Category Archives: Theology

“Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1

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 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 homes.  The Temple was neglected for ten years, while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the Temple was unfinished, 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 yourself?  Many believers do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD; yet, we may be guilty of procrastination, and suggesting by our words or 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 Haggai to prophesy and rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7). He warned the LORD would withhold His blessings, 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.

Leaving no doubt why they struggled, and the harvests were so little, Haggai detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in achieving 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).

Closing thought (1:13-15) – Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD,  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” (1:13-14).

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority: “For the LordGod 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]” (Psalm 84:11).

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.

Four Beasts, Four Kingdoms, and God Who is Sovereign (Daniel 7)

Scripture reading – Daniel 7

An old adage goes, “Hindsight is 20\20,” and that is certainly true when we are privileged to look at Bible prophecy “in the rearview mirror.” Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the midst of The Book of Daniel, and its engaging and illuminating prophecies. I do not have time or space for an in-depth study of the prophecy recorded in Daniel 7, yet, I pray a simple study and interpretation of today’s Scripture will be a blessing,

Daniel 7

With the historical events of the rise and fall of Babylon behind us (Daniel 1-6), the next six chapters of our study will be prophetical (Daniel 7-12). The year before us is 553 BC, and was “the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1). Perhaps remembering the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Daniel 7), “Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters” (7:1). As you will see, Daniel’s dream paralleled Nebuchadnezzar’s great image and was a vision of future events.

I suggest there are three parts to Daniel’s dream (7:2-14), with the first section being of four beasts that represented four kings and their kingdoms (7:2-6). The second part of the dream was a dramatic, and terrible transformation that occurred to the fourth beast (7:7-12). The third section was a heavenly vision of the LORD sitting on His throne (7:13-14).

Four Beasts and Four World Empires (7:2-8)

Awakened from his sleep, Daniel wrote, “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea” (7:2). The “great sea” was the “sea of humanity,” and represented the Gentile nations of the world (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:1, 15). “The four winds of the heaven [that] strove upon the great sea” (7:2) portrayed the judgment of God coming from all directions…the east, north, south, and west winds.

The four beasts of Daniel’s dream were a parallel of the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s great image (Daniel 2) that foretold four great Gentile kingdoms. The first beast was depicted as a lion with the eagles’ wings (7:4). Like the head of gold of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, it was a symbol of Babylon. The prophets often depicted Babylon as a lion and eagle (Jeremiah 4:7, 13; 48:40; 49:19, 22; 50:17; Habakkuk 1:6, 9). The “lion-hearted” man was said to have his wings plucked, and to “stand upon the feet as a man” (possibly reminding us how Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled for seven years until he acknowledged God, and then his beastly heart was replaced with “a man’s heart” 7:4).

The second beast in Daniel’s dream resembled a bear with three ribs in its mouth (7:5). Corresponding to the silver arms and chest of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:32, 39), the bear represented the Medes and Persians who would overwhelm Babylon in a night. The bear was portrayed as rising up on one side, and must symbolize how the Persians would become the greater of the Medo-Persian kingdoms. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth might represent three kingdoms that were overcome, but that would be mere speculation on my part.

The third kingdom was represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads (7:6). We have the privilege of looking back on history, and know Greece would supplant Persia as the world empire, and was portrayed in Nebuchadnezzar’s image as having a belly and thighs of brass (2:32, 39). The swiftness of the leopard was a tribute to the speed with which Alexander the Great led Greece, conquering the world in three years’ time (334-331 BC). When Alexander died as a young king of 32 years, Greece was divided into four regions and ruled by four generals, hence, the four wings and heads of the leopard (7:6).

Rome, portrayed as a “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly” beast with “great iron teeth” was the fourth beast of Daniel’s dream (7:7). Equivalent to the legs of iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33, 40), Rome was portrayed as a brutal kingdom. The ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33-35) are represented in Daniel’s dream as the ten horns of the fourth beast (7:7). Representing the strength of a beast, the horn served in the Bible as a symbol of kings (1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 132:17).

The Antichrist: The Rise of the “Little Horn” (7:19-20)

Daniel observed a “little horn” arose in the midst of ten horns (a league of ten kingdoms), and dislodged three horns (kings) in its rise to power (7:8). The prophetic significance was a king would arise in the midst of what would be the Roman Empire, and rise above other kings to reign (7:19-20). Students of prophecy believe the “little horn” will be the antichrist of the last days, for he is depicted as having “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (indicative of pride, boasting, and blasphemy, 7:8, 11, 20, 25). He will be the enemy of the saints, and will reign for 3.5 years (“a time,” being one year; “and times,” two years; “and the dividing of time,” a half year, 7:25).

Closing thoughts (7: 9-14, 26-28) – The reign of the “little horn” (antichrist) will fail, and be destroyed (7:11, 26), when God, who is “the Ancient of days” sits in judgment (7:9-10).  When Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” descends from “the clouds of heaven” (7:13), the “little horn” (antichrist) will be judged and cast into the lake of fire (7:11; Revelation 19:20). Christ, the “Son of man,” will be sovereign of a perpetual kingdom (7:14, 28; Mark 14:61-62) and will rule the world a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-8). We join Daniel in being overwhelmed by the vision of history that is yet to be (7:28), but resting in the sovereignty of God and His promises.

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.

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

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 15-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can this be?

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

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Scripture reading – Isaiah 53

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

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

The Messiah’s Suffering (53:1-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Josiah: The Boy King with A Heart for God (2 Chronicles 34)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 34

As noticed in earlier devotionals, the books titled Chronicles in our Bibles are believed to have been written after the Babylonian captivity. They serve as a parallel historical account of the providences of God and primarily His dealings with Israel as a nation, and then as a divided kingdom (consisting of Israel, reduced to ten tribes in the north, and Judah, the southern kingdom that was made up of two tribes, Judah and the tribe of Benjamin).

Today’s Scripture reading, will consider 2 Chronicles 34, and is a parallel record of our previous study in 2 Kings 23.

2 Chronicles 34

I will not belabor the content from our devotional in 2 Kings 23, but I am reminded of God’s grace when I consider the life and reign of Josiah (34:1). Who was Josiah? He was the son of the wicked king Amon, who was slain by his servants, after reigning as king for two years (33:21-25). When he was 8 years old, Josiah succeeded his father to the throne, and reigned 31 years in Jerusalem (34:1).

A Teenage King, with a Passion for God (34:2-3)

Rather than follow the sinful footsteps of his father, Josiah determined to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (34:2).  We read, “in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father” (34:3). The young king was 16 years old, and while we are not told what or whom encouraged him to “seek after God” (34:3), I believe it may have been the influence of the prophet Jeremiah.

Comparing Scripture with Scripture, we know Jeremiah’s public ministry began “in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign” (Jeremiah 1:2). The spiritual reformation led by Josiah, when he was just 20 years old, began one year before Jeremiah received “the word of the LORD” (34:3; Jeremiah 1:2),

Josiah’s Zeal for the LORD (34:4-13)

I have detailed the steps of revival that were taken by the king, and how he did not compromise his passion to rid Judah of the vestiges of its idolatry and wickedness. For Josiah, it was not enough to remove the idols and the places of idol worship (34:3b-7); the king went so far as to even burn the bones of the false priests that had led the people astray (34:5). The balance of our text reviewed the renovations the king directed regarding the Temple (3:8) and the wages that were due the laborers (34:9-13).

Renovation, Repentance, and Revival (34:14-32)

The discovery of the “book of the law” stirred both conviction and repentance in the heart of the king (34:14-19). Knowing the judgment of God was imminent (34:20-26), Josiah was promised his dedication to the LORD would spare him from witnessing the utter destruction that would befall Jerusalem (34:27-28); yet, the king’s spirit was not at ease.

Knowing the terror of God’s judgment, Josiah summoned the leaders and people to the Temple. There he “read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord” (34:30). The king called upon the people to renew their “covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book” (34:31).

To the day of his death, Josiah dedicated himself to encourage the nation to keep covenant with the LORD, “to serve, even to serve the Lord their God” (34:32a). Gratefully, we read of Josiah’s efforts that, “all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers” (34:32).

Closing thoughts – What have we learned? Though young, a son or daughter with a tender heart, is able to make spiritual decisions that chart the course of their lives; after all Josiah was a teenager when “he began to seek after the God of David” (34:3). We have also observed the difference one believer can make when, like Josiah, he or she makes “a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written” in His Book (34:31).

Have you made a decision to trust Christ as Savior, and to seek Him? Have you set your heart to obey His Word? If not, will you make that decision today? I invite you to share your decision with me, by writing to: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Isaiah 61; Isaiah 62

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

Isaiah 61

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

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

The Messiah’s Calling (61:1-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Song of Salvation (61:10-11)

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

Isaiah 62

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a difference Christ makes!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

An Invitation to Believers (Isaiah 59; Isaiah 60)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 59; Isaiah 60

Isaiah 60 is a prophetic portrait of the Second Coming of Christ, and His Millennial Kingdom. This is the second of two devotionals for today.

Isaiah 60

With the exclamation, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (60:1), the Second Coming of Christ and His Millennial Kingdom was foretold.

The Millennial Reign of Christ (60:2-10)

Spiritual darkness is the current state of the world, but when Christ returns the darkness will be lifted, and all the earth shall see Him coming in the brightness of His heavenly glory (60:2b-3). Isaiah prophesied to Jerusalem, “the Gentiles shall come to thy light” [the light of the Messiah who will reign in that city], and the Jews, the sons and daughters of Israel, will return to their land (60:4-5a).

During the reign of Christ in His Millennial Kingdom, New Jerusalem will become the center of the world (60:5-6). Gentile nations will bring the wealth of their commerce to Jerusalem (60:5), and all people will gather to worship the LORD, and rebuild the city (60:7-10).

The Gates of New Jerusalem will Open to All (60:11-22)

What a great day that will be! For the first time since the fall of man, the world will know universal peace (60:11), for all who rejected Christ will be excluded from His kingdom (60:12). In that day, the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem (60:13), and even those whose fathers had persecuted God’s people, will come and “bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet” (60:14a). They will call New Jerusalem, “The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (60:14b).

Jerusalem will be enriched and sustained by the nations, like a nursing infant is nourished by its mother (60:16). God’s people will know, that their “Savior, and [their] Redeemer, [is] the mighty One of Jacob” (60:16).

When Christ rules the earth, the land of Israel will be at peace (60:17). There will be no more violence, waste, or destruction in the land, and the walls of that city will be named “Salvation,” and its gates “Praise” (60:18).

There will be no need for the sun to give light by day, nor the moon by night, for the LORD will be “an everlasting light,” and His glory will illuminate Jerusalem (60:19-20; Revelation 22:5). What a great day when the sorrow and “days of [Jerusalem’s] mourning shall be ended” (60:20). God’s people will be restored to their land, and will be planted and nourished by the LORD (60:21-22).

Closing thoughts – The wickedness, and violence of our world moves the hearts of believers to yearn for the peace Isaiah prophesied would come. Believers have the assurance, when Christ reigns, not only the world of men, but nature itself will be at peace: “25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, And the lion shall eat straw like the bullock” (Isaiah 65:25).

The world longs for peace, but has rejected Christ, the Prince of Peace. I urge you, turn from sin, and put your faith in Christ who paid the penalty of your sins by His death on the Cross, and is risen from the dead!

Romans 15:13 – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Isaiah 58

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fasting God Favors (58:6-7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Isaiah 56; Isaiah 57

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 57

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Seek the LORD, for His Ways are Not Your Ways! (Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55

Following the prophetic portrait of a rejected, suffering, and dying Savior in Isaiah 53, we read a call for Israel to “break forth into singing” in Isaiah 54.

Isaiah 54

Once again, the portrait of a husband and wife was given – the barren wife being Israel, and the LORD, the loving husband. In the immediate, the setting was Israel’s future restoration to the land after the Babylonian captivity. Yet, there are also elements in this chapter that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns to reign in His Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17).

The LORD of Salvation (54:2-3)

With her years of captivity fulfilled, Israel would be invited by the LORD to return to Him, and be restored to their land. Isaiah prophesied the blessings of the LORD would be so great, the people would have to enlarge their tents, and make room for an exploding population (54:2-3). Some Gentiles, coming by faith, would be numbered among the nation as believers.

The Sustaining God (54:4-10)

With the assuring exhortation, “Fear not” (54:4), Isaiah prophesied Israel would put her captivity and years of humiliation behind her, and that nation would have no cause for fear, and no reason for shame (54:4).

Why such confidence that all would be forgiven? Isaiah reminded the people who their God was: “Thy Maker[Creator] is thine husband; The Lord of hosts is his name [He is the God of War]; And thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The [Sovereign] God of the whole earth shall he be called” (54:5).

The LORD assured Israel of His unconditional love (54:6-10). Though the nation had forsaken Him, God promised He would never forsake His people (54:6-8). Like a loving father (Hebrews 12:5-11), the LORD had chastened Israel for a season, but Isaiah assured them He would restore them to their land. As certainly as He kept His promise to never again destroy the earth with flood waters, the LORD would keep His covenant with Israel. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills moved out of their places, the LORD’s kindness and mercies toward Israel would never be removed (54:10).

The Promise of a Glorious Future: The Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17)

Israel was promised that the nation would be restored to her homeland, and the city of Jerusalem be rebuilt (54:11-12). Yet, the city described here, whose foundations the LORD would lay is, in my opinion, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-21 describes the beauty of that heavenly city).

In the Millennial Kingdom, the people will come and “be taught of the Lord; And great shall be the peace of thy children” (54:13). They will walk in righteousness, and there will be nothing to fear (54:14). The LORD will be the protector of His people, and any who might oppose them will fail (54:15).

Closing thoughts – The LORD created men who engineer and make weapons of war, and He has used their war machines to execute His judgment upon nations (54:16).

Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55 began with a glorious invitation: “Ho [Listen], every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, And he that hath no money; Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (55:1).

The spiritually thirsty and poor were invited to come to the LORD, but not with money. The LORD’s invitation was to come, and submit to His offer of salvation, executed by His grace. The salvation offered by the LORD is offered to all by God’s grace and loving favor (Romans 3:23-24; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

What did the LORD promise to those who would come with a spiritual thirst? He promised life (eternal life), “an everlasting covenant[security], and “mercy” (55:3).

Isaiah 55:6-13 is one of the great invitations in the Scriptures: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, Call ye upon him while he is near” (55:6). Repent, “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (55:7).

The LORD promised mercy and forgiveness to all who repent, but warned: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord (55:8-9).

Closing thoughts – Consider with me the emphasis on the preeminence of the Word of God.

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word [truth; revelation] be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [ineffectual; empty; i.e. having no effect], but it shall accomplish [do; make] that which I please [take pleasure or delight in], and it shall prosper [succeed] in the thing whereto I sent it.

God’s Word convicts, and brings forth the fruit of repentance and redemption. The LORD promises, His Word will fulfill its purpose. Whether you are a preacher, teacher, or student of the Bible, take heart: God has promised His Word is powerful, and it will accomplish His purpose!

Hebrews 4:1212For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith