Category Archives: Salvation

A Crisis of Faith and Integrity (Daniel 3; Daniel 4)

Scripture reading – Daniel 3; Daniel 4

Scholars suggest a 20-year gap exists between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image (Daniel 2), and his elevation of one “in the plain of Dura,” outside the massive walls of the city of Babylon (Daniel 3:1). Assuming the passing of two decades, Daniel and his three Hebrew companions were then in their mid-30’s, in the prime of manhood, and serving as administrators in Nebuchadnezzar’s government (2:48-49). Today’s devotional will be focused on Daniel 3, though our Scripture reading includes Daniel 4.

The King’s Idol (3:1-3)

In spite of him confessing Daniel’s God was “the God of gods, the Lord of kings” (2:47), the king had gone his own way, and returned to his idolatry, worshipping and offering sacrifices to idols. Yet, the king remembered the image of his dreams, and Daniel’s interpretation that the golden head of the image represented his realm as king (2:38). The proud king, not content with an image bearing only a head of gold, determined to raise an entire image of gold. Standing an impressive 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, the golden image towered above men. Understanding the diversity of nations under his rule, Nebuchadnezzar expected all men to worship his idol (3:2-3).

A Crisis of Integrity (3:4-18)

With a day of dedication determined, a herald called “all people, nations, and languages” (3:4) to bow and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (3:4-5). With the warning, Bow or Burn, all men and women were expected to give homage to “the golden image” (3:7).  A sea of humanity gathered before the great image, and when the music was heard, all bowed before the image, with the exception of three men. The assimilation of the children of Israel into Babylonian culture had been universal, with the exception of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel’s absence was perhaps due to his travels on behalf of the king).

There were some Chaldeans who used the occasion to accuse the three Hebrew men, that prompted an inquisition before the king (3:13-15). Although angered by their refusal, and perhaps out of respect for Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar gave Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego a second opportunity to bow before his idol, but also repeated the consequences should they refuse (3:15).

Though far from their home and the godly influences of their youth, the three men proved steadfast in their convictions (Exodus 20:3-5), and recognized two outcomes for their fidelity:  “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 8But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up“ (3:17-18).

The Fire of the King’s Indignation (3:19-26)

Overcome with “rage and fury” (3:13, 19), Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace heated 7 times hotter than normal. The king then commanded his “most mighty men” (perhaps his own guard) to bind and cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the furnace (3:19-21). The fire of the furnace instantly killed the mighty men when they cast the men into the furnace (3:21-23). Sitting down to observe, the king was suddenly shaken by the sight of not three, but four men walking about in the furnace, and unscathed by its heat and flames (3: 24). Nebuchadnezzar likened the fourth to a heavenly figure, and said he was “like the Son of God” (3:26).

A Divine Intervention (3:26-27)

Humbled by the miraculous preservation of the three men, and the sight of the divine image of the fourth, the king summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego by name, calling them the “servants of the most high God” (3:26). The men emerged from the furnace (3:26), as their accusers gathered and were amazed “the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them” (3:27).

The King’s Invocation (3:28-30)

Realizing only the ropes that bound them was singed by the flames (3:27), Nebuchadnezzar confessed “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego” had sent His angel to save them (3:28). The king confessed the LORD had overruled his edict, and spared their lives “that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (3:28).

Closing thoughts (3:29-30) – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s conviction to worship no other God, inspired the king to dare any of his kingdom to speak ill of their God, and to declare “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (3:29). The men were not only preserved from death, but were promoted by the king (3:30).

Believer, you might not face a fiery furnace, but you will certainly face fiery troubles and trials. I urge you to follow Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s example. Before they faced the temptation to bow to the golden image, we can be sure they had determined in their hearts they would trust the God of heaven and only worship and serve Him.

Romans 8:35–3935Who shall separate [come between] us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation [trouble], or distress [hardships; anguish], or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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 Temple of the Millennial Kingdom (Ezekiel 40)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 40

I have suggested in earlier devotionals that Ezekiel, and perhaps Daniel, were among the first captives taken from Judah and to Babylon when king Jehoiachin was removed from his throne. Ezekiel dated the time and year of his visions, with Jehoiachin’s captivity, and therefore I believe his own.

Ezekiel 40 – Israel’s Glorious Future

The vision recorded in Ezekiel 40 comes 25 years after Ezekiel received his first vision (he was 30 years old at the time (1:1), and it was the “fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity” 1:2). We can determine the prophet was 55 years old, and Israel’s captivity would last another 45 years when the vision of the new Temple occurred (Ezekiel 40:1-2).

The Vision and a Heavenly Messenger (40:2-4)

In Ezekiel’s vision, he was taken “into the land of Israel” to a “very high mountain” from which he was able to observe the rebuilding of Jerusalem (40:2). The LORD sent a man whose appearance gives us the opinion he was an angelic messenger, for his appearance was like bronze (40:3a). In the man’s hand was a line of twine and a measuring rod (40:3b). Ezekiel was instructed, “Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (40:4).

The Temple of the Millennial Kingdom (40:5-26)

In his vision, Ezekiel followed his heavenly guide through a gate that entered into the outer court of the Temple. They passed through the East Gate and the wall that secured the outer court of the Temple (40:5). The verses that followed were a schematic of the dimensions of the outer court of the Temple, and described the porches, doorways, windows, and chambers, giving the dimensions by cubits (a cubit believed to be 18 inches).

Inner Courtyard of the Temple in the Millennial Kingdom (40:27-47)

Ezekiel, accompanying his heavenly messenger, observed the man as he directed the prophet to record the measurements of the inner courtyard of the Temple, including the palm trees that adorned the posts, and the steps that led into the Temple (40:27-37).

Within the inner courtyard, Ezekiel observed various “chambers” (rooms), with doorways and porches. He noticed eight tables made of hewn stone for slaying and washing the animals for the burnt offering, sin offering, and the trespass offering (40:38-40). The other four hewn stone tables served as a place “whereupon also they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burn offering and the sacrifice” (40:41-42). On the walls of those rooms were hooks, where the flesh of the offerings was hanged that all the blood might drain from the flesh (40:43).

Apartments for the Priests (40:44-46)

In the inner courtyard, were rooms dedicated to the Temple singers (40:44). Facing toward the south was another compartment that was used for priests who served as “keepers” or guards of the Temple (40:45). At the south gate, and facing northward was another apartment that was used by the priests in charge of the sacrifices and who served the altar (40:46).

The Temple (40:48-49)

Following his heavenly messenger, Ezekiel was led up the steps to the porch entrance of the Temple (40:48), and the entrance to the outer sanctuary of the Temple (40:49).

Closing thoughts – Ezekiel’s record of his vision of the Temple will continue through chapter 41 and will include the inner sanctuary of the Temple, “The Most Holy Place” (41:4).

I close today’s devotional reflecting on the gates and doors of the Temple, and the analogy the LORD drew of Himself when He taught His disciples: “I am the door of the sheep… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 10:7; 14:6)

The only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death for your sins, and resurrection from the dead. There is no other way to enter heaven, and into the presence of God than through Jesus Christ. Is He your Savior?

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 Soul That Sinneth, It Shall Die” (Ezekiel 18)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 17; Ezekiel 18

Ezekiel 18 – A Parable of “Sour Grapes”

The LORD left no doubt that the sins of the people had brought sorrows and judgments upon Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. Yet, there was a question that arose in Babylon: Who was responsible for the calamities?

Speaking in a parable, some said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2) In other words, there were some who blamed Israel’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their fathers and forefathers. God rebuked that generation, and declared an enduring, universal truth: 4Behold, 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)

A Hypothetical Study of Three Generations (18:4-20)

One’s personal responsibility for sin and its consequences was the subject, and this passage answers some important questions regarding the justice and fairness of God’s judgment. 1) Are sons punished for the sins of their fathers, or fathers punished for the sins of their sons? 2) If a father chooses a godless lifestyle, is it inevitable a son will follow in his steps? Because “blame shifting” is epidemic in our day, Ezekiel 18 should interest both believer and unbeliever.

A Righteous Father (18:5-9)

God blesses a man who chooses righteousness, and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9). Such a man obeys the Commandments of the LORD. He will not commit adultery, nor oppress those who are weaker (18:6b-7a). The righteous restores the surety to a debtor, does not plunder and rob others by violence, and is charitable to those who are hungry and in need (18:7b). The righteous do not crush a debtor with exorbitant interest, and conducts himself in a lawful manner (18:8). Because he walks in accord with the statutes (ordinances and decrees) and judgments (laws) of the LORD, and deals honestly with others, he is declared just before God, and will live and prosper (18:9).

A Wicked Son (18:10-13)

What if an adult son of a righteous man refuses to follow his father’s godly example, and instead turns to a path of wickedness? Should the father be punished for the sins of a son that is a robber and murderer? (18:10) Should a father be punished because his son offers sacrifices to idols, commits adultery, abuses the poor, robs others, and is immoral (18:11-12)? When a son charges excessive interest, and oppresses debtors, should his father go unpunished? Though his father was righteous, such a son will bear the guilt of his own sins, and “shall not live…he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him” and not his father (18:13).

A Righteous Grandson (18:14-18)

Each generation bears responsibility for its sins, and God will not punish a father for the sins of his son (18:10-13). Should a son see the sins of his father, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17). A wicked father, as a wicked son, will not go unpunished for his sins (18:18-20).

Who you gonna’ blame for your troubles and sorrows? (18:20-24)

Ezekiel repeated the principle of personal, individual responsibility, writing, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (18:20). The LORD is longsuffering, and ready and willing to forgive the sinner who repents and turns from his sins (18:21-22). After all, God does not delight in seeing the wicked die in their sins (18:23).

What if a righteous man turns and follows a path of sin? (18:24a) His past righteousness will not deliver him from the consequences of his present sins (18:24b).

Closing thoughts (18:25-32) – Sinners cannot accuse the LORD of being unjust (18:25). The believer who sins will be punished (18:26), and the wicked who repents of his sins will be forgiven and live (18:27-28). Tragically, family members suffer the consequences of their loved one’s sinful choices. Yet, God is just and He will not judge and condemn the innocent for the sins of the guilty (18:29-30). God will judge every sinner “according to his ways” (18:30).

Our study concludes with a wonderful invitation: When a sinner repents, the LORD promises to give “a new heart and a new spirit” (18:31). While the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), the LORD invites all who sin, saying, “turn yourselves, and live” (18:32).

Don’t wallow in a mire of self-pity, or blame others for your sinful choices!  Repent, and live!

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.

One Man’s Faith Cannot Save Another (Ezekiel 14)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 14

There were living in Babylon among the Jews of the captivity, “certain of the elders of Israel” who came to Ezekiel, most likely to consult with his as God’s prophet (14:1). As they sat down before him, “the word of the Lord came unto” Ezekiel, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?” (14:2-3)

God’s Judgment on Those Who Cherish Idols in Their Heart (14:3-5)

The elders, a sampling of the leaders of the people, were plagued with a spiritual heart disease. But as only the LORD can do, He revealed the hidden secrets within their hearts to the prophet (14:3). Regardless of their pretense for coming to the man of God, the LORD knew their hearts and asked, if He should even be bothered by men who had another god before Him – a violation of the first Commandment (14:3c). Though they feigned to hear the word of the LORD, yet He knew their hearts were far from Him.

The LORD commanded Ezekiel to confront the men, and say, “Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols” (14:4). In other words, God would give those treacherous, deceivers over to the folly of their idols (14:5).

All That Did Not Repent, Would Be Judged (14:6-11)

Rather than entertain the hypocrisy of the elders, Ezekiel called them to repent of their idolatry (14:6-11). While the LORD longed for the children of Israel to repent (14:6; 2 Peter 3:9), He warned, all who cherished idols in their hearts would be judged for their abominations (14:7). They would suffer the consequences of their sins, to the end some might repent and confess the God of Israel was LORD (14:8).

Ezekiel warned, those false prophets would be judged for deceiving the people. Their hypocrisy of claiming to speak the word of the LORD would be recompensed upon them, as “they [would] bear the punishment of their iniquity” (14:9-10).

Four Judgments (14:12-21)

Because the sins of Jerusalem were so great, the LORD declared He would send four judgments upon Judah. The first was famine, and man and beast would hunger (14:12-13). Then the LORD declared He would send wild beasts, and the land would be “desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts” (14:15). A sword was given as a symbol of a third judgment that indicated war (14:17). The fourth judgment was “a pestilence,” for the people would suffer disease and sickness (14:19).

One Man’s Faith Cannot Save Another (14:14b, 18b, 20b)

Three men were given as examples of saints whom God declared righteous, and spared from death (14:14, 16, 18, 20). The first was Noah, who was saved from the flood while the world of his day perished (Genesis 6:9-9:29). The prophet Daniel was the second man, whom God declared righteous, and saved from the lions, because he trusted in the LORD (Daniel 6:1-28). Job, the ancient patriarch, was the third example of a man God declared righteous, for he had been spared death, and was restored.

What spiritual lesson were the elders of Israel to take from the faith of those three men? While they trusted in the LORD, and were righteous in the sight of God, their faith did not save another. Their faith did not save their “sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves” (14:18). The same truth is repeated when we read, “they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness” (14:20).

Closing thoughts (14:21-23) – Ezekiel warned, four judgments would come upon Jerusalem, “the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence” (14:21). Yet, the LORD would not forsake His covenant with Israel, and promised a remnant that had been left in Jerusalem would be brought to Babylon (14:22). The people would hear the wickedness committed in Jerusalem, and all the people suffered (14:22). They would know their sins demanded God’s judgment, to the end they might repent (14:23).

Lesson – Every man, woman, boy and girl must come to the LORD by faith, and put their trust in Him. The faith of one’s parents, or grandparents cannot save a sinner from their sins and God’s judgment. While believers “shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10), those who reject Him will face God’s eternal judgment. For “the dead [will be judged] …according to their works” (Revelation 20:12, 13), and “whosoever [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Remember – One man’s faith cannot save another.

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.

What If There was No Resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 15-16

The central doctrine of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Paul’s exposition of the Gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (15:1-4), makes 1 Corinthians 15 one of the greatest and most pivotal chapters in the New Testament.

Consider the heart of the Gospel (15:3-4)

1) “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (15:3; Isaiah 53:5-7).

2) “He was buried” (15:4a), thus leaving us no doubt Jesus was dead, and his body was lifeless when it was removed from the cross.

3) “He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (15:4b; Psalm 16:10; Matthew 12:40).

Eyewitnesses validated Christ’s resurrection from the dead (15:5-9).

Numbered among the eyewitnesses was “Cephas” (the apostle Peter), and “the twelve” disciples, less the traitor Judas (15:5). Jesus was also “seen of above five hundred brethren at once,” and as Paul penned the letter the majority of those witnesses were still alive (15:6). One named James was a witness of Jesus’ resurrection, and most scholars believe he was the half-brother of Jesus (15:7a), who was the head of the church in Jerusalem (15:13-21). Other witnesses were men identified as apostles (15:7b). The number of apostles is not given; however, there were seventy whom Jesus had sent out in Luke 10:1, 17.

Paul, who had been temporarily blinded by the LORD’s heavenly glory on the road to Damascus, numbered himself among the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 9:1; 2 Corinthians 12:1), writing, “last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (15:8).

The fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not only the central doctrine of Christianity, it is also the motivation for boldly, and unapologetically declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ (15:10-19).

Preaching a Savior who was sacrificed on the Cross, but did not rise from the dead, would be a hollow, lifeless, hopeless message. There is no Gospel, no good news, no hope of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life if Christ is not raised from the dead. I close with Paul’s assurance.

1 Corinthians 15:20–2220 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [the first of many who will be raised from the dead] of them that slept [who died in faith, believing]. 21 For since by man [Adam, the first man] came death, by man [Jesus Christ, the Second Adam] came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

We are the sons and daughters of Adam, and were born with a sinful nature, and under the curse and penalty of sin (15:22a; Romans 6:23a). When we confess our sin, and believe Christ paid the penalty of our sin by His substitutionary death on the cross, we are promised we “shall all be made alive” (15:22b). To be “made alive,” is to be revived in our spirit (i.e. our inner man), and promised one day our bodies will be raised from the dead to life.

How can this be?

Romans 5:19 19 For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus Christ] shall many be made righteous. [Christ’s righteousness imparted to us by faith]

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53) – (republished for today’s Passover\Good Friday observance)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53 continues the prophetic portrait of God’s suffering “servant” that began in Isaiah 52 with this astonishing description: “many were astonied [appalled; horrified] at thee; His visage [appearance] was so marred [disfigured] more than any man, And his form [appearance] more than the sons of men” (52:14).

Isaiah’s prophecy foretold the sorrows (53:1-3), suffering (53:4-9), and sacrificial death of the Messiah (53:10-12), and as you will see, it is in harmony with the description of Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross found in the Gospels.

The Messiah’s Suffering (53:1-3)

The unbelief of the Jews was foretold in verse 1, where we read, “Who hath believed our report [message]?” (53:1; John 12:38-41; Romans 10:16)

Isaiah 53:2 revealed the coming Messiah would have a humble demeanor. Isaiah states that He shall have “no form nor comeliness [no natural beauty]; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty [natural beauty] that we should desire him.” Though His coming was foretold by the prophets, Isaiah revealed He would be “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows” (53:3).

The Messiah’s Substitutionary Atonement (53:4-5, 7-9)

The LORD stated to Ezekiel, “Behold, all souls are mine…the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Knowing all men and women are sinners, and the penalty of sin is death, how might God’s mercy, and His demand for justice be satisfied? The answer to that most important question is found in Isaiah 53.

Consider six ways in which the Messiah would satisfy God’s judgment and the penalty of man’s sin. (53:4-9)

1) The Messiah would bear and carry “our griefs, and… our sorrows [punishment]“ (53:4a). He was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (53:4b; Philippians 2:8).

2) He would suffer our wounds, was chastened for our sins, and God placed the full weight of our sins upon Him: “He was wounded [defiled; polluted] for ourtransgressions [our rebellion against God’s law], he was bruised [beaten] for our iniquities [guilt; wicked, crooked ways]: the chastisement [reproof; correction for] of our peace was upon him” (53:5a).

3) He would be scourged, and bear the “stripes [wounds, blows]” we deserved (53:5). Under Jewish law, the condemned would receive 39 lashes. Under Roman law, whose jurisdiction Christ was judged, scourging was so brutal some men died before they suffered the fate of the cross.

4) The Messiah would be treated unjustly, but never protest the injustices He would suffer: “He was oppressed [driven like a beast], and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter [to be sacrificed], and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (53:7; John 1:29; Matthew 26:63; 27:14; 1 Peter 2:23).

5) The Messiah would be rushed to judgment: “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people [Israel] was he stricken” (53:8). Jewish law required two days reprieve before execution; thus, giving opportunity for new evidence to come to light, the family to visit, and the condemned to search his soul. Under Roman law; however, Jesus was shown no mercy and was crucified on the day He was tried (John 18:12, 24; 19:16).

6) The Messiah would make “his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth” (53:9). Christ fulfilled that prophecy in exact detail. He was crucified on the cross in the midst of two thieves (John 19:31), and His lifeless body was buried in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60).

The Messiah’s Death Satisfied God’s Judgment (53:4, 6, 10)

The Messiah would die, not for His sins, but for our sins. Isaiah prophesied, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows [punishment]: yet we did esteem [pass judgment upon Him in ignorance] him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted [as one with leprosy]” (53:4).

The Messiah was to bear the guilt and burden of our sins, for “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:6; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

Closing thoughts – Like an innocent sacrificial lamb, the Messiah had done nothing to deserve death, for “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” [not sinned in word or action]” (53:9b). The Messiah’s death would satisfy God’s judgment, for “it pleased the LORD to bruise [crush] Him; He hath put Him [Jesus] to grief: when thou shalt make His soul [life] an offering for sin” (53:10a).

In the eternal counsel of the Godhead, it was determined that Christ’s suffering and death would satisfy God’s judgment against sin (53:11; Revelation 13:8).

Why did it please God to crush His Son with the weight of man’s sin? “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.(John 3:16)

Christ’s death satisfied the penalty of sin, and His resurrection proved the curse of sin was satisfied. Sin and the grave no longer have the victory.

Romans 10:9 – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8

* Today’s devotional will be taken from Jeremiah 7. A future devotional will consider Jeremiah 8.

Like most prophets of their generation, Jeremiah’s cry for Judah to turn back to the LORD, went unheeded. The prophet faithfully preached the Word of the LORD, and for four decades was reviled by His people and persecuted by the leaders of Judah.

As we come to Jeremiah 7, we find the LORD has commanded Jeremiah to go to the Temple, and stand in the “gate of the LORD’s house,” and preach: Amend your ways and your doings” (7:3). In other words, Do Right! If the people would “Do Right” [turning from their sins, and obeying the LORD and His Commandments] the LORD promised, “I will cause you to dwell in this place (7:3).

Jeremiah 7

I am struck by the hypocrisy of Judah!  They sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (7:30-31), yet continued a pretense of worshipping the LORD in His holy Temple (7:1-2, 4)!  They made an exhibition of public worship (7:2), “saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord” (7:4), yet, their hearts were far from the LORD.

The Condition of God’s Blessings (7:5-10)

Announcing the conditions of God’s blessings, Jeremiah exhorted the people to amend their ways, and do right (7:5). Tragically, the people rejected God’s Word, and placed their “trust in lying words” (7:8).

Breaking their covenant with the LORD, they disobeyed His Commandments. They were thieves (8th commandment), murderers (6th commandment), adulterers (7th commandment), liars (9th commandment), and idolaters who “walked after other gods,” breaking the 1st and 2nd commandments (7:6-11); Exodus 20).

The Temple – “A Den of Robbers” (7:11-16)

Though the people portrayed an outward air of spiritual piety, Jeremiah warned the LORD knew what manner of people they were, for they had turned His house into a “den of robbers” (7:11; note – Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). The prophet reminded the people what had become of Shiloh, the place their fathers had worshipped before the Temple was constructed, and the Philistines had destroyed. Jeremiah warned, if they continued in their sins, the LORD would destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, just as Shiloh had been desecrated and destroyed (7:12-15; Psalm 78:60-64).

As with “Ephraim” before (name for the northern ten tribes of Israel, 7:15), the fate of Judah was sealed. The LORD charged Jeremiah, saying, “pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (7:16).

The Degeneracy of Judah (7:17-20)

Judah was guilty of open idolatry, and the LORD questioned Jeremiah, “17Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” (7:17). Failing to keep covenant with the LORD and obey His Law and Commandments, Judah gave offerings to the “queen of heaven,” and “drink offerings unto other gods” (7:18).

God declared with amazement, “19Do they provoke me to anger? saith the Lord: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?” (7:19) Like the curse of sin that afflicts creation (Romans 8:22), the LORD declared His wrath and judgment would fall upon the whole of Judah, including man, beast, tree, and “the fruit of the ground” (7:20).

The Fate of Judah as a Nation was Sealed (7:21-27).

No excess of offerings would satisfy the wrath of God (7:21). The LORD had taught their forefathers, He preferred obedience over sacrifice (7:22-23; 1 Samuel 15:22), but they refused His words, and continued “in the imagination of their evil heart” (7:24). He sent prophets (7:25), but they continued in their sins, and “did worse than their fathers” (7:26). The LORD exhorted Jeremiah to be prepared for the people to reject him, saying, “they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee” (7:27).

Closing thoughts – The virtues, and sins of a people dictate the future of a nation (7:28-34).

Speaking the Word of the LORD, Jeremiah warned, “This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished” (7:28). The LORD commanded Jeremiah to tell the people, “29Cut off thine hair [a sign of mourning], O Jerusalem, and cast it away…for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath” (7:29).

The sins of the people sealed the fate of the nation. They profaned the Temple with idolatry (7:30), and maintained a show of public worship in the Temple. Their tragic offense, that of worshipping idols, led them to a most grievous sin of sacrificing their sons and daughters (7:31-32). In the very place of their abominations, Jeremiah warned, their dead bodies would be fed upon by carrion-eating birds and wild beasts (7:33).

What a tragic portrait we have of the fate of that sinful people! The streets of the cities would grow silent, and laughter and mirth would fail. The joys of young love would cease (7:34a), “for the land [would] be desolate” (7:34).

Summing up the imminence of God’s judgment, Jeremiah warned, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and [the people are] not saved” (8:20).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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What a Difference Christ Makes! (Isaiah 61; Isaiah 62)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 61; Isaiah 62

Our chronological Scripture reading continues as we near the conclusion of our study of Isaiah. Remember, the Old Testament Scriptures lay the foundation for our future study in the New Testament.

Isaiah 61

The prophecies recorded in Isaiah 61 foretell the setting and circumstances of both the first and second comings of Christ.

Isaiah foretold the Messiah would come as God’s Spirit anointed servant (61:1). It was the first coming of Christ, and His earthly ministry that was in view in Isaiah 61:1. How can we know Isaiah 61:1 is a depiction of Christ? By interpreting Scripture with Scripture, we know Jesus applied Isaiah 61:1 to Himself in the Gospel of Luke 4:16-21.

The Messiah’s Calling (61:1-3)

The Messiah’s calling would be that of a preacher, for He would “preach good tidings unto the meek” (61:1b). He would heal, and “bind up the brokenhearted” (61:1c). He would deliver His people from sin, and “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (61:1d). The Messiah would “comfort all that mourn” (61:2).

Promises to Those Jews Returning from Captivity (61:3-5)

As a reminder, prophecies often carry an imminent application, and far-reaching implication. Isaiah 61:3 began, in my opinion, as a description of the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, but there is also the far-reaching implication of events that will not be fulfilled until the Second Coming of Christ.

The captive of Israel (mostly Jews from the tribe of Judah) were set at liberty by king Cyrus of Persia, and allowed to return to the Land. There, the LORD blessed His people as He gave “unto them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (61:3a). Of course, all this would be done that the LORD “might be glorified” (61:3). The once named exiles rebuilt their houses, and repaired their cities (61:4). It came to pass, those who had been slaves in Babylon, were blessed to have “strangers” (non-Hebrews) serve them in Israel (61:5).

A Kingdom of Priests and the Blessings of a Double Portion (61:6-9)

Those who had been slaves in Babylon (a city that is a type of the world), would be renamed in Israel, “Priests of the LORD…Ministers of our God” (61:6). For the shame and humiliation, they had suffered during captivity, God promised to reward His people a double portion of His blessings in Israel (61:7). Where they had suffered lawlessness, God declared, “I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering…And I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (61:8).

A Song of Salvation (61:10-11)

Isaiah 61 concluded stating two reasons for rejoicing: “Greatly rejoice in the LORD” for “the garments of salvation,” and for “the robe of righteousness” (61:10).

Isaiah 62

Isaiah 62:1-5 is a prophetic picture of the day the LORD will return in all His heavenly glory, and reign in Jerusalem.

With an undying passion, Isaiah preached, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth” (Isaiah 62:1).  Of course, the righteousness of which Isaiah spoke was not that of men, but the imputed righteousness of the LORD Himself!

Everything Israel could long for was promised to her: Righteousness and salvation (62:1); Glory (62:2); Prosperity (62:3); and the righteous reign with the LORD as King (62:3).

Israel had been named “Forsaken” and “Desolate” because of her rebellion and lawlessness (62:4); however, when the LORD reigns in Jerusalem she will have a new name, “Hephzibah”, meaning “my delight is in her” and the land of Israel will be named “Beulah”, meaning “married”. Instead of the sorrow and shame of Israel’s rebellion and her divorce from the LORD, He promised to lovingly restore His people to Himself as a groom joyfully receives his virgin bride (62:5).

Continuing with Jerusalem as the subject, the LORD made the following promise to His beloved people that He would, “set watchmen [guards] upon [their] walls…Which shall never hold their peace day nor night” (62:6). What was the duty of the watchmen? It was to guard, guide, and pray night and day. In fact, “make mention of the LORD, Keep not silence” (62:6). Isaiah urged, “give Him [the LORD] no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (62:7).

Closing thought – In other words, never stop praying until the LORD has fulfilled all He has promised! The people were urged to prepare for the coming of the LORD, and say, “Behold, thy salvation cometh” (62:11). In the Millennial Kingdom, God’s people will be called, “The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord,” and the city once forsaken will be called, “Sought out” (62:12).

What a difference Christ makes!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

What Does the LORD Require of You? (Isaiah 58)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 58

If we could condense the whole of Isaiah 58 to just one word, that word would be “hypocrisy.” The chapter opens with the LORD instructing Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, And shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1).

Unlike some fainthearted preachers in our day, the prophet was not to sugarcoat the Word of the LORD. He was to lift up his voice, not sparing a word, and herald God’s warning of judgment like a trumpet calling soldiers to battle.

What were the transgressions and sins of God’s people? (58:2-5)

They were religious phonies, hypocrites, whose ways were acceptable, but whose heart and motives for following the Lord’s paths were based on selfish reasons. Though outwardly pious, the Lord looked past their actions and saw deep into their hearts (58:2). They, like many today who say they worship the Lord, had lost the “why” behind their actions, leaving in their wake emptiness, strife and selfish gain (58:3a).

The LORD answered their complaints, saying, “Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure [i.e., you go seeking joy; delight], and exact [oppress; demand; collect] all your labours [they gave and forgave nothing]” (58:3b). What they did in worship was not out of love to the LORD, but that He might be obligated to them.

Outwardly they fasted, but they were contentious and quarreling among themselves (58:4). Their fasting and praying in “sackcloth and ashes,” gave an appearance of piety, but the LORD asked, “Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” (58:5)

The Fasting God Favors (58:6-7)

Fasting had become a religious ritual, but it was not the fasting God had commanded His people to observe (58:6a). What would please the LORD? What was the fasting God favored? Before they approached the LORD in their fasting and prayers, God commanded them to address the sins and wickedness in their lives (58:6b-7).

How might men prepare their hearts to worship the LORD? To worship the LORD, we must be willing to forgive those who have offended us, and “loose the bands of wickedness” committed by others (58:6b). God will not hear our prayers, nor honor fasting, if we harbor bitterness, and oppress others (58:6c; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

What honors the LORD? We honor the LORD, when we feed the hungry, and give shelter to the poor (58:7a; Luke 10:30-36). We invite God’s blessings, when we clothe the naked, and give aid to our family (58:7b; Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10).

The Rewards to Those Who Repent of Hypocrisy and Obey the LORD (58:8-14)

1) Light and good health (58:8a)
2) Covered in the righteousness of God, and His glory.
3) The LORD will hear and answer prayer. (58:9)
4) We become a blessing to others. (58:10)
5) The LORD promises to guide us. (58:11a)
6) The LORD will satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of our souls. (58:11b)
7) The LORD will strengthen us. (58:12a)
8) The LORD will give His people a new name: “The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths [or broken walls] to dwell in” (58:12b).

Closing thoughts – The Means of Delighting the LORD, and Enjoying His Blessings (58:13-14)

The people had ritualized fasting (which God did not command), and neglected and abused the Sabbath, which the LORD had commanded. The fourth commandment states, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”(Exodus 20:8), but the people spent the Lord’s Day pursuing pleasure, and neglected to honor and worship Him (58:13). The LORD promised, if His people would honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy, He would fill them with joy, bless them, and give them an inheritance (58:14).

Are you honoring the LORD, not just in your practice, but in your heart? What place have you given Him in your life? What does the LORD require of you?

Romans 12:1–21I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

There is No Peace for the Wicked (Isaiah 56; Isaiah 57)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 56; Isaiah 57

Isaiah 56 – What does it mean to “seek the LORD?”

The Duty of Man and the Mercy of God (56:1-2)

Those who “seek the LORD” will seek righteousness and do righteousness. They will guard and keep the Law and Commandments. To them, the LORD promised, “my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed” (56:1). Such a man is “blessed” [happy] and he “keepeth the Sabbath,” and “keepeth his hand from doing any evil” [not defile the Sabbath, but keeping it as a day of worship, and rest] (56:2).

The Sabbath and its adherence by the “children of Israel” (Exodus 31:12-18) was a sign of sanctification to both Jews and Gentile believers who became part of Israel (“sons of the stranger,” 56:3, 6).

The Blessings of the LORD: A Universal Invitation (56:3-8)

Understanding the heart and compassion of the LORD for sinners, and reflecting the Great Commission of the New Testament (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:8), the invitation to come to the LORD was universal. The LORD assured believers, both the “son of the stranger” [non-Hebrews who had come by faith to accept the God of the Scriptures] and “the eunuch” [castrated or disfigured men unable to procreate] had their place among His covenant people (56:3-4). Yet, the inclusion among God’s people was not without duty, for they were to “keep[the] sabbath…and take hold of [God’s] covenant” (56:4). To “join themselves to the LORD,” non-Hebrew believers were to serve the LORD, love His name, “be His servants,” and keep “the sabbath from polluting it” (56:6).

None who came to the LORD by faith would be turned away. They could to come to Zion (the “holy mountain”), offer sacrifices, and worship there because the Temple would “be called an house of prayer for all people”(56:7). Isaiah promised, the LORD would not only gather “the outcasts of Israel” (those taken captive to other lands), but also “gather others to him” (56:8).

The Failure of Israel’s Leaders (56:9-12)

Isaiah prophesied that hostile nations, described as “beasts of the field…[and] beasts in the forest” (56:9), would attack Judah, but the leaders of God’s people had failed to warn the people. The LORD’s “watchmen” (His prophets and priests), were spiritually blind, lacking discernment, lazy, and immoral (56:10). They had become like “greedy dogs,” selfish and looking to their own pleasures.

Closing thoughts – Reminiscent of many unfaithful pastors in our day, the “shepherds” (spiritual teachers of Israel) were foolish. They were self-serving (56:11), drunk, and narcissistic (56:12a). Rather than warn the nation concerning the consequences of breaking covenant with the LORD, they persuaded the people every day would be the same, and failed to warn the people regarding the imminent judgment of the LORD (56:12b).

Isaiah 57

Remembering Isaiah’s prophecies were the precursor of God’s judgment, the prophet proposed the righteous who died (57:1) were fortunate to “enter into peace” (57:2). They would escape the sorrow of watching Jerusalem destroyed, and the people led away into captivity.

The Folly and Fate of Spiritual Adulterers (57:3-15)

Judah had become a nation of spiritual adulterers, who made sport of the righteous, and mocked the LORD (57:3-4). They worshipped lifeless “idols under every green tree,” and sacrificed their “children in the valleys” (57:5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35).

The nation failed to turn to the LORD, debased themselves before the heathen, and sought the favor of kings (57:9). Without the LORD’s blessings, the people despaired with “no hope” (57:10). They had forsaken the LORD, and in their hour of need, He became silent (“I held my peace,” 57:11). God declared, Judah’s pretense of righteousness, “shall not profit thee” (57:12). The LORD warned, when you cry, “let thy companies [idols] deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them [idols] all away” (57:13).

Though Judah would be punished for her sins, the LORD promised, “he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain” (57:13). Isaiah reminded His people their covenant was with “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity [eternal God], whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place [heaven], with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (57:15).

Closing thoughts – Though Judah would be punished for that nation’s sins, the LORD promised He would not be angry forever (57:16). He lovingly assured Judah He would “heal[pardon; restore],lead[guide], and “comfort” His people (57:18). The wicked, however, like a troubled sea, would not find rest (57:20), for “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (57:21).

Are you at peace? While there is no peace to the wicked, those who trust Christ as Savior are “justified by faith, [and] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Perfect peace is promised to those “whose mind is stayed on [the LORD]: Because he trusteth in [the LORD]” (Isaiah 26:3).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith