Category Archives: Providence

A Sorry State: Knowing Neither Right nor Wrong (Amos 2-3)

Scripture reading – Amos 2; Amos 3

Amos had prophesied that six Gentile nations would be judged for their transgressions against God, His people (Israel and Judah), and humanity in general (Amos 1): Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities (1:6-8), Tyre (who were Phoenician, 1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3). The judgment of those six nations was certain, and would serve as a warning to Judah and Israel, that God is just and their transgressions would not go unpunished (2:4-16).

The Case Against Judah and Israel (2:4-11)

Amos declared the sins and transgressions of Judah (2:4-5) and Israel (2:6-16) announcing God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the people how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9), led them through the wilderness for forty years, and given them the land of the Amorites for their possession (2:9-10). In His longsuffering and compassion, the LORD had sent prophets to preach His Word and teach His Law and Commandments (2:11).

God’s Response to Israel’s Rebellion (2:12-16)

How had the people responded?

They had tempted the Nazarites (who were models of dedication and service) to violate their sanctification and break their vows (Numbers 6:1-20). When the prophets preached the Word of the LORD, they “commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not” (2:12).

God Declared His Judgment of the People (2:13-16)

The Lord warned, He would crush Israel with the weight of a cart “full of sheaves” (of wheat, 2:13). Israel’s military would be soundly defeated (2:14-16). The soldiers would take flight from the battle, but neither be swift, strong, or able to retreat (2:14). Archers would fail to stand in their places, horsemen could not flee, and the nation’s mightiest warriors would drop their weapons and flee with nothing (“shall flee away naked in that day,” 2:16).

Amos 3 – A Description of Israel’s Judgment for Its Transgressions

The Basis of God’s Judgment Against the “Children of Israel” (3:1-2)

Amos 3:1 declared God’s judgment for their transgressions would not only be against Israel (the ten tribes in the north), but “against the whole family” (thus including Judah, the southern kingdom). The prophet reminded all who were descendants of the Hebrews that came out of Egypt, that they were a chosen, beloved people (Genesis 12:3; 28:14). Yet, the LORD declared, “I will punish you for all your iniquities (3:2).

A Series of Rhetorical Questions that Illustrated “Cause and Effect” (3:3-6)

In a series of questions, Amos declared a principle we will call, “cause and effect.” The first questions made the implication that the answer to each would be, “No.”  The first, “3Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (3:3). Of course, the answer was, “No.” To walk together, there must be an agreement by both parties on the plan (method) and destination.

Two questions regarded the lion on the hunt, and asked, “4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?” (3:4). Again, the answer is, “No.” A lion on the hunt prowls in stealth and is cautious, not alerting its prey; and a young lion would not roar its approval if it has nothing to consume.

The capture of a bird in a trap is the subject of two more questions, that asked: “5Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin [trigger] is for him? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?” (3:5) Again, the presumed answer is, “No.” Without a trigger to snap a trap shut upon its prey, no bird will be entrapped. Of course, removing a snare with no prey makes no sense either.

Two other questions demand “No” for an answer: “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?” (3:6a) In ancient times, the sound of a trumpet would warn the city of an approaching enemy (3:6a), and give reason for fear and for mounting a defense.

The last question was noteworthy, for it illustrated the sovereignty and providence of God: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (3:6b) Whether troubles befall a city, state, or a nation, we are assured it is the doing of the LORD, and for His eternal purpose.

Witnesses to God Punishing His People (3:9-10)

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations to witness His judgment of Israel: Ashdod, a city representing the Philistines, and Egypt (3:9). Those heathen nations were summoned to “the mountains of Samaria” (the capital city of north Israel), and observe God’s judgment upon His people for their sins.

The wealthy and powerful of Israel were guilty of oppressing the weak and the poor, and filling their palaces with plunder and spoil. Because they had rejected God’s Law and Commandments, the people had become spiritually blind, and “know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

God’s Judgment Pronounced: Israel Would Be Devoured by An Enemy (3:11-15)

History reveals Assyria as the enemy that destroyed the northern kingdom. The Assyrians would come through the land, and destroy Israel’s defenses (3:11). The people would be ravaged like a sheep in the mouth of a lion (3:12), and all Israel would be judged (3:13). The altars to the gods erected by Jeroboam would be abolished (3:14), and the great palaces and houses of the wealthy would be utterly destroyed (3:15).

Closing thoughts – When a people and nation make light of God’s Truth, and reject His Commandments, their hearts will become so desensitized to wickedness that they lack moral judgment, and “know not to do right” (3:10).  Sadly, the world around us gives ample evidence of what will become of a society that rejects God and His Laws.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Heavenly Vision (Isaiah 6)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2022 © Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

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

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

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

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

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

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

Isaiah: Prophet of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing thoughts:

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

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

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

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

How Will You Be Remembered? (2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12

If today’s Scripture reading sounds familiar, it is because we have reviewed a parallel record in our study of 2 Chronicles 22. Rather than submit an exhaustive study of the same, we will review the personalities and events found in 2 Kings 11 and 12.

2 Kings 11 – Four Historical Events

Athaliah’s Ascension to the Throne of Judah (11:1-3)

After Jehu, the newly crowned king of Israel, slew Ahaziah, the son of Athaliah, she ascended as the queen of Judah. She was the daughter of Israel’s wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel (2 Kings 8:18, 26), and the wife of Joram (also known as Jehoram) who had been king of Judah (2 Chronicles 21).

Receiving news of her son’s death, Athaliah moved quickly to consolidate her rule in Judah, and ordered the deaths of any who could potentially lay claim to the throne, including her own grandchildren. Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah escaped death when his aunt “Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram” (11:2), fled the palace and sought refuge for herself and the young prince in the Temple (11:3).

The Coronation of Joash, King of Judah (11:4-12)

Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah, and the heir to Judah’s throne, was concealed in the Temple for six years, and was under the tutelage and protection of Jehoiada the high priest (11:4). When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada established a covenant with key leaders of the priesthood and the military, and anointed the young prince as king of Judah.

The Assassination of Queen Athaliah (11:13-16)

Six years pass, and Athaliah, hearing the shouts, “God save the king!” rushed to the Temple. There she found her grandson, Joash, wearing the crown of the king, and standing at the pillar that was apparently reserved for the king (11:13-14). “Treason, Treason!” Athaliah shouted, and Jehoiada the high priest commanded she be removed from the Temple, and slain (11:15-16).

A Sacred Covenant (11:14-21)

With the wicked rule of Athaliah ended, “Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people…” (11:17). The temple of Baal and his images were destroyed, and the priest of Baal was killed (11:18). Jehoiada led Joash to the palace, and the young king “sat on the throne of the kings” of Judah, and the nation rejoiced, and Jerusalem enjoyed a season of quiet and peace (11:20).

Closing thoughts – Never underestimate the influence of leadership; whether it be the leaders of a nation, a state, a city, a church, or a school. The observation of Solomon in his proverb still holds true: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

2 Kings 12 – The Reign, and the Shame of Joash (i.e., Jehoash)

As it is with politics throughout history, Judah’s peace and prosperity was not perpetual. Joash (also spelled Jehoash), reigned forty years over Judah, and he honored the LORD, and “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (12:2). Notice the prior phrase, and how the young king remained under the tutelage of the high priest most of his reign in Jerusalem.

Jehoash Ordered the Restoration of the Temple (12:4-16).

Giving us some insight into the years before his reign, the Temple of the LORD had been neglected, and there was a great need for repairs (12:4-5). The king ordered money to be collected and repairs to begin (12:5). Yet, in the twenty-third year of his reign, “the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house” (12:6).

Jehoash challenged the priests, and questioned why they had failed to repair the Temple (12:7). The implication seemed that there had been some dishonesty and mishandling of monies given. The king commanded the priests to “receive no more money of the people” (12:7-8), except that which would be given to those who labored in repairing the Temple (12:9-15).

Hazael, King of Syria, Began to Make War (12:17-21)

Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy (2 Kings 8:10-12), the king of Syria marched through Israel, and laid siege to Jerusalem (12:17). Severely wounded in battle (2 Chronicles 24:25), rather than seek the LORD for deliverance, Jehoash paid a tribute and gave Hazael king of Syria, the treasures of the Temple and his own royal treasures (12:19).

While the king of Syria “went away from Jerusalem,” the king of Judah was weakened, and soon after, Jehoash was assassinated by his own servants (12:20). In his place, Amaziah his son became king (12:21).

Closing thoughtsWhat people remember about us is not how we begin our journey, but how we finish. Joash’s reign as king of Judah began gloriously as a boy; however, we close this chapter on his life, and remember him as a king who compromised with Syria, gave away the treasuries of the Temple, and was slain by his own servants (12:17-21).

Have you thought about how you will be remembered, not only by man, but most importantly by the LORD? All believers should aspire to Paul’s summary of his life and ministry when he wrote: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Dying Nation (2 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 10

Background of today’s Scripture reading: The LORD had commanded Jehu to annihilate the lineage of Ahab for his role in murdering the prophets of the LORD. Jehu, having been anointed king of Israel (9:1-3), had taken up his bow, and shot king Joram through the heart as he had fled in his chariot (9:23-24). With Joram dead, Jehu turned and went to the palace in Jezreel. Jezebel spied him from a window, and being a woman full of witchcraft and whoredoms, called to him with insolence. Jehu then ordered Jezebel cast out a window of a palace window falling to her death (9:32-33). As foretold, the dogs ate her flesh, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 21:23).

2 Kings 10

Jehu Secured Israel’s Throne (10:1-14)

To secure the throne of Israel, Jehu ordered the execution of all of Ahab’s lineage (10:1-7). We read, “Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab’s children” (10:1). Numbered among the seventy were no doubt grandsons of Ahab.

Making a pretense to encourage the crowning of Ahab’s heir (10:3-4), Jehu in fact had plotted to execute any who might lay claim to the throne of Israel. The leaders of Samaria realized the ruse, and refused to be a party to crowning of a king after Jehu had made himself king of Israel. Jehu then ordered the beheadings of Ahab’s lineage (10:6), and the men “took the king’s sons…and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel” (10:7). As a warning to any who might challenge his reign, Jehu ordered the heads of Ahab’s sons be stacked “in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning” (10:8). Jehu lied to the people (10:10), and suggested he had nothing to do with the beheadings, but asserted, “the LORD hath done that which he spake by His servant Elijah” (10:10). Jehu then continued his eradication of any who might have been loyal to Ahab’s household (10:11). He also ordered the deaths of 42 men who came seeking Ahaziah, and claimed kinship to the deceased king of Judah whom Jehu had slain (9:27; 10:12-14).

The Elimination of All Who Worshipped and Served Baal (10:18-27).

Ahab and Jezebel had introduced the worship of Baal, and would have had many devoted followers among them. Jehu, therefore, determined to kill all who worshipped and sacrificed to Baal. He deceived the followers of Baal, and proposed he would be more devoted to Baal than Ahab and Jezebel (10:18-19). With 80 armed men stationed outside the pagan temple, Jehu gathered the worshippers of Baal (10:20-23), and at the time appointed, ordered all slain, and the images of Baal destroyed (10:24-28).

Jehu’s Failure (10:28-30)

Removing the worship of Baal from Israel was a great thing in the eyes of the LORD. God acknowledged Jehu had obeyed his command and exterminated the household of Ahab. For his obedience, Jehu was promised his lineage would succeed him on the throne of Israel for four generations (10:30; his son Jehoahaz, grandson Joash, great grandson Jeroboam, and great-great grandson Zechariah would reign as kings in Israel). Jehu, however, had failed to purge the nation of the golden calves Jeroboam had set up in Bethel and Dan (10:29).

