Tag Archives: Bible Christianity

The Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ the King (Zechariah 10-14)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 10-14

Today’s Bible reading concludes our study of the Book of Zechariah, the prophet to the post-exilic people of the Babylonian captivity. Of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, only Judah and Benjamin had returned to Judah following the edict of Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1).

Though he began his ministry as a young prophet, and was a contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah was nevertheless a bold prophet who did not shy from his calling. Whether confronting the sins of his people and calling them to repentance, or assuring them with the prophecies and promises of a coming Messiah, Zechariah was faithful and true to the Word of the LORD.

As we have seen, Zechariah was privileged with foretelling some of the great Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament Scriptures and fulfilled by Jesus Christ in His first coming. For today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to consider Zechariah’s prophecies in light of the Messiah King, Jesus Christ.

The Messiah would come to Jerusalem “riding upon an ass, And upon the colt the foal of an ass” and He would be called King. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:37; Mark 11:7-11)

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; Lowly, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass.

The Messiah would be betrayed. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 26:14-16)

Zechariah 11:12-13 – And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised [i.e. prized or appraised] at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

The Messiah’s price would be used to purchase a potter’s field. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10)

The Messiah would be pierced: Romans soldiers pierced Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; John 20:25-27)

Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, The spirit of grace and of supplications: And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, And shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Notice that the prophecies of Zechariah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, our Savior Redeemer, in exact detail.

Surely, Christ is coming again as the prophets foretold, and as He promised! Even so Lord, come quickly! (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“HIS-STORY: The Cyclical Nature of God’s Providences and Man’s Fallen Nature”

You are invited to Hillsdale Baptist Church for this Sunday’s 10:30am worship service as Pastor Smith continues his prophetic series with our current focus on the writings and prophecies of Joel, the prophet of Judah.

Like other Old Testament prophets, Joel’s prophecies carried not only an imminent application to God’s people in his day, but were also a foretelling of events that are not yet come to pass. In fact, many of the headline news events we are observing in today’s world appear to be setting the stage for the fulfillment of prophecies we read in Joel 2-3.

There is, as the title of this blog states, a cyclical nature in history that evidences not only the sovereign, providential hand of God, but also the sinful, fallen nature of mankind. There is the rise, glory, decay, and eventual destruction of nations. There is a recurring pattern in the history of humanity that is one of spiritual darkness, followed by emerging light, that eventually fades away once again to darkness. There are times when there is a glimmer of hope for a national revival, a spiritual awakening, and renewal. Eventually, however, the depraved nature of humanity seems determined to eclipse the light entirely.

In this repeated cycle of spiritual light and darkness, where do you think we are as individuals, families, communities, churches, and as a nation? I fear we are seeing a growing darkness that is determined to extinguish the LIGHT. I sense an oppression that is already at war with Biblical faith, traditional family values, and our Constitutional freedoms as a nation and people.

There are many things to be learned from history, but the most important is that God is sovereign and we can be confident in His promises and providences. Jesus Christ is KING, LORD, and is Coming Again!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Your Critics! (Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

Seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first Jews captive to Babylon, God had moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the people to their land (Ezra 1:1-2).

Mount Moriah, the place where the Temple was being rebuilt, had been strewn with the rubble of Solomon’s Temple for nearly fifty years. That glorious place, once called the “house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1) and served as a physical reminder of God’s presence among His chosen people; had become a testimony of God’s judgment against Israel for breaking covenant by disobeying God’s Laws and Commandments.

As we come to today’s Scripture reading (Ezra 4-6), we find the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem, encountering both disappointment and discouragement. “The ancient men, that had seen the first [Temple],” perhaps remembering the glory of the previous Temple, “wept with a loud voice” (3:12). There were also enemies without who were determined to stop the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1).

Reminding us only two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had accepted King Cyrus’ proclamation that they were free to return to their homeland, we read, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Under the pretense of friendship, non-Israelite enemies who had been resettled in Israel by Assyria, came to Zerubbabel (perhaps identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2).

Evidencing godly wisdom and discernment, Zerubbabel and other leaders of Israel, answered, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their opposition, those same enemies continued their antagonism for sixteen long years (Ezra 4:7-23; Haggai 1:1) and “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (4:4).

Ezra 4 reminds us that when God’s people are doing God’s work they will face opposition.  Israel’s enemies employed four methods of discouraging and hindering God’s work.

The first, they suggested Assimilation, an unholy alliance, a partnership that God would not have blessed (4:2-3). Zerubbabel recognized his enemies for who they were, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (4:1)! In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul stated the principle Zerubbabel employed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Aggravation was a second means Israel’s enemies employed in opposing the work on the Temple. Ezra and the leaders of Israel were strong and confident when they first confronted their adversaries (4:3); however, as time passed, “the people of the land weakened [made them weak and feeble] the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled[terrified; paralyze with fear] them in building, 5And hired counsellors [advisers; consultants; conspirators] against them, to frustrate [to cause to cease; bring to an end] their purpose” (4:4-5).

The enemy discouraged Israel with Adjudication, challenging the legality and legitimacy of the work on the Temple (4:6-10).

Fourthly, Israel’s adversaries prepared Accusations: Deception, suggesting the Jews were “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12); Distortion, attacking the character and integrity of God’s people (4:13); and Deceit, questioning their motives (4:15).

Dear friend, there will always be critics. Some people have a negative, critical outlook on life. They can become a constant source of discouragement and if you allow them, they will hinder your service and God’s work. There are many who are spectators, not participators; they are watchers, and not workers.

Take a moment and reread Ezra 3:12-13 and notice the ones who were weeping as they remembered the past, and those who were shouting for joy and living in the triumph of the moment.

It was the “ancient men” (3:12), the “priests and Levites and chief of the fathers,” who were looking back and weeping. Old friend, memories can be cherished and pleasing; however, they can also turn you into nothing more than an old critic.

I challenge you who are faithfully serving the LORD, Be Not Discouraged!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Let Us Never Forget 9\11

So much has changed in our world since the morning of September 11, 2001. It might be argued that whatever innocence (or naivety) that remained in our society, was suddenly rent from the heart of our nation when Islamic terrorists, in an unprovoked attack, struck a blow at the soul of America.

The World Trade Center, an international symbol of American capitalism collapsed in a pile of rubble. The Pentagon, a symbol of our nation’s military might, suffered a direct hit.  The crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, became a symbol of American heroism as average citizens determined they would not go to their deaths as helpless victims.

“We the People” became one that day as sorrow, anger, and patriotic zeal spanned the differences that often divide us. Race, religion, and political ideologies were set aside for an all too brief season as we grappled with an assault on our individual freedoms and sanctity as a nation.

We congregated in America’s churches, sought solace in each other’s company, wept and prayed. For a time, there was hope of a spiritual awakening, a humility and sincere turning back to the LORD that would bring revival in the hearts and souls as a nation. Instead, we find America torn asunder by petty partisanship, and violence that not only afflicts our cities, but assaults our sensibilities of law and justice.

King David asked, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1). The answer: Because the nations, the political governing bodies of the world, are opposed to God, and the people of the earth are by nature, rebellious. The greater question to ponder is, “Why is God so patient, so longsuffering with sinners?”

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

He that is Mighty Watches Over Israel! (Ezekiel 46-48)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 46-48

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our devotional study of the Book of Ezekiel. We have followed the prophet from his work as a 30-year old priest ministering to His people “in the land of the Chaldeans” (Ezekiel 1:3), to God calling him to serve as His prophet.

Ezekiel prophesied the judgment of God against Judah and foretold the siege of Jerusalem by Babylon. The prophet warned the Temple would be destroyed and the land left desolate. While false prophets lied to the people, Ezekiel faithfully confronted their sins, and warned the imminent judgment of God (2:3-5).

While the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem and Judah were assured, the LORD revealed to Ezekiel that He would not altogether forsake Israel, promising to one day resurrect the nation (Ezekiel 37).  The LORD encouraged His prophet that the Jews would not only be restored to their land, but even described in exacting detail the dimensions of the new Temple the LORD Himself would build in the Millennium Kingdom (Ezekiel 40-43).

Having prophesied the Jews would be restored to their land, the guidelines and the role of priests was defined in Ezekiel 44:9-31. The division of the land was given, including the portion set aside for the LORD (45:1-5) and the portion of the sacrifices to be offered in memoriam to Christ’s sacrifice (45:6-27). Three Feasts or festivals are renewed during the Millennial reign of Christ: The New Year’s Feast (45:18-20), the Passover (45:21-24), and the Feast of the Tabernacles (45:25).

Ezekiel 46 – Sabbaths, New Moons, and Sacrifices

Ezekiel’s record of his vision of the Temple and the worship and offerings continues in chapter 46. Worship on the Sabbath and on the New Moon is noted (46:1-3). Guidelines for feasts and regulations for sacrificial offerings observed during the Millennial Kingdom are given (46:4-15).

Ezekiel 47 – The River of Life

The source of the “River of Life” is observed by Ezekiel as coming forth from the threshold of the Temple (47:1-2). The water begins to flow as a trickle of water and is described as ankle deep (47:3); however, it soon became a mighty river that nourished the city and the land (47:4-5).

The “River of Life” will bring new life to the land of Israel, nourishing trees, healing the Dead Sea and turning it into a thriving sea of life with fish (47:6-12) where fisherman cast their nets.

Guidelines, instructions, and boundaries for dividing the land is recorded in Ezekiel 47:13-23.

Ezekiel 48 – The Land Divided Among the Tribes of Israel

With the central portion of Israel, the land around the Temple and Jerusalem, noted as a sacred district (48:8-22), there were seven tribes to the north that were assigned their lands by tribe (48:1-7). The land south of the sacred district was assigned to the five remaining tribes (48:23-29).

Jerusalem, the capital city and the seat of Christ’s government during His millennial reign is described as having twelve gates, each named for one of the twelve tribes (48:30-35). I invite you to notice that new Jerusalem is given a new name: “Yahweh Shammah,” meaning, “The LORD is there” (48:35).

I close with an observation: With the exception of Israel, the nations and people of the antiquity are either a footnote in history or have been altogether assimilated into the populations of the world. The Jewish people alone stand out as the exception.

The Jews have survived indescribable suffering, atrocities, purges, and attempts at mass annihilation. Yet, there exists today a small sliver of land in the Middle East known as Israel, a testimony of God’s faithfulness and sovereign care of His people.

There is no explanation for the existence of the Jewish people apart from Elohim.

He that is Mighty watches over Israel!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

New Jerusalem and the Millennial Temple of the Messiah (Ezekiel 43-45)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 43-45

Ezekiel is ministering to a people in captivity whose homeland has been left desolate. The Temple was in ruins and Jerusalem was destroyed. For many, the hope of returning to their land had died with the nation. It was in the hour when all seemed lost, that the ministry of Ezekiel became one of encouraging the people that there was hope. The LORD had not forsaken His people, nor had He forgotten His promise to restore them to their land.

The LORD, in a vision, sent a messenger to Ezekiel (40:1-4), “a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass” (40:3), who commanded the prophet to open his eyes and ears, and see and declare to “the house of Israel” all that he would be shown (40:4).

Ezekiel 40-44 – The LORD revealed to Ezekiel the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom when Christ would reign upon the earth.

Ezekiel recorded the dimensions of the New Temple: The outer court, its gates, and rooms (40:5-26); the inner courtyard of the Temple grounds (40:27-47). The dimensions of the Temple porch (40:48-59), its outer sanctuary (41:1-2), and inner sanctuary (41:3-5) were recorded. There were also buildings outside the Temple that were for the priests who were ministering in the Temple (42:1-20).

Ezekiel 43 – The Glory of the LORD Filled the Millennial Temple

The Temple of the Messiah in the Millennium Kingdom continues to be the focus of Ezekiel 43 and Ezekiel 44. The messenger then brought Ezekiel in the vision to look on the New Temple and he watched as “the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory” (43:2).

What an incredible sight and sound that must have been! What wonderful news for a people who had lost everything! The news of a new Jerusalem and a new Temple must have moved the people to rejoicing!

Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of God filling the Temple moved him to fall upon his face before the LORD (43:3). Ezekiel writes,

Ezekiel 43:4-64  And the glory of the LORD came into the house [Temple] by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. 5  So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house. 6  And I heard him [the LORD] speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me.

According to Zechariah 6:12-13, the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom will be built by the LORD and He will sit upon His throne in the Temple.

The LORD spoke to Ezekiel and revealed that His throne would “dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever” (43:7). The presence of the LORD would move the hearts of the people to repent, and be “ashamed of their iniquities” (43:10).

We read that there was “the law of the house [Temple]” (43:12). What was the law of the Temple?

The law of the Temple was this: “Upon the top of the mountain [upon which the Temple was built and where the LORD ruled from His throne] the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy” (43:12).

Unlike the Temples that had gone before and been polluted by the sins of the people, this Temple would be perpetually holy because the LORD Himself was seated on the throne not only as the KING, but also as PRIEST. The author of Hebrews writes,

Hebrews 4:14-1514 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

The apostle John shared a similar experience with Ezekiel when the LORD revealed to Him “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).

Revelation 21:3-53  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

What a glorious day that will be when the LORD Jesus Christ reigns and there will be no more tears, death, sorrow, crying, or pain.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Failure of Israel’s Pastors (Ezekiel 34-36)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 34-36

We have seen that Ezekiel was a priest (1:3) whom God called to be prophet to His people of the Babylonian captivity. With the siege of Jerusalem ended, the Temple plundered, and the walls and city of Jerusalem in piles of rubble, the attention of God’s prophet now turned to the failure of the religious leaders of Israel.

Ezekiel 34 – The Tragedy When Spiritual Leaders Fail God’s People

Ezekiel 34 is an indictment of the “shepherds of Israel” (the religious leaders), for their self-righteous, ungracious spirit. Consider the Character (34:1-10), the Conduct (34:16b-18), and the Calamity of the “shepherds of Israel” (34:19-21).

The Corrupt Character of Spiritual Shepherds (34:1-10)

Ezekiel 34:2b – “…Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”

The shepherds (pastors) of Israel were self-centered consumers. They had put their interests above the needs of the people (34:2). They had saved the best of the sacrifices for themselves, rather than give the LORD the best (34:3). They had eaten the best portions of men, killed the best of the flock, clothed themselves in fine wool, but failed to spiritually feed the flock of God.

The pastors had neglected the needy (34:4a), failed to attend the sick (34:4b), and failed to set right those whose bones were broken (34:4b). When the sheep (people) strayed, they failed to gather them and protect them from wild beasts (heathen invaders) (34:5-6). Instead of leading the people, the pastors had terrorized them “with force [harsh, sharp] and with cruelty [cruel, severe](Ezek. 34:4).

The spiritual shepherds of Israel had neglected the sheep by failing to lead them to green pastures where they might have prospered (Psalm 23; John 10).

The Conduct of the Bad Spiritual Shepherds (34:16b-18)

The shepherds were inconsiderate of the spiritually weak and immature (34:18). The pastors had allowed the strong to “[eat] up the good pasture…tread down [stamped upon] with [their] feet the residue of your pastures” (34:18). The shepherds had neglected the weaker sheep and allowed the stronger to “foul the residue” (34:18b) and make it unfit for the weaker sheep.

The shepherds were also insensitive (34:20. They had allowed spiritual bullies to “thrust with side and with shoulder and “pushed all the diseased [weak and sick] with [their] horns” (34:21).

 The Calamity When Spiritual Shepherds Fail the Sheep (34:19-21)

Israel’s shepherds had failed the people and robbed them of an opportunity to enjoy God’s best. Like sheep neglected by their shepherd, God’s people had been forced to “eat that which [had been] trodden” and “drink that which [had been] fouled with [their] feet” (34:19). The shepherd’s insensitivity to the sheep had resulted in the sheep being scattered (34:21).

I close inviting you to consider the love and passion of the LORD, the Good Shepherd who is a model of grace and forgiveness (34:11-16a).

Like a Good Shepherd, the LORD loved His people and promised, “I will bring them…gather them…to their own land…[and] feed them” (34:13b-14a). The people “lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture…and…lie down…I will seek that which was lost, and bring again…and will bind up…and will strengthen” (Ezek. 34:14-16a).

It comes as no surprise that Jesus Christ’s description of Himself as the Good Shepherd reflects the longing of the LORD we find in Ezekiel 34.

Matthew 18:11 – For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Is the LORD Jesus Christ your Shepherd?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Ezekiel’s Call and Commission as God’s Prophet (Ezekiel 1-4)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 1-4

Our chronological reading schedule of the Bible brings us today to the Book of Ezekiel and a focus on the ministry of the man whose name it bears. Today’s devotional commentary will serve as an introduction of Ezekiel and will focus on chapter 1.

Ezekiel 1:1-3 – The Prophet Ezekiel

Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah in the latter years of that prophet’s ministry in Jerusalem. Unlike Jeremiah, who had been left to minister to the remnant of Jerusalem after that city’s destruction, Ezekiel had been carried to Babylon as one of the captives of Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel was also a contemporary of the prophet Daniel; however, there is no indication in the Scriptures that the two men would have known one another.

A few other details are given concerning Ezekiel and his calling to be a prophet. The opening verse of the Book of Ezekiel introduce him as a thirty-year-old man. Assuming he was taken captive when Jehoiachin, king of Judah, was taken prisoner five years earlier (1:2), we can deduce Ezekiel was about twenty-five years old when he arrived in Babylon.

Another important detail of Ezekiel was that he was of a priestly lineage (1:3). Because priest were trained and began serving in their office when they were thirty years old, we know he was prepared to serve the LORD and His people, having knowledge of the Law and Commandments, the Temple and its rituals (of course, the Temple was destroyed), and the function of the priesthood.

Ezekiel would spend his life in Babylon encouraging God’s people to remember the prophecies that when seventy years were accomplished, the LORD had promised He would remember His people and restore them to their land where they would rebuild the Temple, their homes, Jerusalem and the nation.

Ezekiel 1 – The Calling and Commission of Ezekiel

While Ezekiel had been preparing his whole life to serve the LORD as His priest, that calling suddenly changed when we read, “The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest…and the hand of the LORD was there upon him” (1:3).

Ezekiel found himself moved from the esteemed ministry of a priest, to the prophet of God charged with confronting the sins of His people and calling them to repentance. With a wonderful, poetic flare, Ezekiel looked toward heaven as the clouds were rolled back and heaven appeared as a fire of molten bronze (1:4). Four heavenly beings with the “likeness of a man” appeared (1:5). They were Cherubim whose descriptions are given in Ezekiel 1:5-14 as having four faces, four wings, and whose likeness was as bright and fiery as “burning coals of fire” (1:13). These angels served the bidding of God’s spirit (1:12) and “ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning” (1:14). The Cherubim’s readiness to serve the LORD is portrayed as each had a wheel with a rim or inner circle “full of eyes” (1:18) and they went where the Spirit of God sent them (1:20).

Ezekiel also describes a vision of heaven with an expanse describes as “crystal” (1:22). The Cherubim, with fluttering wings so loud the noise was described “like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host [a great army]: when they stood, they let down their wings” (1:24). When God’s voice was suddenly heard, the wings of the Cherubim were stilled and heaven was silent (1:25).

Ezekiel is given a vision of God, portrayed in the likeness of man and sitting on His throne of “sapphire stone” (1:26). From his waist up, the appearance of God was a fiery molten metal (1:27a), and from his waist down He had the “appearance of fire” (1:27b). God’s glory is described as the brightness of a brilliant rainbow in the sky (1:28a).

When Ezekiel gazed upon God in all His glory and heard Him speak, Ezekiel writes, “I fell upon my face” (1:28).

Imagine how much you and I would be changed if we, by faith, gazed upon God in all His heavenly glory!

2 Corinthians 3:18 – “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” (Jeremiah 26-29)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 26-29

Jeremiah 26 – Kill the Prophet!

The nation of Judah has suffered the humiliation of Babylon taking away King Jeconiah in chains (Jeremiah 24:1), and having the treasuries of the Temple and the king’s palace plundered. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has also taken away Judah’s brightest youth (Daniel 1:3-5) and skilled laborers (Jeremiah 24:1; 29:1-2). With a succession of wicked kings on Judah’s throne, and the nation cursed with false prophets and priests, there is a foreboding death and destruction that hangs over the land.

Jeremiah 26:1-10 – “Thus saith the LORD…Diminish not a Word”

Jeremiah has been a faithful prophet of the LORD; however, he has grieved the scorn of his people, and the wrath of Judah’s leaders. In spite of the hardships he has suffered, the LORD commands His prophet to return to “Stand in the court of the LORD’S house (Temple) and…diminish not a word” (26:2).

When Jeremiah’s courageous declaration of God’s Word was ended (26:3-7), the priests and the prophets stirred up the people who said to the prophet, “Thou shalt surely die” (26:8). The uproar was so great that the “princes of Judah” (i.e. leaders) intervened and established a public trial for Jeremiah “in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house” (26:9-10).

Jeremiah 26:11-24 – God’s Prophet on Trial

The wicked priests and false prophets accused Jeremiah of preaching a message of doom against Jerusalem, which they justified him being put to death (26:11). Jeremiah, however, rose to his own defense and declared his authority as God’s prophet saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard” (26:12).

Knowing the “princes of Judah” held in their hands the power of life or death, Jeremiah boldly declared the conditions of God’s loving forgiveness. He encouraged the people to, “amend [their] ways [i.e. do good] and [their] doings, and obey the voice of the LORD” (26:13) and God would withhold the judgment he had determined against them.

The leaders of the people considered two cases to justify Jeremiah’s acquittal (26:16-23). The first was the case of the prophet Micah (26:18-19) who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah and whose life was spared because the king and the people had repented of their sins (Micah 3:12). The second case for acquittal was that of the prophet Urijah (also known as Uriah) who prophesied during the reign of Jehoiakim (26:20-23). Urijah had fled to Egypt; however, the king’s men returned him to Judah and the king slew him and cast his body into a commoners grave (26:23).

Jeremiah, by contrast with Urijah, had not fled nor failed to execute his office as God’s prophet. One man named Ahikam, interceded that the judges would not “give [Jeremiah] into the hand of the people to put him to death” (26:24).

Note – There is much history that transpires in Jeremiah 27-28 and I hope to return to this passage in another year. For the sake of context, this devotional commentary will consider the prophecy found in Jeremiah 29.

Jeremiah 29 – The Prophecy of Seventy Years of Captivity in Babylon

Jeremiah 29 records a letter Jeremiah sent to those whom Nebuchadnezzar had first taken captive to Babylon (29:1-4). Jeremiah prophesied to those in captivity that seventy years would pass before they would be restored to their homeland (29:10).

Rather than allow all hope to fail, Jeremiah instructed his people in Babylon to set their roots in Babylon for a season and “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7).

Jeremiah encouraged the people to dismiss the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9). The prophet foretold their captivity would last seventy years (29:10). Assuring the people of God’s love and forgiveness, Jeremiah declared the LORD’S assurances of His benevolent thoughts, His longing for the people to repent of their sins and call upon Him, and His promise to restore them (29:11-13).

False prophets would become the scourge of the exiles in Babylon and not only raised the false hope of a short captivity (29:15-23), but also attacked the integrity and ministry of Jeremiah (29:24-29). One false prophet named Shemaiah, sent a letter from Babylon to Jerusalem and accused Jeremiah of being a mad man, a false prophet, a man who had preached a message of hopelessness and counseled the people that the captivity would be long (29:26-29).

Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah must have been a great discouragement to the prophet. God, however, counseled his prophet to send a letter to the people in Babylon saying, “Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie… he [Shemaiah] hath taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:31-32)

Like some of you, I identify with the sorrows of Jeremiah. God’s command to “diminish not a word” of the LORD (26:2) put him on the receiving end of personal attacks that were unreasonable in nature. Shemaiah’s letter, meant to disparage the prophet and stir an uprising against him, was resolved when the LORD vindicated Jeremiah by exposing Shemaiah as a false prophet (29:31). Shemaiah and his family would be punished (29:32).

1 Samuel 26:9 – “Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith