Category Archives: Theology

Israel, Behold Your King Cometh!

September 22, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 5-9

Remembering the distinction between Israel, the northern kingdom made up of ten tribes, and Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, Amos takes up the prophecy of the LORD against Israel in Amos 5.

God’s condemnation and exposure of Israel’s hypocrisy gives way to His lamentation over the judgment and sorrows that will soon come upon the people (5:1-3).   Though the heart of the nation was to do evil, nevertheless the LORD appealed to Israel to hear, heed and repent (5:4, 6, 8, 14-15)!

Amos names the sins of the nation…unjust and rejecting righteousness (5:7), hating bearers of truth (5:10), abusing the poor (5:11), afflicting the righteous and taking bribes (5:12).   Pronouncements of “Woe!” bring the chapter to a close (5:18-27).  The people had continued to make a pretense of outward conformity (5:21-22), but God knew their hearts and the prophet condemns their hypocrisy [note verse 23 – Even their songs had the character of noise].

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of “woes”, against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1).  Identifying Philistine and Syrian cities that had fallen to the Assyrian army, Amos questioned if Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them? (5:2)

In spite of the clouds of doom on the horizon, the people continued to indulge themselves, resting on “beds of ivory”, eating “the lambs out of the flock”; entertaining themselves with music, drunkenness and reveling in pleasures till they were carried into captivity bearing the chains of slavery (6:4-7).

In Amos 7-8, the prophet states six prophetic visions; five of judgment and the 6th of the day God will establish His heavenly kingdom. 

The first judgment is of grasshoppers (Amos 7:1-3) – God planned to bring locusts to devour the people’s second harvest; however, God heard Amos’ plea for the people and the “LORD repented” [that does not mean God planned to do evil or changed His attitude toward the evil of His people; it means He is longsuffering and changed His mind after hearing the plea of His servant].

The second judgment is one of fire (Amos 7:4-6) – Fire drying up water is a picture of the drought God planned to bring against His people.  Once again, God heard the intercession of His prophet and “repented” (7:6).

The third judgment is the plumb line (Amos 7:7-9) – The plumb line is a tool used by a builder to make sure a wall is straight.  God’s plumb line of judgment is His Law.  Seeing the plumb line of God’s Law and Commandments and the failure of the people measured by the Law of God, Amos did not intercede for the nation.

Amos 7 reminds us faithful preachers who declare the Word of God often find themselves in conflict with government and religious authorities.

Jeroboam, the wicked king of Israel (the northern 10 tribes), appointed Amaziah to serve as “the priest of Bethel” and to offer sacrifices.  Hearing the words of Amos and his bold declaration of the prophecies of the LORD against Israel and the king, Amaziah counseled there was no place for Amos in Israel (7:10-11).   Rather than hearing and heeding the message God had given His prophet, both Amaziah and the king wanted the prophet silenced (7:12-13).   Rehearsing God’s call upon his life, Amos set his heart he would not be silent and boldly declared God’s judgment (7:14-17).

The fourth judgment is a picture of fruit harvested at the end of summer, expressing the imminent judgment of God (8:1-14).

The fifth and final judgment prophesied by Amos is a vision of a temple destroyed (most likely not the one in Jerusalem, but the idolatrous one established in Samaria) and worshippers slain in the destruction (Amos 9:1-10).

The words of Amos would come to pass.  Israel, the northern kingdom consisting of ten tribes, was the first taken captive, scattered “among all nations” and never to return to Canaan (9:9).   Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of Judah and Benjamin, is promised, “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8).  Seventy years after Judah was taken captive, the people were allowed to return to their land, rebuild the temple and Jerusalem (9:11-15).

Amos 9 concludes with God’s promise to one day restore God’s people to their land and place upon the throne of David a legitimate heir. 

An observation as I close: A legitimate heir of David has not sat upon the throne of Israel since the time of the captivity to our day.  The Jews have returned to their homeland, but no king reigns in Israel.  When a legitimate heir of Israel sits on the throne of David He will be none other than Jesus Christ, Son of David, the Only begotten Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

If You Had One Wish…What Would You Choose?

September 19, 2017

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 1-5

We come today to a new history book in our daily reading in the Old Testament.  2 Chronicles, like 1 Chronicles, are parallel books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings.   While 1 Kings and 2 Kings are written from the viewpoint of man; 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, covering the same age as the Book of Kings, are written from God’s perspective.

1 Chronicles concluded with King David’s benediction on his life and exhortation for Israel to give allegiance to Solomon as king and support him in the greatest undertaking of his life and reign as king…building a Temple for the LORD in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 29:1-25).   With understated fanfare, David, Israel’s greatest king, “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

2 Chronicles opens with Solomon sitting on his father’s throne and the power and blessing of God resting upon him (2 Chronicles 1:1).   Solomon began his reign where all men should begin their day…he worshipped the LORD (1:2-6).   God appeared to Solomon “and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee” (1:7).

What an incredible proposition!  Solomon, ask what you will and I shall give thee!  I wonder, what would you request should you have opportunity to ask for something, for anything, and it would be granted?    Would you ask for riches?  Possessions?  Power?  Popularity?  Fame?   The answer to that question reveals a lot about your character!

Solomon’s humble request no doubt puts us all to shame!  His request was not for those things which is the pursuit of carnal, worldly-minded men.   Solomon’s desire revealed a heart of deep humility.

2 Chronicles 1:10 –  “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?”

God commended Solomon for his request and promised to reward him with not only wisdom and knowledge, but also “riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (1:12).   The closing verses of 2 Chronicles 1 reveal the vastness of Solomon’s wealth as the LORD blessed him as He had promised.

2 Chronicles 2–4 gives us the record of Solomon directing the building of the Temple as his father David had instructed him.  The design, the carvings of wood and the gold that overlaid the walls and doors made the Temple Solomon built one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

With the Temple complete (5:1), Solomon directed the golden vessels assembled by his father David and the ark, representing the earthly presence of God among His people, be brought to the Temple (5:2-9).   With the ark in the “holy place”, the people celebrated with singing, trumpets and cymbals praising the Lord, saying, “For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever” (5:13).

Having reflected on the glorious beginning of Solomon’s reign and his humility before the LORD; it saddens me to recall the spiritual and moral failures that would overshadow his accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge.  Of Solomon, we read:

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

That same truth has played out in the lives of some I have known.  Too many saints go to their graves, remembered, not for their accomplishments, but for the tragedy of their moral failures.

Friend, don’t allow that to be true of you; discipline your heart, thoughts, eyes and affections.   Follow Job’s example:

Job 31:1 – “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

LOOK AND LIVE!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-24

The historical context of today’s scripture reading, Numbers 21-24, finds Israel near the end her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness after she left Egypt.   The generation that departed Egypt and refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan and possess it had perished.  Miriam, Moses’ sister, died in the opening verse of Numbers 20 (20:1) and Aaron, his brother and the high priest of Israel, died in the closing verses of Numbers 20 (20:28).

The final six months of Israel’s 40 years wandering in the wilderness is the setting of Numbers 21 where we find Israel murmuring against Moses and the LORD (21:4-5).  Like their parents who had perished in the desert, this new generation followed the sinful, faithless pattern of their fathers and mothers, became discouraged and accused God and Moses of leading them “out of Egypt to die in the wilderness” (21:5).

The LORD answered their murmuring with “fiery [poisonous] serpents” and “much of the people of Israel died” (21:6).   Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to intercede and pray the LORD  would “take away the serpents” (20:7).

God answered Moses’ prayer and provided a way of salvation, instructing His servant to fashion a serpent of brass and suspend it in the air above the people (21:8).  The LORD promised, if the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9).  It was that same symbol Jesus referred to when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross when He said:

John 3:14-16“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] 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.”

My friend, as the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to look to and be spared death, Jesus Christ is the answer for the curse of sin of all sinners.

The invitation to Israel is the invitation to all…Look to the Cross…See with eyes of faith Jesus Christ crucified for your sin…and Live.

1 John 5:11-13 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

LOOK and LIVE!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Mass Exodus Out of Florida Returning Home

I want to thank you for your prayers on behalf of Hillsdale Baptist Church, its members and staff who anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  As our lives are getting back to normal, with the exception of some roof leaks, our church and school buildings are in great shape.  We are praising the LORD our membership suffered little damage as Category 1 and Category 2 winds whipped through our region.  Other than the inconvenience of losing electricity, we are rejoicing in God’s protection.

On a personal note:  In my opinion, sensationalism has become the daily diet of our culture and the mass exodus from Florida before and during Hurricane Irma’s arrival driven in large part to a news media given to hype and ratings.

“Breaking News”, “This Just In”, “Epic” are clichés used ad nauseam by news networks desperately competing for viewership that translates into revenue from advertisers.

The coverage of Hurricane Irma was indeed “epic” and the storm was without a doubt powerful and destructive; however, the news media’s use of images (replayed over and over) along with the hyperbole of exaggeration, ramped up both fear and anxiety that went far beyond the actual threat of the storm.

Citizens of Florida were running from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast in an attempt to flee Irma based on the forecasts of meteorological “experts” that hadn’t a clue where the storm was going to make landfall or the track she would take.  Hundreds of thousands of Floridians fled homes located far from coastal waters and the predicted “surge” only to be overtaken by Irma in their northward flight (apparently, she was not listening to weather prognosticators failing to accurately predict her track even an hour ahead of her eye).

Two days before Irma’s arrival, hoarders emptied grocery shelves of food stocks and water; Gas stations ran out of gas as a panicked population clogged highway arteries.

I am left wondering what happened to the common-sense adage saints use to follow, “Prepare for the worst and pray”.

I believe the inspiration of that saying is Proverbs 21:31.   Solomon advised his son, “The horse is prepared [ready] against the day of battle [war; warfare]: but safety [salvation; deliverance; victory] is of the LORD.”

Believers are to use wisdom and exercise prudence in preparing for trials, troubles and storms (i.e. prepare the horse for battle); however, people of faith, having done all to prepare, must put their faith in the LORD who is Omnipotent and Sovereign, after all, “safety is of the LORD”, is it not?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

September 10, 2017

A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1

Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.

I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms.  Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.

The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1.   Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away.  Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.

Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide.  This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.

Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay.   Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea.  Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.  It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.

Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).  Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.  Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).

Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD.   In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38).  Years later, Peter would write, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem.  The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being.  The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.

Mark 4:39-40 – “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him.   When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him.  Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature.  What manner of man is this?

The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.

King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).

Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).

Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.

My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.  Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis.   Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”

Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us!  Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?

Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves.  Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately.  Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD.   The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!

I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, What Manner of Man Is his?”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Please Pray: God sometimes calls a nation to repent through natural cataclysmic events.

September 8, 2017

Scripture Reading – Joel 1-3

I found today’s scripture reading especially graphic in light of the devastating blow suffered by Houston from Hurricane Harvey and the path of destruction Hurricane Irma is leaving as she makes her way across the Caribbean and towards South Florida today.  Adding to the calamity in our region of the world is the news of a major earthquake in southern Mexico this morning.

A novice reader of the Bible recognizes the prophet Joel is writing about a national disaster in terms that are symbolic, nevertheless powerful.  Joel is describing the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14) and the impending judgment of God against Judah.

The Book of Joel describes three catastrophic invasions.  The enemy in Joel 1 is a natural enemy…a plague of locusts that destroys the crops leaving both men and beasts starving (1:7, 10-12, 16-20).

The enemy in Joel 2 is the impending invasion by the armies of Assyria (2:1-27) described in verse 20 as “the northern army” (or the army to the north).   Joel was to sound the alarm, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion” (2:1)… warn Judah an enemy was coming.  Describing the swath of destruction, Joel warns, “the day of the LORD cometh…A day of darkness and of gloominess…a fire devoureth before them…before their face the people shall be much pained” (2:1-6).

Why? Why was the LORD bringing this upon Judah?  That the people might turn…to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:12-13).  Reminding the nation the LORD is “gracious and merciful” (2:13), Joel called upon Judah to repent of her sins and turn to the LORD.

Joel prayed for a national revival:  “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children…17  Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).

Knowing the LORD is gracious and merciful, Joel promised if the people repented, God would restore the nation, bless the land and “restore to you the years that the locust have eaten…26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied” (2:18-26).

Joel 3 is a future event…the regathering of the Jews to Judah and Jerusalem (3:1) and the Gentile nations gathering against Israel (3:2) in what I believe is the final battle…Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).   Remembering the ill-treatment suffered by the Jews down through the centuries (3:3-8),  the LORD promises to make war against the Gentiles (3:9-17).   Two Gentile nations are specifically named for destruction… “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah” (3:19).   Egypt representing that great nation south of Israel and Edom the Arab nations to the north and east of Israel.

I close today’s devotional commentary with a personal observation as one who lives in the path of a hurricane the mayor of Miami describes as “epic”.   In a few days, after the storms have passed and the toll on life and property is assessed, there will be a national debate bordering on hysteria about the cause of these massive storms.   Some of the discussion will be sensible and scientific; however, media bias and liberal politicians will beat their drums and bewail “Climate Change” and reproach humanity as the cause.

A mere handful might dare broach the Biblical and historical reality God often calls a people to repent of their sin through natural cataclysmic events.

I am not suggesting the devastation suffered by Houston, the Caribbean and the potential of suffering in Florida from Hurricane Irma is the judgment of God.   However, I will confess the United States has turned from God, His Laws and precepts.

America is guilty of gross sins…the negligence of justice; the celebration of gross immorality; and the deaths of 60 million infants.  Of such a people we read, “for blood it defileth [corrupts; pollutes] the land [earth; country]: and the land cannot be cleansed [purged; atoned; forgiven] of the blood that is shed therein” (Numbers 35:33).

Pray for Texas, Florida and our nation to turn back to the LORD.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord”

September 4, 2017

Scripture Reading – Numbers 13-16

Continuing in our study of the Book of Numbers, we find Israel encamped at the threshold of the land God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be the inheritance of their seed.  The events in today’s scripture reading, Numbers 13-16, are among the most dynamic in Israel’s 40 years of wanderings in the wilderness; unfortunately, this devotional commentary must be brief and highlight only a few observations of the many that could be made.

The LORD directed Moses to send men, one from each tribe, to “see the land…the people…what the land is…what the cities they be” (13:1-19).   Moses challenged the men, “be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land” (13:20).  The spies were gone for 40 days and returned with “a branch with one cluster of grapes” that was so full of fruit the men “bare it between two upon a staff” (13:23-25).

The spies confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:27); however, they also reported the people of the land were strong, lived in walled cities and “the children of Anak”, along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites dwelled there (13:29).

Hearing the challenges the nation must face to claim the land God had promised, unsettled the people and Caleb, one of the spies spoke up and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).   However, ten of the spies sowed doubt among the people saying, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…we saw giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:31-33).

Caleb urged the people “go up…we are well able” (13:30); however, ten of the spies urged, “we be not able to go up” (13:31).

What made the difference in those observations?   What set Joshua and Caleb apart from the other spies?   After all, the twelve spies had seen the same things, but came to conclusions that were vastly opposite.  The report Caleb and Joshua gave was different from the others in two ways: Focus and Faith.

  • Focus: Caleb and Joshua focused, not on the size of the obstacles, but on the size of their God.
  • Faith: Caleb and Joshua’s faith was not in their abilities, but in the person and promises of God.

Are you facing giants?  Has fear, faithlessness and complacency crept into your heart and thoughts?

You see, Israel’s enemy was not giants or the nations living in the land.   Israel’s enemy was her lack of faith in God.  The LORD admonished the prophet Jeremiah, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5).

The man God blesses places his faith in the LORD Who has the solution to every problem and the resources to achieve every goal in His will!

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. [8] For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith