Category Archives: Sin

A New Beginning (Ezra 6, Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 6, Psalm 137

We are continuing our study of Israel’s history after the Jews returned from exile. With the decree of king Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-3), one might think the work on the Temple would be without opposition. After all, God’s people came to Zion with the affirmation of the king, his assurance of financial support, and the command for those Jews not returning to support those who were (1:4-11).

Fifty thousand Jews responded to the prospect of going home to the land God had promised Israel (2:1-70). After arriving in the land and settling in their homes, the people set about the task of building an altar (3:1-4) and laid the foundation of the Temple (3:5-11). A celebration began when the last stone of the foundation was set in its place, (3:11); however, rejoicing was soon followed by sorrow. There arose enemies who opposed the work on the Temple (Ezra 4). When they failed to halt the work (4:1-11), they appealed to the king of Persia (4:11-16) and accused the children of Israel of plotting a rebellion against the king.

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, ordered a search of the archives of the kings (4:17-22). Finding Israel and Judah had a history of rebelling against the occupation of their lands and cities, the king decreed the work on the Temple to cease (4:23-24).

Sixteen years passed, until the LORD sent His prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (5:1), who “prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem (5:1). “2Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God…and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2). Again, the enemies of God’s people rose up to oppose them, and then appealed to the king (5:3-17).

Ezra 6

King Darius commanded a search be made of the archives (6:1), where it was discovered Cyrus, king of Persia, had commanded the Temple be built (6:3). Additionally, the king  had made provision for sacrifices, and given the dimensions and material composition of the Temple (6:3-5).

In a twist of humor, and serving as a testimony to the sovereignty of God, the attempt of the enemy to derail the work on the Temple concluded with the Jews being favored by the king. King Darius not only commanded the Jews’ enemies financially support their work, but also supply what was needed for food and sacrifices (6:6-10). Giving warning to any who might oppose them, the king proclaimed, “I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this” (6:11).

Ezra 6 concluded with a glorious celebratory dedication of the new Temple (6:15-17). The priests and Levites were divided and assigned their duties “as it [was] written in the book of Moses” (6:18), and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were renewed (6:19-22).

What a wonderful, providential turn of events in the lives of God’s people! Knowing a king of Persia could not rescind a law once it was avowed, the LORD had preserved Cyrus’ decree for the Temple to be rebuilt. Darius was bound to the king’s edict, and moved to ensure it was fulfilled.

Closing thoughts – Notice Psalm 137 affords us a perspective on the sorrows the Jews bore during their years in Babylon. The children of Israel took for granted the grace and mercies of God, and continued in their sins until there was no remedy but the judgment of the LORD. God raised up many prophets to warn Israel and Judah, should they continue in their sins He would deliver them to their enemies.  Yet, they would not heed the warnings of His prophets, but continued in their sins until all was lost.

Arriving as captives in Babylon, the Jews were haunted by the memories of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Temple destroyed by fire. So, we read, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (137:1).

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.

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

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

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

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

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Dare to be A Daniel (Daniel 1)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history. Beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, our study of Daniel will encompass a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow: The Medo-Persian empire, followed by Greece, and then Rome. Yet, as we will see, the visions God imparted to Daniel were of the history of man that is past, present, and still future. Daniel’s writing included prophecies that are more than a footnote of history past; they are a foretelling of future events that will conclude with the Second Coming of Christ.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account of events we studied in 2 Kings 24:12-16, for it was “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah (605 BC) came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (1:1). This was the first of three sieges by Babylon. The others that followed were 597 BC, and 586 BC (the final destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, Jeremiah 25:9-12; 2 Kings 25).

The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings, if the people did not repent and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon,” the LORD would return His people to their land (Jeremiah 29:10).

The events recorded in Daniel 1 occurred at the time the Temple was plundered, and king Jehoiakim was taken captive to Babylon (1:1-2). 10,000 Jews were also taken captive following the first siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:14-16), and among them were the finest young men of Jerusalem: “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:3-4).

Named among the captives of Judah were “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (1:6). Desiring to complete their assimilation into the Babylonian culture, “the prince of the eunuchs gave names [to the Jewish captives]: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego” (1:7). Though we cannot be certain of his age, Daniel was probably between 13-17 years old when he was taken from his home and brought to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture.

Nebuchadnezzar chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth, and prepared them to one day take their place in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was among those youth (1:4), and soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a man of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7).

Leading by example and conviction, “Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself” (Daniel 1:8).

Daniel pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work, and providentially “brought Daniel into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince [chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined) by Nebuchadnezzar, they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

Closing thoughts (1:17-20) – We will see in our study, how the testing of Daniel’s faith prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

In closing, I invite you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive heart, and his sensitivity to the authority in his life: 1) He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); 2) He was sincere in his appeal (1:12); 3) He was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); 4) He was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

Following Daniel as a perfect model of faith and convictions, every believer would do well to examine his own spirit, manner, convictions, and relationship with the authorities in his life.

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.

Blessed Promise: God’s Promise to Forgive and Restore (Joel 1; Joel 2)

Scripture reading – Joel 1; Joel 2

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Joel. Authored by the prophet whose name it bears; Joel is only three chapters in length, and he is therefore named among the minor prophets. The subject of the book was the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), and God’s imminent judgment of Judah.

Joel 1

Summons to Old Men (1:2-4)

Summoning the “old men” to hear and give ear, Joel called upon them to testify of the judgment coming upon the nation, and that it was like none other that preceded it (1:2). The severity of God’s judgment would be so great, that it behooved the “old men” to tell the story of God’s judgment to the generations that would follow (1:3). Taking the locust and its four stages of growth as a symbol of four judgments, the portrait was drawn of a vast judgment that might provoke God’s people to repent and turn to the LORD (1:4; Jeremiah 15:3; Ezekiel 14:21).

Summons to the Drunkards (1:5-7)

After awakening the “old men,” the “drunkards” were summoned by Joel (1:5-7). These “drunkards” were a symbol of the hedonistic, pleasure-seeking people who reveled in the pleasures of wine and drunkenness (1:5). The judgment of God would fall upon the drunkards, and “the new wine…[would be] cut off from [their] mouth” (1:5b). Rather than locusts, the judgment of God would be carried out by “a nation [that was] come up upon [the LORD’s] land” (1:6).

Scholars are generally agreed this nation was Assyria, which a century before Joel’s prophecy had taken northern Israel captive (the ten tribes of the north). Described as “strong, and without number,” Assyria’s soldiers were the bane of the ancient world.  Twice we read, the army of Assyria had “the teeth of a lion” (1:6). Joel prophesied the enemy would strip the land bare, wasting the vine (symbol of Judah), and the fig tree (most likely a symbol of Jerusalem, 1:7).

A General Summons to the Congregation (1:8-14)

With Assyria encamped outside the walls of Jerusalem, Joel summoned the people to gather before the LORD and call upon him. He implored the people to cry to the LORD like a young widow mourning the death of her husband (1:8). Judah was impoverished, and there was no harvest, therefore no offerings to the LORD (1:9-10). The farmer was commanded to bemoan the failure of his crops, and “be…ashamed” (1:11). Of the workers of the orchards, it was said their “joy [was] withered away,” for the vines and the fruit trees were withered (1:12). The priests and ministers [Levites] who assisted them were called to mourn and lament, for there were no offerings to present to the LORD (1:13).

Joel longed for the LORD to deliver Jerusalem from the enemy, and he called the people to gather at the Temple and display signs of repentance: Fast (sign of grief), “solemn assembly” (a common sorrow), gather at the Temple (a public sign of repentance), and “cry unto the LORD” to save them (1:14).

A Prophetic Lamentation (1:15-20)

Understanding only the LORD could save Judah, Joel cried, “15Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand [Day of Judgment]” (1:15). The siege of Jerusalem brought famine (“meat cut off before our eyes”), and a time of sorrow (1:16). There was no harvest, no offerings, and the barns rotted and the crops withered (1:17). The beasts failed, for there was no pastures (1:18). Joel cried to the LORD, “19O Lord, to thee will I cry” for all was lost without the LORD’s help (1:19-20).

Joel 2 – The Day of the LORD, the Day of Judgment

Joel’s penitent prayer for Jerusalem (Zion), continued in chapter 2, as the prophet summoned the priests to pray for the nation. “Blow ye the trumpet,” sound the alarm, “let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD” was imminent (2:1). The judgment the LORD brought upon Judah by Assyria was described as, “2A day of darkness and of gloominess, A day of clouds and of thick darkness” (2:2a).

The Assyrian armies that marched through Judah had destroyed everything in their path (2:3), and the army encamped outside Jerusalem was mighty and terrifying to look upon (2:4-5). All nations, walled fortresses, and cities had fallen to Assyria, and without the LORD, there was no hope for Jerusalem (2:6-9). Indeed, the whole earth trembled, and in the words of the prophet, even the sun, moon, and stars were moved by the sight of the great army of Assyria (2:10-11).

 Why was the LORD bringing this great judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem? (2:12-32)

It was to the end the people would repent of their sin, turn to the LORD with all their “heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (2:12). Joel exhorted the people, “rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God” (2:13). Cut away the callousness of your sinful hearts and repent, for “the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:13). Joel longed for a national revival, and called upon the priests to, “weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people…[lest the heathen] say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).

Closing thoughts – Joel’s longing for revival should be the passion of every believer. Yet, the LORD requires His children to acknowledge and confess their sins, and turn to the LORD. Repentance might bring with it the LORD’s gracious promise to “restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (2:25).

Believer, you cannot get back the time you have wasted in sin, but the LORD is merciful. In His grace He is able, and may repay what was lost in your foolishness, and give you cause to praise His name (2:26).

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.

Warning: You Will Reap What You Sow! (Ezekiel 35)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 35

After prophesying against the spiritual shepherds of Israel, for they had put themselves before the welfare of the people (Ezekiel 34:2-6), Ezekiel prophesied “against mount Seir” (a name for the region of Edom, 35:2). The Edomites, descendants of Esau, the brother of the patriarch Jacob, were located in the region southeast of Israel, and south of the Dead Sea. They had despised Israel and Judah, and were guilty of taking pleasure in the sorrows and sufferings of those nations.

Ezekiel 35

The LORD came to Ezekiel, and commanded His prophet to prophesy against Edom, saying, “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O mount Seir [Edom], I am against thee, and I will stretch out mine hand against thee, and I will make thee most desolate. 4I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord” (35:3-4). Following the destruction of Edom as a people and nation, their land would be left uninhabited, and their cities laid waste, that they might know the God of Israel was “the LORD” (35:4).

The Edomites Hated God’s People (35:5-9)

They were related to the tribes through the line of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, and were sons of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Edom had a long history of hatred and violence against the children of Israel. The Edomites had shed the blood of Israel, and provoked God’s wrath (35:5). The LORD therefore, determined the blood of Edom would be shed, the people killed, and their land left desolate (35:6-7). The slaughter of the people would be so complete, it was foretold the mountains, valleys, and hills would be filled with the bodies of the slain (35:7-9). The cities of Edom would not be rebuilt, and the people would know that which was done was of the LORD (35:9).

The Edomites Coveted Israel’s Inheritance (35:10-11)

Taking pleasure in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Jews being led away captive to Babylon, the Edomites claimed the land the LORD had given Israel and Judah as an inheritance (35:10). Through His prophet, the LORD declared the Edomites would reap what they had sown, and the LORD would glorify His name in their judgment (35:11).

The Edomites Slandered Israel, and Defied God (35:12-14)

Edom mocked and scorned the “mountains of Israel” (i.e., the leaders of Israel). When Jerusalem fell, the Edomites rejoiced and aspired to claim the land for themselves (35:12). They boasted against Israel’s God, and provoked Him to declare, “I have heard them” (35:13).

Having provoked the wrath of the LORD, Ezekiel declared the nations of the earth would rejoice when Edom was left desolate (35:14). The prophet Malachi would look back upon the judgment of Edom, and remember the LORD declared, “I hated Esau (Edom), and laid his mountains and his heritage waste” (Malachi 1:3).

Closing thoughts (35:15) – Edom took pleasure in the overthrow of Jerusalem, and the desolation of Israel and Judah. The LORD, being just, declared the Edomites would suffer the same sorrows (35:15a).  What Edom (“mount Seir, and all Idumea)” had sown as a nation, they would reap, to the end the people would know the God of Israel was Sovereign and that He was “the LORD” (35:15b).

Times change, and nations come and go, but the principle of Sowing and Reaping is a constant, immutable truth.

Galatians 6:77Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

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.

Ezekiel: God’s Watchman on the Wall (Ezekiel 33; Ezekiel 34)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 33; Ezekiel 34

Ezekiel 33 moved the focus of our Scripture readings from God’s judgment of Egypt and the nations (Ezekiel 29-32), to the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility to serve the LORD as His watchman. Ezekiel’s task was not an enviable one. He was charged to deliver a message to the people of the captivity, and it was one they despised. Ezekiel’s task was to remind the nation of its past, discern the times, and declare God’s judgment should the people continue in their sins.

Ezekiel 33 – God Provided His People a Watchman

Far from Jerusalem, and living as a captive in Babylon, Ezekiel was charged with speaking the word of the LORD “to the children of [his] people” (33:2). God provided His people watchmen, whose ministry was to warn the sword of judgment was come into the land (33:2). Some of the watchmen were faithful to their tasks, but there were many who failed to sound the warning (“blow the trumpet”), and thus left the people unprepared, and unprotected.

Ezekiel was told, when a faithful watchman sounds the warning, and the people refuse to heed the sound of the trumpet, their blood was on their own head. Yet, should the prophet fail the nation, and not warn them, the blood of the people would be upon his head as God’s watchmen (33:3-6).

Ezekiel was Israel’s Watchman (33:7-11)

The LORD called and commissioned Ezekiel to be a “watchman unto the house of Israel” (33:7), and it was his task to hear the LORD and warn the nation (33:7). He was to warn the wicked saying, “thou shalt surely die,” but should Ezekiel fail, the blood of the wicked would be upon his hand (33:8). Yet, if Ezekiel was a faithful prophet, and the wicked refused to heed his warning, he would be delivered from the guilt of their blood when they perished (33:9). His mission was to call the people to repent, and assure them the LORD would extend His compassion (33:10-11).

Righteous Repentance vs. Righteous Work (33:12-16)

Lest any believe salvation by grace through faith is a New Testament doctrine, or that the saints of the Old Testament placed their faith in works to merit God’s favor, the LORD declared to Ezekiel: “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression” (33:12).

Good works do not save, they never have and they never will.  Only God can save! Those who trust in their own righteousness “shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it” (33:13). Yet, the wicked who repent of their sins, turn to the LORD and prove their faith by walking in His will “shall surely live, he shall not die” (33:15). Indeed, the wicked who have repented are promised, “16None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (33:16).

News of Jerusalem’s Destruction (33:21-26)

The year was 585 BC, “the twelfth year of [the] captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month” (33:21), a messenger from Jerusalem arrived in Babylon. Having escaped the city under siege, he brought the dreaded news Ezekiel had prophesied should come to pass: “The city is smitten” (33:21c). The prophet shared how, the evening before the messenger arrived, “the hand of the LORD was upon” him (31:23). The LORD put in Ezekiel’s mouth His words, and revealed the cause of God’s judgment.

In their pride, the children of Israel boasted confidently of the Abrahamic lineage, and asserted the land of Israel was their inheritance (33:23-24). Yet, their sins brought God’s judgment, for they had defiled the land with their wickedness (32:25-26).

The Consequences of Israel’s Sins (33:27-29)

The fall of Jerusalem was only the beginning of sorrows for those who survived the destruction of the city. Those who fled the city would be slain by the sword, and others would be killed by wild beasts in the fields (33:27a). Some sheltered in caves, only to perish of disease (33:27b). Jerusalem’s pride in her strength came to an end, and the land was left desolate (33:28). All this that the people would know the judgment was come upon them “because of all their abominations which they [had] committed” (33:29).

Ezekiel: A Persecuted Prophet (33:30-33)

One would think the affirmation of all Ezekiel prophesied would command the respect of the people in captivity, but it did not. Instead, the LORD warned His prophet, “the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother” (30:30). Some came to Ezekiel and made a pretense of listening to the word of the LORD through His prophet (33:30), but they were hypocrites. With their mouths they claimed to love the LORD, but “their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31). They complimented the prophet on his voice, and heard his words, but refused to obey (33:32).

Ezekiel 34 – The Failure of Unfaithful Pastors

The prophet took the unfaithful shepherds of Israel to task in Ezekiel 34. Men who were entrusted with shepherding, and leading God’s people had failed them. They had taken advantage of the people, and abused their roles as pastors of Israel (34:1-8). Because they failed to feed and shepherd His people, the LORD warned, “I am against the shepherds” (34:9-10).  In spite of the dire state of the children of Israel, the LORD comforted Ezekiel and assured him He would one day gather His people together as a loving shepherd gathers His sheep (34:11-31).

Closing thoughts (33:33) – What comfort might the prophet take from this great tragedy? Jerusalem was destroyed, and Judah was a desolate land. The people of the captivity not only refused to repent and turn to the LORD, they persecuted His prophet.

Though he was rejected by his people, Ezekiel was assured the time would come, and “lo, it will come,” when the people would know and remember, “a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

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 Finale of the Nations (Ezekiel 32)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 32

Egypt continues to be the primary subject of our current study, as we conclude this section that foretold God’s judgment against all the nations of the world. The prophecy before us was given in the twelfth year of Ezekiel’s exile to Babylon.

The Inescapable Judgment of the Nations (32:1-16)

A Lament for Pharaoh, king of Egypt (32:2-6)

The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt” (32:2), and compared the harsh reign of the king to a “young lion of the nations…whale [perhaps a crocodile] among the seas,” and a trouble to his people (represented as “the waters,” 32:2). For his wickedness, the LORD foretold He would cast the net of His judgment upon Pharaoh and Egypt (32:3). The king would be dragged from his throne, and figuratively cast into the wilderness where the nations of the earth would feed upon his flesh (32:4-5). The waters of Egypt would be stained red with the blood of the people (32:6).

A Dreadful Picture of God’s Final Judgment (32:7-10)

As we have seen in earlier studies, prophecies often carry an immediate implication and a far-reaching application, and so it is in the passage before us. Ezekiel 32:7-10 describes the imminent judgment of God as a time of great darkness, even as it will be in the last days (Isaiah 13:9-11: 34:1-4; Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 6:12-17; 8:12). The heart of the nations will be troubled, and the people will shrink back in horror (32:10).

Nebuchadnezzar: The Agent of God’s Judgment (32:11-16)

Leaving no room for ambiguity, Ezekiel prophesied Egypt’s fall to Babylon was determined (32:11), and the ruthless reputation of Babylon was portrayed as “the terrible of the nations” (32:12). Nebuchadnezzar’s army would wreak havoc on the land, spoil the treasures of Egypt, and kill the people and livestock (32:12-13). The nations of the world would look upon Egypt’s sorrows and lament her fall (32:16).

The Nations Sentenced to Hell (32:17-32)

Picturing Hell for what it is, a place of death and torment for sinners who reject the LORD and His Word (32:17-32), the Egyptians were warned they would suffer the fate of other nations (32:18). Assyria was fallen to Babylon, and we read of her slain, their “graves are set in the sides of the pit [hell]” (32:23). Assyria joined other ancient nations who made their graves in hell: Elam, Meshech, Tubal, Edom, and Zidon had all borne “their shame with them that go down to the pit” (32:24-30).

Pharoah and Egypt would not be spared or favored above the nations, and Ezekiel warned, “thou shalt be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, and shalt lie with them that are slain with the sword” (32:28). The king of Egypt and his army would be “slain by the sword” (32:31), and Pharaoh would take his place “in the midst of the uncircumcised” with the eternal damned (32:32).

Closing thought – Ezekiel’s prophecies of the coming judgments of Egypt and the nations concluded with the words, “saith the LORD God” (32:32). All the LORD revealed to Ezekiel came to pass, and the people and nations of the earth that rejected the LORD perished.

I look forward to sharing with you the balance of the chapters in Ezekiel, for they foretell a glorious future for God’s people (Ezekiel 33:1-39:29).

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.

God’s Judgment of Egypt (Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we are in the midst of God’s declaration of judgment on the nations, with the subject being Egypt. The date of this prophesy is not given, and there is good reason to believe it would have followed soon after Ezekiel 29:1, which was in the tenth year, and the tenth month of Ezekiel’s exile in Babylon.

Ezekiel 30 – The Third Judgment

A Storm of God’s Judgment (30:1-9)

Following the pattern of earlier prophecies, Ezekiel was addressed as, “son of man,” and commanded to “prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the day!” (which is to say, Oh no! The day of the Lord is near, a day of clouds, 30:2). With Jerusalem under siege, Ezekiel was to pronounce a storm of God’s judgment would soon pass upon all the nations, for “the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day” (30:3). Doomed with Egypt, were her allies, including Ethiopia (Cush), Libya, Lydia, and Chub (30:5). Egypt’s pride in her strength would fail, and her lands and cities would be laid waste (30:6-7). The Egyptians would know it was the LORD, as her cities burned (30:8). When news of Egypt’s fall reached Ethiopia, her people would be terrified and say of their own demise, “lo, it cometh” (30:9).

Nebuchadnezzar, An Agent of God (30:10-19)

The king of Babylon was named as the servant, the agent of God’s wrath (30:10). Ezekiel was to declare, the “multitude of Egypt” would come to an end as the people were slain, and driven as captives out of the land (30:10-11). The rivers, streams, and irrigation canals flowing from the Nile would be destroyed, and the nation plundered (30:12). All of the great cities of Egypt would become desolate (30:13-18), that the people might know and confess “the LORD” as sovereign (30:19).

The Strength of Pharaoh Would Fail (30:20-26)

Ezekiel 30:20 introduced the fourth judgment of the LORD against the nations. It was in the eleventh year of Ezekiel’s exile when the LORD declared, “I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, lo, it shall not be bound up to be healed” (30:21). Portrayed as a man with broken arms, the strength of Pharaoh would never be reset, nor would Egypt have the strength to war over other nations again (30:21-22). The LORD would scatter the Egyptians among the nations (30:23), and Pharaoh would “groan…with the groanings of a deadly wounded man” (30:24). Thus, Egypt would come to know and confess the God of Israel is “the LORD” (30:26).

Ezekiel 31 – The Fourth Judgment

Egypt’s Judgment Compared to the Fall of Assyria (31:3-9)

Ezekiel 31 continued God’s warning of judgment against Egypt, with the fall of ancient Assyria serving as a warning to “Pharaoh” (31:2). Assyria was portrayed as a great “cedar in Lebanon,” whose stature exceeded all the trees in the “forest” of the nations (31:3). In her zenith, Assyria towered as a giant among the nations of the world, even as Egypt at her peak oppressed weaker nations and people. As the Nile River nourished Egypt, so the rivers and streams of Assyria nourished her fields and forest (31:4-5).

Continuing the portrayal of Assyria as a great cedar, the nations of the world sought shelter in her “branches,” even as times of famine moved the people to retreat to Egypt (the great “bread basket” of ancient times, 31:6). Incomparably proud, the Assyrians boasted their nation excelled all others (portrayed as a great cedar boasting it exceeded “all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God,” 31:8-9).

Assyria’s Fate: A Warning to Egypt (31:10-17)

As the mighty Assyrian “cedar” fell, Egypt’s pride would suffer a crushing defeat as the LORD delivered Pharaoh into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (31:10-11). Assyria, remembered as a ruthless nation, would suffer the same fate, and her allies would desert her (31:12-13).

Though Nebuchadnezzar was God’s agent, it was the LORD who determined all who lift up their proud hearts would “go down to the pit” (31:14). The LORD stopped up the waters of the rivers, as the crops failed, and the “trees of the field fainted” (31:15). When the news of Assyria’s downfall spread, the nations of the world were shaken (31:16). The LORD condemned Assyria to hell, and her allies with her (31:17).

Closing thoughts (31:18) – The fall of Assyria served as God’s warning to Egypt (31:18a). Ezekiel foretold, as it was with Assyria, so it would befall Egypt (31:18b).

Warning – People and nations who exalt themselves against the God of Heaven, will be sentenced “unto the nether parts of the earth” (31:18a).

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.

God is Slow to Wrath, But His Judgments are Sure (Ezekiel 28; Ezekiel 29)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 28; Ezekiel 29

God’s displeasure with the nations that had taken joy in the destruction of Jerusalem continued in Ezekiel 28.  As a great city of ancient times, Tyrus was addressed in Ezekiel 26 and 27, and continues to be the subject of our study in Ezekiel 28. Though the prophet was commanded to once again speak to Tyrus, it was the king, the “prince [king] of Tyrus” that was his subject (28:2).

The LORD came to Ezekiel with an indictment of the “prince [king] of Tyrus” (28:2), but the verses that followed revealed this king was more than a mere mortal. He represented the embodiment of evil; the demonic forces that are ever present in the governments of the nations of the world. The apostle Paul wrote of the same demonic presence in his day writing, “12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). As you will see, the king of Tyrus was a symbol of a presence and power greater than man (28:11-15).

Ezekiel 28

Provoked by the pride of the king of Tyrus, the LORD brought an indictment against that ruler (28:2-5). The king boasted he was powerful and his throne was equal to that of God. In fact, he boasted, “I am a God” (28:2). Proud of his intelligence, he boasted he was wiser than the prophet Daniel, and no secret was hidden from him (28:3). Shrewd in commerce, the king was wealthy, and believed himself equal to God (28:6).

Fourfold Judgment of the King of Tyrus (28:6-10)

Remembering, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18), we are not surprised when we read God declared he would destroy the proud king of Tyrus. The king felt his kingdom was unconquerable, but the LORD stirred up the king of Babylon (“the terrible of the nations,” 28:7), who would bring his army against Tyrus and bring the king to a violent end (28:8). The fall of the king would be so great, the world would look upon him, and know he was a man (28:8-9). His death would come by “the hand of strangers” (29:10).

King of Tyre, A Symbol of Satan (28:11-15)

Here we find recorded a contrast between the pride of the king of Tyrus and that of Satan. Like the king, Lucifer (Satan) boasted against God (Isaiah 14:12-15). In reality, the king of Tyrus was a puppet in the hand of that evil one.

Ezekiel records a depiction of Lucifer (28:12-19), who was the model of perfection, perfect wisdom and beauty (28:12). Only of Satan could it be said, “thou hast been in Eden the garden of God” (28:13). Like the ephod of the high priest of Israel whose breastplate was adorned with precious stones, Lucifer had been a being of beauty, and was created by God (28:13b). He was a musician (28:13c), and ordained as the guardian cherub about the throne of God (28:14). Before sin entered into him and he rebelled, he had been a sinless being, “perfect in [his] ways (28:15). As Satan was cast out of heaven, so the king of Tyrus would be cast from his throne, and made a spectacle for he dared boast against the God of heaven (28:16-19).

Prophecy Against Zidon (28:20-23)

Zidon was a sister city of Tyrus, and was located some 20 miles north of the capital city. Like Tyrus, Zidon would suffer a calamitous destruction. “Pestilence” (plagues, disease, sickness) and the blood of violence and war would stain her streets (28:23). All of this suffering and sorrow, to the end the nations would know and confess the God of Israel was “the LORD” (28:22, 23).

Tyus and Zidon would be annihilated, but the LORD promised He would gather “the house of Israel” and return His people to their land (28:24-25). Peace and prosperity would be restored to God’s people, and they would “dwell safely…build houses, and plant vineyards…[and] dwell with confidence” (28:26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Ezekiel 29 – The Judgment of Egypt

It was in the tenth year of Ezekiel’s exile (I believe coinciding with king Jehoiachin being taken prisoner to Babylon), that the LORD came to the prophet with a pronouncement of judgment “against Pharoah king of Egypt” (29:1-2). The stated determination of the LORD to begin His judgment with Pharaoh continues for four chapters, concluding with Ezekiel 32.

Seven judgments are stated against Egypt and its ruler, with the first two recorded in Ezekiel 29. Like the king of Tyrus, Pharaoh was guilty of pride, boasting he was sovereign of Egypt’s wealth and the Nile River was his (foolishly boasting, “I have made it for myself,” 29:3).

Portraying Himself as a divine fisherman, the LORD warned He would set a hook in Pharaoh’s jaws and pull him and “all the fish of the rivers” (the people) “into the wilderness” (29:4-5). The purpose of God’s judgments is stated again, “Egypt shall know that I am the LORD” (29:6). Pharaoh had also betrayed the trust of Judah, and for that reason the LORD declared he would splinter Egypt like a reed (29:7).

For her sins, “the land of Egypt [would] be desolate and waste” and not “be inhabited for forty years” (29:8-11). Yet, unlike Assyria and Tyrus, Ezekiel prophesied God would mercifully restore the people of Egypt to her lands (29:13), though Egypt would never again be a great world empire (29:14-16).

Closing thoughts (29:18-21) – Tyrus and Egypt would pay for their sins, and Nebuchadnezzar did serve as the LORD’s agent of judgment. Though Babylon’s siege against Tyrus lasted 13 years and was a great expense, God determined to repay Nebuchadnezzar with the vast wealth of Egypt. From the spoils of Egypt, the king of Babylon paid his army (29:19).

Warning: Grave consequences befall those that persecute, and take pleasure in the sorrows and sufferings of God’s people. 

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.

No nation will stand when the LORD has set Himself against it. (Ezekiel 27)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 27

Tyrus, also known as Tyre, was the ancient sea capital of Phoenicia and is the subject of God’s judgment in Ezekiel 27. The fact Tyrus took such a prominent role in Ezekiel’s prophecy is indicative of not only its significance in the prophet’s day, but as you will see in our next study, its prophetic importance as well (Ezekiel 29). Like the prior nations whom Ezekiel predicted would be judged by the LORD and fall to Babylon, the same would be true of Tyrus (28:1-19).

Ezekiel 27 – A Funeral Dirge for Tyrus

The LORD came to Ezekiel instructing him to “take up a lamentation for Tyrus” (27:2). This lamentation foretold God’s sorrow that He must exercise justice. Tyrus would suffer not only for her wickedness and idolatry, but also for the joy she expressed when Jerusalem was “laid waste” (26:2).

Tyrus was the crossroads of trade in the ancient world. The island city was not only a fortress of the Phoenicians, but with two ports, was essentially the “World Trading Center” of the day. Boasting, “I am of perfect beauty” (27:3b), Ezekiel described the splendor and self-sufficiency of Tyrus by comparing it to a beautiful ship that boasted the best of everything (27:4-7).

In addition to being a trade hub, Tyrus was also an intersection of humanity (27:8-11). The vast number of trade ships passing through Tyrus made it necessary for the city to hire sailors from other places to strengthen their security on the coastline. Her army boasted mercenary soldiers from Persia, and Lud and Phut (believed to be ancient African tribes). Adding to the beauty of the city were the shields and helmets of her soldiers that adorned the walls of the city (the Phoenicians are believed to have begun that practice, and it was followed by Solomon, 1 Kings 10:16-17).

Ezekiel 27:12-25 gives a detailed description of the nations and city-states whose ships and goods passed through Tyrus. Tarshish (ancient Spain, 27:12), Javan (ancient Greece), Tubal and Meshech (believed to be regions of the Black and Caspian Seas, 27:13). The list included the ancient city of Rhodes (Dedan, 27:15), cities of Mesopotamia (27:16), Judah and Israel (known for grain, honey, oil, and balm, 27:17). Arabia and Kedar with its lambs, rams, and goats (27:21), and spices, jewels, and gold from Sheba and Raamah (27:22). Finally, all the major city-states of Mesopotamia supplied beautiful garments of blue, embroidered cloth, and rugs (27:23-25).

For all her wealth, might, and splendor, Tyrus was not spared the judgment of God. Sadly, that city was portrayed as a sinking ship (27:26-31). Babylon, described as “the east wind,” would break upon Tyrus as the seas break upon and sink a ship (27:26). The city, its people, commerce, and wealth were to “fall into the midst of the seas in the day of [her] ruin” (27:27).

The “suburbs” of Tyrus (cities along the mainland) would “shake at the sound of the cry” of her leaders (27:28). Her sailors would abandon ship (27:28), and watch in horror and disbelief as the city was destroyed (27:29). Neighboring nations would wail at the news, and bemoan the death of the city (27:30-31). Recalling her former glory and how they had been enriched by her trade, the cries of her neighbors would express their shock at her fall (27:32-33).

Closing thoughts (27:34-36) – What an amazing story! Tyrus was a great and powerful city-state, epitomized as perfection and beauty (27:3-4). Her people believed she was invincible, for her “builders [had] perfected [her]beauty” (27:4). Yet, God had sentenced Tyrus for judgment, and no man could save her.

The fall of Tyrus plunged the region into a financial collapse (27:34), eventually leading to the fall of her trade partners (27:35). Nebuchadnezzar conquered Tyrus, and in 332 BC, Alexander the Great destroyed her (27:36).

No nation will stand when the LORD has set Himself against it.

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.