Category Archives: Pride

From Grazing to Grace (Daniel 4-6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading is lengthy (Daniel 4, 5, and 6), and for that reason I will limit my devotional commentary to one chapter, Daniel 4.

Daniel 4 – A Testament to the Tragedy of Sinful Pride

King Nebuchadnezzar was one of history’s greatest rulers and was a man whose life was a testimony to the sovereignty of God. He was, in the words recorded by the prophet Jeremiah, the servant of the LORD when God employed the king’s ambition and judged Judah for that nation’s sin and rebellion (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). While there is some dispute as to whether or not Nebuchadnezzar died a man of faith, there is certainty that his life was a testimony of God’s providence and grace.

We find Nebuchadnezzar was afflicted with a spiritual malady, of his own choosing, that is the nemesis of mankind–Pride.

Solomon warned his son, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is the rotten root of man’s sinful nature and is at the core of man’s wickedness. We read in the psalms,

Psalm 10:2 – “The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor…”

Psalm 10:4 – “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”

Nebuchadnezzar was no stranger to pride. He was the most powerful figure in the world of his day. His accomplishments are nearly unrivaled: A mighty warrior, a great administrator, a visionary and master-builder. His tenure as king spanned 43 years (605 BC-562 B.C.) and during his reign, Babylon grew from a city-state to an empire. Babylon encompassed an estimated 14 square miles and was fortified by a triple line of walls, the outermost wall being 300 feet high and 80 feet across at the top (wide enough for four chariots to race abreast).

Daniel 4 finds Nebuchadnezzar enjoying the “golden years” of his reign. He was “at rest” (4:4a), and his war years were behind him. The king was enjoying the fruits of his labor and the spoils of war; however, we find him troubled by a dream, a vision that he demanded interpretation.

After the king’s magicians and astrologers failed to interpret his dream (4:7), Nebuchadnezzar summoned Daniel (4:8) and expressed his confidence that God had given him a gift for interpreting dreams (4:9). The king proceeded to tell Daniel his dream (4:10-18), and when he was finished, we read that Daniel was speechless for an hour. (4:19).

Nebuchadnezzar, seeing that Daniel (also known by his Chaldean name, Belteshazzar) was troubled by the meaning of his dream (4:19), exhorted him to interpret his dream.

Daniel answered the king’s command by tactfully preparing him for the bad news saying, “My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies” (4:19c).

Daniel then explained the dream saying, the tree was a symbol of the king’s power and accomplishments (4:20a, 22b); however, like the tree, he would soon be cut down, deemed insane, and driven from the palace where he would spend seven years living like a wild beast.

Daniel urged Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his pride (4:27), warning the king that only when he would acknowledge the sovereignty of God in the earth (4:26) would he be healed and restored as king.

Twelve months passed (4:29) while God patiently waited for the king to repent of his sinful pride and acknowledge Him as Sovereign.

One day the king was walking about the terrace of his palace, and looking out upon the city he boasted with sinful pride, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (4:30)

The king had refused to humble himself, and his pride exceeded God’s patience. God had given the king 12 months to repent, however, when the time of God’s judgment had come there was no delay.

Daniel 4:31 – While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.

The king was driven out of his palace and lived like a wild beast. When seven years of humiliation had passed, we read, “Nebuchadnezzar lifted up [his] eyes unto heaven, and [his] understanding returned unto [him] (4:34a). The king acknowledged God’s rule, power, and the breadth of His eternal kingdom.

Nebuchadnezzar confessed that the God of heaven is immutable and His kingdom and reign is eternal, “from generation to generation” (4:34b). As He had promised, God restored the king to his throne (4:36), as he confessed, that the “King of heaven” is just and He is able to bring low the proud (4:37).

Friend, you cannot know when you might refuse to hear God’s voice for the last time. You cannot know when you might hear your last invitation, your last opportunity to confess your sin and repent.

Ecclesiastes 9:12 – “For man also knoweth not his time…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Rise and Fall of Lucifer (Ezekiel 28-30)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 28-30

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, today’s assignment is Ezekiel 28-30. Our devotional commentary is taken from Ezekiel 28.

Ezekiel’s Prophecies of God’s Coming Judgment of the Nations

Beginning with Ezekiel 25 and continuing through Ezekiel 32, we have the record of Ezekiel’s prophecies against those nations that had oppressed Israel and Judah.

Ezekiel 26-27 introduced us to the great city of Tyrus and the judgment that Ezekiel prophesied would befall its citizens. Located off the western coastline of Phoenicia, on the Mediterranean Sea, Tyrus was a beautiful and well-fortified city. It was a wealthy city and the commercial crossroads for trade in the ancient Middle East.

Ezekiel 28

The subject of God’s judgment against Tyrus continues with the focus on two powerful political figures: The prince of Tyrus (28:1-10) and the King of Tyrus (28:11-19).

Reflecting the pride of his city, the “prince of Tyrus” was a proud, foolish man who dared assert he was a god. The LORD condemned the prince of Tyrus and commanded Ezekiel to say, “Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas [referring to his throne in his island fortress]; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God” (28:2).

There was no hope for the “prince of Tyrus,” because he was too proud to see that he was no more than a mere mortal. He was proud: Proud of his power (28:2), his intellect (28:3), his wealth (28:4), and his self-sufficiency (28:5). It was his pride that moved the LORD to declare His judgment against the prince. The LORD warned that He would bring “strangers” against Tyrus (fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city) who would bloody their swords and defile the beauty of the city (28:7). Ezekiel prophesied the prince would be slain in the street and his body left unburied (28:8-10).

The Humiliation of the King of Tyrus (28:11-19)

The description of the King of Tyrus leaves no doubt that this king was not a man. Though titled “the king of Tyrus” (28:12), the description is of one who was created a perfect being (28:12), and an “anointed cherub” (28:12, 14). He was more than an evil king; he was the wicked one, the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, whose destiny is the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Ezekiel 28 gives us a fascinating revelation of this cherub and his great fall. Before Lucifer was given to pride and his heart lifted up against God, he was a model of perfection and “sealest up the sum” (28:12). He was “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” (28:12). He was in the Garden of Eden (28:13) and was attired in precious stones, like those worn on the breastplate of the high priest (28:13). He was musical (28:13). As the “anointed cherub,” he was stationed at the throne of heaven and walked in the presence of God (28:14). Indeed, he was perfect, until his heart was lifted up with pride (28:15).

God is holy and He will not abide sin in His sight! When pride, sin, and violence were discovered in Satan, the LORD cast him out of His presence declaring, “I will destroy thee…I will cast thee to the ground…[and] bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee” (28:16-18).

The history of man, and the rise and fall of nations, is a testimony of the devil’s presence and influence in the affairs of mankind. While it seems that evil triumphs, remember the LORD is the Alpha and Omega, and He has declared that the end of Satan will be terrifying, and he will “never…be any more” (28:19).

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Prophecy: Babylon the Great is Fallen; however, God has not Forgotten Israel (Jeremiah 51-52)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 51-52

We continue our chronological schedule through the Word of God, concluding our journey in the book of Jeremiah with today’s Scripture reading, Jeremiah 51-52. We have followed the ministry of Jeremiah as he preached to Judah, a nation on the brink of God’s judgment. Israel is no more. Judah has fallen; the Temple is destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem has been left desolate. God, however, had not forgotten or forsaken His people. Babylon’s invasion of Judah had left a path of suffering and destruction, but Jeremiah prophesied that the LORD would have His revenge against Babylon for its abuses of His people.

Jeremiah 51 – The Vengeance of God: Babylon the Great is Fallen

Jeremiah began his prophecy against Babylon in chapter 50, and continues foretelling that nation’s precipitous fall in chapter 51.

Jeremiah had prophesied a coalition of nations that would come against Babylon, “an assembly of great nations from the north country” (50:9). Babylon would “be a spoil” (50:10), “a desolation among the nations” (50:23). God had not forgotten how Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed His Temple in Jerusalem, and the LORD declared “the vengeance of His Temple” (50:28).

God’s people would be made to dwell in Babylon for seventy years of captivity; however, Jeremiah prophesied, “Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel” (51:5).

Jeremiah identified the enemy that would come against Babylon, prophesying, “the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple” (51:11).

Who is the LORD that moved the nations of the earth to do His bidding? He is the Creator, who “made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding” (51:15).

Though the most powerful nation in its day, the fall of Babylon would be swift and severe and no man, woman, or child would be spared (51:20-24). The cruelties Babylon afflicted on Jerusalem, her own citizens would experience (51:25). The “king of the Medes” (Cyrus who led a coalition of the Medes and Persians) was foretold to fulfill the LORD’S purpose, and “make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant” (51:29). What Babylon had sown, she would reap (51:34-35).

Jeremiah 51:45-64 – Jeremiah’s prophecy warned God’s people to flee Babylon before its fall.

Jeremiah wrote his prophecies in a scroll (a book) and sent them by a scribe who was commanded to read the prophecies against Babylon in the streets of that great city (51:59-62). When Seraiah, the scribe, had read all the prophecies against Babylon, he was told to tie a stone around the book and “cast it into the midst of Euphrates” (51:63) saying: “Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her” (51:64).

Jeremiah 52 – When All Seemed Lost, A Glimmer of Hope

Jeremiah 52 returns us to the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and his rebellion not only against Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Jeremiah 37:1-10), but also against the LORD. Jeremiah had urged Zedekiah to accept Babylon’s reign over Judah, warning to rebel would mean Jerusalem would be destroyed and the people led away captive (Jeremiah 38).

When Zedekiah’s attempt to seek an alliance with Egypt failed, the king of Judah realized all was lost. Fleeing Jerusalem with a small entourage of soldiers (52:7), Zedekiah was overtaken by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers near Jericho (52:8). The king of Judah and his sons were taken to Nebuchadnezzar who ordered Zedekiah’s sons slain, the king’s eyes put out (52:9-10), and him to Babylon in chains (52:11).

Jeremiah’s prophecies conclude noting that Nebuchadnezzar had led three sieges against Jerusalem and a total of four thousand six hundred citizens of Judah had been taken captive to Babylon (52:28-30).

Reminding God’s people that all was not lost, thirty-seven years after Jerusalem was destroyed, Jehoiachin, the king of Judah who was held captive in Babylon, found favor in the eyes of Evilmerodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and was raised up from prison to dine at the king’s table the rest of his days (52:31-34).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek Them Not!” (Jeremiah 41-45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 41-45

The prophet Jeremiah has been warning Judah and her kings that the time for repentance had passed and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army and King Nebuchadnezzar was sealed. Rather than heed the prophet’s warnings, the people abused, persecuted and imprisoned Jeremiah. However, because He is a gracious God, and in spite of the nation’s wickedness, the LORD did not leave His people without hope.

Jeremiah 42

The fate of Judah was decided; however, the LORD assured the people, “Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. 12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.” (42:11-12)

Foreknowing some of the people would flee south to Egypt, Jeremiah warned the nation,  “Hear the word of theLORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; 16  Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.”  (42:15-16)

Jeremiah 43

Jeremiah warned the people, “Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant11  And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt…and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt”  (43:10-12).

Jeremiah 45

Jeremiah 45 is a brief, but fascinating passage. Comprising only five verses, the LORD lovingly addressed Baruch (45:1), the scribe who had served beside Jeremiah as he faithfully declared God’s Word. Baruch had been deeply moved by the prophecies of imminent judgment, even as he faced the same hardships, persecutions and imprisonment as the old prophet (45:2-3). The LORD commanded Jeremiah to admonish Baruch, his faithful friend and scribe, and warn him:

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

I close today’s commentary inviting you to consider the same challenge: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek Them Not!”

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” (Jeremiah 26-29)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 26-29

Jeremiah 26 – Kill the Prophet!

The nation of Judah has suffered the humiliation of Babylon taking away King Jeconiah in chains (Jeremiah 24:1), and having the treasuries of the Temple and the king’s palace plundered. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has also taken away Judah’s brightest youth (Daniel 1:3-5) and skilled laborers (Jeremiah 24:1; 29:1-2). With a succession of wicked kings on Judah’s throne, and the nation cursed with false prophets and priests, there is a foreboding death and destruction that hangs over the land.

Jeremiah 26:1-10 – “Thus saith the LORD…Diminish not a Word”

Jeremiah has been a faithful prophet of the LORD; however, he has grieved the scorn of his people, and the wrath of Judah’s leaders. In spite of the hardships he has suffered, the LORD commands His prophet to return to “Stand in the court of the LORD’S house (Temple) and…diminish not a word” (26:2).

When Jeremiah’s courageous declaration of God’s Word was ended (26:3-7), the priests and the prophets stirred up the people who said to the prophet, “Thou shalt surely die” (26:8). The uproar was so great that the “princes of Judah” (i.e. leaders) intervened and established a public trial for Jeremiah “in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house” (26:9-10).

Jeremiah 26:11-24 – God’s Prophet on Trial

The wicked priests and false prophets accused Jeremiah of preaching a message of doom against Jerusalem, which they justified him being put to death (26:11). Jeremiah, however, rose to his own defense and declared his authority as God’s prophet saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard” (26:12).

Knowing the “princes of Judah” held in their hands the power of life or death, Jeremiah boldly declared the conditions of God’s loving forgiveness. He encouraged the people to, “amend [their] ways [i.e. do good] and [their] doings, and obey the voice of the LORD” (26:13) and God would withhold the judgment he had determined against them.

The leaders of the people considered two cases to justify Jeremiah’s acquittal (26:16-23). The first was the case of the prophet Micah (26:18-19) who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah and whose life was spared because the king and the people had repented of their sins (Micah 3:12). The second case for acquittal was that of the prophet Urijah (also known as Uriah) who prophesied during the reign of Jehoiakim (26:20-23). Urijah had fled to Egypt; however, the king’s men returned him to Judah and the king slew him and cast his body into a commoners grave (26:23).

Jeremiah, by contrast with Urijah, had not fled nor failed to execute his office as God’s prophet. One man named Ahikam, interceded that the judges would not “give [Jeremiah] into the hand of the people to put him to death” (26:24).

Note – There is much history that transpires in Jeremiah 27-28 and I hope to return to this passage in another year. For the sake of context, this devotional commentary will consider the prophecy found in Jeremiah 29.

Jeremiah 29 – The Prophecy of Seventy Years of Captivity in Babylon

Jeremiah 29 records a letter Jeremiah sent to those whom Nebuchadnezzar had first taken captive to Babylon (29:1-4). Jeremiah prophesied to those in captivity that seventy years would pass before they would be restored to their homeland (29:10).

Rather than allow all hope to fail, Jeremiah instructed his people in Babylon to set their roots in Babylon for a season and “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7).

Jeremiah encouraged the people to dismiss the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9). The prophet foretold their captivity would last seventy years (29:10). Assuring the people of God’s love and forgiveness, Jeremiah declared the LORD’S assurances of His benevolent thoughts, His longing for the people to repent of their sins and call upon Him, and His promise to restore them (29:11-13).

False prophets would become the scourge of the exiles in Babylon and not only raised the false hope of a short captivity (29:15-23), but also attacked the integrity and ministry of Jeremiah (29:24-29). One false prophet named Shemaiah, sent a letter from Babylon to Jerusalem and accused Jeremiah of being a mad man, a false prophet, a man who had preached a message of hopelessness and counseled the people that the captivity would be long (29:26-29).

Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah must have been a great discouragement to the prophet. God, however, counseled his prophet to send a letter to the people in Babylon saying, “Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie… he [Shemaiah] hath taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:31-32)

Like some of you, I identify with the sorrows of Jeremiah. God’s command to “diminish not a word” of the LORD (26:2) put him on the receiving end of personal attacks that were unreasonable in nature. Shemaiah’s letter, meant to disparage the prophet and stir an uprising against him, was resolved when the LORD vindicated Jeremiah by exposing Shemaiah as a false prophet (29:31). Shemaiah and his family would be punished (29:32).

