Tag Archives: Devotional

God’s Word Will Endure and His Judgment Will Not Fail (Jeremiah 18-22)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 18-22

We continue in our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah with our Scripture reading being chapters 18-22. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Jeremiah 18.

Jeremiah 18:1-10 – The Potter’s House

The setting of Jeremiah 18 is “the potter’s house” (18:1-3).  God commanded Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house and observe the potter as he fashioned lumps of clay on the potter’s wheel. (A potter’s wheel consisted of two horizontal disks joined by a rod; the lower disk the potter moved with his feet and the upper disk was the surface on which the artisan shaped lumps of clay into vessels.)

The prophet observed the potter fashioning two vessels with his hands.  The first is described as “marred” (18:4), perhaps because a pebble or some other flaw was present in the clay. After removing the impurity, the potter then crushed the clay and began again fashioning the lump into a new vessel that “seemed good” (18:4).

For Jeremiah, the work of the potter was a portrait of the LORD who described Himself as having chosen the nation of Israel as a potter chooses clay (18:5-6).  God asked Israel, “cannot I do with you as this potter?” (18:6), leaving no doubt the implication of the potter’s work with the clay. God warned the potter’s work with the clay was a metaphor of His sovereign authority to “pluck up…pull down…[and] destroy” (18:7) the nation because of its disobedience.

Though He had determined to judge the nation for its sins, God assured the people of His love and mercy if they would “turn from their evil” (18:8). Like the clay yielded to the potter’s hands to be reshaped and fashioned for his purpose, the LORD longed to restore Israel to Himself and bless the nation (18:10).

Jeremiah 18:11-17 – Judah’s Irrational Decision to Reject the LORD

The LORD commanded Jeremiah to go to the people and warn them that God had determined to judge them if they continued in their sins (18:10). Rather than fearing the LORD and repenting, the people rejected His invitation saying, “There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (18:12).

The foolishness of rejecting the LORD’s mercy was astounding! God appealed to Jeremiah to tell the people to consider how reckless, how unreasonable they were to reject the LORD (18:13-15). Judah had set upon a ruinous path following after gods that were not gods at all (18:15). The ruins of Judah’s lands and villages would be a lasting testimony of God’s judgment, and other nations would look with wonder upon the ruins of her lands and villages (18:16). The LORD would turn His face from His people and they would be taken captive and scattered (18:17).

Jeremiah 18:18-23 – Judah Rejected the Message and the Messenger and Jeremiah Prayed for Justice and Vengeance

Rather than heed the warning of God’s prophet, the people were emboldened in their sin and boasted they had their own priest, wise men, and prophet (18:18a). Angered by Jeremiah’s boldness, they plotted against him saying, “Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words” (18:18b).

Hearing the plots against him and the pit his enemies had prepared to entrap him, Jeremiah prayed to the LORD, “Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them” (18:20).

Realizing how entrenched the people were in their sin and their resolve to continue in their wickedness, Jeremiah prayed not only that he would be vindicated as the LORD’S prophet, but that the God’s judgment would proceed as He had determined (18:21-23).

Take heart dear friend, for God is faithful to His promises. His justice will not fail, and He hears and answers the prayers of the righteous.

Matthew 5:18 – “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“I Am With Thee…I Will Redeem Thee” (Jeremiah 14-17)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 14-17

Today’s Scripture reading continues Jeremiah’s prophetic warnings concerning the judgment that would soon befall Judah. It is believed by the date of our text that Judah has been invaded and Jerusalem besieged by King Nebuchadnezzar. The sorrow and desperation of God’s people and the reality that He had determined His judgment was a great sorrow for Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 14 – A Judgment of Drought

Knowing God often chastises a nation physically for its sin and wickedness, we are not surprised to read that there was a “dearth,” a drought in Judah. The LORD had withheld rain and there was a great famine (Jeremiah 14:1-22). “There was no rain in the earth” (14:4) and cows delivered their calves, but forsook them because there was no grass (14:5).

In the midst of the famine, and desperate for help, the people began to pray to the LORD, making a pretense of confessing and repenting of their sins (14:7-9). But God, who knows what lies is in the hearts of men (Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Romans 8:27), knew the people were not sincere and would not turn from their sins.

The LORD announced His judgment would not be deterred (14:10-12).

Jeremiah’s heart being heavy with sorrow interceded for Judah, and suggested the sins of the people was due to false prophets who had led them astray (14:13). The LORD conceded the presence of false prophets in Judah; however, He declared, “I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them” (14:14).

Nevertheless, the people had disobeyed God and turned from His Law and Commandments. They had persecuted the prophets of the LORD and turned to false prophets. Because of their wickedness, the LORD declared the people would die by famine and the sword (14:16).

Jeremiah 14 continues with the prophet weeping day and night (14:17). Babylon had invaded the land and the presence of death and judgment was everywhere. Jeremiah observed,

Jeremiah 14:18a – If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine!”

Understanding the magnitude and decisiveness of God’s judgment, Jeremiah wondered, “[LORD], Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!” (14:19)

Interceding for his people, Jeremiah identified with and confessed the sins of Judah (14:20) and implored the LORD, “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake [i.e. remember Israel was identified with God who chose them], do not disgrace the throne of thy glory [heaven’s throne]: remember, break not thy covenant with us” [remember Your covenant promises] (14:21).

Jeremiah confessed that only God could save Judah (14:22).

Jeremiah 15 – The Inevitability of God’s Judgment

Judah’s wickedness had passed the point of no reprieve and the LORD responded to Jeremiah’s intercessory prayer (14:20-22).  Judgment would come upon the nation and the death and destruction that would spell the end of Judah was described in vivid detail (15:1-9).

Jeremiah 15:10-21 gives us a window into the soul of the prophet when he cried out to the LORD and lamented the sorrows and rejection he had suffered as God’s prophet (15:10).  Though he had become an object of scorn and persecution (15:15), Jeremiah found refuge and hope in God’s promises (15:18-21).

Jeremiah 15:20-21 – “…I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 21  And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.”

What a blessed promise for those who endure persecution and put their trust in the LORD!

1 Corinthians 15:57-58 – “57  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Your God? (Jeremiah 10-13)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 10-13

Our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah continue today with our Scripture reading comprising Jeremiah 10-13. Jeremiah 10 will be the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. He was a man of passion who loved the LORD and faithfully proclaimed His Word from His calling as a young man (Jeremiah 1:6-8) to the fall of Jerusalem and the first years of Babylonian captivity. He endured the scorn of his people, the persecution of his nation’s leaders, and wept as Judah fell to Babylon. His reputation as the “weeping prophet” is borne out by the sorrows that are recorded in the book that bears his name and in the Book of Lamentations, his second book.

Jeremiah challenged the people to contrast the false gods whom they worshipped (10:1-5) with the God of Israel who had revealed Himself to Israel (10:6-11).

Jeremiah 10:1-5 – Jeremiah Mocked the Idols Men Worshipped.

Describing the absurdity of worshipping idols conceived and made by men, Jeremiah pictured a man cutting down a tree, carving and shaping an idol from the wood (10:3), then overlaying it with silver and gold (10:4).

Mocking the idea of anything man might make being a god worthy of worship, Jeremiah stated the impotence of such a god: It cannot move about of its own will (10:4b); it cannot speak (10:5a); in fact, it must be carried about by one foolish enough to worship and sacrifice to its image (10:5b). Jeremiah admonished the people, “Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (10:5c).

Jeremiah 10:6-11 – There is None Like the God of Heaven.

I will step away from my role as an author and allow the Scriptures to declare the majesty of God without commentary.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 – “6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is greatin might. 7  Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:10 – But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:12 – He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

Jeremiah 10:16 – The portion of Jacob is not like them: for He is the former [framer; potter; maker] of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.

Who is Your God? (10:6-16)

My God is the Great One, unlike any other (10:6). He is the King and Sovereign of all nations (10:7). He is incomparable in His person, majesty, and wisdom (10:7b). He is Truth (10:10a). He is the God of life (10:10b). He is the Eternal, Everlasting King, the Sovereign of Creation (10:10c). He is a God of righteousness and justice (10:10d).

My God is the One and Only Creator (10:12a) and sustains the earth by His power (10:12b) and in His wisdom He set the expanse of the heavens (10:12c). He is the God of Jacob (10:16a) and Israel is His chosen inheritance (10:16b).

My God is the “framer,” the maker, the creator of all things (10:16b). He is “the LORD of hosts,” the Commander and Master of the angels of heaven (10:16c).

Who Is Your God?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Cry of a Compassionate Prophet” (Jeremiah 4-6)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 4-6

Our study in the Book of Jeremiah continues with chapters 4-6 as our Scripture reading, and Jeremiah 4 as the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

We have so far considered: The calling of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet to Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 1); the assertion that Israel and Judah, though beloved by the LORD, as a husband loves his wife (Jeremiah 2:1-12), had rebelled and broken their covenant with the God (2:13-37); finally, Jeremiah’s declaration that the LORD had divorced His people for their spiritual adultery and failure to obey His commandments (3:1-5, 20-24).

Jeremiah 4

Israel, consisting of the northern ten tribes, has been removed from her land and the people taken into captivity by Assyria, nevertheless, the LORD extended to His people an invitation:

Jeremiah 4:1 –  “If thou wilt return [turn back; i.e. repent], O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away [detest; depart from] thine abominations [idols] out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove [no longer wander; i.e. the LORD would have compassion on].”

What a comfort that verse should be to believers. While the sins and wickedness of Israel were almost incomprehensible (immorality, worship of idols, child sacrifices), the LORD was still pleading for the people to repent, promising He would have compassion on them.

Moving from His invitation to Israel (4:1-2), Jeremiah was commanded to appeal to Judah (the southern tribes) to repent of her sins. Illustrating how sin hardens the hearts of a nation, Jeremiah used two metaphors.

The first, a sin hardened heart is like a farmer’s field that needs plowing before it can be planted. Jeremiah called upon the people of Judah to recognize the hardness of their hearts. Painting a picture of a farmer breaking up the ground with a plow to prepare it for planting, Jeremiah encouraged the people to, “Break up your fallow ground [with a plow], and sow not among thorns [which would choke out new growth]” (4:3).

The second picture is that of a sin-calloused heart: Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (4:4a). Jeremiah concluded the call to repent with the warning that, should Judah not repent of her sins, God would pour forth His fury like fire, and “burn that none [could] quench it, because of the evil of [their] doings” (4:4).

The balance of Jeremiah 4 is a vivid portrait of the future days of God’s judgment (4:5-31).

Reminding Jeremiah, he has been called to be a spiritual watchman for the LORD, God commanded His prophet, “Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities [fortified; walled]” (4:5).

Jeremiah was to call the people to retreat into the city, warning their adversary, like a lion, was coming from the north, identified as “the destroyer of the Gentiles” (4:7). We know this adversary was Babylon and the lion its king, Nebuchadnezzar (4:7).

Understanding the path of destruction Judah would soon face, Jeremiah warned the judgment of God would be swift, like a “dry wind” and a “full wind” (4:11-12). The sight of Nebuchadnezzar’s army would move “the heart of the king” to perish (4:9) and his chariots would come like a whirlwind, his horses swifter than eagles (4:13).

Realizing the dreadful judgment of the LORD and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah wept and cried out to the LORD (4:19-20).

Jeremiah 4:19-20 – “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20  Destruction upon destruction [lit. disaster upon disaster] is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.”

The destruction that would soon descend upon Judah and Jerusalem is graphic in detail (4:23-31).

Before I close today’s devotional commentary, allow me to draw your attention to the catalyst of God’s judgment for it is the same today as it was in Jeremiah’s day. The people had rejected God, despised His Law and Commandments, embraced wickedness, and become spiritually oblivious to discern good and evil (4:22).

I will close allowing Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome to be the sum of the wickedness of man that demands the judgment of God.

Romans 1:21-22 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

The hour of revival had past, and it was too late! (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35). 2 Kings was a contemporary history record; however, 2 Chronicles was authored while Israel and Judah were in captivity. Both are historical accounts of the promise of blessings (when kings obey the LORD’s Law and Commandments) and judgment (when those same kings rebel and disobey the LORD). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the accounts in 2 Kings 22-23.

2 Kings 22

The glorious reign of Josiah, the grandson of King Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years) and the son of Amon (a wicked king who reigned two years), was a period of revival in Judah.

Josiah began to reign when he was eight years old, and perhaps because of the influence of his mother, he chose to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

The king commanded that the Temple be repaired (22:3-7), and in the course of doing so the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8). The “book of the law” was taken to King Josiah and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah, overwhelmed by the words of the law and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), sent messengers to enquire of a prophetess named Huldah (22:13-14). Huldah confirmed to the king that the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah was assured that he would not see the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in his lifetime because his “heart was tender” and he had humbled himself before the LORD (22:18-19).

2 Kings 23

Josiah set his heart to begin a national reformation of Judah, and one that reached northward to the land and remnant of Israel (2 Kings 23). Gathering all the leaders and people of Judah, the king renewed Judah’s covenant with the LORD (23:1-3).

The king commanded the Temple be cleansed of idolatry and all the elements associated with such wickedness destroyed, ground to powder, and burned (23:4-6). Demonstrating the depth of depravity to which Judah had descended, we find there were “houses of the sodomites” (homosexuals) located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah took his crusade for reformation to Bethel where Jeroboam, the first king of the northern ten tribes, had established idolatry (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough that he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

Josiah also observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).

The reign of Josiah was celebrated in Judah. In the annals of Judah’s history there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Nevertheless, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of King Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of Manasseh, had sealed the fate of that nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).

Three rebellious kings followed Josiah in quick succession (23:31-37) and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, began to overshadow the land (2 Kings 24).

For Judah, the hour of revival had past, and it was too late.

Genesis 6:3 – “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The morality of a nation determines its destiny. (Nahum 1-3)

Scripture reading – Nahum 1-3

Our Scripture reading today is the Book of Nahum.  Only three chapters long and authored by the man whose name it bears, it is a book easily overlooked.  Numbered among the minor prophets, Nahum was a servant and prophet of God of whom little is known. Because the prophetic content of the book is the destruction of Nineveh (Nahum 1:1), the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire, we can place the date of Nahum’s ministry in the 7th century B.C.

A century earlier, when Jonah was God’s prophet, Nineveh had been spared destruction when the king and the citizens of that city repented of their sins, but now for its abuses of Israel, Nineveh would not be spared. Nahum warned of imminent destruction of Nineveh, and the overthrow of the Assyrian empire by a coalition of the Medes and Babylon.

Nahum declared God’s holy nature (1:2-3) and warned the people that the LORD whom the prophet described as “jealous…furious… slow to anger (meaning, patient and longsuffering), and great in power, and [Just] will not at all acquit the wicked” (1:2-3).

In the midst of his prophecies against Nineveh (1:4-6, 8-14), Nahum reminded the people of Judah, “The LORD is good [altogether good; right], a strong hold [fortress; rock; place of safety] in the day of trouble [distress; affliction]; and he knoweth [perceive; understands; cares for] them that trust [confide; hope; flee to for protection] in Him” (1:7).

The Assyrian empire seemed invincible in Nahum’s day.  Its borders encompassed Palestine and reached as far south as Egypt.  Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary describes Nineveh, the Assyrian capital city:

This “exceeding great city” lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient cities. (1) Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature.

Nahum 2 describes the armies that God would draw upon to fulfill His judgment against Nineveh and the Assyrian empire.  The prophet describes the invasion of Assyria (2:1-4) and the capture of the city and its leaders (2:5-13).

Nahum 3 gives us a vivid picture of Nineveh’s destruction and the slaughter of its inhabitants.  Nahum 3:8-19 reminds us no nation, city, or people are too big, great or powerful to escape God’s judgment.  Nahum ends with a question our own nation and leaders would be wise to ponder:

Nahum 3:19 – “There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?

Nineveh’s wickedness, its idolatry and immorality, moved it beyond God’s patience and the city and nation were doomed.  The evil the nation had committed against others would now fall upon that great city.

May that truth serve as a warning to our nation, institutions, churches and homes. Solomon writes the same truth in a proverb he taught his son.

Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness [moral uprightness] exalteth [elevates] a nation: but sin is a reproach[shame] to any people.”

Make no mistake, the morality of a nation determines its destiny.  When a people have a passion for righteousness they are blessed, however, sin inevitably humiliates and eventually destroys.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A God Who Hears and Answers Prayer (2 Chronicles 32-33)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 32-33

Today’s Scripture reading is an abridged version of the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah that has been considered in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s devotional commentary will focus solely on 2 Chronicles 32.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel to the north opened the way for Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1).

King Hezekiah consulted with his leaders and determined to enforce the city walls and deprive Assyria’s army of water by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city (32:2-5). Displaying his faith and confidence in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people:

2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him8  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

Sending messengers and writing letters to the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned their confidence in the king. The king of Assyria also spoke against the God of Israel, asserting their God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Finally, Sennacherib declared that Hezekiah had deceived the people of Jerusalem, leading them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character and the offense Sennacherib had raised against the God of Israel?

2 Chronicles 32:20 – “Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.”

Isaiah describes this moment observing that “Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the [Assyrian] messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD” (Isaiah 37:14-17).

Hezekiah’s focus was not on the threats of his enemy or his own strengths. The king’s faith and hope were in the LORD who heard the king’s prayer and “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:20).

Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory God alone was due (32:25).  The king was “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26), God restored his health.

Permit me to close with an observation and application. 

King Solomon taught his son, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime. A leader’s character does matter!  Whether it is the leadership of a nation, state, city, church or school, a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on people.

Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Set Thine House In Order; For Thou Shalt Die” (2 Kings 20-21)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 20-21

Our study of the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah will soon end. By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, has fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, has been destroyed and the citizens of Israel taken away captive. Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations who in time would intermarry with the remnant of Israelites. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people with Israel would be known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 (note also 2 Chronicles 32:24-26; Isaiah 38:1-8)

The narrative found in 2 Kings 20 is familiar for it is a rehearsal of events we have studied in both Isaiah 38:1-8and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26

Hezekiah was the king of Judah and Judah had been blessed because its ruler loved the LORD.  Hezekiah had led the people in a time of spiritual revival by both example and edict. He restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments, Temple worship and sacrifices, and destroyed the places of idol worship throughout the land.

Israel had fallen to Sennacherib, king of Assyria; however, God had answered Hezekiah’s prayer and spared Judah. The “Angel of the LORD” destroyed the army of Assyria, slaying 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36).

Soon after Judah’s victory over Assyria, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing the news of impending death to the King. Isaiah said to the king, “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

How would you respond if your doctor gave you a terminal diagnosis? Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints.

The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). In other words, Hezekiah blocked out everything and everyone, and then he cried out to the LORD. He then began to rehearse his walk with the LORD and how he had kept God’s covenant. The king prayed,

2 Kings 20:3 – “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently].”

Hezekiah claimed God’s covenant promise and clung to the hope God would heal him. Having delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah rejoiced when the LORD commanded him to turn back and tell Hezekiah that God heard and would answer his prayer (20:5). Isaiah assured the king that the LORD would heal him (20:5) and “add unto thy days fifteen years” (20:6).

2 Kings 20 concludes with Hezekiah dying fifteen years later and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Tragically, unlike his father Hezekiah, King Manasseh set a course of wickedness in Judah that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). Idolatry (21:3), desecrating the Temple (21:4), and human sacrifice were the practice of the king and Judah (21:6).

The LORD sent prophets to confront the sins of the king and Judah, but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned that Jerusalem and Judah would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

I close observing the swift departure of Judah from the righteous reign of Hezekiah into a depth of depravity that would have defied the imagination of the previous generation. From spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that demanded God’s judgment…one generation.

A nation is one generation from a steep descent into sin that will demand God’s judgment. Are we that generation?

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“We are the Clay, and Thou Our Potter” (Isaiah 64-66)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 64-66

Today’s Scripture reading is Isaiah 64-66; however, today’s devotional commentary will focus on the closing verses of Isaiah 63 and Isaiah 64.

Isaiah 63

To put Isaiah 64 in context, I invite you to look back to Isaiah 63, the chapter preceding today’s devotion, and consider a series of cries Isaiah made to the LORD for Israel and Judah (63:15-19).

Isaiah petitioned the LORD that He would show mercy and compassion to His people (63:15b). He reminded God that He alone was the Father and Redeemer of Israel. (63:16).  The prophet prayed for the LORD to return and help His people (63:17b), and reminded Him that He had chosen Israel to be a holy people, but their enemies had destroyed the Temple (63:18, a future event).  Though alienated from God by their sins, the people reminded the LORD, “We are thine” (63:19).

Isaiah 64 – Three Cries to the LORD

We consider three cries to the LORD that are recorded in Isaiah 64. The first was a cry for the LORD to save His people from their adversaries (64:1-4). In the immediate, the enemy who would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple would be Babylon. However, this is also a far-reaching prophecy that is still future. The description of “when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil” (64:2) is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ at the climax of the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 21:11-19).

Isaiah prayed for the LORD to come and execute judgment (64:3) and prove He alone is God, and He helps those who wait on His coming (64:4).

The second cry was one of confession (64:5b-8). Isaiah confessed the universality of man’s sin.

Without exception, we are all sinners by birth (64:5) and the problem of sin is universal. Isaiah confessed, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [our best attempt at keeping the law and commandments falls short] are as filthy rags [bloody, soiled rags]” (64:6).

Isaiah observed that the hearts of the people were so hardened by sin that there was “none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee” (64:7a). The LORD Who is Holy and will not look upon sin, had turned his face (his blessings and mercies) from the people and they were consumed and enslaved by their wickedness (64:7b).

Realizing the helpless, hopeless state of the nation, Isaiah confessed, “O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (64:8).

Like clay in a potter’s hands who shapes, and fashions it into a vessel that reflects his will and purpose, believers should acknowledge God is sovereign and it is His desire to fashion us as the work of His hand (64:8b).

We close with Isaiah’s cry for forgiveness on behalf of Israel and Judah (64:9-12).

Isaiah reminded the LORD, “we are all thy people” (64:9b). Recollecting that we are considering events that had not yet happened, but would when Nebuchadnezzar’s army lay siege to Jerusalem, Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, “our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee” destroyed by fire (64:10-11).

No doubt a prayer that the people would pray in Babylon during their captivity, Isaiah prayed, “Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?” (Isaiah 64:12)

Isaiah 65-66 is God’s answer to Isaiah’s questions. We are blessed to look back on history and know God did hear the prayers of His people, and Israel did return to her land as a nation.

Truth – God is never slack concerning His promises!

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith