Category Archives: Pride

Preachers who lack the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment will lead their ministries to ruin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 29-32

Our study of the histories of Israel and Judah continues with 2 Chronicles 29.  As a reminder, Israel is a divided kingdom.  Following the reign of Solomon, the ten tribes in the north rebelled and became known as Israel or Ephraim; the two remaining tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, united as one kingdom, became known as Judah with Jerusalem serving as the capital city.

It is Judah, during the reign of Hezekiah, that is the subject of 2 Chronicles 29-32.  Permit me to set the stage for the spiritual revival that takes place in today’s devotional. 

The reign of Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, had been a curse to Judah for “he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father” (2 Chronicles 28:1).  That a man born of David’s lineage could commit such wickedness is a testimony to the tragic nature of sin that indwells the heart of man apart from God.   Ahaz not only turned from the LORD, but also “burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen” (28:3).

We read, “For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD” (28:19).  Rather than repent, Ahaz did all he could to destroy the LORD’s Temple, cutting in pieces vessels used in the Temple and shutting up the doors (28:24).

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah began to reign and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (29:2).  Rather than follow in his father’s sins, Hezekiah turned to the LORD and began repairing the Temple (29:3) and set his heart to “make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel” (29:10).

Hezekiah’s first command was to summon the Levites and direct them to cleanse the Temple (29:4-11).  Having cleansed the Temple (29:12-17), the priests reported to Hezekiah who “went up to the house of the LORD”, offered sacrifices (29:18-25) and commanded the Levites to lead the congregation in worship with musical instruments and song (29:26-30).

Restoring the observance of the Passover, Hezekiah invited all Israel and Judah to turn to the LORD and come to Jerusalem and worship (30:1-9).  While some in Israel heeded the king’s call to humble themselves and worship the LORD, there were many who “laughed them to scorn, and mocked them” (30:10-11).

Notice revival in Judah began with the king and the nation’s spiritual leadership.  Heeding the king’s invitation to return to the LORD, the people assembled in Jerusalem to observe the Passover and tore down altars of idolatry in the land.   When the Passover lamb was killed, those who ministered the Passover were pricked in their hearts and “were ashamed, and sanctified themselves” (30:15) because they “had not cleansed themselves” (30:17-18).

On a personal note, rather than bemoaning the backslidden state of our churches and schools, might it not be the crux of the problem, the reason our churches are spiritually dead and our schools, colleges and seminaries are carnal is best addressed to those who stand in the pulpits? 

In the manner of a pastor calling sinning saints to come home to the LORD, “Hezekiah prayed for them [the Levites], saying, The good LORD pardon every one” and “spake comfortably unto all the Levites” (30:18, 22).  The phrase, “spake comfortably”, might mislead some to think the king made the Levites comfortable; however, the word translated “comfortably” is the Hebrew word for the heart or mind.  In other words, the king did not appeal to their emotions, but to their hearts.

Judah’s revival continues in 2 Chronicles 31 as the places of idol worship are destroyed (31:1) and the sacrificial offerings brought by the people was so great there was a problem in how to dispose of the tithes and offerings (31:2-10).

An enemy of Judah, “Sennacherib king of Assyria” (32:1), invades Judah in chapter 32 and began to undermine the nation’s confidence in the king and the LORD (32:2-19).   Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory He alone was due (32:25) for Judah’s victory over Assyria.  The king’s illness was terminal, “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26) God restored his health.

Permit me to close with a personal observation.  King Solomon taught his son who would be king, When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime.   In contradiction to the assertion of some that a leader’s character doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming… A leader’s character does matter!   Whether the leader of a nation, state, city, church or school…a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on a people.  Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin.

Don’t take my word.  Examine the devastating influence of past presidents or the destructive influence of pastors or administrators who, lacking the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment, lead their ministries to ruin.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Preachers Catering to Carnality Is the Curse of 21st Century Christianity

Monday, October 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 7-9

Having challenged Israel to remember and rehearse the providences and promises of the LORD, and reminding the people to obey the commandments and teach them to their sons and daughters, Moses challenged the nation to not commune or assimilate with other nations (Deuteronomy 7).

Assuring Israel the LORD was them and would drive the heathen nations out of Canaan, Moses reminded the people God chose them to be a distinct people.  Realizing how easily Israel could be turned aside from the LORD by the sinful ways of the heathen, God commanded the nation to “smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them” (Deuteronomy 7:2).

Antagonists of 21st century Christianity take the commands given to Israel in Deuteronomy 7 out of historical context and foolishly equate them to our day.  Adversaries of believers and the Church declare the Bible is a violent book and Christianity is as evil as militant Islam.  Those who assert such are either disingenuous or ignorant!

It is true the LORD commanded Israel to not covenant with other nations or tolerate intermarriage of their children with heathens (7:3-4), as was the custom of enemies who sought peace through marrying and giving in marriage their sons and daughters.  However, the LORD is jealous of His people and knew the influence of idol worshippers would invariably turn the hearts of their children from the LORD and His covenant (7:4).

The LORD’s covenant required Israel to be intolerant of the ways of the heathen (7:5) for He had chosen them and commanded the nation to be a “holy people” (7:6).  Assuring the people of His love, grace and mercy, the LORD commanded the nation to keep His commandments, hearken to His judgments, promising to bless them “above all people” (7:7-14).

God’s love for Israel was unconditional; however, His promise of blessings was conditioned upon Israel trusting God and purging the land of its idols and those who worshipped them (7:15-26).

Moses’ challenge to Israel continues in Deuteronomy 8.  Not wanting the people to forget God’s faithfulness, Moses rehearsed how the LORD blessed and sustained them during Israel’s forty years in the wilderness (8:1-2).  Reminding the people of God’s loving care and miraculous provision (8:3-4), Moses challenged them to know the LORD will chasten His people as a loving father chastens his son (8:5).  As the people obeyed the LORD and His commandments, God promised to bless them (8:6-10); however, should the people become proud and forget His commandments, He promised to bring His judgment upon the nation (8:11-20).

Lest the people’s heart be lifted up in pride, Moses reminded the nation the land the LORD promised Abraham and his lineage was occupied by nations “greater and mightier” (9:1-2) than Israel.  Israel would be victorious over the nations, not because the people were more righteous or powerful than their enemies, but because the LORD was with them (9:3-5).

Moses reminded the people when he was receiving the commandments of the LORD they returned to the sinful ways and idolatry of Egypt and God would have destroyed them in His wrath if He had not heeded Moses’ intercessory prayer for their sakes (9:6-29).

Permit me to close with a few applications of truths we have seen in today’s scripture reading.

The first, like Israel, we are saved from the curse of sin, not because we are good, but because God is merciful and gracious.   In his letter to Titus, Paul writes,

Titus 3:5-7 – “Not by works [deeds] of righteousness [i.e. by keeping the law] which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6  Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7  That being justified by His grace [undeserved, unmerited favor], we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

A second truth seldom taught or preached today is the LORD has commanded His people and church to be holy, a reflection of His holiness.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

The doctrine of Sanctification, the LORD’s command for His church to separate from the ungodly and their sinful ways was the hallmark of Biblical fundamentalism in the 20th century; however, separation is almost universally neglected by 21st century fundamental churches in preaching, principle and practice.   As it was commanded of Israel, it is no less commanded of the church.  In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes,

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together [by contract or covenant; an alliance in business or marriage] with unbelievers: for what fellowship [partnership; common interests] hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion [harmony] hath light with darkness?
15  And what concord [harmony; business] hath Christ with Belial [wickedness]? or what part [business] hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

2 Corinthians 6:17 – “Wherefore come out from [lit. get out from] among them [unbelievers], and be ye separate [exclude; limit; sever], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”

Moses was aware of the temptations God’s people faced in Canaan if they failed to obey the LORD’s commands and tolerated sin and wickedness in their midst.  I am afraid the same cannot be said of the majority of my peers in Bible fundamental pulpits.

Fearing the wrath of a generation who trifle with the LORD’s call to holiness, a generation of preachers catering to carnality has failed to call the church to holiness and sanctification.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Man’s Pride Distorts His Reasoning

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 25-28

Our reading in 2 Chronicles continues today with chapters 25-28.  The reigns of four kings is found in today’s devotional commentary; Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25), Uzziah (2 Chronicles 25), Jotham (2 Chronicles 26), and Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28).   2 Chronicles 25 and the reign of Amaziah is the focus of my commentary.

As a background, I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy, guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24).  Judah experienced a spiritual renaissance during the early years of Joash’s reign and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died at the ripe old age of 130 years old (2 Chron. 24:15).

With the high priest dead, wicked men began to counsel Joash (24:17-18) and when Zechariah, the son of the late high priest Jehoiada withstood them, they killed him.  Joash gave neither rebuke nor sought justice for Zecharaiah’s death, the son of the man who served as his counsel throughout his reign (24:22).  Tragically, Joash’s reign ended with him turning from the LORD and his assassination when his own servants revenged the slaying of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:24-26).

Following Joash’s death, his son Amaziah became king in Judah (2 Chron. 24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and we read, “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart” (25:2).

It is that last phrase, “but not with a perfect heart” (25:2), that shadow’s the life and reign of Amaziah.  Amaziah exacted justice for his father’s assassination, killing those who murdered his father; however, unlike other kings, he did not prevail upon the families of the assassins, and spared the lives of the assassins’ sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah began his reign well, organizing his army and numbering three hundred thousand men who could go to war; however, he foolishly turned to the northern ten tribes of Israel and numbered among his army one hundred thousand mercenaries from that wicked nation (25:6).

God sent a prophet to Amaziah, warning him the mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7).   Amaziah heeded the caution of the “man of God” and sent the men of Israel home (25:10).  However, as Amaziah led his army into battle, the soldiers from Israel turned back and attacked cities in Judah in the absence of their fathers and sons that had gone to war (25:13).

Remembering Amaziah was a man who lacked “a perfect heart” for the LORD, we read he committed idolatry (25:14) following his victory over Edom.   The LORD sent a prophet to warn the king he had provoked God’s judgment (25:15-16). Amaziah, however, refused to hear the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill the LORD’s prophet (25:16).

Rejecting the rebuke of the prophet and his heart lifted up in pride, Amaziah made a pretense of seeking an alliance (25:17) with the wicked king of Israel.  Israel’s king; however, though a wicked man reigning over a rebellious nation, saw through Amaziah’s motive and warned the king to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19).

The verses that follow (25:20-28) reveal not only the curse of pride, but a lesson regarding the sovereignty of the LORD.  The LORD will accomplish His purpose, even guiding the proud heart of a rebellious man to His own end.

Pride distorted Amaziah’s heart and God determined to use his illusion of greatness to judge him.  We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).  Amaziah rejected the caution of Israel’s king and invaded Israel.  Amaziah’s army fled from the battlefield, humiliating the king who was taken prisoner, and his treasury plundered by the king of Israel (25:21-23).

Amaziah lived in exile in Samaria for fiftenn years after his defeat; however, when he returned to Jerusalem he suffered his final humiliation: His servants conspired against him and the king was eventually assassinated (25:28).

I close with an observation: Pride distorts a man’s reasoning, blinds him to his weaknesses, and invariably brings him to ruin.  A proverb of Solomon is sufficient to support this truth:

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [arrogancy] goeth before destruction [calamity; breach], and an haughty [proud; self-sufficient] spirit before a fall [ruin].

 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Curse of Ingratitude

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 21-24

Our study in 2 Chronicles continues today with a nation in mourning when we read, “Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead” (2 Chronicles 21:1).

Jehoshaphat’s reign over Judah was aptly summed up in these words: He “walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32).

Jehoshaphat and his father Asa reigned over Judah sixty-six years and the LORD blessed the nation with peace and prosperity; however, the latter years of each king’s reign was stained with alliances that compromised not only their life testimonies and the nation.

King Asa made a foolish alliance with Syria in the latter years of his reign and went to his grave ruling a nation at war (2 Chronicles 16:9).  Like his father before him, Jehoshaphat’s last act as king was an alliance with the Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, “to make ships to go to Tarshish”  (2 Chronicles 20:35-36); ships that were apparently lost in a storm and “broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37).

Jehoram, unlike his father and grandfather before him, began to reign over Judah with no evidence he loved or aspired to serve the LORD (2 Chronicles 21:1).  Rather than peace and prosperity, the reign of Jehoram began with him commanding the murders of his own brethren to secure the throne of Judah and eliminate any challenge to his reign (2 Chronicles 21:2-5).

Though he ruled only eight years, Jehoram’s reign was not only a terror to his father’s household, it began Judah’s decline into all manner of evil.  Taking the daughter of Ahab, Israel’s wicked king, to be his wife, Jehoram “walked in the way of the kings of Israel…and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD” (21:6).  Jehoram’s godless example was far reaching, for “he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

God raised up Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet, to confront Jehoram (21:12-13), who warned the king his wickedness not only provoked the LORD’s judgment against Judah (21:14), but would also result in his own dreadful death described as a “great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day” (21:15).  We are not told what the intestinal disease was, but I suspect it might have been a cancer for we read, “his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases…” (26:19).  Unlike his father’s memorial service, Judah did not honor Jehoram with a king’s burial.

Continuing on a path of compromise with the wicked, one that would eventually lead to Judah’s destruction, Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, secured his father’s throne in Jerusalem and following the counsel of his mother, having his brethren slain (22:1).  Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (22:4) and followed the counsel of the idolatrous and wicked “house of Ahab” (22:4).

Ahaziah was slain after reigning only one year over Judah (22:9) and was succeeded by his wicked mother Athaliah, who ordered the slaying of all the royal line of David (22:10-12).   Josah, the infant son of Ahaziah, was spared when Ahaziah’s sister concealed him for six years while Athaliah reigned in Judah (22:11-12).

2 Chronicles 23 records the coronation and ascension of Joash to the throne led by the high priest Jehoiada and the priestly tribe of Levi (23:1-11), the slaying of Athaliah and her followers (23:12-15).  Having crowned the new king, the high priest Jehoiada boldly led the nation in revival, purging the land of the worshippers of Baal (23:16-21).

Joash began to reign when he was seven years old and Jehoiada, the high priest served as his counsel and guide (24:1-3).  Under the influence of Jehoiada, Joash set his heart to repair the temple that had fallen into decay during the six-year reign of Athaliah (24:4-7).  Joash made a proclamation for a collection to be taken from the people and the offerings of the people used to hire workman to repair the temple (24:8-14).

The high priest Jehoiada counseled and guided Joash until his death at one hundred and thirty years old (24:15-16).  With Jehoiada dead, the “princes of Judah” (24:17) were emboldened to come to the king who turned the heart of the king and the nation from the LORD and provoking His wrath (24:18).

The LORD raised up prophets to prophesy against the sins of the nation; among them was Zechariah, the son of the Jehoiada the high priest.   Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation, warning of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22).  Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

The LORD judged Joash and Judah, giving Syria victory who slew the “princes of the people” (24:22-24).  The servants of Joash rose up and slew the king while he slept on his bed and buried him without the honors given to kings (24:25).

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of Bob Jones College, reminded the student body, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (24:22a).

How could a man whose life was saved by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the merciless death of his son?

I suppose every believer can answer that question when we bear in our heart a spirit of bitterness, forgetting the LORD sacrificed His Son for our sins.  Thus we read this exhortation:

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Eyes of the LORD Are Upon Us!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 16-20

I pick up our reading of 2 Chronicles, reminding you Israel is a divided nation.  The northern ten tribes, known as Israel, rebelled against king Rehoboam, following the usurper Jeroboam who had been an adversary of king Solomon.  The southern nation, consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, was known as Judah and aligned themselves with heirs of David’s throne and maintained a semblance of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

As we come to 2 Chronicles 16 we find Asa, the great-grandson of Solomon reigning in Judah.  Asa ruled forty-one years and led the nation in revival, purging Judah of idols (2 Chronicles 14:2-5), strengthening the defense of the nation (14:6-8) and most importantly, setting his heart to serve the LORD (14:7).

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace and prosperity, until the closing years of his life.  In the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Baasha, king of Israel led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and made a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Asa’s decision, successful in the immediate, nevertheless proved foolish when he learned from a prophet named Hanani, the LORD would have given him victory not only over Israel, but also Syria if he had turned to the LORD.  Hanani declared Asa’s failure foolish, warning him it would haunt him the rest of his life for “henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and placed Hanani in prison (16:10).  Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest his affliction was gout.  I wonder if it was gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa turned to his physicians rather than to the LORD.  A great memorial was held upon Asa’s death, however, his lifetime of serving the LORD was marred by his faithlessness and rebellion in his later years (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Perhaps learning from the tragic failures of his father, Jehoshaphat son of Asa, “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4).

Jehoshaphat foolishly made a league with Ahab, the wicked king of Israel in 2 Chronicles 18, and allied himself to go to war against Ramothgilead.  The story of Ahab’s inquiry with the prophet Micaiah is humorous, but also tragic.  Jehoshaphat recognized Ahab’s prophets were not of the LORD and asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?” (18:6)

There was one faithful prophet; however, Ahab was disinclined to seek his counsel for, in the king’s words, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla…” (18:7).

Adorned in their royal robes, each sitting upon his own throne, Jehoshaphat and Ahab must have been an impressive sight (18:8-14); however, the prophet Micaiah was not intimidated and even trifled with king Ahab, telling the king what the king wanted to hear (18:14-15).   Ahab became incensed and demanded Micaiah prophesy what the LORD revealed to him (18:15-16).

Micaiah prophesied the scattering of Israel and Ahab’s imminent death in battle (18:16-22).  In spite of an attempt to disguise himself by removing his royal robes (18:28-33), Ahab was struck by an arrow and perished as the sun was setting on the battlefield (18:34).

When Jehoshaphat returned from the battle, Jehu, the son of Hanani whom his father Asa had imprisoned, confronted the king (19:1-2).  Evidencing the boldness of a prophet of God, Jehu condemned the king’s alliance with Ahab saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (19:2).

In spite of Jehoshaphat’s failure, Jehu comforted him with the promise of God’s grace saying, “there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 19:3).  Jehoshaphat set his heart to lead Judah in the way of the LORD and set judges in the land to rule in difficult matters (19:4-11).

Near the latter years of his reign, Jehoshaphat received word a confederacy of enemies was coming to wage war against Judah (20:1-3).  We read, “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” and called upon the LORD before the people in the Temple (20:3-13).

God heard the king’s prayer and sent Jahaziel to prophecy and encourage the king and Judah saying, “Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15).

With God’s assurance, the people went to the battlefield and found their enemies had turned and destroyed one another (20:22-23).  Without lifting a sword or spear, the LORD gave Judah victory and it took three days to gather the spoils (20:24-25).   Receiving the news of Judah’s victory and how the LORD had fought against their enemies, “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms” (20:29).

We can take many lessons from today’s reading…perhaps the most prominent one is the LORD wants us to call upon Him in times of trouble, trials and sickness.  When we are afraid, call upon the LORD.  When enemies threaten and we feel overwhelmed, remember, “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (16:9), for “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God orders the starts and stops, not man!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jonah 1-4

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on the Book of Jonah.  Only four chapters long, the drama in this small prophetic book is intriguing because it imparts to us the LORD’s love and compassion for sinners and His patience with a reluctant, rebellious servant.  Needless to say, there is much to take from today’s scripture reading!

Have you ever wanted to run away?  Some reading this commentary might remember demanding your way as a child, threatening to take your little red wagon and run from home if you did not get it.  To your chagrin, your parents pretended to take you up on your threat, and offered to help you pack!  If you were strong-willed, you might have followed through with your threat; however, when you are young, minutes seem like hours and a hundred yards like a mile.  When you returned home from your self-willed excursion, your mom may have greeted you, “Well, you’re back home!  Wash your hands and get ready for dinner!”

Two lessons should have come from your childhood tantrum.  The first, “What is best for you is not always what you think is best.”  The second lesson, one you might not have known until years later; although you could not see him, your father was lovingly watching and never took his eyes off you!

2800 years ago, Jonah, a passionate, patriotic and popular preacher in Israel received God’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh…” (1:2).  Nineveh was a great city with a population of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11).  Nineveh was also a wicked city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and the adversary of Israel!

Perhaps fearing the enemy or the rejection of His own people, Jonah refused to go and preach against Nineveh, later confessing he feared the LORD might spare that city from destruction!  Jonah resigned his calling as God’s prophet (Jonah 1:3), paid his fare, and took a ship for Tarshish, a city on the western most edge of the known world in his day (1:3).

In his flight from the LORD, Jonah soon found himself caught in a great storm and the sea threatening to take the ship, him and his fellow passengers to a watery grave (1:4-6).  Evidencing the callousness of a backslidden sinner, Jonah slept in the bottom of the ship.  Learning Jonah was God’s prophet and the storm was from the LORD to chastise him, the sailors cast him into the sea where a great fish swallowed him.

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (Jonah 2:1), confessed his sin and we read, “He heard me” (2:2).  The prophet understood his miserable state was a watery grave unless the LORD delivered him (2:9-10).  The LORD mercifully answered Jonah’s prayer, “spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

Jonah obeyed the LORD, went to Nineveh and began warning that great city, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).  Incredibly, the people of Nineveh believed the word of that reluctant prophet and repented (3:5-9).  Hearing Nineveh’s cry of repentance, the LORD, moved with compassion and set aside His judgment.

Jonah 3:10 – “And God saw [looked;; beheld; perceived] their works [behavior; deeds], that they turned [turned back] from their evil [sinful; wicked] way; and God repented [reckoned; moved with compassion] of the evil [destruction; bad—not sin], that he had said that he would do [make; wrought; perform; accomplish] unto them; and he did it not.”

Had the life of Jonah ended on that point of revival, a city of 120,000 souls repenting, we would number him among the great preachers and prophets of all time.  Jonah, however, did not rejoice in the LORD’s compassion and the saving of the city. We read of Jonah:

Jonah 4:1-2 – “But it displeased [so angry with God he trembled] Jonah exceedingly [he was overcome and afflicted with anger], and he was very angry [he was incensed; burned with anger]. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] , and said [charged], I pray thee [lit. “Ah, now!”], O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful  [full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment].”

Jonah was angry with God for sparing a city that was the enemy of Israel.  Abandoning his place of ministry, a second time, Jonah left Nineveh, built a temporary dwelling outside the city, sat down and waited to see if God would destroy the city (Jonah 4:5).

Here we find another characteristic of men who abandon their calling…they are more interested in temporal comforts than they are in lost souls

Jonah 4:6 – “And the LORD God prepared [appointed; told] a gourd, and made it to come up [ascend; mount up] over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver [preserve; recover; escape] him from his grief [lit. sin; evil; wickedness; distress; misery]. So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

Jonah became angry and despaired of life when God destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine.  “And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd? And he said, I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (Jonah 4:9).

God challenged Jonah to consider his priorities and his foolish, self-centered attitude.

Jonah 4:10 – “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:”

Jonah’s biography ends with a question:

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?”

Many reading this simple pastor’s commentary either are or have known men and women who once professed a call to ministry, but quit and took a ship to Tarshish.  Times got hard, people were difficult and you took what appeared an easy way out…you quit and contented yourself with your own gourd; however, in light of eternity it is temporal and comes at the sacrifice of the best part…the will of the LORD.

After 38 years of ministry, I understand the temptation to run from pressures, people, problems and pain.  My wife and I celebrated the beginning of our 33rd year of ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, October 1, 2017.  We never intended to be at this ministry so many years and there were many times I was tempted to “cut and run”; however, I am glad we pressed on through the pain and problems.

Take a lesson from the life of Jonah: God orders the starts and stops, not man! 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

America: There is a Pay Day Someday!

October 3, 2017

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11-15

Today’s scripture reading, 2 Chronicles 11-15, is not only filled with colorful historical facts, but is also bursting with opportunities of taking and applying spiritual principles that are as applicable in our day as they were nearly 3,000 year ago.

The setting of our study follows the death of king Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31) and the ascension of his son Rehoboam to the throne of Israel (2 Chronicles 10).   Hearing Solomon was dead, Jeroboam, an old adversary of Solomon returned from exile in Egypt and led an uprising against young and inexperienced Rehoboam.

Rejecting the counsel of his father’s counselors, Rehoboam hearkened to the reckless counsel of his peers, provoking rebellion among the northern ten tribes who followed Jeroboam dividing the nation (2 Chronicles 10:8-19).   The northern ten tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became one nation known as Judah.  Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, thought to raise an army and seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4).

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates how quickly a nation can depart from the LORD and turn to other gods.   We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually, instituting a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised wisdom and discernment; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:7-23).   Comfortable in his palace and enjoying the blessing of the LORD, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).  Because Rehoboam turned his heart and the nation from the LORD, the LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah to turn the heart of the king and nation back to Him (12:1-5).

The LORD sent Shemaiah, his prophet, to confront the king and leaders of Judah (12:5) who, hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, humbled themselves before the LORD (12:5-8).  In His mercy, the LORD spared Judah from destruction, however, He allowed Shishak to put Rehoboam and Judah under servitude.   Adding to the nation’s humiliation, Shishak removed from the walls of Rehoboam’s palace “shields of gold which Solomon had made” (12:9).  Rehoboam, rather than repent of his sins and turn back to the LORD, “made shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard, that kept the entrance of the king’s house” (12:10).

What a tragedy!  Rather than humble himself and repent of his sinful ways, Rehoboam substituted a counterfeit, shields of brass, to adorn the walls of his palace.  Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, concealed the miserable state of the nation!

America, her leaders, her churches and Christians would be wise to take a lesson from 2 Chronicles 11-12.   Emerging from the late 19th century, America was a rural, agricultural nation of family farms and Christian values; however, the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries transformed our nation into a power that was the envy of the world by the end of World War II.

Like Judah of old, our wealth and prosperity as a nation has deceived us and America has turned from the LORD.   Our homes, churches and schools are no longer strongholds of moral virtue and, in the same way Rehoboam counterfeited the loss of “shields of gold” with brass shields, the leaders of our United States have enslaved our nation to a $20 trillion debt carried largely by enemies committed to our demise.

Our federal government can print dollar bills night and day and Americans can pursue possessions and sinful pleasures veiled in a mounting, crippling debt; however, in the words of the old evangelists… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith