Category Archives: Providence

“I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

The Book of Ezra revealed there were adversaries who disrupted, and for 15 years curtailed the work on the Temple. They had made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3). Those same enemies accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  When Darius became king of Persia, the enemy accused the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6). This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Haggai 2

The LORD countered the voices of the enemies and critics, and sent His prophets (Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra 5:1), who encouraged the people saying, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel (the civic leader), saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (2:4).

Assuring the people the LORD would fill the new Temple with His glory (2:7), Haggai declared, “8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. 9The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (2:8-9).

How did the LORD fill the second Temple with His glory, especially since there is no record of such an event as it was with Solomon’s Temple? (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Though the second Temple lacked the beauty and splendor of the first, unbeknownst to the Jews, the LORD Himself would one day grace its halls with His bodily presence. Jesus, the incarnate, virgin born Son of God would be dedicated there as an infant (Luke 2:25-38). As a boy, he would be found both listening and questioning the rabbis regarding the Word of the LORD in the Temple court (Luke 2:46-52). As a man, Christ brought to the Temple a message of hope and peace for all men (2:9; Luke 4:17-22).

A Question of Holiness and Contamination (2:10-19)

Haggai’s fourth message to God’s people was recorded in the closing verses of this brief book. Stirred by the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were building the Temple with a zeal that would finally see it completed. The sermon was delivered two months after the third message, and the subject was on God’s stipulations for purity and holiness (as opposed to that which is unholy and “unclean,” 2:12-13). The implication of the lesson was, the LORD only accepts and blesses that which is righteous (2:14). When God’s people sin, they sacrifice His blessings, and invite His judgment (2:15-19).

A Challenge to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)

On the same day he delivered the fourth message to the people building the Temple, Haggai had a final revelation for Zerubbabel, the leaders and governor of Judah (2:20-23). Who was Zerubbabel? He was a leader of the tribe of Judah, but more importantly, he was of the linage of David, and named in the lineage of Christ (2:6; Matthew 1:12-13).

The LORD made a far-reaching promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth” (2:21). Babylon had been overthrown, and Persia ruled the world, but the LORD reminded Zerubbabel He alone was sovereign and nations rise and fall within His divine providence (2:22). No king or kingdom is so strong that the LORD will not overthrow and “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen” (2:22).

Closing thought – Haggai closed with a wonderful, Messianic promise (2:23). The LORD revealed Zerubbabel was chosen by “the LORD of hosts,” and one of his lineage would bear the “signet” (typically a ring monarchs used to seal covenants or legal documents in wax). The Messiah would come not only through David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16), but also through Zerubbabel, for he had been chosen! (2:23).

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.

Tears of Joy, Mingled with Tearful Memoires (Ezra 3)

Scripture reading – Ezra 3

As we have seen, the Book of Ezra marked the end of a 70-year period of captivity for God’s people. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. While the LORD sent prophets to call the people to repent, and encourage them with the promise the Jewish people would one day be restored to their land, the majority dismissed the prophets. With the fall of Babylon, many despaired of ever seeing Mount Zion. Then, king Cyrus of Persia decreed, “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (1:2).

Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, responded to the Spirit of God, and along with certain priests and Levites, returned to rebuild the Temple and city of Jerusalem (Ezra 2). Ezra 2 concluded with God’s people arriving in Jerusalem, bearing the offerings of the people who remained in Babylon. With them were the silver and gold vessels Cyrus had released from the treasuries of Babylon.

Ezra 3

Some suggest the difficult journey from Babylon to Jerusalem could have taken as much as four months. Perhaps allowing another three months for the people to rebuild their homes, villages and towns, it was “when the seventh month was come…the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem: (3:1). I suggest three observations for the sake of our study.

A Shared Purpose (3:1, 3-11)

The people “gathered themselves together as one” (3:1). Setting aside their personal interests for the sake of the whole (for they had been building their homes, and planting crops), they “gathered” as one (3:1). They worked together, worshipped together (3:3-5), sacrificed together (3:6-8), and rejoiced together (3:10-11).

A Shared Sacrifice (3:6-7)

Notice the use of the plural pronoun “they” (3:6-7). They came together to “offer burnt offerings unto the LORD” (3:6a). They gave what they could out of what they had, for “they gave money [silver and gold] also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat [from their livestock], and drink [from their vineyards], and oil [from their groves]” (3:7). They recognized the LORD was proprietor of everything they possessed (Haggai 2:8).

A Shared Joy (3:10-11)

I have learned the happiest believers are those who have set aside personal agendas for the opportunity of serving the LORD and others. Because they shared mutual purpose, and a mutual sacrifice, they shared in the celebration. It was natural that they rejoiced as one, when the final stones of the foundation were laid (3:10).

For the celebration, the priests wore their finest robes and sounded the shofar. The Levites, “with cymbals,” lifted their voices and praised the LORD according to the “ordinance of David king of Israel” (3:10). The people, singing and shouting as they praised the LORD, were so loud their voices were heard by their enemies (4:1).

Closing thoughts (3:12-13) – Unfortunately, there were some who did not share in the joy and celebration when the foundation to the Temple was laid. A discordant sound was heard in the midst of the celebration, for certain “ancient men” (elderly priests, Levites, and tribal leaders) remembered seeing the Temple of Solomon before it was destroyed (3:12). They lived in the past, and scoffed at the work that was done.

The LORD confronted the ancients through His prophet Zechariah, and asked, “who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10). The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s sentiment and asked, “Who is left among you that saw this house [the Temple] in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

They were elderly men, and it is doubtful they were numbered among those who physically labored on the foundation of the Temple. They were guilty of a sin I have observed of many through the years:

Personal observations: I have learned the voices of critics usually arise from among those who have sacrificed little.

Remember: A critical, negative spirit eventually marks you, and invariably mars you.

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.

The Judgment of the Nations (Joel 3)

Scripture reading – Joel 3

Today’s Scripture reading marks the end of the Book of Joel (only three chapters long), and an introduction to the prophetic Book of Daniel. This devotional will conclude our study of Joel. A second devotional will follow, and serve as the introduction to the Book of Daniel.

I believe this final section of our study actually began with the closing verses of Joel 2. In its immediate context, the prophecies of Joel were given as the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah recorded how the LORD intervened for the city, and sent His angel who smote 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). King Sennacherib had been forced to retreat to his homeland, where he was later assassinated by his sons (Isaiah 37:33-38).

The Day of the LORD is the prophetic day of God’s judgment, when He will take vengeance on those nations that abused Israel and Judah. With the assurance of His perpetual presence “in the midst,” Israel would know Him as “the LORD your God,” and the day would come when Israel would “never be ashamed” (2:27).

In my opinion, the “last days” began with Christ’s earthly ministry, and the prophecy of the outpouring of His Spirit was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (2:28-30; Acts 2:16-20). Nevertheless, the events recorded in the closing verses of Joel 2 and Joel 3, will not be fulfilled until the close of the Tribulation, and will mark the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.

Joel 3 – The Judgment of the Gentile Nations

A Day of Reckoning for the Nations (3:1-2)

Joel 3:1 was partly fulfilled when the LORD moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to grant the Jews liberty to return to their homeland where they would rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-3). Yet, the final fulfillment of Joel 3 will not come to pass until the close of the Tribulation. The LORD promised He will one day gather His people from the nations (3:1), and exercise judgment on the Gentile nations for their sins against Him and His people (3:2).

Enumeration of the Sins of the Gentiles (3:3-6)

The nations of the earth have forever been at war with God and His people, yet, the sins of some nation have been so egregious, they are specifically named for judgment: Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine (3:4), Egypt, and Sodom (3:19).

The sins committed against God’s people are an offense to God, and He judged the Gentile nations guilty. Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine, Egypt, and Sodom had scattered His chosen people with their persecutions, and parted the land He gave as an inheritance to Israel (3:2c). Those nations had enslaved the Jews (3:3a, 6), trafficked boys and girls as sexual slaves, and placed no more value on their lives than wine (3:3). Spoiling the gold and silver of the land, they had taken away that which was the LORD’s (3:4-6).

Justice and Judgment (3:4, 7-8)

The sins of the Gentile nations will be punished, and they will receive the recompence (be repaid) in kind for the sins they committed against the LORD and His people (3:4). The LORD determined to gather His people and restore them to their land (3:7), and the nations that enslaved them would themselves become slaves (3:8a). Their sons and daughters will be sold “to the Sabeans” (a caravan people of the southern Arabian Peninsula), and trafficked to far away lands (3:8b).

Warfare of the Nations (3:9-16)

Through His prophet, the LORD summoned the nations to gather and prepare for war (3:9). Contrary to the Millennial kingdom and its peace (when the weapons of war will be fashioned into plows, Micah 4:3), the LORD commanded the nations to “beat [their] plowshares into swords, and [their] pruninghooks into spears” (3:10). The nations of the world will assemble for battle (3:11), for the LORD was prepared to judge them “in the valley of Jehoshaphat” (its geographic al location cannot be ascertained, 3:12).

Drawing a picture of Himself as a farmer readied to harvest, the nations of the world were portrayed as ripe for judgment. The LORD’s judgment is likened to a farmer coming with his sickle sharpened, and ready to tread nations underfoot like grapes in a vine press (3:13). A multitude will gather against God’s people (3:14), but it is the LORD whose judgment will darken the sun, moon, and stars (3:15). Suddenly, He will “roar out of Zion, And utter his voice from Jerusalem; And the heavens and the earth shall shake: But the Lord will be the hope of his people, And the strength of the children of Israel” (3:16).

The Promise of the LORD’s Perpetual Presence (3:17-21)

Through the LORD’s judgment of the nations, the children of Israel and Judah will come to know Him as “the LORD [their] God” who dwells in Zion (3:17a). The city of Jerusalem would be holy, and no “strangers” (unbelievers) will “pass through her any more” (3:17b). The land will be fertile, the waters will flow, and the River of Life will flow from “the house of the LORD” (3:18). The LORD will avenge the wickedness of Egypt and Edom, for they were guilty of violence and shedding the “innocent blood” of Judah (3:19).

Closing thoughts (3:20-21) – Joel’s prophecies end with the LORD promising Judah the nation will “dwell forever” in the land, “and Jerusalem from generation to generation” (3:20). He will purge the people of their sins, and will forever dwell among them “in Zion” (3:21). Our study of Joel began with a judgment of locusts (Assyria’s army) descending upon Judah and Jerusalem (1:4), and ends with the triumph of God’s people restored to their land and the LORD reigning forever in Jerusalem (3:20-21).

The day of judgment is coming, not only for the nations, but for all men and women. Are you prepared for God’s day of judgment? When the books are opened, and “every man [and woman] will be judged “according to their works?” (Revelation 20:13), will your name be “found written in the book of life?” (Revelation 20:15)

Revelation 20:1515And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

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.

Two Adulteress, One Pot of Boiling Scum, and the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (Ezekiel 23; Ezekiel 24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23; Ezekiel 24

Our Scripture reading, consisting of two chapters (Ezekiel 23 and 24), are introduced with Ezekiel recounting, 1The word of the Lord came…unto me, saying, Son of man” (23:1; 24:1-2). “Son of man” reminded Ezekiel, though he was a priest by lineage, and a prophet by calling, he was nevertheless a man with the weaknesses and failings of men. “Son of Man” was also a frequent title Christ used of Himself (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 11:19; Mark 2:28; Luke 19:10), reminding His followers He was the “Son of God” by nature (John 1:14; 3:16; Galatians 4:4-5), and the “Son of Man” by birth (being conceived by the virgin Mary).

Ezekiel 23

Two Sisters Who Became Adulterers (23:1-21)

The LORD came to Ezekiel with a parable of two sisters, and a mother (23:2). The mother was symbolic of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (23:2), and the daughters represented the divided kingdoms. Samaria, identified as the elder sister “Aholah,” symbolized the ten northern tribes known as Israel (23:4). The city of Jerusalem was identified as “Aholibah,” and symbolized Judah, the southern kingdom (23:4)

The Sins and Wickedness of Samaria (23:4-10)

Samaria and Jerusalem were guilty of spiritual adultery, for they had turned from the LORD to the gods of other nations. Forsaking her covenant with the LORD, Samaria turned to Assyria, and embraced that nation’s idols with their wicked, immoral practices (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). A century had passed since the LORD gave Samaria over to Assyria, and that northern Israel was stripped of its wealth, and her sons and daughters taken into captivity (23:9-10)

The Sins and Wickedness of Jerusalem (23:11-21)

Jerusalem followed in the sins of Samaria, portrayed in Ezekiel 23 as that nation’s sister (23:11). Privileged to have the Temple representing the presence of the LORD in her midst, the sins and wickedness of Jerusalem exceeded those of Samaria. Ezekiel was to declare, Jerusalem “was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms” (23:11).

Like Samaria, Jerusalem turned from the LORD, sought the favor of Assyria (2 Kings 16:5-18; Isaiah 7:1-25), and defiled herself with the idols of that heathen nation (23:13). When Assyria fell to Babylon, Jerusalem turned to the idols of that nation, and lusted for the great men of the Chaldeans (23:14-16). Rejecting the LORD, the kings of Jerusalem had flirted with Babylon like an adulterous woman (23:15-16). Rather than favor, Babylon abused Jerusalem, shamed and humiliated the people (23:17-18). Failing to turn to the LORD, the king of Jerusalem turned to Egypt for help and failed (23:19-21; 2 Kings 23:26-24:2).

God Determined to Judge Jerusalem and Judah (23:22-35)

As with Samaria, so it was with Jerusalem, for the LORD determined that city would be judged for her wickedness and spiritual idolatry. Ezekiel prophesied the LORD would bring a great army against Jerusalem (23:22-23), and fulfill the judgment He had determined against the city (23:24). The soldiers of Babylon would show no mercy to the people, and would take their children captive (23:25-29). As the cup of God’s wrath would be poured out, Jerusalem would fall (23:30-35).

Consequences of Sin, and the Righteous End of God’s Judgment (23:36-49)

Lest any question God’s justice, Ezekiel declared the sins of Jerusalem (23:36-42), and God’s judgment (23:43-47). Why did the LORD bring upon His people all of this sorrow and suffering? It was to the end they might feel the weight of their sins, repent and know the God of Israel is “the Lord God” (23:48-49).

Ezekiel 24 – A Boiling Caldron

Briefly, Ezekiel 24 records the parable of a boiling pot, that represented God’s final judgment on Jerusalem. It was on the day the LORD came to Ezekiel with the parable (24:1), that Nebuchadnezzar began his final siege of Jerusalem (24:2). The parable was addressed to the rebels of Judah (24:3), and the boiling pot represented Jerusalem (“the blood city, 24:6a). The fire in the parable identified the wrath of God’s judgment, and the scum in the pot symbolized the sin and wickedness of Jerusalem (24:6-11). In their rebellion, the people of Jerusalem became a filthy, lewd people whose sins stipulated God’s judgment (24:12-13). Indeed, until His justice was satisfied, God’s judgment would not cease (23:14).

The Sign from the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (24:15-27)

Our devotion concludes, not with a parable, but a sign. The LORD revealed to Ezekiel: “Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire [Ezekiel’s wife] of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down” (24:15-16). Ezekiel’s refusal to mourn the death of his wife in public, was to serve as a sign for the people to refrain from mourning the news of Jerusalem’s fall (24:17-23).

Closing thoughts (24:24-27) – Why were the people to abstain from mourning in public, after they received the news of Jerusalem’s fall?

They were not to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the city, but rather the sins and wickedness of the people that had necessitated its ruin it (24:24-25). To that end, it was the LORD’s desire that His people would, in the midst of their private sorrows, come to hear and know Him as LORD (24:27).

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.

Warning: No Nation is Too Big to Fail! (Jeremiah 49; Jeremiah 50)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 49; Jeremiah 50

Today’s Scripture reading continues the record of God’s vengeance against the Gentile nations that were adversaries of Israel and Judah. While there are many lessons we might take from God’s judgment of the nations, I suggest the overriding one is this:

God is Sovereign Over all men, and LORD of the nations of the world.

Jeremiah 49 – The Vengeance of the LORD

Like the other nations against whom Jeremiah brought a warning judgment (Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab, Jeremiah 46-48), the Ammonites (descendants of Lot’s incest with his daughters, Genesis 19:32-38), were also warned they would be judged and destroyed by Babylon’s army.

Through His prophet, the LORD challenged the Ammonites settlement in Israel, asking, “Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? Why then doth their king inherit Gad, And his people dwell in his cities?” (49:1) With Israel exiled from her lands, the Ammonites had settled onto land that was once home to the Tribe of Gad (49:1). Probably assuming Israel would be assimilated into Assyrian society and become nothing more than a footnote in history, the Ammonites took possession of the land that was Israel’s inheritance from the LORD.

Because they had been Israel’s adversaries, the LORD warned the Ammonites they would be judged because of their greed and covetousness (49:4-5). Yet, in a wonderful evidence of God’s grace, Jeremiah prophesied “the children of Ammon” would be numbered among believers when Christ’s comes to reign on the earth (49:6).

Other Gentile nations to be judged for their sins were the Edomites (49:7-22), descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, whose destruction was compared to that of “Sodom and Gomorrah” (49:13-18). Nebuchadnezzar was described as coming upon Edom like a roaring lion (49:19), and the army of Babylon sweeping over the land like an eagle (49:22).  Syria, represented by its capital Damascus, would also be destroyed in God’s judgment (49:23-27).

The judgment of three nomadic Arabian tribes was foretold: Kedar (49:28-29), Hazor (49:30-33) and Elam (49:34-37). Once again, reminding us of God’s grace, Jeremiah 49:38-39 foretold at the end of time (“in the latter days”), some of Elam will be part of Christ’s kingdom.

Jeremiah 50 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Babylon

Jeremiah 50 is an incredible passage foretelling the destruction of Babylon. What a striking prophecy this must have been to Jeremiah, for Babylon was the lone super power of his day, and would have seemed invincible to the prophet.

The LORD declared the idols of Babylon, Bel and Merodach, would be “broken in pieces” rendering no help for that city (50:2). Though Nebuchadnezzar was defeating all nations at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy, nevertheless, the LORD foretold a coalition of nations “out of the north” (50:3, 9, 41-42) would come against the great city bringing desolation. We know from the Scriptures and history that collation of nations would be the Medes and Persians under the leadership of King Cyrus. In one night, devastation struck the city to such a degree it rendered the great Babylon unfit for man and beast (50:3).

Jeremiah prophesied how the “children of Israel” would be liberated by the “nations out of the north,” and the people would return to their land (50:4-7).“Going and weeping: they shall go, And seek the Lord their God. 5They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord In a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten (50:4-5).

God warned the captives of Babylon to flee the city for her destruction was sealed (50:9-16). That wicked nation had scattered God’s people like sheep (50:17), and the LORD promised vengeance, saying, “Babylon [would]become a desolation among the nations” (50:23). No nation, great or small, can stand against the “Lord God of hosts” when He has declared, “I am against thee” (50:31). Babylon had defied God and now He would take vengeance on that nation (50:24-32). The fall of Babylon was prophesied to be so great, “the earth is moved” by her fall (50:46).

Closing thought – Though Israel and Judah were scattered among the nations, God would not forget His people. He warned the nations, Israel’s “Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name” (50:34).

I have heard 21st century leaders employ the adage, “Too Big to Fail!” Oh, foolish men, no nation or people is so great they can stand when God has set Himself against them!

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.

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.

Gone, But Not Forgotten (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of two historical books of the Old Testament: 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. 2 Kings was penned as a contemporary history of Israel and Judah, while 2 Chronicles is believed to have been written after the Babylonian captivity. In prior devotions I have observed that 1 Kings and 2 Kings appear to have been written from man’s perspective, while 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, are arguably written from God’s perspective.

2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36 record the siege of Jerusalem and the fall of Judah as a nation. 2 Kings began with Elijah prophesying in Israel (2 Kings 1:4-16), and concludes with the prophet Jeremiah mourning the destruction of the Temple, and the people being led away to Babylon.

2 Kings 25 – The Final Siege of Jerusalem

The siege of Jerusalem lasted nearly two years (25:1-2), until there was no bread in the city and the people resorted to cannibalism (Jeremiah 38:2-9; 52:6; Lamentations 4:3-10; Ezekiel 5:10).

King Zedekiah, realizing all was lost, fled the city with his guards; however, he made it only as far as Jericho before he was captured (25:4-6). The king of Judah was brought before Nebuchadnezzar to be judged. Found guilty of rebellion, Zedekiah witnessed the dreadful event of seeing his sons’ execution after which he suffered the agony of having his eyes put out. Nebuchadnezzar had the king bound in chains and carried to Babylon (25:7).

The prophecies of God’s judgment against Jerusalem were fulfilled when Nebuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s guard, “burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem” (25:9), and broke down the walls of the city (25:10). All the vessels of the Temple were taken as spoils of war (25:13-17), and the leaders of any in Judah who might have threatened an uprising were slain (25:11, 18-21). Left behind were the poorest of the people who would serve Babylon as “vinedressers and husbandmen” of the land (25:12).

In the aftermath of Jerusalem’s overthrow, and the exile of all the leaders of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar chose a man named Gedaliah to govern Judah as his proxy (25:22). As we noted in our study of Jeremiah 40-41, a man named Ishmael who was a distant relative of king David, led an uprising against Gedaliah and he was slain (25:23-25). Fearing the wrath of the Chaldees (Babylon, 25:26), the people fled Judah “and came to Egypt (25:26).

Though all seemed lost, a glimmer of hope emerged in the final verses of 2 Kings 25, for Jehoiachin king of Judah, found favor with Evilmerodach king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor), who elevated the former king of Judah “above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon” (25:28). The king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a change of clothes, fed him, and provided him an allowance, “a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life” (25:29-30).

2 Chronicles 36

2 Chronicles 36 gave a brief historical record of a succession of four evil kings who reigned in Judah: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36). Those kings not only failed Judah, but the religious leaders of the nation were guilty as well of leading the people into gross wickedness and idolatry.

We read, “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem” (36:14). God sent prophets who faithfully heralded a warning of His judgment, but the people “mocked the messengers of God, and despised [their] words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (36:16).

God did not forget the wickedness of the leaders who scorned His Word, and brought Nebuchadnezzar “who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary [Temple], and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he [the LORD] gave them all into his [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand” (36:17).

A Message of Hope (36:21-23)

Jeremiah prophesied when 70 years of captivity were fulfilled, God’s people would return to their land (36:21). Seventy years after Jerusalem was defeated and the Temple was destroyed, we read:

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.”

Israel and Judah were gone, but not forgotten! All would be fulfilled in God’s time, for His Word and His promises are sure!

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.

Warning: God Gives a Nation the Leaders It Deserves (2 Kings 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 24

Our Scripture reading returns to the book of 2 Kings where our study picks up the narrative of events that are the background of God’s judgment against Jerusalem.

Remember how Jehoiakim, the third to the last king of Judah, burned Jeremiah’s scroll warning the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent? (Jeremiah 36:20-24) The prophet warned the king his evil deeds would bring God’s judgment upon Judah (Jeremiah 36:29-31). Yet, the king continued in his sin, “and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37).

2 Kings 24

Returning to 2 Kings 24, we find Jehoiakim king in name only, for he was now a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, and subject to the whims and demands of the king of Babylon. Jehoiakim, as foolish as he was evil, set his heart against the king of Babylon and “rebelled against him” (24:1). Nebuchadnezzar responded to Jehoiakim’s rebellion, and sent mercenary raiders against Judah, to destroy the nation as the LORD “spake by His servants the prophets” (24:2). Daniel records the same in his book where we read, “1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (Daniel 1:1).

The LORD had not forgotten the sins of Manasseh and his lineage, and how Judah had shed “innocent blood,” sacrificing their sons and daughters (24:3-4). (The slaughter of the innocent ones, and the fact “the LORD would not pardon” that sin should give 21st century nations pause. Surely abortion of the unborn in our day is no less egregious in the eyes of God, and as demanding of His judgment.)

Jehoiakim died (24:5), and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. Then, Nebuchadnezzar “came up against Jerusalem” (24:10), and the king of Judah surrendered and was taken to Babylon after reigning for three months (24:8-12). Fulfilling all the LORD had foretold, Nebuchadnezzar “carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord” (24:13).

Determined to remove any threat of another uprising, Nebuchadnezzar “carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land” (24:14). Numbered among the captives was the royal household (24:15), the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1), and “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (Daniel 1:6). In addition to the poor who were able to till the land and harvest crops (24:14; Jeremiah 40:10), there were some who escaped Jerusalem and fled to neighboring nations (Jeremiah 40:8).

Zedekiah, the Last King of Judah (24:17-20)

Jehoiakim, was succeeded by his uncle, “Mattaniah his father’s brother,” whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed and changed his name to Zedekiah (24:17). He was a mere  21 years old when he became king, and “reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (24:18).

Closing thoughts – Young and foolish, Zedekiah was left with an impoverished nation that lacked leadership, and the skills for government and war. Zedekiah was the end of a long line of foolish, wicked kings. Like the kings before him, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (24:19), and “rebelled against the king of Babylon” (24:20). To rebel against Nebuchadnezzar was the height of folly; however, we will see in our next devotional that was the path chosen by Zedekiah (2 Kings 25).

Remembering history is “His Story,” I am convinced God gives a nation the leaders it deserves. Surely that is as true in our day, as it was in Judah’s day.

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.

Pity the Nation Governed By the Wicked (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75; Psalm 79

Continuing our chronological study of the Bible, today’s Scripture reading begins a brief departure from our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah. For the next five days, we will consider a compilation of writings that were contemporary to the fall of Jerusalem.

Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 are attributed to Asaph, a Levite musician who was a contemporary of King David. As noted in earlier devotions, there were several psalms credited to Asaph; however, there is some debate regarding whether or not Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 were penned by Asaph, or authored by a member of his household after the fall of Jerusalem. There is much about the content of both psalms that lend themselves to being a record of the devastation left in the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s army. This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Psalm 75 challenges believers to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth. Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving and praise. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God, The Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, and “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved” (75:3). God’s judgment, however, is righteous, and He assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, and the foundations of the world.

All in Authority are Subject to God. (75:4-8)

Lest some leaders feel they are above the law and judgment of God, the LORD admonished: “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How different our world would be if those who wield authority remembered they were nothing without God! Civil governments are ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the ruler of a nation, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

Though the Foundations of Nations are Shaken, May the Saints Sing Praises to God (75:9-10)

The psalmist painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers who fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Yet, the believer’s faith rests not in man, but in the LORD. We should boldly declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob [Israel]” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – We are living in uncertain times when the nations of the world are shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority. Nevertheless, God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath. While fools sing their own praises and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

The wise man remembers, “God is the judge: He putteth down [humbles; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts]another” (75:7).

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.

Preach God’s Word at Your Peril (Jeremiah 37)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 37

God’s Word Rejected a Second Time (37:1-3)

Our timeline moves from the reign of Jehoiakim (the third to the last king of Judah, 36:1), to Zedekiah (37:1). Zedekiah succeeded Jeconiah as king, after that king (known as Coniah or Jehoiachin) reigned for three months, until he was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar (37:1).

Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, continued the obstinance of Jehoiakim, by rejecting “the words of the Lord, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah” (37:2). With the army of Babylon laying siege to the city, the king appealed to Jeremiah requesting through his servants, “Pray now unto the Lord our God for us” (37:3).

Warning: Don’t Put Your Confidence in Egypt (37:4-10)

Fearless and faithful to his calling, Jeremiah “came in and went out among the people: they had not put him into prison” (37:4). It was at that time the news, “Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt” (37:5) reached Jerusalem. The Chaldean army withdrew from their siege against Jerusalem (37:5), and some believed the city had been spared from destruction.

Jeremiah warned the king to not put his faith in Pharaoh’s army, for his soldiers would return to Egypt (37:7). The prophet warned, don’t be deceived, for Babylon would come again and burn the city as the LORD had foretold (37:8-10).

Arrested and Imprisoned (37:11-21)

As he departed Jerusalem, Jeremiah was accused of treason, persecuted, then imprisoned in a dungeon (37:11-16). He suffered in the dungeon for many days, until Zedekiah sought the prophet counsel in secret, and asked if he had “any word from the LORD?” (37:17).

The prophet answered the king, contending to know the crime he had committed that warranted his imprisonment (37:18). He wisely questioned the king, asking where were the prophets who had prophesied, “The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?” (37:19)

Closing thought – Jeremiah foretold the king would not die in the siege on Jerusalem, but would be removed to Babylon where he would live out his days (37:17). He then petitioned the king, asking to be removed from the dungeon, lest he die there (37:20). Zedekiah honored the prophet’s request, and commanded he be provided a daily ration of bread (37:21).

I close today’s devotional, being reminded there are times it is the will of God for His choicest servants to suffer. Jeremiah was hated, rejected, suffered persecution and imprisonment, because he was a faithful servant and a preacher of God’s Word. The king and the nation despised the Word of God, and hated His servant. Let all who love, and serve the LORD remember: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

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.