The Decline of Israel (10:31-36)

Though Jehu reigned as king for 28 years, his failure to “walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart” (10:31), marked the beginning of the end for that nation. Hazael king of Syria, began to invade the borders of Israel (10:32), and its lands and territories were diminished (10:33). Jehu died, and was buried in Samaria, and true to God’s promise, his son Jehoahaz “reigned in his stead” (10:35).

Closing thoughts – We have witnessed the rise and fall of kings in Israel. Jehu’s bloody reign, and his failure to purge Israel of all idolatry, marked the beginning of the final phase of that nation’s precipitous, and final decline. Without the LORD’S blessing and protection, Israel will fall to her enemies, and the northern ten tribes will be taken by Assyria.

Will the same not be true of nations in our day?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Healing of Naaman the Leper (2 Kings 5)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5

The healing, and conversion of Naaman, the “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1), is one of the most beloved stories of the Old Testament.

Who was Naaman? (5:1-7)

The opening verses of 2 Kings 5 introduce us to a man who served as one of the trusted servants of the king of Syria. He was described as “a great man with his master, and honourable” (5:1a). He was a great warrior, and a national hero of Syria (5:2). Yet, he was afflicted by leprosy, a frightening, infectious disease that was the dread of men in ancient times (5:1).

Providentially, in Naaman’s home was a young Hebrew girl that served his wife as a household slave (5:2). Though she was numbered among some taken as the spoils of war, her heart was tender toward her mistress and master. We are not told how, but the young servant had heard there was a prophet in Samaria, and she expressed to her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy” (5:3).

Receiving the words of the young girl, and her faith that the prophet of the LORD might heal him (5:4), the warrior went to the king of Syria who said, “Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment” (5:5).

With gifts in hand, Naaman traveled to Israel with an entourage, for he was the commander of the Syrian army. He came to the king of Israel with a letter from the king of Syria, “saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy” (5:6). Overcome with fear, for the demand that Naaman be healed of leprosy seemed an impossible request, and thus a provocation for conflict between Israel and Syria (5:7).

Elisha’s Intervention and Demand (5:8-13)

News of Naaman’s demand reached Elisha, and the prophet sent a messenger who asked, “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Naaman and his servants journeyed to the Elisha’s home, but the great warrior of Syria was not greeted by the prophet, but by a servant who delivered the message, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10).

Naaman was furious, not only by the slight he had suffered, but the demand that was humiliating to the proud warrior (5:11). He had supposed Elisha should have received him, and would have called on “the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place [where the leprosy was present], and restore his skin (5:11). The thought of washing his skin in the waters of the Jordan River was an offense, and he “turned and went away in a rage” (5:12). As he departed, a brave servant approached Naaman, and reasoned with him, saying, “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (5:13)

Naaman’s Humility, Obedience, and Faith (5:14-19)

The words of that servant quieted Naaman’s anger, and he did as Elisha’s servant had bid him (5:14). Coming out of the waters, his flesh was miraculously made whole as the youthful skin of a child. Naaman returned to Elisha and said to the prophet, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant” (5:15).

What a wonderful confession, and statement of faith! He believed the God of Israel was the One and True God! In gratitude, he urged Elisha to accept the gold, and silver, and garments he had brought as gifts. Elisha, however, refused the gifts, for he would not be named among those prophets who enrich themselves by accepting gifts for that which God alone should be praised (5:16).

Naaman, having acknowledged the God whom Elisha served was “God in all the earth,” made one request: That he might fulfill his duty to the king of Syria, and accompany him when he went to the temple of Rimmon (the Syrian equivalent of Baal, 5:18). Elisha gave his blessing, and Naaman departed (5:19).

The Sin and Covetous Spirit of Gehazi, Servant to Elisha (5:20-27)

The joy and triumph of Naaman’s healing, was soon overshadowed by Gehazi, a greedy, covetous man (5:20). Though the prophet had refused Naaman’s gifts, Gehazi decided to enrich himself, and lied to the Syrian to obtain his favor and gifts (5:21-23). Taking two bags of silver and garments from Naaman, Gehazi hid the gifts in the house (5:24). Elisha then questioned his servant, “Whence camest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither” (5:25).

Closing thoughts – This wonderful story of faith and healing serves as a reminder that the mercies and compassion of the God of heaven are available to all who come to Him in faith.  Tragically, the story ends with a reminder that God punishes sin.

Gehazi had enriched himself with possessions the prophet had refused. He had lied to Naaman and to Elisha, and the judgment for his sins was swift and severe. Elisha warned, Gehazi would bear Naaman’s leprosy, and the consequences would follow his household forever. Gehazi fled Elisha’s presence, and he became “a leper as white as snow” (5:27).

Leprosy became a lifelong reminder to Gehazi and his household that God hates covetousness, and lying lips. 

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Final Clash: Elijah vs. Wicked King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1)

Scripture reading – Psalm 83, 2 Kings 1

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading, and is focused upon 2 Kings 1.

2 Kings 1 – The Death of King Ahaziah

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Second Book of the Kings, a time when Israel is a divided nation. The ten tribes to the north, known as Israel, had been under the reign of a succession of wicked kings. With the death of Ahab, the son of Omri, the Moabites saw an occasion to rebel against Israel, and cast off the yoke of servitude they had borne since the days of David (1:1).

King Ahaziah’s Failing Health (1:1-2)

Ahaziah, the son of the wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel (who had sworn she would kill Elijah after he slew the prophets of Baal), had become king in Israel, but had fallen through a window of his palace in Samaria, the capital city of Israel (1:2). Stricken with failing health, Ahaziah wondered if he would recover from the fall, and sent messengers to consult with “Baalzebub the god of Ekron” (Ekron being a Philistine city, 1:2).

God’s Intervention Through His Prophet Elijah (1:3-8)

God sent an angel to Elijah, and directed the old prophet to intercept Ahaziah’s messengers, “and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?” (1:3)

Ahaziah had offended the God of Israel, and Elijah was tasked with rebuking the king, and foretelling he would never “come down from that bed on which [he had] gone up, but [would] surely die” (1:4). Elijah obeyed, and the king’s envoy returned to the king with the prophet’s message (1:5). Because he had returned too soon, the king questioned the messenger, “Why are ye now turned back?” (1:5).

The messenger then conveyed to Ahaziah the fateful message of the his impending death, The king inquired saying, “What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?” (1:7) Though the messenger did not know the man, the physical description was known to Ahaziah who said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite” (1:8).

The King’s Summons to Elijah (1:9-15)

Three times Ahaziah sent a “captain of fifty” men to Elijah, and demanded the prophet come to him (1:9-14). The first summons was direct, “Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down” (1:9). Elijah answered, saying, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty” (1:11).

A second captain of fifty came to Elijah, and addressed the prophet saying, “O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly” (1:11) [come down now; come down without delay]. Elijah answered the second summons as he had the first, and fire came down from heaven.

Ahaziah summoned the prophet a third time, sending a “captain of fifty,” but he entreated the prophet with humility and begged, “O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight” (1:13). This time the “angel of the LORD,” assured Elijah, “Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king” (1:15).

Elijah Proved the God of Israel was God Alone (1:17-18)

Elijah obeyed, and with the boldness of a man whose life had been dedicated to serve the LORD, he confronted Ahaziah’s decision to consult with “Baal-zebub the god of Ekron,” and his rejection and betrayal of the LORD. Elijah declared, “thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die” (1:16), and “he died according to the word of the Lord” (1:17).

Our study of 2 Kings 1 concludes with Jehoram, the brother of Ahab ascending to the throne of Israel, meaning the end of the lineage of Ahab, who had no son. In that same year, another Jehoram, who was the son of Jehoshaphat, reigned in Judah (1:17).

