portrayed as a great “cedar in Lebanon,” whose stature exceeded all the trees in the “forest” of the nations (31:3). In her zenith, Assyria towered as a giant among the nations of the world, even as Egypt at her peak oppressed weaker nations and people. As the Nile River nourished Egypt, so the rivers and streams of Assyria nourished her fields and forest (31:4-5).

Continuing the portrayal of Assyria as a great cedar, the nations of the world sought shelter in her “branches,” even as times of famine moved the people to retreat to Egypt (the great “bread basket” of ancient times, 31:6). Incomparably proud, the Assyrians boasted their nation excelled all others (portrayed as a great cedar boasting it exceeded “all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God,” 31:8-9).

Assyria’s Fate: A Warning to Egypt (31:10-17)

As the mighty Assyrian “cedar” fell, Egypt’s pride would suffer a crushing defeat as the LORD delivered Pharaoh into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (31:10-11). Assyria, remembered as a ruthless nation, would suffer the same fate, and her allies would desert her (31:12-13).

Though Nebuchadnezzar was God’s agent, it was the LORD who determined all who lift up their proud hearts would “go down to the pit” (31:14). The LORD stopped up the waters of the rivers, as the crops failed, and the “trees of the field fainted” (31:15). When the news of Assyria’s downfall spread, the nations of the world were shaken (31:16). The LORD condemned Assyria to hell, and her allies with her (31:17).

Closing thoughts (31:18) – The fall of Assyria served as God’s warning to Egypt (31:18a). Ezekiel foretold, as it was with Assyria, so it would befall Egypt (31:18b).

Warning – People and nations who exalt themselves against the God of Heaven, will be sentenced “unto the nether parts of the earth” (31:18a).

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.

God is Slow to Wrath, But His Judgments are Sure (Ezekiel 28; Ezekiel 29)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 28; Ezekiel 29

God’s displeasure with the nations that had taken joy in the destruction of Jerusalem continued in Ezekiel 28.  As a great city of ancient times, Tyrus was addressed in Ezekiel 26 and 27, and continues to be the subject of our study in Ezekiel 28. Though the prophet was commanded to once again speak to Tyrus, it was the king, the “prince [king] of Tyrus” that was his subject (28:2).

The LORD came to Ezekiel with an indictment of the “prince [king] of Tyrus” (28:2), but the verses that followed revealed this king was more than a mere mortal. He represented the embodiment of evil; the demonic forces that are ever present in the governments of the nations of the world. The apostle Paul wrote of the same demonic presence in his day writing, “12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). As you will see, the king of Tyrus was a symbol of a presence and power greater than man (28:11-15).

Ezekiel 28

Provoked by the pride of the king of Tyrus, the LORD brought an indictment against that ruler (28:2-5). The king boasted he was powerful and his throne was equal to that of God. In fact, he boasted, “I am a God” (28:2). Proud of his intelligence, he boasted he was wiser than the prophet Daniel, and no secret was hidden from him (28:3). Shrewd in commerce, the king was wealthy, and believed himself equal to God (28:6).

Fourfold Judgment of the King of Tyrus (28:6-10)

Remembering, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18), we are not surprised when we read God declared he would destroy the proud king of Tyrus. The king felt his kingdom was unconquerable, but the LORD stirred up the king of Babylon (“the terrible of the nations,” 28:7), who would bring his army against Tyrus and bring the king to a violent end (28:8). The fall of the king would be so great, the world would look upon him, and know he was a man (28:8-9). His death would come by “the hand of strangers” (29:10).

King of Tyre, A Symbol of Satan (28:11-15)

Here we find recorded a contrast between the pride of the king of Tyrus and that of Satan. Like the king, Lucifer (Satan) boasted against God (Isaiah 14:12-15). In reality, the king of Tyrus was a puppet in the hand of that evil one.

Ezekiel records a depiction of Lucifer (28:12-19), who was the model of perfection, perfect wisdom and beauty (28:12). Only of Satan could it be said, “thou hast been in Eden the garden of God” (28:13). Like the ephod of the high priest of Israel whose breastplate was adorned with precious stones, Lucifer had been a being of beauty, and was created by God (28:13b). He was a musician (28:13c), and ordained as the guardian cherub about the throne of God (28:14). Before sin entered into him and he rebelled, he had been a sinless being, “perfect in [his] ways (28:15). As Satan was cast out of heaven, so the king of Tyrus would be cast from his throne, and made a spectacle for he dared boast against the God of heaven (28:16-19).

Prophecy Against Zidon (28:20-23)

Zidon was a sister city of Tyrus, and was located some 20 miles north of the capital city. Like Tyrus, Zidon would suffer a calamitous destruction. “Pestilence” (plagues, disease, sickness) and the blood of violence and war would stain her streets (28:23). All of this suffering and sorrow, to the end the nations would know and confess the God of Israel was “the LORD” (28:22, 23).

Tyus and Zidon would be annihilated, but the LORD promised He would gather “the house of Israel” and return His people to their land (28:24-25). Peace and prosperity would be restored to God’s people, and they would “dwell safely…build houses, and plant vineyards…[and] dwell with confidence” (28:26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Ezekiel 29 – The Judgment of Egypt

It was in the tenth year of Ezekiel’s exile (I believe coinciding with king Jehoiachin being taken prisoner to Babylon), that the LORD came to the prophet with a pronouncement of judgment “against Pharoah king of Egypt” (29:1-2). The stated determination of the LORD to begin His judgment with Pharaoh continues for four chapters, concluding with Ezekiel 32.

Seven judgments are stated against Egypt and its ruler, with the first two recorded in Ezekiel 29. Like the king of Tyrus, Pharaoh was guilty of pride, boasting he was sovereign of Egypt’s wealth and the Nile River was his (foolishly boasting, “I have made it for myself,” 29:3).

Portraying Himself as a divine fisherman, the LORD warned He would set a hook in Pharaoh’s jaws and pull him and “all the fish of the rivers” (the people) “into the wilderness” (29:4-5). The purpose of God’s judgments is stated again, “Egypt shall know that I am the LORD” (29:6). Pharaoh had also betrayed the trust of Judah, and for that reason the LORD declared he would splinter Egypt like a reed (29:7).

For her sins, “the land of Egypt [would] be desolate and waste” and not “be inhabited for forty years” (29:8-11). Yet, unlike Assyria and Tyrus, Ezekiel prophesied God would mercifully restore the people of Egypt to her lands (29:13), though Egypt would never again be a great world empire (29:14-16).

Closing thoughts (29:18-21) – Tyrus and Egypt would pay for their sins, and Nebuchadnezzar did serve as the LORD’s agent of judgment. Though Babylon’s siege against Tyrus lasted 13 years and was a great expense, God determined to repay Nebuchadnezzar with the vast wealth of Egypt. From the spoils of Egypt, the king of Babylon paid his army (29:19).

Warning: Grave consequences befall those that persecute, and take pleasure in the sorrows and sufferings of God’s people. 

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.

“I Sought for a Man” – A Memorial Day Weekend Perspective

The scene is as vivid in my mind today as it was that day. I watched a casket, draped with the flag of the United States of America, as it was transported through a sea of dark suits and black veiled hats. I was only 10 or 11 at the time, and Vietnam was a place far from my quiet existence in rural South Carolina. That day, the nightly news recounting American casualties, took on a new meaning that was real and personal. While the toll of combat would number 58,193 by war’s end, it was the sacrifice of one soldier that brought home to me the reality of war, and the price of freedom.

            How do you honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the liberty we enjoy as a nation? Is it enough to place a wreath at a tomb or mark the graves of America’s fallen with flags? I suggest the greater memorial is to incorporate into our lives and families those qualities that made America great.

The Preamble of our Constitution states its purpose was to bind our hearts as a people to “a more perfect Union,” and “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

The leaders of our nation have failed us. Instead of Justice, politicians promote political correctness. Rather than domestic Tranquility, we have corruption, violence, and partisan politics. Our common defense has been weakened by open borders. The general Welfare of our nation has been sacrificed for special interest groups. Tragically, the Blessings of Liberty are despised by those who would enslave us.

America needs believers who will dedicate themselves to the LORD, and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

God Sought for a Man, and Found None (Ezekiel 22)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 22

The sins and wickedness of Jerusalem is the subject of Ezekiel 22. How could one nation, given the favor of the LORD like none other, sink to the depths of sin and depravity we find in this chapter? It is both frightening and convicting, when you realize how Judah’s sins parallel the sins of the 21st century. I was moved to sadness as I studied Ezekiel 22. I found myself sorrowing not only for Israel in history past, but for my own day and nation.

Indictment of Jerusalem and Her Citizens (22:1-22)

Today’s Scripture begins with the LORD summoning His prophet to serve as His prosecutor, and asking him, son of man, wilt thou judge [denounce; pass judgment], wilt thou judge the bloody city? (22:2a). The LORD answered His question, and asserted, “yea, thou shalt shew her all her [Jerusalem’s] abominations” (22:2b).

As the prosecutor of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was to charge the people of that city with two crimes (22:3): Violence (for “the city sheddeth blood”), and Idolatry (for the people had rejected the LORD, and made idols). The consequences of Jerusalem’s sins were fourfold: The LORD declared the people to be guilty, defiled, worthy of death (“for her sins had “caused [her] days to draw near,” and “a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries” (22:4-5).

Twelve National Sins (22:6-12)

The egregious nature of Jerusalem’s sins were declared boldly by the LORD through His prophet. They had become a murderous, abusive people (22:6), whose sons and daughters dishonored their parents (22:7a). They oppressed the helpless (who were non-Hebrews in their midst, as well as orphans and widows, 22:7b), despised those things that were holy, and desecrated the Sabbath (22:8). They slandered, and were immoral (22:9). They committed incest with their fathers (22:10), and adultery with those who were not their wives (22:11). Their families were scandalously incestuous (22:11), and men bribed to kill, charged exorbitant interest, and blackmailed others for gain (22:12).

God’s Judgment (22:12c-22)

Jerusalem’s wickedness was summed up in this: They had forsaken and “forgotten” the LORD (22:12c), and their sins demanded His judgment. The LORD clapped His hands at the people in disgust, for they provoked Him to anger with their fraudulent gain (22:13). Once a powerful and valiant people, Judah had become a weak, cowardice people (22:14). The LORD had determined to scatter His people among the nations of the world (22:15a), and declared He would consume their wickedness in His wrath (22:15b). All this would be done, that the people might confess and acknowledge Him as “the LORD” (22:16). In the fire of His wrath, He would purify His people of their sins (22:18).

They had become as worthless dross, impure and unholy (22:18). In His wrath, the LORD drove His people to seek shelter in Jerusalem (22:19), and that city became a boiling caldron of fiery judgment (22:20-21; 2 Kings 25:9). To what end would this great judgment fall upon Jerusalem?

Ezekiel 22:2222As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you.

Indictment of Jerusalem’s Leaders (22:23-31)

Judah’s and Jerusalem’s leaders had failed the people, and already the LORD had withheld the rains that would lead to thirst and famine (22:23). King Zedekiah and his court had become ravenous lions, devouring the people, robbing them by corrupt means, whose violence and wars made many widows (22:25).

The priests, the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem, had violated the Laws and Commandments, and desecrated the Temple with idols and sacrifices (22:25). They failed to sanctify that which was holy, nor did they keep the sabbaths (22:26).

The “princes” (political leaders) of Jerusalem and Judah were like ravenous wolves, shedding the blood of the innocent to increase their “dishonest gain” (22:27).

There were false prophets in the midst of the people who “daubed” the sins of the people with “untempered morter” (thus whitewashing their sins). They lied, made empty promises, and deceived, claiming to speak the words of the LORD (22:28).

Finally, there was an indictment of the people themselves. Like their leaders, they were guilty of extortion, theft, oppressing the poor and needy, and treating unjustly the non-Jewish people in their midst (22:29).

Closing thoughts – Was there any hope for Jerusalem? Were there any whom God might use to condemn the sins of the nation, and call the people to repent? The answer to those questions is summed up in this:

Ezekiel 22:3030And I sought for [searched and attempted to find] a man among them, that should make up the hedge [a wall], and stand in the gap [in the breach] before me for the land, that I should not destroy it [to annihilate; desolate]: but I found none [no one].

One man might have made the difference for Jerusalem; but the king, the leaders, and the people had rejected and scorned Jeremiah. Tragically, all was lost and the wrath of God would not be appeased (22:31).

Are there any willing to answer God’s call in the 21st century, and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap?”

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 Cycle of Man’s Sins, and God’s Judgments (Ezekiel 20; Ezekiel 21)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 20; Ezekiel 21

We are continuing our study of the Prophecies of Ezekiel, and you will notice today’s Scripture reading is lengthy (Ezekiel 20-21). A full commentary on those chapters will be too much for a daily devotional, therefore, I will limit this study to a highlight and pray it is a blessing.

Ezekiel 20 – God’s Coming Judgment Against Judah and Jerusalem

Once again, the “elders of Israel” came to Ezekiel, to “inquire of the LORD, and sat before [him]” (20:1). The response of the LORD to the inquiry of those leaders is instructive, for He was offended! (20:3) The LORD demanded of Ezekiel whether or not he would be bold and asked, 4Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them?” (20:4).

A Cycle of Rebellion (20:5-29)

The lesson for the elders of Israel was that Israel had perpetually followed a cycle of rebellion. Rather than impart a new revelation, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to remind the leaders how He dealt with Israel’s rebellion in the past.

He brought Israel out of Egypt, and commanded the people saying, “I am the LORD your God” (20:5). He admonished them to put away their idols (20:6-7). Yet, the people rebelled, and refused to cast aside their idols and worship the LORD alone (20:8-9).

In the wilderness, and when Israel encamped at Sinai, the people rebelled. The LORD warned that they would be consumed in the wilderness– all that He might vindicate His name (20:14). They “despised” His judgment, and refused to walk in His Commandments, nevertheless the LORD was merciful, and “spared them from destroying them” (20:17). Though their fathers perished in the wilderness, the LORD spared their children. Yet, they “rebelled against” the LORD, until He “withdrew” His hand from them (the hand that led, protected, and provided for them as a shepherd his sheep, 20:22). They had blasphemed the LORD’s name (20:27), and committed spiritual adultery, offering sacrifices to idols (20:28).

Lessons for Ezekiel’s Generation (20:30-31)

Like their forefather’s, Ezekiel’s generation was guilty of great evils, and followed in the wicked ways of their fathers. They sacrificed to idols (20:30), and sacrificed their sons to make them “pass through the fire” (20:31). Though the LORD had chosen Israel to be His people, they lived “as the heathen…to serve wood and stone” (idols, 20:32). For those reasons the LORD asserted, “I will not be inquired of by you” (20:31).

Israel had Forsaken the LORD, But He Would Not Forsake His Covenant (20:33-44)

In spite of their wickedness, the LORD promised He would one day gather His people, though they were scattered among the nations of the world (20:33-36). He would continue to discipline them “under the rod” until He brought them back to “the bond of the covenant” (20:37). He would remove the rebels, and they would “not enter the land of Israel,” to the end His people would “know” and confess Him as LORD (20:38).

Closing thoughts (20:45-49) – To what end were God’s judgments, and to what purpose were their sorrows and sufferings? It was that His people would know and confess Him as their LORD (20:41-42, 44). Indeed, the day would come when “all flesh” would see and know that which was done was the LORD!

Ezekiel 21 – The Judgment of the Righteous and the Wicked

Living in Babylon, but knowing the city of Jerusalem was under siege and thousands would perish, was difficult for those in captivity. The elders of Israel asked Ezekiel at the conclusion of chapter 20, “Doth He [the LORD] not speak parables?” (20:49)

Preach Against Jerusalem (21:2-7)

The LORD answered the inquiry, saying to Ezekiel, “2Son of man, set thy face toward Jerusalem, and drop thy word toward the holy places, and prophesy against the land of Israel” (21:2). No longer speaking in parables, the message was clear, the prophet was commanded to “say to the land of Israel, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth my sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked” (21:3).

The judgment of the LORD was imminent, for He was ready to draw His sword and judge “the righteous and the wicked” (21:3). “All flesh,” man, woman, boy, and girl would know it was the LORD that executes judgment (21:4-5). Ezekiel was commanded to sigh, and in so doing indicate the pain and sorrow the people would suffer (21:6-7).

Prepare to Face God’s Judgment (21:8-17)

God warned, His sword of judgment was sharpened, and it would be borne by Nebuchadnezzar, the executioner of His will (21:8-11). The LORD directed Ezekiel to dramatize the sufferings of Jerusalem, saying, “Cry and howl, son of man” (21:12). Ezekiel 21:14 described the swift violence that would come upon Jerusalem, and the great slaughter that would befall the people. None would escape (21:15), and all who fled the destruction would be slain (24:16-17).

Babylon was God’s Agent of Judgment (21:18-27)

Here we find a great spiritual lesson for nations that know the LORD and reject Him. The LORD left no doubt He was employing “the sword of the king of Babylon” (18:18-20), and Nebuchadnezzar’s army would attack the Ammonites, and lay siege to Jerusalem (21:20). Though he had consulted with his idols (21:22), the LORD used the king’s superstitious ways to draw him to Jerusalem and do His bidding (21:23).

With the mounds laid up against the walls of the city, and battering rams at the gates, the people would remember it was brought upon them because of their sins, and would remember all that had been prophesied (21:24). Zedekiah, the last king of Israel’s Davidic line, would be stripped of his crown, and abased (24:25-26), until Christ returns and comes to claim His throne, “whose right it is” for God promised, “I will give it Him” (21:27).

Closing thoughts (21:28-32) – Our study closes with God’s assurance that, unlike the children of Israel who would return to their land, the judgment of the Ammonites would be final, and they would “be no more remembered” (21:32).

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 Ruled by Wicked, Immoral Leaders (Ezekiel 19)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 19

There were some of the children of Israel who asserted God was unjust, supposing their sorrows and travails were come upon them because of the sins of their fathers (Ezekiel 18). Ezekiel answered their erroneous claims, and declared a sinner’s individual responsibility for his sins  (18:4), and “everyone” would be judged “according to his [own] ways” (18:29).

The Lioness and Her Cubs (19:1-9)

Ezekiel 19 addressed the influence wicked rulers had upon Israel, and in particular Judah.

Ezekiel commanded the people of the captivity to “take … up a lamentation for the princes of Israel” (19:1). The “princes” were the last kings of the Davidic dynasty (until Christ reigns on the earth in the Millennial Kingdom). Three wicked kings were described, and can be identified. They are: Jehoahaz (19:3-4), Jehoiachin (19:5-9), and Zedekiah (19:14).

The “lioness” of this lamentation was Israel, and the young lion cubs were the kings of Israel (19:2). Jehoahaz was the first king, and he was described as one who “learned to catch the prey; it devoured men” (19:3). You may remember Jehoahaz was 23 years old when he became king (2 Kings 23:31-33; 2 Chronicles 36:1-3). He was like a lion, a tyrant, and “devoured men” (19:3b). He was notoriously wicked, and was removed from his throne, and taken prisoner by Neco, king of Egypt after reigning for three months (19:4).

Jehoahaz ascended to the throne after Jehoiakim; however, he was not mentioned in Ezekiel 19, because he died in battle, and his son Jehoiachin reigned in his stead (2 Kings 24:7-16; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10). Like Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin was described as “a young lion” who devoured men, for he was a ruthless and heartless king (19:6). Indeed, he was everything a king should not be, for he destroyed the homes and cities of his people, and terrorized them through “his roaring” (19:7). His rebellion provoked Nebuchadnezzar, who came and took him away prisoner to Babylon (19:8-9).

When Israel was a Fruitful Vine (19:10-13)

Ezekiel 19:10-13 painted a beautiful, poetic picture of Israel in the days of her glory (19:10). Israel, and perhaps, in particular Jerusalem, was described as a fruitful vine, “planted by the waters,” and “full of branches” (kings, 19:10). Under David’s reign, who was followed by his son Solomon, Israel was at her zenith as a great, and powerful nation. The nation was “fruitful and full of branches” (19:10), and her rulers were like “strong rods for the sceptres” (19:11). In that age, Jerusalem had been exalted among the nations of the earth (19:11).

A succession of wicked kings, however, spelled the doom of the nation, and consequently, brought God’s judgment (19:12). Jerusalem and Judah would be “plucked up in fury,” and “cast down to the ground” (19:12). Nebuchadnezzar would come as an east wind (19:12). The glory and riches of Jerusalem would be dried up, and the dynasty of David (“her strong rods”) broken and consumed (19:12). “Planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground,” described the captivity of the children of Israel in Babylon (19:13).

Ezekiel 19:14 brings us to Zedekiah, the third king whose reign was described in this chapter. He was the last of the kings of the Davidic line until Christ. Of Jerusalem and Judah we read: “Fire [God’s judgment] is gone out of a rod of her branches [Zedekiah, the last king], which hath devoured her fruit, so that she [Jerusalem] hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule” (19:14).

Closing thoughts – Ezekiel 19 concluded with a pitiful call to sorrow: “This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation” (19:14). Lament, lament, for Jerusalem will be destroyed, and Judah will be left desolate. King Zedekiah would witness the deaths of his sons, whose eyes would be put out, and he would be taken prisoner to Babylon where he would die.

Lesson: Corporate Guilt and Judgment: Fathers do not bear the guilt of their children’s sins, nor children the condemnation of their father’s sins (Ezekiel 18). Nevertheless, the evil ways of a leader, and the consequences of his sins, will come to bear upon the lives of those he leads.

Proverbs 14:34 – “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Pity the nation ruled by wicked, immoral leaders.

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 Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

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.