Category Archives: Trust

Don’t Give Up Hope!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 37-42

Not only is today’s reading a lengthy one, it also has details with numbers and measurements that are sure to leave the average reader wondering what possible application could this have to a 21st century student of God’s Word.   For the sake of brevity, I suggest a simple outline of chapters 37 through 42.

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic illustration of Israel’s resurrection as a nation (remember, the prophet is ministering to the Jews in Babylon after the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem).   My younger readers might enjoy watching a video\audio clip of “Dry Bones” (I avoid referring to it as a “gospel song” since there is hardly a gospel lesson in the recording; however, the classy style of the “Delta Rhythm Boys” compared with today’s “recording artists” is worth the watch).   Ezekiel 37 is not only a prophetic picture of Israel’s resurrection as a nation, but also the unification of the people divided into two nations since Solomon’s reign.

Ezekiel 38 prophesies events that are yet to occur on an international scale against Israel.  There is neither time or space to enter into the debate of the nations portrayed in this chapter; however, it is my opinion this is a prophecy there is a day when the ruler of the north (38:14) which I believe is Russia (38:2 – “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”) will lead an invasion of Middle Eastern nations (identified as “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya” – 38:5) against Israel.   Ezekiel 38:14-39:18 details the invasion of the armies and their defeat.  The LORD intervenes and Israel’s victory will be so overwhelming that the burial of the dead will take seven months (39:14).

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years less one and the time of the writing of Ezekiel 40 was in “the five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).   Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart as a nation to build a new temple (the last destroyed in 70 AD) and worship the LORD.  The plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the future temple are given in Ezekiel 40-42.

Our scripture reading today concludes with Ezekiel 42; however, chapter 43 continues the narrative concerning the future temple with the promise the heavenly glory of the LORD Himself will fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:2-4).

As I close, consider this: The LORD wanted His people to never give up hope!

Remember Ezekiel’s immediate audience was His own people who were captives in Babylon.  Many had witnessed the devastating destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  Humanly speaking, all was lost and apart from divine intervention, the Jews would be numbered among those nations that had come and gone; their cities covered by the sands of the desert and the people assimilated into the populations of the earth and forgotten.

However, such was not the case with God’s chosen people with whom He covenanted to be their God.  God promised Abraham he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), a promise not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus Christ.  The Jews rejected Christ at His first coming as a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53); however, at the end of the Tribulation they will see Him come as a conquering King and He will rule from Jerusalem and the people will worship Him during the Millennial in a new temple.

In the midst of reading the numbers and dimensions of a future temple, consider the revival of joy and hope among God’s people when they were reminded God had not forgotten them and all was not lost!  The day was coming when a new temple would be built and God’s glory would once again fill the temple and the world would know the LORD is in the midst of His people!

Friend, don’t give up hope…remember, this same LORD promised His disciples He was going away to “prepare a place” for them and “will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-4).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An Exhortation for Preachers, Bible Teachers and Believers

Friday, July 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 31-36

Continuing our reading in Ezekiel, we noted in prior chapters God’s love and jealousy for Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 25-30).  The rebellion of His people invited His judgment; however, the pleasure the heathen nations took in Israel’s suffering provoked God’s wrath and He warned they would fall to Babylon.  Named among those nations is Egypt whose treasures would be taken by king Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-21).

Ezekiel 31 continues God’s warning of judgment against Egypt.  Nebuchadnezzar and his Chaldean army’s devastating overthrow of ancient Assyria, likened in chapter 31 unto the great oaks of Lebanon, served as God’s warning to Egypt (31:1-18).

Ezekiel continues his prophecy of judgment against Egypt in chapter 32, prophesying that nation’s calamity would serve as a warning to other nations (32:1-10).   Giving no room for ambiguity, Egypt’s fall to Babylon is ascertained (32:11-15).   Picturing Hell for what it is, a place of death and torment for the lost who reject the LORD (32:17-32), the Egyptians are forewarned they will make their graves with those nations that have gone before them.

Ezekiel 33-35 moves the focus from Egypt’s imminent destruction to the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility as God’s watchman.

The task of a prophet is not an enviable one and the message he delivers is often despised and rejected by his listeners.  While the message of an Old Testament prophet is often foretelling, his focus is never exclusively future events.  Ezekiel, like  Jeremiah, Isaiah and others, was to remind Israel of her glorious past, discern the present times and declare God’s judgment should the people continue in their sins (33:1-9).

It is the latter work of the preacher\prophet, the forth telling and unapologetic declaration of God’s Word, that has all but been silenced by the 21st century church.  I have heard of church boards and schools that purpose to depart from the Bible fundamental legacy of the church and court pastors and administrators who disavow the role of the watchman.   

Rather than confront the sins of the Church, the pulpiteers of our day offer up drops of honey and philosophical charm to a generation of professing believers given to sin.  Fearing noxious labels like legalist and mean-spirited, pastors are failing to serve as “watchmen”.  The sound of the trumpet warning the people of God’s judgment is silent and pastors and Bible teachers are guilty of soft-pedaling God’s call and command to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Lest some take my observation to task, I remind you the duty of the New Testament pastor is to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Be forewarned my pastor peers; the blood of a generation will be on our heads should we fail as God’s watchman (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel, living as a captive in Babylon and far from Jerusalem, called His people to repent (33:1-20).  When the news of Jerusalem’s fall reached him, the LORD consoled him, though the people refuse to heed his warning, they would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

Ezekiel rebukes unfaithful “shepherds” for their failure to lead the people (Ezekiel 34).  Failing to guide and nourish them, the “shepherds” took advantage of the weak and abused their roles as the spiritual caregivers of Israel (34:1-8).  Having failed in their duty, the LORD warned, “I am against the shepherds” (34:9-10).

In spite of the dire state of His people, the LORD assured His prophet that He would gather them together as a loving shepherd gathers His sheep (34:11-31).

I close today with a charge to ministers and Bible teachers who are faithful shepherds of God’s people.

Our task as preachers and teachers of Truth is not appreciated by many and some might say we are failures.  Be faithful friend and take solace in this; one day some will “know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33)!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The Wise Man and His Relationships”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 11-12

Today’s devotional reading is Proverbs 11 and Proverbs 12.  My focus today will be Proverbs 11:1; however, I invite you to refer to my devotional commentaries in the Book of Proverbs on my “Heart of a Shepherd” website to amplify individual verses in today’s scripture reading.

Like many chapters in the Book of Proverbs, chapter 11 reads like a shotgun scatters pellets…a plethora of truths that stand individually on their own without the necessity of being one coherent progression of thought.  Our focus will be one proverb, Proverbs 11:1 which addresses the manner of people God would have us to be.

Proverbs 11:1- A false balance [deceit or crookedness] is abomination [shameful] to the LORD: but a just [right and honest] weight [having and exercising integrity] is his delight.

The subject of verse 1 is Integrity [adhering to a moral code or absolute standard]. In our day, government agencies certify weights and volume in goods and services. One agency certifies when you purchase a gallon of gas you get a gallon of gas.  Another agency certifies when you purchase food items at the grocery store you are getting the weight and volume stated on the packaging.

For the sake of illustration, let’s put the setting of verse 1 in a butcher shop where meat is cut, weighed, wrapped and stamped with a description that certifies the cut and price of the meat based upon weight.

The use of unjust or inaccurate weights by dishonest shop owners has been the pattern of many down through the centuries. In our butcher shop analogy, a butcher, using a “false balance”, misleads a customer by presenting a cut of meat as weighing more than it really does…an act that is “abomination to the Lord”.  Solomon reminds his son that God delights in men of integrity…men who commit to being honest; men whose word is as binding as a signed contract.

The application of verse 1 goes beyond the matter of weights and balances —at issue is the character of the whole man [after all, the literal meaning of “integrity” is completeness or wholeness].

Lesson – Dishonesty in word and action is an abomination to the Lord. He accepts nothing less than truth and sincerity.

Are you honest, sincere and forthright in business? Are you a person of your word?

God is delighted when His people walk with honesty and integrity.  I challenge you—be that man! 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Blessed Ministry of the Doorkeepers (Greeters)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 84-86

Today’s scripture reading is Psalms 84, 85 and 86; however, I will limit my devotional commentary to Psalm 84, a psalm of praise, thanksgiving and worship.

I am not certain what occasioned the psalmist to be in a place of longing for the “tabernacles” of the LORD (84:1); however, he yearned to be where the saints called upon the LORD (84:2, 4).

How sad the same cannot be said of many who profess to be Christians today!  Far too many church members forgo blessed opportunities to worship the LORD for some of the most trivial reasons…a sniffle, a headache, a dark cloud or a raindrop often proves excuse enough to forsake worshipping the LORD (Hebrews 10:25).

Continuing his private worship, the psalmist petitions the LORD to hear his prayer and in his meditations reminds himself that the LORD is “God our Shield [small shield]” (84:9)

Psalm 84:10 – “For a day in thy courts [residence; i.e. Temple; House of worship] is better [more precious or delightful] than a thousand [i.e. other places]. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

What an admirable statement of a who man loves the LORD!  Given his choice, the psalmist would choose one day in the house of the LORD over a thousand places of ease and temporal pleasures.  Few 21st century Christians have that devotion to the LORD!   What a tragedy that many living in Central Florida (and other places of amusements) choose the “courts” of Mickey Mouse and the beauty of the beach over the LORD and His Church on Sunday.  As one who is soon to take a much-needed vacation, I appreciate the need for rest; however, too many lack a passion and devotion for worship and serving!

Permit me the liberty of a few memoriam observations regarding Psalm 84:10b – “…I had rather [chose to be] be a doorkeeper [gatekeeper; porter; also a janitor] in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness [i.e. place of ease and temporal pleasures].”

Hillsdale Baptist Church has had many “doorkeepers” (we call them greeters) over the years whose ministry to church members and guests earned them a place in the hearts of our members and the gratitude of this pastor.   There are too many to name, but a few “doorkeepers” with the LORD come to mind when I read Psalm 84:10:  Charter members, Cliff and Frances Linderman, Stan Hooker, Jim Munro, Mary Cooper, Ken Iverson, and Gaylon Johnson.  Add to that number, Mr. Fern Horton, who served at the door until his failing health forced him to pass the task to others.  Praise the LORD for the doorkeepers who stand faithfully at the door of our churches and choose to be no other place!

I close today’s devotional commentary with the promise the allures of the world might tempt you to feel you have given up something to love and serve the LORD; however, He promises you His best if you choose to walk before Him and others as a man or woman of integrity.

Psalm 84:11 – “For the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] God [Elohim; Mighty God] is a Sun [i.e. brilliant or a battlement] and Shield [small shield used for close combat]: the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] will give grace [favor; kindness] and glory [honor; splendor]: no good [better; sweet; pleasant] thing will He withhold [keep back; restrain] from them that walk uprightly [with integrity; perfect; without a blemish or spot].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 25-30

The historical context of today’s reading finds both Israel and Judah in captivity after God’s people rebelled and turned away from His law and commandments.   Having rejected the warnings of His prophets, the LORD judged those nations as He promised; however, He never forsook them.  Ezekiel 25 reminds us God is jealous for His people.

After destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar’s army took the people of Judah captive to Babylon.   Witnessing the calamity of God’s people, the heathen nations rejoiced in their sorrows and sufferings.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and despised the heathen’s joy in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14) and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel and Judah (25:15-17).

Ezekiel 26-30 continues the prophet’s warning to the nations that their pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel would be rewarded with their own judgment.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia would fall to Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19).  Zidon, a city north of Tyrus, would also suffer the calamity and destruction that was the fate of Tyrus and neighboring nations who reveled in the destruction of Jerusalem (28:20-24).   Ezekiel 28 ends with the blessed promise God would gather His people from Babylonian exile and restore them to their land (28:25-26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Egypt too would be judged for her sins against Israel and her treasures would be the reward of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-16) as Babylon served God’s purpose for bringing judgment against that nation (29:17-21) and her neighbors (30:1-26).

There is a lesson in today’s reading that nations of the 21st century would be wise to heed:

There are grave consequences for those people and nations that take joy in the sorrows and sufferings of the Jews and Christians.

The atrocities committed against the Jews in the Second World War and the virtual annihilation of those nations that perpetrated them (Nazi Germany and fascist Italy) stands as a testimony that God loves His own, even when His people turn from Him.

Many reading this brief devotional are unaware those nations and people occupied by the Soviet Union and overwhelmed by Communist oppression in the years that followed World War II were guilty of crimes against the Jews on a scale that is unfathomable.   Eastern European nations that fell into the Soviet bloc of nations and suffered under communism were themselves guilty of murderous acts against the Jews and suffered their own sorrows until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I close with illustrative verses of God’s love for Israel and a warning for all who harm His people.

Zechariah 1:14 – “…Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

Zechariah 2:8 – “…he that toucheth you [Israel] toucheth the apple [pupil] of His eye[meaning the eye of the LORD].

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”

Warning: Mistreat God’s people and take pleasure in their sorrows and you will inevitably suffer the same, for God is a jealous God.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is the Final Judge and Justice Will Prevail!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 81-83

We continue in our reading and study of the Book of the Psalms each Wednesday and today our assignment is Psalms 81, 82 and 83.   Of course, these psalms are hymns of praise Israel would sing as they worshipped the LORD in His Temple.

Psalm 81 calls the people together to worship, reminding them of the LORD’s love and providential care for Israel.  The occasion is a Jewish holiday (81:3); however, the exact holiday is not stated.   I believe it might have been the Passover since the psalm makes reference to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (81:5-6) and the nation’s journey out of Egypt and in the wilderness (81:7-10).

Psalm 82 focuses on the failure of judges  to exercise righteous judgments in the affairs and disputes arising among the people.   The psalmist reminds the judges and others in positions of leadership, God is the final judge (82:1); “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (82:2).

Reminding us nothing has changed concerning the hearts of sinners, the leaders and judges in Israel were apparently accepting bribes and granting favors to the wicked, at the sacrifice of the good and well-being of the “poor, fatherless, and needy” (82:3-4).   The psalmist admonishes the judges; “do justice to the afflicted and needy… rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (82:3b, 4b).

Psalm 82:5 reminds us when the balances of justice are weighed in favor of the wicked, darkness prevails (82:5a) and the principles of truth and righteousness are “out of course” (82:5b).

On a personal note: Though founded upon spiritual principles that are foundationally Biblical, it is my observation America’s judicial system is skewed by unjust politicians, lawyers and judges who too often rule in favor of the wicked.   Sadly, justice is for sale to the highest bidder in some courts and the poor, needy, and middle class suffer injustices.

Psalm 82:6 reminds those who judge (and I believe this is applicable not only in civil courts, but also when judgment is required of the church in matters of discipline) they are to weigh judicial matters of law and justice as God’s earthly representatives (“…all of you are children of the most High” – 82:6).

Let all who are in authority and bear the trust of God and the people in civil, academic and spiritual matters be reminded God is the final judge and all will be held accountable for their sphere of influence and judgments (82:7-8).

Romans 14:11-12 – For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Commonality of Leprosy and Sin

Monday, July 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 13-15

The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.  Leprosy known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD); is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Leprosy is treatable, even curable in the 21st century; however, in ancient times it was a dreaded disease not only feared, but also inevitably leading to its victims separation from society and assignment to leper colonies.

In Leviticus 13, the LORD directs Moses and Aaron in the steps He required to address leprosy in Israel including diagnosing the disease and the exclusion of lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).   Lepers were required to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), warning any who approached they were carriers of the disease.

Should the leper be deemed healed of the disease, steps and sacrifices are prescribed in Leviticus 14 to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rituals for purification, the leper was deemed clean and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).

As a point of application, leprosy is the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people.  Notice in chapter 13 the number of times leprosy is described as “unclean” (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59).  Leprosy is more than a surface issue of the skin and the outward man; leprosy inevitably effects the tissues, nerves and eventually causes the extremities to rot and decay.  In a real sense, it so scarred the body it was well-nigh an unbearable ugliness.

Such is the way of sin.  Liberals would have us believe man is born innocent and it is man’s environment (i.e. home, society, religion) that is the cause of man’s societal deprivations.  Rather than innocence, God’s Word declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The apostle Paul, likening sin to a physical ailment writes, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

At the heart of problems in our society is the problem of sinful hearts.  Jesus taught His disciples, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20  These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:19-20).

Without a human cure for leprosy, lepers hoped for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention that would be verified by examination and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

In the same way, mankind has no cure for sin.  Twenty-first century society, doctors and judges prescribe counseling, psychiatry and drug-therapy for lawbreakers and prisoners deemed to have “mental-disorders”; however, these all fall short of addressing the heart of the issue, which is the issue of the heart.

In the same way there was no cure for leprosy without the LORD, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin and placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  It is for this reason Jesus Christ bore the penalty of our sins on the cross. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith