The Miracle of Israel’s Presence (Ezra 1; Ezra 2)

Scripture reading – Ezra 1; Ezra 2

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with our focus being the Book of Ezra. Ezra, the author, will not be introduced to until chapter 7; however, he has given us a record of Judah’s return from Babylonian captivity to the Promised Land.

A Historical Perspective

If you are a student of history, you are aware it is a miracle for any people to return from captivity, and once again become a nation. Apart from Israel, I can give no example of an ancient people who recovered from the desolation Israel suffered. The nations of Philistia, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Amalek, Phoenicia, the Hittites, and Amorites no longer exist. The great empires of Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome are mere footnotes in the history of mankind; yet, there is one populace identifiable as an ancient people in today’s world – the Jews.

Although a powerful, influential nation during the reigns of David and Solomon, Israel was and is geographically no more than a sliver of land. Never a great population, or known for military conquests, the Jews, though beloved and despised continue to exist. Of all ancient peoples, why have the Jews continued as a distinctive people?

The presence of a Jewish people in the 21st century is a testimony of God’s Covenant promises to Abraham. God’s promise to bless Abraham and his seed as the stars of heaven, is a promise which continues to this day (Genesis 22:17). Not only has God been faithful to His covenant promises with Abraham, He has also been faithful to His promises to all those who by faith in Christ, become sons of Abraham, of which the apostle Paul wrote, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Ezra 1

The Book of Ezra opened with a statement that set the date and timeline of our study, for it was “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that…the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom” (1:1). The year was about 538 B.C., and the proclamation was issued when Daniel, though aged, was still God’s prophet to God’s people in Babylon. Daniel was near the end of his ministry (having been captive in Babylon for 70 years), but the LORD had chosen a young priest named Ezra to serve Him and His people. While Daniel ministered to a generation who suffered the consequences of their sins, Ezra would be priest to a new generation that would return to Israel, and rebuild their lives and nation.

What an exciting time! Remembering, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1), the opening verses of Ezra remind us the God of Israel is Sovereign over heaven and earth (1:1-2). Having conquered Babylon, Cyrus, declared the God of heaven had moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).

The Liberty to Go Home (1:3-11)

Fulfilling the LORD’s promise to restore Israel and Judah to their land, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return home. The king challenged them, asking, “3Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem” (1:3).

Facing formidable hardships, for Jerusalem was in ruins and the Temple destroyed, only a small number (estimated 50,000), responded to the call. Those Jews who chose not to return home, were challenged to financially support those willing to return, providing them with silver, gold, goods, and beasts, “beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem” (1:4).

Only two of the twelve tribes (Judah and Benjamin) responded to the challenge to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (1:5). The Spirit of God also stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites, who were moved “to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem” (1:5).

As commanded by the king, the remaining Jewish people in Babylon gave of their wealth and possessions to support those returning to Israel (1:8). Also, king Cyrus retrieved the gold and silver vessels of the Temple that were taken by Nebuchadnezzar (1:8). After accounting for the number of vessels, the king sent them with those going “up from Babylon unto Jerusalem” (1:11).

Ezra 2 – A Census of Families

A census was taken of those departing Babylon, and returning to Israel. The names of families and households were forever recorded in the Word of God, and we will briefly consider them by their occupations. Two men were principal leaders of those returning: Zerubbabel represented the civic leadership of the people (2:2; Haggai 1:14), while Jeshua represented the spiritual leadership (2:2; 3:2; Haggai 1:14). Individual families were recorded (2:3-20), as well as the villages and cities of their lineage (2:21-35). There were priests (2:36-39), Levites (identified as singers and gatekeepers, 2:41-42), and servants who oversaw the menial tasks of the Temple (2:43-54). There were also families identified as “the children of Solomon’s servants” (2:55-58).

There were also some who accompanied and identified with the children of Israel; however, when the records were examined, there was no record of their lineage (2:59-60). Some aspired to be priests, but when it was found there was no genealogical record of their lineage, they were put out of the priesthood (2:61-63).

Closing thoughts (2:64-70) – The total of those who returned to Jerusalem was 42,360; however, it is believed the number did not include children 12 years and younger. Altogether, I suppose there were more than 50,000 who left the comforts and pleasures of Babylon, and embraced the liberty of believing God’s promises and trusting Him. Sadly, I fear the same might be observed in our day.

Are you numbered among those who live by faith, love the LORD, and obey His Word?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Great Tribulation and Armageddon (Daniel 12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 12

Our study of the Book of Daniel closes with what is yet to be, The Great Tribulation. Daniel 11 concluded with the rise of great wickedness in the world, and the Antichrist exalting himself (“the little horn” of Daniel 7) above the nations of the world (11:36a). He will do as he pleases, and cursing “the God of gods” (11:36b; Revelation 13:5-6), will “magnify himself above all” (11:36c).

“At the time of the end” the Antichrist will invade “the glorious land” (Israel), and either by treaty or force, conquering other nations that stand in his way of world dominion (11:39-43). When nations out of the east (most likely Jordan, Iraq, and Iran) and north (especially Russia) move to defeat the Antichrist, he will mobilize his forces for the great battle of Armageddon in the valley of Megiddo (11:44).  The LORD Himself will rush upon the Antichrist, and the armies of the nations gathered for battle (Revelation 19:17-21; Ezekiel 12:1-9; 14:1-21).

Daniel 12

Michael the Archangel appears “at that time” to save Israel, even as the Antichrist will mount his final assault on God’s people. It is the time of The Great Tribulation (Daniel 11:36-12:13; Matthew 24:21), and the last three and a half years of the Tribulation Period. A time of wickedness and trouble like the world has not seen (12:1a). Christ described it as the “abomination of desolation” Daniel had spoken of (Matthew 24:15-26), and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). It is “the latter days” (Daniel 2:28; 10:14) and the “time of the end” (Daniel 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9).

In the midst of the sorrows, Jesus Christ will come to reign on the earth (Isaiah 2:1-5), and the Scriptures promise true believers will be resurrected, and delivered from the dead to eternal life (12:2a). Those who rejected the LORD are promised they will come “to shame, and everlasting contempt (12:2b; consummated at the judgment of the Great White Throne, Revelation 20:11-15). Believers will then share in the brightness of Christ’s heavenly glory (12:3).

Details of the Great Tribulation Sealed (12:4-13)

Daniel was commanded to seal the scroll upon which he was recording the future events of the Tribulation, though there would be many who would seek to understand them (12:5). Two angels appeared in the vision, and one of the two questioned “the man clothed in linen” (whom I have suggested was the pre-incarnate Christ, 10:5-6) – “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” (12:6).

The “man in linen” answered, and said, “it shall be for a time, times, and an half” [a “time” being one year; “times” being two years; and “an half” being a half year]. The Great Tribulation, which is the second half of the Tribulation period, will last 3.5 years and will conclude with Israel finding no place to turn but to the LORD, for the Antichrist will “scatter [crush; smash] the power of the holy people” (12:7b; Zechariah 14:2-3).

Daniel’s Confusion (12:8-9)

Daniel desired for an explanation of what he had seen and heard (12:8), but was commanded, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (12:9). In other words, the prophecies were sealed, and would be understood by those living at the time of the end.

Closing thoughts (12:10-13) – In the last days, true believers will “be purified, and made white, and tried” (12:10a), but wickedness will abound. The wicked “shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (12:10b). Believers will understand that which is coming to pass, but the wicked will not (12:10b).

The Great Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist abolishes worship in the Temple (Daniel 9:27), and sets in the Temple the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15). The original length of the Great Tribulation was 1260 days, but Daniel 12:11 adds an additional 30 days to the number of days. There are various opinions for the difference in the days, but I find the most plausible explanation is the 30 additional days are for when the nations will be judged (Matthew 25:31-46). Daniel 12:12 adds another 45 days to the total of days at the close of the Tribulation, and some suggest it is this time when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom. Again, these are inadequate explanations for what we cannot know or prove.

Our study of Daniel concludes with the old prophet (now nearly 100 years old) being told, “Blessed is he that waiteth [patient; tarries] …Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (12:12a, 13).

Challenge – Be patient…Live out your days…Rest…Standfast to the end.

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Heavenly Visitors and Hellish Foes (Daniel 10)

Scripture reading – Daniel 10; Daniel 11

While today’s Scripture reading is two chapters, Daniel 10 and 11, the focus of our devotional will be Daniel 10.

The Book of Daniel has captivated the imagination of the saints of God for more than two millennia. Daniel, who was a captive of Babylon following the first siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC, spent his life as counselor to the kings of Babylon, and the Medes and Persians. A mere teen when he first arrived in Babylon, he was probably in his late 80’s when we read, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar” (10:1).

We have considered three prophetic visions in our study of the Book of Daniel. Daniel 7 gave us a vision of four beasts, representing four kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome). In Daniel 8, there was the vision of a Ram that represented Persia, and a “He Goat” that was a symbol of Greece. The vision of 70 prophetic weeks was recorded in Daniel 9, bringing us to the fourth and final vision recorded in Daniel 10-12.

Introduction to the Final Revelation (10:1-4)

A transition in leadership is noted in Daniel 10, as “Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1) succeeded Darius, as king of the Medo-Persian\Chaldean Empire. The “thing” that was “revealed unto Daniel” served as an introduction to Daniel’s fourth and final vision (10:1). Though the setting was during the reign of Cyrus, the vision itself was set far into the future, for “the time appointed was long” (10:1b). Notable is the effect the vision had on Daniel, for he mourned saying, “three full weeks…[I] ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint [bathe or anoint] myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (10:3).

The cause of Daniel’s sorrow is not revealed, but I suspect it was that so few of the Jews elected to return to Jerusalem when Cyrus gave his decree to set the children of Israel at liberty to return home and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4). The defeat of the Chaldeans, followed by Cyrus’ decree, provided the children of Israel the long-foretold opportunity to return to Israel. Tragically, after 70 years in Babylon, the majority of the Jews were Babylonian by nature and birth. Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, with no word from God in response to his prayers. On the 24th day of the first month (“Nisan,” April 24), as he was standing by the Tigris River (“Hiddekel,” 1:4), the LORD gave the prophet a heavenly vision of things yet to be (10:5-21).

A Heavenly Vision (10:5-9)

I believe the central figure of the vision was Jesus Christ; a theophany, or pre-incarnate appearance of Christ in His heavenly glory (10:5-6). Daniel did not see a beast, nor an image of a man, he looked up and saw “a certain man clothed in linen” (10:5). [For further study, you are invited to compare the apostle John’s vision of Christ in Revelation 1:12-16.]

The Effect of the Vision (10:7-9)

We learn that Daniel was not alone, for there were other men with him at the time of the vision, yet, they did not see the man (10:1-6). A sudden earthquake caused those men to flee and “hide themselves” (10:7). Thus, Daniel was alone and as he gazed upon his heavenly visitor, and writes, “there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (10:8). In his solitude, Daniel heard the voice of the man, and fell into “a deep sleep” (10:9).

Heavenly Visitors (10:10-12, 14-20a, 21)

In his vision, Daniel was awakened, when a hand touched him (10:10). Standing to his feet, though trembling with fear (10:11), Daniel was addressed by an angel as  “a man greatly beloved” (10:11), and was told how God had dispatched him to Daniel on the first day he prayed (10:12). His prayers had been heard, but not immediately answered, because a spiritual battle had been waged between God’s angel and a demon, a servant of Satan (10:13).

What an amazing story! Daniel had fasted and prayed 21 days, and waited for God to answer his prayers. Yet, though the LORD responded to his prophet’s prayers, the angelic messenger was delayed by a great conflict that was waged between the heavenly angels and the fallen angels (10:13)

An Angelic Message: The Purpose of the Vision (10:14-19)

God sent His angel to give Daniel understanding of “what shall befall thy people [children of Israel] in the latter days [the end of days]: for yet the vision is for many days” (10:14). The vision left Daniel fainthearted and speechless (10:15), and so the angel touched and revived him a second time (10:16a). The prophet was physicallyexhausted and emotionally shaken by the sight of Israel’s sufferings and sorrows that were yet to be (10:16b). Weakened from his struggle to converse with one much greater than himself (10:17), Daniel writes he was strengthened a third time, and said to the angel, “Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (10:18-19).

The Battle with Hellish Foes (10:13, 20-21)

The angel was delayed in his mission to answer Daniel’s prayer, having battled with a foe identified as the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” (10:13a). Persia was the name of ancient Iran (today, Iranians refer to themselves as Persian), and was the world empire of its day. Understanding no human prince could contend with an angel, we conclude this prince was a demon responsible for Satan’s interests in Persia (as God’s angels are organized into a heavenly host, it seems Satan has his demons ordered by rank and assignment, 10:13). The demon was powerful and withstood the angel, requiring Michael the Archangel to be dispatched (10:13), and help the angel go on his way and complete his mission to Daniel (10:14).

Closing thoughts (10:20-21) – Several questions come to mind, with the obvious being the one proposed by the angel: “Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee?” (10:20) Why did God send His angel to Daniel? Why did the demon obstruct the angel’s mission?

Rather than answer the question, the angel departed, and announced he must return to wage battle against the “prince [demon] of Persia,” and the “prince [demon] of Grecia” (10:20). Two demons so powerful they required not only the opposition of a heavenly angel, but the intervention of the Archangel described to Daniel as, “Michael your prince” (10:21).

Spiritual Truth – Though unseen by human eyes, there is a perpetual war that is waged in the spirit world between God’s holy angels and the fallen angels [demons].

Ephesians 6:1212For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

What is, and What is Yet to Be (Daniel 8; Daniel 9)

Scripture reading – Daniel 8; Daniel 9

Our study of the visions, dreams, and prophecies of Daniel continues with today’s Scripture reading, Daniel 8and 9 (this devotional will focus solely on Daniel 8). The vision recorded in Daniel 8 can be dated to 553 BC. The setting of the vision was “at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam…by the river of Ulai” (1:2). Shushan is referred to as “Susa” in Ezekiel and would become the capital of Persia (Ezekiel 8:3; 40:1).

The vision consisted of a ram with two horns (8:3-4), and was followed by a one-horn male goat (8:5-8). Lastly, the “little horn” we were introduced to in Daniel 7 (7:8, 11, 19-24) emerges in this chapter (8:9-12).

A Two-Horned Ram (8:3-4)

Babylon is not mentioned in the present vision, and we know the greatness and glory of that nation was fading under the rule of Belshazzar (8:1) and its days were numbered. In his vision, Daniel saw “a ram which had two horns” (8:3).

Daniel 8:20 identified the two horns of the ram as representing “the kings of Media and Persia.” One horn was greater than the two, for it represented Persia and its ultimate eclipse of the Medes (8:3). Foretelling the conquering of Babylon, and the expansion of its borders, the ram was described as “pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great” (8:4).

A One-Horned He-Goat (8:5-8)

A male goat with one horn followed the two-horned ram (Persia) and was identified as “the rough goat [that] is the king of Grecia [Greece]: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king” (8:21). Once again, history gives us the name of the first king who was the “great horn,” for his name was Alexander the Great. Coming from the west to the east, the goat covered the “face of the whole earth,” and moved so fast it appeared to “not [touch] the ground” (8:5). The goat [Greece] came with a fury against the ram (Persia), breaking its horns, and destroying its power. For the atrocities Persia committed against the nations, there was none that “could deliver the ram out of his [Alexander’s] hand” (8:7).

In Daniel’s vision, the horn of the “he goat” became great, but “when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven” (8:8). History reveals Alexander the Great died at 32-years-old, and Greece was divided into four principalities, with four generals ruling (“four notable ones,” 8:8).

The Emergence of A “Little Horn” (8:9-12)

One ruler of the “four notable ones” emerged from the four, and was described in Daniel’s vision as “a little horn” (8:9). The “little horn…waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land” (8:9). In Daniel 7, the “little horn” was the Antichrist; however, in Daniel 8 he became the greater of four generals who served under Alexander the Great. Once again, history aids us in identifying this “little horn” as Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

A type of the Antichrist who will appear at the end of the days, Antiochus increased the size of his province and fulfilled Daniel’s vision of a “little horn” pushing “toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land” (the “pleasant land” being Israel, 8:9). Antiochus was to the 2nd century BC, what Hitler was to the 20th century. The atrocities he committed against the Jews was legion. In December 168 BC, Antiochus laid siege to Jerusalem with 20,000 soldiers, erected an altar to Zeus in the Temple, and committed an act of “abomination of desolations” when he sacrificed pigs on the Temple altar.

An Inquiry (8:13-15)

Daniel overhead a conversation between saints (most suppose they were angels), and one asked the other, “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” (8:13)

Essentially, the question asked was, “How long would the persecution and suffering of the Jews continue?” The other saint revealed, 2,300 days (or 6.5 years) would pass before the Temple would be cleansed. (There is much debate on the exact dates for this restoration, and there is no time or space to address them here.)

Gabriel’s Interpretation of Daniel’s Vision (8:15-26)

Daniel was overwhelmed with the events he witnessed in the vision, and wondered at the meaning. His ponderings were interrupted when “there stood before [him] as the appearance of a man” (8:15). The voice of the man summoned the angel Gabriel who was commanded, “Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision” (8:16).

The interpretation Gabriel imparted to Daniel has already been discussed in this devotional (8:19-22), but the vision held both an imminent implication and a far-reaching application. The “abomination of desolation” committed by Antiochus was a picture of the great abomination the Antichrist will commit “in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be” (8:19).

Closing thoughts (8:23-27) – Daniel was told the “little horn” (Antiochus Epiphanes) would come to “destroy the mighty and the holy people” (8:24). He would “magnify himself in his heart, and by peace [i.e. offering a treaty of peace] shall destroy many” (8:25).

Antiochus Epiphanes served as a “type” of the Antichrist who will come to power in the Tribulation. Though he will make a treaty of peace with Israel, he will purpose to not only make war against the saints of God (Revelation 13:7), but will “stand up against the Prince of princes” (8:25). Like Antiochus, the Antichrist will speak blasphemies against Christ and the God of heaven (Revelation 13:5). Though Satan is a trouble to true believers, we should remember his fate is sealed, for “he shall be broken without hand” (8:25).

The effect of the visions on Daniel was overwhelming. He had witnessed not only what would be, but for us…what is yet to be.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

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

Scripture reading – Daniel 7

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

Daniel 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Crisis of Faith and Integrity (Daniel 3; Daniel 4)

Scripture reading – Daniel 3; Daniel 4

Scholars suggest a 20-year gap exists between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image (Daniel 2), and his elevation of one “in the plain of Dura,” outside the massive walls of the city of Babylon (Daniel 3:1). Assuming the passing of two decades, Daniel and his three Hebrew companions were then in their mid-30’s, in the prime of manhood, and serving as administrators in Nebuchadnezzar’s government (2:48-49). Today’s devotional will be focused on Daniel 3, though our Scripture reading includes Daniel 4.

The King’s Idol (3:1-3)

In spite of him confessing Daniel’s God was “the God of gods, the Lord of kings” (2:47), the king had gone his own way, and returned to his idolatry, worshipping and offering sacrifices to idols. Yet, the king remembered the image of his dreams, and Daniel’s interpretation that the golden head of the image represented his realm as king (2:38). The proud king, not content with an image bearing only a head of gold, determined to raise an entire image of gold. Standing an impressive 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, the golden image towered above men. Understanding the diversity of nations under his rule, Nebuchadnezzar expected all men to worship his idol (3:2-3).

A Crisis of Integrity (3:4-18)

With a day of dedication determined, a herald called “all people, nations, and languages” (3:4) to bow and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (3:4-5). With the warning, Bow or Burn, all men and women were expected to give homage to “the golden image” (3:7).  A sea of humanity gathered before the great image, and when the music was heard, all bowed before the image, with the exception of three men. The assimilation of the children of Israel into Babylonian culture had been universal, with the exception of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel’s absence was perhaps due to his travels on behalf of the king).

There were some Chaldeans who used the occasion to accuse the three Hebrew men, that prompted an inquisition before the king (3:13-15). Although angered by their refusal, and perhaps out of respect for Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar gave Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego a second opportunity to bow before his idol, but also repeated the consequences should they refuse (3:15).

Though far from their home and the godly influences of their youth, the three men proved steadfast in their convictions (Exodus 20:3-5), and recognized two outcomes for their fidelity:  “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 8But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up“ (3:17-18).

The Fire of the King’s Indignation (3:19-26)

Overcome with “rage and fury” (3:13, 19), Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace heated 7 times hotter than normal. The king then commanded his “most mighty men” (perhaps his own guard) to bind and cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the furnace (3:19-21). The fire of the furnace instantly killed the mighty men when they cast the men into the furnace (3:21-23). Sitting down to observe, the king was suddenly shaken by the sight of not three, but four men walking about in the furnace, and unscathed by its heat and flames (3: 24). Nebuchadnezzar likened the fourth to a heavenly figure, and said he was “like the Son of God” (3:26).

A Divine Intervention (3:26-27)

Humbled by the miraculous preservation of the three men, and the sight of the divine image of the fourth, the king summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego by name, calling them the “servants of the most high God” (3:26). The men emerged from the furnace (3:26), as their accusers gathered and were amazed “the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them” (3:27).

The King’s Invocation (3:28-30)

Realizing only the ropes that bound them was singed by the flames (3:27), Nebuchadnezzar confessed “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego” had sent His angel to save them (3:28). The king confessed the LORD had overruled his edict, and spared their lives “that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (3:28).

Closing thoughts (3:29-30) – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s conviction to worship no other God, inspired the king to dare any of his kingdom to speak ill of their God, and to declare “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (3:29). The men were not only preserved from death, but were promoted by the king (3:30).

Believer, you might not face a fiery furnace, but you will certainly face fiery troubles and trials. I urge you to follow Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s example. Before they faced the temptation to bow to the golden image, we can be sure they had determined in their hearts they would trust the God of heaven and only worship and serve Him.

Romans 8:35–3935Who shall separate [come between] us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation [trouble], or distress [hardships; anguish], or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Bible Prophecy: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of Four World Empires (Daniel 2)

Scripture reading – Daniel 2

Our study of the Scriptures returns to the Book of Daniel, with a fascinating chapter that presents us with a prophetic panorama of world empires. We will observe in Daniel 2 an image of a man that symbolized four successive empires: Babylon, the Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation by Daniel is the focus of today’s devotional. The historical setting of our study is “the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar” (2:1).

A Sovereign’s Dream (2:1-13)

We find Nebuchadnezzar’s “spirit was troubled” (2:1). The phrase, “Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams” (2:1), implied he was troubled by a recurring dream and perplexed he was unable to remember the dream. Unable to sleep (2:1), the king summoned his counselors and related he had a dream, and his “spirit was troubled to know the dream” (2:3). Ever willing to please the king (especially since the power of life and death was in his hands), the king’s counselors proposed, “tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation” (2:4).

Nebuchadnezzar’s response caused the wise men to panic, for he said, “the thing (dream) is gone from me” (2:5). The king was not only demanding an interpretation of the dream, but the dream itself! Shaken by his demand, the king warned his counselors, “if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill [a refuse; a heap of ruins]” (2:5). Nebuchadnezzar promised a reward for the man who interpreted his dream (2:6), but the counselors answered again, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it” (2:6).

With the threat of death over their heads, the Chaldean counselors protested, “There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter” (2:10). Provoked by their words, the king commanded every wise man of Babylon be put to death (2:12). Though Daniel and his friends were not numbered among the wise men that had appeared before the king, the command was universal, that the “wise men should be slain,” and so “they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain” (2:13)

A Servant’s Dilemma (2:14-16)

Learning the king decreed all wise men of Babylon be slain, Daniel respectfully questioned the haste of the decree, and “Arioch (the captain of the king’s guard) made the thing known to Daniel” (2:14). Daniel then sought an audience with Nebuchadnezzar (2:16a), and requested an allotment of time and “he would shew the king the interpretation” of his dream (2:16b).

A Sovereign Divine (2:17-24)

With the king’s agreement, Daniel went home, and requested “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions” (2:17), intercede for him in prayer, that God would reveal to him the king’s dream and its interpretation (2:18). The LORD answered their prayers “in a night vision” (2:19a), and Daniel worshipped the LORD rejoicing He is “God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His” (2:20). Daniel boasted, His God is sovereign of creation, for “He changeth the times and the seasons,” (2:21a), and “He removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (2:21b).

With knowledge of the “deep and secret things” revealed to him by the LORD (2:22), Daniel went to Arioch, the king’s captain, and urged him to stay the execution of the wise men (2:24). He then vowed he was able to make the king to know not only his dream, but also its interpretation (2:24).

Daniel’s Appearance Before Nebuchadnezzar (2:25-35)

Saying, “there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days” (2:28), Daniel told the king he had dreamed of “a great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible” (2:31).

The vision was of a man whose “head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay” (2:32-33). The golden head of the image was Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom (2:32a, 38), and was followed by a lesser kingdom represented as having a “breast and his arms of silver” (the Medo-Persian empire, 2:32b, 39). The brass belly of the image represented the Greek empire that succeeded Persia (2:32c, 39), and was followed by a “fourth kingdom [that was] represented as “strong as iron” (2:40a), with “legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay” (this would be Rome, 2:33, 40).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Dream (2:36-45)

The dream concluded with a violent event, for Daniel had a vision of a stone “cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces” (2:34, 40). The image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream came to a violent end, when it was crushed and broken by a stone that “was cut out without hands” (2:34a), and “smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces” (2:34b). The feet and toes of the image, representing ten nations that would emerge from the Roman empire (“the iron legs”) would be crushed and scattered by the wind like chaff (2:35). The mix of clay and iron feet represented man’s futile attempt to seek peace and unity among the nations (2:41-43). “The stone [that] was cut out of the mountain without hands” and crushed the image, would itself become the fifth kingdom that grew to become “a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (2:35).

Closing thoughts (2:46-49) –Overwhelmed with the knowledge of the dream and its meaning, Nebuchadnezzar paid homage to Daniel (2:46), who reminded the king he was merely a messenger. The king answered Daniel, “your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (2:47). The king promoted Daniel, and made him “a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon” (2:48). Daniel remembered his friends who had prayed for him, and they were set over the governance “of the province of Babylon” (2:49a). As a man second to the king in authority over Babylon, “Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (2:49b).

Do you know “the stone [that] was cut out of the mountain without hands” (2:45), and “smote the image…and filled the earth?” (2:35) The stone is none other than the LORD Jesus Christ, whom the Scriptures reveal to be “the stone which the builders rejected” (Matthew 21:42-44; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 1 Peter 2:7-8). The stone is symbolic of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Dare to be A Daniel (Daniel 1)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history. Beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, our study of Daniel will encompass a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow: The Medo-Persian empire, followed by Greece, and then Rome. Yet, as we will see, the visions God imparted to Daniel were of the history of man that is past, present, and still future. Daniel’s writing included prophecies that are more than a footnote of history past; they are a foretelling of future events that will conclude with the Second Coming of Christ.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account of events we studied in 2 Kings 24:12-16, for it was “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah (605 BC) came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (1:1). This was the first of three sieges by Babylon. The others that followed were 597 BC, and 586 BC (the final destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, Jeremiah 25:9-12; 2 Kings 25).

The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings, if the people did not repent and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon,” the LORD would return His people to their land (Jeremiah 29:10).

The events recorded in Daniel 1 occurred at the time the Temple was plundered, and king Jehoiakim was taken captive to Babylon (1:1-2). 10,000 Jews were also taken captive following the first siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:14-16), and among them were the finest young men of Jerusalem: “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:3-4).

Named among the captives of Judah were “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (1:6). Desiring to complete their assimilation into the Babylonian culture, “the prince of the eunuchs gave names [to the Jewish captives]: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego” (1:7). Though we cannot be certain of his age, Daniel was probably between 13-17 years old when he was taken from his home and brought to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture.

Nebuchadnezzar chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth, and prepared them to one day take their place in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was among those youth (1:4), and soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a man of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7).

Leading by example and conviction, “Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself” (Daniel 1:8).

Daniel pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work, and providentially “brought Daniel into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince [chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined) by Nebuchadnezzar, they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

Closing thoughts (1:17-20) – We will see in our study, how the testing of Daniel’s faith prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

In closing, I invite you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive heart, and his sensitivity to the authority in his life: 1) He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); 2) He was sincere in his appeal (1:12); 3) He was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); 4) He was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

Following Daniel as a perfect model of faith and convictions, every believer would do well to examine his own spirit, manner, convictions, and relationship with the authorities in his life.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Judgment of the Nations (Joel 3)

Scripture reading – Joel 3

Today’s Scripture reading marks the end of the Book of Joel (only three chapters long), and an introduction to the prophetic Book of Daniel. This devotional will conclude our study of Joel. A second devotional will follow, and serve as the introduction to the Book of Daniel.

I believe this final section of our study actually began with the closing verses of Joel 2. In its immediate context, the prophecies of Joel were given as the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah recorded how the LORD intervened for the city, and sent His angel who smote 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). King Sennacherib had been forced to retreat to his homeland, where he was later assassinated by his sons (Isaiah 37:33-38).

The Day of the LORD is the prophetic day of God’s judgment, when He will take vengeance on those nations that abused Israel and Judah. With the assurance of His perpetual presence “in the midst,” Israel would know Him as “the LORD your God,” and the day would come when Israel would “never be ashamed” (2:27).

In my opinion, the “last days” began with Christ’s earthly ministry, and the prophecy of the outpouring of His Spirit was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (2:28-30; Acts 2:16-20). Nevertheless, the events recorded in the closing verses of Joel 2 and Joel 3, will not be fulfilled until the close of the Tribulation, and will mark the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.

Joel 3 – The Judgment of the Gentile Nations

A Day of Reckoning for the Nations (3:1-2)

Joel 3:1 was partly fulfilled when the LORD moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to grant the Jews liberty to return to their homeland where they would rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-3). Yet, the final fulfillment of Joel 3 will not come to pass until the close of the Tribulation. The LORD promised He will one day gather His people from the nations (3:1), and exercise judgment on the Gentile nations for their sins against Him and His people (3:2).

Enumeration of the Sins of the Gentiles (3:3-6)

The nations of the earth have forever been at war with God and His people, yet, the sins of some nation have been so egregious, they are specifically named for judgment: Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine (3:4), Egypt, and Sodom (3:19).

The sins committed against God’s people are an offense to God, and He judged the Gentile nations guilty. Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine, Egypt, and Sodom had scattered His chosen people with their persecutions, and parted the land He gave as an inheritance to Israel (3:2c). Those nations had enslaved the Jews (3:3a, 6), trafficked boys and girls as sexual slaves, and placed no more value on their lives than wine (3:3). Spoiling the gold and silver of the land, they had taken away that which was the LORD’s (3:4-6).

Justice and Judgment (3:4, 7-8)

The sins of the Gentile nations will be punished, and they will receive the recompence (be repaid) in kind for the sins they committed against the LORD and His people (3:4). The LORD determined to gather His people and restore them to their land (3:7), and the nations that enslaved them would themselves become slaves (3:8a). Their sons and daughters will be sold “to the Sabeans” (a caravan people of the southern Arabian Peninsula), and trafficked to far away lands (3:8b).

Warfare of the Nations (3:9-16)

Through His prophet, the LORD summoned the nations to gather and prepare for war (3:9). Contrary to the Millennial kingdom and its peace (when the weapons of war will be fashioned into plows, Micah 4:3), the LORD commanded the nations to “beat [their] plowshares into swords, and [their] pruninghooks into spears” (3:10). The nations of the world will assemble for battle (3:11), for the LORD was prepared to judge them “in the valley of Jehoshaphat” (its geographic al location cannot be ascertained, 3:12).

Drawing a picture of Himself as a farmer readied to harvest, the nations of the world were portrayed as ripe for judgment. The LORD’s judgment is likened to a farmer coming with his sickle sharpened, and ready to tread nations underfoot like grapes in a vine press (3:13). A multitude will gather against God’s people (3:14), but it is the LORD whose judgment will darken the sun, moon, and stars (3:15). Suddenly, He will “roar out of Zion, And utter his voice from Jerusalem; And the heavens and the earth shall shake: But the Lord will be the hope of his people, And the strength of the children of Israel” (3:16).

The Promise of the LORD’s Perpetual Presence (3:17-21)

Through the LORD’s judgment of the nations, the children of Israel and Judah will come to know Him as “the LORD [their] God” who dwells in Zion (3:17a). The city of Jerusalem would be holy, and no “strangers” (unbelievers) will “pass through her any more” (3:17b). The land will be fertile, the waters will flow, and the River of Life will flow from “the house of the LORD” (3:18). The LORD will avenge the wickedness of Egypt and Edom, for they were guilty of violence and shedding the “innocent blood” of Judah (3:19).

Closing thoughts (3:20-21) – Joel’s prophecies end with the LORD promising Judah the nation will “dwell forever” in the land, “and Jerusalem from generation to generation” (3:20). He will purge the people of their sins, and will forever dwell among them “in Zion” (3:21). Our study of Joel began with a judgment of locusts (Assyria’s army) descending upon Judah and Jerusalem (1:4), and ends with the triumph of God’s people restored to their land and the LORD reigning forever in Jerusalem (3:20-21).

The day of judgment is coming, not only for the nations, but for all men and women. Are you prepared for God’s day of judgment? When the books are opened, and “every man [and woman] will be judged “according to their works?” (Revelation 20:13), will your name be “found written in the book of life?” (Revelation 20:15)

Revelation 20:1515And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.