Closing thoughts – In a day when the world, and religious leaders call for tolerance, and compromise, believers would be wise to remember the passion and conviction of Elijah! Here we find the character of the man who walks with God, and whom the LORD will in our next study, be taken up “by a whirlwind into heaven” (2:11).

Preachers of Truth will not tolerate error, nor will believers sacrifice spiritual principles for peace. How did Elijah come to be that man? He was a man of prayer, and a man who faithfully walked with God (James 5:17).

Is the same true of you?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

JEHOVAH is God. (Psalm 83)

Scripture reading – Psalm 83, 2 Kings 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The King is Coming, and Justice Will Prevail (Obadiah 1; Psalm 82)

Scripture reading – Obadiah 1; Psalm 82

Our Scripture reading is the Book of Obadiah, and Psalm 82. The Book of Obadiah, consists of one chapter, which contains twenty-one verses, and is the smallest book in the Old Testament.

With the exception of his name (1:1), little is known regarding the prophet Obadiah. We know he was a contemporary of the prophets Habakkuk, Haggai, and Malachi. Obadiah ministered in Judah, but his prophecy was directed to Edom. The key city of Edom in ancient times was Petra, the “Red Rose City” of the desert.

The Edomites were descendants of Esau (Genesis 25:30; 36:1), who was the son of Isaac (Genesis 25:19-26), and the twin brother of Jacob (1:10). The strife between Esau (the father of the Edomites) and Jacob (the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel), began in their mother’s womb, and continued throughout their lifetimes. In fact, the animosity between the brothers was passed on to their offspring, and arguably continues today with the strife we witness in the Middle East between Israel, and the followers of Islam.

Consider Obadiah’s prophecy in three parts.

  1. The charge against Edom and the prophecy of their destruction (1:1-9); II. The sins Edom committed against Israel (1:10-18), whom Obadiah identified as “thy brother Jacob” (1:10); III. God’s promise to deliver Israel from captivity (1:17-18), defeat her enemies (1:19-20), and establish His millennial kingdom and throne in Jerusalem (1:21).

Obadiah 1:21 has yet to be fulfilled, but the verse points to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when He will sit on David’s throne, and reign as the Messiah King. When that day comes, it will be fulfilled which Paul wrote in his letter to the believers in Philippi: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  11  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Closing thoughts – In God’s sovereignty, He rejected Esau (the firstborn son of Isaac, and father of the Edomites), and chose Jacob and his lineage to be heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3).  While Israel was commanded to view the Edomites as “thy brother” (Deuteronomy 23:7), the descendants of Esau harbored resentment for Israel as evidenced in Obadiah’s prophecy against that people (Ezekiel 35:5).

Take heart believer! Though the world around you seems out of control, God is on His throne, and every promise and prophecy will be fulfilled!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Psalm 82 – The Failure of Judges to Execute Righteous Judgment

The focus of Psalm 82 centered upon the failure of judges to rule judiciously in the affairs and disputes that arose among the people.   The psalmist reminded the judges, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods” (82:1). God was portrayed in a posture of authority, presiding over the gathering of “the mighty.”

After reminding the lawgivers that God is sovereign, the psalmist reproved the judges, saying, “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (82:2) The judges of that day had been derelict in their duty, dishonest in their judgment, and guilty of accepting bribes and granting favors to the wicked (82:2).

The psalmist reproved the judges, and reminded them they were entrusted with the responsibility to, “3Defend the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and needy. 4Deliver the poor and needy: Rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (82:3-4). The duty of the judges was not to show favor to the poor and orphans, but to insure justice to the weak and oppressed, as well as any who found themselves in “need” of justice, regardless of their financial or social status.

Psalm 82:5 reminds us when the balance of justice is weighed in favor of the wicked, darkness prevails (82:5a), and the principles of truth and righteousness are “out of course” (82:5b). Psalm 82:6 admonishes those in authority that they are representatives of God. They are mortal men and will die, and face the righteous judgment of the LORD (82:7).

The psalm concludes with the psalmist appealing to God to execute judgment, and render justice, for all nations and people will be weighed in His final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

Closing thoughts – Men and women who wield authority, and have the responsibility of enforcing the law, would be wise to heed the warning recorded in Psalm 82. The nations of the world are plagued by dishonest politicians, crooked lawyers, and unjust judges who are often guilty of ruling in favor of the wicked, while oppressing the poor and weak.

Let all in authority, who bear the trust of God in civil and spiritual matters, be reminded that God is the final judge, and every man will stand one day in the shadow of His throne and face His judgment (82:7-8; Revelation 20:11-15)).

Romans 14:11-12 – For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

A video of today’s devotional is available on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/grbin2ghTiU

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Shame and Sorrow of Compromise (2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20

Our Scripture reading for this final day of the year is 2 Chronicles 19 and 20.

The setting of 2 Chronicles 19 follows the bloody battle at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18), and the death of Israel’s king, Ahab. Jehoshaphat had returned home from the battle in peace (19:1), in spite of his foolish compromise with Ahab and the displeasure of the LORD (19:1).

As the king approached Jerusalem, he was met in the way by the prophet Jehu (he had been a prophet in Israel, but had moved to Judah 1 Kings 16:1-7). Jehu rebuked the king, saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (19:2).

Though He had despised Jehoshaphat’s compromise with the wicked, idolater Ahab, the LORD, nevertheless spared, and blessed the king of Judah whose son had married Ahab’s daughter. Yet, as we will soon see, the effects of Jehoshaphat’s unequal yoke with Ahab will have dire consequences for the throne of David and God’s people (21:3-7). In spite of His displeasure, the LORD spared and blessed the king of Judah, because he had “taken away the groves out of the land, and [had] prepared [his] heart to seek God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat was a gifted administrator, and one of his great accomplishments was the foresight to put in place judges who were charged with applying the law and commandments judiciously (19:5-11). We read, the king “set judges in the land [in the walled cities]6And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment” (19:5-6).

Imagine how different our world would be if judges in our day were committed to judging matters according to the will and the Word of the LORD. Jehoshaphat charged the judges to fear and revere the LORD for He is righteous, and to have no “respect of persons, nor taking of gifts [accept no bribes]” (19:7).

The king also assigned judges (Levites, priests, and the high priest) who were charged with judging matters in Jerusalem, and settling controversies and conflicts that would arise in the capital city (19:8). Jehoshaphat admonished the judges to rule according to “law and commandment, statutes and judgments,” and “warn [the people] that they trespass not against the Lord” lest they suffer His wrath (19:10). The matter of the law and judges concluded with a distinction being drawn between rulings in spiritual matters, which were the responsibility of the high priest, and civic matters, which fell upon “Zebadiah, the son of Ishmael” (19:11).

2 Chronicles 20

Time and space prevent a thorough study of 2 Chronicles 20; however, it is a chapter that begins with Jehoshaphat and Judah enjoying the blessings and protection of the LORD. In this chapter, God blessed His people for their faith, and rewarded them with a great victory over their enemies, without the soldiers of Judah lifting a sword or spear (20:1-21).

The LORD caused Judah’s enemies, the Ammonites, and Moabites, to turn, and destroy each other’s army (20:22-23). When the army of Judah came upon the battlefield, they saw a landscape littered with the bodies of their enemies, and a spoil so great it took three days to strip the bodies of the precious jewels that were on them (20:24-28). Sadly, the godly legacy of Jehoshaphat ended with yet another compromise with a heathen king (20:31-37).

Closing thoughts – Jehoshaphat will die (21:1-7), and tragically, Jehoram his son will not follow in his father’s godly legacy. Influenced by his wife’s family, the son of Jehoshaphat, will walk “in the way of the kings of Israel…for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6).

In the words of the apostle Paul, Be not deceived: evil communications [companions] corrupt good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith