Category Archives: Politics

The Tower of Babel and One Big Unhappy Family (Genesis 10-11)

Scripture reading – Genesis 10-11

The conflicts among the races and nations of the world have their origin in today’s Scripture reading (Genesis 10-11). Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Noah’s three sons and concludes by introducing us to Terah, the father of Abraham, the patriarch. We find in Genesis 10-11 the common kinship of all humanity, traced back to Noah’s three sons.

Genesis 10 is where God begins to deal with the Hebrew people through the lineage of Shem. Though the Old Testament focuses upon the history of Israel, and God’s dealing with His chosen people, nonetheless, the LORD never forsook humanity.

Genesis 10

Genesis 10 records the names of sixteen sons who were born to Noah’s three sons (and perhaps as many daughters). Genesis 10 registers seventy individual nations that emerged from Noah’s sons: fourteen associated with Japheth (10:2-5), thirty linked to Ham (10:25-27), and twenty-six from Shem (10:21-31).

Japheth, Noah’s oldest son, was the father of many Gentile nations (9:27; 10:2-5), among them the ancient empires of Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the European people (namely, Germans, Russians, Italians, French, Spanish, and the English).

Ham, Noah’s youngest son who was identified as “Canaan” in Genesis 9:25, was father to some of the great empires of the ancient world, among them the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and some scholars would suggest Chinese, Japanese, American Indians, and African tribes (10:6-20).

Although cursed to be a “servant of servants” (9:25-27), the accomplishments of Ham’s progeny were so vast that it appears they set their minds to cast off the curse of being a “servant of servants.” Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, and the son of Cush, was the first ruler following the flood (10:8-10). He was a “mighty hunter” (10:9), and founded what would become ancient “Babel…in the land of Shinar” (10:10).

Shem, Noah’s second born son, was “the father of all the children of Eber” (10:21-31). Scholars believe the name “Eber,” is an ancient word from which the word “Hebrew” was derived (10:21). “Eber” was the father of the Hebrews (Abraham is described as “Abram the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13, and the nomadic Arab tribes and nations.

Shem’s lineage is the ancestral line through which God would fulfill His promise of a Redeemer Savior. Genesis 10 concludes leaving no doubt that all nations and people in our world today are descended from Noah’s three sons:

Genesis 10:32 – “32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

Resisting God’s command to “replenish the earth” (9:1), Noah’s sons and their families continued as “one language, and of one speech” (11:1), and congregated in “a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there” (11:2).

Arising from their desire to continue as they were (being “of one language, and of one speech,” 11:1), mankind resolved to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (11:4). Man’s sinful pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion was summed up in this: Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4).

Once again, we are made privy to a heavenly conversation when the LORD determined to intervene, lest the wickedness and rebellion of man be carried so far that there would be no hope of salvation, and “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (11:6).

Confounding their one language into multiple languages, the LORD caused the work on the tower and the city to cease, and men were forced to scatter abroad “upon the face of all the earth” (11:7-8).

Genesis 11 concludes with the lineage of Shem, and leading our Bible study to a great crossroads in the history of mankind: God calling Abraham (11:31-12:1).

Friend, never forget that the story of history is “HIS-STORY;” a testimony of God’s invisible, providential hand and His “Amazing Grace.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Paul: A Model of Conviction and Courage (Acts 24-26)

Scripture reading – Acts 24-26

We might glean much from the apostle Paul’s courage, and defense of not only himself, but also the Gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached. He had been arrested under the false pretense of breaking the Law (Acts 21:27-28), and defiling the Temple (Acts 21:29), but had been delivered from harm, and almost certain death by Roman soldiers (Acts 21:31-35). After declaring his salvation and calling as an apostle (Acts 22:1-23), when he was arrested, Paul sought the protections allowed him as a citizen of Rome (Acts 22:24-30).

In Acts 23, he was placed under the protection of the Romans, and was given an opportunity to defend himself, and answer his accusers (23:1-11). When the chief captain of the guard realized the Jews’ plot to kill him (23:12-22), he spirited Paul away to safety with the governor of that region whose name was Felix (23:23-35).

Acts 24 – Trial before Felix at Caesarea by the Sea

Five days after Paul arrived at Caesarea, Ananias the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin gathered and put forward “a certain orator named Tertullus” (24:1), who was tasked with accusing Paul of sedition, a crime that would demand his death (24:2-9).

Paul sat in silence as Tertullus leveled false indictments at him, alleging him as a wicked, subversive man. Felix then gestured to Paul an opportunity to answer his accusers (24:10). With diplomacy, and the discretion deserving of Felix’s office as governor and Paul’s civil authority, Paul began to speak (24:10).

Acts 24:10b – “…Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself [i.e. make his defense].”

Paul answered the accusations brought against him by the Sanhedrin (24:11-20), proving the only dissension between him and those leaders was that he had challenged them on the doctrine of the resurrection (24:21). Felix, being the governor of that region, had “perfect knowledge of that way” (24:22; Acts 16:17; 18:25), a reference to those who believed that Jesus was the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, crucified and died for the sins of the world according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53), and rose from the grave on the third day!

Acts 24 concludes with Governor Felix retaining Paul in custody, giving the apostle liberty to have guests, but also having opportunities for he and “his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess,” to hear Paul’s testimony and his “faith in Christ” (24:24). Paul’s witness was powerful, and we read that the governor was so moved that he “trembled” with conviction as he heard of God’s judgment that was to come (24:25).

On an interesting closing note; had Paul been inclined, he might have raised funds to bribe the governor for his release and freedom (24:26). He was held captive for two years (24:27); however, the apostle was a man of integrity, and he did not buy his freedom. Paul was persuaded that he was destined for an opportunity to go to Rome and declare Jesus Christ in the very household of Caesar (23:11), and he would not be deterred from his calling.

Though he trembled at the thought of God’s judgment (24:25), Felix delayed his decision to accept Christ as Savior, and was reassigned elsewhere, leaving Paul bound in prison (24:27).

Paul’s passion and boldness in declaring the gospel is one of the many things I admire in the man; however, we should also note his tact, prudence, and patience in preaching Christ to those who would listen. Though bold in addressing and rebuking the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders (23:2-5), Paul was wise, discerning, and patient when speaking to the Roman commandant in Jerusalem, and Felix, the governor who resided in Caesarea.

A closing thought: Like Paul, those who witness for Christ should be passionate for men’s souls.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Paul’s Indomitable Spirit (Acts 20-23)

Scripture reading – Acts 20-23

Our chronological Scripture reading returns to the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 20-23, when, once again, we examine Luke’s record of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Since we were last in the Book of Acts, we have been privileged to consider Paul’s epistles to believers in both Corinth and Rome in our daily readings.

Acts 20 picks up the narrative of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41) where Paul had spent two years ministering (19:10a). The influence of the apostle’s preaching had spread throughout Asia, and both “Jews and Greeks” had received “the word of the Lord Jesus” (19:10b). Paul’s bold condemnation of idolatry (19:26), and the powerful effect of his preaching had not only threatened the commerce and trade in the worship of the Greek goddess Diana (19:27), but also set the whole city in an uproar (19:28-41).

Acts 20 – Departure from Ephesus

Paul, realizing his continued presence in Ephesus would endanger the lives of believers, determined to depart from Ephesus, and began his journey through Macedonia (a province of Rome north of Greece that we know today as the Balkan region of Europe). The apostle retraced his earlier missionary journeys, and traveling south to Greece (20:1-2), encountered Jews who were plotting against him (20:3).

God wonderfully and providentially blessed Paul with a mission’s team who accompanied him in his journey (20:4) through Asia. Among his traveling companions was Timothy, his beloved “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), who would one day become the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3).

Realizing he would not pass-through Macedonia again, Paul came to Miletus, a seaport city about 30 miles from Ephesus (20:16), and there he sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus (20:17).

The balance of Acts 20 records Paul’s final challenge to the pastoral leadership of the church in Ephesus (20:17-38). This passage is extremely moving as we see Paul’s passion for preaching and ministry (20:17-27), his loving compassion for those to whom he ministered (20:28-32), and his example of self-sacrificing charity and service (20:33-35).

Neither time or space permit me to adequately consider the balance of today’s Scripture reading; however, I will take liberty to give my readers a quick overview of Acts 21-23.

Acts 21 gives Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem (21:1-16), and the insurrection led by those who opposed him and the Gospel he preached (21:17-40).

Acts 22 recounts Paul’s personal testimony (22:1-5), his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (22:6-10), his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles (22:11-21), and the uprising of his enemies (22:22-40).

Acts 23 lays out Paul’s public address to the Sanhedrin: Notice the apostle’s courageous rebuke of the high priest Ananias (23:1-5), the clash of factions in the Sanhedrin (23:6-10), the conspiracy by some of the Jews to kill him (23:11-22), and the Roman authority’s resolve to move Paul to safety (23:23-35).

Our next Scripture reading will follow Paul’s ministry from Caesarea by the Sea (a beautiful seaport on the Mediterranean that I have visited), and his journey by sea that will end in his imprisonment in Rome.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” (Luke 23; John 18-19)

Scripture reading – Luke 23; John 18-19

Today’s Bible reading brings us to the third of the Gospel accounts concerning those things Christ suffered for our sins, according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53). Having declared Jesus was innocent of political sedition (Luke 23:4), the charge brought against Him by the chief priests (John 18:29-30), Pilate sought an escape from the demands of His accusers (23:1-5).

Declaring, “I find no fault in [Jesus]” (23:4), the chief priests defied Pilate saying, “He stirreth up the people…beginning from Galilee to this place” (23:5). When Pilate heard Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to King Herod, a puppet ruler of Galilee appointed by Caesar, and a man who was the Roman governor’s political nemesis (23:6-7).

Though his hands were bloodied from beheading John the Baptist, Herod had longed for an opportunity to encounter Jesus, and had hoped to witness one of His miracles (23:8). The King’s eagerness quickly soured when Jesus refused to answer or acknowledge his authority (23:9). Incensed by the snub, and having heard the charges brought against Jesus by the chief priests and scribes (23:10), Herod and his “men of war” began to mock and deride the LORD (23:11).

An ancient adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” comes to mind when I read Luke 23:12: “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”

Pilate and Herod became friends, because they shared in the greatest travesty of justice in human history. They were forever guilty of the most egregious act, having condemned the holy, altogether sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Pilate, having declared, “I find no fault” in Him (23:4), attempted to shirk his responsibility to exercise judicial integrity (23:13-16). Unfortunately, when he failed, he lacked the moral character and fortitude to do the right thing, and release Jesus (23:17-23).

Luke 23:24–2524 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they [chief priests and scribes] required. 25 And he [Pilate] released unto them him [Barabbas] that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will [to be crucified].

As much as we might be tempted to look upon Pilate with disdain, and wonder about his sudden friendship with the likes of Herod, we should look into our own souls. The pressure to compromise with evil men and women, is never too far from any of us.

How often have you denied Jesus because you lacked the courage and moral fortitude to do right, even while others were choosing to do wrong? How easy is it to long for popularity and acceptance, at the sacrifice of obeying God’s Word and walking in His Truth?

Tradition insinuates that Pilate died an insane, broken, miserable soul. His conscience was no more able to bear his guilt, than his soul could escape God’s judgment.

Romans 12:1–2 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hypocrites, Hypocrites, Hypocrites! (Matthew 23; Luke 20-21)

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 23; Luke 20-21

The setting of today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 23 and Luke 20-21, is in the midst of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He and His disciples are on a path that was pre-ordained by God, and will culminate on Friday, the Day of the Passover, with Judas betraying Jesus, leading to the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our LORD. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Matthew 23.

Matthew 23 – The Final Public Sermon

Matthew 23 sets the stage for our LORD’S final sermon, an open confrontation with His adversaries, that was addressed to a multitude of souls gathered to hear Him teach (23:1). Aware His enemies were plotting to kill Him, Jesus did not shy from boldly exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who, asserting themselves to be authorities in matters of the Law, were described as sitting “in Moses’ seat” (23:2).

“Hypocrites…Hypocrites…Hypocrites” is a recurring label that Jesus attached to those religious leaders (23:13-15, 23, 25, 27-29). He exposed them as frauds, whose interpretations of the Law lacked mercy and were “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” (23:4a) by the people. The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees was that, while they demanded much of the people, they themselves failed to follow their own interpretations (23:4b).

What motivated those religious hypocrites to exceed the loving simplicity of God’s Law, with demands that were a grief to the people? Jesus proceeded to answer that question with a series of examples that might be summed up with one word: PRIDE (23:5-12).

Proud religious leaders lack humility, and demand to be seen, heard, and elevated in the eyes of men.

Those hypocritical Pharisees wore enlarged phylacteries, leather boxes containing portions of Scripture (Exodus 13:1-10; 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21), and enlarged “the borders [or tassels] of their garments” to draw attention to themselves (23:5). When they attended banquets and feasts, they ascertained their rightful place was the most conspicuous places (23:6a). When they attended the synagogue, they demanded the most prominent seats, eager for all to see their piety. When they were in the marketplace, they craved the attention of the people, and loved to be called, “Rabbi, Rabbi” (“teacher, teacher” or “master, master” – 23:7).

Rather than pointing men to a closer walk with God, those religious hypocrites desired to build a loyal following for themselves (23:8-11).

Let us take a moment and consider the wicked propensity of hypocrites in first century Israel, and translate their practice and ways to our day. Internet blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and emails can be amazing tools when employed for good, but the temptation to misuse them has become legendary. Rather than humility, men and women are using the electronic mediums of our day, demanding to be heard and seen, that they might earn a following. Rather than phylacteries on their foreheads and long tassels on their robes, they boast their “Friends” on Facebook, and their “Followers” on Twitter and Blogs.

Tragically, the principle of doing all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), has been sacrificed by hypocritical self-promoters and those who follow them.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Karma: My God Has Got the Whole World, In His Hands (Esther 6-10)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

The world calls it, “Instant Karma,” an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism. Instant Karma suggests a “payback” for one’s past actions. Of course, what one has done in the past might be good or bad, and the “payback” serve as its reward.

Instant Karma seems to suggest a “Cause and Effect” that is fatalistic and devoid of the influence of divine sovereignty and intervention. As a believer, I have faith in God’s promises. I know God is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end. I am confident, “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

There is an undeniable principle of “Cause and Effect” in this world and it is summed up in this: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Esther 6

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king. King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I), found himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.

It is revealed that the king’s insomnia (6:1) was used by God to direct his thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end. From the king’s perspective, however, it was just another sleepless night, and thus he determined to have his servants read historical records that chronicled his reign.

Providentially, for there is no other explanation for it, the name of Mordecai, Queen Esther’s adopted father, came to the king’s attention. Ahasuerus, was reminded how Mordecai had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king (2:21-23). Recalling the event, the king wondered aloud, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).

Learning from his servants that Mordecai had not been honored for his service (6:3), the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him. Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who had successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree to exterminate all the Jews, entered the king’s court (6:4-5).

Haman was approaching on a mission to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5). In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma,” Haman listened as the king desired his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).

Haman mistakenly believed he was the man the king desired to honor, and suggested a lavish, public parade.

 Esther 6:8-9Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”

Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the very man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

Esther 7-10

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directed the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.

Haman’s wicked scheme to annihilate the Jews was not only thwarted, but he fell victim to the very gallows he had constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Dear friend, all men are free will agents; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, pastor, or parent…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and will of God.

Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor]” (Proverbs 21:1).

No man acts independent of God; after all, “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Divine Providence: The Invisible Hand of An All-Loving God (Esther 1-5)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

The Book of Esther is known as one of only two books in the Bible that never mentions God by name (the other is the Song of Solomon). That fact, however, cannot dismiss the indisputable evidences of divine providence seen throughout the pages of this book. Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

What is divine providence?

Simply defined, providence means “to foresee” or “to see before.”

The late Dr. Edward M. Panosian, my Bible college history professor who sparked within me a passion for history, quotes in his book, The Providence of God in History, the observation of 19th century historian Hollis Read: “History, when rightly written, is but a record of providence; and he who would read history rightly, must read it with his eye constantly fixed on the hand of God.” 1

Many great minds have attempted to define providence. T. Dewitt Talmage, a 19th century clergyman observed: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer said of divine providence, “[God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, stated, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

I add to the chorus of others who have defined Divine Providence my own definition of the same: Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of His creation, and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose which is His glory and my good. The providence of God is practical, personal, and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose. 

The apostle Paul suggested the same, writing: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Book of Esther is a testimony of both God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and the preservation of His chosen people. The LORD sovereignly guided the affairs of a secular empire to fulfill His divine purpose and end. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Esther 1 and Esther 2:1-7.

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

King Ahasuerus (also known in history as King Xerxes I) was king of Persia. He was the fourth of five kings to rule the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. He was the grandson of Cyrus the Great, and the son of King Darius I. He reigned over Persia (modern Iran) from 486 B.C. to 465 B.C.

Ahasuerus was ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (1:1), including one hundred twenty-seven provinces that embraced all of today’s Middle East (1:4). Nevertheless, the Persian empire was past its zenith and the events recorded in Esther 1 occurred, according to Greek historian Herodotus, before Ahasuerus attacked Greece and suffered the loss of the Persian navy.

Three lavish feasts are recorded in Esther 1. The first lasted one hundred-eighty days (1:3-4). The second feast, though lasting only seven days, was greater than the first and was a scene of sin and drunken debauchery (1:5-8). The third feast, apparently coinciding with the king’s drunken, weeklong banquet, was hosted by Queen Vashti for the women of the city (1:9).

Drunk with wine, and apparently at the loss of his senses, King Ahasuerus commanded his beautiful queen to parade herself before his guests (1:10-11). Queen Vashti, however, refused to obey the king’s command (1:12). Her refusal created a royal crisis (1:13-18) for a drunken king too proud to humble himself and accept that his queen was the better and wiser of the two. Enraged, Ahasuerus issued a royal decree that forever banished his queen from her throne and the king’s palace (1:19-22).

Esther 2:1-7– A Defeated King and A Virgin Who Became Queen

Having suffered his first defeat and the loss of his navy, Ahasuerus returned to his throne and then “he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her” (2:1). The king’s rash banishment of Queen Vashti (1:19-22), had set in motion a series of events that propelled a Jewish maiden named Hadassah, whose Babylonian name was Esther (2:7), from the anonymity of a maiden, to the throne of Persia.

Although some 50,000 people of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had returned to Israel (Ezra 1), there were many who had chosen to remain in Babylon, among those was a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7). Mordecai, had taken Hadassah into his household after the deaths of her parents and brought her up as his daughter (2:7). The premature death of Esther’s parents, and her adoption by Mordecai, were both part of God’s sovereign, providential plan for her life.

1Edward M. Panosian, The Providence of God in History (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1996), p. 21.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is With You in The Midst of Trials (Ezra 1-3)

Scripture reading – Ezra 1-3

Our chronological Scripture reading schedule brings us today to the Book of Ezra and the return of the Jews to their homeland. Jeremiah had prophesied the captivity of Judah would last seventy years (Jeremiah 25:9-11), and when it was finished, the Jews would return their homeland. True to His Word, God remembered the prophecies of Jeremiah and “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (1:1).

Ezra 1 is a testimony that God is faithful to His promises.

Permit me a recap of historical events that led up to the miraculous return of God’s chosen people to their homeland. The following dates are approximate; however, they give us a timeline that serves as a reminder that“HIS-STORY” is a testimony of God’s sovereignty and providential dealings with His people.

Solomon’s Temple is believed to have been completed in 949 B.C. In 722 B.C. the Northern Kingdom known as Israel, fell to Assyria. Nebuchadnezzar first subdued Jerusalem and Judah in 606 B.C., taking Judah’s King Jehoiakim captive, along with several other Jewish youth, among them Daniel (Daniel 1:3-4). The 606 B.C. date was the commencement of the seventy years of captivity that Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 25:9-11). Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Medo-Persian armies conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.

In 536 B.C., seventy years after the first Babylonian captivity, Cyrus of Persia became the sole regent of the Babylonian empire and issued an edict proclaiming, “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (1:1-2).

Seventy years after the first captivity began, God moved on the heart of Cyrus to free the Jews to “go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem” (1:3).

Consider two extraordinary events found in the opening verses of Ezra. The first, that God moved on the heart of a heathen king to finance the rebuilding of His Temple in Jerusalem. The second, that Cyrus issued and edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland.

The same LORD who moved the heart of a pagan king to do His will, is the same God who controls the heart of every authority in your life. King Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

After granting the Jews liberty to return to their homeland, only a small number, less than 50,000, shared the vision and heart for returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (1:5). With the exception of some priests and Levites, only two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were represented in the number who were sensitive to the Spirit of God and were willing to leave Babylon and begin the task of rebuilding the Temple and Jerusalem.

Why were the other tribes not moved to return to the land God had promised His people for an inheritance? I fear they had been in Babylon too long (taken captive by Assyria 136 years prior to Judah’s captivity). The Babylonian culture was part of them and they had no heart of longing for the land of their ancestry. Sadly, the majority of the Jews treasured Babylon, and their hearts were not in Jerusalem.

Where is your treasure?

 Matthew 6:19-2119 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 2020 – Travis D. Smith