Category Archives: Pride

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

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

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

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

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

What Does God Require? Cool or Holy Ministers? (Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42

Our consideration of the new Temple of the Millennial Kingdom continues with a description of the outer and inner sanctuaries of the Temple (Ezekiel 41-42). Rather than belabor the dimensional details of the Temple (height, length, breadth), I will highlight the various aspects of the Temple grounds that includes the walls, doors, courtyards, buildings, and the Temple itself.

The Outer Sanctuary of the Millennial Temple (40:48-41:26)

The heavenly messenger led Ezekiel up the steps and through the portico of the Temple (40:48-49), and into the outer sanctuary (41:1-2) which measured 70 feet long and was 35 feet wide (41:2).

The Inner Sanctuary – “The Most Holy Place” (41:3-5)

The inner sanctuary was a perfect square that measured 35 feet by 35 feet. Unlike the Tabernacle and the earlier Temples (Solomon’s, and Zerubbabel’s built after the Babylonian captivity, and Herod’s Temple), the Millennial Temple did not have a veil that separated the inner sanctuary from the outer sanctuary.

Other Details of the Temple (41:6-26)

Ezekiel noticed there were side rooms of the Temple that stood three stories, with 30 rooms on each floor (41:6). Connecting the floors was a winding staircase that extended from the ground floor to the upper floors (41:7). The foundation of the Temple was elevated, and stood 10.5 feet high (41:8). There was a separate building at the west end of the Temple, but its use was not identified (41:12). The measurement of the Temple was 175 feet square (41:13-15).

The Décor of the Temple (41:16-21)

The walls, floor and ceiling of the Temple were covered with wood, as were the long, narrow windows (41:16-17). The walls of the Temple were of paneled wood (41:17), and were carved with an alternating pattern of cherubim and palm trees (41:18-20).

Before going further, let’s visit the subject of the missing veil. Beginning with the Tabernacle and continuing through the Temple era, a veil separated the outer court of the sanctuary from the innermost room of the Temple known as the Holy of Holies (also the “Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place”). The veil represented a barrier of separation that was between sinful man and God who is holy. It served the purpose of preventing men from seeing or entering into the presence of God (Exodus 26:31-35). When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, the veil was torn from the top to the bottom, for His sacrifice removed the barrier between God and sinners (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-23; 1 Peter 3:18).

The Furniture of the Temple (41:21-26)

The tabernacle and earlier Temples were furnished with the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, upon which there were two cherubim that faced one another (all gold-plated, Exodus 25:10; 37:1-9). This was the place of God’s presence on earth. In the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, only a wood altar (perhaps used for burning incense), 3.5 feet square, and standing 5.25 feet tall was found in the most holy place (41:22).  Double doors served as the panel between the outer and inner sanctuary (41:23-24).  Carved cherubim and palm trees decorated the panels of the doors, and the narrow windows were decorated with palm trees and wood overhangings (41:25-26).

Ezekiel 42 – Buildings for the Priests (note 40:44-46)

Located in the outer court of the Temple, and against the wall of the inner court, were buildings for priests. We are given the dimensions of the buildings (42:2-3), as well as the fact they stood three stories tall (42:3b). The upper floors of the buildings were narrower than the first, making room for walkways (42:4-6). A wall separated the priests’ building from the outer court (42:7-9). On the south side of the Temple was a second building for the priests, and its dimensions were identical to the first (42:10-12).

The Purpose of the Priests’ Buildings (42:13-14)

The buildings for the priests provided a place to prepare for their ministry in the Temple. They were described as “holy chambers” (42:13), for there the priests prepared to minister before the LORD. It was in the “holy chambers” that food offerings were stored, and to be eaten (42:13). This was also the place the priests were to change out of their priestly “garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people” (42:14). The priests were not to wear their priestly robes outside the Temple complex. Also, they were not to wear the clothes of their secular lives when ministering for the LORD in His holy Temple.

Closing thoughts (42:15-20) – Our study concludes with the angelic messenger leading Ezekiel out the east gate, where he measured the wall that surrounded the Temple area. It was perfectly squared, with the north, south, east, and west walls being 5,250 feet in length (42:15-20). The outer wall of the Temple complex provided a separation between the world, and God and His holy Temple.

The Holiness of God and the Doctrine of Separation – I suggest the overriding lesson from today’s study is the reminder God is Holy, and deserves and demands we be the same. Today’s churches advertise, “come as you are,” and even pastors have succumbed to being “cool” and wearing ripped jeans, and even shorts. While the clothes of the priests reminded everyone the LORD required holiness (Leviticus 20:7), it appears that preachers and believers of this generation are more interested in looking “cool” than they are in being holy.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Greater Judgment Befalls Those Who Disdain the LORD’s Blessings. (Ezekiel 15; Ezekiel 16)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 15; Ezekiel 16

The prophecies the LORD imparted to Ezekiel continue in today’s Scripture reading. With the elders of Israel as his audience (14:1), the LORD revealed to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of divine judgment. The first prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an unfruitful vine (Ezekiel 15). A helpless, abused and adulterous woman was the second symbol of Jerusalem’s spiritual condition (Ezekiel 16). In Ezekiel 17 (a future devotional study), Jerusalem was identified as being a vine ravaged by predators.

Ezekiel 15 – An Unfruitful Vine

Israel was often seen in the Scriptures as a fruitful vine, a people the LORD chose and planted in Canaan. In Psalm 80:8, Israel was a vine the LORD “brought…out of Egypt…[and then] cast out the heathen [out of Canaan], and planted it.” Israel was also portrayed as a vineyard the LORD planted and cultivated, and yet it bore “wild (bitter)grapes” (Isaiah 5:1). So, the elders of Israel immediately recognized the analogy of Judah, and in particular, Jerusalem, drawn by Ezekiel, as an unfruitful, useless vine (15:2-3).

In God’s judgment, the wickedness of the people had rendered the vine (Israel) good for nothing, but to be cut off, and “cast into the fire for fuel” (15:4). The fire was said to have devoured the whole of the vine, and served as a prophetic picture of God’s judgment and the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah (15:6-8).

Ezekiel 16 – Jerusalem: An Abused Adulterous Wife

The second prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an abused adulterous wife (16:2). Like a husband who takes a virgin for his wife, the LORD had chosen Jerusalem (the land, and all Israel), and claimed her as His wife (16:1-7). It was noted how ancient Jerusalem had been the birthplace of Canaanite nations (16:3-4), and a place of idols, lawlessness, and immorality. Yet, the LORD chose Jerusalem as a habitation for His people (16:6), and caused that city to become a place of beauty (16:7-8).

Ezekiel 16:9-14, though addressing Jerusalem specifically, did in fact relate to how the LORD blessed Israel as His chosen people. He chose and loved Israel as a husband cherishes his wife. He cleansed (16:9) and clothed (16:10), and blessed the city with wealth (16:11). She was the LORD’s crowned jewel (16:12), and He gave the people of that city the best of everything (16:13), and her beauty was famous among the nations (16:14).

Jerusalem: An Unfaithful Wife (16:15-34)

Rather than loving and serving the LORD out of gratitude and love, Jerusalem had played the harlot. The people repaid the LORD’s favor with shame and humiliation exercised by their gross immorality. The sins committed by Israel were staggering, and the evidence of her wickedness were named by Ezekiel.  God’s people had committed spiritual harlotry (16:15-16), made idols (16:17) and sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (16:20-21).

Rather than repent and turn to the LORD, the children of Israel turned to heathen neighbors for protection (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29). Indeed, the wickedness of the people was akin to a wife playing a harlot on the street corners (16:22-34).

The Certainty of God’s Judgment (16:35-43)

After stating the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel declared His judgment (16:35-43). The nations (“thy lovers”, 16:36) to whom Israel had turned for help, would become the instruments of God’s judgment and Jerusalem’s destruction (16:36-38). The blood of the slain would run through the streets of Jerusalem, and that beautiful city would be humiliated, and her houses burned because the people had forsaken their covenant with the LORD. Ezekiel declared that God’s anger was justified, and He would satisfy His wrath (16:39-43).

The Great Wickedness of Judah (16:44-59)

With the proverb, “As is the mother, so is her daughter” (16:44), we realize the sins of Judah and Jerusalem equaled and exceeded the wickedness of the heathen nations born before her (Hittite and Amorites, 16:45). Even the sins of Jerusalem’s sisters, identified as Samaria (i.e., the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel, 16:46) and Sodom (16:48), paled in contrast to the wickedness of Jerusalem. Ezekiel reminded the leaders of Israel (14:1) how the LORD destroyed Sodom for its gross wickedness (pride, glutton, slothful, uncharitable, haughtiness, and idolatry, 16:49-50), yet the citizens of Jerusalem had exceeded the infamy of those people (16:51-52).

Closing thoughts (16:53-63) – How could the sins of Jerusalem be greater than those of Sodom and Samaria?

Judah and Jerusalem enjoyed God’s favor like no other people. Nevertheless, they despised the LORD, rejected His Law, disobeyed His commandments, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52).  In spite of the sins and rebellion of Israel, God promised He would not forget His covenant with His people, and promised He would restore them to their land (16:53-63).

Truth – Greater Judgment Befalls Those Who Disdain the LORD’s Blessings.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

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

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

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

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

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

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Jeremiah’s Lament: Jerusalem’s Humiliation (Lamentations 1)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 1

Though only five chapters long, the book known as “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” is powerful, poetic, and a devastating portrait of the consequences of sin. As its name suggests, Lamentations is a record of the laments, cries, and groanings of Jeremiah.

Gazing upon the rubble of what was once the beautiful and renown city of David, God’s prophet was overwhelmed with the sorrow and afflictions that had befallen his stubborn people. Jeremiah faithfully served the LORD through the reigns of five successive kings of Judah. He had discharged his sacred duty as God’s prophet, and warned the people what would become of the nation if they did not repent of their sins. Yet, the kings of Judah despised and persecuted him, and the people broke covenant with the LORD rejecting His Laws and Commandments. Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people removed to Babylon. Left behind was Jeremiah and a few poor Jews to work the land and serve Babylon.

Lamentations 1

The opening verses of chapter 1 painted a dismal picture of what became of a bustling city once filled with people, but now figured like a bereaved widow, and a tributary (slave) to Babylon (1:1). Jerusalem’s friends and allies were become her enemies (1:2)

Judah’s Sorrows (1:3-7)

The people of Judah were no longer a free people who enjoyed the blessings of their covenant with the LORD. That nation had become like Israel before her (i.e., the ten northern tribes), a nation in bondage (1:3-4). As is the nature of sinners, only in captivity would the people remember the blessings they had taken for granted (1:7a). They remembered their families, homes, and lands, and the sabbaths their enemies mocked (1:7b).

Jerusalem’s Shame (1:8-12)

The cause for Jerusalem’s demise was summed up in this: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore, she is removed” (1:8a). The LORD had chosen Zion for His Temple, and the sanctuary of His presence among His people; nevertheless, the people “turned backward” (1:8b), and found “no comforter” (1:9). Their possessions became spoils for their enemy (1:10), and the heathen entered the sanctuary of the LORD and defiled it (1:10). Suffering famine, the people were impoverished (1:11), and the ruins of the city remained as a testimony to the wrath of God’s judgment (1:12).

Jerusalem’s Suffering (1:13-17)

Consider with me briefly, the consequences of Jerusalem’s wickedness. We find the distress of the city, described figuratively as a consuming fire and a snare (1:13). The sins of the city were a heavy yoke wrapping them like a wreath after the LORD delivered them to their Babylonian masters (1:14). Jerusalem was a defenseless city, for her army was fallen, and her youth crushed (1:15). The joy of music and dance was silenced by sorrow and perpetual tears (1:16). While the people spread their hands toward heaven and called upon the LORD, there was “none to comfort her” (1:17a). To her enemies, Jerusalem was like a “menstruous,” unclean woman (1:17).

Closing thoughts (1:18-22) – Our Scripture reading concludes with Jeremiah calling upon the LORD in a prayer of intercession and confessing the sins of his people. Declaring the righteousness of the LORD, the prophet confessed on Jerusalem’s behalf: “I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity” (1:18).

Jeremiah asked the LORD to see his distress and sorrow, and have compassion upon Jerusalem’s suffering (1:20a). He confessed the sins of His people (1:20b), and asked the LORD to have compassion on those dying (1:20c).

The prophet’s prayer concluded with an imprecatory petition (1:22) as he called upon the LORD to exercise vengeance upon Babylon. Jeremiah prayed, “Let all their wickedness come before thee; And do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: For my sighs are many, and my heart is faint” (1:22).

* A closing note for those who might want to “dig a little deeper;” notice that Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are each twenty-two verses long.  There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each of the verses in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 begin with a word using the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in other words, like our A-Z in English).  Lamentations 4 is sixty-six verses long and the Hebrew alphabet in that chapter begins couplets that are three verses each.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The End: Babylon is Fallen! (Jeremiah 51; Jeremiah 52)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 51; Jeremiah 52

Today’s scripture reading concludes our study of Jeremiah’s prophecies in the book that bears his name (our next Scripture reading will consider the Book of Lamentations, and that prophet’s grief following the destruction of Jerusalem). I know the study and interpretation of prophecy can be a challenge, but I trust my daily devotionals have made the difficult simple.

What a joy we have to be living at such a time! We have the privilege of not only studying past prophecies, but the advantage of researching history. Modern archeology has only confirmed God’s Word. While there are many who cast doubt on the Word of God, understand the burden of proof rest with them, and not the believer. History is on our side, and we can declare with the apostle Paul, “ye, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

The focus of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry has moved from Judah, to declaring God’s judgment against the Gentile nations beginning with Egypt in chapter 46, and the Philistines in chapter 47. Employing Babylon as the tool of His judgment, other Gentile nations succumbed to the might of Nebuchadnezzar’s army in quick succession. The Moabites (Jeremiah 48), Ammonites and Edomites, and nomadic tribes of Arabia fell to the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 49).

Though Nebuchadnezzar reigned as leader of the world in his day, seventy years after he destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem, Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians under King Cyrus (50:3, 9, 41-42).

Jeremiah 51

Jeremiah’s prophecies against Babylon continued in Jeremiah 51. Leaving no doubt God is Sovereign of the nations, we read: “1Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, And against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, A destroying wind” (51:1). Yet, God had not forgotten His covenant with Israel, and the prophet declared, “5For 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’s prophecies were recorded that the people in captivity would know Babylon was to be destroyed (51:6-9). The children of Israel and Judah were to be ready and looking for the day they would be set at liberty to return to their land (51:10). The LORD would stir the Medes to attack and destroy Babylon (51:11). Though seventy years would pass, the destruction and end of Babylon was prophesied as though it was imminent.

Who could bring that great empire to its knees, and leave its capital in ruins? The LORD of hosts! (51:13) He is Creator, and “hath 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). He is the Sustainer of nature, for “when he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; And he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: He maketh lightnings with rain, And bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures” (51:15).

When God sets Himself against a nation and its leaders, no man can save it. Though He had employed Nebuchadnezzar’s aspirations for wealth and power to punish the nations, God is just and Babylon would not go unpunished (51:24-41). Describing the scale of the Medes and Persians army, Jeremiah declared, “42The sea is come up upon Babylon: She is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof” (51:42). Babylon had spoiled other nations, now she would become spoil to her enemies (51:43-58).

To this day, Babylon has not been rebuilt, and the ruins of that city lie under the sands of the desert as a testimony of God’s judgment (51:59-64).

Jeremiah 52

The narrative in Jeremiah 52 will be familiar. We have already considered the last days of Jerusalem, and the humiliation of king Zedekiah and his family in 2 Kings 24:19-20 and 2 Kings 25.

God’s longsuffering with the sins and rebellion of His people was exhausted, and He determined to deliver Judah to judgment. There was famine in the city (52:6), and as the walls of Jerusalem were breached, the soldiers of Judah fled the city with the king and his family (52:5-7). The soldiers of Babylon pursued Zedekiah, capturing him near Jericho (52:8; 2 Kings 25:4-7). Taken to be judged by Nebuchadnezzar, that king ordered Zedekiah’s sons be slain, and then the king’s eyes were put out (52:9-11; 2 Kings 24:19-20; 25:1-3). Zedekiah was then taken to Babylon in chains where he died a prisoner (52:11).

Jeremiah’s prophecies concluded with Jerusalem destroyed, and the palaces and Temple plundered and burned (52:12-23).  The people of Judah were led away to Babylon where they lived seventy years (52:24-30). As in 2 Kings 25, the book concluded with a brief mention of king Jehoiachin becoming an object of grace for Evilmerodach king of Babylon (52:31-34; 2 Kings 25:27-30).

Closing thoughts – Ancient Babylon’s army seemed invincible, and the walls of that great city impenetrable. Nevertheless, when God declared His judgment against that nation, there was no one who could save it. Bearing the weight of its wickedness, Babylon was overcome in a night and reduced to ruins.

Every nation would do well to remember: when the LORD bears the sword of judgment, no people or nation can stand.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Moab is Fallen, and the King is the LORD of Hosts (Jeremiah 48)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 48

Our study of the prophecies of God’s judgment against the Gentile nations continues with Jeremiah 48. Today’s Scripture is a pronouncement of judgment against Moab, a people descended from Lot and his incestuous relationship with his daughter following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:37).

Babylon’s crushing defeat of the Egyptians (Jeremiah 46), and the Philistines (Jeremiah 47), would be followed by the utter humiliation and destruction of the Moabites (Jeremiah 48).

Jeremiah 48:1-3 recorded the names of several cities of Moab that would be captured by the army of Babylon. Though the people fled their homes, and sought refuge in other cities, there was no escape for them (48:4-6).

What sins of Moab demanded God’s judgment? (48:7-30)

The Moabites were a proud people, who placed their faith “in [their] works” (perhaps the ramparts they had built about their walled cities). They boasted in their “treasures” (wealth), and believed Chemosh, the Moabite god would save them (48:7). Like a rich man reveling in his wealth, Moab had “been at ease” from its founding (48:11). The nation boasted of its “mighty and strong men” (48:14), and was guilty of magnifying itself against the LORD (48:26). Proud, boastful, arrogant, the Moabites were a stubborn nation (48:29).

The Consequences of Moab’s Sins (48:7-30)

Every city of Moab would be destroyed (48:8), and left desolate (48:9). The nation was doomed, for the people were complacent, and the LORD determined their blood would be shed like wine poured out of a cup, and then crushed (48:11b-12). Moab would suffer the destruction of its cities, and her strong men would be killed, for the “King, whose name is the LORD of hosts” had declared it (48:15). The major cities of Moab were to be laid waste (48:18-24), and her power (described as “the horn of Moab”) would be “cut off” (48:25).

The LORD’s Lament Over Moab (48:31-39)

Lest any believe the LORD is heartless and unmoved when a nation is brought low, we are given a description of God’s sorrow in the midst of His judgment. It is the LORD we find howling over Moab (48:31), as he laminated the troubles and sorrows of the people. They had lost everything. The harvest was lost, the wine presses dried up, and the joys and laughter of those who tread out the grapes was silenced (48:32-33).

Even as the Moabite cities were laid waste, the LORD wept over the people. Though His judgment was righteous, and He was putting an end to their idolatry (48:35), His heart was heavy for the people shaved their heads and cut their beards (outward signs of mourning, 48:37). Everywhere, in every home and in every street, there was sorrow (48:36-38). Moab would become an object of scorn (48:39).

Closing thought – We should take from today’s lesson a reminder of how much the LORD despises a proud nation. For Moab’s pride, the LORD declared Babylon would swoop in like an eagle (48:40), and that nation’s soldiers would be terrified as God destroyed everyone that “magnified himself against the LORD” (48:44).

For Moab, all was lost and their sons and daughters would be taken captive (48:46). Yet, in spite of so great a judgment, the final verse revealed the LORD was not finished with Moab. We read this promise to that defeated people, “47Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab In the latter days, saith the Lord. Thus far is the judgment of Moab” (48:47).

The LORD is merciful, even in the midst of His judgment.

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

An Answer for “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me” (Jeremiah 45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 45

Having concluded his last prophetic message to the remnant of Judah that fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 44), Jeremiah’s chronological narrative was interrupted for a brief chapter. Jeremiah 45 recalls an earlier discourse between the prophet and Baruch, who served as Jeremiah’s scribe (Jeremiah 36:8). The historical setting of the conversation between the two men came “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah” (45:1). For context, Jehoiakim was the king who cast the prophecies of Jeremiah into a fire (Jeremiah 36:20-26). There were yet two kings who followed Jehoiakim (his successor Jehoiachin, who reigned for three months, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah).

Penning the revelation concerning the destruction of Jerusalem a second time (Jeremiah 36:27-32), so overwhelmed Baruch he groaned in his spirit. Discouraged, and visibly shaken by God’s imminent judgment, the scribe found himself serving a prophet who was not only unpopular, but also imprisoned.

Jeremiah 45

The LORD Commanded Jeremiah to Confront Baruch (45:1-3)

Jeremiah 45:1-3 – “1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake [pronounced] unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of [according to] Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch; 3 Thou [Baruch] didst say, Woe [cry out] is me now! for the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] hath added[increased] grief [afflictions] to my sorrow [pain; grief; anguish]; I fainted [exhausted; wearied] in my sighing[groaning’s; mourning; distress], and I find no rest [comfort; ease; resting place].”

The scribe’s focus was himself, and the LORD revealed to Jeremiah the spiritual state of his friend (45:1-2). Baruch was discouraged and overwhelmed. Jeremiah 45:3 exposed the spirit of a man whose spiritual zeal had waned because he lost sight of God’s sovereignty. The LORD instructed Jeremiah to be a faithful minister, and to instruct Baruch to not place his hope and affections on temporal, earthly things.

 Jeremiah 45:4 – Thus shalt thou [Jeremiah] say unto him [Baruch], The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I [the LORD] have built [established; construct] will I [the LORD] break down [throw down; pluck down; destroyed], and that which I [the LORD] have planted I [the LORD] will pluck up [destroy; tear away], even this whole land.

Reminded God is sovereign, He had the right and authority to build up or to tear down, and no man should question His will. The LORD had determined that the Temple would be burned, the palaces destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem laid waste. Jeremiah 45:5 may strike you as an unnecessary rebuke of a faithful scribe, until you understand the context.

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

Jeremiah counseled Baruch not to sacrifice God’s calling for promotion or personal aspirations. As a point of background: Baruch’s brother served as a counselor to king Jehoiakim. While his brother enjoyed a prominent role in the king’s palace, Baruch found himself serving a prophet that was despised, persecuted, and imprisoned.

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah’s rebuke is as relevant to us as it was to Baruch. Is it not easy to fall prey to seeking “great things for thyself?” (45:5a) It is easy to focus upon the immediate cost of serving the LORD, but fail to recognize the greater risk, should we disobey Him. The LORD revealed the king, his advisors (including Baruch’s brother), and all the people would fail. Yet, the LORD promised to give Jeremiah’s scribe that which was greater than fame and promotion—LIFE!

The LORD said, “thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (45:5). What a wonderful promise! Baruch, don’t seek things for yourself, and I will give you LIFE!

What are you seeking? Riches, possessions, titles and fame perish! In the LORD, LIFE is forever!

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 © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Jeremiah’s Final Message to the Remnant of Judah (Jeremiah 43; Jeremiah 44)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 43; Jeremiah 44

Jeremiah presented to the remnant of Judah the Word and the will of the LORD (42:7-9), and the people faced the dilemma of two decisions: obey the LORD and remain in the land, with the promise of blessing saying, “I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand” (42:11); or disobey the LORD and “it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt…and there ye shall die” (42:16).

Jeremiah 43

The People Rejected Jeremiah (43:1-7)

When Jeremiah finished speaking (43:1), “proud men” rose up among the people, and said to Jeremiah, “Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there” (43:2). Rejecting the LORD and Jeremiah His prophet, the people went out of the land and down into Egypt till there were none left in Judah (43:4-7).

A Forewarning of Judgment (43:8-13)

In Egypt, at the entryway to “Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes,” there was a great oven in which bricks were fired (43:9). With the men of Judah looking on, Jeremiah took stones and set them inside the brick kiln, and declared Nebuchadnezzar would invade Egypt and spread his royal tent over the stones he had placed in the oven (43:10). Jeremiah warned, the destruction they had witnessed in Jerusalem, would follow them to Egypt (43:11-13).

Jeremiah 44

Prophecy Concerning the Jewish People in Egypt (44:1-14)

The people rejected the warnings of the prophets (44:4), and committed great wickedness by worshipping other gods and offering incense (44:5). They had witnessed the wickedness of their forefathers (44:9), yet, when God judged the nation, they refused to humble themselves and repent (44:10)

Jeremiah warned their sins had provoked God’s wrath, and the LORD would “cut off all Judah” (44:11). He recounted that all who went to Egypt would be punished, that they would be “consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt…by the sword and by the famine: they shall die” (44:11-12).

The People’s Blasphemous Response (44:15-18)

Rather than humble themselves and repent of their sins, the people were proud and stubborn. They declared they would “certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth” (44:17a). Petulant as a brazen rebellious child, the people announced they would “burn incense unto the queen of heaven [the Egyptian goddess of fertility]” (44:17b). They avowed how their idolatrous worship of “the queen of heaven” was rewarded with “plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil” (44:17). Not content with their blasphemy, they declared their troubles had come when they failed to worship “the queen of heaven” (44:18).

Jeremiah’s Answer and Final Message to the Refugees of Judah (44:19-30)

Hearing the rancorous words of the people, Jeremiah admonished them saying, “did not the Lord remember them [their sins], and came it not into his mind?” (44:21). Jeremiah avowed, “because of the abominations which [they had] committed; therefore, is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day” (44:22). The prophet refused to temper his words, and continued, saying, “Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore, this evil is happened unto you, as at this day” (44:23).

Closing thought – Jeremiah concluded his message, and declared prophetically, “The Lord God liveth” (44:26), and “all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them” (44:27). The remnant of Judah had sought refuge in Egypt, but that great nation would fall to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon” (44:30). Mercifully, in His grace, God promised a “small number” of Judah would “escape the sword” and return to Judah (44:28).

Remember: Though He is longsuffering, God is just and all men will one day face His judgment. I invite you to embrace the assurance of His saving grace by placing your faith in His Son Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Treachery, Faithlessness, and Judgment (Jeremiah 41; Jeremiah 42)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 41; Jeremiah 42

We return to our study of Jeremiah’s prophecies following the destruction of Jerusalem. After taking captive all the nobility, leaders, and skilled craftsmen of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar left behind a poor remnant of uneducated vinedressers and farmers (39:8-10). One Jewish man named Gedaliah was appointed by the king of Babylon to serve as governor of Judah (39:14; 40:5). Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, then set Jeremiah at liberty and promised his protection; however, Jeremiah chose to remain with the remnant in Judah (40:4-6).

Johanan, a faithful man, hearing rumors of conspiracy to slay Gedaliah, warned him of the threat (40:13-14). The governor of Judah, however, dismissed the warning, saying, “thou speakest falsely of Ishmael” (40:16b).

Jeremiah 41 – The Treachery of One’s Brethren

Slaying of Gedaliah (41:1-3)

Sometime later, the governor of Judah set forth a banquet, and among his invited guests were Ishmael (identified as “of the seed royal”) and others who served the king (41:1). Ten men accompanied Ishmael who, unbeknownst to Gedaliah, were conspiring to assassinate him (41:2). Rising from the meal, Ishmael betrayed Gedaliah’s trust, and slew him (41:2). Knowing the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar would fall upon them, and perhaps hoping to hide his identity, Ishmael and his murderous company slaughtered all who were in attendance at the banquet, including officials of Babylon (41:3).

The Murderous Rampage of Ishmael (41:4-10)

Two days later and before his treachery was known (41:4), Ishmael met 80 men who journeyed from the north and were going to worship in Jerusalem (41:5). Seeing the ruins of Jerusalem, the men mourned over the sight, and were joined by Ishmael who pretended to weep with them (41:6). With murderous intent, Ishmael invited the men to meet with Gedaliah (41:6). Entering the city, however, Ishmael set upon the men with swords thereby slaughtered 70 men. Ten men appealed to Ishmael’s greed, and were spared for they bribed him with a promise of “treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey,” 41:8).

To conceal his murderous spree, Ishmael cast the bodies of the slain men into a pit (an empty cistern), and set out with a remnant of the people he forced to “go over to the Ammonites” (41:10).

Johanan Pursued Ishmael to Exact Revenge (41:11-18)

Having slain the governor of Judah and the officers of Babylon, Ishmael fled Judah. Johanan, who had warned Gedaliah there was a conspiracy for his life, followed in pursuit of the assassins (41:11-12). Coming upon Ishmael before he crossed the river, the people he kidnapped rejoiced at the sight of Johanan and his company, and ran to them (41:13-14). Ishmael and his men “went to the Ammonites,” and were never heard from again in the Scriptures (41:15).

Johanan, and those he saved, returned to the region of Bethlehem and tarried there as they considered their future. Fearing Nebuchadnezzar would seek revenge for the deaths of Gedaliah and the men of Babylon, the people prepared “to go to enter into Egypt” (41:16-18).

Jeremiah 42 – The Fate of a People

A Spiritual Crossroads (42:1-6)

Johanan, and the people with him, came to the Jeremiah, and appealed to the prophet to pray and advise them regarding God’s will (42:1-3). Acknowledging they were a poor remnant, they promised to do all the LORD revealed to His prophet (42:4). Three times they affirmed their commitment to obey the LORD, “Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God” (42:5-6).

The Will and the Word of the LORD (42:7-18)

After the tenth day, the LORD revealed to Jeremiah His will (42:7). The prophet then summoned the people (42:8), and he declared not only the will of the LORD, but the conditions the people must meet if they were to enjoy His blessings (42:9).

The LORD promised to bless the people, but only if they remained in the land He had promised Israel as an inheritance (42:10). If they would obey Him, the LORD promised to build them into a great people; give cause for Babylon to show compassion and grant them mercy (42:10-12). Yet, if they refused to obey the LORD and departed to Egypt, they would suffer the sword, famine, and death (42:13-16). Disobey the LORD and they would not escape His judgment (42:17-18).

A Foolish, Disobedient People (42:19-22)

Though they vowed to obey the LORD, the people were insincere (42:19). They desired  Jeremiah pray for them, but when they heard the will of the LORD was to remain in the land, they refused and determined to go to Egypt (42:21). Leaving no doubt, the consequences of disobedience, Jeremiah declared, “Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn” (42:22).

Closing thoughts – Because they disobeyed the LORD, the things the people feared followed them to Egypt. There, in that nation that is a symbol of the world in the Scriptures, they suffered the deaths and sorrows of a disobedient people: Sword (war, and violent deaths), Famine (scarcity of food), and Pestilence (disease).

Think about it: Are those not the sorrows that haunt our world? The sword (violence in the streets, and war), rumors of food shortages, and disease: Are we not facing the heavy darkness of God’s judgment?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.