Tag Archives: church

Discouragement: The Devil’s Favorite Tool (Ezra 4; Ezra 5)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4; Ezra 5

With the foundation of the Temple laid, the air was filled with the sound of trumpets and cymbals, and the people “sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel” (3:11). The shouts of the younger generation, mingled with the tears of the “ancient men” (3:12), were “heard afar off” (3:13). Unbeknown to the people, their adversaries heard the noise of the celebration, and determined to halt the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1). Ezra wrote, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Ezra 4 – Four Methods the Enemy Employed to Discourage God’s People (4:1-16)

On the pretense of friendship, the adversaries came to Zerubbabel (whom I believe was identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”), and suggested Assimilation. These enemies had been a part of the Assyrian policy to resettle a conquered land with people of other nations. Though they were a wicked, idolatrous people, they said to Zerubbabel, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2). Zerubbabel and Jeshua, joined by “the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel” (4:3), rejected the pretext of assimilation, saying, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their desire to hinder rebuilding the Temple, the enemies began a campaign of Aggravation (4:4-5). As time passed, “the people of the land [foreigners occupying Judah’s land] weakened the hands [the resolve] of the people of Judah, and troubled [terrified] them in building” (4:4). They even “hired counsellors [conspirators; agitators] against them, to frustrate their purpose” (4:5).

When assimilation and aggravation failed to stop the work on the Temple, the enemy turned to Adjudication, and addressed a letter to the king of Persia, and challenged the legality and legitimacy of the work to rebuild the Temple (4:6-10).

When all else failed, the adversaries of the people made a fourth attempt to impede the work on the Temple, and brought false Accusations against the Jews. The enemy employed two tactics in their spurious charges against the Jews: Deception; though the people were building the Temple, the enemy charged them with “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12). The second tactic was Distortion, for the enemy questioned the integrity of God’s people, and implied the Jews were rebuilding the fortress of Jerusalem to the end they might rebel (4:13-15). The false accusations against the Jews were so serious, they eventually moved the king to send a letter to Jerusalem that demanded the work cease (4:23-24).

Closing thoughts – The antagonism and unrelenting attacks of their adversaries not only discouraged the people, but eventually halted the work on the Temple. Succumbing to spiritual lethargy, it seemed the enemies of Judah and Benjamin had succeeded. The work on the Temple ceased for 15 long years (Haggai 1:2-11), and the jubilation of Ezra 3, turned to sorrow and discouragement (4:24).

Lesson – Of all the implements in the devil’s toolbox, the most effective is discouragement. Believer, faithful servants of the LORD will always have detractors. Sadly, there are some in the church who feel their calling is to be a critic (by the way, they are usually the ones sitting on the sidelines of ministry).

Ezra 5

The work on the Temple had ceased, but the LORD had an answer for discouragement: He sent His prophets! “Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, [who] prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them” (5:1). Haggai preached messages that convicted (Haggai 1:5, 7, 9-11), while Zechariah preached messages of comfort and exhortation [dreams and visions]. Stirred by the prophets of God, Zerubbabel and Jeshua returned to the work, and “began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2).

Closing thoughts – No sooner had the work on the Temple begun, than the adversaries returned, asking, “Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?” (5:3). Recognizing there was nothing they could do or say to appease their adversaries, the men working on the Temple answered the question with their own question: “What are the names of the men that make this building?” (5:4) Stated in another way: What business is it of yours, who has commanded us to build? We do not see your name on the list of contractors!

The elders of the people determined they would not be stopped from building the house of the Lord. They were confident “the eye of their God was upon” them (5:5). Once again, their enemies accused the Jews to the king (5:4-5). Unwittingly, they gave him cause to search the historical records of the kings of Persia, remembering the decree of a Persian king could not be rescinded (5:6-17).

As you will see, the tide will turn in Ezra 6 when the enemies opposed to rebuilding the Temple, will be forced to finance it with their own offerings.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Four Beasts, Four Kingdoms, and God Who is Sovereign (Daniel 7)

Scripture reading – Daniel 7

An old adage goes, “Hindsight is 20\20,” and that is certainly true when we are privileged to look at Bible prophecy “in the rearview mirror.” Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the midst of The Book of Daniel, and its engaging and illuminating prophecies. I do not have time or space for an in-depth study of the prophecy recorded in Daniel 7, yet, I pray a simple study and interpretation of today’s Scripture will be a blessing,

Daniel 7

With the historical events of the rise and fall of Babylon behind us (Daniel 1-6), the next six chapters of our study will be prophetical (Daniel 7-12). The year before us is 553 BC, and was “the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1). Perhaps remembering the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Daniel 7), “Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters” (7:1). As you will see, Daniel’s dream paralleled Nebuchadnezzar’s great image and was a vision of future events.

I suggest there are three parts to Daniel’s dream (7:2-14), with the first section being of four beasts that represented four kings and their kingdoms (7:2-6). The second part of the dream was a dramatic, and terrible transformation that occurred to the fourth beast (7:7-12). The third section was a heavenly vision of the LORD sitting on His throne (7:13-14).

Four Beasts and Four World Empires (7:2-8)

Awakened from his sleep, Daniel wrote, “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea” (7:2). The “great sea” was the “sea of humanity,” and represented the Gentile nations of the world (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:1, 15). “The four winds of the heaven [that] strove upon the great sea” (7:2) portrayed the judgment of God coming from all directions…the east, north, south, and west winds.

The four beasts of Daniel’s dream were a parallel of the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s great image (Daniel 2) that foretold four great Gentile kingdoms. The first beast was depicted as a lion with the eagles’ wings (7:4). Like the head of gold of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, it was a symbol of Babylon. The prophets often depicted Babylon as a lion and eagle (Jeremiah 4:7, 13; 48:40; 49:19, 22; 50:17; Habakkuk 1:6, 9). The “lion-hearted” man was said to have his wings plucked, and to “stand upon the feet as a man” (possibly reminding us how Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled for seven years until he acknowledged God, and then his beastly heart was replaced with “a man’s heart” 7:4).

The second beast in Daniel’s dream resembled a bear with three ribs in its mouth (7:5). Corresponding to the silver arms and chest of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:32, 39), the bear represented the Medes and Persians who would overwhelm Babylon in a night. The bear was portrayed as rising up on one side, and must symbolize how the Persians would become the greater of the Medo-Persian kingdoms. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth might represent three kingdoms that were overcome, but that would be mere speculation on my part.

The third kingdom was represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads (7:6). We have the privilege of looking back on history, and know Greece would supplant Persia as the world empire, and was portrayed in Nebuchadnezzar’s image as having a belly and thighs of brass (2:32, 39). The swiftness of the leopard was a tribute to the speed with which Alexander the Great led Greece, conquering the world in three years’ time (334-331 BC). When Alexander died as a young king of 32 years, Greece was divided into four regions and ruled by four generals, hence, the four wings and heads of the leopard (7:6).

Rome, portrayed as a “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly” beast with “great iron teeth” was the fourth beast of Daniel’s dream (7:7). Equivalent to the legs of iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33, 40), Rome was portrayed as a brutal kingdom. The ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33-35) are represented in Daniel’s dream as the ten horns of the fourth beast (7:7). Representing the strength of a beast, the horn served in the Bible as a symbol of kings (1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 132:17).

The Antichrist: The Rise of the “Little Horn” (7:19-20)

Daniel observed a “little horn” arose in the midst of ten horns (a league of ten kingdoms), and dislodged three horns (kings) in its rise to power (7:8). The prophetic significance was a king would arise in the midst of what would be the Roman Empire, and rise above other kings to reign (7:19-20). Students of prophecy believe the “little horn” will be the antichrist of the last days, for he is depicted as having “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (indicative of pride, boasting, and blasphemy, 7:8, 11, 20, 25). He will be the enemy of the saints, and will reign for 3.5 years (“a time,” being one year; “and times,” two years; “and the dividing of time,” a half year, 7:25).

Closing thoughts (7: 9-14, 26-28) – The reign of the “little horn” (antichrist) will fail, and be destroyed (7:11, 26), when God, who is “the Ancient of days” sits in judgment (7:9-10).  When Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” descends from “the clouds of heaven” (7:13), the “little horn” (antichrist) will be judged and cast into the lake of fire (7:11; Revelation 19:20). Christ, the “Son of man,” will be sovereign of a perpetual kingdom (7:14, 28; Mark 14:61-62) and will rule the world a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-8). We join Daniel in being overwhelmed by the vision of history that is yet to be (7:28), but resting in the sovereignty of God and His promises.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Dare to be A Daniel (Daniel 1)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history. Beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, our study of Daniel will encompass a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow: The Medo-Persian empire, followed by Greece, and then Rome. Yet, as we will see, the visions God imparted to Daniel were of the history of man that is past, present, and still future. Daniel’s writing included prophecies that are more than a footnote of history past; they are a foretelling of future events that will conclude with the Second Coming of Christ.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account of events we studied in 2 Kings 24:12-16, for it was “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah (605 BC) came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (1:1). This was the first of three sieges by Babylon. The others that followed were 597 BC, and 586 BC (the final destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, Jeremiah 25:9-12; 2 Kings 25).

The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings, if the people did not repent and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon,” the LORD would return His people to their land (Jeremiah 29:10).

The events recorded in Daniel 1 occurred at the time the Temple was plundered, and king Jehoiakim was taken captive to Babylon (1:1-2). 10,000 Jews were also taken captive following the first siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:14-16), and among them were the finest young men of Jerusalem: “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:3-4).

Named among the captives of Judah were “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (1:6). Desiring to complete their assimilation into the Babylonian culture, “the prince of the eunuchs gave names [to the Jewish captives]: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego” (1:7). Though we cannot be certain of his age, Daniel was probably between 13-17 years old when he was taken from his home and brought to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture.

Nebuchadnezzar chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth, and prepared them to one day take their place in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was among those youth (1:4), and soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a man of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7).

Leading by example and conviction, “Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself” (Daniel 1:8).

Daniel pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work, and providentially “brought Daniel into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince [chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined) by Nebuchadnezzar, they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

Closing thoughts (1:17-20) – We will see in our study, how the testing of Daniel’s faith prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

In closing, I invite you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive heart, and his sensitivity to the authority in his life: 1) He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); 2) He was sincere in his appeal (1:12); 3) He was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); 4) He was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

Following Daniel as a perfect model of faith and convictions, every believer would do well to examine his own spirit, manner, convictions, and relationship with the authorities in his life.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“I Sought for a Man” – A Memorial Day Weekend Perspective

The scene is as vivid in my mind today as it was that day. I watched a casket, draped with the flag of the United States of America, as it was transported through a sea of dark suits and black veiled hats. I was only 10 or 11 at the time, and Vietnam was a place far from my quiet existence in rural South Carolina. That day, the nightly news recounting American casualties, took on a new meaning that was real and personal. While the toll of combat would number 58,193 by war’s end, it was the sacrifice of one soldier that brought home to me the reality of war, and the price of freedom.

            How do you honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the liberty we enjoy as a nation? Is it enough to place a wreath at a tomb or mark the graves of America’s fallen with flags? I suggest the greater memorial is to incorporate into our lives and families those qualities that made America great.

The Preamble of our Constitution states its purpose was to bind our hearts as a people to “a more perfect Union,” and “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

The leaders of our nation have failed us. Instead of Justice, politicians promote political correctness. Rather than domestic Tranquility, we have corruption, violence, and partisan politics. Our common defense has been weakened by open borders. The general Welfare of our nation has been sacrificed for special interest groups. Tragically, the Blessings of Liberty are despised by those who would enslave us.

America needs believers who will dedicate themselves to the LORD, and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“The Soul That Sinneth, It Shall Die” (Ezekiel 18)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 17; Ezekiel 18

Ezekiel 18 – A Parable of “Sour Grapes”

The LORD left no doubt that the sins of the people had brought sorrows and judgments upon Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. Yet, there was a question that arose in Babylon: Who was responsible for the calamities?

Speaking in a parable, some said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2) In other words, there were some who blamed Israel’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their fathers and forefathers. God rebuked that generation, and declared an enduring, universal truth: 4Behold, 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)

A Hypothetical Study of Three Generations (18:4-20)

One’s personal responsibility for sin and its consequences was the subject, and this passage answers some important questions regarding the justice and fairness of God’s judgment. 1) Are sons punished for the sins of their fathers, or fathers punished for the sins of their sons? 2) If a father chooses a godless lifestyle, is it inevitable a son will follow in his steps? Because “blame shifting” is epidemic in our day, Ezekiel 18 should interest both believer and unbeliever.

A Righteous Father (18:5-9)

God blesses a man who chooses righteousness, and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9). Such a man obeys the Commandments of the LORD. He will not commit adultery, nor oppress those who are weaker (18:6b-7a). The righteous restores the surety to a debtor, does not plunder and rob others by violence, and is charitable to those who are hungry and in need (18:7b). The righteous do not crush a debtor with exorbitant interest, and conducts himself in a lawful manner (18:8). Because he walks in accord with the statutes (ordinances and decrees) and judgments (laws) of the LORD, and deals honestly with others, he is declared just before God, and will live and prosper (18:9).

A Wicked Son (18:10-13)

What if an adult son of a righteous man refuses to follow his father’s godly example, and instead turns to a path of wickedness? Should the father be punished for the sins of a son that is a robber and murderer? (18:10) Should a father be punished because his son offers sacrifices to idols, commits adultery, abuses the poor, robs others, and is immoral (18:11-12)? When a son charges excessive interest, and oppresses debtors, should his father go unpunished? Though his father was righteous, such a son will bear the guilt of his own sins, and “shall not live…he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him” and not his father (18:13).

A Righteous Grandson (18:14-18)

Each generation bears responsibility for its sins, and God will not punish a father for the sins of his son (18:10-13). Should a son see the sins of his father, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17). A wicked father, as a wicked son, will not go unpunished for his sins (18:18-20).

Who you gonna’ blame for your troubles and sorrows? (18:20-24)

Ezekiel repeated the principle of personal, individual responsibility, writing, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (18:20). The LORD is longsuffering, and ready and willing to forgive the sinner who repents and turns from his sins (18:21-22). After all, God does not delight in seeing the wicked die in their sins (18:23).

What if a righteous man turns and follows a path of sin? (18:24a) His past righteousness will not deliver him from the consequences of his present sins (18:24b).

Closing thoughts (18:25-32) – Sinners cannot accuse the LORD of being unjust (18:25). The believer who sins will be punished (18:26), and the wicked who repents of his sins will be forgiven and live (18:27-28). Tragically, family members suffer the consequences of their loved one’s sinful choices. Yet, God is just and He will not judge and condemn the innocent for the sins of the guilty (18:29-30). God will judge every sinner “according to his ways” (18:30).

Our study concludes with a wonderful invitation: When a sinner repents, the LORD promises to give “a new heart and a new spirit” (18:31). While the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), the LORD invites all who sin, saying, “turn yourselves, and live” (18:32).

Don’t wallow in a mire of self-pity, or blame others for your sinful choices!  Repent, and live!

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.

One Man’s Faith Cannot Save Another (Ezekiel 14)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 14

There were living in Babylon among the Jews of the captivity, “certain of the elders of Israel” who came to Ezekiel, most likely to consult with his as God’s prophet (14:1). As they sat down before him, “the word of the Lord came unto” Ezekiel, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?” (14:2-3)

God’s Judgment on Those Who Cherish Idols in Their Heart (14:3-5)

The elders, a sampling of the leaders of the people, were plagued with a spiritual heart disease. But as only the LORD can do, He revealed the hidden secrets within their hearts to the prophet (14:3). Regardless of their pretense for coming to the man of God, the LORD knew their hearts and asked, if He should even be bothered by men who had another god before Him – a violation of the first Commandment (14:3c). Though they feigned to hear the word of the LORD, yet He knew their hearts were far from Him.

The LORD commanded Ezekiel to confront the men, and say, “Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols” (14:4). In other words, God would give those treacherous, deceivers over to the folly of their idols (14:5).

All That Did Not Repent, Would Be Judged (14:6-11)

Rather than entertain the hypocrisy of the elders, Ezekiel called them to repent of their idolatry (14:6-11). While the LORD longed for the children of Israel to repent (14:6; 2 Peter 3:9), He warned, all who cherished idols in their hearts would be judged for their abominations (14:7). They would suffer the consequences of their sins, to the end some might repent and confess the God of Israel was LORD (14:8).

Ezekiel warned, those false prophets would be judged for deceiving the people. Their hypocrisy of claiming to speak the word of the LORD would be recompensed upon them, as “they [would] bear the punishment of their iniquity” (14:9-10).

Four Judgments (14:12-21)

Because the sins of Jerusalem were so great, the LORD declared He would send four judgments upon Judah. The first was famine, and man and beast would hunger (14:12-13). Then the LORD declared He would send wild beasts, and the land would be “desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts” (14:15). A sword was given as a symbol of a third judgment that indicated war (14:17). The fourth judgment was “a pestilence,” for the people would suffer disease and sickness (14:19).

One Man’s Faith Cannot Save Another (14:14b, 18b, 20b)

Three men were given as examples of saints whom God declared righteous, and spared from death (14:14, 16, 18, 20). The first was Noah, who was saved from the flood while the world of his day perished (Genesis 6:9-9:29). The prophet Daniel was the second man, whom God declared righteous, and saved from the lions, because he trusted in the LORD (Daniel 6:1-28). Job, the ancient patriarch, was the third example of a man God declared righteous, for he had been spared death, and was restored.

What spiritual lesson were the elders of Israel to take from the faith of those three men? While they trusted in the LORD, and were righteous in the sight of God, their faith did not save another. Their faith did not save their “sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves” (14:18). The same truth is repeated when we read, “they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness” (14:20).

Closing thoughts (14:21-23) – Ezekiel warned, four judgments would come upon Jerusalem, “the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence” (14:21). Yet, the LORD would not forsake His covenant with Israel, and promised a remnant that had been left in Jerusalem would be brought to Babylon (14:22). The people would hear the wickedness committed in Jerusalem, and all the people suffered (14:22). They would know their sins demanded God’s judgment, to the end they might repent (14:23).

Lesson – Every man, woman, boy and girl must come to the LORD by faith, and put their trust in Him. The faith of one’s parents, or grandparents cannot save a sinner from their sins and God’s judgment. While believers “shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10), those who reject Him will face God’s eternal judgment. For “the dead [will be judged] …according to their works” (Revelation 20:12, 13), and “whosoever [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Remember – One man’s faith cannot save another.

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.

Preach the Word of the LORD! (Ezekiel 2; Ezekiel 3)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 2; Ezekiel 3

At the sound of God’s voice, heaven became silent as the cherubim “let down their wings” (1:25b). With the vision of the glory of God, and Him sitting on His heavenly throne, Ezekiel fell on his face. Lying prostrate, he “heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28) saying, “Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee” (2:1).

Ezekiel 2

Addressing Ezekiel as “Son of man,” the young priest (30 years old, 1:1), learned the gravity of his ministry to the children of Israel living in Babylon (2:3-4). God’s calling would move Ezekiel from anonymity, to a ministry that would invite the anger of his rebellious people.

The LORD instructed Ezekiel to stand up, and listen as He warned, “Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me” (2:3a). The sins of Israel were generational, for the people and “their fathers have [had] transgressed against” the LORD (2:3b). They were spiritually obstinate and hardhearted (2:4). Ezekiel would face a rebellious people, but if he was faithful to his calling, God assured him, the people would “know that there hath been a prophet among them” (2:5). God commanded Ezekiel, “be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words,” for the task to which he was called would be fraught with danger, and rejection (2:6).

Where would Ezekiel derive the courage to face a people God described as “most rebellious”? (2:7-10)

The LORD prepared His prophet, giving him the spiritual nourishment, he needed to confront a stiff hearted people! The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.” (2:8). What did God put in his mouth? The Word of God, declaring His judgment of Israel. It was a scroll, “a roll of a book” that was placed in Ezekiel’s mouth (2:9), and upon it was written “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (2:10).

Ezekiel 3

The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel” (3:1).  The prophet devoured the words of the roll, and declared, “it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (3:3). With the words of the LORD in his mouth, Ezekiel was commanded, “get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (3:4). He was cautioned, he was not to go to the heathen, “a people of a strange [foreign] speech” (3:5). He was to take the words of God’s judgment to “the house of Israel” (3:5), but was forewarned, they “will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted” (3:7).

Though charged with a difficult task, he was not to be afraid, for the LORD promised He would strengthen Ezekiel, and he would be able to stand against the people (3:8). The LORD then challenged His prophet, be strong and determined, and “fear them not, neither be dismayed” (3:9).

The Burden of Proclaiming God’s Word to a Wicked People (3:10-15)

Ezekiel was to “receive…and hear” the words the LORD spoke to him (3:10). Then, he was to “get…to them of the captivity…and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God” (3:11a). He was to deliver the word from the LORD, but he was not responsible for whether the people received or rejected the message (3:11).

The Spirit of God then lifted up Ezekiel, and carried him (3:12-14). Though he was troubled in spirit, he could not escape for “the hand of the Lord was strong upon [him]” (3:14). Ezekiel then found himself among the people of the captivity, and for seven days he sat in their midst, silent and astonished (3:15).

Called to be God’s Watchman (3:16-27)

After seven days were past, the LORD came and commissioned Ezekiel to serve as “a watchman unto the house of Israel” (3:17). His ministry was to call the wicked to repent, but their response was not his burden. Should he fail, God warned, the blood of the wicked “will I require at thine hand” (3:18). Warn the wicked, and he would deliver his soul from judgment (3:19). Ezekiel was also to call the righteous to turn from sin, but should he fail, the LORD warned, the blood of the righteous who died in their sin, would be on his hand (3:20). Warn the righteous, and should he repent, “he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul” (3:21).

The LORD then sent Ezekiel into a valley, and along the way gave him another vision of His heavenly glory (3:21-24). He was then instructed to wait alone in a house, and bind himself with cords to insure his solitude (3:24-25). He was to be silent (3:26), and wait until the LORD opened his mouth (3:27). Finally, he was reminded, whether or not the people would hear his words, was not his burden. His duty was to faithfully warn (3:27).

Closing thoughts – How many preachers fear men’s rejection, more than they fear God’s judgment? How many believers sit in cold, dead churches, pastored by men who lack both the passion and conviction for preaching the Word of God? Let us pray the LORD will raise up a generation like Ezekiel, who fear only the LORD should they fail to declare His Word! I close with the words of Paul’s farewell address to the churches as my aspiration:

“I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God”(Acts 20:26b-27).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Prayer for God’s People (Lamentations 5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

This is part 2 of two devotional studies for today, and is the conclusion of our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah.”

Lamentations 5

A Prayer of Intercession (5:1-13)

Jeremiah prayed, “Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: Consider, and behold our reproach” (5:1).

In his prayer, the prophet reminded the LORD all the people were suffering. They were taken away to Babylon, and their homes and lands fell to other people (5:2). The nation was reduced to a population of orphans and widows (5:3). They were no longer a free people, but were forced to labor to purchase water and food (5:4-5). They were slaves (5:6). Confessing the sins of their fathers (5:7; Exodus 20:5), God’s people were mistreated, abused, sick and diseased, and their wives and daughters violently raped (5:8-11). While their leaders were tortured, their young men and boys were forced to labor (5:12-13).

A Prayer for Forgiveness and Restoration (5:14-21)

Our study of Lamentations concludes with a tragic picture of a nation reaping the consequences of its wickedness. The elders were no longer esteemed, and the young men found no joy in their music. Joy was ceased, and dance was turned to sorrow (5:15-16). The crown of glory once borne by the nation as God’s chosen people was now fallen. The people confessed too late, “we have sinned” (5:16).

Overcome with sorrow, his eyes dimmed by tears, Jeremiah looked upon mount Zion where the Temple once stood, and realized it had become a haven for wild beasts as “foxes walk upon it” (5:18).

Jeremiah’s lamentations closed with him praying for his people. Remembering the LORD is Eternal God, and Sovereign “from generation to generation” (5:19), he called upon the LORD. He confessed he was troubled, for he felt as though God had forgotten and forsaken His people (5:20). Yet, knowing the LORD is merciful, Jeremiah concluded his ministry praying, “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; Renew our days as of old. 22But thou hast utterly rejected us; Thou art very wroth against us” (5:21-22).

Closing thoughts – Like ancient Judah, there is much about our world that is disturbing and disheartening; yet, the LORD used Jeremiah to preserve a historical record of what He requires of His people. Yes, the wickedness of the 21st century demands God’s judgment, and we should both identify the sins, and confess them. Like Jeremiah, we should pray and remember the LORD is Eternal and Sovereign “from generation to generation” (5:19).

Let us call upon the LORD, and turn our hearts to Him.

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.

“Who is Teaching Johnny?” (The Four Be’s of Parenting) – this Sunday at Hillsdale.

You are invited to join me as I continue a brief, “politically incorrect” family-life series titled, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” this Sunday, May 15, 10:30am.

The morning worship service will be broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org (Tampa, FL) and www.DailyTestify.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Your invitation to Pastor Smith’s “Uncommon, Common Sense” Wednesday night study of Proverbs 24.

You are invited to join Pastor Smith’s weekly study in the Book of Proverbs titled, “Uncommon, Common Sense.” Tonight’s study will consider Proverbs 24:1-16.

Student notes are available, but only upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com. Requests will be honored if made before 4:00 pm.

Of course, the best way of enjoying an interactive Bible study is by attending class; however, the class will be broadcast live beginning at 6:30 pm on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org and www.DailyTestify.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith