Category Archives: Prayer

A Heavenly Vision (Isaiah 6)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 6

Isaiah 6 is a dramatic chapter that has captured the imagination of people down through the ages. We are given a heavenly portrait of God sitting upon His throne. Though a brief chapter, Isaiah 6 is a pivotal moment in our study of Isaiah. Before he was commissioned to be a prophet to Judah, God gave Isaiah a vision of His Creator sitting on heaven’s throne. I invite you to consider with me three major thoughts.

Isaiah’s Reflection on God’s Glory (6:1-4)

The setting of Isaiah 6 was at a time of national mourning (6:1).

It was “in the year king Uzziah died” (6:1). We have considered Uzziah in earlier devotions, and you may remember he reigned 52 years over Judah. His reign was long and prosperous (2 Chronicles 26:1-15), until his heart was lifted up with pride and God struck him with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). Banned from the palace because of the disease, the king’s son oversaw the affairs of the government until his death. The news of the king’s death moved Isaiah to go to the Temple and seek the LORD.

The scene: Isaiah Witnessed the Majesty of the LORD Sitting on His Throne (6:1-3).

King Uzziah was dead, and though Isaiah and the people were shaken, the prophet was reminded that God is sovereign, and His authority is never in doubt. King’s rise, and kings fall, but the LORD is ever “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (6:1). God’s throne is high above all earthly thrones and governments (6:1).

Standing above God’s throne were a number of seraphim. By their name, we know the seraphim were angels with a fiery appearance (representing God’s judgment), and each had six wings, two covering their face (showing reverence for God), two covering their feet, and two wings with which they hovered above the throne (6:2).

The seraphim were engaged in two occupations: They were proclaiming God’s holiness, and crying to one another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts” (6:3a). They also acknowledged the LORD as Creator, and the earth displays His glory (6:3b). In Isaiah’s vision, the Temple was moved by the cry of the seraphim, and “filled with smoke” (6:4; smoke is associated with God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18; 2 Samuel 22:9).

Isaiah’s Response to the Heavenly Vision (6:5)

The vision of the majesty and holiness of God sitting on His throne moved Isaiah to acknowledge his sinful state. Confessing the sorrow of one that is helpless and hopeless (6:5), Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone [dead; doomed]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5).

The prophet not only confessed his “unclean lips” (the sins of his tongue; i.e., rash, harsh, bitter words), but also the sins of the nation (6:5). Judah was guilty of outwardly worshipping and sacrificing to God, but their mouths were filled with pride, mocking, and false piety.

After confessing his sin, a seraph took a live, fiery coal from the altar, and placing the hot coal on Isaiah’s lips, the he pronounced his sins had been purged (6:7).

Isaiah’s Recruitment: His Call and Commission (6:8-13)

Suddenly, the voice of God was heard, and He asked, “Whom shall I send [Send forth], and who will go for us?” (6:8b). Isaiah, with a humble heart and his sins forgiven, did not hesitate to answer God’s call and said, “Here am I; send me” (6:8c).

The LORD then challenged Isaiah, saying, “Go, and tell [speak; command] this people, Hear [Hearken; Obey; Listen] ye indeed [Hearken; Obey; Listen], but understand [consider; discern; regard] not; and see [Look; behold] ye indeed [Look; behold], but perceive not. [know; understand]” (6:9). The people of Judah had grown callous; for they had heard the prophets, but refused to repent (6:9b). They had seen God’s protection and blessings, but refused to consider their sins.

Closing thoughts – Isaiah’s ministry was to go and admonish the people. Some would respond to His preaching and their hearts would become “fat” [calloused]. They would refuse to hear and heed God’s Word, and would become spiritually blind and deaf (6:10). Without repenting, Judah passed the point of no return.

Isaiah wondered, “How long?” How long would the people refuse to hear the truth (6:11a). The LORD revealed they would refuse the truth until His judgment fell upon the nation: The cities would be destroyed, the houses silent (without a man, woman, or child), the land would be wasted, and only one-tenth of the people would remain in the land (6:11-13).

Isaiah 6:13 concluded with a promise that the LORD would not annihilate His people. He would remember His covenant promises to Abraham and David. The Lord would look to a future day when “the holy seed [offspring] [would] be the substance thereof” [would spring for with new growth, and life]. Israel and Judah would be cut down to the ground, but seedlings of faith would begin to sprout into new life.

Copyright 2022 © Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Dilemma of a Backslidden Missionary (Jonah 2)

Scripture reading – Jonah 2

Returning to our study of the Book of Jonah, we find the prophet where his disobedience had taken him… facing death “in the belly of the fish” (1:17). Jonah had disobeyed the LORD because he feared He would spare Nineveh from judgment if the people repented of their sins (Jonah 4:1-2). Refusing to obey the LORD, he set sail on a ship going in the opposite direction of God’s will. Pursuing His disobedient prophet across the sea, the LORD sent a storm against Jonah’s ship, and when the sailors understood his presence was the cause of the storm, they cast him overboard, saving their lives and the ship (1:11-12). The LORD saved His unfaithful servant from drowning, by sending a great fish to swallow Jonah when he was cast into the deep (1:17).

Jonah’s Appeal (2:1-2)

Now, the heathen sailors had “cried every man unto his god” (1:5), but to no avail. Jonah, however, had not prayed to God until he found himself in the bowels of the great fish (2:1). We read, “Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God” (2:1), not out of sorrow for his sin, but because of his “affliction” (literally, his trouble, adversity, and sorrow, 2:2a). Without the LORD’S help, the prophet knew he was a dead man, for his circumstances were like “the belly of hell,” and the abode of the dead (2:2b). What a blessed hope we are given when we read when Jonah cried for help, the LORD heard his prayer (2:2c).

Jonah’s Agony (2:3-6a)

Humbled, and broken, Jonah acknowledged the LORD had chastened him for his disobedience, and all he had was because of his sin (2:3). He did not blame the sailors who cast him overboard, but accepted that God chastens His children like an earthly father chastens a disobedient child (2:3; Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:6). Jonah was troubled, for he realized his disobedience had resulted in his being “cast out of [the Lord’s] sight” (2:4a). He was a prisoner in a watery dungeon, and the belly of the fish had become his grave (2:5-6a).

Take a moment and consider what God revealed to Jonah concerning the ocean and its depths. We read, “I went down [descended] to the bottoms [base] of the mountains [mountain ranges underwater]” (2:6a). Thousands of years before the submarines of our time, God revealed to Jonah there were mountain ranges in the sea!

Jonah’s Affirmation (2:6b-10)

Reflecting on the LORD, and His faithfulness, Jonah declared, “they that observe [keep; guard; watch] lying [deceit]vanities [meaningless; purposeless] forsake [relinquish; refuse] their own mercy [lovingkindness; grace]” (2:8).  Jonah began his journey supposing he might flee from the LORD, but in the belly of the great fish he acknowledged he had forsaken God’s mercy and favor. He acknowledged that death awaits all who reject the LORD’S mercies.

Closing thoughts – From the belly of the great fish, the LORD heard Jonah’s promise to offer sacrifices as an expression of his gratitude, to give God His due, and faith that “salvation is of the LORD” (2:9). Then, “the Lordspake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

If you are running from the LORD, and your sins have taken you far from Him, remember He is only one prayer away. God hears and answers the prayer of those who confess their sin, repent, and turn to him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Prophet Elisha, and the Spirit of Elijah (2 Kings 3; 2 Kings 4)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 3; 2 Kings 4

Our study of the second book of the Kings continues with the prophet Elisha taking a prominent place in Israel as the man of God. The death of King Ahab, and the ascension of his son Jehoram to the throne of Israel, gave opportunity for the king of Moab to challenge Israel’s demand for tribute (3:4-5).

2 Kings 3

Facing his first challenge as king of Israel, Jehoram numbered his soldiers, and solicited the help of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle?” (3:7a). Remembering the family ties the king of Judah had with the king of Israel (for Jehoshaphat had taken a daughter of Ahab to be the wife of his son), the kings agreed to go to war, saying, “I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses” (3:7).

Agreeing to attack Moab by going south to Edom, and then northward on the westside of the Dead Sea through Edom, the king of Edom joined the kings of Israel and Judah to war against his northern neighbor (3:8). Seven days into their journey, “there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them” (3:9). Three armies and no water was a crisis only God could resolve, and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah asked, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?” (3:10)

A sad irony at this point, it appears none of the kings had sought the LORD’S blessing, and even the godly king of Judah had failed to call a prophet for counsel until the extremity of his need. A servant of Israel’s king answered the king of Judah, and said, “Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah” (3:11).

Elisha, though he had been known as Elijah’s servant, was providentially the counsel of not one king, but three kings who sought his wisdom: “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him” (3:12).

Evidencing the faith and spirit of Elijah, Elisha rebuked Jehoram, the king of Israel, saying, “What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother [i.e. false prophets of Baal]. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab” (3:13). Elisha asserted, he would give the word of the LORD, not for Jehoram, but because he had respect for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah (3:14).

Sending for a musician, the prophet apparently delivered the word from the LORD with a song, and instructed the kings, “Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches” (3:16). Though the kings would see no wind or sign of rain, they were to prepare reservoirs to contain the waters the LORD promised He would send for the men and their animals (3:17). Elisha promised their obedience and step of faith would be rewarded, and the LORD would deliver the Moabites into the hands of the kings (3:18-21).

When the Moabites heard the kings had come to war against them, they prepared for war and rose up early in the morning. Looking over the desert, “the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood” (3:22). Because the red of the waters looked like blood, the Moabites mistakenly believed the armies had turned on one another (3:23). When they came upon the encampment, the Israelites rose against the Moabites, and drove them back through their own cities (3:24-25).

When the king of Moab realized the battle was lost, he sought to break through a line of Edomite soldiers (3:26). In desperation, and apparently to appease his false gods, the king of Moab sacrificed his eldest son, and the heir to his throne, “and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall” (3:27). Such an act was abhorrent to God’s people, but stirred the Moabites to a “great indignation against Israel,” and the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom “returned to their own land” (3:27)

2 Kings 4

Briefly, notice in 2 Kings 4 that Elisha’s ministry as the prophet of God to Israel was validated by four miracles. The first was multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).   The second miracle brought blessing to a childless woman and her elderly husband with a son as a reward for their household serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  A third miracle raised that same couples’ son from the dead (4:18-37).  Finally, Elisha turned a pot of poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

Closing thoughts – While the miracles performed by Elisha gained him standing in Israel and before the people, they nevertheless had no lasting effect on moving the nation to turn to the LORD.

Repentance and revival come through brokenness, humility, prayer, surrender, and obedience.

2 Chronicles 7:14 14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

JEHOVAH is God. (Psalm 83)

Scripture reading – Psalm 83, 2 Kings 1

Our Scripture reading brings us today to Psalm 83, and 2 Kings 1. This is the first of two devotionals, and the focus is Psalm 83.

Psalm 83 is titled, “A Song or Psalm of Asaph.”

Psalm 83 is the last of the psalms attributed to Asaph, the Levite who was one of the principal musicians in David’s era. The exact date of Psalm 83 is not given; however, it is prophetic for a time when God’s people would face a confederation of nations committed to the destruction of Israel as a nation. Consider three principal points from the psalm.

Israel’s Desperate Cry to God (83:1-8)

Facing a coalition of nations dedicated to the destruction of Israel, the psalmist cried to the LORD to come to the aid of His people (83:1). The author reasoned with the LORD that Israel’s enemies were the enemies of God, and they hated Him, and had plotted against those referred to as, “thy hidden ones” (literally, those whom the LORD treasured as His Own, 83:3). The enemies had boasted, and encouraged one another saying, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance” (83:4). They were not content to merely overcome Israel, they desired to annihilate them as a people, that their names would be forgotten (83:4b-5).

Ten heathen nations comprised the confederation that plotted Israel’s destruction: The Edomites (the sons of Esau), Ishmaelites (son of Abraham by Hagar), Moabites (descended from Lot), Hagarenes (a tribe of Ishmaelites named after Hagar), Gebal (a Phoenician, Lebanese people), Ammonites (a son of Lot), Amaelikites, Philistines, citizens of Tyre, and the Assyrians (identified as Assur, 83:8-8).

The Imprecatory Prayer of the Psalmist (83:9-17)

Having identified the enemies of God and Israel, the psalmist prayed for the LORD to destroy them as He had come to Israel’s aid in ancient times (83:9-11). The enemies of Israel had boasted they would raid and plunder “the houses of God” (i.e. the Tabernacle, and its Ark of the Covenant, 83:12), and the psalmist prayed the LORD would utterly destroy them (83:13-17).

He prayed the LORD would crush the enemy, as a wheel grinds grain, and that the enemy would become nothing more than “stubble” carried away by the wind (83:13). He longed to see the LORD burn the enemy in His wrath, as a fire destroys a forest (83:14). He desired God would confound the enemies of Israel, and they would suffer shame till they all perished (83:15-17).

Why this prayer for troubles to be inflicted upon the enemies of the LORD? (83:18)

It was not only so that Israel would see the LORD’S deliverance, but that the heathen would know there is one God, JEHOVAH [Yahweh; the Eternal, Self-existent God of Israel], Who is “the most high over all the earth” (83:18).

Closing thoughts – The existence of Israel in our day, is an undeniable testimony of Jehovah, the God of Israel, and His covenant promises with the people of Abraham’s lineage and faith. While all other ancient civilizations have passed from the stage of history, one has been preserved—Israel.

The nation we know today as Israel is a secular one, and many who live there are far from being a people of faith who love the LORD, and keep His laws and commandments. Yet, there are Hebrew people who also live there, who look for the day the Messiah will return as He has promised–Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, crucified, buried, raised from the dead, and coming again as He has promised!

Acts 1:11b – “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Prophet on the Run (1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20

Our study of Elijah’s life follows that faithful servant of the LORD after enjoying one of the greatest victories of his lifetime…the slaughter of the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:40). God had answered the prayers of Elijah, and elevated not only Himself, but also His prophet in the eyes of the people.

Yet, the life of Elijah is an illustration of what becomes of a believer when he takes his focus off the LORD, and forgets His past blessings and provisions. Today’s Scripture reading reminds us that even the most dedicated servants of God can fall victim to discouragement and depression. The focus of this devotion is 1 Kings 19.

1 Kings 19 – From the Pinnacle of Victory to a Plight of Despair

King Ahab had retreated to his palace in Jezreel (18:45), and there he “told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword” (19:1). Furious at the news of what had become of her servants of Baal, the queen sent a messenger to Elijah and threatened slay him the next day (19:2).

How did Elijah respond? “He arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah [fleeing beyond the borders of Israel], and left his servant there” (19:3). Knowing Jezebel was seeking to kill him, Elijah might have dismissed his servant, fearing he would soon be slain. Elijah continued his journey another day into the wilderness, “and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (19:4).

How could a prophet of the LORD experience such a great victory in 1 Kings 18, yet find himself as an exile in 1 Kings 19? (19:4-14)

I see several factors contributing to Elijah’s flight and depression. His contest with Ahab and the prophets of Baal had taken its toll and left him physically exhausted (19:3-7). Physically worn, he had made decisions with a skewed, inaccurate, wrong focus. Jezebel’s threats had registered deep, causing Elijah to lack trust, and take his eyes off the LORD.

Notice also that Elijah exaggerated his circumstances, and protested, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (19:10). In that statement, and a repetition of the same in verse 14, Elijah embraced a negative, critical spirit, and an unbiblical view of God (19:10, 14).

How did the LORD respond to Elijah’s protests and depression? (19:5-8)

There are several things God employed to get Elijah out of his “spiritual funk.” He allowed the prophet to rest, for he laid down “and slept under a juniper tree” (19:5). The LORD then sent an angel, who provided the prophet with nourishment, “a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water. And [Elijah] did eat and drink, and laid him down again” (19:6). The angel came to Elijah a second time, and counseled the prophet, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (19:7). The prophet learned he was to make his journey to “Horeb the mount of God” (19:8), for there he had a divine appointment and mission.

Sheltering in a cave at Horeb, “the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:9)

Elijah answered the LORD, but his protests revealed where he was spiritually and emotionally. The prophet said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (19:10), and repeated the same in verse 14 after Elijah had witnessed a violent storm, an earthquake, and fire (19:11-12). Finally, the LORD spoke to his prophet in “a still small voice,” and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:13).

Elijah’s Threefold Mission (19:15-21)

The LORD commanded Elijah to begin his journey to Israel, and along the way he was to anoint three men who, in the sovereignty of God, were destined to take the place of other men. In Syria, Elijah was to “anoint Hazael to be king over Syria,” and thereby taking the throne from Benhadad, king of Syria (19:15). The prophet was also directed to anoint Jehu to suceed Ahab as king of Israel (19:16a). Lastly, he was to anoint “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah” who would take Elijah’s place as a prophet in Israel (19:16).

In answer to Elijah’s exaggeration that he alone was a faithful prophet in Israel, God revealed, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (19:18).

Closing thoughts – Elijah obeyed the LORD, and in his journey came to Elisha, the young man whom God had chosen to become prophet in Israel (19:19). Knowing the call of the LORD upon His life would require him to never return to his former life, Elisha slew the oxen with which he had been plowing, and “then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him” (19:21).

In the words of an old Gospel song, for those who serve the LORD, there is “No Turning Back, No Turning Back.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Power of Faith and Fervent Prayer (1 Kings 18)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 18

The geographical setting of our Scripture reading continues in the northern ten Tribes now known as Israel. The time is during the reign of Ahab, the seventh king of the nation after its division. As stated earlier, the wickedness of Ahab had exceeded the sins of all the kings who had gone before him (16:30-33), and provoked “the LORD God of Israel to anger” (16:33).

True to His forewarning (Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23), the LORD sent Elijah who confronted king Ahab, and said, “there shall not be dew nor rain…but according to my word” (17:1).

1 Kings 18

The drought in Israel continued for three years, until “the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth” (18:1). Elijah obeyed, and “went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria [the capital city of Israel]” (18:2).

Elijah’s Conference with Obadiah (18:3-15)

Returning to Israel, Elijah called upon Obadiah, who had served Ahab as a steward of the royal household (18:3). Though a man in a powerful, and trusted office, Obadiah had continued to fear the LORD, and used his position to provide safety to 100 prophets of the LORD who had escaped Jezebel’s purge of “the prophets of the LORD” (18:3-4).

Three years of drought had dried up the freshwater streams in Israel, and Ahab had dispatched Obadiah to seek water and grass “to save the horses and mules alive” (18:5). Ahab divided the lands between himself and Obadiah, and each man went his way in search of water.  As Obadiah went his way, he was met by Elijah (18:7). Obadiah “knew [Elijah], and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?” (18:7)

Elijah then demanded that Obadiah tell the king he had returned to Israel (18:8). Fearful the king would slay him, perhaps for sparing Elijah’s life, Obadiah objected to the prophet’s request (18:9-11). Justifying himself, Obadiah shared how he had revered the LORD from his youth, and spared and fed one hundred of the LORD’s prophets (18:12-13). Elijah assured Obadiah, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day” (1 Kings 18:15).

Elijah’s Confrontation with Ahab (18:17-20)

Ahab met Elijah, and accused the prophet of being one who troubled Israel (18:17). Elijah answered the king’s charge, and rebuked Ahab saying, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” (18:18).

Proving his faith and confidence in the LORD, Elijah challenged Ahab to “gather…all Israel unto mount Carmel,” along with the 150 prophets of Baal, and the 400 prophets (teachers) of the groves, (these were all whom Jezebel had supported and fed, 18:19). Ahab, revealing the depth of his wickedness and rejection of the God of Israel, agreed to the challenge, and commanded the people, and the prophets of Baal to gather at Carmel (18:20).

Elijah’s Challenge to the People (18:21-24)

Elijah charged the people, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (18:21). How long dare you serve Baal and sacrifice to him, and make a pretense of also serving the God of Israel? The people answered Elijah’s challenge with silence, and “answered him not a word” (18:21). Elijah, the prophet of the LORD, stood alone and faced 450 prophets of Baal (18:22).

Elijah’s Contest with the Prophets of Baal (18:25-40)

The details of Elijah’s challenge are recorded, and how he and the prophets of Baal each had a bullock, that was halved, and placed upon wood on an altar. The prophets of Baal called to Baal from the morning until noon. They shouted, leaped, danced, cried, and cut themselves until they bled (18:26, 28-29). Yet, Baal was silent, and Elijah taunted them suggesting their god was talking, hunting, on a journey, or perhaps he was sleeping (18:27).

In the evening, Elijah called the people to come near, as he begain repairing the altar, and gathering twelve stones representing the twelve Tribes of Israel. He then laid wood upon the altar, sacrificed the bull, and commanded that twelve barrels of water be poured out upon the altar, until the trench around it was filled with water (18:30-35). The prophet then prayed for God to hear his prayer, and prove to all Israel that He was God (18:36-37).

The LORD answered Elijah’s prayer, and sent fire from heaven, not only consuming the bull, but burning up the stones, dust, and the water (18:38-39). Elijah concluded his contest with the prophets of Baal, and demanded the people prove their loyalty to the God of Israel, by slaying all the prophets of Baal (18:40).

Elijah Prayed, and the LORD Sent Rain (18:41-46)

Three years of drought ended with Elijah calling upon the Lord to send rain. Seven times he prayed, and commanded his servant to go and look for a sign a rain. On the seventh time, the servant saw on the horizon a small cloud that grew until “the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain” (18:45).

Closing thoughts – Our next devotional will reveal how great trials often follow great victories. But for now, we conclude reflecting on how the New Testament points to Elijah’s fervent prayer as a model of prayer for all believers. We read,

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17  Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16b-18)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Take Courage, and Hope in the LORD! – Part 2 (1 Kings 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 17; 1 Kings 17

We have met Ahab, the seventh king of northern Israel, and his queen Jezebel in an earlier devotion (1 Kings 16:29-33). They were a notoriously wicked couple who reigned over northern Israel for 22 years. Ahab followed and exceeded the wickedness of his father Omri and the kings that had gone before him (16:30). His wife Jezebel did not worship the God of Israel, for she “served Baal, and worshipped him” (16:31). Her influence on Ahab ushered in a time of great wickedness, and Ahab built an altar and temple to Baal in Samaria, the capital city of Israel (16:33).

Elijah the Tishbite, The Prophet of God

1 Kings 17 gives a brief introduction to the prophet Elijah, whose life and ministry we will follow for several days in the Scirptures. He was, in my opinion, not only one of the greatest prophets, but one of the greatest men to have ever lived. The Scriptures portray him as a man of passion and faith; one who might boldly confront evil, but then take flight for fear of losing his life.

A Season of Drought (17:1-7)

We are introduced to Elijah when he entered the palace of the wicked Ahab, and delivered a message of judgment: “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (17:1; Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23).

To provide for His prophet during the three years of drought, God commanded Elijah to retreat to the desert, and there He would provide him with water at “the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (17:3). The LORD then sent ravens to bring his prophet bread and meat to eat (17:4). So, the LORD provided all Elijah needed for a season, until “the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (17:7).

The Widow Zarephath (17:8-16)

When there was no water, the LORD provided the next place to which his prophet would retreat during the drought that was troubling Israel. God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath of Zidon, and there he would meet and dwell in the household of a widow and her son (17:9). When he arrived in Zarephath, he met the poor widow as she gathered sticks to bake the last of her flour and oil. Elijah requested water, and she moved to “fetch it;” however, his request for bread was met by protest, for she said, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (17:12).

Confident in the LORD’s leading and provision, Elijah assured her the LORD would provide, and she would never lack for flour or oil, “until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (17:14). Exercising her faith in the LORD, and His prophet, she took the prophet into her home, and every day found the flour and oil replenished, as the prophet had promised (17:15-16).

The Death and Resurrection of the Widow’s Son (17:17-24)

At some time during Elijah’s stay in the widow’s household, her son became ill and died (17:17). In her sorrow, the widow cried out against Elijah as a “man of God,” and wondered if her sins were the cause of her son’s death (17:18).

Elijah was overcome with sorrow, and taking up the widow’s son to his bedchamber, he placed him upon his bed and cried to the LORD saying, “let this child’s soul come into him again” (17:21). The LORD heard and answered the prophet’s prayer, and “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:22).

Closing thoughts – We know the trials Elijah faced in 1 Kings 17 were an opportunity for the prophet to become strong in his faith, and confident the God of Israel hears and answers the prayers of his people. Yes, Elijah felt the consequences of the drought in Israel, but he also experienced God’s care and miraculous provision, even when there was just enough flour and oil for a day. Elijah learned the power of prayer, that prepared him for the great contests he would soon face with Ahab and Jezebel.

Maybe you are reading this devotional and find yourself in the midst of trials, and disappointments. Perhaps you are wrestling with doubts, and wondering if the LORD will hear and answer your prayers. You might feel like the widow of Zarephath, and question if the sorrows you bear are because of your sin (17:18).

Be strong, take courage, and hope in the LORD! He still hears, and answers prayer (1 John 1:9).

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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Spiritual Integrity will Choose the LORD! (2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16

Today’s Scripture reading continues a study of King Asa’s reign in Judah. Because the events in 2 Chronicles 16 were considered in our prior study of 1 Kings 15, the focus of this devotional will be 2 Chronicles 15.

The Prophet Azariah’s Exhortation to King Asa (15:1-7)

The “Spirit of God” moved Azariah, the Lord’s prophet, to meet the king, and challenged Asa with the conditions of God’s blessings. Azariah prophesied, “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (15:2). Azariah continued, “3Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law5And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries” (15:3, 5).

So it is for any nation, people, or man who rejects the LORD. “Without the true God,” and without a faithful preacher, “and without the law” (15:3), a society descends into lawlessness, and there is no peace! Yet, there is still hope if men will “turn unto the LORD,” and seek Him (15:4). However, should a nation continue to reject the LORD, it will surely be vexed, and troubled (15:6).

Azariah concluded his exhortation to king Asa, saying, “7Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded” (15:7; note Deuteronomy 31:6-7; Joshua 1:6-7, 9; Ephesians 6:10).

King Asa’s Revival (15:8-15)

We have learned how Asa began his reign with a heart that was “good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (14:2). He had “commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law, and the commandment” (14:4).

Yet, as we come to today’s passage, the heart of Asa had waned in his commitment to the LORD. Fifteen years had passed since he became king (15:10), and like many who grow older and weary, he became less vigilant. The king and Judah had become tolerant of “abominable idols,” and the altar of the Temple had fallen into disrepair (15:8).

Who might have diminished Asa’s passion for the LORD? (15:16-19)

Sadly, I must suggest it was possibly the influence of his own family. Asa’s grandmother, Maachah the widow of Rehoboam, mother of Abijah, and the Queen Mother during Asa’s reign (15:16) would have had a prominent place and influence in the kingdom.

In his zeal to serve the LORD, Asa had to deal with his own household, and that was accomplished in this: “[King Asa] removed [Maachah] from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron” (15:16).

God rewarded Asa’s reform, and the people of Judah sought the LORD “with their whole desire” (15:15), “there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa” (15:19).

Closing thoughts – Many believers face the spiritual challenge that confronted King Asa. He had tolerated the sins of his grandmother, and failed the LORD. In accommodating his grandmother’s wickedness, he was weakened and inevitably sin robbed him and Judah of God’s blessings.

One of the greatest challenges we face is that of addressing the sins of our loved ones. A rebellious son or daughter who has rejected his or her foundational training leads parents to a heartrending dilemma: Lovingly confront the sin and wrath of a rebel, or accommodate the sin and betray the LORD and His Word.

Caution – As it was with Asa, so it is with many spiritual leaders: When a leader permits sin to go unchallenged in his household, the influence of his compromise will rob him and his ministry of God’s blessings. Sadly, the testimony of that truth is seen in the steady decline, and failure of our churches, schools, and Christian colleges to heed God’s Word.

“Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” (15:7)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Before Wisdom Goes Humility” (Proverbs 30)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 30

The opening verses of Proverbs 30 are not as practical as the majority of the proverbs; however, with a little “gold mining” into word meanings, we find nuggets of truth that are applicable to all who seek wisdom.

The human author of Proverbs 30 is debated among scholars. Some believe “Agur” is another name for Solomon; however, the reference of “Agur, the son of Jakeh” would seem to negate that suggestion. In addition, the personal admissions in verses 2-3 and 8-9 would seem out of character for Solomon, a man renowned for his wisdom.

Proverbs 30:1 “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy [utterances inspired by God]: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,”

The words of “Agur” are described as “the prophecy” (30:1), thereby attributing his words to be the inspired word of God. We may be unable to identify the human author; however, there is no doubt that God the Holy Spirit is the divine author. The apostles Paul and Peter testified that the scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments were God-breathed, and inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:20-21).

The prophecy of Agur was delivered to two men of whom nothing is known save their names, “Ithiel and Ucal” (30:1). Perhaps Ithiel and Ucal had come to Agur seeking words of wisdom and instruction. Agur, acknowledging the magnitude of his duty to speak on behalf of God, was overwhelmed with the responsibility.

Proverbs 30:2 “Surely I am more brutish [stupid; foolish; lacking an ability to reason] than any man, and have not the understanding [knowledge and wisdom] of a man.”

Agur admitted his inadequacy to impart wisdom apart from God, confessing he was a “brutish man”, wandering like a beast without reasoning. In my opinion, Agur expresses the humility that should be true of every man. Apart from God’s mercy and grace, we are all sinners, brute beasts, without direction (Isaiah 53:6Romans 1:28).

Proverbs 30:3 – “I neither learned [have not learned] wisdom, nor have [know] the knowledge [discernment; ex. between good and evil] of the holy [sacred; pure].”

Agur’s confession in verse 3 expresses the humility required of those who would seek the wisdom of God. The foolish reject God (Psalm 14:1) and the proud are unwilling to humble themselves. Before a man can acquire the wisdom of God, he must confess his woeful ignorance, and express the humility of Isaiah when he was given a vision of God’s heavenly glory and cried out: “Woe is me! for I am undone…for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Closing thought – Where might one find the wisdom of God?

Godly wisdom, understanding, and discernment come from trusting the LORD by faith, quietly residing in His presence, and meditating on His Word. Such wisdom is not the wisdom of this world, which “is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). The wisdom of God is derived from reading and meditating in His Word, and walking in obedience to His Law and Commandments.

Got wisdom? It is available to those who trust the LORD, come to Him humbly, and obey His Word.

James 1:5 – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God [ask God for wisdom and understanding], that giveth [offers; grants] to all men liberally [generously], and upbraideth not [does not reproach or find fault]; and it shall be given him.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith