Category Archives: Theology

Divine Providence: The Invisible Hand of An All-Loving God (Esther 1-5)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

The Book of Esther is known as one of only two books in the Bible that never mentions God by name (the other is the Song of Solomon). That fact, however, cannot dismiss the indisputable evidences of divine providence seen throughout the pages of this book. Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

What is divine providence?

Simply defined, providence means “to foresee” or “to see before.”

The late Dr. Edward M. Panosian, my Bible college history professor who sparked within me a passion for history, quotes in his book, The Providence of God in History, the observation of 19th century historian Hollis Read: “History, when rightly written, is but a record of providence; and he who would read history rightly, must read it with his eye constantly fixed on the hand of God.” 1

Many great minds have attempted to define providence. T. Dewitt Talmage, a 19th century clergyman observed: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer said of divine providence, “[God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, stated, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

I add to the chorus of others who have defined Divine Providence my own definition of the same: Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of His creation, and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose which is His glory and my good. The providence of God is practical, personal, and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose. 

The apostle Paul suggested the same, writing: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Book of Esther is a testimony of both God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and the preservation of His chosen people. The LORD sovereignly guided the affairs of a secular empire to fulfill His divine purpose and end. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Esther 1 and Esther 2:1-7.

Esther 1 – A Royal Divorce, Persian Style

King Ahasuerus (also known in history as King Xerxes I) was king of Persia. He was the fourth of five kings to rule the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. He was the grandson of Cyrus the Great, and the son of King Darius I. He reigned over Persia (modern Iran) from 486 B.C. to 465 B.C.

Ahasuerus was ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, and his kingdom extended from India to Africa (1:1), including one hundred twenty-seven provinces that embraced all of today’s Middle East (1:4). Nevertheless, the Persian empire was past its zenith and the events recorded in Esther 1 occurred, according to Greek historian Herodotus, before Ahasuerus attacked Greece and suffered the loss of the Persian navy.

Three lavish feasts are recorded in Esther 1. The first lasted one hundred-eighty days (1:3-4). The second feast, though lasting only seven days, was greater than the first and was a scene of sin and drunken debauchery (1:5-8). The third feast, apparently coinciding with the king’s drunken, weeklong banquet, was hosted by Queen Vashti for the women of the city (1:9).

Drunk with wine, and apparently at the loss of his senses, King Ahasuerus commanded his beautiful queen to parade herself before his guests (1:10-11). Queen Vashti, however, refused to obey the king’s command (1:12). Her refusal created a royal crisis (1:13-18) for a drunken king too proud to humble himself and accept that his queen was the better and wiser of the two. Enraged, Ahasuerus issued a royal decree that forever banished his queen from her throne and the king’s palace (1:19-22).

Esther 2:1-7– A Defeated King and A Virgin Who Became Queen

Having suffered his first defeat and the loss of his navy, Ahasuerus returned to his throne and then “he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her” (2:1). The king’s rash banishment of Queen Vashti (1:19-22), had set in motion a series of events that propelled a Jewish maiden named Hadassah, whose Babylonian name was Esther (2:7), from the anonymity of a maiden, to the throne of Persia.

Although some 50,000 people of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah had returned to Israel (Ezra 1), there were many who had chosen to remain in Babylon, among those was a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7). Mordecai, had taken Hadassah into his household after the deaths of her parents and brought her up as his daughter (2:7). The premature death of Esther’s parents, and her adoption by Mordecai, were both part of God’s sovereign, providential plan for her life.

1Edward M. Panosian, The Providence of God in History (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1996), p. 21.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Has Chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 1-4

Today’s Scripture reading introduces us to the prophecies of Zechariah, a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Both prophets were called by the LORD to minister in Jerusalem during the post-exilic era (Ezra 1:1-2). Zechariah, a young prophet at the time of this writing, had the same task as Haggai: To challenge and exhort God’s people to rebuild the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

The focus of Haggai’s prophecies was to encourage the people to finish rebuilding the temple. The prophecies of Zechariah had an even far-reaching context; one that was not only applicable to the world of his day, but also to the world at the Second Coming of Christ when He returns as the Messiah King.

Zechariah 1:1-6 – Zechariah’s Commission to the Work of the Prophet

Zechariah announced with exactness the date his ministry as prophet began in Jerusalem: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (1:1). We know from history that the date was 520 B.C., two months after the commencement of Haggai’s ministry (Haggai 1:1).

Zechariah would have been born in Babylon during the seventy years of captivity. Like Haggai, his ministry was to convey to God’s people the LORD’S displeasure for their neglect of His house (the Temple, 1:2). Their failure to build the Temple had provoked God’s wrath; however, the LORD is longsuffering. Zechariah was commanded to go to the people and “say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (1:3).

Zechariah 1:7-4:14 – Eight Nightly Visions

To enlighten His prophet, the LORD came to Zechariah in eight nighttime visions that are recorded in Zechariah 1:7-6:8. These eight visions gave the prophet a glimpse of the future blessings and the glory the LORD would pour out on His people if they would repent of their sins and turn to Him. I will list five of the eight visions, but will only consider the first for today’s devotional.

The first of the eight visions was of horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17). The second vision was of “four horns” that each represented four world powers (1:18-21). The third vision was of a man who was seen surveying with “a measuring [the city of Jerusalem with a] line in his hand,” (2:1-13). A fourth vision was of “Joshua the high priest” wearing “filthy garments,” but given a “change of raiment” (3:1-10), symbolic of Israel repenting, being cleansed of her sin and restored.

Zechariah’s fifth vision was of a golden lampstand (“candlestick of gold”) that presented “seven lamps” supplied with oil by “two olive trees.” The olive oil flowed into a bowl that supplied the seven lamps with oil (4:1-14).

Time nor space permits me to focus on the eight visions the LORD revealed to Zechariah; however, I will draw your attention to the first vision (1:8-17).

Zechariah saw a “man riding upon a red horse” who was seen “among the myrtle trees…and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white” (1:8). While the number of hoses is not given, we notice that the horses had riders (1:10-11). I believe the man on the horse was “the angel of the LORD” (1:8-12) and a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. This same is true of the man seen surveying the city of Jerusalem in Zechariah’s third vision (2:1-13).

Zechariah 1:11 shows that this vision occurred at a time when the Gentile nations of the world were at peace (the Persians having subdued the nations of the Babylonian empire). The Jews; however, were not at peace after being oppressed by Assyria, and serving Babylon in captivity for seventy years (1:12).

Indicating a season of judgment was to come upon the Gentile nations for their harsh treatment of His people, Zechariah was commanded to cry out against the heathen nations and declare for the LORD, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15  And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease” (1:14-15).

The LORD promised to show mercy, and prosper His people if they would rebuild His Temple (1:16). What a joy it would have been for the Jews to hear Zechariah prophesy, saying,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).

God had not forgotten His people, nor the wrongs they had suffered. The LORD was waiting for His people to repent of their sins, that He might overwhelm them with His blessings.

Is the LORD waiting on you? He will bless His people when they confess their sins, repent, and turn to Him.

Psalm 51:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“HIS-STORY: The Cyclical Nature of God’s Providences and Man’s Fallen Nature”

You are invited to Hillsdale Baptist Church for this Sunday’s 10:30am worship service as Pastor Smith continues his prophetic series with our current focus on the writings and prophecies of Joel, the prophet of Judah.

Like other Old Testament prophets, Joel’s prophecies carried not only an imminent application to God’s people in his day, but were also a foretelling of events that are not yet come to pass. In fact, many of the headline news events we are observing in today’s world appear to be setting the stage for the fulfillment of prophecies we read in Joel 2-3.

There is, as the title of this blog states, a cyclical nature in history that evidences not only the sovereign, providential hand of God, but also the sinful, fallen nature of mankind. There is the rise, glory, decay, and eventual destruction of nations. There is a recurring pattern in the history of humanity that is one of spiritual darkness, followed by emerging light, that eventually fades away once again to darkness. There are times when there is a glimmer of hope for a national revival, a spiritual awakening, and renewal. Eventually, however, the depraved nature of humanity seems determined to eclipse the light entirely.

In this repeated cycle of spiritual light and darkness, where do you think we are as individuals, families, communities, churches, and as a nation? I fear we are seeing a growing darkness that is determined to extinguish the LIGHT. I sense an oppression that is already at war with Biblical faith, traditional family values, and our Constitutional freedoms as a nation and people.

There are many things to be learned from history, but the most important is that God is sovereign and we can be confident in His promises and providences. Jesus Christ is KING, LORD, and is Coming Again!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Consider you ways!” (Haggai 1-2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1-2

The book of Haggai falls chronologically at the conclusion of Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). Incredibly, eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, had declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him an house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by an edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3).

As is too often seen when great works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and then set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar), who served as governor of Judah, and was of the Davidic line (named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13), the preparations to lay the Temple foundation were halted when adversaries opposed the work and discouraged the people (Ezra 4).

It was at this time, a time of discouragement, that God raised up two prophets to minister in Judah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, both mentioned in Ezra 5:1, were contemporaries in Judah. Though the book of Haggai is only two chapters in length, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation, “Get to work!”

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes.  For ten years, from 530 BC to 520 BC, the Temple was neglected while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not finished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps even yourself?  Most of us do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD. However, we might often be guilty of procrastination and suggesting by our words and attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

The LORD had been longsuffering with His people; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent His prophet Haggai to rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), warning the people that the LORD was withholding His blessings from the nation, and their labor in the fields would be futile until the Temple was built (1:6-11).

The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops), but what they had failed to do.

Haggai left no doubt why the people were struggling, laboring much while harvesting so little, and detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in obtaining comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

Haggai 1:9 – Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Godly men that they were, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).

Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Your Critics! (Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

Seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first Jews captive to Babylon, God had moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the people to their land (Ezra 1:1-2).

Mount Moriah, the place where the Temple was being rebuilt, had been strewn with the rubble of Solomon’s Temple for nearly fifty years. That glorious place, once called the “house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1) and served as a physical reminder of God’s presence among His chosen people; had become a testimony of God’s judgment against Israel for breaking covenant by disobeying God’s Laws and Commandments.

As we come to today’s Scripture reading (Ezra 4-6), we find the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem, encountering both disappointment and discouragement. “The ancient men, that had seen the first [Temple],” perhaps remembering the glory of the previous Temple, “wept with a loud voice” (3:12). There were also enemies without who were determined to stop the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1).

Reminding us only two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had accepted King Cyrus’ proclamation that they were free to return to their homeland, we read, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Under the pretense of friendship, non-Israelite enemies who had been resettled in Israel by Assyria, came to Zerubbabel (perhaps identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2).

Evidencing godly wisdom and discernment, Zerubbabel and other leaders of Israel, answered, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their opposition, those same enemies continued their antagonism for sixteen long years (Ezra 4:7-23; Haggai 1:1) and “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (4:4).

Ezra 4 reminds us that when God’s people are doing God’s work they will face opposition.  Israel’s enemies employed four methods of discouraging and hindering God’s work.

The first, they suggested Assimilation, an unholy alliance, a partnership that God would not have blessed (4:2-3). Zerubbabel recognized his enemies for who they were, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (4:1)! In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul stated the principle Zerubbabel employed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Aggravation was a second means Israel’s enemies employed in opposing the work on the Temple. Ezra and the leaders of Israel were strong and confident when they first confronted their adversaries (4:3); however, as time passed, “the people of the land weakened [made them weak and feeble] the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled[terrified; paralyze with fear] them in building, 5And hired counsellors [advisers; consultants; conspirators] against them, to frustrate [to cause to cease; bring to an end] their purpose” (4:4-5).

The enemy discouraged Israel with Adjudication, challenging the legality and legitimacy of the work on the Temple (4:6-10).

Fourthly, Israel’s adversaries prepared Accusations: Deception, suggesting the Jews were “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12); Distortion, attacking the character and integrity of God’s people (4:13); and Deceit, questioning their motives (4:15).

Dear friend, there will always be critics. Some people have a negative, critical outlook on life. They can become a constant source of discouragement and if you allow them, they will hinder your service and God’s work. There are many who are spectators, not participators; they are watchers, and not workers.

Take a moment and reread Ezra 3:12-13 and notice the ones who were weeping as they remembered the past, and those who were shouting for joy and living in the triumph of the moment.

It was the “ancient men” (3:12), the “priests and Levites and chief of the fathers,” who were looking back and weeping. Old friend, memories can be cherished and pleasing; however, they can also turn you into nothing more than an old critic.

I challenge you who are faithfully serving the LORD, Be Not Discouraged!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Hosts and Their Opposition to the Prayers of the Saints (Daniel 10-12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 10-12

Daniel 10-12 is the fourth and final vision of Daniel. Daniel 10 introduces the vision. Daniel 11:1-35 revealed the immediate future, while Daniel 11:36-12:4 was a revelation of the distant future and a time we know as the Tribulation: “the time of the end” (11:36) in which the antichrist will appear. Daniel’s final vision concludes with a revelation of the Great White Throne (12:4-13) and God’s final judgment.

Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Daniel 10 and the introduction of the final vision.

Daniel 10:1-9 – A Heavenly Messenger

Writing in the third person, Daniel employs his Chaldean name Belteshazzar (no doubt the name he employed in his official capacity as an officer of the king’s court), and revealed a transition of leadership in Babylon citing the time of his fourth and final vision as, “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1).

The date of the vision was about 536 B.C., about the time of Daniel’s experience in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6) and soon after King Cyrus had issued his edict, freeing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1). Fifty thousand captives had returned to Israel, but soon after their arrival they faced opposition that not only hindered the work on the Temple, but finally succeeded in stopping it altogether.

Daniel, serving as an official in the Persian court, must have been privy to the opposition his brethren were facing in Israel and that may have been the cause for his “mourning three full weeks” (10:2). Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, and about the time of the Passover, “in the four and twentieth day of the first month” (10:4), God sent a messenger to Daniel as he “was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel” (the Tigris River, 10:4).

The messenger, described as “a certain man” (10:5), was so brilliant in appearance (10:5-6) that Daniel and his companions were terrified, though only Daniel saw the vision (10:7). With a voice that sounded “like the voice of a multitude” (10:6) and was accompanied by a great earthquake, Daniel’s companions fled (10:7), leaving Daniel alone to see the “great vision” (10:8).

Though the man in Daniel’s vision was not identified, I am of the opinion he was a pre-incarnate appearance of the LORD Jesus Christ.  The prophet was so overwhelmed by the heavenly presence of the man, that he felt himself to be utterly corrupt and physically weak (10:8). Lying prostrate before the man and his face to the ground, the voice and words of Daniel’s visitor brought on a “deep sleep” (10:9).

Daniel 10:10-21 – Revelation of an Unseen Spiritual Battle: The Angels of the LORD vs. The Demons of Darkness

Daniel was suddenly awakened when a hand touched him, lifting him up on his knees and the palms of his hands (10:10). The hand of this second visitor is not identified; however, he was an angel and might have been the angel Gabriel who had appeared twice before in Daniel 8:16 and Daniel 9:21. Comforting the prophet with his salutation, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent” (10:11a), Daniel stood to his feet still trembling (10:11b).

Daniel 10:12-21 gives us a great insight into an invisible spiritual conflict between the LORD and His angels, and Satan and his demons of darkness.  The angel informed Daniel that he had been sent by the LORD on the first day when he had prayed (10:2-3, 12); however, he had been hindered in his mission by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” who had resisted him twenty-one days until Michael the archangel had come to assist him (10:13).

The angel stated the purpose of his mission in coming to Daniel saying, “I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people [the believing Jews] in the latter days [the time of tribulation]: for yet the vision is for many days” (10:14). Hearing the news of what would become of God’s people at the end of the ages, Daniel once again fell to the ground, dumbstruck and deeply troubled by the vision (10:15-17). Strengthened by the touch and encouraging words of his angelic visitor (10:16, 18-19), Daniel was ready to receive the prophecy that would follow (Daniel 11-12).

I close inviting you to consider the revelation of an invisible, spiritual warfare that is being waged by the angels of heaven against the demonic angels (10:20). Two great and wicked fallen angels are identified as “the prince of Persia,” and one who will follow him, “the prince of Grecia” (10:20b).

The next time you pray and grow anxious waiting on the LORD to answer your prayer, remember: There is an evil host of angels that are actively opposing God’s work on earth. They influence and possess men and women in the great halls of government, wield power for evil in society, and are ever encouraging wicked men and women to oppose God and commit evil against His people.

Ephesians 6:11-1211  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12  For 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.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Third World War (Daniel 7-9)

Scripture reading – Daniel 7-9

Reading chronologically through the Bible in one year is a wonderful challenge; however, I sometimes find myself doing little more than a “fly-over” when it comes to writing devotional commentaries on passages of Scripture that captivate my heart and move my spirit.  The prophetic scenes found in the Book of Daniel continue to astonish me as I reflect upon events that have come to pass, and consider those things which are yet future.  What a stunning testimony for the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21)!

You might have noticed the first six chapters of Daniel were narrative in style, and historical in content. We have followed the rise of Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar’s consolidation of the nations of his day into the first world empire. Among the nations conquered was Judah, and the remnant of Israel after Assyria had taken the northern ten tribes captive a century earlier. Judah became subservient to Babylon in 605 BC, and to ensure that nation’s compliance, Nebuchadnezzar had taken in the first captivity the sons of Jewish nobility.

Among the captives was a young teen named Daniel. Though only a youth, Daniel was already dedicated to the LORD, His Law and Commandments. God blessed his faithfulness, gave him favor, and promoted him to the highest offices of both the Chaldean and Medo-Persian Empires. Daniel’s longevity in his service to heathen kings was a testimony of his character, talents and integrity. While other rulers of the Babylonian kingdom were purged from office during transitions of kings and kingdoms, Daniel’s character earned him the trust of both Chaldean and Persian kings.

Daniel 7 – A Panoramic, Prophetic View of History

Daniel 7 begins a panoramic, prophetic view of history that commences with the rule of “Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1) and continues through the reign of “Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes” (9:1). Daniel 7 chronologically precedes Daniel 5 [which recorded Babylon’s fall to the Medes and Persians].

Daniel 7 occurs during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign (7:1), whose rule marked the beginning of the end of the Chaldean Empire. Daniel 7 recorded the first of 4 visions, providing us with a prophetic landscape of Gentile Empires beginning with Babylon and ending with the Second Coming of Christ and His Millennium Kingdom.

Daniel’s dream in chapter 7 parallels the great image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. Notice that Daniel’s dream was a three-part vision that revealed six kingdoms (7:2-14).

The Sea (7:2-3) was symbolic of humanity and the four beasts represented four great world empires.

In the Scriptures, Sea and Water are figurative of humanity and the nations of the world (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:1, 15). “The four winds of the heaven” (7:2) violently moving the Sea represent God’s judgment on the nations of the earth. Wind generally moves north, south, east or west; however, the four winds coming simultaneously from all directions reflect a violent judgment.

Four earthly kingdoms are represented by four beasts: A lion with wings like an eagle (7:4; most likely Babylon); a bear with three ribs in its mouth (7:5; most likely the Medes and Persian empires); a leopard with four wings on its back and four heads (7:6; most likely Greece); and a beast described as “dreadful and terrible” and having ten horns (7:7; most likely Rome).

A fifth kingdom, represented by an eleventh horn and described as a “little horn” emerges from the head of the fourth beast (7:8). The “little horn” is the Antichrist (7:8). The Scriptures reveal he will be a man far greater and more evil than the earthly kings who had gone before him. He is described as having human eyes [“eyes like the eyes of man,” indicating superior intelligence] (7:8), and a mouth that boasts “great things” (7:8)

The sixth kingdom announces the triumphant Second Coming of Christ who is described as the “Ancient of Days” and is seen sitting on the throne of Heaven (7:9). From His throne He will judge the nations of the earth (7:10) and will reign a thousand years (7:13-14). Daniel conveys the glorious appearance of Jesus Christ, writing,

Daniel 7:13-14 – “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with [sitting on] the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they [perhaps angel messengers] brought Him near before Him. 14  And there was given Him [Christ, the Messiah] dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”

I close with an invitation for you to consider some immutable truths we can take from our study. The first, God is sovereign of all nations (Romans 13:1-6). History, past, present, and future is HIS-STORY. The second, that God is omniscient; He knows the beginning and the end. He knows and directs the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms.

When Daniel grasped the magnitude of history and realized the last days when the antichrist appears in the Great Tribulation, he confessed, “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me” (7:15).

What an advantage we have over Daniel. We can look back in history and realize that the visions of the rise and fall of nations Daniel observed in his dream have come to pass. Surely, we have cause to anticipate with confidence what God has promised He will fulfill!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

From Grazing to Grace (Daniel 4-6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 4-6

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

Daniel 4 – A Testament to the Tragedy of Sinful Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited to, “The King of Kings is Coming!” – Sunday, September 13, 2020

Good morning! You are invited to join Hillsdale Baptist Church for our public worship services this Sunday morning. We are looking forward to an uplifting day of worship in music and a message in the 10:30am service on the Sovereignty of God.

Our Children’s Rally time begins at 9:00am in the Friendship Hall and is followed by Kid’s Choir (9:15am-9:45am) with Music Pastor Steve Armstrong. Our Children transition to their Sunday School classes at 9:45am.

Teen and Adult Bible Studies all begin in their individual classes at 9:15am. Pastor Brian Barber will be teaching the auditorium class and broadcasting live at 9:15am on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Pastor Smith is continuing his prophetic series in Hillsdale’s 10:30am service with a message titled, “The King of Kings is Coming,” a study in the sovereignty of God taken from the Book of Joel, chapter 1. Please click on the links to print out your student notes for today’s message.

The King of Kings is Coming (part 2) – September 13, 2020 AM student blank

The King of Kings is Coming (part 2) – September 13, 2020 AM student blank

Reminder: Hillsdale’s 9:15am Bible studies and 10:30am worship service are open to the public and also broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Daniel: A Model of Godly Character, Integrity and Courage” (Daniel 1-3)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1-3

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history, beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar and ancient Babylon and encompassing a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow…Medo-Persians, Greece and Rome.  Daniel’s writing includes prophecies that are for the 21st century reader a footnote in history past and a foretelling of future events that conclude with the Second Coming of Christ. Today’s devotional commentary will be taken from Daniel 1.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account and one we are familiar with from our earlier study of 2 Kings 24:12-16. The children of Judah are in Babylonian bondage, and the beloved city of Jerusalem, and the Temple will soon be laid waste (2 Kings 25).  The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings if the people did not repent of their sin 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 [God] will visit you… causing you to return to this place [the promise land]” (Jeremiah 29:10).

Daniel was probably no more than 13-14 years old when he was taken from his home and transported to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, instituted a plan and chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth that they might serve him in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was numbered among those youth who were without blemish, handsome, discerning, cunning, 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” (1:4).

Daniel soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a child 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, we read,

Daniel 1:8 – “But 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 purposed: He 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 He blessed Daniel and providentially “brought [him] 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), they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

We will see in our study, that the testing of Daniel’s faith in his youth 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).

I close inviting you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive and sensitive heart to authority: He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); he was sincere in his appeal (1:12); he was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); and he was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

We would do well to weigh our spirit, manner, and relationship with the authorities in our lives, using Daniel as perfect example of a young man of faith and convictions.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith