Tag Archives: Anxiety

The Dilemma of a Backslidden Missionary (Jonah 2)

Scripture reading – Jonah 2

Returning to our study of the Book of Jonah, we find the prophet where his disobedience had taken him… facing death “in the belly of the fish” (1:17). Jonah had disobeyed the LORD because he feared He would spare Nineveh from judgment if the people repented of their sins (Jonah 4:1-2). Refusing to obey the LORD, he set sail on a ship going in the opposite direction of God’s will. Pursuing His disobedient prophet across the sea, the LORD sent a storm against Jonah’s ship, and when the sailors understood his presence was the cause of the storm, they cast him overboard, saving their lives and the ship (1:11-12). The LORD saved His unfaithful servant from drowning, by sending a great fish to swallow Jonah when he was cast into the deep (1:17).

Jonah’s Appeal (2:1-2)

Now, the heathen sailors had “cried every man unto his god” (1:5), but to no avail. Jonah, however, had not prayed to God until he found himself in the bowels of the great fish (2:1). We read, “Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God” (2:1), not out of sorrow for his sin, but because of his “affliction” (literally, his trouble, adversity, and sorrow, 2:2a). Without the LORD’S help, the prophet knew he was a dead man, for his circumstances were like “the belly of hell,” and the abode of the dead (2:2b). What a blessed hope we are given when we read when Jonah cried for help, the LORD heard his prayer (2:2c).

Jonah’s Agony (2:3-6a)

Humbled, and broken, Jonah acknowledged the LORD had chastened him for his disobedience, and all he had was because of his sin (2:3). He did not blame the sailors who cast him overboard, but accepted that God chastens His children like an earthly father chastens a disobedient child (2:3; Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:6). Jonah was troubled, for he realized his disobedience had resulted in his being “cast out of [the Lord’s] sight” (2:4a). He was a prisoner in a watery dungeon, and the belly of the fish had become his grave (2:5-6a).

Take a moment and consider what God revealed to Jonah concerning the ocean and its depths. We read, “I went down [descended] to the bottoms [base] of the mountains [mountain ranges underwater]” (2:6a). Thousands of years before the submarines of our time, God revealed to Jonah there were mountain ranges in the sea!

Jonah’s Affirmation (2:6b-10)

Reflecting on the LORD, and His faithfulness, Jonah declared, “they that observe [keep; guard; watch] lying [deceit]vanities [meaningless; purposeless] forsake [relinquish; refuse] their own mercy [lovingkindness; grace]” (2:8).  Jonah began his journey supposing he might flee from the LORD, but in the belly of the great fish he acknowledged he had forsaken God’s mercy and favor. He acknowledged that death awaits all who reject the LORD’S mercies.

Closing thoughts – From the belly of the great fish, the LORD heard Jonah’s promise to offer sacrifices as an expression of his gratitude, to give God His due, and faith that “salvation is of the LORD” (2:9). Then, “the Lordspake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

If you are running from the LORD, and your sins have taken you far from Him, remember He is only one prayer away. God hears and answers the prayer of those who confess their sin, repent, and turn to him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide from God (2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1

2 Chronicles 25 is a parallel record of events we considered in a prior study of 2 Kings 14:1-2. For that reason, today’s devotional will focus exclusively on the Book of Jonah.

Have you ever wanted to run away? Ever wanted to flee from pressures, people, pain and problems? I am certain there are many who have entertained the notion to run and hide. The book of Jonah will remind you that our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His people. He is omniscient, and knows your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles (Psalm 139:1). He knows your every thought (Psalm 139:2-3), and every word (Psalm 139:4). He is omnipresent, and His presence is inescapable (Psalm 139:7-10). The Scriptures impart a comforting and inescapable reality: “You can run, but you cannot hide from God.”

Jonah 1

Who was Jonah? (1:1-2)

Jonah was a preacher and prophet of the LORD to northern Israel, and served during the reign of the second Jeroboam (i.e., Jeroboam ben Joash). Passionate and patriotic, his life was dedicated to ministering in Israel, until the LORD interrupted his ministry commanding him to, Arise, go to Nineveh” (1:2).

Nineveh is described in the Scriptures as a “great city,” and one known for its wickedness (1:2). Located on the Tigris River in what is today, modern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, with a population of 120,000 (4:11). In ancient times, the Assyrians were known as a cruel, heartless people who buried their enemies alive, and tortured others by skinning them alive until they died. They were also a great enemy of Israel, and eventually conquered that nation, taking the people captive.

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (1:3-4)

The stench of Nineveh’s wickedness had become so grave, that the LORD had determined He would destroy the city if the people did not repent. Revealing His compassion for sinners, and His longsuffering, the LORD determined to give that great city an opportunity to repent of its sins.Jonah, however, refused to go to Nineveh to call on the people to repent (1:3). Some might argue the prophet feared the notorious cruelty of the nation. Others might suggest he did not want to aid Israel’s enemy, and feared his own people might reject him. Jonah 4:1-2, however, reveals Jonah did not want to prophesy against Nineveh for he knew the LORD was gracious, and feared He would spare the people if they repented of their sins. Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah resigned his calling, took a boat going to Tarshish (the opposite direction of Nineveh), and attempted the impossible…to escape “the presence of the LORD” (1:3).

Jonah’s Spiritual Insensitivity (1:4-6)

We read in verse 5 how Jonah “was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep” (1:5). What a poignant insight into the character of a disobedient servant of God! While the heathen battled the storm, desperate to save their lives, the prophet slept!

The ship’s captain assailed that calloused prophet, and asked in disbelief, What meanest thou, O sleeper?” (1:6) How could he be sleeping when so many lives could be lost? Here we see the spiritual profile of a backslidden believer: Emotionally detached, and distant from God and others.

The Sailor’s Interrogation (1:7-11)

The sailors cast lots, and the LORD sovereignly directed the lot to fall on Jonah (1:7). With the storm raging, the sailors demanded to know the cause of Jonah’s guilt that God had sent such a great storm that threatened all their lives. What evil? “What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (1:8)

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (1:9). He declared he had “fled from the presence of the Lord” and the storm had been sent by God to chasten him (1:10). Fearing for their lives, the sailors questioned Jonah, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” (1:11)

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (1:12-17)

Jonah instructed the sailors saying, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (1:12).

Given the desperate plight of the ship, you would think the calloused sailors would have cast the disobedient prophet overboard immediately; however, they continued to row hard hoping to bring the ship to land (1:13). Realizing all effort was for naught, the sailors cast Jonah into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging” (1:15). God mercifully spared the lives of the sailors, and providentially “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17).

Closing thoughts – Several lessons come to mind in our study of Jonah 1. We have seen God’s love for sinners and His longsuffering. In spite of Nineveh’s wickedness, the LORD sent His prophet to call the people of that city to repent (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16). We will also observe that the LORD is a God of second chances. He lovingly pursued Jonah across the sea, and saved him from drowning. Lastly, consider how a disobedient believer can peril the lives of the unsaved, leaving me to ask:

Are you periling lost souls by your disobedience?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

But for the Providence of God (2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22

Happy New Year, this 1st day of January 2022! Understanding every day is a gift of God’s grace, and more precious than silver and gold, I thank the LORD for allowing me an opportunity to live, and serve Him as I stand upon the threshold of a new beginning!

Entering upon a New Year, we would be wise to heed the proverb of Solomon, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). You cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but I encourage you to plan for the future, and make a list of things that will be a priority in your life. Place at the top of that list the daily study of God’s Word.

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study of 2 Chronicles, and a desperate time in the life of God’s people. In earlier devotionals, we have considered the godly reign of Jehoshaphat, who followed his father, and “and walked in [the LORD’S] commandments” (17:4). Jehoshaphat had enjoyed the LORD’S blessings, but in a foolish decision of political expediency, his eldest son, Jehoram married Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (18:3; 22:3, 10) whose counsel and wickedness nearly ended the Davidic line.

2 Chronicles 21 – The Reign of Jehoram, Son of Jehoshaphat

As with many fathers, though he was a great man, Jehoshaphat was apparently blind to the ungodly character of his eldest son, Jehoram. Before he died, Jehoshaphat set his household in order, and blessed his sons with “great gifts,” but “the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn” (21:3). Putting birthright above character, Jehoshaphat’s decision to give his crown to Jehoram, plunged Judah into an era of spiritual darkness, and political turmoil.

After his father’s death, Jehoram “strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers [many] also of the princes [chief leaders] of Israel” (21:5). No longer bound by the opinions and influence of his brothers or godly leaders, Jehoram did not follow in his father’s spiritual steps, and instead followed in the wicked ways of the kings in Israel (21:6).

Why? Why did this king of a godly lineage, reject the LORD and do “that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (21:6). The answer is found in this statement: “He had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6). Only the intervention of the LORD, and His covenant promise to spare the Davidic lineage, preserved the royal line through which Christ Himself would ascend (21:7).

Rather than the peace and prosperity Judah had enjoyed during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat, under Jehoram’s reign, Judah descended into an era of political turmoil as the Edomites rebelled (21:8-10), and other enemies of Judah soon followed (21:16-17). Rather than repent of his wickedness, Jehoram continued in his sins, and his influence “caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

Even the prophet Elijah, though he was a prophet in Israel, sent a letter to Jehoram, stating that his actions would bring a fatal intestinal disease upon him. Elijah’s words still ring soberness to us today.  Notice the specific detail written against Jehoram: “thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out…an incurable disease” (21:15, 18). Unlike his father and grandfather who were beloved and honored by the nation, Jehoram died a miserable soul. Humiliated, impoverished, stripped of his possessions, his sons and wives abducted, and his health failing, Jehoram died. None in Judah mourned his death, nor was he buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (21:19-20).

2 Chronicles 22

The Reign of Ahaziah (22:1-9)

Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, was chosen by “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” to be king (22:1). Like his father, he continued in the sins of the kings of Israel, and “his mother (the daughter of wicked Ahab) was his counsellor to do wickedly” (22:3). Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah was a wicked king, and his counsellors were of the house of Ahab (22:2, 4).

Ahaziah’s life was cut short when he was killed by a man named Jehu, whom God had appointed to cut off the lineage of Ahab (22:7). When Jehu learned Ahaziah was also in Israel, he determined to slay the king of Judah as well (22:9).

A Wicked Grandmother Slays the Royal Sons (22:10-11)

We read, “when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah [she was the wife of Jehoram, the daughter of Ahab] saw that her son [king Ahaziah] was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” (22:10), and made herself queen of Judah (22:11).

Closing thoughts – It is hard to imagine a grandmother slaying her grandsons; however, the daughter of Ahab was wicked. What was for king Jehoshaphat a pragmatic decision to insure peace and a political alliance with Israel, nearly terminated the Davidic bloodline. Athaliah would have accomplished her wicked plans, except the LORD used “Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king,” to spirit away Joash, saving the life of the man who would one day be king of Judah, and thus preserving the line of David (22:12).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

But for the Providence of God (2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22

Happy New Year, this 1st day of January 2022! Understanding every day is a gift of God’s grace, and more precious than silver and gold, I thank the LORD for allowing me an opportunity to live, and serve Him as I stand upon the threshold of a new beginning!

Entering upon a New Year, we would be wise to heed the proverb of Solomon, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). You cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but I encourage you to plan for the future, and make a list of things that will be a priority in your life. Place at the top of that list the daily study of God’s Word.

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study of 2 Chronicles, and a desperate time in the life of God’s people. In earlier devotionals, we have considered the godly reign of Jehoshaphat, who followed his father, and “and walked in [the LORD’S] commandments” (17:4). Jehoshaphat had enjoyed the LORD’S blessings, but in a foolish decision of political expediency, his eldest son, Jehoram married Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (18:3; 22:3, 10) whose counsel and wickedness nearly ended the Davidic line.

2 Chronicles 21 – The Reign of Jehoram, Son of Jehoshaphat

As with many fathers, though he was a great man, Jehoshaphat was apparently blind to the ungodly character of his eldest son, Jehoram. Before he died, Jehoshaphat set his household in order, and blessed his sons with “great gifts,” but “the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn” (21:3). Putting birthright above character, Jehoshaphat’s decision to give his crown to Jehoram, plunged Judah into an era of spiritual darkness, and political turmoil.

After his father’s death, Jehoram “strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers [many] also of the princes [chief leaders] of Israel” (21:5). No longer bound by the opinions and influence of his brothers or godly leaders, Jehoram did not follow in his father’s spiritual steps, and instead followed in the wicked ways of the kings in Israel (21:6).

Why? Why did this king of a godly lineage, reject the LORD and do “that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (21:6). The answer is found in this statement: “He had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6). Only the intervention of the LORD, and His covenant promise to spare the Davidic lineage, preserved the royal line through which Christ Himself would ascend (21:7).

Rather than the peace and prosperity Judah had enjoyed during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat, under Jehoram’s reign, Judah descended into an era of political turmoil as the Edomites rebelled (21:8-10), and other enemies of Judah soon followed (21:16-17). Rather than repent of his wickedness, Jehoram continued in his sins, and his influence “caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

Even the prophet Elijah, though he was a prophet in Israel, sent a letter to Jehoram, stating that his actions would bring a fatal intestinal disease upon him. Elijah’s words still ring soberness to us today.  Notice the specific detail written against Jehoram: “thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out…an incurable disease” (21:15, 18). Unlike his father and grandfather who were beloved and honored by the nation, Jehoram died a miserable soul. Humiliated, impoverished, stripped of his possessions, his sons and wives abducted, and his health failing, Jehoram died. None in Judah mourned his death, nor was he buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (21:19-20).

2 Chronicles 22

The Reign of Ahaziah (22:1-9)

Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, was chosen by “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” to be king (22:1). Like his father, he continued in the sins of the kings of Israel, and “his mother (the daughter of wicked Ahab) was his counsellor to do wickedly” (22:3). Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah was a wicked king, and his counsellors were of the house of Ahab (22:2, 4).

Ahaziah’s life was cut short when he was killed by a man named Jehu, whom God had appointed to cut off the lineage of Ahab (22:7). When Jehu learned Ahaziah was also in Israel, he determined to slay the king of Judah as well (22:9).

A Wicked Grandmother Slays the Royal Sons (22:10-11)

We read, “when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah [she was the wife of Jehoram, the daughter of Ahab] saw that her son [king Ahaziah] was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” (22:10), and made herself queen of Judah (22:11).

Closing thoughts – It is hard to imagine a grandmother slaying her grandsons; however, the daughter of Ahab was wicked. What was for king Jehoshaphat a pragmatic decision to insure peace and a political alliance with Israel, nearly terminated the Davidic bloodline. Athaliah would have accomplished her wicked plans, except the LORD used “Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king,” to spirit away Joash, saving the life of the man who would one day be king of Judah, and thus preserving the line of David (22:12).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Shame and Sorrow of Compromise (2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20

Our Scripture reading for this final day of the year is 2 Chronicles 19 and 20.

The setting of 2 Chronicles 19 follows the bloody battle at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18), and the death of Israel’s king, Ahab. Jehoshaphat had returned home from the battle in peace (19:1), in spite of his foolish compromise with Ahab and the displeasure of the LORD (19:1).

As the king approached Jerusalem, he was met in the way by the prophet Jehu (he had been a prophet in Israel, but had moved to Judah 1 Kings 16:1-7). Jehu rebuked the king, saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (19:2).

Though He had despised Jehoshaphat’s compromise with the wicked, idolater Ahab, the LORD, nevertheless spared, and blessed the king of Judah whose son had married Ahab’s daughter. Yet, as we will soon see, the effects of Jehoshaphat’s unequal yoke with Ahab will have dire consequences for the throne of David and God’s people (21:3-7). In spite of His displeasure, the LORD spared and blessed the king of Judah, because he had “taken away the groves out of the land, and [had] prepared [his] heart to seek God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat was a gifted administrator, and one of his great accomplishments was the foresight to put in place judges who were charged with applying the law and commandments judiciously (19:5-11). We read, the king “set judges in the land [in the walled cities]6And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment” (19:5-6).

Imagine how different our world would be if judges in our day were committed to judging matters according to the will and the Word of the LORD. Jehoshaphat charged the judges to fear and revere the LORD for He is righteous, and to have no “respect of persons, nor taking of gifts [accept no bribes]” (19:7).

The king also assigned judges (Levites, priests, and the high priest) who were charged with judging matters in Jerusalem, and settling controversies and conflicts that would arise in the capital city (19:8). Jehoshaphat admonished the judges to rule according to “law and commandment, statutes and judgments,” and “warn [the people] that they trespass not against the Lord” lest they suffer His wrath (19:10). The matter of the law and judges concluded with a distinction being drawn between rulings in spiritual matters, which were the responsibility of the high priest, and civic matters, which fell upon “Zebadiah, the son of Ishmael” (19:11).

2 Chronicles 20

Time and space prevent a thorough study of 2 Chronicles 20; however, it is a chapter that begins with Jehoshaphat and Judah enjoying the blessings and protection of the LORD. In this chapter, God blessed His people for their faith, and rewarded them with a great victory over their enemies, without the soldiers of Judah lifting a sword or spear (20:1-21).

The LORD caused Judah’s enemies, the Ammonites, and Moabites, to turn, and destroy each other’s army (20:22-23). When the army of Judah came upon the battlefield, they saw a landscape littered with the bodies of their enemies, and a spoil so great it took three days to strip the bodies of the precious jewels that were on them (20:24-28). Sadly, the godly legacy of Jehoshaphat ended with yet another compromise with a heathen king (20:31-37).

Closing thoughts – Jehoshaphat will die (21:1-7), and tragically, Jehoram his son will not follow in his father’s godly legacy. Influenced by his wife’s family, the son of Jehoshaphat, will walk “in the way of the kings of Israel…for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6).

In the words of the apostle Paul, Be not deceived: evil communications [companions] corrupt good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God is Holy, Merciful and Forgiving (1 Kings 21) – Part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 21; 1 Kings 22

Our study of the kings of Israel and Judah continues with today’s Scripture reading, 1 Kings 21 and 22. This is the first of two devotionals, and will focus on 1 Kings 21.

Lifted up with pride, and failing to consult the LORD, Ahab had spared the life of Benhadad king of Syria, and provoked God’s wrath (20:31-34). The LORD then sent one “of the sons of the prophets” (20:35), and he prophesied the death of the Ahab, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people” (20:42). Heavy-hearted and dejected, Ahab returned to his palace in Samaria (20:43).

1 Kings 21

A Sulking Monarch (21:1-6)

Rather than repent of his failures, and seek the LORD, the king set his covetous heart upon a vineyard that was next door to his palace. Now, the vineyard belonged to a man of Jezreel named Naboth, but it was a vineyard which Ahab coveted, so he proposed that Naboth trade his land for “a better vineyard,” or sell it (21:1-2). While the proposition appeared fair, it was intolerable for Naboth for it had been his inheritance from his father, and no doubt, was passed down through his family for generations (21:3). Rejected, Ahab went to his palace sulking over Naboth’s refusal, and then laid upon his bed refusing to eat (21:4).

Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel, observed the king’s spirit and asked, “Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?” (21:5) Ahab then confided in his wife how Naboth had refused his offer, and would not sell him his vineyard (21:6).

A Scheming Queen (21:7-16)

With scorn, Jezebel rebuked the king, and asked, “Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?” (21:7) Are you king? Dare you allow a man of your kingdom to refuse you? Assuring Ahab, she would take care of the matter of Naboth’s vineyard, Jezebel encouraged the king saying, “arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (21:7).

Foolish Ahab did not question his wife, but allowed her to plot against Naboth. Plagiarizing the king’s name and seal on letters, she engaged “two men, sons of Belial,” wicked, worthless men, to bear false witness against Naboth, accusing him of blasphemy against God and the king (21:10). Proclaiming a fast, and placing Naboth in a position of privilege, the false witnesses arose against Naboth, and accused him of blasphemy. The men then “carried [Naboth] out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died” (21:13).

“When Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, [she] said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite…for Naboth is not alive, but dead” (21:15). Without a question, it seems Ahab did as his wife had said, and took possession of Naboth’s vineyard (21:16).

A Startling Prophecy (21:19-23)

Now, the murder of Naboth so stirred the wrath of the LORD, that He commanded Elijah to confront Ahab, and prophesy the king’s death, saying, “in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine” (21:19).

Elijah arose to obey the LORD as he had been commanded, and Ahab scoffed at the prophet saying, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” (21:20)

Bold in his faith, and courageous in his obedience, Elijah declared all the LORD had commanded him. The prophet foretold the king would die, and his lineage would be cut off from ever reigning in Israel (21:20-23). He then prophesied the king’s wife would be cast over the wall of Jezreel, and “the dogs shall eat Jezebel” (21:23).

Closing thoughts – Let us consider in closing not only Ahab’s failure as king, but also that of his wife Jezebel. The wickedness of Ahab had exceeded that of all the kings who had gone before him. Rather than a moral influence for good, Jezebel had “stirred up” the king to serve idols” (21:26).

Astonishingly, Ahab responded to the warning of God’s judgment with humility, and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly” (21:27). Even more astonishing was the LORD’S response to Ahab, for He restrained His judgment saying, “29Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house” (21:29).

* This concludes the first of today’s devotionals. Please remember to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily chronological devotionals, and have them sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God is Sovereign, and The Battle is the Lord’s” (1 Kings 20) – A Bonus Devotional

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20

Now, the LORD commanded the prophet Elijah to anoint three successors to be kings of Israel and Judah, and his own replacement (1 Kings 19:15-21). Hazael, he anointed to succeed Benhadad as king of Syria (19:15). Jehu was anointed to be king of Israel following Ahab (19:16). Finally, Elisha was chosen by the LORD to serve as Elijah’s disciple and his successor as prophet in Israel (19:16b, 19-21).

1 Kings 20 – The Failure of Ahab, and His Death Foretold

1 Kings 20 presents us with a record of how Benhadad, king of Syria, oppressed and impoverished Israel. With arrogance and impunity, he humiliated king Ahab (20:1-12) and demanded that king’s treasury of silver and gold. He abducted Ahab’s wives and took his children as hostages, along with the best of Israel’s population to serve as his slaves (1 Kings 20:2-3). When the king of Syria increased his demands, Ahab realized Benhadad’s demands were intolerable, and would never be appeased (1 Kings 20:5-6).

God in His grace, sent a prophet to encourage Ahab to be courageous and assured him the LORD was on his side (20:13). Promised victory in spite of the odds against him, Ahab withstood Benhadad in a series of three battles and God gave Israel a great victory (20:14-30).

Tragically, Ahab’s heart was lifted up with pride, and when Benhadad begged for his life to be spared, the king of Israel failed to consult the LORD. Ahab made a foolish, and fateful decision; not only did he spare Benhadad’s life, he honored him by setting him in his own chariot before the people (1 Kings 20:32-33). Sparing the enemy of Israel provoked the wrath of the LORD (20:31-34), and He sent a man to Ahab, one described as “of the sons of the prophets” (20:35). The young prophet confronted Ahab, and said:

1 Kings 20:42-43 – “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. 43And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.”

Closing thoughts – 1 Kings 20 was a spiritual crossroads for King Ahab, and true to his evil character, he made decisions independent of the LORD, and promoted his interests before that of the LORD’S.

Consider three spiritual lessons: The first, God is jealous of His glory and name (20:13). Ahab had surrendered to Benhadad’s demands and failed to seek the LORD, and in doing so, sacrificed God’s best for His people. God declared to Ahab, “thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

We are also reminded that God is sovereign over all creation (20:23-28). The LORD is the God of the hills and the valleys. He is not the “god of many,” but the sovereign God of all, and turns the hearts of kings and rulers according to His will (Proverbs 21:1).

Lastly, God is just, and desires obedience (20:32-42). Ahab’s failure to kill his enemy invited the LORD’S judgment upon himself and Israel. Ahab will invite his own death, and Israel will suffer a humiliating defeat (1 Kings 21-22).

What about you? Do you seek the LORD and His will when making decisions? Do you put your faith in the wisdom of man, or in the LORD knowing He is sovereign, and He desires the best for His people?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Take Courage, and Hope in the LORD! – Part 2 (1 Kings 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 17; 1 Kings 17

We have met Ahab, the seventh king of northern Israel, and his queen Jezebel in an earlier devotion (1 Kings 16:29-33). They were a notoriously wicked couple who reigned over northern Israel for 22 years. Ahab followed and exceeded the wickedness of his father Omri and the kings that had gone before him (16:30). His wife Jezebel did not worship the God of Israel, for she “served Baal, and worshipped him” (16:31). Her influence on Ahab ushered in a time of great wickedness, and Ahab built an altar and temple to Baal in Samaria, the capital city of Israel (16:33).

Elijah the Tishbite, The Prophet of God

1 Kings 17 gives a brief introduction to the prophet Elijah, whose life and ministry we will follow for several days in the Scirptures. He was, in my opinion, not only one of the greatest prophets, but one of the greatest men to have ever lived. The Scriptures portray him as a man of passion and faith; one who might boldly confront evil, but then take flight for fear of losing his life.

A Season of Drought (17:1-7)

We are introduced to Elijah when he entered the palace of the wicked Ahab, and delivered a message of judgment: “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (17:1; Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23).

To provide for His prophet during the three years of drought, God commanded Elijah to retreat to the desert, and there He would provide him with water at “the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (17:3). The LORD then sent ravens to bring his prophet bread and meat to eat (17:4). So, the LORD provided all Elijah needed for a season, until “the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (17:7).

The Widow Zarephath (17:8-16)

When there was no water, the LORD provided the next place to which his prophet would retreat during the drought that was troubling Israel. God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath of Zidon, and there he would meet and dwell in the household of a widow and her son (17:9). When he arrived in Zarephath, he met the poor widow as she gathered sticks to bake the last of her flour and oil. Elijah requested water, and she moved to “fetch it;” however, his request for bread was met by protest, for she said, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (17:12).

Confident in the LORD’s leading and provision, Elijah assured her the LORD would provide, and she would never lack for flour or oil, “until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (17:14). Exercising her faith in the LORD, and His prophet, she took the prophet into her home, and every day found the flour and oil replenished, as the prophet had promised (17:15-16).

The Death and Resurrection of the Widow’s Son (17:17-24)

At some time during Elijah’s stay in the widow’s household, her son became ill and died (17:17). In her sorrow, the widow cried out against Elijah as a “man of God,” and wondered if her sins were the cause of her son’s death (17:18).

Elijah was overcome with sorrow, and taking up the widow’s son to his bedchamber, he placed him upon his bed and cried to the LORD saying, “let this child’s soul come into him again” (17:21). The LORD heard and answered the prophet’s prayer, and “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:22).

Closing thoughts – We know the trials Elijah faced in 1 Kings 17 were an opportunity for the prophet to become strong in his faith, and confident the God of Israel hears and answers the prayers of his people. Yes, Elijah felt the consequences of the drought in Israel, but he also experienced God’s care and miraculous provision, even when there was just enough flour and oil for a day. Elijah learned the power of prayer, that prepared him for the great contests he would soon face with Ahab and Jezebel.

Maybe you are reading this devotional and find yourself in the midst of trials, and disappointments. Perhaps you are wrestling with doubts, and wondering if the LORD will hear and answer your prayers. You might feel like the widow of Zarephath, and question if the sorrows you bear are because of your sin (17:18).

Be strong, take courage, and hope in the LORD! He still hears, and answers prayer (1 John 1:9).

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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Remember Thy Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10

We conclude our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes with a look into the final chapter,  Ecclesiastes 12, and consider a sobering challenge from Solomon. Remember the king commenced this short book by introducing himself as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), and brings it to an end by embracing the same title, “the preacher” (12:9, 10). Today’s Scripture reading also includes 1 Kings 10.

An Admonition (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2)

Ecclesiastes 12:1Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Patterns of life are set in one’s youth, when hearts are generally soft and pliable, and before sins and adversities have given rise to spiritual callousness. Solomon urged his son, “Remember,” think of, meditate on your Creator when you are young. While you have your whole life before you, consider the ONE that made you in His likeness and image, and formed you when you were in your mother’s womb (Genesis 1:27; 2:7-8). Remember your Creator, before you face “evil days,” and adversities plague your life (12:1), that you have no more desire to live.

Ecclesiastes 12:3-7 paints a depressing picture of the future, and old age with its physical ailments and frailties.

Solomon described the coming of a season when the days of a man would be darkened (12:2). Men who were once strong, would shake and “tremble” (12:3a), and become stooped with old age. The picture Solomon painted was of an old man whose teeth (“grinders”) had failed, and whose eyesight was dimmed (“windows be darkened”).

Continuing his depressing description of old age, Solomon described the loneliness of the elderly. Their lives become like a village whose doors are shut (none are coming or going), and streets are silent (12:4a). The “grinding is low” (perhaps the grinding or milling of grain), and if not for the “voice [or crowing] of the bird,” there would be no reason to awaken, for work has ceased (12:4b). Where there was once the exuberance of daughters, there is silence instead (12:4c).

Fear takes hold of an old man apart from the LORD (12:5a). His “desire [appetite]” fails (12:5c), and mourners gather in expectation of his death, for he “goeth to his long [future] home” (12:5d). Bible scholars suggest Ecclesiastes 12:6 describes the physical decline of the elderly, the failure of their circulatory system, and the imminence of death. Solomon wrote, the “wheel is broken at the cistern” (and is no more), the lifeless body returns to “dust,” and the “spirit [of the man] shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7; Genesis 3:17-19).

The physical body of man goes to the grave until the resurrection of the dead, but the spirit of man is eternal. The spirit of lost sinners will be judged, and condemned to everlasting punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15). The spirit of the saved shall dwell in the presence of the LORD forever (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 3:20-21). It is true, that apart from God, life is a vapor, and “all is vanity” (James 4:14; 12:8).

Did Solomon Repent in His Last Days? (12:8-12)

Though he strayed far from the LORD in his later years (1 Kings 11), it seems Solomon returned to his longing for the LORD, being mindful He would give account of his life. Solomon once again took up the mantle of the “preacher,” and “taught [instructed] the people knowledge…and set in order [set straight] many proverbs” (12:9). With urgency, the king studied, and “sought to find out acceptable words…even words of truth” (12:10). He comprehended “the words of the wise are as goads,” for they prick, and convict (12:11).

What were the “goads” that were as “nails fastened by the masters” (12:11)? They were the “words of truth” (12:10), being God’s Laws and Commandments (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and were “given from One Shepherd,” Who was the LORD Himself (12:11; Hebrews 13:20; John 10:3-4).

An Epilogue: “Fear God, and Keep His Commandments” (12:13-14)

Solomon concluded his ponderings, by summoning the attention of all who would hear:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]: Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty[purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Closing thoughts – When youth are not guided by spiritual principles, they squander their lives on sinful indulgences that inevitably leave them with sorrow laden souls. To my youthful readers, I exhort: Enjoy your youth, remember your Creator, but know “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).

To parents and grandparents: I urge you to remember, fear, and revere your Creator. Conform your life to the likeness of Christ, and reflect in your attitudes and actions His Laws and Commandments.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Two Paths: One to Joy, the Other to Ruin (Ecclesiastes 9; Ecclesiastes 10)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 9; Ecclesiastes 10

Nearing the conclusion of our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s observations, though penned nearly 3,000 years ago, are applicable to our day. In spite of our 21st century sophistications, there continues to be, as Solomon so aptly penned, “no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Ecclesiastes 9

Seeing life from a human, earthly vantage, Solomon observes that good men and evil men come to the same fate. Solomon wrote, “all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked.” What one thing do good and evil men have in common? Death (9:1-3).

Better to be living than dead (9:4-6), appears to be a statement of the obvious, but it is stated poetically by the king in Ecclesiastes 9:4-6. One proverb of that truth was, “a living dog is better than a dead lion” (9:4b). From two different spectrums, the lion was considered king, while the dog was looked upon with disgust (unlike our society that pampers dogs as pets). Solomon wisely used these two comparatives to help us visualize the great value of life (9:4).

Four Suggestions that Contribute to Joy (9:7-10)

1) Seize the day, and be happy. Live life, and enjoy the life that you live. God accepts your work, when your work is judged acceptable in His sight (9:7).

2) Set your heart to be joyful (9:8). Solomon draws a reference to the priesthood and to kings. The priests wore unstained, white garments, that represented walking in righteousness. Like the priests in Solomon’s day, we should also walk in righteousness.

3) Make your marriage a priority, and “live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life” (9:9). A happy marriage is the foundation of one’s companionship, friendship, pleasure, and joy.

4) Make the most of your labor: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (9:10a). Whether in the work place, the home, or any area of life, give your best! Paul, in his letter to believers in Colosse, wrote the same sentiment: “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).

Ecclesiastes 10

Ecclesiastes 10:1 draws upon an analogy that is foreign to our day; however, by keeping the verse in context we can understand its truth. Recalling the original manuscript of the Scriptures would not have had verses, and chapter breaks, let us consider Ecclesiastes 10:1 by drawing upon the previous verse. We read, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good” (9:18). Knowing the immediate context was a reference to “one sinner” who is able to destroy “much good” we read:

Dead flies cause the ointment [oil; perfume] of the apothecary [a clay vessel containing ointment] to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly [silliness; foolishness] him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (10:1).

In context with the verse prior to Ecclesiastes 10:1, I suggest we consider the “dead flies” to be “little sins” (at least from a human perspective). In the same way “dead flies” pollute the perfume and cause it to become rotten and putrid, “little sins” (i.e., “a little folly”) can discredit a wise man, and ruin his reputation (10:1).

The Influence and Character of One’s Counselors (10:12-15)

Ecclesiastes 10:12-15 states a contrast between the words and counsel of wise men, and the counsel of fools. The counsel of a wise man is described as “gracious” (10:12), meaning his words are to be looked upon with favor. However, “the lips of a fool will swallow up himself,” and anyone foolish enough to heed his counsel (10:12).

Solomon continued his admonitions regarding a fool’s counsel, stating: “The beginning of the words [counsel] of his [the fool’s] mouth is foolishness [folly]: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.” From the outset, the words of a fool express what is in his heart—foolishness. And, where does the counsel of a fool lead? In the words of Solomon, “mischievous madness,” or sheer insanity! (10:13).

While wise men tend to be men of few words, the fool “is full of words” (10:14a), and is wise in his own eyes.  And what can you teach a fool? Nothing, absolutely nothing! (10:14b) Another sad trait of a fool is he not only refuses wise counsel, but he lacks the competence to find his way “to go to the city” (10:14). In other words, he is incapable of following simple directions.

Defining the moral character of a leader (king) as “a child” (10:16), Solomon observed:

Ecclesiastes 10:16 16Woe to thee, O land, when thy king [leader] is a child [unwise, inexperienced, lacks discernment], and thy princes [leadership] eat in the morning!

Closing thoughts – Today’s society is often guilty of promoting incompetency over qualification. Rather than promote persons based upon their skill or moral character and merit, governments, corporations, educational institutions, and yes, churches often fail to choose leaders whose lives are a testimony to wisdom, self-disciplines, and hard work.

Failing to seek the candidates with moral character, self-discipline, and proven success, leads to the downfall of any institution, government or nations (10:16). Woe to the nation, corporation, or ministry that prefers failure, immaturity, inexperience, and self-indulgence, over godly wisdom and unwavering convictions (10:16).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith