Tag Archives: Evil

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

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

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

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

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

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

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

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

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

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

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

A Dying Nation (2 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 10

Background of today’s Scripture reading: The LORD had commanded Jehu to annihilate the lineage of Ahab for his role in murdering the prophets of the LORD. Jehu, having been anointed king of Israel (9:1-3), had taken up his bow, and shot king Joram through the heart as he had fled in his chariot (9:23-24). With Joram dead, Jehu turned and went to the palace in Jezreel. Jezebel spied him from a window, and being a woman full of witchcraft and whoredoms, called to him with insolence. Jehu then ordered Jezebel cast out a window of a palace window falling to her death (9:32-33). As foretold, the dogs ate her flesh, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 21:23).

2 Kings 10

Jehu Secured Israel’s Throne (10:1-14)

To secure the throne of Israel, Jehu ordered the execution of all of Ahab’s lineage (10:1-7). We read, “Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab’s children” (10:1). Numbered among the seventy were no doubt grandsons of Ahab.

Making a pretense to encourage the crowning of Ahab’s heir (10:3-4), Jehu in fact had plotted to execute any who might lay claim to the throne of Israel. The leaders of Samaria realized the ruse, and refused to be a party to crowning of a king after Jehu had made himself king of Israel. Jehu then ordered the beheadings of Ahab’s lineage (10:6), and the men “took the king’s sons…and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel” (10:7). As a warning to any who might challenge his reign, Jehu ordered the heads of Ahab’s sons be stacked “in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning” (10:8). Jehu lied to the people (10:10), and suggested he had nothing to do with the beheadings, but asserted, “the LORD hath done that which he spake by His servant Elijah” (10:10). Jehu then continued his eradication of any who might have been loyal to Ahab’s household (10:11). He also ordered the deaths of 42 men who came seeking Ahaziah, and claimed kinship to the deceased king of Judah whom Jehu had slain (9:27; 10:12-14).

The Elimination of All Who Worshipped and Served Baal (10:18-27).

Ahab and Jezebel had introduced the worship of Baal, and would have had many devoted followers among them. Jehu, therefore, determined to kill all who worshipped and sacrificed to Baal. He deceived the followers of Baal, and proposed he would be more devoted to Baal than Ahab and Jezebel (10:18-19). With 80 armed men stationed outside the pagan temple, Jehu gathered the worshippers of Baal (10:20-23), and at the time appointed, ordered all slain, and the images of Baal destroyed (10:24-28).

Jehu’s Failure (10:28-30)

Removing the worship of Baal from Israel was a great thing in the eyes of the LORD. God acknowledged Jehu had obeyed his command and exterminated the household of Ahab. For his obedience, Jehu was promised his lineage would succeed him on the throne of Israel for four generations (10:30; his son Jehoahaz, grandson Joash, great grandson Jeroboam, and great-great grandson Zechariah would reign as kings in Israel). Jehu, however, had failed to purge the nation of the golden calves Jeroboam had set up in Bethel and Dan (10:29).

The Decline of Israel (10:31-36)

Though Jehu reigned as king for 28 years, his failure to “walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart” (10:31), marked the beginning of the end for that nation. Hazael king of Syria, began to invade the borders of Israel (10:32), and its lands and territories were diminished (10:33). Jehu died, and was buried in Samaria, and true to God’s promise, his son Jehoahaz “reigned in his stead” (10:35).

Closing thoughts – We have witnessed the rise and fall of kings in Israel. Jehu’s bloody reign, and his failure to purge Israel of all idolatry, marked the beginning of the final phase of that nation’s precipitous, and final decline. Without the LORD’S blessing and protection, Israel will fall to her enemies, and the northern ten tribes will be taken by Assyria.

Will the same not be true of nations in our day?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Final Clash: Elijah vs. Wicked King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1)

Scripture reading – Psalm 83, 2 Kings 1

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading, and is focused upon 2 Kings 1.

2 Kings 1 – The Death of King Ahaziah

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Second Book of the Kings, a time when Israel is a divided nation. The ten tribes to the north, known as Israel, had been under the reign of a succession of wicked kings. With the death of Ahab, the son of Omri, the Moabites saw an occasion to rebel against Israel, and cast off the yoke of servitude they had borne since the days of David (1:1).

King Ahaziah’s Failing Health (1:1-2)

Ahaziah, the son of the wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel (who had sworn she would kill Elijah after he slew the prophets of Baal), had become king in Israel, but had fallen through a window of his palace in Samaria, the capital city of Israel (1:2). Stricken with failing health, Ahaziah wondered if he would recover from the fall, and sent messengers to consult with “Baalzebub the god of Ekron” (Ekron being a Philistine city, 1:2).

God’s Intervention Through His Prophet Elijah (1:3-8)

God sent an angel to Elijah, and directed the old prophet to intercept Ahaziah’s messengers, “and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?” (1:3)

Ahaziah had offended the God of Israel, and Elijah was tasked with rebuking the king, and foretelling he would never “come down from that bed on which [he had] gone up, but [would] surely die” (1:4). Elijah obeyed, and the king’s envoy returned to the king with the prophet’s message (1:5). Because he had returned too soon, the king questioned the messenger, “Why are ye now turned back?” (1:5).

The messenger then conveyed to Ahaziah the fateful message of the his impending death, The king inquired saying, “What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?” (1:7) Though the messenger did not know the man, the physical description was known to Ahaziah who said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite” (1:8).

The King’s Summons to Elijah (1:9-15)

Three times Ahaziah sent a “captain of fifty” men to Elijah, and demanded the prophet come to him (1:9-14). The first summons was direct, “Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down” (1:9). Elijah answered, saying, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty” (1:11).

A second captain of fifty came to Elijah, and addressed the prophet saying, “O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly” (1:11) [come down now; come down without delay]. Elijah answered the second summons as he had the first, and fire came down from heaven.

Ahaziah summoned the prophet a third time, sending a “captain of fifty,” but he entreated the prophet with humility and begged, “O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight” (1:13). This time the “angel of the LORD,” assured Elijah, “Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king” (1:15).

Elijah Proved the God of Israel was God Alone (1:17-18)

Elijah obeyed, and with the boldness of a man whose life had been dedicated to serve the LORD, he confronted Ahaziah’s decision to consult with “Baal-zebub the god of Ekron,” and his rejection and betrayal of the LORD. Elijah declared, “thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die” (1:16), and “he died according to the word of the Lord” (1:17).

Our study of 2 Kings 1 concludes with Jehoram, the brother of Ahab ascending to the throne of Israel, meaning the end of the lineage of Ahab, who had no son. In that same year, another Jehoram, who was the son of Jehoshaphat, reigned in Judah (1:17).

Closing thoughts – In a day when the world, and religious leaders call for tolerance, and compromise, believers would be wise to remember the passion and conviction of Elijah! Here we find the character of the man who walks with God, and whom the LORD will in our next study, be taken up “by a whirlwind into heaven” (2:11).

Preachers of Truth will not tolerate error, nor will believers sacrifice spiritual principles for peace. How did Elijah come to be that man? He was a man of prayer, and a man who faithfully walked with God (James 5:17).

Is the same true of you?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“When the Wicked Beareth Rule, the People Mourn.” (2 Chronicles 23)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 23

The drama in today’s Scripture reading is rich and vivid. Keeping all the names in order is a challenge, even for some who have been immersed in the Scriptures for years. Yet, more important than remembering all the names, is the reminder that God is sovereign. We must never forget the LORD is Almighty, and we can be assured His plans and purposes never fail.

The kingdom of Judah endured years of sorrows, for the kings of that nation had turned from the LORD, and followed in the wicked ways of the kings of Israel. When she learned her son king Ahaziah had been slain (22:8-10), Athaliah, the wife of Jehoram and the daughter of Ahab, moved to make herself queen. She secured the throne for herself, after slaying all of the “seed royal of the house of Judah” (22:10). Providentially, one son of the king survived the murderous rampage of the queen.

“Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber” (22:11). Joash was only an infant at the time, and he was hidden in the Temple for six years, while his wicked grandmother, “Athaliah reigned over the land” (22:12).

2 Chronicles 23

Athaliah ruled Judah for six years, not knowing Joash, the surviving son of Ahaziah and rightful heir to the throne, was hiding in the Temple, growing up under the care and tutelage of Jehoiada the high priest (22:1). In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada determined it was time to establish young Joash as king of Judah (23:1).

Jehoiada chose five centurions (“captains of hundreds”) to draft a trusted troop of men who would challenge the queen, and crown Joash as king (23:2). Those men went throughout Judah, inviting Levites, and leaders in the kingdom to gather in Jerusalem. With Jehoiada presiding, the leaders of Judah gathered, and “made a covenant,” recognizing Joash as the rightful king and heir to his father’s throne (23:3).

A Righteous Insurrection (23:4-9)

Gathering to crown Joash king were the Levites, representing the priestly order, fathers of households, and soldiers charged with securing the Temple, and protecting the young prince. Dividing into three groups, one third of the men were assigned to the Temple, a third to stand guard at the palace, and another third to guard the gate called the Foundation (23:4-5). The men were charged with protecting the king, insuring that no one who was hostile would be permitted to enter the Temple or be a threat to Joash (23:6). Bearing weapons, Levites encircled the king, were ordered to kill any who approached him (23:7). In verse 9 we learn there were “spears, and bucklers (i.e. large shields), and shields stored in the Temple that dated to the days of David (23:9).

The Crowning of a King (23:10-15)

With armed men staged at every approach of the Temple, (23:10), Joash was brought into a circle of Levites, where he was crowned and anointed as king of Judah (23:11). Hearing the shouts, “God save the king,” and the rejoicing of those who were “running and praising the king, Athaliah entered the Temple. “She looked, and behold the king stood at his pillar,” and the people were sounding trumpets and singing (23:13).

“Treason, Treason,” shouted the queen. Jehoiada ordered her removed from the Temple, and any who followed her were to be killed (23:14). “So they laid hands on [the queen]; and when she was come to the entering of the horse gate by the king’s house, they slew her there” (23:15).

A Revival in Judah (23:16-17)

With the wicked queen Athaliah dead, and the seven-year-old Joash crowned king (24:1), Jehoiada established a covenant with the LORD between himself, the people, and the king (23:16). The people then destroyed the temple to Baal, his altars, and images in Judah. They also “slew Mattan the priest of Baal” (23:17).

Returning to the Law and Commandments (23:18–21)

Jehoiada reinstituted the offices and orders of the priests, and revived the sacrifices and “offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses” (23:18). Singers were appointed, and porters were assigned to guard the entrances to the Temple (23:18-19). Serving as the young king’s mentor and counselor, Jehoiada and the people brought Joash to the palace and sat him upon the throne of David (23:21).

Closing thoughtsDisobeying the LORD, and compromising with sin brings sorrow and distress. When King Jehoshaphat allowed his son (Jehoram) to marry Athaliah, a heathen, idol worshipping woman, he set in motion a series of events that brought trouble, sorrow, and death upon the nation. Only when the wicked were no longer in power, and the rightful heir was crowned king, did “the people of the land rejoice: and the city was quiet,” (23:21).

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

But for the Providence of God (2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22

Happy New Year, this 1st day of January 2022! Understanding every day is a gift of God’s grace, and more precious than silver and gold, I thank the LORD for allowing me an opportunity to live, and serve Him as I stand upon the threshold of a new beginning!

Entering upon a New Year, we would be wise to heed the proverb of Solomon, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). You cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but I encourage you to plan for the future, and make a list of things that will be a priority in your life. Place at the top of that list the daily study of God’s Word.

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study of 2 Chronicles, and a desperate time in the life of God’s people. In earlier devotionals, we have considered the godly reign of Jehoshaphat, who followed his father, and “and walked in [the LORD’S] commandments” (17:4). Jehoshaphat had enjoyed the LORD’S blessings, but in a foolish decision of political expediency, his eldest son, Jehoram married Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (18:3; 22:3, 10) whose counsel and wickedness nearly ended the Davidic line.

2 Chronicles 21 – The Reign of Jehoram, Son of Jehoshaphat

As with many fathers, though he was a great man, Jehoshaphat was apparently blind to the ungodly character of his eldest son, Jehoram. Before he died, Jehoshaphat set his household in order, and blessed his sons with “great gifts,” but “the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn” (21:3). Putting birthright above character, Jehoshaphat’s decision to give his crown to Jehoram, plunged Judah into an era of spiritual darkness, and political turmoil.

After his father’s death, Jehoram “strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers [many] also of the princes [chief leaders] of Israel” (21:5). No longer bound by the opinions and influence of his brothers or godly leaders, Jehoram did not follow in his father’s spiritual steps, and instead followed in the wicked ways of the kings in Israel (21:6).

Why? Why did this king of a godly lineage, reject the LORD and do “that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (21:6). The answer is found in this statement: “He had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6). Only the intervention of the LORD, and His covenant promise to spare the Davidic lineage, preserved the royal line through which Christ Himself would ascend (21:7).

Rather than the peace and prosperity Judah had enjoyed during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat, under Jehoram’s reign, Judah descended into an era of political turmoil as the Edomites rebelled (21:8-10), and other enemies of Judah soon followed (21:16-17). Rather than repent of his wickedness, Jehoram continued in his sins, and his influence “caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

Even the prophet Elijah, though he was a prophet in Israel, sent a letter to Jehoram, stating that his actions would bring a fatal intestinal disease upon him. Elijah’s words still ring soberness to us today.  Notice the specific detail written against Jehoram: “thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out…an incurable disease” (21:15, 18). Unlike his father and grandfather who were beloved and honored by the nation, Jehoram died a miserable soul. Humiliated, impoverished, stripped of his possessions, his sons and wives abducted, and his health failing, Jehoram died. None in Judah mourned his death, nor was he buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (21:19-20).

2 Chronicles 22

The Reign of Ahaziah (22:1-9)

Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, was chosen by “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” to be king (22:1). Like his father, he continued in the sins of the kings of Israel, and “his mother (the daughter of wicked Ahab) was his counsellor to do wickedly” (22:3). Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah was a wicked king, and his counsellors were of the house of Ahab (22:2, 4).

Ahaziah’s life was cut short when he was killed by a man named Jehu, whom God had appointed to cut off the lineage of Ahab (22:7). When Jehu learned Ahaziah was also in Israel, he determined to slay the king of Judah as well (22:9).

A Wicked Grandmother Slays the Royal Sons (22:10-11)

We read, “when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah [she was the wife of Jehoram, the daughter of Ahab] saw that her son [king Ahaziah] was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” (22:10), and made herself queen of Judah (22:11).

Closing thoughts – It is hard to imagine a grandmother slaying her grandsons; however, the daughter of Ahab was wicked. What was for king Jehoshaphat a pragmatic decision to insure peace and a political alliance with Israel, nearly terminated the Davidic bloodline. Athaliah would have accomplished her wicked plans, except the LORD used “Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king,” to spirit away Joash, saving the life of the man who would one day be king of Judah, and thus preserving the line of David (22:12).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

But for the Providence of God (2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22

Happy New Year, this 1st day of January 2022! Understanding every day is a gift of God’s grace, and more precious than silver and gold, I thank the LORD for allowing me an opportunity to live, and serve Him as I stand upon the threshold of a new beginning!

Entering upon a New Year, we would be wise to heed the proverb of Solomon, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). You cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but I encourage you to plan for the future, and make a list of things that will be a priority in your life. Place at the top of that list the daily study of God’s Word.

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study of 2 Chronicles, and a desperate time in the life of God’s people. In earlier devotionals, we have considered the godly reign of Jehoshaphat, who followed his father, and “and walked in [the LORD’S] commandments” (17:4). Jehoshaphat had enjoyed the LORD’S blessings, but in a foolish decision of political expediency, his eldest son, Jehoram married Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (18:3; 22:3, 10) whose counsel and wickedness nearly ended the Davidic line.

2 Chronicles 21 – The Reign of Jehoram, Son of Jehoshaphat

As with many fathers, though he was a great man, Jehoshaphat was apparently blind to the ungodly character of his eldest son, Jehoram. Before he died, Jehoshaphat set his household in order, and blessed his sons with “great gifts,” but “the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn” (21:3). Putting birthright above character, Jehoshaphat’s decision to give his crown to Jehoram, plunged Judah into an era of spiritual darkness, and political turmoil.

After his father’s death, Jehoram “strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers [many] also of the princes [chief leaders] of Israel” (21:5). No longer bound by the opinions and influence of his brothers or godly leaders, Jehoram did not follow in his father’s spiritual steps, and instead followed in the wicked ways of the kings in Israel (21:6).

Why? Why did this king of a godly lineage, reject the LORD and do “that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (21:6). The answer is found in this statement: “He had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6). Only the intervention of the LORD, and His covenant promise to spare the Davidic lineage, preserved the royal line through which Christ Himself would ascend (21:7).

Rather than the peace and prosperity Judah had enjoyed during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat, under Jehoram’s reign, Judah descended into an era of political turmoil as the Edomites rebelled (21:8-10), and other enemies of Judah soon followed (21:16-17). Rather than repent of his wickedness, Jehoram continued in his sins, and his influence “caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

Even the prophet Elijah, though he was a prophet in Israel, sent a letter to Jehoram, stating that his actions would bring a fatal intestinal disease upon him. Elijah’s words still ring soberness to us today.  Notice the specific detail written against Jehoram: “thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out…an incurable disease” (21:15, 18). Unlike his father and grandfather who were beloved and honored by the nation, Jehoram died a miserable soul. Humiliated, impoverished, stripped of his possessions, his sons and wives abducted, and his health failing, Jehoram died. None in Judah mourned his death, nor was he buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (21:19-20).

2 Chronicles 22

The Reign of Ahaziah (22:1-9)

Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, was chosen by “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” to be king (22:1). Like his father, he continued in the sins of the kings of Israel, and “his mother (the daughter of wicked Ahab) was his counsellor to do wickedly” (22:3). Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah was a wicked king, and his counsellors were of the house of Ahab (22:2, 4).

Ahaziah’s life was cut short when he was killed by a man named Jehu, whom God had appointed to cut off the lineage of Ahab (22:7). When Jehu learned Ahaziah was also in Israel, he determined to slay the king of Judah as well (22:9).

A Wicked Grandmother Slays the Royal Sons (22:10-11)

We read, “when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah [she was the wife of Jehoram, the daughter of Ahab] saw that her son [king Ahaziah] was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” (22:10), and made herself queen of Judah (22:11).

Closing thoughts – It is hard to imagine a grandmother slaying her grandsons; however, the daughter of Ahab was wicked. What was for king Jehoshaphat a pragmatic decision to insure peace and a political alliance with Israel, nearly terminated the Davidic bloodline. Athaliah would have accomplished her wicked plans, except the LORD used “Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king,” to spirit away Joash, saving the life of the man who would one day be king of Judah, and thus preserving the line of David (22:12).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Shame and Sorrow of Compromise (2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20

Our Scripture reading for this final day of the year is 2 Chronicles 19 and 20.

The setting of 2 Chronicles 19 follows the bloody battle at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18), and the death of Israel’s king, Ahab. Jehoshaphat had returned home from the battle in peace (19:1), in spite of his foolish compromise with Ahab and the displeasure of the LORD (19:1).

As the king approached Jerusalem, he was met in the way by the prophet Jehu (he had been a prophet in Israel, but had moved to Judah 1 Kings 16:1-7). Jehu rebuked the king, saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (19:2).

Though He had despised Jehoshaphat’s compromise with the wicked, idolater Ahab, the LORD, nevertheless spared, and blessed the king of Judah whose son had married Ahab’s daughter. Yet, as we will soon see, the effects of Jehoshaphat’s unequal yoke with Ahab will have dire consequences for the throne of David and God’s people (21:3-7). In spite of His displeasure, the LORD spared and blessed the king of Judah, because he had “taken away the groves out of the land, and [had] prepared [his] heart to seek God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat was a gifted administrator, and one of his great accomplishments was the foresight to put in place judges who were charged with applying the law and commandments judiciously (19:5-11). We read, the king “set judges in the land [in the walled cities]6And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment” (19:5-6).

Imagine how different our world would be if judges in our day were committed to judging matters according to the will and the Word of the LORD. Jehoshaphat charged the judges to fear and revere the LORD for He is righteous, and to have no “respect of persons, nor taking of gifts [accept no bribes]” (19:7).

The king also assigned judges (Levites, priests, and the high priest) who were charged with judging matters in Jerusalem, and settling controversies and conflicts that would arise in the capital city (19:8). Jehoshaphat admonished the judges to rule according to “law and commandment, statutes and judgments,” and “warn [the people] that they trespass not against the Lord” lest they suffer His wrath (19:10). The matter of the law and judges concluded with a distinction being drawn between rulings in spiritual matters, which were the responsibility of the high priest, and civic matters, which fell upon “Zebadiah, the son of Ishmael” (19:11).

2 Chronicles 20

Time and space prevent a thorough study of 2 Chronicles 20; however, it is a chapter that begins with Jehoshaphat and Judah enjoying the blessings and protection of the LORD. In this chapter, God blessed His people for their faith, and rewarded them with a great victory over their enemies, without the soldiers of Judah lifting a sword or spear (20:1-21).

The LORD caused Judah’s enemies, the Ammonites, and Moabites, to turn, and destroy each other’s army (20:22-23). When the army of Judah came upon the battlefield, they saw a landscape littered with the bodies of their enemies, and a spoil so great it took three days to strip the bodies of the precious jewels that were on them (20:24-28). Sadly, the godly legacy of Jehoshaphat ended with yet another compromise with a heathen king (20:31-37).

Closing thoughts – Jehoshaphat will die (21:1-7), and tragically, Jehoram his son will not follow in his father’s godly legacy. Influenced by his wife’s family, the son of Jehoshaphat, will walk “in the way of the kings of Israel…for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6).

In the words of the apostle Paul, Be not deceived: evil communications [companions] corrupt good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God is Sovereign, and The Battle is the Lord’s” (1 Kings 20) – A Bonus Devotional

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20

Now, the LORD commanded the prophet Elijah to anoint three successors to be kings of Israel and Judah, and his own replacement (1 Kings 19:15-21). Hazael, he anointed to succeed Benhadad as king of Syria (19:15). Jehu was anointed to be king of Israel following Ahab (19:16). Finally, Elisha was chosen by the LORD to serve as Elijah’s disciple and his successor as prophet in Israel (19:16b, 19-21).

1 Kings 20 – The Failure of Ahab, and His Death Foretold

1 Kings 20 presents us with a record of how Benhadad, king of Syria, oppressed and impoverished Israel. With arrogance and impunity, he humiliated king Ahab (20:1-12) and demanded that king’s treasury of silver and gold. He abducted Ahab’s wives and took his children as hostages, along with the best of Israel’s population to serve as his slaves (1 Kings 20:2-3). When the king of Syria increased his demands, Ahab realized Benhadad’s demands were intolerable, and would never be appeased (1 Kings 20:5-6).

God in His grace, sent a prophet to encourage Ahab to be courageous and assured him the LORD was on his side (20:13). Promised victory in spite of the odds against him, Ahab withstood Benhadad in a series of three battles and God gave Israel a great victory (20:14-30).

Tragically, Ahab’s heart was lifted up with pride, and when Benhadad begged for his life to be spared, the king of Israel failed to consult the LORD. Ahab made a foolish, and fateful decision; not only did he spare Benhadad’s life, he honored him by setting him in his own chariot before the people (1 Kings 20:32-33). Sparing the enemy of Israel provoked the wrath of the LORD (20:31-34), and He sent a man to Ahab, one described as “of the sons of the prophets” (20:35). The young prophet confronted Ahab, and said:

1 Kings 20:42-43 – “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. 43And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.”

Closing thoughts – 1 Kings 20 was a spiritual crossroads for King Ahab, and true to his evil character, he made decisions independent of the LORD, and promoted his interests before that of the LORD’S.

Consider three spiritual lessons: The first, God is jealous of His glory and name (20:13). Ahab had surrendered to Benhadad’s demands and failed to seek the LORD, and in doing so, sacrificed God’s best for His people. God declared to Ahab, “thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

We are also reminded that God is sovereign over all creation (20:23-28). The LORD is the God of the hills and the valleys. He is not the “god of many,” but the sovereign God of all, and turns the hearts of kings and rulers according to His will (Proverbs 21:1).

Lastly, God is just, and desires obedience (20:32-42). Ahab’s failure to kill his enemy invited the LORD’S judgment upon himself and Israel. Ahab will invite his own death, and Israel will suffer a humiliating defeat (1 Kings 21-22).

What about you? Do you seek the LORD and His will when making decisions? Do you put your faith in the wisdom of man, or in the LORD knowing He is sovereign, and He desires the best for His people?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Power of Faith and Fervent Prayer (1 Kings 18)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 18

The geographical setting of our Scripture reading continues in the northern ten Tribes now known as Israel. The time is during the reign of Ahab, the seventh king of the nation after its division. As stated earlier, the wickedness of Ahab had exceeded the sins of all the kings who had gone before him (16:30-33), and provoked “the LORD God of Israel to anger” (16:33).

True to His forewarning (Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23), the LORD sent Elijah who confronted king Ahab, and said, “there shall not be dew nor rain…but according to my word” (17:1).

1 Kings 18

The drought in Israel continued for three years, until “the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth” (18:1). Elijah obeyed, and “went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria [the capital city of Israel]” (18:2).

Elijah’s Conference with Obadiah (18:3-15)

Returning to Israel, Elijah called upon Obadiah, who had served Ahab as a steward of the royal household (18:3). Though a man in a powerful, and trusted office, Obadiah had continued to fear the LORD, and used his position to provide safety to 100 prophets of the LORD who had escaped Jezebel’s purge of “the prophets of the LORD” (18:3-4).

Three years of drought had dried up the freshwater streams in Israel, and Ahab had dispatched Obadiah to seek water and grass “to save the horses and mules alive” (18:5). Ahab divided the lands between himself and Obadiah, and each man went his way in search of water.  As Obadiah went his way, he was met by Elijah (18:7). Obadiah “knew [Elijah], and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah?” (18:7)

Elijah then demanded that Obadiah tell the king he had returned to Israel (18:8). Fearful the king would slay him, perhaps for sparing Elijah’s life, Obadiah objected to the prophet’s request (18:9-11). Justifying himself, Obadiah shared how he had revered the LORD from his youth, and spared and fed one hundred of the LORD’s prophets (18:12-13). Elijah assured Obadiah, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day” (1 Kings 18:15).

Elijah’s Confrontation with Ahab (18:17-20)

Ahab met Elijah, and accused the prophet of being one who troubled Israel (18:17). Elijah answered the king’s charge, and rebuked Ahab saying, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim” (18:18).

Proving his faith and confidence in the LORD, Elijah challenged Ahab to “gather…all Israel unto mount Carmel,” along with the 150 prophets of Baal, and the 400 prophets (teachers) of the groves, (these were all whom Jezebel had supported and fed, 18:19). Ahab, revealing the depth of his wickedness and rejection of the God of Israel, agreed to the challenge, and commanded the people, and the prophets of Baal to gather at Carmel (18:20).

Elijah’s Challenge to the People (18:21-24)

Elijah charged the people, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (18:21). How long dare you serve Baal and sacrifice to him, and make a pretense of also serving the God of Israel? The people answered Elijah’s challenge with silence, and “answered him not a word” (18:21). Elijah, the prophet of the LORD, stood alone and faced 450 prophets of Baal (18:22).

Elijah’s Contest with the Prophets of Baal (18:25-40)

The details of Elijah’s challenge are recorded, and how he and the prophets of Baal each had a bullock, that was halved, and placed upon wood on an altar. The prophets of Baal called to Baal from the morning until noon. They shouted, leaped, danced, cried, and cut themselves until they bled (18:26, 28-29). Yet, Baal was silent, and Elijah taunted them suggesting their god was talking, hunting, on a journey, or perhaps he was sleeping (18:27).

In the evening, Elijah called the people to come near, as he begain repairing the altar, and gathering twelve stones representing the twelve Tribes of Israel. He then laid wood upon the altar, sacrificed the bull, and commanded that twelve barrels of water be poured out upon the altar, until the trench around it was filled with water (18:30-35). The prophet then prayed for God to hear his prayer, and prove to all Israel that He was God (18:36-37).

The LORD answered Elijah’s prayer, and sent fire from heaven, not only consuming the bull, but burning up the stones, dust, and the water (18:38-39). Elijah concluded his contest with the prophets of Baal, and demanded the people prove their loyalty to the God of Israel, by slaying all the prophets of Baal (18:40).

Elijah Prayed, and the LORD Sent Rain (18:41-46)

Three years of drought ended with Elijah calling upon the Lord to send rain. Seven times he prayed, and commanded his servant to go and look for a sign a rain. On the seventh time, the servant saw on the horizon a small cloud that grew until “the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain” (18:45).

Closing thoughts – Our next devotional will reveal how great trials often follow great victories. But for now, we conclude reflecting on how the New Testament points to Elijah’s fervent prayer as a model of prayer for all believers. We read,

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17  Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16b-18)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith