Tag Archives: Devotional

The End, of The End is Come (Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8

Continuing our study of the book of Ezekiel, we remember he was a young priest (1:1-2) when the LORD called him to be His prophet. He was among the first removed from Jerusalem before the fall of that city, and was commissioned to prophesy to the Jews of the captivity in Babylon. In Ezekiel 7, the message to the children of Israel was a message of doom and judgment.

Fourfold Warning to Worshippers of Idols (7:1-4)

With the words, “An end, the end is come,” the fate of Israel and Judah was sealed (7:2). God’s judgment was imminent, the land of Israel would fall to Nebuchadnezzar’s army (7:2). God’s patience with the sins and abominations of His people was exhausted, for they had provoked Him to anger, and the LORD declared He would not show them pity (7:4). All of this, that the people might “know” and acknowledge Him as LORD (7:4).

God’s Purpose for Executing Judgment (7:5-9)

Declaring “an evil, an only evil, behold is come” (7:5), we read the emphatic announcement of judgment: “the end is come…the morning is come…the time is come, the day of trouble is near” (7:6-7). What was the basis of God’s judgment? It was to reward His people for their sinful ways and abominations (7:8-9).

The Description of God’s Judgment (7:10-27)

Though prophesied more than two and one-half millennia ago, there is much to be learned from the decay, death, and destruction of Judah as a nation. As you read this passage, remember Ezekiel is prophesying to the Jews living in captivity in Babylon, while Jeremiah was prophesying in the midst of Jerusalem and warning the people of that which was to come. Provoked to anger by the pride of His people (7:10), none living in Judah would be spared God’s judgment (7:11).

We find here several tragic traits of a rebellious people, and a dying nation. (7:12-27)

The first, a failed economy. The general trade of buying and selling failed (7:12), and the seller could not recover or be made whole (7:13). A dying nation refuses to hear and heed the warnings of prophets (portrayed here as the blowing of the trumpet, 7:14). There is a prevalence of death, as “the sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within” (7:15). Death became an ever-present reality, as the sword was symbolic of violence and war, pestilence is sickness and disease, and famine caused by failed crops and an inability to import food (caused by the siege).

Troubles and trials had brought with them a perpetual state of sorrow, for the moaning of the people sounded like the cooing of the “doves of the valleys” (7:16). Uncertainty and anxiety were portrayed as physical weakness, as fear, sorrows, and shame overtook the nation (7:16-18).

Ezekiel 7:19 returns to the failed economy of Judah and Jerusalem, for the people realized too late their wealth and possessions could not save them (7:19a). With food shortages and little provisions to “fill their bowels,” the people cast their gold and silver in the streets of the city (7:19b).  Their once beloved gold which had adorned their women and decorated their shrines, became spoils for the wicked (7:20-21). Even the LORD’s Temple was plundered and defiled (7:22).

Impoverished, and defeated, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to “make a chain” that served as a symbol of the captivity (7:23). Lest some accuse Him of injustice, the LORD declared, “I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).

Ezekiel 8

Ezekiel 8 gives us again a supernatural revelation of God’s glory. Ezekiel was in his house, and with him the “elders of Judah” (8:1), when “the hand of the Lord God fell there upon [him]” (8:1). As He had when He first appeared to Ezekiel (1:26-28), the LORD displayed the likeness of His heavenly glory (8:2). In the vision, the Spirit of the LORD lifted Ezekiel up, and he was taken to the Temple where he beheld an idol he described as “the image of jealousy” (8:3).

Ezekiel saw “the glory of the God of Israel” (8:4) like that he had seen before, but as he lifted up his eyes, he also saw the “image of jealousy” in the LORD’s sanctuary (8:5-6). In the next verses, the LORD revealed to Ezekiel the desperate wickedness that was practiced by the elder and religious leaders of Judah (8:6). The Spirit of the LORD commanded the prophet to look through a hole in the wall of the Temple, and enlarge it where he peered into, and passed through a door into a secret chamber (8:7-9).

In the chamber, which was a secret room in the Temple, Ezekiel spied on the walls drawings of creatures, beasts, and idols (8:10). Then he saw 70 religious’ leaders of Jerusalem worshipping idols and offering incense to them (8:11), who declared “The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth” (8:12).

Yet, Ezekiel was to see an even greater wickedness in the Temple, for in one room there were women worshipping Tamuz, a fertility god whose worshippers were known to practice gross immorality. In another room of the Temple there were 25 men who worshipped the sun (8:16).

Closing thoughts – Though the LORD need not justify His ways and judgments to any man, yet, He asked Ezekiel, “Hast thou seen this, O son of man?” (8:17). Consider how far the nation had departed from the LORD, His Law and Commandments. They had defiled the Temple with idols (8:1-18), and their elders who were entrusted with teaching the Law and exercising righteous judgment, were guilty of idolatry in secret places. There was no hope for the nation, and in His anger, God declared He would not have pity on the people, and neither would He hear their cry. It was too late.

I cannot say if it is too late for you or your nation to repent. Nevertheless, do you see the signs of God’s judgment in your world? Violence, wars, natural disasters, disease and pandemics, gross immorality, and rumors of impending hunger…

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed.” (Ezekiel 6; Lamentations 3:22)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 6

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we will consider one chapter, Ezekiel 6. The LORD came to His prophet (6:1), addressing him once again as “Son of man,” Ezekiel was given a mandate. “Set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them” (6:2).

The Destruction of the Places of Idol Worship (6:2-7)

Why prophesy against the mountains? The mountains were one of Israel’s and Judah’s principal places of idolatry. Indeed, from reading verse 3, it appears the whole countryside of the nation was full of places of idol worship. The mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys were all places of idolatry where all manner of evil was committed in the name of worship (6:3).

What was Ezekiel to prophesy towards those places, and the people who worshipped idols? In a word—judgment! The LORD warned, “Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places…your altars…and your images shall be broken” (6:3b-4).

Not only would the idols be destroyed, but those who worshipped and placed their idols above the Creator, would be slain and their bodies stacked among the idols. Adding an even greater humiliation, the bones of the dead would find their resting place scattered among their broken altars (6:4-5). Of those  who rejected the LORD, every vestige of their lives would be destroyed. Their homes and cities would be laid waste (6:6b). With none to bury them, the “slain [would] fall in the midst” (6:7).

The Promise of Mercy to a Remnant (6:8-10)

In His mercy, God spared a few, a remnant, who would be scattered among the nations (6:8). Those who were spared, would remember how they sinned against the LORD, and broke His heart with their idolatry (6:9). They would loathe their wickedness, and all they suffered, and would remember, “know” and confess the God of Israel is LORD (6:10).

The Cause for God’s Judgment (6:11-14)

To demonstrate God’s disgust with the “evil abominations” of His people, Ezekiel was to, “smite with [his] hand, and stamp with [his] foot” (6:11). Because they sinned against the LORD, the children of Israel would die “by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (6:11).

Closing thoughts – Why would all this come upon Judah? Why would so many perish, and their lifeless bodies be left among their altars in hills, mountains, and groves? (6:13).

It was to the end the people would know the LORD is God “when their slain men [would] be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.” (6:13)

What have we learned? Though the LORD is merciful, He is also just and has no tolerance for sin!  In the words of Jeremiah,

Lamentations 3:22–2322It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

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.

“The LORD Shall Judge His People” (Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the introductory chapters of “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Ezekiel 1 records God’s call to a young priest named Ezekiel (1:1-3), and details his testimony of the sight of God’s glory sitting on His heavenly throne (1:26-28). The LORD spoke directly to Ezekiel in chapter 2, and commissioned him to be His prophet to the captives of Judah living in Babylon (2:3). Forewarned the children of Israel were “ a rebellious nation” (2:3), Ezekiel was commissioned to speak the words of the LORD and “not be afraid” of the people (2:6), “whether they [would] hear, or whether they [would] forebear” (2:7).

Ezekiel 4 – The Coming Judgment Against Judah and Jerusalem

From the setting in Ezekiel 4, we understand Jerusalem was under siege, but not yet fallen to Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Remembering Ezekiel was living in Babylon, he and the people were anxious for news from Jerusalem. The LORD came to Ezekiel, and in dramatic fashion, commanded the prophet to symbolically portray the siege of Jerusalem.

As a sign of the siege, Ezekiel was instructed to draw a map of the city on a clay tile, and create around it a mound of soil symbolic of the fortifications Babylon raised up against Jerusalem (4:1-3). Taking an iron pan, he placed it between himself and the walls of the city he built. Leaving no doubt as to the certainty of God’s judgment, the prophet was commanded to lie on his left side facing his model of the city for 390 days (4:4). Each day represented a year of God’s judgment against Israel, with the ten northern tribes being the first taken into captivity. The prophecy was thus, Israel would be judged by God 390 years for her sins (4:5).

Ezekiel was then to lie on his right side, and face his model of Jerusalem for 40 days (again, a day representing a year of God’s judgment, 4:6-7). He was instructed to be bound, symbolizing the people of Jerusalem would be bound and led away into captivity (4:8).

The Sufferings and Afflictions of Jerusalem (4:9-17)

Ezekiel would not see the suffering of Jerusalem, but the LORD made him to know the sorrow that would befall the people. Because the siege of the city would cut off the importation of food, Ezekiel was instructed to observe a meager diet, serving as a symbol of Jerusalem’s famine (4:9-12).

The LORD then commanded Ezekiel to consume the unclean, defiled food of the Gentiles, serving as a symbol of the desperate hunger of the people (4:13). The prophet protested, saying he had never eaten that which the law declared unclean (4:14; Deuteronomy 12:15-18; 14:3-21). He was also instructed to use human waste as fuel for a fire to bake bread, something that was forbidden by the law (4:15; Deuteronomy 23:9-14). All this was meant to serve as a symbol of the desperate suffering of Jerusalem (4:16-17).

Ezekiel 5 – The Signs of Jerusalem’s Humiliation and Judgment

To illustrate God’s judgment against Jerusalem, the LORD commanded Ezekiel to shave his head and beard (signs of sorrow and humiliation). He was then instructed to divide his hair in three-parts (5:1), and illustrate the imminent fall and suffering of Jerusalem. Each part of his hair served as a symbolic portrayal for how the people would perish.

He was instructed to burn one part of his hair, symbolizing the people perishing by fire, and disease (5:2a, 12a). He was to scatter a second portion of his hair, portraying one-third of Jerusalem’s inhabitant would die by the sword (5:2b,12b). The third part of his hair, was to be bound in the hem of his robe, a testimony that a remnant of Jerusalem’s population would be spared (5:3, 12c). Of that remnant, however, some would be slain (5:3-4). (As noted in in earlier readings in 2 Kings 25:22-26, and Jeremiah 40:9-12.)

Why did the LORD judge Jerusalem? (5:5-17)

 The inhabitants of Jerusalem were guilty of three great sins. They were chosen by God, blessed with His Law and Commandments, and His presence (represented in His Temple), but the people had broken covenant with the LORD, and rejected His judgments. In doing all this, their wickedness exceeded the heathen nations (5:6-8).

Having rejected the LORD, the people worshipped idols, and in the depths of their depravity turned to cannibalism, as “fathers [did] eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons [did] eat their fathers” (5:9-10). Lastly, they had defiled the Temple, and erected and worshiped idols within the holy sanctuary (5:11-12).

Closing thoughts – Jerusalem’s destruction served as testimony of God’s righteous indignation (5:13). The ruins of the city would become a reproach for the sins and wickedness of God’s people, and served as a warning to other nations (5:14-15).

For 21st century believers, we should remember what befell Jerusalem is a reminder God is just, His Word is true and what He promises will come to pass (5:16-17). Every generation must remember, “Vengeance belongeth unto [the LORD] and no sin shall go unpunished (Hebrews 10:30b). “The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30c-31).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Heavenly Glory: The Prophet Ezekiel’s Call (Ezekiel 1)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 1

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, and having concluded our study of the prophecies and lamentations of Jeremiah, we move to “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Jeremiah served the LORD as prophet to Judah, and his ministry had spanned the reigns of the last five kings of that nation. Jeremiah was the elder statesman of God’s prophets, and Ezekiel would have known of the old prophet. At the age of 25, Ezekiel had been taken from Judah to Babylon, and was numbered among the first captives (he and Daniel were contemporaries, but there is no record the two men knew one another).

The end of Jeremiah’s ministry, which came to a close with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity, marked the beginning of Ezekiel’s ministry. His ministry began in Babylon with him foretelling the imminent judgment of God and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He would spend his life in Babylon, calling the Jews to repent of their sins and turn to God. His task was to remind the people the LORD would keep covenant with Israel, and when 70 years were accomplished, they would be restored to their homeland.

Ezekiel’s Calling (1:1-3)

Being a man of priestly stock (for his father was a priest), Ezekiel was 30 years old when the LORD called him to serve as both priest and prophet (30 years old being the age men were ordained to the priesthood, 1:1-2). With knowledge of the Law and Commandments, trained for the Temple and its rituals, and knowledge of the office and work of the priesthood, Ezekiel was eminently qualified to serve his people as a spiritual leader. Ordained a priest, and called to be a prophet, Ezekiel would minister to a discouraged people who were living in the shadow of God’s judgment, and serving a heathen people.

A Heavenly Vision (1:3-28)

Like the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6), who preceded him more than a century (760-681 BC), Ezekiel’s calling was a vision of God’s glory with the Lord sitting on the throne of heaven (1:1). Describing the vision, Ezekiel testified, “I was among the captives by the river of Chebar [Kedar], that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (1:1b).  Seeing the heavens rolled back as a scroll, we read, “3The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest…and the hand of the Lord was there upon him” (1:3). Ezekiel 1 records three visions that together gave Ezekiel an appreciation of “the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (1:28b).

Humbled by the majesty of the LORD, Ezekiel writes, “I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28c). You will notice that fire has a prominent place in Ezekiel’s visions (in the Scripture, fire is indicative of holiness, as well as, the judgment of God). Ezekiel testified, “I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a [burning] fire infolding itself [revolving circle of fire], and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber [i.e. molten bronze], out of the midst of the fire” (1:4).

Vision of Cherubim (1:5)

Ezekiel had a vision of four “living creatures” (1:5), that are later identified in Ezekiel 10 as cherubim, that attended the throne of God (1:5-14; 10:1-22). What are cherubim? They are “living creatures [beings]” (1:5, 14, 15; 10:15). Ezekiel described them as having “the likeness of a man” (1:5).

Cherubim were angels who were guardians of the Tree of Life and stood guard at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:24). Two golden cherubim were on the top of the Ark of the Covenant facing one another on the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:18-20). David said of the LORD, “He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10). We also find cherubim are stationed at the base of the throne of God (Ezekiel 10:1, 20).

Physical Appearance of Cherubim (1:5-9)

The cherubim were described as having four faces, like that “of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle” (1:6, 10; 10:13). (Scholars suggest the faces represent various attributes of the cherubim. The face of the man symbolizes intelligence, the lion physical strength, the ox a service animal, and the eagle swiftness.) Briefly, notice the cherubim were described as having legs with “a calf’s foot” (1:7), the “hands of a man” (1:8), and wings (1:9).

What purpose did Cherubim serve? (1:12-14)

The cherubim were to serve the LORD wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:12). They were described as going “straight forward” and never turning aside from their ministry (1:12). Their movement was as a fiery torch, and as swift as bright flashes of lightning (1:13-14).

A Symbolic Picture of God’s Heavenly Throne Upon Four Wheels (1:15-21; 10:9)

The cherubim were described as each having a wheel that supported God’s throne. I suggest the wheels represented God’s readiness to move swiftly to meet the needs of His people. It was by means of the wheels that the cherubim moved to accomplish their tasks, wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:19-20). Implying the omniscience and omnipresence of God, the wheels of the cherubim are described as having an inner rim, like an inner circle “full of eyes (1:18).

The Sound of Cherubim’s Wings (1:22-25)

Above the heads of the cherubim was an expanse Ezekiel described as the color of “crystal” (i.e., like sparkling ice, 1:22). The movement of the cherubim wings was so loud, Ezekiel writes, “…I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host [a great army]: when they stood, they let down their wings” (1:24). When God spoke, the wings of the cherubim were suddenly stilled (1:25).

The Glory of God Sitting on His Sapphire Throne (1:26-28)

Ezekiel portrays God in the likeness of a man, sitting on a throne of “sapphire stone” (1:26). From his waist up, God’s appearance was like a fiery molten metal (1:27a). From his waist down, He had the “appearance of fire” (1:27b). The brightness of God’s glory appeared as a brilliant rainbow in the sky (1:28a).

Closing thought – How did Ezekiel respond when he gazed upon the heavenly glory of God, and heard Him speak? Ezekiel testified, “When I saw it, I fell upon my face.” (1:28).

Tomorrow’s devotional will continue our study of Ezekiel’s divine calling and commission.

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.

The Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

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.

Three Good Things You Should Embrace (Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3

Our brief study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” continues today. While Lamentations 3 will be the primary focus of this devotional, I am suggesting a brief outline of Lamentations 2.

Lamentations 2

Jerusalem is Destroyed (2:1-9)

Jeremiah continued to lament the calamity of Jerusalem and observed how the Lord had “covered the daughter of Zion [Jerusalem] with a cloud in his anger” (2:1). Knowing David pronounced the Temple “the footstool of our God” (1 Chronicles 28:2), the prophet bemoaned the LORD “remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!” (1:1) Though it was Nebuchadnezzar whose army destroyed Jerusalem; Jeremiah left no doubt it was the fierceness of God’s judgment that devoured the people. The rebellion of the people moved the LORD to become the enemy of His wayward people (2:2-5).

All Jerusalem was a scene of destruction as the city and its Temple laid in ruins. Yet, it was the LORD who gave the altar, Temple, and the palaces “into the hand of the enemy” (2:7). As Jeremiah looked upon the city, he observed, “9Her gates are sunk into the ground…Her king and her princes are [captives] among the Gentiles: the law is no more” (2:9).

Lamentations 2:10-14 turned the focus from the city and the king, to the sorrows the people suffered. The leaders of the city sat in silence, as they mourned the deaths and destruction that was about them (2:10). Jeremiah was so overcome with grief, his tears failed, and his heart ached (2:11), as the city he loved was ravaged by famine (2:11-13).

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah then reminded the people how their sins brought them to a state of ruin and sorrow. The prophet declared, “the Lord hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word…He hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, He hath set up the horn [power; strength] of thine adversaries” (2:17). Overcome with grief and hunger, mothers turned to cannibalism, and did “eat their fruit” (2:20). Young and old laid dead in the streets, and there were none to bury them (2:21).

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah’s lamentations took on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. The prophet had lived to see all he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poor, Jeremiah gazed upon a scene of devastation. The Temple was destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem were fallen.

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

Jeremiah’s Afflictions (3:1-19)

In his sorrows, Jeremiah confessed the afflictions he carried for the suffering of His people. He felt alienated from God (3:2), as though the LORD was turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed, but it seemed God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). He felt trapped, abandoned, and wounded in heart (3:9-13). He was scorned by his people (3:14), and overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18). He despaired of life (3:19) until his focus turned to the LORD (3:20-21).

Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions (3:21-66)

In the midst of sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that inspired the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah wrote, It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace] that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases]. 23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness [steadfastness]” (3:22-23). Remembering the LORD’s mercy and faithfulness, Jeremiah declared, “The LORD isgood [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

Notice, a believer must meet two conditions to know the goodness of the LORD (3:25). The first, he must “wait for Him” (3:25). Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you hurt?  Will you wait when you are ill?  When you have been mistreated or misunderstood, do you wait on the LORD?  Jeremiah’s counsel to those who are in distress is, “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

Also, to trust the LORD’s goodness, you must “seek Him” (3:25b). What does it mean to seek the LORD? It means to seek and obey Him (3:40). You seek the LORD when you read, meditate, and obey Him (3:40;Jeremiah 29:13).

Closing thoughts – In closing, I invite you to consider three things Jeremiah described as “good.”  It is good to “both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD” (3:26). Hope is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul. Hope anticipates that God hears and will answer prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises. It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer in His time. Finally, it is good for a son to bear the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). In the midst of his afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged it was a good thing for young men bear the yoke of manhood with all of its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Life can be difficult, and even harsh; but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. What about you? Will you hope, seek, obey, and trust the LORD?

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.

Jeremiah’s Lament: Jerusalem’s Humiliation (Lamentations 1)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 1

Though only five chapters long, the book known as “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” is powerful, poetic, and a devastating portrait of the consequences of sin. As its name suggests, Lamentations is a record of the laments, cries, and groanings of Jeremiah.

Gazing upon the rubble of what was once the beautiful and renown city of David, God’s prophet was overwhelmed with the sorrow and afflictions that had befallen his stubborn people. Jeremiah faithfully served the LORD through the reigns of five successive kings of Judah. He had discharged his sacred duty as God’s prophet, and warned the people what would become of the nation if they did not repent of their sins. Yet, the kings of Judah despised and persecuted him, and the people broke covenant with the LORD rejecting His Laws and Commandments. Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people removed to Babylon. Left behind was Jeremiah and a few poor Jews to work the land and serve Babylon.

Lamentations 1

The opening verses of chapter 1 painted a dismal picture of what became of a bustling city once filled with people, but now figured like a bereaved widow, and a tributary (slave) to Babylon (1:1). Jerusalem’s friends and allies were become her enemies (1:2)

Judah’s Sorrows (1:3-7)

The people of Judah were no longer a free people who enjoyed the blessings of their covenant with the LORD. That nation had become like Israel before her (i.e., the ten northern tribes), a nation in bondage (1:3-4). As is the nature of sinners, only in captivity would the people remember the blessings they had taken for granted (1:7a). They remembered their families, homes, and lands, and the sabbaths their enemies mocked (1:7b).

Jerusalem’s Shame (1:8-12)

The cause for Jerusalem’s demise was summed up in this: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore, she is removed” (1:8a). The LORD had chosen Zion for His Temple, and the sanctuary of His presence among His people; nevertheless, the people “turned backward” (1:8b), and found “no comforter” (1:9). Their possessions became spoils for their enemy (1:10), and the heathen entered the sanctuary of the LORD and defiled it (1:10). Suffering famine, the people were impoverished (1:11), and the ruins of the city remained as a testimony to the wrath of God’s judgment (1:12).

Jerusalem’s Suffering (1:13-17)

Consider with me briefly, the consequences of Jerusalem’s wickedness. We find the distress of the city, described figuratively as a consuming fire and a snare (1:13). The sins of the city were a heavy yoke wrapping them like a wreath after the LORD delivered them to their Babylonian masters (1:14). Jerusalem was a defenseless city, for her army was fallen, and her youth crushed (1:15). The joy of music and dance was silenced by sorrow and perpetual tears (1:16). While the people spread their hands toward heaven and called upon the LORD, there was “none to comfort her” (1:17a). To her enemies, Jerusalem was like a “menstruous,” unclean woman (1:17).

Closing thoughts (1:18-22) – Our Scripture reading concludes with Jeremiah calling upon the LORD in a prayer of intercession and confessing the sins of his people. Declaring the righteousness of the LORD, the prophet confessed on Jerusalem’s behalf: “I have rebelled against his commandment: hear, I pray you, all people, and behold my sorrow: my virgins and my young men are gone into captivity” (1:18).

Jeremiah asked the LORD to see his distress and sorrow, and have compassion upon Jerusalem’s suffering (1:20a). He confessed the sins of His people (1:20b), and asked the LORD to have compassion on those dying (1:20c).

The prophet’s prayer concluded with an imprecatory petition (1:22) as he called upon the LORD to exercise vengeance upon Babylon. Jeremiah prayed, “Let all their wickedness come before thee; And do unto them, as thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions: For my sighs are many, and my heart is faint” (1:22).

* A closing note for those who might want to “dig a little deeper;” notice that Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are each twenty-two verses long.  There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each of the verses in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 begin with a word using the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in other words, like our A-Z in English).  Lamentations 4 is sixty-six verses long and the Hebrew alphabet in that chapter begins couplets that are three verses each.

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.

The End: Babylon is Fallen! (Jeremiah 51; Jeremiah 52)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 51; Jeremiah 52

Today’s scripture reading concludes our study of Jeremiah’s prophecies in the book that bears his name (our next Scripture reading will consider the Book of Lamentations, and that prophet’s grief following the destruction of Jerusalem). I know the study and interpretation of prophecy can be a challenge, but I trust my daily devotionals have made the difficult simple.

What a joy we have to be living at such a time! We have the privilege of not only studying past prophecies, but the advantage of researching history. Modern archeology has only confirmed God’s Word. While there are many who cast doubt on the Word of God, understand the burden of proof rest with them, and not the believer. History is on our side, and we can declare with the apostle Paul, “ye, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

The focus of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry has moved from Judah, to declaring God’s judgment against the Gentile nations beginning with Egypt in chapter 46, and the Philistines in chapter 47. Employing Babylon as the tool of His judgment, other Gentile nations succumbed to the might of Nebuchadnezzar’s army in quick succession. The Moabites (Jeremiah 48), Ammonites and Edomites, and nomadic tribes of Arabia fell to the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 49).

Though Nebuchadnezzar reigned as leader of the world in his day, seventy years after he destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem, Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians under King Cyrus (50:3, 9, 41-42).

Jeremiah 51

Jeremiah’s prophecies against Babylon continued in Jeremiah 51. Leaving no doubt God is Sovereign of the nations, we read: “1Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, And against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, A destroying wind” (51:1). Yet, God had not forgotten His covenant with Israel, and the prophet declared, “5For Israel hath not been forsaken, Nor Judah of his God, of the Lord of hosts; Though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel” (51:5).

Jeremiah’s prophecies were recorded that the people in captivity would know Babylon was to be destroyed (51:6-9). The children of Israel and Judah were to be ready and looking for the day they would be set at liberty to return to their land (51:10). The LORD would stir the Medes to attack and destroy Babylon (51:11). Though seventy years would pass, the destruction and end of Babylon was prophesied as though it was imminent.

Who could bring that great empire to its knees, and leave its capital in ruins? The LORD of hosts! (51:13) He is Creator, and “hath made the earth by his power, He hath established the world by his wisdom, And hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding” (51:15). He is the Sustainer of nature, for “when he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; And he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: He maketh lightnings with rain, And bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures” (51:15).

When God sets Himself against a nation and its leaders, no man can save it. Though He had employed Nebuchadnezzar’s aspirations for wealth and power to punish the nations, God is just and Babylon would not go unpunished (51:24-41). Describing the scale of the Medes and Persians army, Jeremiah declared, “42The sea is come up upon Babylon: She is covered with the multitude of the waves thereof” (51:42). Babylon had spoiled other nations, now she would become spoil to her enemies (51:43-58).

To this day, Babylon has not been rebuilt, and the ruins of that city lie under the sands of the desert as a testimony of God’s judgment (51:59-64).

Jeremiah 52

The narrative in Jeremiah 52 will be familiar. We have already considered the last days of Jerusalem, and the humiliation of king Zedekiah and his family in 2 Kings 24:19-20 and 2 Kings 25.

God’s longsuffering with the sins and rebellion of His people was exhausted, and He determined to deliver Judah to judgment. There was famine in the city (52:6), and as the walls of Jerusalem were breached, the soldiers of Judah fled the city with the king and his family (52:5-7). The soldiers of Babylon pursued Zedekiah, capturing him near Jericho (52:8; 2 Kings 25:4-7). Taken to be judged by Nebuchadnezzar, that king ordered Zedekiah’s sons be slain, and then the king’s eyes were put out (52:9-11; 2 Kings 24:19-20; 25:1-3). Zedekiah was then taken to Babylon in chains where he died a prisoner (52:11).

Jeremiah’s prophecies concluded with Jerusalem destroyed, and the palaces and Temple plundered and burned (52:12-23).  The people of Judah were led away to Babylon where they lived seventy years (52:24-30). As in 2 Kings 25, the book concluded with a brief mention of king Jehoiachin becoming an object of grace for Evilmerodach king of Babylon (52:31-34; 2 Kings 25:27-30).

Closing thoughts – Ancient Babylon’s army seemed invincible, and the walls of that great city impenetrable. Nevertheless, when God declared His judgment against that nation, there was no one who could save it. Bearing the weight of its wickedness, Babylon was overcome in a night and reduced to ruins.

Every nation would do well to remember: when the LORD bears the sword of judgment, no people or nation can stand.

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.