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The Wicked Know No Shame (Zephaniah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Zephaniah 1-3

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Zephaniah, a minor prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of King Josiah (1:1).

Zephaniah 1 – A prophecy of imminent judgment.

Zephaniah was tasked with pronouncing God’s judgment on His people in frightening and graphic details. He warned Judah, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD” (1:2). Nothing would be spared the wrath of the LORD: “I will consume man and beast… fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea…Judah…all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (1:3-4).

“The Day of the Lord” is an oft repeated phrase in Zephaniah 1 and was a warning of the day of God’s vengeance (1:7, 8, 14, 18).

Remember the prophecies often have an immediate and future application. In the immediate, the “day of the LORD” was the day of God’s judgment against Judah when Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. In the prophetic application, the “day of the LORD” is still future and will be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ when He comes in judgment.

Zephaniah 1:10 mentions “the noise of a cry from the fish gate…and a great crashing from the hills.” The fish gate was the gate that led to the fish market, but you may wonder why is this important. The answer is a historical fact: King Nebuchadnezzar passed through the fish gate when Babylon conquered Jerusalem! The destruction of the city and the captivity of the people would be so thorough that it was likened to searching out every crevice of the city with candles (1:12a).

The people lived in denial saying, “The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil” (1:12b). Even the strongest men of Judah would cry out on the day of God’s judgment (1:13). How terrible is the day of God’s final judgment?

Zephaniah 1:15 – “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

Zephaniah 2 – An Exhortation to Repent

Remembering the LORD is longsuffering, we are not surprised to read that the prophet Zephaniah called upon Judah to repent and, “seek…the LORD, all ye meek of the earth…seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” (2:3).

Because of their wickedness, Zephaniah prophesied the judgment of God against four major Philistine cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron” (2:4). The Moabites and Ammonites would fall to Babylon as divine punishment for their abuses of Israel (2:8-11). The Ethiopians (of the lineage of Cush whose land was southeast of Egypt on the continent of Africa) would be slain (2:12). Assyria and its great capital city, Nineveh, would be utterly destroyed by Babylon. The destruction of Nineveh so complete it would be uninhabitable, a wasteland and a haven for wild beasts (2:13-15).

Zephaniah 3 – The Necessity of Divine Judgment Against Jerusalem

Zephaniah laid out the case regarding the wickedness of Jerusalem that demanded God’s judgment (3:1-4). That city had become “filthy and polluted,” and was a violent city (3:1). Her civil leaders (princes and judges) were like “roaring lions…wolves” that gnaw the bones of the poor and helpless (3:1). Her spiritual leaders (prophets and priests) were “treacherous” and violent (3:4).

Zephaniah assured the people of Judah, the LORD was just and He would not “do iniquity…He brings His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame” (3:5).

What an appalling statement! Innocence was lost. Moral purity disdained. The politicians and religious leaders were so given to sin and wickedness that they felt no shame! Though their wickedness was widely known, they felt no sense of humiliation. In spite of God’s judgment of other nations’ sins, Judah had failed to be moved to repent of her sins (3:6-7).

Zephaniah’s ministry closed with not only a warning of the day when God would gather the nations of the earth to be judged (3:8), but also when He will gather the remnant of Israel from all nations who will call upon and serve Him (3:9).

In that day, the day of the LORD, sin, shame, and pride will be removed (3:11-14), God’s people will rejoice for the LORD is King (3:14-17), and the people will be restored to the LORD who will dwell in the midst (3:18-20).

What a glorious day that will be!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Seek Ye the LORD While He May Be Found” (Isaiah 54-58)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 54-58

Today’s devotional commentary will be limited to Isaiah 54-55.

Isaiah 54Who is Our God?

Following the prophetic portrait of a suffering, dying Savior in chapter 53, Isaiah 54 opens with a call for the people of Israel to “break forth into singing” (54:1) in a prophetic picture of Israel’s return from captivity.

Using the familiar marriage portrait of a husband and wife (54:5), the LORD is pictured in this passage as the husband and Israel as a barren wife (54:1). When her years of tears and sorrows in captivity are fulfilled, Isaiah prophesied that Israel would be invited to turn to the LORD.

Looking to the Millennial Kingdom, Israel was promised when that nation is restored to the land that her presence and shadow will be greatly enlarged, “on the right hand and on the left.” We who are Gentiles by birth are children of God by faith and no longer Gentiles, but spiritual heirs (54:2-3).

Who is the God of the Scriptures? Isaiah 54:5 reveals He is “thy Maker” (Creator), “thine husband” (Master), the “LORD of hosts” (God of war), “Redeemer” (Savior), the “Holy One of Israel” (Holy God), “The God of the whole earth” (Sovereign God). What a great God we serve!

Isaiah 55 – A glorious invitation from the LORD to the Gentile nations.

The “servant” of God Who suffered and died in Isaiah 53 is revealed in Isaiah 55 to have offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Israel had been invited to break forth into singing in Isaiah 54, but in Isaiah 55 the invitation is given to “every one that thirsteth” (55:1), Israel and other nations (55:5).

Isaiah 55:6-13 is one of the great invitations in all Scripture. Seek the LORD”, turn to Him confessing your sin before it is too late (55:6).  Repent, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (55:7).

Warning: Only fools presuppose their thoughts and ways are right apart from God’s revelation (55:8-9).

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I close with an observation concerning the emphasis and preeminence the Word of God is given in Isaiah 55:11.

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word [truth; revelation] be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [ineffectual; empty; i.e. having no effect], but it shall accomplish [do; make] that which I please [take pleasure or delight in], and it shall prosper [succeed] in the thing whereto I sent it.

“My Word…shall not return unto me void!” (Isaiah 55:11)

What a great promise for those who teach God’s Word! Indeed, to all who share God’s Word, the LORD promises His Word, will accomplish what He pleases and “it shall prosper.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Have I no power to deliver?” (Isaiah 49-53)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 49-53

The focus of today’s devotional commentary will be Isaiah 49; however, permit me a moment to highlight the other chapters in today’s Scripture reading.

Isaiah 50 promises the LORD will not abandon His people. Isaiah 51 is an exhortation for God’s people in Babylonian captivity to remember God’s covenant promises made by the LORD (51:1-2). Although the Jews were captives in Babylon and the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, God had not forgotten His people or His promises (51:3-23)!

The prophetic setting for Isaiah 52:1-12 is the Babylonian captivity. Isaiah prophesies how the LORD will stir the hearts of His people to return to their homeland. Isaiah 52:13-14 gives us a prophetic portrait of the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. Isaiah 53 continues the portrait of God’s suffering “servant” that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s sorrows (53:1-3), suffering (53:4-9), and sacrificial death on the cross (53:10-12).

Isaiah 49 – God’s Love for His People

I believe the prophetic setting of Isaiah 49 is the Millennial Kingdom after Christ’s Second Coming and it is He who speaks to the “isles” (a metaphor for the Gentile nations – 49:1).

What are some things we learn about Christ in Isaiah 49?

Before the Messiah would be born, His mission was determined by the LORD Who called Him by name when He was yet in His mother’s womb (49:1b). The LORD would put the Word of God in His mouth that would be like a “sharp sword” (49:2; Revelation 1:16). He would be the LORD’S servant to Israel for the purpose that God might “be glorified” in Him (49:3).

The Messiah would come first to the Jews (49:5; Matthew 10:5-6; 15:24; Acts 3:25-26). Christ would then turn to the Gentiles (49:6b; Acts 13:46-47; Romans 1:16).

The coming Messiah would be despised and rejected (49:7a); however, when He comes a second time, He will be honored as one that “Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee” (49:7b).

God will not forget His chosen people and the heavens will rejoice and the people will be comforted (49:13). Many will despair during the Babylonian captivity and will say, “The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me” (49:14).

Isaiah describes God’s enduring love for Israel in three portraits (49:15-15:1).

The first portrait of God’s love is a mother’s love for her nursing son (49:15-23). Like a loving mother who will surely not forget her infant son, the LORD promised, “they [a nursing mother] may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (49:15). The LORD assures Israel, I will not forget you for “I have graven thee [lit. engraved you] upon the palms of my hands” (49:16a).

Isaiah 49:17-21 describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the people. Many will die in the overthrow of Judah and the captivity; however, the Jews will remain a distinct people in Babylon. When the time comes for the people to return from captivity to their homeland, the number who return will be so great they will need more land (49:19-21).

Isaiah 49:22-23 is a prophetic picture of the latter days before Christ’s Second Coming. The twentieth century witnessed the beginning of this prophecy when Israel was reconstituted as a nation (1948), and the Gentile nations of the world were stirred to transport the Jews to their homeland (49:22).

Isaiah 49:22 – “Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring [carry] thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried [borne; taken] upon their shoulders.”

The second portrait of God’s love for Israel is that of a mighty, courageous warrior (49:24-26).The LORD will save His people (49:24), cause their enemies to turn on one another (49:25), and will be their LORD, Savior, and Redeemer (49:26).

A loving, forgiving husband is the third portrait of God’s love for Israel (50:1-3). Under the law, a husband was permitted to divorce an adulterous wife (50:1). Israel and Judah; however, had broken their covenant with the LORD, and it was they, not the LORD, who sold themselves as slaves of sin (50:1b). God had not divorced or put away His people.

In spite of their sins, the LORD promised He had not forsaken them and He had the power to redeem them (50:2-3).

Lesson – The same God who had the power to “dry up the sea” (i.e. Red Sea – Exodus 14:1-13) and “clothe the heavens with blackness” (50:3; Exodus 20:21) asks: “Have I no power to deliver?” (50:3).

There are times we feel as though the LORD has forgotten or abandoned us. We begin to feel unloved, downcast, discouraged, and alone. Be assured, the LORD has not forgotten or forsaken you! He asks, “Have I no power to deliver?” (50:3). He is waiting for you to turn your thoughts to Him.

Isaiah 43:1b – “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The King is Coming! (Obadiah 1; Psalms 82-83)

Scripture Reading – Obadiah 1; Psalms 82-83

Our Scripture reading is the Book of Obadiah, with only twenty-one verses it’s the smallest book in the Old Testament. Today’s reading also includes Psalms 82 and 83. The focus of today’s devotional commentary will be limited to the Book of Obadiah.

With the exception of his name (1:1), little is known regarding the prophet Obadiah; however, we know he was a contemporary of the prophets Habakkuk, Haggai, and Malachi. Obadiah’s prophecy is directed to the Edomites who were of the lineage Esau. The key city of Edom was Petra, the “Red Rose City” of the desert that was conquered by the Nabataean Arabs around 300 B.C.

Background of Obadiah 1

The Edomites were descendants of Esau (Genesis 25:30; 36:1) who was the twin brother of Jacob (1:10), and the son of Isaac (Genesis 25:19-26). The strife between Esau (father of the Edomites) and Jacob (father of Israel) began in their mother’s womb. Esau and Jacob’s animosity continued throughout their lifetimes and was passed on to their offspring. In fact, the conflict and animosity we observe between Israel and her Arab neighbors in our day can be traced to Isaac’s two sons, Esau and Jacob.

In His sovereignty, God rejected Esau (the firstborn son of Isaac) and chose Jacob and his lineage to be heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3).  Though Israel was commanded to view Edom as “thy brother” (Deuteronomy 23:7), the Edomites harbored resentment for Israel (Ezekiel 35:5) evidenced in Obadiah’s prophecy against that people.

For today’s commentary, I suggest Obadiah’s prophecy be studied in three parts:

  1. The charge against Edom and the prophecy of their destruction (1:1-9).
  2. The sins Edom committed against Israel (1:10-18), identified as “thy brother Jacob” (1:10).
  3. God’s promise to deliver Israel from captivity (1:17-18), defeat her enemies (1:19-20), and establish His kingdom and throne in Jerusalem (1:21).

Obadiah 1:17-21 is yet to be fulfilled.

The gathering of the Jews as one nation (“the house of Jacob” being Judah, the southern kingdom; “the house of Joseph, the northern kingdom – 1:17-18), the judgment against “the house of Esau” (1:19), the Second Coming of Christ when He will sit on David’s throne, and reign as the Messiah King (1:20-21).

In that day, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Take heart believer! Though the world around us seems out of control, God is on His throne and every promise and prophecy will be fulfilled!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Battle is the LORD’S (2 Chronicles 19-23)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19-23

Our Scripture reading is five chapters long, but I will limit today’s devotional commentary to 2 Chronicles 19-20.

2 Chronicles 19

With Ahab, king of Israel, slain in his battle with Syria, his ally King Jehoshaphat returned to his palace in Jerusalem where he was confronted by Jehu, the son of Hanani whom Asa had imprisoned (19:1-2).

With the boldness of a prophet of the LORD, Jehu condemned the king’s alliance with Ahab saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (19:2).

In spite of Jehoshaphat’s inappropriate alliance with the late king of Israel, Jehu comforted the king with God’s promise of grace saying, “there are good things found in thee…and hast prepared thine heart to seek God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat set his heart to lead Judah in the way of the LORD and set judges in the land to rule in difficult matters (19:4-11) and admonishing them, “Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment” (19:6).

2 Chronicles 20

Near the latter years of his reign, Jehoshaphat received word that a confederacy of enemies was gathering to wage war against Judah (20:1-2).  Fearing the size of the armies aligned against Judah, Jehoshaphat “set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah (20:3). The people gathered in Jerusalem and joined their king before the Temple where he called upon the LORD (20:4).

King Jehoshaphat, standing in the midst of his people, rehearsed in his prayer God’s covenant promises to Israel and how the LORD had promised the land “to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever” (20:5-7).

What a stirring prayer! What an inspiring scene! As Judah’s King called upon the LORD and confessed he was powerless to face such a great foe (20:12), “all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children” (20:13).

God heard Jehoshaphat’s prayer and sent Jahaziel to prophecy and encourage the king and Judah saying, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15).

With God’s assurance, the people went to the battlefield and found their enemies had turned and destroyed one another (20:22-23).  Without lifting a sword or spear, the LORD gave Judah victory and the spoils of war were so great it took three days to gather them (20:24-25).

When neighboring kingdoms heard the news of Judah’s victory and how the LORD had fought against their enemies, “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms” (20:29).

While there are many lessons we might take from today’s Scripture reading, perhaps the most principal one is that the LORD wants us to call upon Him in times of trouble, trials and sickness.

When we are afraid, call upon the LORD.  When enemies threaten us and we feel overwhelmed, remember, “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

“The battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

An Unconscionable Demand, A Gift of Grace, a Foolish Covenant, and a Tragic End (1 Kings 20-21)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20-21

Our Scripture reading is rich in drama and too long and involved for one devotional commentary. I encourage you to read both chapters, while I limit our devotional study to 1 Kings 20. By God’s grace, I hope to return to this great drama in another year.

1 Kings 20 – A Fearless Adversary and An Unconscionable Demand

Recalling Judah’s alliance with Benhadad, king of Syria (1 Kings 15:18-20), we find the armies of Syria and thirty-two other kings aligned against Ahab, king of Israel (20:1).

King Benhadad issued three demands to Ahab, each demand increasing in its severity. The first demand was for an unequivocal surrender of Ahab’s gold, silver, his wives, and his children (20:3-4).

Disgracefully, King Ahab capitulated to the first demand and it was soon followed by a second demand. Emboldened, Benhadad magnified his incursion into Israel’s autonomy and announced that his servants would not only plunder the treasuries of the palace, but the households of his servants (20:5-7).

Realizing there would be no end to his adversaries’ demands, King Ahab called his leaders to conference (20:7). The king shared how he had conceded his own household to Benhadad, however, his adversary’s second demand was to invade their homes and take their possessions. Ahab’s elders counseled him, “Hearken not unto him, nor consent” (20:8).

Refusing to accept Benhadad’s terms (20:9), the Syrian king threatened he would not rest until Ahab was dead (20:10). Empowered by the counsel of his elders, Ahab responded to Benhadad, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off” (20:11). If you will allow, I suggest a modern adage that sums up Ahab’s response is: “Don’t count your chicks until they hatch!”

Drunk with wine and clearly not possessing the good judgment of a warrior king, Benhadad ordered the kings of his alliance to make their armies ready for battle (20:12).

God mercifully, in an act of grace and in spite of the wickedness of King Ahab, sent a prophet to the king. The prophet encouraged Ahab, “Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

Assured he would have the support of the young leaders of Israel (20:14), Ahab numbered his soldiers, and preempted a battle with Syria.  God gave Israel the victory (20:15-21); however, Benhadad escaped and the prophet warned Ahab he must prepare Israel’s army for a second battle that would follow the next year (20:22).

In spite of their defeat, the Syrians began to boast that Israel’s God was “not God of the valleys” (20:23, 28). The kings in alliance with Benhadad were reassured they would defeat Israel in the plains (20:24-27).

Facing an enormous Syrian army that had gathered in the plains, God sent a prophet to assure Ahab, “Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (20:28).

Seven days later, with their armies arrayed in battle, the LORD gave Ahab victory, and Israel slew one hundred thousand soldiers (20:29). Fleeing the battlefield to seek safety in the city of Aphek, another twenty-seven thousand Syrians died when the wall of that city fell and crushed them (20:30).

Fresh off his victory, King Ahab foolishly entered into an alliance with Benhadad who, following the counsel of his servants, depicted the humility of a defeated foe hoping that his life would be spared (20:30b-32). Failing to seek the LORD in the decision, Ahab made a covenant with the Syrian king and soon learned it was a disastrous decision for himself and Israel (20:33-34).

To portray the folly of Ahab’s covenant with Benhadad, God sent a young prophet who disguised himself as a wounded soldier (20:35-38). When the king passed by, the prophet, masquerading as a casualty of war, called to the king.  The young prophet’s true identity concealed, he explained how he had unwittingly allowed his enemy to escape and his penalty would be either to “pay a talent of silver” or forfeit his life (20:40).

King Ahab, rather than spare the “wounded soldier” and extend to him mercy and pardon, instead condemned the man (20:40). The young prophet then revealed that Ahab had pronounced his own judgment (20:41), revealing the king’s failure to kill his adversary would cost him his own life (20:42;22:34-38). Rather than repent of his sin, Ahab returned to Samaria knowing his failure to obey the LORD (20:42) had sealed his own fate (20:43).

I close with an oft spoken, but true adage: Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Oh Lord, Hear Our Cry and Heal Our Land” (1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 17 complement one another with historic details that indicate the presence and providence of God’s guiding hand in human history.

1 Kings 16 – A Succession of Wicked Kings in Israel

While Asa, the third king of Judah, reigned for forty-one years and that nation enjoyed a season of revival and peace (15:11-14), the northern ten tribes known as Israel, went through a succession of wicked kings who doomed that nation to all manner of sin, idolatry, and violent assassinations (1 Kings 16).

Knowing God uses the penchant of wicked men to work His design for man, the LORD sent the prophet Jehu to remind Baasha that he was king because God had ordained it (16:2a). That does not mean God ordained the assassination of the former king, but that he used Baasha’s intent to accomplish His divine purpose.

1 Kings 16 gives us a record of a rapid succession of wicked kings. King Baasha died and his son Elah became the fourth king of Israel (16:6-8). Elah reigned only one year before he was slain in an assassination plot by Zimri (16:10-20). Zimri became the fifth king of Israel, but took his own life by setting fire to the palace when Omri laid siege to the city (16:16-20). A brief division of Israel as a nation followed with half the nation following Tibni (16:21-22) and the other half following after Omri (16:21-23).

After Tibni’s death, Omri united Israel, made himself king (16:23-24), setting the stage for the rise of the most notorious king and queen in Israel’s history:

“Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him…Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead” (16:25, 28).

There are few men or women in history whose infamy is so appalling that the mere mention of their name paints in one’s mind a picture of gross, notorious wickedness. King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel defined wickedness in the extreme (16:29-33). Of Ahab we read, he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (16:33).

2 Chronicles 17 – A Revival in Judah

Having learned from the failures of his father, Jehoshaphat, son of King Asa, became Judah’s fourth king and “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings [sins and wickedness]of Israel” (17:3-4).

While the people of Israel suffered oppression due to the wickedness of their kings, Judah returned to a time of spiritual revival. King Jehoshaphat turned his heart to the LORD and began to walk in the way of God’s Law and Commandments (17:4), God began to bless Judah. After tearing down the idol places, Jehoshaphat dispatched throughout Judah five leaders, two priests, and nine Levites who were charged with instructing the people in “the book of the law of the LORD” (17:7-9).

God blessed Jehoshaphat and the “fear of the LORD” fell upon Judah’s neighbors who began paying tribute to Judah (17:10-11).

Jehoshaphat’s love and dedication to the LORD and His Commandments, inspired “mighty men of valour” to rally around him in Jerusalem and Judah began to enjoy a season of peace and prosperity (17:13-19).

A concluding thought: I doubt many would debate that we are living in a time of sorrow and uncertainty. The plague of locusts in Africa threatens widespread famine, while the menace of a pandemic has afflicted hundreds of thousands, killed many, and crippled the world’s economy. Accompanying that terror is widespread lawlessness and violence in our nation that might well plunge our nation into a civil war.

What hope is there for these troubled times?

The answer is the same as it was in Judah’s day: We need leaders who, like Jehoshaphat, will lead our nation to repent of her sins, turn to the LORD, and walk in the ways of His Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, 10, 12-13).

Only then will the LORD hear our cry and heal our land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Fame, Infamy, and Finale of King Solomon (1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9)

Scripture assignment – 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

With the Temple built and his palace complete, Solomon’s fame became an international sensation (1 Kings 10). The king’s wisdom, wealth, the grandeur of his kingdom, and God’s blessings on his reign became known far and wide.

We read, “When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions (i.e. riddles)” (10:1).

There are many fables and legends that surround the visit of the Queen of Sheba; however, we will consider the only reputable source that we have, the Word of God (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31).

The kingdom of Sheba is believed to have been in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in the area we know today as Yemen. The Queen of Sheba, having received news of Solomon’s remarkable wisdom and the wonders of his kingdom, set out on a journey from her kingdom in the south to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel.  Rather than travel via ship on the Red Sea, the Scriptures indicate she came with a “very great train (caravan), with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (10:2a).

The purpose of the queen’s visit is summed up in, “she communed with him of all that was in her heart” (10:2b; 2 Chronicles 9:2).

Solomon answered all the questions she proposed to him (10:3). We read, “There was no more spirit in her” (10:5) when she gazed on the vast riches of his palace, enjoyed feasts at his table, admired the rich robes of his servants, and viewed from a distance the King’s ascent to the Temple. Breathless at the sight of all she observed, the Queen exclaimed, “the half was not told” (10:7; 2 Chronicles 9:3-6).

Consider the lavish wealth detailed in Solomon’s palace: The tributes paid to him by other nations, the shields of gold, his throne overlaid with ivory and gold (10:18-20; 2 Chronicles 9:17-19), vessels of gold (2 Chronicles 9:20), exotic animals, chariots and champion horses were all part of the king’s legacy (10:21-29; 2 Chronicles 9:21-28).

1 Kings 11 – Solomon’s Spiritual and Moral Failures

The magnificence of Solomon’s kingdom is overshadowed in 1 Kings 11 when we read, “Solomon loved many strange women” (11:1).  Having disregarded the LORD’s admonition concerning the danger of marrying foreign, idol worshiping women, Solomon’s “wives turned away his heart” (11:3).

The king’s sins provoked God’s wrath (11:9) until his family and the nation suffered for his apostasy (11:10-13). When God removed His blessings, the peace and prosperity of Israel failed as the nation faced enemies without (i.e. Pharaoh and Egypt – 11:14-25), and enemies within (i.e. Jeroboam, a “mighty man of valour” who Solomon recognized too late as a threat to his kingdom – 11:26-40).  Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he stayed until he received news that Solomon was dead and “Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:40-43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31).

I close inviting you to consider the great and tragic end of Solomon’s reign.  Though the wisest man who ever lived, yet in his old age he disobeyed the LORD and “his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (11:4).  He “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:6).

Notice the statement, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old” (1 Kings 11:4).

How old is “old?” Knowing he reigned forty years (11:42), I deduce Solomon was in his mid-fifties. In other words, he was old enough to know better! Old enough to understand the consequences of sin. Old enough to know his wicked choices would invariably affect his family and kingdom.

Solomon’s failure to have a “perfect heart with the LORD” (11:4) led him, his household, and the nation down a path that ended in God’s judgment. Oh that the king would have heeded his own proverbs:

Proverbs 3:5-75  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

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

The LORD Deserves Nothing Less Than Our Best (1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4

Because his reign was one of peace, Solomon was able to dedicate himself to many construction projects.

While the Temple required seven years to build (6:38), Solomon’s palace was under construction for thirteen years, the details of which are given in 1 Kings 7:1-12. Some scholars refer to the “the house of the forest of Lebanon” as a summer house or lodge for the king; however, I have come to believe it was a great house that was part of the palace complex (7:2-8). I believe it was so named because of the great amount of cedar pillars that supported its roof.

We read that Solomon also built a house for his queen who was “Pharaoh’s daughter” (7:8). Again, I believe that the queen’s house was attached to the palace complex.

The attention turns from Solomon’s palace grounds and returns to the preparations for the Temple. A craftsman named Hiram, not the same Hiram who was king of Tyre, was enlisted to make intricate, elaborate pieces of brass, silver and gold for the Temple (7:13-51). Skilled as a metal artisan, he “was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass” (1 Kings 7:14).

The attention to detail and beauty is worth noting, even down to the utensils used in Temple sacrifices. Tables of gold, golden lampstands, basins of gold, and golden lavers engraved with lilies (2 Chronicles 4:5). Doors of brass and pillars engraved with wreaths and pomegranates (4:9, 12-13) all added to the beauty of the Temple.

Why such attention to detail? Because Solomon was building a house for the LORD, and it was an outward testimony of the greatness of His God (2 Chronicles 2:5-6).

I close with a similar challenge for today’s believer. Why should we expect the worship of the LORD in our churches to be the best that we can offer? Why should we strive to give him music of our praise that aspires to the highest offerings? Why should we give attention to the beauty of our places of worship?

Because the LORD deserves no less than our absolute best. Paul challenged the believers in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith