Category Archives: Trust

Preach the Word of the LORD! (Ezekiel 2; Ezekiel 3)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 2; Ezekiel 3

At the sound of God’s voice, heaven became silent as the cherubim “let down their wings” (1:25b). With the vision of the glory of God, and Him sitting on His heavenly throne, Ezekiel fell on his face. Lying prostrate, he “heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28) saying, “Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee” (2:1).

Ezekiel 2

Addressing Ezekiel as “Son of man,” the young priest (30 years old, 1:1), learned the gravity of his ministry to the children of Israel living in Babylon (2:3-4). God’s calling would move Ezekiel from anonymity, to a ministry that would invite the anger of his rebellious people.

The LORD instructed Ezekiel to stand up, and listen as He warned, “Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me” (2:3a). The sins of Israel were generational, for the people and “their fathers have [had] transgressed against” the LORD (2:3b). They were spiritually obstinate and hardhearted (2:4). Ezekiel would face a rebellious people, but if he was faithful to his calling, God assured him, the people would “know that there hath been a prophet among them” (2:5). God commanded Ezekiel, “be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words,” for the task to which he was called would be fraught with danger, and rejection (2:6).

Where would Ezekiel derive the courage to face a people God described as “most rebellious”? (2:7-10)

The LORD prepared His prophet, giving him the spiritual nourishment, he needed to confront a stiff hearted people! The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.” (2:8). What did God put in his mouth? The Word of God, declaring His judgment of Israel. It was a scroll, “a roll of a book” that was placed in Ezekiel’s mouth (2:9), and upon it was written “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (2:10).

Ezekiel 3

The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel” (3:1).  The prophet devoured the words of the roll, and declared, “it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (3:3). With the words of the LORD in his mouth, Ezekiel was commanded, “get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (3:4). He was cautioned, he was not to go to the heathen, “a people of a strange [foreign] speech” (3:5). He was to take the words of God’s judgment to “the house of Israel” (3:5), but was forewarned, they “will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted” (3:7).

Though charged with a difficult task, he was not to be afraid, for the LORD promised He would strengthen Ezekiel, and he would be able to stand against the people (3:8). The LORD then challenged His prophet, be strong and determined, and “fear them not, neither be dismayed” (3:9).

The Burden of Proclaiming God’s Word to a Wicked People (3:10-15)

Ezekiel was to “receive…and hear” the words the LORD spoke to him (3:10). Then, he was to “get…to them of the captivity…and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God” (3:11a). He was to deliver the word from the LORD, but he was not responsible for whether the people received or rejected the message (3:11).

The Spirit of God then lifted up Ezekiel, and carried him (3:12-14). Though he was troubled in spirit, he could not escape for “the hand of the Lord was strong upon [him]” (3:14). Ezekiel then found himself among the people of the captivity, and for seven days he sat in their midst, silent and astonished (3:15).

Called to be God’s Watchman (3:16-27)

After seven days were past, the LORD came and commissioned Ezekiel to serve as “a watchman unto the house of Israel” (3:17). His ministry was to call the wicked to repent, but their response was not his burden. Should he fail, God warned, the blood of the wicked “will I require at thine hand” (3:18). Warn the wicked, and he would deliver his soul from judgment (3:19). Ezekiel was also to call the righteous to turn from sin, but should he fail, the LORD warned, the blood of the righteous who died in their sin, would be on his hand (3:20). Warn the righteous, and should he repent, “he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul” (3:21).

The LORD then sent Ezekiel into a valley, and along the way gave him another vision of His heavenly glory (3:21-24). He was then instructed to wait alone in a house, and bind himself with cords to insure his solitude (3:24-25). He was to be silent (3:26), and wait until the LORD opened his mouth (3:27). Finally, he was reminded, whether or not the people would hear his words, was not his burden. His duty was to faithfully warn (3:27).

Closing thoughts – How many preachers fear men’s rejection, more than they fear God’s judgment? How many believers sit in cold, dead churches, pastored by men who lack both the passion and conviction for preaching the Word of God? Let us pray the LORD will raise up a generation like Ezekiel, who fear only the LORD should they fail to declare His Word! I close with the words of Paul’s farewell address to the churches as my aspiration:

“I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God”(Acts 20:26b-27).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

An Answer for “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me” (Jeremiah 45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 45

Having concluded his last prophetic message to the remnant of Judah that fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 44), Jeremiah’s chronological narrative was interrupted for a brief chapter. Jeremiah 45 recalls an earlier discourse between the prophet and Baruch, who served as Jeremiah’s scribe (Jeremiah 36:8). The historical setting of the conversation between the two men came “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah” (45:1). For context, Jehoiakim was the king who cast the prophecies of Jeremiah into a fire (Jeremiah 36:20-26). There were yet two kings who followed Jehoiakim (his successor Jehoiachin, who reigned for three months, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah).

Penning the revelation concerning the destruction of Jerusalem a second time (Jeremiah 36:27-32), so overwhelmed Baruch he groaned in his spirit. Discouraged, and visibly shaken by God’s imminent judgment, the scribe found himself serving a prophet who was not only unpopular, but also imprisoned.

Jeremiah 45

The LORD Commanded Jeremiah to Confront Baruch (45:1-3)

Jeremiah 45:1-3 – “1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake [pronounced] unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of [according to] Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch; 3 Thou [Baruch] didst say, Woe [cry out] is me now! for the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] hath added[increased] grief [afflictions] to my sorrow [pain; grief; anguish]; I fainted [exhausted; wearied] in my sighing[groaning’s; mourning; distress], and I find no rest [comfort; ease; resting place].”

The scribe’s focus was himself, and the LORD revealed to Jeremiah the spiritual state of his friend (45:1-2). Baruch was discouraged and overwhelmed. Jeremiah 45:3 exposed the spirit of a man whose spiritual zeal had waned because he lost sight of God’s sovereignty. The LORD instructed Jeremiah to be a faithful minister, and to instruct Baruch to not place his hope and affections on temporal, earthly things.

 Jeremiah 45:4 – Thus shalt thou [Jeremiah] say unto him [Baruch], The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I [the LORD] have built [established; construct] will I [the LORD] break down [throw down; pluck down; destroyed], and that which I [the LORD] have planted I [the LORD] will pluck up [destroy; tear away], even this whole land.

Reminded God is sovereign, He had the right and authority to build up or to tear down, and no man should question His will. The LORD had determined that the Temple would be burned, the palaces destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem laid waste. Jeremiah 45:5 may strike you as an unnecessary rebuke of a faithful scribe, until you understand the context.

Jeremiah 45:5 – And seekest [require; beg; strive after] thou [Baruch] great things [high; greater; proud thing] for thyself [Baruch]? seek [require; beg; strive after] them not: for, behold, I [the LORD] will bring [come in; enter; give; advance] evil [bad; adversity; affliction; distress] upon all flesh [person; mankind; bodies], saith the LORD: but thy [Baruch] life [soul; person; heart] will I [the LORD] give [deliver; commit; give up; abandon] unto thee [Baruch] for a prey [spoil; possessions; booty; plunder] in all places whither thou goest [walk; depart; follow].

Jeremiah counseled Baruch not to sacrifice God’s calling for promotion or personal aspirations. As a point of background: Baruch’s brother served as a counselor to king Jehoiakim. While his brother enjoyed a prominent role in the king’s palace, Baruch found himself serving a prophet that was despised, persecuted, and imprisoned.

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah’s rebuke is as relevant to us as it was to Baruch. Is it not easy to fall prey to seeking “great things for thyself?” (45:5a) It is easy to focus upon the immediate cost of serving the LORD, but fail to recognize the greater risk, should we disobey Him. The LORD revealed the king, his advisors (including Baruch’s brother), and all the people would fail. Yet, the LORD promised to give Jeremiah’s scribe that which was greater than fame and promotion—LIFE!

The LORD said, “thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest” (45:5). What a wonderful promise! Baruch, don’t seek things for yourself, and I will give you LIFE!

What are you seeking? Riches, possessions, titles and fame perish! In the LORD, LIFE is forever!

Matthew 6:19-21 19  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

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.

From Despair to Triumphant Faith (Habakkuk 3)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 3

Our study of Habakkuk concludes with today’s Scripture reading of Habakkuk 3. The sinfulness the prophet witnessed in Judah and Jerusalem provoked Habakkuk to question the LORD, “Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance?” (1:3a). The prophet reasoned, “For spoiling and violence are before me: And there are that raise up strife and contention” (1:3b).

The LORD answered Habakkuk’s complaint, and revealed how He would raise up the Chaldeans (Babylon) to punish Judah and the nations for their wickedness (1:5-11). Habakkuk asked, why would God employ a wicked nation to punish the sins of His people? (1:12-17) The LORD answered His prophet’s inquiry in a vision (2:1), and the judgment that would befall Babylon for its wickedness (2:2-19). Accepting the imminent judgment of Judah, the prophet declared God’s sovereignty, saying, “the Lord is in his holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20).

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk’s Prayer (3:1-2)

Habakkuk 3 commences as a prayer (3:1-2), and is followed by a poem best described as a psalm or song. While there is some debate among scholars regarding the definition of “Shigionoth” (3:1), many agree the word was a musical notation. Reinforcing that conclusion is postscript at the close of the book: “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments” (3:19).

Having his questions answered, and understanding the inevitable judgment that would fulfill the LORD’s revelations, Habakkuk prayed: “O Lord, I have heard [listened to] thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make known; In wrath remember mercy” (3:2).

The Sovereignty and Providence of the LORD (3:3-15)

Looking to the future through the eyes of faith, Habakkuk remembered the ways and works of the LORD in the past. He remembered how the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness (3:3). For “God came from Teman” (the south), and the Holy One from mount Paran” (located in the Sinai desert), and then penned, “Selah” (pause and think about that, 3:3a). When Israel encamped in Sinai, there the LORD descended from heaven, and “His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of his praise” (3:3b). Though a nation of slaves, the LORD strengthened the faith of Israel with a display of His majesty and glory. He gave witness to the “horns [symbol of power and authority] coming out of his hand: And there was the hiding of his power” (3:4).

Recalling what the LORD did for Israel in the past, Habakkuk was confident He would bring upon the nations a “pestilence” (for God uses plagues to punish the wicked), and they would tremble and be shaken at His presence (3:6). The prophet proposed three questions (3:8), and remembered God used nature to do His bidding and bring judgment upon the wicked. Portrayed removing His bow and arrows out of their sheath (3:9a), God had used the flood waters of the Nile (Exodus 7:20-21), and the troubled waters of the Red Sea, to cause Pharoah and Egypt to submit to His will (Exodus 14:15-28; 15:8-10).

Habakkuk described the effect of God’s wrath in natural terms, making mention of how the mountains tremble, and waters overflow their banks (3:10). Even the sun, moon, and stars are shaken in their courses by the judgment of the LORD (3:11; Joshua 10:12-14; Isaiah 38:8; 2 Kings 20:9-11). When the LORD moves in judgment upon the nations of the world, fierce lightnings pierce the sky like “the light of arrows…[and His]glittering spear” (3:11).

Habakkuk warned, no man or nation could stand before the wrath of God. Yet, the LORD would remember His covenant and not forsake His people (3:12-13a). Babylon would wreak havoc on Judah, and destroy the poorer, weaker nations. Nevertheless, that wicked nation would be punished, and humiliated, for it would not withstand the wrath of God (3:13-14).

The Prophet’s Response to God’s Revelation (3:16-19)

Realizing the judgment of God was imminent, Habakkuk was overcome with emotion. His heart trembled, his voice failed, and his strength dissipated (3:16a). Yet, his hope was restored when he remembered when trouble comes, the LORD comes as well (3:16b). Crops would fail, and flocks and herds would be no more (3:17). In spite of sorrows that were to come, Habakkuk declared, “18Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18).

Closing thoughts – How could the prophet rejoice, even as he acknowledged troubles were imminent?

Habakkuk did not derive his hope from pleasant circumstances, but from his faith that his joy was “in the God of [his] salvation” (3:18). Though trials were at hand, Habakkuk declared, “The Lord God is my strength, And he will make my feet like hinds’ feet [fast and agile like deer], And he [the LORD] will make me to walk upon mine high places” (3:19).

With faith in the LORD, and trusting Him for strength, Habakkuk declared he could conquer mountains! (3:19)

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.

Preach God’s Word at Your Peril (Jeremiah 37)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 37

God’s Word Rejected a Second Time (37:1-3)

Our timeline moves from the reign of Jehoiakim (the third to the last king of Judah, 36:1), to Zedekiah (37:1). Zedekiah succeeded Jeconiah as king, after that king (known as Coniah or Jehoiachin) reigned for three months, until he was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar (37:1).

Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, continued the obstinance of Jehoiakim, by rejecting “the words of the Lord, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah” (37:2). With the army of Babylon laying siege to the city, the king appealed to Jeremiah requesting through his servants, “Pray now unto the Lord our God for us” (37:3).

Warning: Don’t Put Your Confidence in Egypt (37:4-10)

Fearless and faithful to his calling, Jeremiah “came in and went out among the people: they had not put him into prison” (37:4). It was at that time the news, “Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt” (37:5) reached Jerusalem. The Chaldean army withdrew from their siege against Jerusalem (37:5), and some believed the city had been spared from destruction.

Jeremiah warned the king to not put his faith in Pharaoh’s army, for his soldiers would return to Egypt (37:7). The prophet warned, don’t be deceived, for Babylon would come again and burn the city as the LORD had foretold (37:8-10).

Arrested and Imprisoned (37:11-21)

As he departed Jerusalem, Jeremiah was accused of treason, persecuted, then imprisoned in a dungeon (37:11-16). He suffered in the dungeon for many days, until Zedekiah sought the prophet counsel in secret, and asked if he had “any word from the LORD?” (37:17).

The prophet answered the king, contending to know the crime he had committed that warranted his imprisonment (37:18). He wisely questioned the king, asking where were the prophets who had prophesied, “The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?” (37:19)

Closing thought – Jeremiah foretold the king would not die in the siege on Jerusalem, but would be removed to Babylon where he would live out his days (37:17). He then petitioned the king, asking to be removed from the dungeon, lest he die there (37:20). Zedekiah honored the prophet’s request, and commanded he be provided a daily ration of bread (37:21).

I close today’s devotional, being reminded there are times it is the will of God for His choicest servants to suffer. Jeremiah was hated, rejected, suffered persecution and imprisonment, because he was a faithful servant and a preacher of God’s Word. The king and the nation despised the Word of God, and hated His servant. Let all who love, and serve the LORD remember: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

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.

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.

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

Be Still; the LORD is Our Refuge (Psalm 46; Psalm 80)

Scripture reading – Psalm 46; Psalm 80

Two psalms are the focus of today’s Scripture reading, and both are certainly pertinent and instructive to believers of the 21st century.

Psalm 46

Since the fall of man, the world has been filled with troubles, sorrows, and wars. The mass media of our day, and the reach of the internet has given us a view of events while they are unfolding. Sadly, there is little good news, and the proliferation of wickedness and violence, coupled with inept leadership, has brought the world to the precipice of anarchy.

What are we to do in the midst of our trials and troubles? Psalm 46 gives us the answer.

God is Our Refuge (46:1-3)

Our God has power over nature, and He is the place (and person) to whom we can flee in troubled times (46:1). He is our Refuge (shelter; strong rock), and Strength (our security, and place of safety). All who flee to the LORD have no cause for worry or fear (46:2). Whether the mountains are moved out of their places by an earthquake, or the seas are troubled (“seas” can be literal, or a symbol of human society), we can be confident God is steadfast and unshaken (46:2-3). “Selah,” pause and ponder that promise!

God is Our River of Life, and Source of Grace (46:4-7)

Jerusalem was the city where the LORD established His Temple, and it was an outward symbol of His presence in the midst of His people (46:4). God had covenanted with Israel to be a perpetual blessing to His people, but the children of Israel had failed to keep covenant with Him.

The LORD was “in the midst” of His people, and though the “heathen raged” (46:6a), the very sound of His voice would cause the nations to tremble (46:6b). The psalmist assured His people, “7The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (46:7).

God Will Be Exalted in the Earth (46:8-11)

The third stanza of Psalm 46 declared God’s judgment, and reminded Judah though the armies of their adversaries were fierce, it was the LORD who has power and authority over nature and the nations. God alone can bring peace, for “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire” (46:9).

Closing thoughts – We close being reminded when troubles and trials assail, people of faith look to the LORD. He would have us to, “Be still,” and rest in the knowledge He is sovereign. He is greater than our trials (46:19), and His purpose will “be exalted among the heathen [and] in the earth” (46:10).

No matter the trial, affliction or enemy, remember: “The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (46:11).

Psalm 80

The setting of Psalm 80 is thought to be after the fall of Israel to Assyria, and was a petition to the LORD to intervene for the Northern Kingdom. It was a song and cry for compassion, and salvation (80:1-7).

As a nation, Israel was described as a grape vine transplanted out of Egypt (80:8-9), a bough that flourished under God’s blessings spanning from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (80:10-12), and a land devastated by enemies portrayed as ferocious as a wild boar (80:13a) and wild beasts (i.e. lions, bears, wolves, 80:13b).

Psalm 80 concluded with the psalmist crying to the LORD to intervene, and save His people (80:14-15). Describing the desolations, Israel had suffered (consumed by fire and cut down, 80:16), the psalmist pens for the third time: “Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, Cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (80:3, 7, 19).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

God is Greater than Your Fears (Psalm 76)

Scripture reading – Psalm 76

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we take a detour from the prophecies of Isaiah to Psalm 76. This psalm is believed to have been penned on the occasion of the LORD delivering king Hezekiah, and Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 37-38).

Psalm 76 is titled, “To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.”

“Neginoth” was a stringed instrument. Thus, Psalm 76 was written by a son of the lineage of Asaph (a Levite musician who had been a contemporary of king David), and was to be accompanied on a string instrument. I invite you to consider three major components of the psalm.

A Song of Praise to God (76:1-6)

The psalmist reminded Judah and Israel how the LORD had chosen to dwell in their midst. We read, “1In Judah is God known: His name is great in Israel” (76:1). The LORD had revealed Himself in the Scriptures, and His prophets had declared His Word to the people. His “name,” the sum of Who He is in His person and attributes, was “great in Israel” (76:1).

His “tabernacle” was in Salem (ancient Jerusalem), and He dwelt in Zion (76:2). This “tabernacle” was not the same word as the place where the Ark of the Covenant was placed during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. In fact, the tabernacle recorded in Psalm 76:2 is the word for a “lair,” a den or dwelling place of a lion. Remembering the setting of this psalm is the celebration that followed the angel of the LORD slaying 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, it’s appropriate the LORD would be described in the terms of a lion in its den, whose “dwelling place [was] in Zion” (76:2).

The LORD had slain the Assyrian soldiers in the night, and in the morning the citizens of Jerusalem awoke, and looked upon a battlefield strewn with broken “arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword” (76:3).

The words of the psalm break into praising the LORD, declaring He is “more glorious” (He is the illuminator, the giver of light), and “excellent” (majestic and powerful, 76:4). The LORD had “spoiled” (plundered) the valiant men of Assyria while they “slept their sleep” (for they had been slain in their sleep, 76:5)., and the “chariot and horse” had been “cast into a dead sleep,” and were destroyed in the night (76:6).

Fear and Revere the LORD (76:7-10)

No man can stand before the LORD when He is angry (76:7), and when the sound of His judgment was “heard from heaven,” all the earth feared, and was still” (76:8). Why did the LORD destroy the Assyrian army? Why did He drive king Sennacherib and his soldiers out of Judah to their land? I invite you to consider three reasons God intervened on behalf of His people.

The first, God is just, and He “arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth” (76:9). In the Scriptures, the “meek” are not a portrait of weakness, but of strength that is under control, harnessed, and reined in. The meek are strong because their faith is strong in the LORD! Of the meek, Christ declared, “they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Another reason the LORD destroyed soldiers of Assyria, was to turn “the wrath of man,” and give cause for His people to praise Him (76:10a). Finally, because the earth had heard the God of Judah had destroyed the army of Assyria, it served as a warning to others (especially the soldiers who survived the slaughter) to restrain their wrath, and refrain from evil (76:10b).

An Invitation to Renew Your Promises to the LORD (76:11-12)

Psalm 76 concludes with an invitation for God’s people to renew their faith and commitment to the LORD: “Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: Let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared” (76:11). Notice three invitations recorded in verse 11: 1) Recommit your life to the LORD; 2) In gratitude, bring gifts and offerings of praise; 3) Fear and revere the LORD (76:11).

Closing thoughts – Our study concludes encouraging us to realize our God will “cut off the spirit of princes: He is terrible to the kings of the earth” (76:12). The LORD will break the spirit of evil men, and wicked leaders have reason to fear Him, because “He is terrible” and the mighty fall at His pleasure (76:12b).

Is there someone who terrifies or torments you? Do you feel overwhelmed, or afraid? Remember, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: But whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

If you love the LORD, and trust Him, you have no cause for worry or fear; for “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18a).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe is me!” (Micah 6; Micah 7) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – Micah 6; Micah 7

Micah 7 The Prophet’s Response to God’s Threats of Judgment (7:1-5)

Declaring, “Woe is me!” (7:1a), Micah found no delight in announcing God’s judgment on Israel. The prophet observed there were no good men left in Israel (7:2). The nation was plagued with lawlessness, and violence (7:2b). What a tragic portrait of a doomed nation! Every level of Jewish society was failing.

The Judicial System was Corrupt (7:3-4)

There was no justice, and judgments were perverted by bribes (7:3a). The leaders of the people plotted together to do evil, and pervert justice (7:3b). Even the “best of them” (the best of men), rather than protect the people, had become like briars and thorns and injured them (7:4).

Rejecting God’s Law, Society had Fallen into Anarchy (7:5-6)

Though there a few who loved the LORD (such as the prophets), the majority of the nation had rejected God’s Law, and pursued a path of moral depravity. No one could be trusted to give godly counsel (7:5a), and even one’s spouse was disloyal (7:5b). The family was destroyed, as sons dishonored their fathers, and daughters rose up against their mothers (7:6; Exodus 20:12).

All Was Not Hopeless (7:7-9)

Though his nation was morally decayed, Micah encouraged himself in the LORD and declared, “I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: My God will hear me” (7:7).

The prophet encouraged His people to not lose hope, and warned the enemies of Israel to “rejoice not against me” (7:8). Declaring His confidence that the LORD is merciful, and forgiving, Micah said, “When I fall, I shall arise; When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me” (7:8).

With humility, Micah confessed his sins and the sins of the nation (7:9a). He acknowledged their sins deserved the LORD’s judgment. However, Micah believed God is merciful, loving, and righteous (7:9b), and he refused to lose hope!

A Prophecy of Israel’s Restoration (7:10-15)

Micah declared the enemies of the LORD would see Him deliver His people and restore them to their land. In that day (a day that was partially fulfilled when a remnant returned from Babylonian captivity), the enemies of Israel would be put to shame (7:10).

Still future, when the LORD gathers His believing people from the nations of the earth (fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming), no river, sea, or mountain will prevent them from gathering in Israel (7:12). Though in the immediate, God’s promise of judgment would leave Israel and Judah desolate, and the people in captivity (7:13).

Though judgment was assured, Micah prayed the LORD would remember His people, provide and protect them with His “rod,” even as a shepherd his sheep (7:14; Psalm 23:4). The LORD answered His prophet’s prayer, declaring He would one day deliver Israel, even as He had brought the people out of Egypt (7:15).

Summary (7:16-19) – The nations of the world will one day see God’s deliverance of Israel, and the enemies of His people will be humiliated, and brought low (7:16-17). Micah’s prophecy closed with him praising the LORD, and declaring to Israel the LORD’s goodness and faithfulness (7:18), His compassion and willingness to forgive (10:19), and “cast all [our] sins into the depths of the sea” (7:19).

Closing thoughts – I identify in the sins and failings of Judah, the sins and chaos of our day. The nations that have had God’s Word, have rejected His Law and Commandments. Corrupt leaders plague society, and the common man is deprived of justice. Few have integrity, while marriages, families, and society divide and crumble.

What can we do? Turn our focus to the LORD, and pray knowing: “My God will hear me” (7:7), and when we confess our sins He cast them “into the depths of the sea” (7:19). We had better “do” more than turn our focus to the Lord and pray.  We had better repent, cry aloud for forgiveness, turn to the whole counsel of God and walk in His ways.

Be assured: What God has promised, He will perform! (7:20).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
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. 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.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith