Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pay Day Shall Surely Come Someday (2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues in 2 Chronicles 24, and you will notice a parallel of events we considered in our prior devotional from 2 Kings 12. Of course, 2 Kings was authored prior to the Babylonian captivity, while 2 Chronicles is believed to have been written by Ezra after the children of Israel returned from exile.

The Reign of Joash (24:1-27)

2 Chronicles 24 gives additional details to the years that Joash reigned as king of Judah. Once again, we are reminded that the king “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). There is also the record that Jehoiada the high priest had taken for Joash “two wives; and he begat sons and daughters” (24:3).

Repairing the Temple (24:6-14)

As we found in 2 Kings 12, Joash had commanded the Temple be repaired (24:4-6). Scripture gives us the cause for those repairs stating: “For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim” (24:7).  The identity of “the sons of Athaliah” is not given; however, they had stripped the Temple of the LORD, and furnished the heathen temple to Baal with its treasures.

The means of collecting monies to rebuild the Temple and pay its workers is recorded (24:8-12), and there was enough given by the people to not only “set the house of God” in order and finish it, but also to make new vessels of gold and silver for offering sacrifices (24:14).

The Death of Jehoiada, the High Priest (24:15-16)

Incredibly, Jehoiada the high priest lived to be 130 years old. What a wonderful, rich life this servant of the LORD had lived. His testimony in Israel was such that he was given a burial worthy of kings.

The Faith of the Saints is Never More Than One Generation from Extinction (24:17-22)

Soon after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah sought his permission to leave “the house [Temple] of the LordGod of their fathers” (24:17), and “the king hearkened unto them” (24:17). What follows is a great tragedy, and a warning to all who call upon the LORD. Jehoiada’s presence in Judah had been a powerful one, and his influence upon king Joash began when he was little more than an infant. The king had faithfully served the LORD under the shadow and guidance of the high priest, but his death revealed the weak spiritual state of the king and leaders of Judah.

With the king’s blessing, the leaders of Judah established groves for idol worship and prostitution (24:18), and provoked the LORD who poured out His wrath “upon Judah and Jerusalem for…their trespass” (24:18). Yet, the LORD sent prophets to call the nation to repent, “but they would not give ear” (24:19).

Then, “the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you” (24:20).

How did the leaders of Judah respond to the preaching of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada? “They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord” (24:21). Even king Joash, who had enjoyed the love and mentoring of Zechariah’s father his whole life, “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his [Zechariah’s] father had done to him, but slew his son” (24:22). As he was dying, Zechariah rebuked the king, “The Lord look upon it, and require it [avenge his murder] (24:22).

Sin Begats Sin, Murder Begats Murder (24:23-27)

At the end of that same year, a Syrian army lay siege to Jerusalem, killing all the leaders among the people, and taking the spoils of Jerusalem to “the king of Damascus” (24:23). Judah’s lust for sin, and the depravity of the people had left the nation so weakened that a mere “small company of men” was all that was necessary for Syria to conquer “a very great host,” for the people “had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers” (24:24).

Closing thoughts – The glorious reign of Joash came to an inglorious end, for he suffered “great diseases,” until “his own servants conspired against him for [shedding] the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed” (24:25). Unlike the honorable burial that had been given to Jehoiada the priest, Joash was not buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (24:25).

Warning: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Cater to the carnal and you do so at your peril.

An appropriate follow up to my earlier post is warranted, and I believe this five year old post, dated March 27, 2017, serves as a testimony that I have been following the decline of Bible fundamentalism for more than a decade.

Whether secular or religious, a transition in leadership is a critical period in any organization’s history.

Numerous examples come to mind. Churches once numbered in the pinnacle of biblical fundamentalism, have faltered after undergoing a change of pastoral leadership; some falling from their fundamentalist legacy, others altogether failing as ministries.  Deacon boards and church members, demanding a change in pastoral leadership, often steer ministries from their fundamentalist heritage and too often to dissolution.  Sadly, churches departing from their heritage and appeasing the carnal is continuing across our nation.

I have observed the same pattern in the last 15 years in fundamental Christian institutions. Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, and Clearwater Christian College all faltered and failed following transitions in leadership. Many of our fundamental Christian colleges and universities have accommodated the demands for accreditation and become “board run” institutions (in my opinion reflecting the spirit of the Israelites who demanded, “make us a king to judge us like all the nations” – 1 Samuel 8:5).

Board members of those institutions share the responsibility for steering those schools from the fundamental moorings of their founders. They have moved away from their alumni and constituents, and gone adrift in a morass of pragmatic ideas that are void of spiritual principles.

Warning: Cater to the carnal and you do so at your peril.

Copyright © 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Warning Knell: Pseudo-Fundamentalists Are Systematically Destroying the Legacy of Biblical Fundamentalism

Heart of A Shepherd followers,

I generally limit posts to daily devotionals on my http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com website. There are, however, some things I come across in my readings that give me pause to not only think, but to share.

Bob Jones University Fashion Show – December 2021

I am currently reading a book authored by a man I do not know and judging from his references, would probably not follow. Nevertheless, Owen Strachan’s recently published book, Christianity and Wokeness, has awakened in me a sensitivity to a frightening reality:

We are not only witnessing a systematic dismantling of our American culture and the broad spectrum of churches in the United States, but a decaying of what has been known for more than a century as historic Bible fundamentalism.

Owen Strachan makes the following observation in his book:

“Though fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals earned a reputation as pugnacious, with the image of the ‘Fightin’ Fundamentalist’ enduring in our time, in actual historical fact, the fundamentalists didn’t fight nearly enough. They lost, and lost, and lost some more. They lost their churches, they lost their seminaries, they lost their missions agencies, they lost their parachurch organizations, and they kept on losing until there was very nearly nothing else left to lose.”1

If my Bible-fundamentalist peers will be honest, for the past two decades we have observed the consequences of compromise when leadership fails to maintain a separatist position in both personal and ecclesiastical fellowship.

Bob Jones University Fashion Design hosted by Fashion Design Seniors, December 2021

Failing to maintain a distinct doctrine of separation has led to a precipitous loss of fundamental churches, schools (Tennessee Temple University, Pillsbury Baptist College, Northland Baptist College, Clearwater Christian College), seminaries (Calvary Seminary), and missions’ agencies.

Unless board members of fundamental churches, schools, universities, mission board agencies, and parachurch organizations (camps) repent for their compromises and purge the leadership leading their institutions, the losses will continue until we have “nearly nothing else left to lose.”2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

1 Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021), 55.
2 Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

How Will You Be Remembered? (2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12

If today’s Scripture reading sounds familiar, it is because we have reviewed a parallel record in our study of 2 Chronicles 22. Rather than submit an exhaustive study of the same, we will review the personalities and events found in 2 Kings 11 and 12.

2 Kings 11 – Four Historical Events

Athaliah’s Ascension to the Throne of Judah (11:1-3)

After Jehu, the newly crowned king of Israel, slew Ahaziah, the son of Athaliah, she ascended as the queen of Judah. She was the daughter of Israel’s wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel (2 Kings 8:18, 26), and the wife of Joram (also known as Jehoram) who had been king of Judah (2 Chronicles 21).

Receiving news of her son’s death, Athaliah moved quickly to consolidate her rule in Judah, and ordered the deaths of any who could potentially lay claim to the throne, including her own grandchildren. Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah escaped death when his aunt “Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram” (11:2), fled the palace and sought refuge for herself and the young prince in the Temple (11:3).

The Coronation of Joash, King of Judah (11:4-12)

Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah, and the heir to Judah’s throne, was concealed in the Temple for six years, and was under the tutelage and protection of Jehoiada the high priest (11:4). When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada established a covenant with key leaders of the priesthood and the military, and anointed the young prince as king of Judah.

The Assassination of Queen Athaliah (11:13-16)

Six years pass, and Athaliah, hearing the shouts, “God save the king!” rushed to the Temple. There she found her grandson, Joash, wearing the crown of the king, and standing at the pillar that was apparently reserved for the king (11:13-14). “Treason, Treason!” Athaliah shouted, and Jehoiada the high priest commanded she be removed from the Temple, and slain (11:15-16).

A Sacred Covenant (11:14-21)

With the wicked rule of Athaliah ended, “Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people…” (11:17). The temple of Baal and his images were destroyed, and the priest of Baal was killed (11:18). Jehoiada led Joash to the palace, and the young king “sat on the throne of the kings” of Judah, and the nation rejoiced, and Jerusalem enjoyed a season of quiet and peace (11:20).

Closing thoughts – Never underestimate the influence of leadership; whether it be the leaders of a nation, a state, a city, a church, or a school. The observation of Solomon in his proverb still holds true: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

2 Kings 12 – The Reign, and the Shame of Joash (i.e., Jehoash)

As it is with politics throughout history, Judah’s peace and prosperity was not perpetual. Joash (also spelled Jehoash), reigned forty years over Judah, and he honored the LORD, and “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (12:2). Notice the prior phrase, and how the young king remained under the tutelage of the high priest most of his reign in Jerusalem.

Jehoash Ordered the Restoration of the Temple (12:4-16).

Giving us some insight into the years before his reign, the Temple of the LORD had been neglected, and there was a great need for repairs (12:4-5). The king ordered money to be collected and repairs to begin (12:5). Yet, in the twenty-third year of his reign, “the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house” (12:6).

Jehoash challenged the priests, and questioned why they had failed to repair the Temple (12:7). The implication seemed that there had been some dishonesty and mishandling of monies given. The king commanded the priests to “receive no more money of the people” (12:7-8), except that which would be given to those who labored in repairing the Temple (12:9-15).

Hazael, King of Syria, Began to Make War (12:17-21)

Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy (2 Kings 8:10-12), the king of Syria marched through Israel, and laid siege to Jerusalem (12:17). Severely wounded in battle (2 Chronicles 24:25), rather than seek the LORD for deliverance, Jehoash paid a tribute and gave Hazael king of Syria, the treasures of the Temple and his own royal treasures (12:19).

While the king of Syria “went away from Jerusalem,” the king of Judah was weakened, and soon after, Jehoash was assassinated by his own servants (12:20). In his place, Amaziah his son became king (12:21).

Closing thoughtsWhat people remember about us is not how we begin our journey, but how we finish. Joash’s reign as king of Judah began gloriously as a boy; however, we close this chapter on his life, and remember him as a king who compromised with Syria, gave away the treasuries of the Temple, and was slain by his own servants (12:17-21).

Have you thought about how you will be remembered, not only by man, but most importantly by the LORD? All believers should aspire to Paul’s summary of his life and ministry when he wrote: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Dying Nation (2 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 10

Background of today’s Scripture reading: The LORD had commanded Jehu to annihilate the lineage of Ahab for his role in murdering the prophets of the LORD. Jehu, having been anointed king of Israel (9:1-3), had taken up his bow, and shot king Joram through the heart as he had fled in his chariot (9:23-24). With Joram dead, Jehu turned and went to the palace in Jezreel. Jezebel spied him from a window, and being a woman full of witchcraft and whoredoms, called to him with insolence. Jehu then ordered Jezebel cast out a window of a palace window falling to her death (9:32-33). As foretold, the dogs ate her flesh, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 21:23).

2 Kings 10

Jehu Secured Israel’s Throne (10:1-14)

To secure the throne of Israel, Jehu ordered the execution of all of Ahab’s lineage (10:1-7). We read, “Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab’s children” (10:1). Numbered among the seventy were no doubt grandsons of Ahab.

Making a pretense to encourage the crowning of Ahab’s heir (10:3-4), Jehu in fact had plotted to execute any who might lay claim to the throne of Israel. The leaders of Samaria realized the ruse, and refused to be a party to crowning of a king after Jehu had made himself king of Israel. Jehu then ordered the beheadings of Ahab’s lineage (10:6), and the men “took the king’s sons…and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel” (10:7). As a warning to any who might challenge his reign, Jehu ordered the heads of Ahab’s sons be stacked “in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning” (10:8). Jehu lied to the people (10:10), and suggested he had nothing to do with the beheadings, but asserted, “the LORD hath done that which he spake by His servant Elijah” (10:10). Jehu then continued his eradication of any who might have been loyal to Ahab’s household (10:11). He also ordered the deaths of 42 men who came seeking Ahaziah, and claimed kinship to the deceased king of Judah whom Jehu had slain (9:27; 10:12-14).

The Elimination of All Who Worshipped and Served Baal (10:18-27).

Ahab and Jezebel had introduced the worship of Baal, and would have had many devoted followers among them. Jehu, therefore, determined to kill all who worshipped and sacrificed to Baal. He deceived the followers of Baal, and proposed he would be more devoted to Baal than Ahab and Jezebel (10:18-19). With 80 armed men stationed outside the pagan temple, Jehu gathered the worshippers of Baal (10:20-23), and at the time appointed, ordered all slain, and the images of Baal destroyed (10:24-28).

Jehu’s Failure (10:28-30)

Removing the worship of Baal from Israel was a great thing in the eyes of the LORD. God acknowledged Jehu had obeyed his command and exterminated the household of Ahab. For his obedience, Jehu was promised his lineage would succeed him on the throne of Israel for four generations (10:30; his son Jehoahaz, grandson Joash, great grandson Jeroboam, and great-great grandson Zechariah would reign as kings in Israel). Jehu, however, had failed to purge the nation of the golden calves Jeroboam had set up in Bethel and Dan (10:29).

The Decline of Israel (10:31-36)

Though Jehu reigned as king for 28 years, his failure to “walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart” (10:31), marked the beginning of the end for that nation. Hazael king of Syria, began to invade the borders of Israel (10:32), and its lands and territories were diminished (10:33). Jehu died, and was buried in Samaria, and true to God’s promise, his son Jehoahaz “reigned in his stead” (10:35).

Closing thoughts – We have witnessed the rise and fall of kings in Israel. Jehu’s bloody reign, and his failure to purge Israel of all idolatry, marked the beginning of the final phase of that nation’s precipitous, and final decline. Without the LORD’S blessing and protection, Israel will fall to her enemies, and the northern ten tribes will be taken by Assyria.

Will the same not be true of nations in our day?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Political Corruption, and a Day of Judgment (2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9

We have observed the fierce faith and courage of the prophet Elisha in earlier devotionals, and in 2 Kings 8 we will observe his compassionate spirit.

2 Kings 8

Lands Restored to a Shunammite Mother and Son (8:1-6)

Knowing Israel would face years of famine, the prophet encouraged the mother, whose son he had raised from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35), to leave Israel and live “in the land of the Philistines seven years,” which she did (8:2). When the seven years past, she returned to Israel, only to find others had occupied her home and lands in her absence.

Providentially, her appeal to the king coincided with that ruler questioning “Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done” 8:4). As Gehazi told how Elisha had “restored a dead body to life,” the mother whose son had been raised from the dead, entered the king’s presence and appealed to him to restore her lands (8:5). The king asked if the story of her son’s resurrection was true, and she confirmed it was so. “So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now” (8:6).

Elisha Foretells the Ascension of Hazael to be King of Syria (8:7-15)

As the prophet of the LORD, Elisha’s prophetic ministry was not limited to Israel. Elisha journeyed to Damascus, and Benhadad, the king of Syria was sick, and feared he was near death (8:7). The king sent a servant named Hazael to inquire if he would recover from his disease (8:8). That servant came to Elisha, and the prophecy he received was that the king would die, and Hazael, his servant would be king (8:10). Having foretold Hazael’s future, Elisha began to weep, for the LORD had revealed how Israel would suffer under Hazael (8:11-12). Hazael was offended by the prophecy, nevertheless, Elisha assured him he would be king (8:13).

Hazael then returned to king Benhadad’s bedside, and he deceived the king and assured him he would recover from his illness (8:14). Yet, the next day, Hazael took matters into his hands, and smothered the king with a thick cloth which he had dipped in water. Benhadad was dead, and Hazael was king of Syria (8:15).

A Review of the Rise and Fall of Kings in Judah and Israel (8:16-29)

The events in 2 Kings 8:16-29, are a parallel of the same from an earlier study in 2 Chronicles 21-22. Now, Joram, king of Israel, was recovering from wounds he had suffered in battle with Syria (8:28). Ahaziah, who was king of Judah and the son of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, went down to Ramothgilead to visit the king. (8:28-29). (Jezebel, the wicked Queen mother, and wife of Ahab was still alive at this time.)

2 Kings 9

Jehu Anointed King (9:1-10)

While king Joram was away, Elisha, sent a messenger to anoint Jehu to become Israel’s next king (9:2-6). To avenge the deaths of his prophets, Jehu was charged with annihilating the lineage of Ahab, and insure there would be no heir of that wicked king’s family (9:7-10). True to the prophecy of Elijah, Joram was told, “the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her” (9:10).

Jehu’s Insurrection, and the Assassination of Joram and Ahaziah (9:13-27)

With the anointing of the LORD to be king in Israel, Jehu journeyed to Jezreel, determined to slay Joram and claim Israel’s throne (9:13-15). Jehu and his company of soldiers came within sight of Jezreel, and king Joram twice sent messengers to ask him if he had come in peace (9:17-20). Rather than return to the king, the messengers joined Jehu. Then, Joram and Ahazaih ordered their chariots “made ready,” and went out of the city to meet Jehu (9:21). When Joram asked Jehu, “Is it peace?” (meaning, have you come in peace), Jehu replied, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (9:22)

The king of Israel realized he had been betrayed, and warned Ahaziah to flee, as an arrow from Jehu’s bow pierced Joram’s heart (9:23-24). Remembering how Jezebel had murdered Naboth, and Ahab had claimed his vineyard, Jehu ordered Joram be buried in the field of Naboth (9:25-26). Jehu continued the pursuit of Ahaziah king of Judah, and he was also wounded, and died that day at Megiddo where he had fled (9:27).

The Inglorious Death of Jezebel (9:30-37)

Fulfilling the prophecies of Elijah and Elisha, Jehu came to Jezreel, and the wicked Jezebel adorned herself as a powerful queen (9:30). Looking out the window of the palace, she scorned Jehu, but he answered her asking others, “Who is on my side?… 33And he [Jehu] said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall” (9:33). Jehu’s horses and chariots then trampled Jezebel, and left her lifeless body at the city wall (9:33-34). When Jehu ordered Jezebel’s body be buried, he learned the prophecy of Elijah had been fulfilled, for the dogs had eaten her flesh (9:35-37).

Closing thoughts – We have followed the deaths of kings and queens, and the ascension of sons to be king. As it was then, so it is today. We see in our day the same political intrigue and corruption in nations of the world. Wicked men and women continue to aspire to wealth, power, and position and few give little thought to the day when “the dead, small and great, stand before God…[and will be] judged every man according to their works…and whosever [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

Are you ready for the judgment day?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Scourge of Famine and A Prophecy of Plenty (2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7

This is the second of two devotionals for today, with the first having focused on 2 Kings 6. This devotional continues the historical narrative that began in 2 Kings 6 with the Syrian invasion of Israel, and the siege of Samara, the capital city. Though there is a chapter break in our Bible, 2 Kings 7 continues the scene in Elisha’s house, where he was confronted not only by the messenger of the king of Israel (6:32), but also by the king himself, of whom Elisha said, “is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him” (6:32-33).

2 Kings 7

Elisha answered the scoffing messenger with the promise on the next day the LORD would provide so abundantly that flour and barley would be inexpensive and available to all Samaria (7:1). One elder of the city questioned Elisha, saying, “Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” (7:2a) Elisha answered the faithless man, and foretold he would see the LORD provide, but he would not live to partake of it (7:2).

Four Starving Lepers (7:3-11)

Leprosy was a terrible scourge in ancient times. Lepers truly understood what it was to “social distance,” and suffered the sorrow and loneliness of being societal outcasts.

Sitting outside the city gate of Samaria (for they would not have been permitted to enter), the lepers realized they would die of starvation, unless someone had mercy on their souls. Therefore, they determined to go to the Syrian encampment and hope they might be shown compassion. They reasoned, “let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (7:4).

Approaching the outer perimeter of the Syrian camp, the lepers found it had been abandoned in haste (7:5). The Scriptures reveal how the LORD had stirred the soldiers of Syria with the sounds of an approaching army and the noise of chariots (7:6a). The Syrians supposed the king of Israel had hired mercenaries (7:6b), and the army had left everything, including “their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life” (7:7).

Overwhelmed at their good fortune, the lepers entered a tent and gorged themselves with food, and then hoarded the silver, gold, and raiment, hiding it for themselves (7:8). They entered a second tent and began the same, until their consciences were pricked, and they remembered those who were starving in Samaria. It was not that they felt guilt for hoarding, but they feared some evil might befall them if they failed to tell others (7:9).

Four Lepers Brought Good Tidings (7:10-20)

The lepers departed, and came to the guard of the gate of Samaria, and told him the good fortune that had befallen Israel, and how the Syrians had abandoned the siege and left all their possessions for spoil (7:10-11). Israel’s king, however, feared the Syrians were lying in ambush, waiting to draw the people out of the city, and take possession of it (7:12).

A servant of the king suggested a small group be sent to scout the countryside, and locate the Syrian army (7:13-14). Agreeing to the proposal, the king sent “two chariot horses” (7:14), who found garments and vessels of the Syrians strewn along the way to the Jordan River (7:15). Returning to the city, the messengers assured the king the Syrians had fled Israel, and cast aside all their provisions in their flight (7:15b). Hearing the news, and realizing spoils of food, abundance of silver, and gold were left by the Syrians, the starving citizens of Samaria rushed out of the city, “and spoiled the tents of the Syrians” (7:16).

Closing thoughts – And so, it came to pass what Elisha had foretold. Flour and barley were sold in the gates of the city for the price he had stated. The man who scoffed that the LORD provide in abundance was trampled underfoot by the people (7:17). He had seen the provision of the LORD, but he did not eat of it as Elisha had prophesied (7:2, 20).

What a tragic ending to a glorious story of God’s care and provision for His people. The man had questioned the LORD’S prophet, but he lived to see all Elisha had prophesied come true. His lack of faith had offended God, and he died seeing the promise fulfilled, but not realizing it for himself.

Will you be numbered among those souls who refuse to trust the LORD, and reject Jesus Christ as Savior? Will you realize too late, your faithlessness has cost you your soul and eternity?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Elisha is God’s Prophet (2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7

Our study of the life and times of the prophet Elisha, the successor to Elijah, continues with today’s study of 2 Kings 6 and 7. Though the miracles performed by Elisha were not as public as those of Elijah, his ministry in Israel was powerful, and God’s anointing on His servant was undeniable. This is the first of two devotionals for today.

2 Kings 6

A Floating Iron Axe Head (6:1-7)

Our study of 2 Kings 6 opens with a company of prophets who petitioned Elisha to move the “sons of the prophets” to a new location near the Jordan River. The prophet blessed the relocation, and the men began cutting down wood to construct a new dwelling (6:4). In the process of the work, an axe head that had been borrowed, came off its handle and fell into the water (6:5). Because iron was rare, and expensive in ancient times, the loss of the axe head was a regrettable loss (6:5). Elisha asked where the axe head had been lost, and then took a stick and tossed it onto the water, and “the iron did swim” (6:6). Following the prophet’s command, the servant “put out his hand, and took it” (6”7).

Elisha’s Revelation of Syria’s Plot to Conquer Israel (6:8-12)

The Syrian king became flustered, and was outraged when he realized someone was preempting his plans for an ambush, and warning the king of Israel. Outraged, the king of Syria suspected there was a traitor in the midst, until “one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber” (6:12).

Elisha Foils a Syrian Attempt to Kidnap Him (6:13-23)

The king of Syria sent a large number of soldiers on a mission to surround Dothan, and to abduct Elisha (6:13-14). When Elisha’s servant realized the city was surrounded, he asked, “Alas, my master! How shall we do?” (6:15).

Calling upon the LORD, Elisha answered the fears of his servant, and prayed “I pray thee, open his [his servant’s]eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (6:17). The servant realized an unseen heavenly host had surround Samaria, and were ready to come to the defense of the city of Samaria.

Rather than pray for the Syrians to be destroyed, Elisha prayed that the enemy would be struck with blindness (6:18). Blind and helpless, Elisha assured the Syrians saying, “follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek” (speaking of himself, 6:19). Blind and helpless, the prophet led the Syrian soldiers some twelve miles, and into “the midst of Samaria,” the capital city of Israel. Arriving in Samaria, Elisha prayed, and the LORD lifted the blindness of the Syrians (6:20). Imagine their terror when they realized they had been guided into the midst of their enemy (6:20b).

The king of Israel questioned Elisha excitedly, “My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?” (6:21); however, the prophet cautioned the king and suggested the Syrians were his prisoners, and he should provide them bread and water (6:22). When the king of Israel had nourished his enemies, he sent them away. Is it any wonder that “Syria came no more into the land of Israel?” (6:23)

Samaria: Plagued by a Siege, Famine, and Foolish King (6:24-33)

Some years passed when Ben-hadad (literally, “son of Hadad”) the Syrian king, laid siege to Samaria, Israel’s capital city (6:24). With the city cut off by the siege, the citizens of Samaria soon exhausted their food supplies, and were reduced to buying and selling “an ass’s head” (an unclean beast), and eating the dung or waste of doves (6:25).

In the midst of the famine, the king of Israel was one day seen walking upon the walls of the city, when a woman called to him saying, “This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. 29So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son” (6:28-29).

Hearing the desperation, the king in a public act of sorrow, “rent his clothes…and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh” (6:30). Yet, the words spoken by the king were not words of humility or contrition, but words of pride and defiance. Daring not to attack the God of Israel directly, the king threatened Elisha with beheading, saying, “God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day” (6:31).

The king of Israel sent a messenger to search for Elisha, who found him with the elders of the city (6:32). Elisha, sparing no words concerning the evil character of the king, assailed his messenger, saying, “See ye how this son of a murderer [for the king was the son of Ahab] hath sent to take away mine head?” (6:32). The servant of the king answered Elisha’s rebuke, threatening the prophet saying, “Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (6:33)

Closing thoughts – Rather than sincere humility and brokenness before the LORD, the king of Israel blamed that nation’s afflictions on God’s prophet, and wished to kill him. The king’s messengers, bearing the evil spirit of his king, despised the LORD, and scoffed at the suggestion He would provide for Samaria.

We will see in the next chapter, 2 Kings 7, that God will answers Israel’s cry, and drive the Syrians out of Israel. The famine will end, and the messenger who scorned the LORD will be punished, and die.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith