Category Archives: Rebellion

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hypocrites, Hypocrites, Hypocrites! (Matthew 23; Luke 20-21)

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 23; Luke 20-21

The setting of today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 23 and Luke 20-21, is in the midst of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He and His disciples are on a path that was pre-ordained by God, and will culminate on Friday, the Day of the Passover, with Judas betraying Jesus, leading to the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of our LORD. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Matthew 23.

Matthew 23 – The Final Public Sermon

Matthew 23 sets the stage for our LORD’S final sermon, an open confrontation with His adversaries, that was addressed to a multitude of souls gathered to hear Him teach (23:1). Aware His enemies were plotting to kill Him, Jesus did not shy from boldly exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who, asserting themselves to be authorities in matters of the Law, were described as sitting “in Moses’ seat” (23:2).

“Hypocrites…Hypocrites…Hypocrites” is a recurring label that Jesus attached to those religious leaders (23:13-15, 23, 25, 27-29). He exposed them as frauds, whose interpretations of the Law lacked mercy and were “heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” (23:4a) by the people. The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees was that, while they demanded much of the people, they themselves failed to follow their own interpretations (23:4b).

What motivated those religious hypocrites to exceed the loving simplicity of God’s Law, with demands that were a grief to the people? Jesus proceeded to answer that question with a series of examples that might be summed up with one word: PRIDE (23:5-12).

Proud religious leaders lack humility, and demand to be seen, heard, and elevated in the eyes of men.

Those hypocritical Pharisees wore enlarged phylacteries, leather boxes containing portions of Scripture (Exodus 13:1-10; 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21), and enlarged “the borders [or tassels] of their garments” to draw attention to themselves (23:5). When they attended banquets and feasts, they ascertained their rightful place was the most conspicuous places (23:6a). When they attended the synagogue, they demanded the most prominent seats, eager for all to see their piety. When they were in the marketplace, they craved the attention of the people, and loved to be called, “Rabbi, Rabbi” (“teacher, teacher” or “master, master” – 23:7).

Rather than pointing men to a closer walk with God, those religious hypocrites desired to build a loyal following for themselves (23:8-11).

Let us take a moment and consider the wicked propensity of hypocrites in first century Israel, and translate their practice and ways to our day. Internet blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and emails can be amazing tools when employed for good, but the temptation to misuse them has become legendary. Rather than humility, men and women are using the electronic mediums of our day, demanding to be heard and seen, that they might earn a following. Rather than phylacteries on their foreheads and long tassels on their robes, they boast their “Friends” on Facebook, and their “Followers” on Twitter and Blogs.

Tragically, the principle of doing all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), has been sacrificed by hypocritical self-promoters and those who follow them.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6

Today’s Scripture reading entails parallel readings of the same events. Each Gospel account gives us an individual record of the life and ministry of Christ from the perspective of its human author, but as a whole, they evidence the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting us with a harmonious view of what appears to be a three-dimensional portrait. Today’s devotional commentary is from Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

Though the public ministry of Jesus was still in its infancy, nevertheless, the enemies of the LORD were present from the beginning. Performing miracles as a sign that He was the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets of Israel, Jesus was enjoying a great following of the people. There was, however, antagonists who viewed Him as a threat to their position and influence among the people.

The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they would plot to discredit and destroy Him throughout His earthly ministry, up to His divine appointment with the Cross. It was their antagonism and hatred for Jesus that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The LORD’s fourth commandment to Israel, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), was the issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus when they accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law (12:1-2) according to their standards. Passing through a farmer’s field enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were hungry and “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). Ever looking for an occasion to accuse Jesus of wrong doing, the Pharisees seized upon the opportunity to accuse His disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition.

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their stringent interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  The fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from providing for his physical hunger (after all, David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God, 12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6) as outlined in the Levitical standards in the Torah.

Entering into the synagogue on the same day, Jesus encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Citing a common practice in that rural culture, Jesus demanded of His critics, would you not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus then declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

And how did the enemies of Jesus respond not only to His teaching, He being “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), but also the healing of the man with the paralyzed hand? (12:13)

Matthew 12:1414Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. (note – Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11)

Oh, the hypocrisy! On one hand they demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God; and in the other they plotted to destroy Jesus and violate the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them (12:15).

I have found the decision to withdraw oneself is a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. The manner of Christ is one we should emulate, after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Note from the author: For those following the chronological Scripture reading schedule, remember that some events in the Gospel accounts are not in chronological order. Also, chapter and verse numbers have been added by editors to assist us in studying the Scriptures, but sometimes those helpful numbers break up the flow of events. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7; however, the Gospel of Luke records a portion of that same sermon in Luke 6:20-49. None of those facts take away from the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures; however, I hope my explanation might give you some rationale for the reading schedule.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

From Grazing to Grace (Daniel 4-6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 4-6

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

Daniel 4 – A Testament to the Tragedy of Sinful Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hell: The Destiny of Nations That Reject the LORD (Ezekiel 31-33)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 31-33

Ezekiel’s prophetic warnings of God’s judgment continues in today’s Scripture reading (Ezekiel 31-33). Though Israel and Judah’s rebellion had provoked God’s judgment; it was the heathen nation’s oppression of His people that provoked His wrath. The year is believed to be 587 B.C. (31:1), and Nebuchadnezzar’s army is in the midst of its final siege of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 31 – The Fall of Assyria Serves as a Warning to Egypt

Ezekiel 31 portrays the king of Assyria as a “cedar in Lebanon” whose height, breadth, and beauty illustrated the vast wealth and power of that nation among the nations (31:3-17).  The “Assyrian” had been felled by the army of Babylon and its defeat caused all the nations to tremble (31:16-17).

Assyria had been without equal at the height of its power. Its land was well-watered, like the Nile River served Egypt (31:4). The leaders of Assyria had believed they were unconquerable in their day (31:7-9) and they were the envy of the ancient world.

As with all nations, Assyria’s fate and final defeat were brought about because of the weight of her wickedness (31:10-11). Ezekiel pronounced God’s judgment, declaring that “strangers” (i.e. Babylon) would “cut him off” and the nation would be abandoned by her allies (31:12). God declared He would dry up the waters of the land (31:14-15) and Assyria would be cast into hell and “descend into the pit” (31:16).

Ezekiel 31:18 sums up the judgment of Assyria, declaring the fall of that wicked nation should serve as a warning to Egypt who face the same judgment and go “unto the nether parts of the earth” (meaning Sheol or hell) where the “uncircumcised,” the unbelievers, the wicked will be punished in everlasting fire.

Ezekiel 32 – Ezekiel’s Prophecy of Judgment Against Egypt

The calamity of God’s judgment that would come upon Egypt would serve as a warning to other nations (32:1-10).   Leaving no room for ambiguity, the “king of Babylon” was declared to be God’s agent of judgment and the defeat and desolation of Egypt was ascertained (32:11-15).

Picturing Hell for what it is, a place of death and torment for lost souls who have rejected the LORD (32:17-32), Egypt was warned the nation would fall, its lands left desolate and destitute (32:15). The other nations would witness in horror the defeat of Egypt and be reminded that the God of Israel is the LORD (32:15-16).

Like all the nations that had gone before Egypt and made their graves in hell, Ezekiel warned that Pharaoh and Egypt would be sentenced with the dead in hell and the terror of the LORD would rest upon the remaining nations (32:31-32).

Ezekiel 32:31-3231  Pharaoh shall see them, and shall be comforted over all his multitude, even Pharaoh and all his army slain by the sword, saith the Lord GOD. 32  For I have caused my terror in the land of the living: and he shall be laid in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that are slain with the sword, even Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 28-30

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

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

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

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

Ezekiel 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People! (Ezekiel 25-27)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 25-27

The focus of today’s devotional turns from God’s judgment of Jerusalem and Judah for their disobedience and idolatry, to those nations that were adversaries of Israel down through the centuries.

Ezekiel 25 – God’s Judgment of the Nations to the East and West of Jerusalem

Israel and Judah had rebelled and turned from the LORD and His judgment had befallen the nation as He had promised. Nevertheless, the LORD vowed He would not forget the oppression and hardships perpetuated by other nations against His people.

Having seen the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the heathen nations rejoiced in the sorrows and sufferings of God’s people as they were taken captive.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and He despised the heathen who rejoiced in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14), and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of His people (25:15-17).

The Ammonites, descended from Lot’s incest with his daughters, had been a constant adversary of Israel and they cheered when Babylon (“men of the east”), took possession of the land and desecrated the Temple (25:2-4). Ezekiel was to warn the people of Ammon that they would be cut off, perish, and cease to exist (25:5-7)

The Moabites, like the Ammonites, were descended from Lot’s incest with his daughters. Moab had mocked Judah and allied with Babylon (25:8-11). Like the Ammonites, they would be overcome by Babylon and would no more be a nation (25:10-11).

The Edomites, descendants of Esau, had oppressed Judah and Israel and God promised to punish their vengeful spirit (25:12-13).  Ezekiel declared the purpose for God exacting vengeance on Edom for those people to know it was the LORD who had taken vengeance against them (25:14-17).

Ezekiel 26-27 – God’s Vengeance Against Tyrus

God’s displeasure for the nations taking joy in the destruction of Jerusalem continues in Ezekiel 26-27.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia, would be assaulted by Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19) and the Scriptures go into great detail regarding the siege of that great island fortress. Ezekiel 26 describes the assaults Babylon would make against Tyrus; however, that city would not be completely destroyed until it was conquered by Alexander the Great.

The beauty and wealth of Tyrus is described in detail in Ezekiel 27:1-25. Located on the on the Mediterranean Sea, its harbor was a crossroads for international commerce in its day. Tyrus’ great fall, as well as, the reverberation of the loss of that city’s harbor and its devastating effect on other nations’ and their commerce is described in Ezekiel 27:26-36

Ezekiel prophesied of Tyrus, “thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more (27:36). Destroyed by Alexander the Great, in 332 B.C., Tyrus was never rebuilt.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“For Whom the LORD Loveth He Chasteneth” (Ezekiel 23-24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23-24

Our Scripture reading brings us to the final crisis that Ezekiel has long warned would come: The final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved capital city of Judah and all Israel. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Ezekiel 23.

Ezekiel 23 – A Tale of Two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah

The account of the final days before the fall of Jerusalem and the eradication of both Israel and Judah as nations, is vivid and graphic (23:1-2). In Ezekiel 23 we have the description of Israel and Judah symbolically represented as two sisters who had committed spiritual “whoredoms in Egypt…in their youth” (23:3).

Aholah, identified as the elder sister, was a symbolical name for the nation of Israel (identified in this passage as Samaria, the capital city of the ten northern tribes). Aholibah was the younger of the sisters and was a symbolical name for Judah, the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem (23:4).

Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) are portrayed as sisters who had rebelled, broken covenant with the LORD, and turned to other lovers (i.e. alliances with other nations). Aholah (Israel), awed by the strength and power of Assyria had made an alliance with that nation and turned from the LORD (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). Aholibah (Judah), Aholah’s sister, had sought alliance with Assyria  and also courted the favor of Chaldea (Babylon). King Hezekiah had foolishly displayed to Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassadors the wealth and treasuries of his palace and the Temple (23:11-21; Isaiah 39:1-8).

When Aholibah (Judah) realized the evil intent of Chaldea (Babylon), she appealed to Egypt for aid, but to no avail (23:21; 2 Kings 23:26-30, 31-24:2). Thus, the “lovers,” Assyria and Chaldea, had ravaged both Israel and Judah with their “chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people,” and stripped those nations bare of their wealth and people (23:22-29). God’s judgment against His people and the devastation of Israel and Judah would be an astonishment to the nations who would scorn and disparage them (23:32).

What sins had Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) committed against the LORD that would justify so great a judgment? (23:37-49)

The judgment of Israel and Judah was just because those nations had broken their covenant with God and committed spiritual adultery (23:37). The people had defiled the Temple with idols, forsaken their Sabbaths (23:38), and committed the ultimate act of wickedness and depravity: They had sacrificed their children to Moloch, and on the same day entered the Temple to worship (23:39; note Ezekiel 16:21).

The destruction of Israel and Judah was set and the horror of the people’s sufferings had been determined (23:47). The final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had begun and the days were numbered.

Ezekiel 24:2 – Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.

Why did God chasten and punish His people? Not only because He loved them, but so they would know He is “the LORD GOD” (23:49).

Hebrews 12:6 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

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

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Prophetic Pictures of God’s Judgment Against Judah (Ezekiel 16-17)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 16-17

With the elders of Israel serving as his audience (note 14:1), the LORD revealed to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of judgment (Ezekiel 15-17).  The first was a vine (15:1-8), often a symbol of Israel in the scriptures (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1).  The destruction of the vine by fire was a prophetic picture of God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah (15:6-8).

Ezekiel 16

The second prophetic picture portrayed Israel as an abused woman whom the LORD out of His mercy chose to be His wife (16:1-7), and out of His love and grace showered her with jewels and fine robes (16:8-14). Rather than loving and serving her husband out of gratitude, the wife repaid her husband’s favor by heaping shame and humiliation on him with her gross immorality.

Like the unfaithful wife, Israel had turned from the LORD Who had chosen her.  The sins committed by Israel are staggering and the evidence of her wickedness are numbered by Ezekiel. God’s people had played the harlot (16:15-16), made idols (16:17), and offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to idols (16:20-21).

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

Having stated the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel was charged with declaring God’s judgment (16:35-43).  The nations (“thy lovers”, vs. 36) with whom Israel had compromised would despise her and be the instruments God would use to punish His people. Israel’s sin and rebellion against God was greater than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah because the people had enjoyed God’s favor, but despised Him, rejected His Law, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52).  In spite of the nation’s wickedness, God promised to not forget His covenant with Israel and to restore her (16:53-63).

Ezekiel 17

The third picture of God’s judgment against Israel was a riddle of two eagles and three vine shoots (i.e. “twigs”) planted in Israel (17:1-24).  As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, were pictures of Israel; while Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon was pictured as an eagle. The prophet Jeremiah writes concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “he shall fly as an eagle” (Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22).

Leaving no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar is the eagle and Israel and her king are the objects of God’s approaching judgment, we read: “Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon” (Ezekiel 17:12).

In spite of the utter destruction and devastation Jerusalem and Judah would face, the LORD promised to take a “twig” and replant it in Israel (17:22-23), and exalt “the low tree” (17:24).

Bible scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the “twig” represents the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as the King of kings and LORD of lords.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith