Tag Archives: dying nation

A Curse of Ingratitude

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 21-24

Our study in 2 Chronicles continues today with a nation in mourning when we read, “Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead” (2 Chronicles 21:1).

Jehoshaphat’s reign over Judah was aptly summed up in these words: He “walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32).

Jehoshaphat and his father Asa reigned over Judah sixty-six years and the LORD blessed the nation with peace and prosperity; however, the latter years of each king’s reign was stained with alliances that compromised not only their life testimonies and the nation.

King Asa made a foolish alliance with Syria in the latter years of his reign and went to his grave ruling a nation at war (2 Chronicles 16:9).  Like his father before him, Jehoshaphat’s last act as king was an alliance with the Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, “to make ships to go to Tarshish”  (2 Chronicles 20:35-36); ships that were apparently lost in a storm and “broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37).

Jehoram, unlike his father and grandfather before him, began to reign over Judah with no evidence he loved or aspired to serve the LORD (2 Chronicles 21:1).  Rather than peace and prosperity, the reign of Jehoram began with him commanding the murders of his own brethren to secure the throne of Judah and eliminate any challenge to his reign (2 Chronicles 21:2-5).

Though he ruled only eight years, Jehoram’s reign was not only a terror to his father’s household, it began Judah’s decline into all manner of evil.  Taking the daughter of Ahab, Israel’s wicked king, to be his wife, Jehoram “walked in the way of the kings of Israel…and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD” (21:6).  Jehoram’s godless example was far reaching, for “he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

God raised up Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet, to confront Jehoram (21:12-13), who warned the king his wickedness not only provoked the LORD’s judgment against Judah (21:14), but would also result in his own dreadful death described as a “great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day” (21:15).  We are not told what the intestinal disease was, but I suspect it might have been a cancer for we read, “his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases…” (26:19).  Unlike his father’s memorial service, Judah did not honor Jehoram with a king’s burial.

Continuing on a path of compromise with the wicked, one that would eventually lead to Judah’s destruction, Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, secured his father’s throne in Jerusalem and following the counsel of his mother, having his brethren slain (22:1).  Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (22:4) and followed the counsel of the idolatrous and wicked “house of Ahab” (22:4).

Ahaziah was slain after reigning only one year over Judah (22:9) and was succeeded by his wicked mother Athaliah, who ordered the slaying of all the royal line of David (22:10-12).   Josah, the infant son of Ahaziah, was spared when Ahaziah’s sister concealed him for six years while Athaliah reigned in Judah (22:11-12).

2 Chronicles 23 records the coronation and ascension of Joash to the throne led by the high priest Jehoiada and the priestly tribe of Levi (23:1-11), the slaying of Athaliah and her followers (23:12-15).  Having crowned the new king, the high priest Jehoiada boldly led the nation in revival, purging the land of the worshippers of Baal (23:16-21).

Joash began to reign when he was seven years old and Jehoiada, the high priest served as his counsel and guide (24:1-3).  Under the influence of Jehoiada, Joash set his heart to repair the temple that had fallen into decay during the six-year reign of Athaliah (24:4-7).  Joash made a proclamation for a collection to be taken from the people and the offerings of the people used to hire workman to repair the temple (24:8-14).

The high priest Jehoiada counseled and guided Joash until his death at one hundred and thirty years old (24:15-16).  With Jehoiada dead, the “princes of Judah” (24:17) were emboldened to come to the king who turned the heart of the king and the nation from the LORD and provoking His wrath (24:18).

The LORD raised up prophets to prophesy against the sins of the nation; among them was Zechariah, the son of the Jehoiada the high priest.   Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation, warning of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22).  Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

The LORD judged Joash and Judah, giving Syria victory who slew the “princes of the people” (24:22-24).  The servants of Joash rose up and slew the king while he slept on his bed and buried him without the honors given to kings (24:25).

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of Bob Jones College, reminded the student body, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (24:22a).

How could a man whose life was saved by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the merciless death of his son?

I suppose every believer can answer that question when we bear in our heart a spirit of bitterness, forgetting the LORD sacrificed His Son for our sins.  Thus we read this exhortation:

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God orders the starts and stops, not man!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jonah 1-4

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on the Book of Jonah.  Only four chapters long, the drama in this small prophetic book is intriguing because it imparts to us the LORD’s love and compassion for sinners and His patience with a reluctant, rebellious servant.  Needless to say, there is much to take from today’s scripture reading!

Have you ever wanted to run away?  Some reading this commentary might remember demanding your way as a child, threatening to take your little red wagon and run from home if you did not get it.  To your chagrin, your parents pretended to take you up on your threat, and offered to help you pack!  If you were strong-willed, you might have followed through with your threat; however, when you are young, minutes seem like hours and a hundred yards like a mile.  When you returned home from your self-willed excursion, your mom may have greeted you, “Well, you’re back home!  Wash your hands and get ready for dinner!”

Two lessons should have come from your childhood tantrum.  The first, “What is best for you is not always what you think is best.”  The second lesson, one you might not have known until years later; although you could not see him, your father was lovingly watching and never took his eyes off you!

2800 years ago, Jonah, a passionate, patriotic and popular preacher in Israel received God’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh…” (1:2).  Nineveh was a great city with a population of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11).  Nineveh was also a wicked city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and the adversary of Israel!

Perhaps fearing the enemy or the rejection of His own people, Jonah refused to go and preach against Nineveh, later confessing he feared the LORD might spare that city from destruction!  Jonah resigned his calling as God’s prophet (Jonah 1:3), paid his fare, and took a ship for Tarshish, a city on the western most edge of the known world in his day (1:3).

In his flight from the LORD, Jonah soon found himself caught in a great storm and the sea threatening to take the ship, him and his fellow passengers to a watery grave (1:4-6).  Evidencing the callousness of a backslidden sinner, Jonah slept in the bottom of the ship.  Learning Jonah was God’s prophet and the storm was from the LORD to chastise him, the sailors cast him into the sea where a great fish swallowed him.

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (Jonah 2:1), confessed his sin and we read, “He heard me” (2:2).  The prophet understood his miserable state was a watery grave unless the LORD delivered him (2:9-10).  The LORD mercifully answered Jonah’s prayer, “spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

Jonah obeyed the LORD, went to Nineveh and began warning that great city, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).  Incredibly, the people of Nineveh believed the word of that reluctant prophet and repented (3:5-9).  Hearing Nineveh’s cry of repentance, the LORD, moved with compassion and set aside His judgment.

Jonah 3:10 – “And God saw [looked;; beheld; perceived] their works [behavior; deeds], that they turned [turned back] from their evil [sinful; wicked] way; and God repented [reckoned; moved with compassion] of the evil [destruction; bad—not sin], that he had said that he would do [make; wrought; perform; accomplish] unto them; and he did it not.”

Had the life of Jonah ended on that point of revival, a city of 120,000 souls repenting, we would number him among the great preachers and prophets of all time.  Jonah, however, did not rejoice in the LORD’s compassion and the saving of the city. We read of Jonah:

Jonah 4:1-2 – “But it displeased [so angry with God he trembled] Jonah exceedingly [he was overcome and afflicted with anger], and he was very angry [he was incensed; burned with anger]. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] , and said [charged], I pray thee [lit. “Ah, now!”], O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful  [full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment].”

Jonah was angry with God for sparing a city that was the enemy of Israel.  Abandoning his place of ministry, a second time, Jonah left Nineveh, built a temporary dwelling outside the city, sat down and waited to see if God would destroy the city (Jonah 4:5).

Here we find another characteristic of men who abandon their calling…they are more interested in temporal comforts than they are in lost souls

Jonah 4:6 – “And the LORD God prepared [appointed; told] a gourd, and made it to come up [ascend; mount up] over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver [preserve; recover; escape] him from his grief [lit. sin; evil; wickedness; distress; misery]. So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

Jonah became angry and despaired of life when God destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine.  “And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd? And he said, I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (Jonah 4:9).

God challenged Jonah to consider his priorities and his foolish, self-centered attitude.

Jonah 4:10 – “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:”

Jonah’s biography ends with a question:

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?”

Many reading this simple pastor’s commentary either are or have known men and women who once professed a call to ministry, but quit and took a ship to Tarshish.  Times got hard, people were difficult and you took what appeared an easy way out…you quit and contented yourself with your own gourd; however, in light of eternity it is temporal and comes at the sacrifice of the best part…the will of the LORD.

After 38 years of ministry, I understand the temptation to run from pressures, people, problems and pain.  My wife and I celebrated the beginning of our 33rd year of ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, October 1, 2017.  We never intended to be at this ministry so many years and there were many times I was tempted to “cut and run”; however, I am glad we pressed on through the pain and problems.

Take a lesson from the life of Jonah: God orders the starts and stops, not man! 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“A Nation’s Character Is Oft Reflected in the Character of Its Leaders!”

October 5, 2017

Scripture reading – Proverbs 28

Our scripture reading this Thursday, October 5, 2017 is Proverbs 28.  Remembering the Book of Proverbs is in a real sense, “sounds bites of wisdom”, brief statements of truth Solomon imparted to a son who would one day be king, it comes as no surprise that many of the statements in Proverbs 28 reflect on the reign of righteous leaders contrasted with the rule of wicked men who abuse the people.  Two proverbs will be the subject of today’s devotional commentary.

Proverbs 28:2  “For the transgression [sin; rebellion] of a land [nation] many are the princes [chief; commander; rulers] thereof: but by a man of understanding [discernment] and knowledge [by observation and experience] the state [rightness; well-being; preparation] thereof [the land, i.e. nation] shall be prolonged [lengthened].”

Solomon’s political proverb reveals one of the afflictions of a rebellious nation—many leaders!  The implication is that a country, which turns its back on God, will be weak and divided by its leaders.  An obvious illustration of a divided nation is civil war; however, the two-party rhetoric of our day portends to the same rift without taking up arms.

The vitriolic, venomous speeches of our leaders reflect the sins of a divided nation.  We are a nation of many leaders, few of whom desire to see America on a righteous course.   Our leaders have distorted life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; systematically taking the lives of nearly 60 million unborn and attacking the sanctity of marriage and family with a deluded definition of equal rights in the name of diversity, we are a rebellious nation!

Proverbs 28:2 also reminds us leaders with wisdom, insight and discernment are a blessing to a nation.   It is the character of the leader, not the office he holds, that defines such a leader.   His integrity and dependence on God imparts to the nation stability and security that prolongs the nation’s life and prosperity.

Proverbs 28:5 is the second proverb I invite you to ponder.

Proverbs 28:5  “Evil men [wicked, sinful] understand [consider; perceive; discern] not judgment [rights; order; verdict; cause]: but they that seek [strive after; enquire; desire; search out] the LORD [Eternal, Self-existent Jehovah] understand [consider; discern] all things.”

The exercise of law and justice and keeping and preserving the law are subjects of this proverb.  While the righteous consider God’s commandments and fear His judgment, the wicked have no immutable standard of right and wrong.

Such has become the malady of America’s judicial system.  Once the envy of the world, our judicial system is corrupt and “Lady Justice” is no longer blind.   Sadly, the weight of the law is often balanced in favor of the wicked and their cronies.

With rare exceptions, the day has passed when good men and women go into the practice of law driven by a passion for justice and dedicated to upholding the Constitution and laws of the land.   For decades, our citizenry has elected corrupt officials who, once in office, appoint judges like themselves.

We are a nation in decline and have lost our role as the world’s leader and force for good.   One need look no further than the character of the men and women we have elected to office and who sit in places of judgment to understand, a nation’s leaders are indicative of that nation’s character—they are who we are!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

America: There is a Pay Day Someday!

October 3, 2017

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11-15

Today’s scripture reading, 2 Chronicles 11-15, is not only filled with colorful historical facts, but is also bursting with opportunities of taking and applying spiritual principles that are as applicable in our day as they were nearly 3,000 year ago.

The setting of our study follows the death of king Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31) and the ascension of his son Rehoboam to the throne of Israel (2 Chronicles 10).   Hearing Solomon was dead, Jeroboam, an old adversary of Solomon returned from exile in Egypt and led an uprising against young and inexperienced Rehoboam.

Rejecting the counsel of his father’s counselors, Rehoboam hearkened to the reckless counsel of his peers, provoking rebellion among the northern ten tribes who followed Jeroboam dividing the nation (2 Chronicles 10:8-19).   The northern ten tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became one nation known as Judah.  Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, thought to raise an army and seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4).

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates how quickly a nation can depart from the LORD and turn to other gods.   We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually, instituting a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised wisdom and discernment; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:7-23).   Comfortable in his palace and enjoying the blessing of the LORD, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).  Because Rehoboam turned his heart and the nation from the LORD, the LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah to turn the heart of the king and nation back to Him (12:1-5).

The LORD sent Shemaiah, his prophet, to confront the king and leaders of Judah (12:5) who, hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, humbled themselves before the LORD (12:5-8).  In His mercy, the LORD spared Judah from destruction, however, He allowed Shishak to put Rehoboam and Judah under servitude.   Adding to the nation’s humiliation, Shishak removed from the walls of Rehoboam’s palace “shields of gold which Solomon had made” (12:9).  Rehoboam, rather than repent of his sins and turn back to the LORD, “made shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard, that kept the entrance of the king’s house” (12:10).

What a tragedy!  Rather than humble himself and repent of his sinful ways, Rehoboam substituted a counterfeit, shields of brass, to adorn the walls of his palace.  Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, concealed the miserable state of the nation!

America, her leaders, her churches and Christians would be wise to take a lesson from 2 Chronicles 11-12.   Emerging from the late 19th century, America was a rural, agricultural nation of family farms and Christian values; however, the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries transformed our nation into a power that was the envy of the world by the end of World War II.

Like Judah of old, our wealth and prosperity as a nation has deceived us and America has turned from the LORD.   Our homes, churches and schools are no longer strongholds of moral virtue and, in the same way Rehoboam counterfeited the loss of “shields of gold” with brass shields, the leaders of our United States have enslaved our nation to a $20 trillion debt carried largely by enemies committed to our demise.

Our federal government can print dollar bills night and day and Americans can pursue possessions and sinful pleasures veiled in a mounting, crippling debt; however, in the words of the old evangelists… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Israel, Behold Your King Cometh!

September 22, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 5-9

Remembering the distinction between Israel, the northern kingdom made up of ten tribes, and Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, Amos takes up the prophecy of the LORD against Israel in Amos 5.

God’s condemnation and exposure of Israel’s hypocrisy gives way to His lamentation over the judgment and sorrows that will soon come upon the people (5:1-3).   Though the heart of the nation was to do evil, nevertheless the LORD appealed to Israel to hear, heed and repent (5:4, 6, 8, 14-15)!

Amos names the sins of the nation…unjust and rejecting righteousness (5:7), hating bearers of truth (5:10), abusing the poor (5:11), afflicting the righteous and taking bribes (5:12).   Pronouncements of “Woe!” bring the chapter to a close (5:18-27).  The people had continued to make a pretense of outward conformity (5:21-22), but God knew their hearts and the prophet condemns their hypocrisy [note verse 23 – Even their songs had the character of noise].

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of “woes”, against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1).  Identifying Philistine and Syrian cities that had fallen to the Assyrian army, Amos questioned if Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them? (5:2)

In spite of the clouds of doom on the horizon, the people continued to indulge themselves, resting on “beds of ivory”, eating “the lambs out of the flock”; entertaining themselves with music, drunkenness and reveling in pleasures till they were carried into captivity bearing the chains of slavery (6:4-7).

In Amos 7-8, the prophet states six prophetic visions; five of judgment and the 6th of the day God will establish His heavenly kingdom. 

The first judgment is of grasshoppers (Amos 7:1-3) – God planned to bring locusts to devour the people’s second harvest; however, God heard Amos’ plea for the people and the “LORD repented” [that does not mean God planned to do evil or changed His attitude toward the evil of His people; it means He is longsuffering and changed His mind after hearing the plea of His servant].

The second judgment is one of fire (Amos 7:4-6) – Fire drying up water is a picture of the drought God planned to bring against His people.  Once again, God heard the intercession of His prophet and “repented” (7:6).

The third judgment is the plumb line (Amos 7:7-9) – The plumb line is a tool used by a builder to make sure a wall is straight.  God’s plumb line of judgment is His Law.  Seeing the plumb line of God’s Law and Commandments and the failure of the people measured by the Law of God, Amos did not intercede for the nation.

Amos 7 reminds us faithful preachers who declare the Word of God often find themselves in conflict with government and religious authorities.

Jeroboam, the wicked king of Israel (the northern 10 tribes), appointed Amaziah to serve as “the priest of Bethel” and to offer sacrifices.  Hearing the words of Amos and his bold declaration of the prophecies of the LORD against Israel and the king, Amaziah counseled there was no place for Amos in Israel (7:10-11).   Rather than hearing and heeding the message God had given His prophet, both Amaziah and the king wanted the prophet silenced (7:12-13).   Rehearsing God’s call upon his life, Amos set his heart he would not be silent and boldly declared God’s judgment (7:14-17).

The fourth judgment is a picture of fruit harvested at the end of summer, expressing the imminent judgment of God (8:1-14).

The fifth and final judgment prophesied by Amos is a vision of a temple destroyed (most likely not the one in Jerusalem, but the idolatrous one established in Samaria) and worshippers slain in the destruction (Amos 9:1-10).

The words of Amos would come to pass.  Israel, the northern kingdom consisting of ten tribes, was the first taken captive, scattered “among all nations” and never to return to Canaan (9:9).   Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of Judah and Benjamin, is promised, “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8).  Seventy years after Judah was taken captive, the people were allowed to return to their land, rebuild the temple and Jerusalem (9:11-15).

Amos 9 concludes with God’s promise to one day restore God’s people to their land and place upon the throne of David a legitimate heir. 

An observation as I close: A legitimate heir of David has not sat upon the throne of Israel since the time of the captivity to our day.  The Jews have returned to their homeland, but no king reigns in Israel.  When a legitimate heir of Israel sits on the throne of David He will be none other than Jesus Christ, Son of David, the Only begotten Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to the Nation That Celebrates Perversity and Attacks Morality!

September 15, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-4

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (Amos 1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.   When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

“Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and the nation maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom; making no pretense of worshipping the LORD, that nation built an altar in Bethel and offered sacrifices to a golden calf.

Amos, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), was a courageous prophet.  With the word of the LORD upon his lips, he delivered a series of prophecies against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5)… Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8)… Tyre (1:9-10)… Edom (1:11-12)… Ammon (1:13-15)… and Moab (2:1-3) all were warned the judgment of God was imminent.

Turning his focus from the six Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged “because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God sent prophets, but the people said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

In chapter 3 Amos prophesied reminding the people the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) as His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, rejected the LORD and He set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1).

Adding to the Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments come to this?  How could they be so blind they lost sense and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts becomes desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

My friend, the same condemnation is true of our beloved United States!

The lunacy of atheism coupled with the perversity of humanism is so entrenched in government, education, religion and media it has crippled our judgment as a society.   Having rejected God and His Laws, our moral judgment as a nation is twisted and perverted and we “know not to do right” (3:10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Please Pray: God sometimes calls a nation to repent through natural cataclysmic events.

September 8, 2017

Scripture Reading – Joel 1-3

I found today’s scripture reading especially graphic in light of the devastating blow suffered by Houston from Hurricane Harvey and the path of destruction Hurricane Irma is leaving as she makes her way across the Caribbean and towards South Florida today.  Adding to the calamity in our region of the world is the news of a major earthquake in southern Mexico this morning.

A novice reader of the Bible recognizes the prophet Joel is writing about a national disaster in terms that are symbolic, nevertheless powerful.  Joel is describing the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14) and the impending judgment of God against Judah.

The Book of Joel describes three catastrophic invasions.  The enemy in Joel 1 is a natural enemy…a plague of locusts that destroys the crops leaving both men and beasts starving (1:7, 10-12, 16-20).

The enemy in Joel 2 is the impending invasion by the armies of Assyria (2:1-27) described in verse 20 as “the northern army” (or the army to the north).   Joel was to sound the alarm, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion” (2:1)… warn Judah an enemy was coming.  Describing the swath of destruction, Joel warns, “the day of the LORD cometh…A day of darkness and of gloominess…a fire devoureth before them…before their face the people shall be much pained” (2:1-6).

Why? Why was the LORD bringing this upon Judah?  That the people might turn…to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:12-13).  Reminding the nation the LORD is “gracious and merciful” (2:13), Joel called upon Judah to repent of her sins and turn to the LORD.

Joel prayed for a national revival:  “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children…17  Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).

Knowing the LORD is gracious and merciful, Joel promised if the people repented, God would restore the nation, bless the land and “restore to you the years that the locust have eaten…26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied” (2:18-26).

Joel 3 is a future event…the regathering of the Jews to Judah and Jerusalem (3:1) and the Gentile nations gathering against Israel (3:2) in what I believe is the final battle…Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).   Remembering the ill-treatment suffered by the Jews down through the centuries (3:3-8),  the LORD promises to make war against the Gentiles (3:9-17).   Two Gentile nations are specifically named for destruction… “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah” (3:19).   Egypt representing that great nation south of Israel and Edom the Arab nations to the north and east of Israel.

I close today’s devotional commentary with a personal observation as one who lives in the path of a hurricane the mayor of Miami describes as “epic”.   In a few days, after the storms have passed and the toll on life and property is assessed, there will be a national debate bordering on hysteria about the cause of these massive storms.   Some of the discussion will be sensible and scientific; however, media bias and liberal politicians will beat their drums and bewail “Climate Change” and reproach humanity as the cause.

A mere handful might dare broach the Biblical and historical reality God often calls a people to repent of their sin through natural cataclysmic events.

I am not suggesting the devastation suffered by Houston, the Caribbean and the potential of suffering in Florida from Hurricane Irma is the judgment of God.   However, I will confess the United States has turned from God, His Laws and precepts.

America is guilty of gross sins…the negligence of justice; the celebration of gross immorality; and the deaths of 60 million infants.  Of such a people we read, “for blood it defileth [corrupts; pollutes] the land [earth; country]: and the land cannot be cleansed [purged; atoned; forgiven] of the blood that is shed therein” (Numbers 35:33).

Pray for Texas, Florida and our nation to turn back to the LORD.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith