Tag Archives: Bitterness

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

Three Good Things, and Why You Should Embrace Them (Lamentations 3-5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 3-5

Jeremiah’s lamentations take on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. While today’s Scripture reading is Laminations 3-5, today’s devotional commentary will be limited to chapter 3.

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah has lived to see all that he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poorest people after Babylon conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, the prophet gazes out upon a scene of devastation. The Temple has been destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem have fallen.

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

Alienated from God, the heavy burden of discipline upon him, Jeremiah felt as though the LORD had turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed in his distress, but felt as though God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). In his sorrows, the prophet felt trapped, abandoned, wounded in heart (3:9-13). Mocked by his own people (3:14) and nearly overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18), Jeremiah was despairing of life (3:19) until he turned his focus from his circumstances to the LORD (3:20-21).

Lamentations 3:21-66 – Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that are the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23It 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].”

Jeremiah continues, “The LORD is good [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).

It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good;” however, notice there is a twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of God.

1) First, we must learn to “wait [hope] for Him” (3:25a).

It is easy to counsel others to be patient and wait on the LORD; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.

Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you have been hurt?  To wait when you are ill?  Do you wait on the LORD when you have been mistreated or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait on the LORD when a loved one makes choices that grieve your heart?  “Patience is a virtue,” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply. Jeremiah’s counsel in the midst of deep distress is “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

2) Second, we must truly “seek Him” (3:25b).

What does it mean to seek the LORD? Be diligent to search Him out by reading, inquiring, and meditating in His Word. To seek the LORD one must obey His Law and Commandments, and follow His will (3:40; Jeremiah 29:13)

I close inviting you to consider the things that are said to be “good[pleasant; beautiful; right; pleasing] in Lamentations 3:26-27.

Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”

It is good for a believer to “hope” (3:26a). This “hope” is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul.  It is hope that awaits with anticipation God’s answer to prayer. It is hope that springs from faith that is predicated on the knowledge that God hears and answers 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 in silence. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  (I fear the pews of churches are filled with many who are neither patient or quiet!)

Thirdly, it is good when a son bears the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). 

Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”

In the midst of his own afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged that it is a good thing when young men bear the yoke of manhood with its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Many parents coddle their youth and insulate them from a harsh reality: Life can be difficult, even harsh, but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. 

Lesson – Parents rob children of a “good” thing when they fail to make them bear the burdens, blessings, and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to a people who celebrate perversity! (Amos 1-5)

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-5

Amos 1

In the days of the prophet Amos, “Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and that nation had maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” (thus identifying him as Jeroboam II) was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom. That nation made no pretense of worshipping the LORD. Founded by Jeroboam I who set up and sacrificed to a golden calf at Bethel, Israel had rejected the LORD and departed from His Law and Commandments.

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.  When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

With the word of the LORD upon his lips, Amos courageously delivered a series of prophecies concerning the imminent judgement of God against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8), Tyre (1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3).

Amos 2

Turning his focus from the Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged because they had “despised the law of the LORD, and [had] not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God had sent prophets, but the people had said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

Amos 3

Amos reminded the people how the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both Israel and Judah) to be His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, had rejected the LORD and He had set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:1).

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: “For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments, come to “know not to do right?”  How could they be so blind? Why had they lost the knowledge and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts become so desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law that the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

On a personal note, I fear our society has followed the same sin pattern. The lunacy of atheism and the perversity of humanism have become so entrenched in government, education, religion and media that our judgment as a society is perverted.  When a people reject God and His Laws, the moral judgment of that nation is so twisted that the people “know not to do right” (3:10).

Amos 4 – The Chastisement of Israel and a Prophecy of That Nation’s Fall and Exile

Amos 5

Remembering the distinction between Israel, the northern kingdom made up of ten tribes, and Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, Amos takes up the prophecy of the LORD against Israel in Amos 5.

God’s condemnation and exposure of Israel’s hypocrisy gives way to His lamentation over the judgment and sorrows that will soon come upon the people (5:1-3).   Knowing the heart of the nation was set to do evil, nevertheless the LORD appealed to Israel to hear, heed and repent (5:4, 6, 8, 14-15)!

Amos names the sins of Israel: Unjust and rejecting righteousness (5:7), hating bearers of truth (5:10), abusing the poor (5:11), afflicting the righteous, and taking bribes (5:12).

A pronouncement of “woe!” brings this chapter to a close (5:18-27).  The people had continued to make a pretense of worship (“your feast days…solemn assemblies” 5:21-22), but God knew their hearts and the prophet condemned their hypocrisy, and even their songs were noise to His ears (5:23).

I close with a challenge that Israel ignored, but that we should heed:

Amos 5:15 – “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Danger: Cursed Be the Man Who Usurps God’s Authority (2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Once again, our study of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are parallel passages of the same historical events. While the names of the various kings might be confusing and their acts forgotten, what we should take from our Scripture reading is the way and manner in which God sovereignly deals with his servants and people.

2 Kings 15 – Time marches on and kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.

His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah.  Only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, Azariah would reign as king for fifty-two years (15:1-2).

2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a separate house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e. Azariah) remarkable accomplishments are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26 and the secret to his successes is stated: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah was a warrior (26:6-8), builder (26:9), and a farmer (26:10). He was also a gifted administrator who numbered and organized his army, and provided them the necessary implements for war (26:11-15).

Why would God afflict King Uzziah (i.e. Azariah) with leprosy, a dreadful disease that would follow him to his grave?

The king was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy; one that affects and infects the soul: PRIDE (26:16).

2 Chronicles 26:16 – But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

In an act of sinful pride, the king usurped the role and office of the priest and foolishly entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).

Bloated with pride from his successes, the king trampled upon ground that was reserved for the priesthood. The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy on his forehead (26:19).

The law concerning leprosy demanded the leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46). Seeing the leprosy on the king’s face, the priests moved to expel Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20). Uzziah lived the rest of his life as a leper in exile from the palace. As a leper, he was denied burial in the royal tomb, and was buried in a field near to the place where kings were buried.

What a tragedy! The great king whose legacy should have been that he was a great warrior, builder, and administrator, dies with his testimony in tatters. What lesson might we take from this sad historical record? What would Uzziah advise us if he could speak?

I believe he would warn, “Trifle with the pulpit, usurp the role of a spiritual leader, and you do so at the risk of your legacy, if not your life.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and Will Accomplish His Purpose (2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25)

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25

2 Kings 14, and 2 Chronicles 25 are records of the same historical events: The reigns of Joash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah.

I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy and had been guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24).  During Joash’s reign, Judah had experienced a spiritual renaissance and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died (24:15), and Joash heeded the counsel of wicked men.

Someone has observed the path of sin will always take you further than you ever planned to go, and so it was with Joash. He forgot the kindness of his lifelong friend, the chief priest Jehoiada (24:22), and eventually fell in with those men who stoned to death the prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:20-22). Tragically, Joash’s reign ended when he was assassinated by his servants who avenged the slaying of Zechariah (24:24-26).

Joash’s son, Amaziah became king in Judah (24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart” (25:2).

It is that last phrase, “but not with a perfect heart” (25:2), that will shadow the life and reign of Amaziah.  Amaziah exacted justice for his father’s assassination, killing those who murdered his father; however, unlike other kings, he did not prevail upon the families of the assassins, and spared the lives of their sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah organized his army in preparation for war with Edom (descendants of Esua, who lived on the east side of the Dead Sea); however, he foolishly hired mercenary soldiers out of Israel (25:6). When God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah that hiring idol worshipping mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7), the king heeded the warning and sent the soldiers of Israel home (25:10).

As Amaziah led his army into what would be a glorious victory over Edom, the mercenary soldiers from Israel, for the slight of not going to war and taking the spoils of battle, turned and attacked cities along the border of Judah (25:13).

Remembering Amaziah was a man who lacked “a perfect heart” for the LORD, we read he committed idolatry (25:14) following his victory over Edom and foolishly worshipped the idols of Edom! The LORD sent a prophet who warned the king he had provoked God’s wrath for foolishly worshipping the gods of the very people he had defeated (25:15-16). His heart lifted up with pride, Amaziah rejected the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill him (25:16).

Fresh off his victory over Edom, Amaziah initiated a call to war against Joash, king of Israel. Joash warned Amaziah to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19). Blinded by pride and heeding the counsel of his peers (25:17), Amaziah, went to war and was defeated by Joash who took him prisoner (25:21-23).

With King Amaziah as his prisoner, Joash broke down the northern wall of Jerusalem and plundered the treasuries of the palace and the Temple (25:21-24).

I close with a principle concerning the sovereignty of the LORD.

Sinful pride distorts the thoughts within man, and Amaziah deluded by victory, refused to heed the warning sent to him in a fable by Joash, king of Israel (25:18-20). We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).

Amaziah refused the prophet’s warning and rejected the caution of Israel’s king. The king’s pride led to Judah’s humiliating defeat, the disgrace of being taken prisoner, the eventual plundering of the Temple, and pilfering of the palace treasuries (25:21-23). The king suffered his final humiliation when his servants conspired to slay him (25:28).

Warning: Pride distorts a man’s thinking, blinds him to his faults, and invariably brings him to ruin. In the words of Solomon:

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [arrogance] goeth before destruction [calamity; breach], and an haughty [proud; self-sufficient] spirit before a fall [ruin].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Tragedy: When We Forget the Kindness of Others (2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our Scripture reading focuses on two parallel accounts of the life and times of Joash (i.e. Jehoash), the young king of Judah, who began to reign when he was seven years old, and Jehoiada who served as the chief priest in the Temple and was the spiritual mentor for the king until his death at 130 years old.

2 Kings 12

Jehoash ascended to the throne of Judah when he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:3-4, 12) and under the influence of the chief priest Jehoiada, the young king began a revival of worship in the Temple (12:2). The Temple had been neglected and fallen into disrepair during the reign Queen-mother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 24:7).

The king, therefore commanded that offerings be collected and dedicated to repairing the “house of the LORD” (12:4-6). When he realized the repairs were not being made as he had commanded (2 Chronicles 24:5), the king demanded a report on the state of the offerings (12:7-8) and ordered that the money given by the people would be secured and the repairs a priority (12:9-16; 2 Chronicles 24:8-13).

2 Kings 13 – Death of Elisha

There is an interesting dynamic recorded here between the great prophet Elisha and Joash, the king of Israel (13:14). Although we read that the king “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (13:11), he nevertheless respected the old prophet and his ministry in Israel. King Joash came to Elisha’s death bed and “wept over” the venerable prophet saying, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2 Chronicles 24:11).

Elisha left the king with one final prophecy, that Israel would defeat Syria in three battles (13:15-19); however, the nation would fail to completely destroy their adversary (13:19).

To complete today’s devotional, I invite you to turn your attention to 2 Chronicles 24 and the record of the death of the chief priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:15-16), and the assassination of Jehoash (i.e. Joash) who reigned forty years over Judah (2 Chronicles 24:1, 24-25).

2 Chronicles 24 – The Death of the Priest Jehoiada and the Conspiracy to Kill King Joash

Jehoiada, the chief priest and mentor of King Joash (i.e. Jehoash), died at the age of 130 (24:15). Without his godly, aged mentor, the king was soon encouraged by younger leaders in Judah to tolerate idol worship in the kingdom (24:17-18).

Having turned to idols, Judah provoked the LORD’S wrath against the nation. Restraining His judgment for a season, the LORD mercifully sent prophets to call the people to repent (24:19). One of those faithful prophets was Zechariah, the son of the late chief priest Jehoiada (24:20), who had been the king’s spiritual mentor.

Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation and warned of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22). Rather than heed the words of the prophet, the king conspired with the young leaders and killed the son of the man who had spared his life when he was an infant (2 Kings 11:3).

Zechariah was stoned to death, even as he warned the LORD would avenge his death (24:21-22). Fulfilling Zechariah’s dying prophecy, the stage was set for Jehoash to be wounded in battle against the King of Syria (24:23-25a). Recovering from his wounds suffered in battle, the king was slain by his servants (24:25b-26).

Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest, who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of then, Bob Jones College, reminded the students, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him” (24:22a).  How could a man whose life was spared by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the cruel death of his son?

Bitterness! When Joash’s sin was exposed and confronted, rather than repent, the king became enraged! You and I can avoid the same folly if we will heed Ephesians 4:31-32.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Tragic Legacy: How will you be remembered? (1 Kings 15, 2 Chronicles 13-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 13-16

Once again, we find 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 13-16 are parallel records of the same events. In today’s reading we find historical record in 2 Chronicles to be more detailed and giving us a greater insight into the drama between Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

1 Kings 15

1 Kings 15 records a succession of kings reigning over Israel and Judah.  Judah’s King, Rehoboam, died and his son Abijam was crowned king and reigned only three years (15:1-2). Continuing in the sins of Solomon and Rehoboam (15:3-8), his life was cut short and his son Asa ascended to the throne of Judah (15:8) and reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem (15:10).

The reign of Asa was a glorious time in Judah, and the king began leading the nation back to the LORD (15:11). The sodomites (male prostitutes) that had found refuge in Judah during Rehoboam’s reign (15:24) were driven out of the land in Asa’s reign (15:12). Even Asa’s mother was not spared the reform as she was deposed from her throne as Queen mother for worshipping idols (15:13).

A contemporary of Asa in Judah was Baasha king of Israel (15:16) who designed to make war against Judah (15:17) until Asa emptied the treasuries of the Temple and his palace to pay for a league with the king of Syria (15:18-21). As we will learn in 2 Chronicles 16, his decision to align himself with the king of Syria was not the will of the LORD (2 Chronicles 16:7-10).

2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Chronicles continues the same history, adding more detail and insight into the LORD’S dealings with both Judah and Israel. There was a succession of kings of David’s bloodline in Judah and some, particularly, King Asa, followed the will of the LORD and led the nation in spiritual revival (2 Chronicles 14:2-7).

In Israel, however, there was a succession of kings who continued that nation’s rebellion and rejection of the God of Israel.

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace, and prosperity, until the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Asa turned from the LORD and put his trust in his reasoning apart from the LORD (2 Chronicles 16). When Baasha, king of Israel, led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and sought a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Though successful in the immediate, Asa’s decision to seek a league with Syria was foolish and offended God. A prophet named Hanani declared Asa’s lack of faith would haunt him the rest of his life, and he would face wars until his death (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and imprisoned the prophet, and then “oppressed” some of the people who were no doubt critical of the king’s decisions (16:10).

Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a critical disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest gout, but I wonder if it was not gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa, whose heart was not right with the LORD, turned to his physicians and not to the LORD.

A great memorial was held upon Asa’s death, however, his lifetime of serving the LORD was marred by his faithlessness and rebellion in his later years (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

The Kingdom is Divided (1 Kings 12-14)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 12-14

When Jeroboam learned that Solomon was dead and his son Rehoboam reigned in his stead (11:43-12:1), he returned from Egypt where he had found refuge (12:3).

1 Kings 12 – The Precipitous Decline of Israel and the Threat of Civil War

Summoned by the northern ten tribes, Jeroboam asserted himself to speak on behalf of the tribes of Israel, and petitioned that King Rehoboam would relieve the heavy burden of taxation and servitude under which the people had suffered during Solomon’s reign (12:3-4).

Though having the advantage of his father’s counselors (12:6-7), Rehoboam, dismissed them and heeded the counsel of his peers who stoked his pride and ambition (12:8-11). Rehoboam’s arrogance set in motion a rebellion that threatened civil war in Israel and led to the division of the kingdom (12:12-33).

The northern ten tribes calling themselves “Israel,” made Jeroboam the first king (12:19-20). Those tribes not only rebelled against King Rehoboam, but also set themselves against God. They abandoned worship at the Temple in Jerusalem and made themselves “two calves of gold” (12:19-20, 25-30).

Because the priests of Levi refused to follow Jeroboam’s insurrection, he “made priests of the lowest of the people” (12:31) and erected and altar in Bethel that “he had devised of his own heart” (12:31).

1 Kings 13 – Great Wickedness in the Northern Ten Tribes (Israel)

1 Kings 13 gives us the beginning history of a divided Israel represented by the ten tribes of the north that had rebelled against Rehoboam. The rebellious tribes followed Jeroboam into idolatry (13:1-34), and it appears he acted not only as king, but also as priest over the people (12:33-13:1).

We read that Jeroboam “returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places” (13:33). The description of Jeroboam’s priests as the “lowest of the people” illustrates how little regard he placed on worship and the priesthood. He gave no thought of a man’s birth, lineage, or character when he chose priests for Israel, as stipulated by God.

1 Kings 14 – The Spiritual and Moral Decline of Judah

1 Kings 14 begins as a prophecy against Jeroboam and reveals his lineage would be cut off.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over Judah; however, his reign was marked by wickedness and the nation’s decline into all manner of sin and ungodliness (14:21-24). Even in Judah, idol worship flourished and the depth of that nation’s wickedness is expressed in this: “There were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations”(14:24).

Not even the invasion of the armies of Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt, caused the people of Judah to turn their hearts to the LORD (14:25). Raiding the treasures of Solomon, Shishak also took the shields of gold that decorated the walls of Solomon’s palace to Egypt (14:25-26).  Adding to the disgrace, Rehoboam instructed that shields of brass be substituted for the shields of gold that were removed by the king of Egypt (14:27-28).

God’s warning to Solomon that his sins would be the catalyst for a divided kingdom were fulfilled and we read, “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (14:31).

Our devotion ends with the news that “Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried” (14:31); reminding us that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

 

Living a Purposeful Life (Ecclesiastes 1-6)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 1-6

Today’s Scripture reading is long, but meaningful to all who seek to understand the many troubled individuals we pass in our daily lives. I encourage you to read and contemplate the sorrow of an empty soul that only God’s grace and mercy can fill. The devotional commentary will focus entirely on Ecclesiastes 1-2.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the ponderings of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, apart from Christ. The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life, and its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Ecclesiastes, penned in the latter years of Solomon’s life, brings to us a shocking contrast to the bits of wisdom the king penned in the middle years of life, when he was presiding over Israel in that nation’s golden years. His youth far spent, and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, we notice that Solomon’s outlook has become sad and dismal.

Solomon questions, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?

One generation dies and another takes its place (1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (1:6-7), and in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Ecclesiastes 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give unimaginable wealth and incomprehensible wisdom (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  His youth spent, Solomon had turned his heart from God, and now near the end of his life, sums up his search for fulfillment saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life became empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

From a horizontal, human perspective, Solomon’s life and passions showed the heart of one who had turned from God! No wonder Solomon writes, “Vanity, all is vanity,” thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes.

When he was young, the king loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God had honored his desire and imparted to Solomon not only wisdom, but also riches and power. Tragically, in his old age, he had turned from the LORD and His Law and Commandments.

Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God. What a tragic conclusion for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!

Ecclesiastes 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.  Every morning the man awoke melancholy and, in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist, after listening to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties, finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What would you do today, if you knew there was no tomorrow? (Proverbs 27-29)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 27-29

Our Scripture reading continues in Proverbs, chapters 27, 28, and 29. For the sake of brevity, I will limit today’s devotional commentary to Proverbs 27:1-3.

Proverbs 27:1 – “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” [note – Luke 12:19, 20James 4:13]

What would you do today, if you knew there was no tomorrow?  What would change in your priorities?  Who would you call or visit to express a word of gratitude or affection?  Who would you seek out to make right a wrong?  Who would you forgive, putting off bitterness and embrace in love?

Procrastination is a terrible malady of man!  Too many of us go through life putting off to tomorrow what should and could have been done today!  I believe that is the point of Proverbs 27:1. Do not defer, put off, or procrastinate to tomorrow the good that you might do today.

Lost sinners procrastinate confessing their sin and trusting Jesus Christ as Savior (Hebrews 4:7Acts 24:252 Corinthians 6:2).  Believers put off confessing their sin, serving others, singing praises, teaching, and witnessing to lost loved ones, only to be filled with remorse when they realize there will be no tomorrow.

Challenge: Make a list of things you hope to accomplish today, or one day, and set dates and goals for accomplishing them before you face no tomorrows. Turn off the television, stop surfing the internet, disengage from social media, and redeem today as though it were your last—it may be!

James 4:14, 17 – “14  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away…17  Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Proverbs 27:2 – There are few things as repulsive as one who glories in boasting their own achievements.

Proverbs 27:2 – “Let another man praise [boast; celebrate; sing your praises] thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [speech].”

The Book of Proverbs is a king’s instructions to his son who would one day be king. Fearing that his son’s heart might be lifted up with pride, Solomon urged him to be a young man whose demeanor was one of humility.

Having been born into a household of wealth and privilege, one might imagine the temptation for a young prince to be carried away by the grandeur of the palace, with servants ever ready to do his bidding.  Solomon taught his son that it is uncomely for a man to praise himself [or as some say, “to beat his own drum”].

Few things are as repulsive as a man or woman who crow about their own achievements.  Unfortunately, it is the nature of men to “proclaim every one his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6). Such a man has forgotten the raw clay out of which he was taken. Though praise and accolades are rewarding, they ring hollow when expressed by one’s own lips.

Why is a braggadocio, self-asserting spirit so repugnant to God? 

Because it is the spirit of pride and not the Spirit of God.

Think about it: How much of your conversations with others is focused on yourself?  Are you given to bragging and boasting?  Look at your social media page to find the answer.

Proverbs 27:3 – A fool’s wrath is a great burden to all.

Proverbs 27:3 – “A stone [building stone] is heavy, and the sand weighty [burden]; but a fool’s [silly, immoral] wrath [anger; indignation] is heavier [more grievous] than them both [a fools wrath takes a physical and emotional toll heavier than building stones and sand].”

What was Solomon thinking when he observed that the wrath of a fool is heavier than both a heavy stone and weighty sand?

Having undertaken the construction of the Temple and his palace, Solomon knew well the physical weight of sand and stone. The king was familiar with the design and use of heavy stones that were required for constructing an enduring place of worship for Israel.

The heavy stones mentioned in Proverbs 27:3 are most likely the great building blocks used in constructing the Temple and other public buildings.  Estimates are that some of the stones weighed from a few tons to as much as 160 tons.  Sand, like building blocks, is also heavy in volume and a great burden to move.

The fool is the subject of Proverbs 27:3. He is not intellectually deficient. This fool is one that is spiritually defiant, morally corrupt, and a hater of wisdom and instruction.  He opposes God (Psalm 14:153:1), hates spiritual truth (Proverbs 1:22), and is a grief and heaviness to his father and mother (Proverbs 10:117:25).

Solomon observes that the wrath of a fool takes a physical toll and is heavier than building stones and sand.  How so?

While stones and sand are physically heavy and difficult to move, the weight of a fool’s wrath is both a physical burden and an emotional weight to his family, friends and acquaintances.

Without question, the wrath of a fool takes a physical toll on all who associate with him. Many are the parents who go to early graves with heavy hearts, emotionally overwhelmed and physically devastated by the distress of a fool’s wrath.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith