Tag Archives: daily devotionals

A Sorry State: Knowing Neither Right nor Wrong (Amos 2-3)

Scripture reading – Amos 2; Amos 3

Amos had prophesied that six Gentile nations would be judged for their transgressions against God, His people (Israel and Judah), and humanity in general (Amos 1): Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities (1:6-8), Tyre (who were Phoenician, 1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3). The judgment of those six nations was certain, and would serve as a warning to Judah and Israel, that God is just and their transgressions would not go unpunished (2:4-16).

The Case Against Judah and Israel (2:4-11)

Amos declared the sins and transgressions of Judah (2:4-5) and Israel (2:6-16) announcing God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the people how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9), led them through the wilderness for forty years, and given them the land of the Amorites for their possession (2:9-10). In His longsuffering and compassion, the LORD had sent prophets to preach His Word and teach His Law and Commandments (2:11).

God’s Response to Israel’s Rebellion (2:12-16)

How had the people responded?

They had tempted the Nazarites (who were models of dedication and service) to violate their sanctification and break their vows (Numbers 6:1-20). When the prophets preached the Word of the LORD, they “commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not” (2:12).

God Declared His Judgment of the People (2:13-16)

The Lord warned, He would crush Israel with the weight of a cart “full of sheaves” (of wheat, 2:13). Israel’s military would be soundly defeated (2:14-16). The soldiers would take flight from the battle, but neither be swift, strong, or able to retreat (2:14). Archers would fail to stand in their places, horsemen could not flee, and the nation’s mightiest warriors would drop their weapons and flee with nothing (“shall flee away naked in that day,” 2:16).

Amos 3 – A Description of Israel’s Judgment for Its Transgressions

The Basis of God’s Judgment Against the “Children of Israel” (3:1-2)

Amos 3:1 declared God’s judgment for their transgressions would not only be against Israel (the ten tribes in the north), but “against the whole family” (thus including Judah, the southern kingdom). The prophet reminded all who were descendants of the Hebrews that came out of Egypt, that they were a chosen, beloved people (Genesis 12:3; 28:14). Yet, the LORD declared, “I will punish you for all your iniquities (3:2).

A Series of Rhetorical Questions that Illustrated “Cause and Effect” (3:3-6)

In a series of questions, Amos declared a principle we will call, “cause and effect.” The first questions made the implication that the answer to each would be, “No.”  The first, “3Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (3:3). Of course, the answer was, “No.” To walk together, there must be an agreement by both parties on the plan (method) and destination.

Two questions regarded the lion on the hunt, and asked, “4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?” (3:4). Again, the answer is, “No.” A lion on the hunt prowls in stealth and is cautious, not alerting its prey; and a young lion would not roar its approval if it has nothing to consume.

The capture of a bird in a trap is the subject of two more questions, that asked: “5Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin [trigger] is for him? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?” (3:5) Again, the presumed answer is, “No.” Without a trigger to snap a trap shut upon its prey, no bird will be entrapped. Of course, removing a snare with no prey makes no sense either.

Two other questions demand “No” for an answer: “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?” (3:6a) In ancient times, the sound of a trumpet would warn the city of an approaching enemy (3:6a), and give reason for fear and for mounting a defense.

The last question was noteworthy, for it illustrated the sovereignty and providence of God: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (3:6b) Whether troubles befall a city, state, or a nation, we are assured it is the doing of the LORD, and for His eternal purpose.

Witnesses to God Punishing His People (3:9-10)

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations to witness His judgment of Israel: Ashdod, a city representing the Philistines, and Egypt (3:9). Those heathen nations were summoned to “the mountains of Samaria” (the capital city of north Israel), and observe God’s judgment upon His people for their sins.

The wealthy and powerful of Israel were guilty of oppressing the weak and the poor, and filling their palaces with plunder and spoil. Because they had rejected God’s Law and Commandments, the people had become spiritually blind, and “know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

God’s Judgment Pronounced: Israel Would Be Devoured by An Enemy (3:11-15)

History reveals Assyria as the enemy that destroyed the northern kingdom. The Assyrians would come through the land, and destroy Israel’s defenses (3:11). The people would be ravaged like a sheep in the mouth of a lion (3:12), and all Israel would be judged (3:13). The altars to the gods erected by Jeroboam would be abolished (3:14), and the great palaces and houses of the wealthy would be utterly destroyed (3:15).

Closing thoughts – When a people and nation make light of God’s Truth, and reject His Commandments, their hearts will become so desensitized to wickedness that they lack moral judgment, and “know not to do right” (3:10).  Sadly, the world around us gives ample evidence of what will become of a society that rejects God and His Laws.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Fore-shadowing of God’s Judgment (Amos 1)

Scripture reading – Amos 1

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with a brief diversion from Isaiah to a consideration of the prophecies of Amos, a contemporary of that prophet.

Who was Amos? (1:1)

Little is known about Amos, apart from the general agreement among scholars that he was the first of four prophets of the LORD in the 8th century B.C. (the others being Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah). His name means “bearer” or “burden,” and his occupation was that of a “herdman” or shepherd. Though he is identified “among the herdmen of Tekoa” (a region some six or seven miles south of Bethlehem in Judah), the majority of his ministry would be focused on the ten tribes of northern Israel (1:1).

When did Amos serve as God’s prophet? (1:1)

Amos served during the reigns of “Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel [otherwise known as Jeroboam II], two years before the earthquake” (1:1). Regarding the earthquake, Zechariah describes the devastation of an earthquake (Zechariah 14:5), and historians and archeologists are in agreement with the Scriptures on such an event.

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).  With no political ties or priestly lineage, he had lived and worked in obscurity as a common shepherd.  When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah had been enjoying a season of peace and prosperity, and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

A Prophecy Against Six Gentile Nations (1:2-2:3)

Before he addressed the sins of Judah and Israel, the first message Amos received from the LORD was a warning to six Gentile nations that their wickedness demanded God’s judgment.

With the word of the LORD upon his lips, Amos courageously delivered a series of prophecies concerning the imminent judgement of the LORD 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 (who were the people of Phoenicia, 1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3).

Each of the Gentile nations were charged with four transgressions, and the summary of God’s judgment to come was given. The Syrians were charged with cruelty toward Gilead (northern Israel), and were warned the LORD would send a fire destroying “the house of Hazael” and its palaces, cities, and people (1:3-5).

The Philistines were guilty of invading Judah (2 Chronicles 21:16), and selling the captives to the Edomites. Fire that would destroy their palaces, and citizens would be their fate (1:6-8).

The Phoenicians, identified as Tyrus (1:9-10), had been friends of Israel from the time of David (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:15). Yet, they were guilty of violating their longstanding “brotherly covenant,” and had purchased Israelites, and sold them to Edom. They too would be judged by fire which would “devour the palaces” (1:10).

The Edomites, descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, had committed an egregious sin against Israel. They were guilty of hating their kinsman (for they were sons of Isaac), and had persecuted the Israelites (1:11). As with the other nations, so it was with Edom, for God would send a fire to devour their palaces (1:12).

“The children of Ammon” (Genesis 19:38) were also guilty of transgressions against the LORD, for they had committed a heinous crime. They had mutilated the women of Gilead who were with child, that they might “enlarge the border” and possess the land (1:13). The Ammonites would fall victim not only to fire, but their leaders would be taken as captives (1:14-15).

Finally, though not a part of today’s Scripture reading, the children of Moab were to be punished for their sin (2:1). The Moabites were condemned for desecrating the bones of the king of Edom (an offense to God, for the Ammonites and Moabites were descendants of Lot, and were therefore kin, Genesis 19:37). Moab would also suffer judgment by fire (2:2-3).

Closing thoughts – The judgments pronounced against the six Gentile nations was to serve notice to Israel and Judah, that the judgment of God is not to be trifled with, for He is just. As He had promised to punish the sins of those nations, He would also judge His people.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Promise of Hope and a Sure Judgment (Isaiah 7; Isaiah 8)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 7; Isaiah 8

Today’s devotional may be the first time some have studied Isaiah 7:14 in its context. The beloved promise of a sign to Judah, a miracle that only God could give, reads: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14).

Consider with me the historical context of that sign that was fulfilled in the coming of the virgin-born Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 7 – The King of kings is Coming

Many years had passed from the death of Uzziah (6:1), to the reign of his grandson Ahaz, the son of Jotham (7:1; 2 Kings 15:32-34; 2 Kings 16:1). Two kings are named as contemporaries of Ahaz, and they had conspired to invade and war with Judah. “Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it” (7:1).

Historical Context of the Prophecy of the Virgin Birth (7:1-13)

King Ahaz and all Judah were terrified by the coalition of nations aligned against them (7:2). The LORD, ever compassionate toward His people, commanded Isaiah to go with his firstborn son, Shear-jashub, and meet king Ahaz (7:3). The prophet’s mission was to deliver good news to the king, and encourage him saying, “Take heed, and be quiet; Fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, For the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah” (7:4).

Isaiah Revealed to king Ahaz four truths concerning Judah’s enemies (7:4-9)

The kings of Syria and Ephraim (Israel) were contemptible, and nothing more than firewood in the sight of the LORD (7:4). Those kings had “taken evil counsel” against Judah, and were set to divide the land between them, and set a puppet king upon the throne of David (7:5-6). Nevertheless, Ahaz was told the confederacy between Syria and Israel would fail (7:7), and in 65 years’ time, Israel would be destroyed and the people taken into captivity (7:8). Isaiah then admonished king Ahaz, “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established” (7:9).

The Offer of a Sign of Assurance (7:10-13)

Knowing Ahaz was not a man of faith, the LORD offered to give the king a miraculous sign, and assure him all would come to pass as He had promised (7:10-11). Foolish Ahaz, however, refused to ask for a sign, and sought instead for an alliance with the king of Assyria (7:12; 2 Kings 16:7-8; 2 Chronicles 28:24).

A Prophetic Miraculous Sign (7:14)

Having rejected the LORD, and turned to his own ways and plans to overcome Israel and Syria, God warned Ahaz, “Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” (7:13)

Because he had refused to trust the LORD, Ahaz was told God would give His people a miraculous sign, saying, 14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14).

Forewarning of God’s Judgment on Israel and Judah (7:15-25)

The sign of the virgin birth of a Son who would be named Immanuel would not be imminent (in fact, seven centuries would pass). The text, however, continued with the prophecy of another son, one whose name would be a testimony of a time of poverty to come. Ahaz was told the diet of the people would be “butter and honey” (the food of the impoverished, 7:15).

Who was this son whose birth would foretell the judgment of God that would fall upon Israel? Isaiah 8:1-3 reveals his name would be Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the second born son of the prophet Isaiah.

Because Ahaz had established an accord with Assyria to war against Israel and Syria, God warned that nation would not only destroy Israel, but God would use the Assyrians to punish Judah (7:17-25). Assyria would trouble Judah like the swarms of Egyptian flies, and the stinging bees of Assyria (7:17-18). The Assyrians would disgrace Judah (7:19-20), and impoverish the people (7:21-25). To illustrate the poverty that would befall Judah, Isaiah declared farmers would struggle with one milk cow and two sheep (7:21-22), and the land would become overgrown with briars and thorns (7:23-25).

Isaiah 8 – The Birth of Maher-shalal-hash-baz, Second Son of Isaiah

Isaiah had named his firstborn son, Shear-jashub, whose name meant “a remnant shall return” (7:3). The LORD then commanded the prophet to name his second born son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, meaning “they (Assyria) hasten to spoil” (a prophecy fulfilled when Israel was destroyed, and the people taken captive, 8:1-3).

How long before that prophecy would come to pass? No more than two to three years, for we read: “For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria” (8:4).

Maher-shalal-hash-baz: Judgment is Coming (8:4-10)

Closing thoughts – Naming his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, Isaiah served notice to all who heard it…an enemy was coming, and the nation would be judged. Judah had rejected the LORD (Shiloh being the historical place of worship), and God promised to bring Assyria upon His people like a flood of waters, overflowing the land (8:4-8).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Heavenly Vision (Isaiah 6)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 6

Isaiah 6 is a dramatic chapter that has captured the imagination of people down through the ages. We are given a heavenly portrait of God sitting upon His throne. Though a brief chapter, Isaiah 6 is a pivotal moment in our study of Isaiah. Before he was commissioned to be a prophet to Judah, God gave Isaiah a vision of His Creator sitting on heaven’s throne. I invite you to consider with me three major thoughts.

Isaiah’s Reflection on God’s Glory (6:1-4)

The setting of Isaiah 6 was at a time of national mourning (6:1).

It was “in the year king Uzziah died” (6:1). We have considered Uzziah in earlier devotions, and you may remember he reigned 52 years over Judah. His reign was long and prosperous (2 Chronicles 26:1-15), until his heart was lifted up with pride and God struck him with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). Banned from the palace because of the disease, the king’s son oversaw the affairs of the government until his death. The news of the king’s death moved Isaiah to go to the Temple and seek the LORD.

The scene: Isaiah Witnessed the Majesty of the LORD Sitting on His Throne (6:1-3).

King Uzziah was dead, and though Isaiah and the people were shaken, the prophet was reminded that God is sovereign, and His authority is never in doubt. King’s rise, and kings fall, but the LORD is ever “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (6:1). God’s throne is high above all earthly thrones and governments (6:1).

Standing above God’s throne were a number of seraphim. By their name, we know the seraphim were angels with a fiery appearance (representing God’s judgment), and each had six wings, two covering their face (showing reverence for God), two covering their feet, and two wings with which they hovered above the throne (6:2).

The seraphim were engaged in two occupations: They were proclaiming God’s holiness, and crying to one another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts” (6:3a). They also acknowledged the LORD as Creator, and the earth displays His glory (6:3b). In Isaiah’s vision, the Temple was moved by the cry of the seraphim, and “filled with smoke” (6:4; smoke is associated with God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18; 2 Samuel 22:9).

Isaiah’s Response to the Heavenly Vision (6:5)

The vision of the majesty and holiness of God sitting on His throne moved Isaiah to acknowledge his sinful state. Confessing the sorrow of one that is helpless and hopeless (6:5), Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone [dead; doomed]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5).

The prophet not only confessed his “unclean lips” (the sins of his tongue; i.e., rash, harsh, bitter words), but also the sins of the nation (6:5). Judah was guilty of outwardly worshipping and sacrificing to God, but their mouths were filled with pride, mocking, and false piety.

After confessing his sin, a seraph took a live, fiery coal from the altar, and placing the hot coal on Isaiah’s lips, the he pronounced his sins had been purged (6:7).

Isaiah’s Recruitment: His Call and Commission (6:8-13)

Suddenly, the voice of God was heard, and He asked, “Whom shall I send [Send forth], and who will go for us?” (6:8b). Isaiah, with a humble heart and his sins forgiven, did not hesitate to answer God’s call and said, “Here am I; send me” (6:8c).

The LORD then challenged Isaiah, saying, “Go, and tell [speak; command] this people, Hear [Hearken; Obey; Listen] ye indeed [Hearken; Obey; Listen], but understand [consider; discern; regard] not; and see [Look; behold] ye indeed [Look; behold], but perceive not. [know; understand]” (6:9). The people of Judah had grown callous; for they had heard the prophets, but refused to repent (6:9b). They had seen God’s protection and blessings, but refused to consider their sins.

Closing thoughts – Isaiah’s ministry was to go and admonish the people. Some would respond to His preaching and their hearts would become “fat” [calloused]. They would refuse to hear and heed God’s Word, and would become spiritually blind and deaf (6:10). Without repenting, Judah passed the point of no return.

Isaiah wondered, “How long?” How long would the people refuse to hear the truth (6:11a). The LORD revealed they would refuse the truth until His judgment fell upon the nation: The cities would be destroyed, the houses silent (without a man, woman, or child), the land would be wasted, and only one-tenth of the people would remain in the land (6:11-13).

Isaiah 6:13 concluded with a promise that the LORD would not annihilate His people. He would remember His covenant promises to Abraham and David. The Lord would look to a future day when “the holy seed [offspring] [would] be the substance thereof” [would spring for with new growth, and life]. Israel and Judah would be cut down to the ground, but seedlings of faith would begin to sprout into new life.

Copyright 2022 © Travis D. Smith

“Woe to the Nation That Turns from the LORD and His Law” (Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5

Our study of the prophecies of Isaiah brings us to Isaiah 4 and 5. Remembering chapter breaks and verse numbers are the effort of editors to assist Bible students, I am in agreement with some that Isaiah 4:1 concludes the previous chapter’s topic and the judgment Isaiah prophesied would befall Jerusalem. Drawing a vivid picture of God’s judgment, the prophet described the desperation of that time.

So many men would die in the battle described in Isaiah 3, that there would be seven women to every man (4:1). Isaiah 4 continued with the prophecy of a future time when Israel would be restored to the land, and Christ Himself will reign (“the branch of the LORD”, 4:2).

Isaiah 5

Employing an agricultural parable, Isaiah described God’s love and care for His people (5:1-7). With the LORD pictured as a farmer, His loving favor for Judah was portrayed as his “well-beloved.”

The LORD’s Loving Preparation for Israel (5:1-2)

God promised to plant his vineyard (a symbol of Israel), upon the best ground, “a very fruitful hill,” (5:1). “He fenced it,” and removed stones [heathen nations] that would hinder the growth of His “vineyard,” and chose the best vines (5:2). He built a “watchtower” (the Temple) in the midst (5:2c).

The LORD’s Disappointments (5:2-4)

Yet, when the LORD inspected His people (“vineyard”), He found “wild grapes” in the midst (5:2). What were the wild grapes? The sins of the people, for they had broken His covenant, and were guilty of idolatry, and all manner of wickedness (5:3-4).

Two Consequences that Befall a Nation That Rejects God (5:5-7)

The first consequence that befell Judah was God’s promise to remove His loving, providential care of His people (“take away the hedge…break down the wall” – 5:5).

The LORD promised He would eliminate the nation’s economic prosperity, and “lay it waste” (5:6). Judah would become like an untended vineyard, overgrown with “briers and thorns” (5:6). Leaving no doubt the prophet was warning Israel and Judah the judgment that would befall those nations, we read: “7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah his pleasant plant: And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; For righteousness, but behold a cry” (5:7).

Six Woes: Elijah’s Warning of God’s Judgment (5:8-23)

Among the sins that provoked God’s wrath, notice six that demanded His judgment. The wealthy were guilty of greed and covetous, and exploited the people (5:8-10). God declared their greed would be rewarded with desolation (5:9), and their investments (“vineyard”) would be unprofitable (5:10).

The people were guilty of pursuing a narcissistic, drunken lifestyle. They would rise  “early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink,” and continue until night (5:11). Their drunken feasts were accompanied by seductive music, so that they gave no thought of the LORD and His providences (5:12).

They were proud, and deceived “with cords of vanity” (5:18), they taunted the LORD (5:19). Having rejected God’s Law and Commandments, they refused moral absolutes. Lacking spiritual discernment, they called “evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (5:20).

They were arrogant and conceited, “wise in their own eyes” (5:21). They perverted justice, and exploited the innocent and weak, and would also “justify the wicked for reward [bribes] (5:23).

Warning: God’s Judgment is Coming (5:24-25)

The “wild grapes” of Israel had provoked God’s judgment, and the fruit of that nation was rebellion, idolatry, and immorality. The leaders did not fear the judgment of God, and Isaiah warned, the LORD had “stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them” (5:25).

The Instruments of God’s Judgment (5:26-30)

Though not named here, Isaiah warned, the LORD would bring against Israel and Judah enemies who would come swiftly, and show the people no mercy. Their adversaries would not tire (5:27), and like the roar of young lions, they would thirst for blood (5:29). The armies of their enemies would sweep over the land like the waters of a storm (5:30).

Closing thoughts – The Assyrians were the first to come, and they took Israel (the northern ten tribes) captive (2 Kings 17:1-41). After Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar led his army against Judah, and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and took the people captive (2 Kings 25:1-30).

Woe to a nation and people who reject God’s Law and Commandments!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“The Sins and Signs of a Failing Nation and a Dying Culture” – part 2 (Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading. The focus is Isaiah 3.

The Bible is filled with examples of godly men who did not have the luxury of ignoring the wickedness and perversity of their leaders or nation. Zechariah was stoned to death when he condemned the sins of Judah and her king (2 Chronicles 24). God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn that wicked nation, except they repent the city would be destroyed. John the Baptist lost his head when he dared confront the wickedness and adultery of King Herod. And so, we come to Isaiah, whom God called to assail the wickedness of Judah and her kings.

The Removal of “the Stay and the Staff” (3:1-4)

A study of history reveals the rise and fall of nations follows the pattern of sin and wickedness we find in Isaiah 3.  We read, “1For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, Doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff” (3:1).

Interpreting this verse in context, you find God was removing from Judah that nation’s leaders. The “stay” (masculine form, meaning support or protector) represented that nation’s loss of “manly men,” who had been strong leaders in Judah. The removal of the “staff” (feminine form, meaning a support), meant the nation would have a void of godly, influential women (3:1).

Judah’s rebellion against God invited His judgment, and the losses are enumerated in Isaiah 3.

There would be a shortage of bread and water (“the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water” (3:1). The nation would want for male leaders, men of integrity described as, “the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient” (3:2).

A second tier of leadership, the backbone of a nation, would be lost. There would be no “captain of fifty [lower military officers], and the honourable man [men of integrity], and the counseller [wise men], and the cunning artificer [skilled workers; i.e., carpenters, mechanics], and the eloquent orator [persuasive speakers]” (3:4)

Judah Turned to Weak, Incompetent Men for Leaders (3:4-6)

With a void of spiritual, “manly men” leaders (3:7-9), the people turned to foolish, inexperienced leaders, dominated by brazen women (3:12, 16-23). The people chose “children [weak] to be their princes, and babes [immature] shall rule [have dominion or power] over them (3:4). With weak, inexperienced, unprincipled leaders, Judah became a lawless, oppressed society (3:5). Those weak leaders were proud and emboldened “against the ancient [elderly]” (3:5), and “base [without a moral compass] against the honourable [men of rank]” (3:5).

How did those weak, spineless, effeminate leaders come to be in authority? They were not chosen because of their character, but because of their influence (having acquired wealth by inheritance, 3:6).

Judah Turned to Domineering Women for Leaders (3:12, 16-23)

Instead of nurturing and protecting the youth of the nation, women diminished their femininity, and became worse brutes than men (3:12 – “women rule over them…they which lead thee cause thee to err, And destroy the way of thy paths”). The women of the nation, identified as “the daughters of Zion,” were proud and immodest (3:16), haughty, and flirtatious with “wanton [painted] eyes” (3:16).

Closing thoughtsLike most nations that fail, Judah was destroyed, not from an enemy without, but from an enemy within.

What becomes of a nation that chooses weak men, and proud women to lead? The strong women would be afflicted with disease (3:17). They would be reduced to the poverty of a household slave (3:18-24). Their fine jewelry (3:18-21), and costly apparel would be taken (3:22-23), and their well-groomed hair would be replaced by baldness (3:24).

Yet, there was still hope. Though the majority of Judah had turned to wickedness, not all were faithless. God promised He would not forget the righteous, and would avenge His people (3:10-24, 25-26).

Do the signs of a dying nation sound familiar?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Prophecies of Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

As you read today’s Scripture, take time to not only reflect on its prophetic application to the house of Judah, but the lessons we might take from the study that are applicable to our day.

Remembering the prophetic ministry of Isaiah spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah (1:1), scholars place Isaiah 2 during the reign of Uzziah who reigned 52 years. He enjoyed a brilliant and prosperous rule (2 Chronicles 26:5-15) until his heart was lifted up with pride, and he sinned against the LORD (2 Chronicles 26:16).

As Goes the Leaders, So Goes the Nation (Isaiah 2:1-5)

Stricken with leprosy, the humiliated king had been thrust out of the Temple, and forced to live in a separate house outside the palace complex (2 Chronicles 26:20; 2 Kings 15:5a). Uzziah entrusted the day-to-day governing of Judah to his son (2 Chronicles 26:21; 27:1-2), meaning the duties of government were in the hands of a younger man who lacked his skills and experience.

As with many prophecies, the prophecies of Isaiah carry both an imminent, and far-reaching application. Some of what we read in Isaiah 2 was a foretelling of events that occurred in the prophet’s lifetime (for instance Isaiah described the exaltation of Judah and Jerusalem, and 2 Chronicles 26:6-8 verified there were nations that admired, and paid tribute to Judah during Uzziah’s reign).

However, much of Isaiah’s prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.

For instance, not “all nations” have made their way to Jerusalem, nor said among themselves, “let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob” (2:3). With the constant warring of nations against nations in our day, we have not seen fulfilled a time of universal peace (2:4).

The Great Tribulation (2:6-9)

Briefly, I suggest you consider the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 2:6-9 to be that which will not be fulfilled until the Great Tribulation. The desperate times of Isaiah’s day, are true of our day. The circumstances of that time, are parallel to our time.

The LORD had forsaken His people, because they had turned away from Him, His Law, and Commandments.

To what had the people turned? “Soothsayers” from the east (eastern mysticism, 2:6; 1 Timothy 4:1), and embraced the ways of “strangers” (foreigners, people outside God’s covenant relationship with Israel, 2:6). Rather than trusting the LORD, Judah had placed its faith in riches, and its confidence in its military might (“full of horses…chariots,” 2:7). The nation worshipped gods of their own making, fashioned by their hands (2:8), and proud men were brought low (2:9).

The Second Coming of Christ (2:10-22)

Supposing my interpretation of this passage is fulfilled at the close of the Great Tribulation, the events described in Isaiah 2:10-22 are yet to be fulfilled.

When Christ returns in His heavenly glory, and His coming is heralded as the Judge and Conquering King, the people of the earth will flee His presence (2:10, 19, 21; Revelation 6:15-16), and the proud will be humbled (2:11, 17-18). The people and nations of the earth will be brought to their knees (2:12-22), and the LORD alone will be exalted (2:17).

Closing thoughts – The Millennium Kingdom of Jesus Christ will restore Israel to her prominence among the nations of the earth, and Jesus Christ will reign as King of kings, and LORD of lords upon the throne of David (2:2-5; 4:2-6).

Christ’s reign will usher in a time of universal peace, for He will “judge among the nations, And shall rebuke many people: And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruninghooks: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

This concludes part 1 of today’s devotional study. Part 2 will follow, and focus on Isaiah 3.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation” – part 2 – (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

As we begin our study of Isaiah, I invite you to picture in your mind a setting that is a heavenly courtroom, with God sitting on His throne, and with the nation of Judah the defendant.

The Case: The Ingratitude of Judah vs. The Love and Grace of God (1:1-2)

Two witnesses were commanded to hear the charge against Judah: the “heavens” and the “earth” (1:2). The LORD charged Judah, saying, “I have nourished and brought up children [people of Judah], and they have rebelled against me(1:2).

How had the LORD nourished and brought up His people? He had chosen Abraham and established His Covenant with his lineage (Genesis 12). He had entrusted Israel with His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20). He had sent prophets who taught the people, and chastened the nation when it strayed. Yet, we read, “They have rebelled against me” (1:2c), rejected His Law, and His offer of love and grace.

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

The First Charge – Rebellious Ingratitude (1:3-4)

While a dumb ox knows its owner, and a donkey appreciates its master’s stall, Israel was a people that “doth not consider” (1:3). Consider what? The sins of the people had blinded them, and they gave no thought to the LORD’s care, love, and provision. The prophet Jeremiah would observe: “For my people [are] foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish [foolish; silly] children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22).

They had become a sinful, wicked people, and were burdened with “iniquity” (the weight of their sin and guilt, 1:4). They had “forsaken the LORD” (1:4), despised His Law and Commandments, and had “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (1:4).

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

The LORD questioned Judah, asking, “Why should ye be stricken [beaten; punished] any more? ye will revolt [rebel] more and more [again and again]: the whole head [whole body] is sick [diseased], and the whole heart faint [sick; feeble].” The stench of Judah’s sins had reached heaven, and the people were infected by wickedness (1:6).

The Consequences of Judah’s Sins (1:7-9)

The sins of nation had resulted in the land being destroyed (“your country is desolate”), “cities burned with fire,” and their riches plundered by foreigners (“strangers” – 1:7). So dreadful was the judgment, if the LORD had not shown the people mercy, Judah “should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah [utterly destroyed with no soul spared]” (1:9).

The Second Charge – Religious Insincerity (1:11-20)

God charged the people as being pious hypocrites (1:11-12), and He declared He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings (1:11). They trampled upon the courts of the Temple, and had given no thought to His presence and holiness in the Temple (1:12). The LORD declared:

“Bring no more vain [false; deceitful; empty] oblations [non-blood offerings – flour, fruit, oil]; incense [perfume; sweet incense] is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome] unto me…it is iniquity [wicked; vanity], even the solemn meeting [sacred assembly for worship]” (1:13-14).

Even their prayers had become an abomination: “When ye spread forth [lay open; stretch forth; display] your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers [supplications], I will not hear [hearken; listen]: your hands are full [overflowing] of blood. [shedding of blood]” (1:15).

In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD extended a pardon if the people would repent of their sins (1:16-18). He called upon the nation, “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins [faults; offences] be as scarlet [color of blood], they shall be as white [purified; without blemish] as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Offering a conditional pardon, the LORD appealed to the people, “If ye be willing [consent] and obedient [hearken; obey], ye shall eat [consume] the good [beauty; blessings] of the land” (1:19); but warned, “if ye refuse [unwilling] and rebel[disobey; provoke], ye shall be devoured [eat up; consumed] with the sword [knife; dagger]: for the mouth [commandment; Word] of the LORD hath spoken it. [pronounced; declared]” (1:20).

The Third Charge – Three Reprehensible Injustices (1:21-23)

Understanding the leaders of a nation are a reflection of the character of the people, I conclude today’s study inviting you to consider three nauseous traits of those who govern a dying nation.

The leaders of Judah were vile, having rejected God’s Law, and were “companions of thieves,” enriching themselves by illicit gain (1:23). The leaders lacked integrity, and were guilty of loving gifts (bribery), and shameless self-promotion (“followeth after rewards” – 1:23; Exodus 23:8; Micah 3:11-12). Finally, the leaders had abused and exploited the weak (“the fatherless…the widow” – 1:23d; Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

Closing thoughts – Take a moment and reflect on your nation, its leaders, and government. Are the failed character traits of Judah’s leaders the same as you see in your society–vile, lacking integrity, and abusing the weak?

Warning – The sinful traits of a nation’s leaders reflect its citizens, and demand God’s judgment (1:24-31).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Danger of Censorship and An Invitation from the “Heart of A Shepherd”

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The Danger of Censorship – The Scriptures Are Not “Politically Correct”

If you are a regular reader, you know I tackle difficult, “politically incorrect” topics when they occur in the Scriptures. As a result, www.HeartofAShepherd.com is always in danger of censorship from those who control social media and broadcasts like YouTube. (In August 2020, “Heart of A Shepherd Inc” was banned by Facebook, and cut off from nearly 900 followers.)

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With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
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