Tag Archives: dying nation

Three Good Things, and Why You Should Embrace Them (Lamentations 3-5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 3-5

Jeremiah’s lamentations take on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. While today’s Scripture reading is Laminations 3-5, today’s devotional commentary will be limited to chapter 3.

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah has lived to see all that he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poorest people after Babylon conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, the prophet gazes out upon a scene of devastation. The Temple has been destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem have fallen.

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

Alienated from God, the heavy burden of discipline upon him, Jeremiah felt as though the LORD had turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed in his distress, but felt as though God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). In his sorrows, the prophet felt trapped, abandoned, wounded in heart (3:9-13). Mocked by his own people (3:14) and nearly overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18), Jeremiah was despairing of life (3:19) until he turned his focus from his circumstances to the LORD (3:20-21).

Lamentations 3:21-66 – Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that are the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23It 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].”

Jeremiah continues, “The LORD is good [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).

It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good;” however, notice there is a twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of God.

1) First, we must learn to “wait [hope] for Him” (3:25a).

It is easy to counsel others to be patient and wait on the LORD; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.

Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you have been hurt?  To wait when you are ill?  Do you wait on the LORD when you have been mistreated or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait on the LORD when a loved one makes choices that grieve your heart?  “Patience is a virtue,” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply. Jeremiah’s counsel in the midst of deep distress is “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

2) Second, we must truly “seek Him” (3:25b).

What does it mean to seek the LORD? Be diligent to search Him out by reading, inquiring, and meditating in His Word. To seek the LORD one must obey His Law and Commandments, and follow His will (3:40; Jeremiah 29:13)

I close inviting you to consider the things that are said to be “good[pleasant; beautiful; right; pleasing] in Lamentations 3:26-27.

Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”

It is good for a believer to “hope” (3:26a). This “hope” is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul.  It is hope that awaits with anticipation God’s answer to prayer. It is hope that springs from faith that is predicated on the knowledge that God hears and answers 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 in silence. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  (I fear the pews of churches are filled with many who are neither patient or quiet!)

Thirdly, it is good when a son bears the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). 

Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”

In the midst of his own afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged that it is a good thing when young men bear the yoke of manhood with its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Many parents coddle their youth and insulate them from a harsh reality: Life can be difficult, even harsh, but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. 

Lesson – Parents rob children of a “good” thing when they fail to make them bear the burdens, blessings, and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Jerusalem is Become a Widow; Judah is Gone Into Captivity” (Lamentations 1-2)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 1-2

Introduction to Lamentations – The Aftermath of Jerusalem’s Fall

The Book of Lamentations, though only five chapters in length, is powerful, poetic, and a devastating portrait of the consequences of sin. The book is as its name suggest, a book of laments. We find in its pages five laments, penned and enunciated by the prophet Jeremiah, as he gazes upon the rubble that was once the beautiful city of David. Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations records the old prophet’s cries of grief, his groanings over Jerusalem and Judah.

Jeremiah had faithfully served as God’s prophet through the reigns of five successive kings of Judah. He had warned God’s people that judgment was inevitable if the nation did not repent, turn from her sins, and turn to God.  The kings persecuted the prophet and the people rejected the Word of the LORD. With the city destroyed and the majority of the people taken away to Babylon, Jeremiah and a few poor citizens remained in Judah to work the land and serve Babylon.

The focus of today’s devotional commentary will be limited to Lamentations 1.

Lamentations 1 – Jeremiah’s Lament: Jerusalem’s Humiliation

Remembering the Temple is a pile of smoldering rubble and the palaces, homes, and walls of Jerusalem lie in ruin, we can understand Jeremiah’s lament over Jerusalem, the city he describes “as a widow” (1:1) and whose people are “tributary,” serving as forced labor in Babylon (1:1).

Jeremiah pictures Jerusalem as a bereaved widow whose sorrows cannot be appeased, and who finds no comfort for “her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies” (1:2). The cause for the suffering and sorrows of the city is summed up in this: “Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed” (1:8a).

Jeremiah described Jerusalem’s plight and all the people had suffered because of their sins: Famine, humiliation, distress, the consuming fire of God’s wrath, the burden of sin, the loss of her army, sorrow, rejection and scorn had become Jerusalem’s plight (1:9-17).

The LORD was Waiting for His People to Confess Their Sins and Turn to Him (1:18-22).

In a prayer of intercession, Jeremiah confessed the sins of His nation (1:18-19). Declaring the righteousness of the LORD, the prophet confessed for Jerusalem: “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).

Following his confession to the LORD, Jeremiah made four pleas for Jerusalem and her displaced people (1:20-22).

The first plea was that the LORD would see Jerusalem’s suffering (1:20a). The second, that the LORD would hear the confession of His people (1:20b). Thirdly, Jeremiah prayed for the LORD to show compassion upon His people who were dying (1:20c).

Finally, the prophet closed with an imprecatory plea: That the LORD would remember the wickedness of Babylon and that nation would suffer the afflictions she had assailed on Jerusalem (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 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Prophecy: Babylon the Great is Fallen; however, God has not Forgotten Israel (Jeremiah 51-52)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 51-52

We continue our chronological schedule through the Word of God, concluding our journey in the book of Jeremiah with today’s Scripture reading, Jeremiah 51-52. We have followed the ministry of Jeremiah as he preached to Judah, a nation on the brink of God’s judgment. Israel is no more. Judah has fallen; the Temple is destroyed, and the city of Jerusalem has been left desolate. God, however, had not forgotten or forsaken His people. Babylon’s invasion of Judah had left a path of suffering and destruction, but Jeremiah prophesied that the LORD would have His revenge against Babylon for its abuses of His people.

Jeremiah 51 – The Vengeance of God: Babylon the Great is Fallen

Jeremiah began his prophecy against Babylon in chapter 50, and continues foretelling that nation’s precipitous fall in chapter 51.

Jeremiah had prophesied a coalition of nations that would come against Babylon, “an assembly of great nations from the north country” (50:9). Babylon would “be a spoil” (50:10), “a desolation among the nations” (50:23). God had not forgotten how Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed His Temple in Jerusalem, and the LORD declared “the vengeance of His Temple” (50:28).

God’s people would be made to dwell in Babylon for seventy years of captivity; however, Jeremiah prophesied, “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 identified the enemy that would come against Babylon, prophesying, “the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple” (51:11).

Who is the LORD that moved the nations of the earth to do His bidding? He is the Creator, who “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).

Though the most powerful nation in its day, the fall of Babylon would be swift and severe and no man, woman, or child would be spared (51:20-24). The cruelties Babylon afflicted on Jerusalem, her own citizens would experience (51:25). The “king of the Medes” (Cyrus who led a coalition of the Medes and Persians) was foretold to fulfill the LORD’S purpose, and “make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant” (51:29). What Babylon had sown, she would reap (51:34-35).

Jeremiah 51:45-64 – Jeremiah’s prophecy warned God’s people to flee Babylon before its fall.

Jeremiah wrote his prophecies in a scroll (a book) and sent them by a scribe who was commanded to read the prophecies against Babylon in the streets of that great city (51:59-62). When Seraiah, the scribe, had read all the prophecies against Babylon, he was told to tie a stone around the book and “cast it into the midst of Euphrates” (51:63) saying: “Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her” (51:64).

Jeremiah 52 – When All Seemed Lost, A Glimmer of Hope

Jeremiah 52 returns us to the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and his rebellion not only against Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Jeremiah 37:1-10), but also against the LORD. Jeremiah had urged Zedekiah to accept Babylon’s reign over Judah, warning to rebel would mean Jerusalem would be destroyed and the people led away captive (Jeremiah 38).

When Zedekiah’s attempt to seek an alliance with Egypt failed, the king of Judah realized all was lost. Fleeing Jerusalem with a small entourage of soldiers (52:7), Zedekiah was overtaken by Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers near Jericho (52:8). The king of Judah and his sons were taken to Nebuchadnezzar who ordered Zedekiah’s sons slain, the king’s eyes put out (52:9-10), and him to Babylon in chains (52:11).

Jeremiah’s prophecies conclude noting that Nebuchadnezzar had led three sieges against Jerusalem and a total of four thousand six hundred citizens of Judah had been taken captive to Babylon (52:28-30).

Reminding God’s people that all was not lost, thirty-seven years after Jerusalem was destroyed, Jehoiachin, the king of Judah who was held captive in Babylon, found favor in the eyes of Evilmerodach, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and was raised up from prison to dine at the king’s table the rest of his days (52:31-34).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Israel’s Redeemer is Strong; the LORD of Hosts is His Name” (Jeremiah 49-50)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 49-50

Today’s Scripture reading continues the record of God’s vengeance against those nations that had been the adversaries of Israel and Judah. In our previous passage of Scripture (Jeremiah 46-48), we considered the LORD’s vengeance against Egypt (Jeremiah 46), Philistia (Jeremiah 47), and Moab (Jeremiah 48). Jeremiah 49-50continues the same prophetic warnings against those nations who had abused God’s people. We can take many lessons from God’s judgment of the nations; however, I suggest the overriding truth is this: God is sovereign over humanity and the LORD of the world’s nations.

Jeremiah 49 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor and Elam

Like the Moabites (Jeremiah 48), the Ammonites were also descendants of Lot’s incest with his daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:32-38). Jeremiah prophesied that the lands occupied by Ammon would one day be returned to Israel (49:2). The sins of the Ammonites were not only their adversarial relationship with Israel, but also their greed and covetousness (49:4-5). In a wonderful evidence of God’s grace, Jeremiah prophesied when Christ’s comes to reign on the earth, numbered among the believers would be “the children of Ammon” (49:6).

The Edomites (49:7-22), descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, were to be destroyed like “Sodom and Gomorrah” (49:13-18). Nebuchadnezzar would come upon Edom like a roaring lion (49:19) and the army of Babylon would sweep over the land like an eagle (49:22).

The nation of Syria, represented by its capital Damascus would be destroyed in God’s judgment (49:23-27).

Three nomadic Arabian tribes including Kedar (49:28-29), Hazor (49:30-33) and Elam (49:34-37) were condemned for judgment. Jeremiah 49:38-39 foretold the extent of Christ’s kingdom will also include the land of Elam.

Jeremiah 50 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Babylon

Jeremiah 50 is an incredible passage of Scripture that foretells the destruction of Babylon, a nation that in Jeremiah’s day was not only the most powerful the world had ever witnessed, but which seemed invincible in its day.

Though Babylon was conquering all nations at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy, nevertheless, the LORD foretold a coalition of nations “out of the north” (50:3, 9, 41-42) would so destroy and devastate Babylon that the city would not be fit for man nor beast (50:3). We know from the Scriptures and history the collation of nations out of the north would be the Medes and Persians under the leadership of King Cyrus.

Jeremiah prophesied the “children of Israel” would be liberated by the nation that conquered Babylon and the people would return to their land (50:4-7).

God warned the captives of Babylon to flee the city for her destruction was sealed (50:9-16). Babylon had scattered God’s people like sheep (50:17) and God promised in revenge, “Babylon [would] become a desolation among the nations” (50:23). Babylon had defied God, therefore, He was going to take vengeance on that nation (50:24-32). The fall of Babylon in that time was so great it was prophesied that “the earth is moved” by her fall (50:46).

I close by inviting you to consider God’s promise to His people. Though Israel and Judah were to be scattered among the nations, God would not forget His people and warned the nations, Israel’s “Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: He shall thoroughly plead [the cause of His people] and in that day the “inhabitants of Babylon” will be terrified (50:34).

Our God is the LION of Judah!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Gathering Storm Clouds of God’s Vengeance (Jeremiah 46-48)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 46-48

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the beginning of a series of prophecies against the Gentile nations that had abused Israel and Judah. These final chapters, Jeremiah 46-52, predict the devastating invasion of Babylon’s army (“waters rise up out of the north” – Jeremiah 47:2) and the forthcoming destruction of those nations that were Israel’s adversaries.

Jeremiah 46 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Egypt

Knowing the LORD declared King Nebuchadnezzar as, “My servant,” we begin to understand the manner in which God would use the rise of Babylon to humble those nations that had afflicted His people.

Babylon’s overwhelming defeat of Egypt was predicted (46:1-2), even as that nation’s Pharaoh rallied his army (46:3-8) and hired mercenaries to go to war with Egypt’s army (46:9). In spite of Egypt’s greatness and her vast wealth, God warned, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon [would] come and smite the land of Egypt” (46:13).

Reminding us of God’s sovereignty over the nations, the question was asked, “Why are thy valiant men swept away?” The answer, “because the LORD did drive them” (46:15).

Egypt had passed the time of repenting of her sins (46:17) and Jeremiah warned, her “destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north” (46:20). And who was that enemy that would come out of the north (46:24)?

Jeremiah 46:26 – And I will deliver them [the people of Egypt] into the hand of those that seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants: and afterward it shall be inhabited, as in the days of old, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 47 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Philistia

Have you ever wondered what became of the Philistines, Moabites, and Ammonites? The answer is found in the closing chapters of Jeremiah’s prophecies. Those ancient people and their nations were defeated by the armies of Babylon, removed from their lands, and ultimately assimilated into other nations and people.

Jeremiah prophesied against Philistine cities and their inhabitants: Gaza, Tyrus, Zidon, Ashkelon would all be destroyed by “water [that would] rise up out of the north [i.e. Babylon], and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein: then the men [of Philistia]shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl” (47:2).

Jeremiah 48 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Moab

Jeremiah prophecy of doom continues with a warning to the cities of Moab, Israel’s ancient enemy (48:1-3). We read, “Moab is destroyed; her little ones [the children of Moab] have caused a cry to be heard” (48:4). The destruction and suffering brought upon Moab by Babylon would be complete, her “cities thereof shall be desolate, without any to dwell therein” (48:9).

No village, town, or city would be spared God’s judgment. The LORD warned Nebuchadnezzar, addressing the king as His servant, His agent of judgment, that he would be judged should he “[keep] back his sword from blood” (48:10). Jeremiah 48:11-25 gives us a graphic portrait of the defeat and suffering of Moab.

Why such suffering? Why obliterate the Moabites as a people? Because a spirit of pride had moved Moab as a nation to “[magnify] himself against the LORD” (48:42).

Is there any good news for God’s people in today’s Scripture reading? Absolutely; there was a message of hope and comfort found in the closing verses of Jeremiah 46.

Jeremiah 46:27-28 – “27  But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. 28  Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.”

Unlike the heathen whose nations are lost to history, God promised He would not forget His people identified as “my servant Jacob” and represented in Israel and Judah (46:27).

The LORD promised to one day gather them together from the nations of the world and restore them to their land (Isaiah 19:16-25) and “The LORD Our Righteousness” will reign (Jeremiah 23:5-8).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek Them Not!” (Jeremiah 41-45)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 41-45

The prophet Jeremiah has been warning Judah and her kings that the time for repentance had passed and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldean army and King Nebuchadnezzar was sealed. Rather than heed the prophet’s warnings, the people abused, persecuted and imprisoned Jeremiah. However, because He is a gracious God, and in spite of the nation’s wickedness, the LORD did not leave His people without hope.

Jeremiah 42

The fate of Judah was decided; however, the LORD assured the people, “Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. 12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.” (42:11-12)

Foreknowing some of the people would flee south to Egypt, Jeremiah warned the nation,  “Hear the word of theLORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; 16  Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.”  (42:15-16)

Jeremiah 43

Jeremiah warned the people, “Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant11  And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt…and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt”  (43:10-12).

Jeremiah 45

Jeremiah 45 is a brief, but fascinating passage. Comprising only five verses, the LORD lovingly addressed Baruch (45:1), the scribe who had served beside Jeremiah as he faithfully declared God’s Word. Baruch had been deeply moved by the prophecies of imminent judgment, even as he faced the same hardships, persecutions and imprisonment as the old prophet (45:2-3). The LORD commanded Jeremiah to admonish Baruch, his faithful friend and scribe, and warn him:

Jeremiah 45:5 – “Seekest [require; beg; strive after] thou great things [high; greater; proud thing] for thyself? seek [require; beg; strive after] them not: for, behold, I will bring [come in; enter; give; advance] evil [bad; adversity; affliction; distress] upon all flesh [person; mankind; bodies], saith the LORD: but thy life [soul; person; heart] will I give [deliver; commit; give up; abandon] unto thee for a prey [spoil; possessions; booty; plunder] in all places whither thou goest [walk; depart; follow].”

I close today’s commentary inviting you to consider the same challenge: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek Them Not!”

Matthew 6:19-21 19  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson and Admonition to Social Drinkers (Habakkuk 1-3)

Scripture reading – Habakkuk 1-3

Habakkuk was a prophet whose brief ministry served as a final warning of the LORD’s judgment on Judah for the sins of the people.  A contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s lamentation over Judah and the imminent invasion of the Chaldeans was an ominous conclusion of a succession of warnings faithfully delivered by the prophets.

Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were as much an appeal to the LORD for Judah as they were a lamentation over the devastation God’s people would soon face as the invading armies of Babylon (the Chaldeans) stormed over the land, finally destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Habakkuk 1

Habakkuk 1 is a record of Judah’s sins (1:1-4) and a warning that God would use the Chaldeans to punish the sins of His rebellious people (1:5-17).  Habakkuk questioned why the LORD would use Babylon, a heathen nation whose wickedness far exceeded the sins of Judah, to punish His people (1:12-13).

Habakkuk 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked[Babylon] devoureth the man [i.e. Judah] that is more righteous than he?”

Habakkuk 2

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1) and the LORD graciously responded (2:2-4).  The judgment of God was set against Judah; however, God had not forsaken His chosen people, therefore, “the just shall live by his faith” (2:4; note Romans 1:16-17).

Although God would use Babylon as a tool to exact justice on Judah for her wickedness, the LORD was not blind to the sins of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).  Habakkuk raised several grievances against Babylon, among them their drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19-20).

Habakkuk 3

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sorrows and sufferings that would soon engulf Judah (1:1-4), but ends with the prophet praying and acknowledging the LORD’s sovereignty (3:1-2) and majesty (3:3-16).  The prophet had moved from questioning the LORD, to trusting His ways and rejoicing in His faithfulness (3:17-19).

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

I close today’s devotional drawing your attention to two verses too many 21st century believers trivialize and dismiss as they assail any who dare question their “Liberty.”

Among the sins and wickedness of Babylon, was one that was mentioned twice…wine and drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:5, 15). The Chaldeans were condemned not only for their drunkenness, but also for giving strong drink to mock and take advantage of their neighbor.

Habakkuk 2:5 – “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:”

Habakkuk 2:15 – “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

I close with a lesson all believers would be wise to heed: Wine and strong drink often chart the path to unrestrained pride, shameless adultery, uninhibited lust, and gross immorality.

Warning to parents and charlatan pastors: What you exercise in moderation, your children will practice to excess. Such a path invariably ends with heartache and ruin!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The End is the Beginning (2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36

We complete two historical books in today’s Scripture reading: 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.

2 Kings began with Elijah prophesying in Israel (2 Kings 1:4-16) when he was suddenly taken into heaven by a whirlwind by what appeared to be a “chariot of fire, and horses of fire” (2:1-11). 2 Kings concludes with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the people of Judah being led away to Babylon.

2 Chronicles 36 gives us a brief historical record of the succession of four evil kings: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36). Not only had the kings failed Judah, but also her religious leaders were guilty of leading the nation into wickedness and idolatry.

2 Chronicles 36:14 – “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem.”

God sent prophets who faithfully heralded a warning of God’s judgment, but the people of Judah refused “till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).

2 Kings 24 – Judah Becomes a Vassal State to Babylon

There was “no remedy,” no hope for Jerusalem or Judah. Jerusalem was overwhelmed by the armies of Babylon that no doubt numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and included mercenary soldiers from other nations (24:2). In the year that Nebuchadnezzar became king (605 BC), he defeated Egypt, Assyria, and Judah submitted to serve as a vassal state of Babylon (24:7).

2 Kings 25 – The Final Siege of Jerusalem

After being under siege for nearly two years (25:1-2), there was no bread in the city and the people began to resort to cannibalism (Jeremiah 38:2-9; 52:6; Lamentations 4:3-10; Ezekiel 5:10).

Enrico Giacomelli, IV Kings 25:7, Volume 1, 1869-1870 edition.

Realizing all was lost, King Zedekiah fled the city with his guards; however, he made it only as far as Jericho before he was captured (25:4-6). Zedekiah was brought before Nebuchadnezzar to be judged. Being found guilty of rebellion, Zedekiah was forced to watch the slaying of his sons before their executioners put out his eyes and carried him away in chains to Babylon (25:7).

Fulfilling God’s prophecies of judgment against Jerusalem, the Babylonians “burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem” (25:9), and broke down the walls of the city (25:10).

Babylon removed all the vessels of the Temple (25:13-17), and either took captive or slew the leaders of Judah who might have threatened an uprising (25:11, 18-21), leaving behind only the poorest of the people (25:12).

After being imprisoned 37 years (25:27), King Jehoiachin, came into the favor of Evil-Merodach, the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar (25:28-30) and was made comfortable at the king’s table until his death.

2 Chronicles 36 concludes with a message of hope for God’s people.

Jeremiah prophesied when 70 years of captivity were fulfilled, God’s people would return to their land (36:21). Seventy years after Jerusalem was defeated and the Temple was destroyed, we read:

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “22  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.”

God’s Word is true and His promises are sure!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

History is the Story of El Shaddai, Almighty God (Jeremiah 38-40, Psalms 74, 79)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 38-40, Psalms 74, 79

The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah has taken him from the grandstand of the king’s palace to the stocks of a prison cell. In spite of all he has suffered and the humiliation heaped upon him, God’s prophet has not wavered in his devotion to the LORD, nor the LORD in His warnings of impending judgment to come upon Judah and Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 38 – In the Pits, But Not Forsaken

Jeremiah encouraged the people to accept the doom of Jerusalem was sealed and the only hope of life was to surrender to the Chaldeans (38:1-2). Jeremiah prophesied, “This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it” (38:3). Rather than repent, the hearts of the people were so hardened against the LORD that they rose up and demanded His prophet be put to death (38:4).

For the prophet, things went from bad to worse when King Zedekiah heeded the demands of the leaders of Jerusalem and delivered Jeremiah into their hands who then took him from prison and left him to die in a dungeon described as a place where “there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (38:5-6).

Providentially, a man named Ebedmelech interceded for Jeremiah and petitioned the king for the old prophet to be delivered from the dungeon (38:7-13) and taken to the palace prison where he would remain until the Chaldeans conquered Jerusalem (38:14-28).

Jeremiah 39-40 – The Final Siege of Jerusalem

Having failed to heed Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, king Zedekiah and his sons fled Jerusalem and were taken prisoner by the Chaldeans (39:1-5).

Tragically, the sons of Zedekiah and all the nobles of Judah were slain, the King’s eyes were put out, and he and the people were led away to Babylon (39:6-10).

In an ironic, but providential twist of divine providence, Nebuchadnezzar removed Jeremiah from prison and directed his servants to care for his needs and released him to go home (39:11-14; 40:1-6).

History is “His Story;” a testimony of the providential works of God Who is Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. 

He is El Shaddai, Almighty God, and is able to direct the evil purposes of wicked men to be that which is good for His people and for His glory (Romans 8:28-29).

The enemies you face today are not so big they are outside of the sovereignty of El Shaddai!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Reward of a Faithful Prophet (Jeremiah 35-37)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 35-37

The prophet Jeremiah ministered to Judah during the reigns of five kings: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36).

Two sons of King Josiah reigned after his death. Jehoahaz, the youngest son of Josiah, was made king; however, soon after he was deposed and taken as a prisoner to Egypt. In Jehoahaz’s absence, his elder brother Jehoiakim was made king of Judah.

The timeline for Jeremiah 35 is during the reign of Jehoiakim (35:1).

Jeremiah 35 – God Rewards Spiritual Integrity

God commanded Jeremiah to put the household of the Rechabites to the test and prove them as a contrast with the unfaithfulness of Judah.

Jeremiah was told to invite the Rechabites to the Temple and offer them wine to drink (35:2). The prophet obeyed as he was commanded and set wine before the Rechabites and said, “Drink ye wine” (35:5). True to the vows that had been made by a godly ancestor named Jonadab, the Rechabites refused the wine saying, “We will drink no wine” (35:6-11).

Jeremiah 35:12-19 presents a distinction of the honor and integrity of the Rechabites contrasted with the dishonor of the people of Judah. While the Rechabites honored the vows of an ancestor (35:12-14), the people of Judah and Jerusalem refused to heed the word of the prophets and repent of their sin (35:15).

Because of their disobedience, God warned, “I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered” (35:17).

Jeremiah 35 closes with the LORD affirming to the sons of Rechab that their faithfulness and spiritual integrity (35:18) would be rewarded with God assuring that there would always be a godly man numbered in their lineage (35:19).

Jeremiah 36 – The Word of the LORD Despised, Rejected, and Burned with Fire

Unable to go to the Temple to declare the Word of the LORD, God commanded Jeremiah to employ a secretary, a scribe named Baruch, who was instructed to write in a scroll, “all the words of the LORD, which he [the LORD] had spoken unto him [Jeremiah]” (36:4). Jeremiah instructed Baruch to go to the Temple and read the words written in the scroll and call upon the people to “return every one from his evil way” (36:6-7). Baruch obeyed Jeremiah and read the inspired words of the scroll “in the ears of all the people” (36:8-10).

When Baruch had finished reading, he was summoned by the elders (the princes of Judah) to account for the origin of Jeremiah’s words saying, “How didst thou write all these words at his mouth” (36:17). Baruch declared concerning Jeremiah that he “pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book” (36:18).

Careful to leave Baruch’s scroll in the chamber of Elishama, a scribe, the princes of Judah took the message of the scroll to King Jehoiakim who demanded the scroll be retrieved and read in his presence (36:20-21).

As a man named Jehudi began reading the scroll (36:21-22), the king became enraged and slashed the leaves of the scroll with a knife and then “cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (36:23). Rather than repent of their sins, the hearts of the king and his servants were so calloused that “they were not afraid, nor rent their garments” (36:24).

The LORD then commanded Jeremiah a second time to take a roll and write again the words which were contained in the first scroll “which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned” (36:28). Added to the words of the scroll was a threefold prophecy against Jerusalem and the King Jehoiakim:

Babylon would conquer and destroy Judah (36:29); the king would not be succeeded by a son (36:30a); and as the king had despised the scroll upon which the Word of the LORD was written, his dead body would not be afforded the honorable burial of a king (36:30b).

Jeremiah 37 – The Reward of a Faithful Prophet: Accused, Treated with Disdain, Beaten and Imprisoned.

We are introduced to King Zedekiah in chapter 37 and he is the last king to reign before the fall of Jerusalem (37:1-13). Zedekiah was little more than a puppet who served at the pleasure of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

As the armies of the Chaldeans and the Egyptians clashed over the spoils of Judah (37:4-7), King Zedekiah hypocritically called upon Jeremiah saying, “Pray now unto the LORD our God for us” (37:3). Rather than prayer, the LORD directed Jeremiah to warn Zedekiah that the Chaldeans would soon burn the city (37:6-10).

Rather than the nation repenting and turning to the LORD, the people turned on Jeremiah and accused him of betraying Judah and siding with the Chaldeans (37:11-13).

In spite of his protests that their accusations were false (37:14), the people took Jeremiah, beat him, and cast him into prison where he remained (37:11-21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith