Tag Archives: Bitterness

The Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Three Good Things You Should Embrace (Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3

Our brief study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” continues today. While Lamentations 3 will be the primary focus of this devotional, I am suggesting a brief outline of Lamentations 2.

Lamentations 2

Jerusalem is Destroyed (2:1-9)

Jeremiah continued to lament the calamity of Jerusalem and observed how the Lord had “covered the daughter of Zion [Jerusalem] with a cloud in his anger” (2:1). Knowing David pronounced the Temple “the footstool of our God” (1 Chronicles 28:2), the prophet bemoaned the LORD “remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!” (1:1) Though it was Nebuchadnezzar whose army destroyed Jerusalem; Jeremiah left no doubt it was the fierceness of God’s judgment that devoured the people. The rebellion of the people moved the LORD to become the enemy of His wayward people (2:2-5).

All Jerusalem was a scene of destruction as the city and its Temple laid in ruins. Yet, it was the LORD who gave the altar, Temple, and the palaces “into the hand of the enemy” (2:7). As Jeremiah looked upon the city, he observed, “9Her gates are sunk into the ground…Her king and her princes are [captives] among the Gentiles: the law is no more” (2:9).

Lamentations 2:10-14 turned the focus from the city and the king, to the sorrows the people suffered. The leaders of the city sat in silence, as they mourned the deaths and destruction that was about them (2:10). Jeremiah was so overcome with grief, his tears failed, and his heart ached (2:11), as the city he loved was ravaged by famine (2:11-13).

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah then reminded the people how their sins brought them to a state of ruin and sorrow. The prophet declared, “the Lord hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word…He hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, He hath set up the horn [power; strength] of thine adversaries” (2:17). Overcome with grief and hunger, mothers turned to cannibalism, and did “eat their fruit” (2:20). Young and old laid dead in the streets, and there were none to bury them (2:21).

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah’s lamentations took on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. The prophet had lived to see all he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poor, Jeremiah gazed upon a scene of devastation. The Temple was destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem were fallen.

Lamentations 3:1-21 is a testimony of the prophet’s afflictions.

Jeremiah’s Afflictions (3:1-19)

In his sorrows, Jeremiah confessed the afflictions he carried for the suffering of His people. He felt alienated from God (3:2), as though the LORD was turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed, but it seemed God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). He felt trapped, abandoned, and wounded in heart (3:9-13). He was scorned by his people (3:14), and overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18). He despaired of life (3:19) until his focus turned to the LORD (3:20-21).

Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions (3:21-66)

In the midst of sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that inspired the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah wrote, It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace] that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases]. 23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness [steadfastness]” (3:22-23). Remembering the LORD’s mercy and faithfulness, Jeremiah declared, “The LORD isgood [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

Notice, a believer must meet two conditions to know the goodness of the LORD (3:25). The first, he must “wait for Him” (3:25). Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you hurt?  Will you wait when you are ill?  When you have been mistreated or misunderstood, do you wait on the LORD?  Jeremiah’s counsel to those who are in distress is, “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

Also, to trust the LORD’s goodness, you must “seek Him” (3:25b). What does it mean to seek the LORD? It means to seek and obey Him (3:40). You seek the LORD when you read, meditate, and obey Him (3:40;Jeremiah 29:13).

Closing thoughts – In closing, I invite you to consider three things Jeremiah described as “good.”  It is good to “both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD” (3:26). Hope is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul. Hope anticipates that God hears and will answer prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises. It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer in His time. Finally, it is good for a son to bear the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). In the midst of his afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged it was a good thing for young men bear the yoke of manhood with all of its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Life can be difficult, and even harsh; but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. What about you? Will you hope, seek, obey, and trust the 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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

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

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 45

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

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

Jeremiah 45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Cry for Mercy, and the Fruit of Peace (Psalm 79)

Scripture reading – Psalm 79

The content of Psalm 79 makes a strong case for it to be a song that was contemporary with the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, and the destruction of that great city. This is the second of two devotionals for today, and is taken from Psalm 79.

The psalmist cried to God, for there was no other to whom he could appeal (79:1). Nebuchadnezzar’s army (“the heathen”) had invaded Judah, defiled the Temple, and left the bodies of the dead in the streets (79:1-2). The blood of the slain flowed through the streets like streams of water. There were none to bury the dead and spare their loved ones the indignity of being carrion for birds and beasts (79:3). The psalmist complained, the suffering of Jerusalem gave occasion for the heathen to mock God’s people, who had “become a reproach to [their] neighbors” (79:4).

A Cry for Pity, Mercy, and Vengeance (79:5-12)

The writer did not appeal to the injustice of God’s wrath, however, he asked, “How long, Lord? wilt thou be angry for ever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire?” (79:5) The sins of Judah, had brought God’s wrath upon the nation. Yet, should the heathen be unpunished for their abuses, and wickedness? (79:6)

The psalmist reminded the LORD how the wicked had “devoured Jacob” [slaughtered Israel and Judah], and “laid waste His dwelling place” (the Temple, 79:7). He begged for the LORD’s mercy (79:8), and appealed to Him to save His people, not because of their merit, but for the sake of His testimony among the nations (79:9). He reasoned, “Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is their God?” (79:10)

Calling for God’s vengeance, he implored the LORD to hear the sigh of the prisoners, and save those “that are appointed to die” (79:11). Reminding the LORD the heathen took pleasure in the travails of His people, he prayed God would exact vengeance “sevenfold” saying, “they have reproached thee, O Lord” (79:12).

Closing thought – What was the basis for the psalmist’s prayer for deliverance? It was the LORD’s covenant with Israel and Judah. He reminded the LORD, “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture” (79:13a; 95:7; 100:3). Confessing his humility on behalf of the nation, the psalmist promised, “we will give thee thanks for ever: We will shew forth thy praise to all generations” (79:13b).

The sorrows and sufferings that befell Jerusalem and Judah was because of their wickedness; yet, the psalmist remembered the LORD’s promises of grace and mercy. He understood the LORD chastened Israel and Judah because they were His people, and whom He loves He chastens (Hebrews 12:6).

A personal invitation – You may be bearing the weight of God’s chastening. Remember, He is gracious and merciful. Like a loving father, who chastens a son, the LORD loves you and He corrects you to the end your life  “yieldeth [bears] the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised [trained; disciplined]thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

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

Warning: You Write Your Own Obituary When You Leave Your Spiritual Base (2 Chronicles 11-12)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11; 2 Chronicles 12

I remind you that 2 Chronicles was penned after the Babylonian captivity, and was a historical record of the time of the kings in Israel, whose history was recorded prior to the Babylonian captivity in the Book of 1 Kings.

2 Chronicles 11

The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading were the subject of an earlier devotional in 1 Kings 12, and follows the northern ten Tribes’ succession from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who were loyal to the king. Rehoboam had raised up an army to put down the insurrection, however, God had forbidden him to go to war against his brethren (2 Chronicles 11:1-4; 1 Kings 12:21-24). Rehoboam then set out to improve the defenses of the cities in Judah, and built walls to fortify his strong holds (11:5-12).

Remaining loyal to Rehoboam, and rejecting the idolatry of northern Israel, the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts,” leaving their lands and houses (11:14a). Adding to his wickedness, Jeroboam not only established his golden calves as objects of worship in Israel, he also rejected the priests of the LORD, and “ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

Jeroboam’s disobedience, and his rejection of God launched an exodus out of the northern tribes of those who had “set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel [and] came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers” (11:16). The departure of those faithful to the LORD left Israel weakened, for “they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.”

A record is given in the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 11 regarding king Rehoboam’s personal life (his wives, concubines, and children). Most notably are the names found in 2 Chronicles 11:20: “20And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.”

A point of explanation is necessary regarding Maachah (11:20). The Hebrew word for “daughter” described a female offspring, albeit daughter, granddaughter, or even a great granddaughter. Because we know Absalom [the rebel son of king David], had only one daughter and she was named Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), we must conclude that Maachah was in fact an offspring of Absalom, but was most likely his granddaughter. So, we learn that Rehoboam’s favorite wife was Maachah, who was his second cousin, and the mother of Abijah who would suceed him as king (11:22; 12:16, 13:1).

2 Chronicles 12

2 Chronicles 12 is a review of the tragic events we have considered in an earlier study of 1 Kings 14. This final chapter in Rehoboam’s life serves as a reminder to all, and especially those who are leaders, of what becomes of a man, family, or organization when its leader(s) forsake the LORD, by forsaking His law and commandments. Strong, and confident in his early years as king, Rehoboam failed the most important step to success in spiritual leadership: “He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14).

Failing to follow in the spiritual footsteps of his father, “it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (12:1). The tragic consequences of his failure to humble himself before the LORD and obey His law, led Israel away from the LORD, and invited God’s judgment.

The tool of God’s judgment was Shishak, king of Egypt, who came against Jerusalem with a coalition of peoples: “Lubims (i.e., Libyans), the Sukkiims (possibly a tribe of Arabia), and the Ethiopians of Africa (12:2). With 1200 chariots, and 60,000 cavalrymen, Shishak “took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem” (12:4; 1 Kings 14:25-26).

Prophecy Against Rehoboam and Judah (12:5-12)

The LORD sent Shemaiah who prophesied to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah that it was their sins that had given cause for the LORD to bring Shishak against Jerusalem (12:5). However, because Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves before Him, the LORD was merciful, and spared Jerusalem from destruction (12:6-7). Yet, He did not spare Rehoboam and Judah the humiliation of becoming servants to the king of Egypt (12:8).

“Shishak king of Egypt…took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house…[and] he carried away also the shields of gold [used in pageantry] which Solomon had made” (12:9; 1 Kings 14:26). Masking his humiliation, Rehoboam commanded “shields of brass” be fashioned to replace his father’s golden shields (12:10-11).

Closing thoughts – Rehoboam reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, nevertheless, his reign was scarred by his failure to prepare “his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14). The peace Israel had enjoyed during the reign of his father Solomon was lost, and “there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually” (12:15). Rehoboam the son of Solomon died, and “Abijah his son reigned in his stead” (12:16) over a nation that was now divided, and no longer sheltered by the LORD’S blessing.

A leader, institution, and nation that rejects the LORD, His law and commandments will surely be judged.

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