1 Samuel 26:9 – “Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe be Unto the Pastors” (Jeremiah 23-25)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 23-25

Jeremiah 23:1-2 – A Denouncement of Unfaithful Pastors

As a pastor, I find the opening verses of Jeremiah 23 disturbing. “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (23:1).  In addition to priests, numbered among the “pastors” were most likely the king and civil servants of his realm. Rather than benevolent men who shepherded the people in love and obedience to God’s Word, the pastors had abused and scattered the people. They had failed to “visit,” meaning to shepherd, oversee, or care for the people (23:2).

Jeremiah 23:3-8 – The Messiah King and the Millennial Kingdom

The LORD did not leave Judah without hope, and declared a day when “the remnant of my flock” (Israel and Judah) would be gathered “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (23:3). In that day, the LORD promised to appoint spiritual “shepherds…which shall feed [His people]: and they shall fear no more…neither shall they be lacking” (23:4).

Leaving no doubt who will be King in the Messianic Kingdom, we read, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).

Who is this “righteous branch” of David’s lineage of David? (23:5) Only one man could fulfill this prophecy and He would be the Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-5:11).

Though Israel exists as a nation today, it is not righteous and its government is secular. There is no king who is of David’s lineage or reigns in righteousness. However, when Christ comes as Judge and conquering King, He will gather His people to their land from “out of the north country, and from all countries” where they have been scattered (23:8).

Jeremiah 23:9-32 – The False Prophets and Their Error

Knowing the judgment that His people would suffer, Jeremiah writes, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets” (23:9). False prophets had become the curse of the nation, and in a searing indictment of their sins, Jeremiah identified the ungodly character of the false prophets and their effect on the people: “The land is full of adulterers” (23:10) and the prophet and priest were hypocrites, “profane,” polluted and corrupt (23:11, 23:13).

The sins of the nation were so egregious that the LORD likened them to “Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (23:14).  Engrossed in their sins and lacking spiritual discernment, the people believed the assurances of the false prophets who said, “No evil shall come upon you” (23:17). The LORD, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (23:21).

Jeremiah 23:33-36 – Judah’s Contempt for God’s Message and Messenger

Embracing the lies of false priests and prophets, the people ridiculed God’s prophet. The LORD instructed Jeremiah, when the people, their prophets and priests ask, “What is the burden of the LORD?” (23:33), he was to say, the “burden of the LORD” was that He had forsaken them (23:33b).

Jeremiah 23 concludes with a stern warning to any who pretended to bear “the burden of the LORD” as His messenger:

Jeremiah 23:39b-40 – “I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: 40  And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.”

James states a similar warning to preachers and teachers of God’s Word (James 3:1).

James 3:1 – “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers; instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater [larger; greatest] condemnation [judgment; punishment; i.e. sentence].”

The work of the preacher is a great calling, as is the opportunity of teaching God’s Word. Whether a pastor or a lay Bible teacher, it is a privilege to teach God’s Word; however, we dare not treat it lightly for we will face the greater judgment.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Your God? (Jeremiah 10-13)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 10-13

Our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah continue today with our Scripture reading comprising Jeremiah 10-13. Jeremiah 10 will be the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. He was a man of passion who loved the LORD and faithfully proclaimed His Word from His calling as a young man (Jeremiah 1:6-8) to the fall of Jerusalem and the first years of Babylonian captivity. He endured the scorn of his people, the persecution of his nation’s leaders, and wept as Judah fell to Babylon. His reputation as the “weeping prophet” is borne out by the sorrows that are recorded in the book that bears his name and in the Book of Lamentations, his second book.

Jeremiah challenged the people to contrast the false gods whom they worshipped (10:1-5) with the God of Israel who had revealed Himself to Israel (10:6-11).

Jeremiah 10:1-5 – Jeremiah Mocked the Idols Men Worshipped.

Describing the absurdity of worshipping idols conceived and made by men, Jeremiah pictured a man cutting down a tree, carving and shaping an idol from the wood (10:3), then overlaying it with silver and gold (10:4).

Mocking the idea of anything man might make being a god worthy of worship, Jeremiah stated the impotence of such a god: It cannot move about of its own will (10:4b); it cannot speak (10:5a); in fact, it must be carried about by one foolish enough to worship and sacrifice to its image (10:5b). Jeremiah admonished the people, “Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (10:5c).

Jeremiah 10:6-11 – There is None Like the God of Heaven.

I will step away from my role as an author and allow the Scriptures to declare the majesty of God without commentary.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 – “6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is greatin might. 7  Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:10 – But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:12 – He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

Jeremiah 10:16 – The portion of Jacob is not like them: for He is the former [framer; potter; maker] of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.

Who is Your God? (10:6-16)

My God is the Great One, unlike any other (10:6). He is the King and Sovereign of all nations (10:7). He is incomparable in His person, majesty, and wisdom (10:7b). He is Truth (10:10a). He is the God of life (10:10b). He is the Eternal, Everlasting King, the Sovereign of Creation (10:10c). He is a God of righteousness and justice (10:10d).

My God is the One and Only Creator (10:12a) and sustains the earth by His power (10:12b) and in His wisdom He set the expanse of the heavens (10:12c). He is the God of Jacob (10:16a) and Israel is His chosen inheritance (10:16b).

My God is the “framer,” the maker, the creator of all things (10:16b). He is “the LORD of hosts,” the Commander and Master of the angels of heaven (10:16c).

Who Is Your God?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Cry of a Compassionate Prophet” (Jeremiah 4-6)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 4-6

Our study in the Book of Jeremiah continues with chapters 4-6 as our Scripture reading, and Jeremiah 4 as the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

We have so far considered: The calling of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet to Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 1); the assertion that Israel and Judah, though beloved by the LORD, as a husband loves his wife (Jeremiah 2:1-12), had rebelled and broken their covenant with the God (2:13-37); finally, Jeremiah’s declaration that the LORD had divorced His people for their spiritual adultery and failure to obey His commandments (3:1-5, 20-24).

Jeremiah 4

Israel, consisting of the northern ten tribes, has been removed from her land and the people taken into captivity by Assyria, nevertheless, the LORD extended to His people an invitation:

Jeremiah 4:1 –  “If thou wilt return [turn back; i.e. repent], O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away [detest; depart from] thine abominations [idols] out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove [no longer wander; i.e. the LORD would have compassion on].”

What a comfort that verse should be to believers. While the sins and wickedness of Israel were almost incomprehensible (immorality, worship of idols, child sacrifices), the LORD was still pleading for the people to repent, promising He would have compassion on them.

Moving from His invitation to Israel (4:1-2), Jeremiah was commanded to appeal to Judah (the southern tribes) to repent of her sins. Illustrating how sin hardens the hearts of a nation, Jeremiah used two metaphors.

The first, a sin hardened heart is like a farmer’s field that needs plowing before it can be planted. Jeremiah called upon the people of Judah to recognize the hardness of their hearts. Painting a picture of a farmer breaking up the ground with a plow to prepare it for planting, Jeremiah encouraged the people to, “Break up your fallow ground [with a plow], and sow not among thorns [which would choke out new growth]” (4:3).

The second picture is that of a sin-calloused heart: Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (4:4a). Jeremiah concluded the call to repent with the warning that, should Judah not repent of her sins, God would pour forth His fury like fire, and “burn that none [could] quench it, because of the evil of [their] doings” (4:4).

The balance of Jeremiah 4 is a vivid portrait of the future days of God’s judgment (4:5-31).

Reminding Jeremiah, he has been called to be a spiritual watchman for the LORD, God commanded His prophet, “Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities [fortified; walled]” (4:5).

Jeremiah was to call the people to retreat into the city, warning their adversary, like a lion, was coming from the north, identified as “the destroyer of the Gentiles” (4:7). We know this adversary was Babylon and the lion its king, Nebuchadnezzar (4:7).

Understanding the path of destruction Judah would soon face, Jeremiah warned the judgment of God would be swift, like a “dry wind” and a “full wind” (4:11-12). The sight of Nebuchadnezzar’s army would move “the heart of the king” to perish (4:9) and his chariots would come like a whirlwind, his horses swifter than eagles (4:13).

Realizing the dreadful judgment of the LORD and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah wept and cried out to the LORD (4:19-20).

Jeremiah 4:19-20 – “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20  Destruction upon destruction [lit. disaster upon disaster] is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.”

The destruction that would soon descend upon Judah and Jerusalem is graphic in detail (4:23-31).

Before I close today’s devotional commentary, allow me to draw your attention to the catalyst of God’s judgment for it is the same today as it was in Jeremiah’s day. The people had rejected God, despised His Law and Commandments, embraced wickedness, and become spiritually oblivious to discern good and evil (4:22).

I will close allowing Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome to be the sum of the wickedness of man that demands the judgment of God.

Romans 1:21-22 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Wicked Know No Shame (Zephaniah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Zephaniah 1-3

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Zephaniah, a minor prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (1:1).

Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.

Zephaniah was tasked with pronouncing God’s judgment on His people in frightening and graphic details. He warned Judah, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD” (1:2). Nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD: “I will consume man and beast… fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea…Judah…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (1:3-4).

“The Day of the Lord” is an oft repeated phrase in Zephaniah 1 and was a warning of the day of God’s vengeance (1:7, 8, 14, 18).

Remember the prophecies often have an immediate and future application. In the immediate, the “day of the LORD” was the day of God’s judgment against Judah when Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the prophetic application, the “day of the LORD” is still future and will be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ when He comes in judgment.

Zephaniah 1:10 mentions “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The fish gate was the gate that led to the fish market, but you may wonder why is this important. The answer is a historical fact: King Nebuchadnezzar passed through the fish gate when Babylon conquered Jerusalem! The destruction of the city and the captivity of the people would be so thorough that it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (1:12a).

The people lived in denial saying, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (1:12b). Even the strongest men of Judah would cry out on the day of God’s judgment (1:13). How terrible is the day of God’s final judgment?

Zephaniah 1:15 – “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Zephaniah 2 – An Exhortation to Repent

Remembering the LORD is longsuffering, we are not surprised to read that the prophet Zephaniah called upon Judah to repent and, “seek…the LORD, all ye meek of the earth…seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” (2:3).

Because of their wickedness, Zephaniah prophesied the judgment of God against four major Philistine cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron” (2:4). The Moabites and Ammonites would fall to Babylon as divine punishment for their abuses of Israel (2:8-11). The Ethiopians (of the lineage of Cush whose land was southeast of Egypt on the continent of Africa) would be slain (2:12). Assyria and its great capital city, Nineveh, would be utterly destroyed by Babylon. The destruction of Nineveh so complete it would be uninhabitable, a wasteland and a haven for wild beasts (2:13-15).

Zephaniah 3 – The Necessity of Divine Judgment Against Jerusalem

Zephaniah laid out the case regarding the wickedness of Jerusalem that demanded God’s judgment (3:1-4). That city had become “filthy and polluted,” and was a violent city (3:1). Her civil leaders (princes and judges) were like “roaring lions…wolves” that gnaw the bones of the poor and helpless (3:1). Her spiritual leaders (prophets and priests) were “treacherous” and violent (3:4).

Zephaniah assured the people of Judah, the LORD was just and He would not “do iniquity…He brings His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame” (3:5).

What an appalling statement! Innocence was lost. Moral purity disdained. The politicians and religious leaders were so given to sin and wickedness that they felt no shame! Though their wickedness was widely known, they felt no sense of humiliation. In spite of God’s judgment of other nations’ sins, Judah had failed to be moved to repent of her sins (3:6-7).

Zephaniah’s ministry closed with not only a warning of the day when God would gather the nations of the earth to be judged (3:8), but also when He will gather the remnant of Israel from all nations who will call upon and serve Him (3:9).

In that day, the day of the LORD, sin, shame, and pride will be removed (3:11-14), God’s people will rejoice for the LORD is King (3:14-17), and the people will be restored to the LORD who will dwell in the midst (3:18-20).

What a glorious day that will be!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith