Tag Archives: Flesh

A Parable: “Two Eagles and A Vine” (Ezekiel 17)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 17; Ezekiel 18

We are considering the third of three prophecies the LORD revealed to Ezekiel, and commanded him to tell the elders of Israel (14:1). The prophecies were given to Ezekiel as symbolic revelations of the judgment that would befall Jerusalem. The first prophecy portrayed Jerusalem as an unfruitful vine that was to be cut down and cast into a fire (symbolic of the fire that would destroy the Temple and the city, Ezekiel 15). The second prophecy portrayed Jerusalem as an abused, adulterous wife, indicating the spiritual harlotry of the people and their worship of idols (Ezekiel 16).

Ezekiel 17 presents the third prophecy, with Jerusalem once again represented as a vine the LORD planted in Canaan (17:1-24). This is the first of two devotionals for today.

Ezekiel 17

Presented as a riddle and parable, Ezekiel 17 introduces a third prophecy foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is once again represented as a vine the LORD had planted in Canaan (17:1-24). As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, are pictures of Israel (17:3, 6).

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was portrayed as the first eagle (the prophet Jeremiah described Nebuchadnezzar as, “he shall fly as an eagle,” Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22). God revealed to Ezekiel that the top branches of the cedar (both Judah and Jerusalem) would be clipped off by the eagle (this occurred when Nebuchadnezzar removed Jehoiachin from his throne in Jerusalem, and brought him as a prisoner to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:7-16).

Following the narrative of the parable, Nebuchadnezzar “took also of the seed of the land and planted it” (17:5-6). That seed was Zedekiah, whom the king of Babylon chose to rule as his puppet in Jerusalem. King Zedekiah rebelled against the rule of Babylon, and made alliance with Egypt (represented as the second “great eagle” in this parable, 17:7). When Babylon returned to lay siege to Jerusalem, rather than to the LORD, Zedekiah turned to Egypt for help (17:8). God declared Judah and Jerusalem would not prosper, but would “wither” and be plucked up by the roots (a picture of the captivity that would follow, 17:9)

Ezekiel 17:11-21 gives the explanation of the riddle (17:1-10), and is a review of the history we have considered in earlier studies (2 Kings 23:31-24:20, 2 Chronicles 36, and Jeremiah 37).

In spite of the utter destruction and devastation of Jerusalem and Judah, the LORD promised He would take a “twig,” replant it in Israel (17:22-23), and exalt “the low tree” (17:24).  Scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the twig represented the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as King of kings and LORD of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

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

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 51; Jeremiah 52

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 51

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 52

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Warning: God Gives a Nation the Leaders It Deserves (2 Kings 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 24

Our Scripture reading returns to the book of 2 Kings where our study picks up the narrative of events that are the background of God’s judgment against Jerusalem.

Remember how Jehoiakim, the third to the last king of Judah, burned Jeremiah’s scroll warning the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent? (Jeremiah 36:20-24) The prophet warned the king his evil deeds would bring God’s judgment upon Judah (Jeremiah 36:29-31). Yet, the king continued in his sin, “and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37).

2 Kings 24

Returning to 2 Kings 24, we find Jehoiakim king in name only, for he was now a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, and subject to the whims and demands of the king of Babylon. Jehoiakim, as foolish as he was evil, set his heart against the king of Babylon and “rebelled against him” (24:1). Nebuchadnezzar responded to Jehoiakim’s rebellion, and sent mercenary raiders against Judah, to destroy the nation as the LORD “spake by His servants the prophets” (24:2). Daniel records the same in his book where we read, “1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (Daniel 1:1).

The LORD had not forgotten the sins of Manasseh and his lineage, and how Judah had shed “innocent blood,” sacrificing their sons and daughters (24:3-4). (The slaughter of the innocent ones, and the fact “the LORD would not pardon” that sin should give 21st century nations pause. Surely abortion of the unborn in our day is no less egregious in the eyes of God, and as demanding of His judgment.)

Jehoiakim died (24:5), and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. Then, Nebuchadnezzar “came up against Jerusalem” (24:10), and the king of Judah surrendered and was taken to Babylon after reigning for three months (24:8-12). Fulfilling all the LORD had foretold, Nebuchadnezzar “carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord” (24:13).

Determined to remove any threat of another uprising, Nebuchadnezzar “carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land” (24:14). Numbered among the captives was the royal household (24:15), the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1), and “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (Daniel 1:6). In addition to the poor who were able to till the land and harvest crops (24:14; Jeremiah 40:10), there were some who escaped Jerusalem and fled to neighboring nations (Jeremiah 40:8).

Zedekiah, the Last King of Judah (24:17-20)

Jehoiakim, was succeeded by his uncle, “Mattaniah his father’s brother,” whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed and changed his name to Zedekiah (24:17). He was a mere  21 years old when he became king, and “reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (24:18).

Closing thoughts – Young and foolish, Zedekiah was left with an impoverished nation that lacked leadership, and the skills for government and war. Zedekiah was the end of a long line of foolish, wicked kings. Like the kings before him, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (24:19), and “rebelled against the king of Babylon” (24:20). To rebel against Nebuchadnezzar was the height of folly; however, we will see in our next devotional that was the path chosen by Zedekiah (2 Kings 25).

Remembering history is “His Story,” I am convinced God gives a nation the leaders it deserves. Surely that is as true in our day, as it was in Judah’s day.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Jerusalem is Fallen, and God Reigns! (Jeremiah 38-39)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 38; Jeremiah 39

With the army of the Chaldeans (Babylon) encamped outside the walls of the city, the people within faced a time of suffering that was horrible to behold. Famine and disease afflicted the nation (38:1), yet the king and his counsel refused to heed Jeremiah’s warning that all would perish if the city did not surrender to Nebuchadnezzar.

Jeremiah 38 – Singing the Prison Blues

Four men of the king’s counsel were named in Jeremiah 38:1, who had set themselves against Jeremiah and charged him with treason. Before he was imprisoned, the prophet foretold only those who went “forth to the Chaldeans [would] live” (38:2), for Jerusalem would fall “into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army” (38:3).

Wicked Counsel (38:4-6)

Obstinate and foolish, the king’s officials (“princes”) disparaged Jeremiah to the king, and accused the prophet of discouraging the people, and weakening their resolve to defend the city (36:4). Zedekiah, true to his wicked character, betrayed God’s prophet into the hands of his enemies (36:5). Those men then “cast Jeremiah into the dungeon [where] there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (36:6).

Ebedmelech: A Man of Courage and Conviction (38:7-13)

Providentially, there was a man named Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian, who realized the injustices suffered by Jeremiah, and interceded for God’s prophet. Ebedmelech petitioned the king to save the old prophet from the dungeon (38:8), knowing he was “like to die for hunger in the place” (38:9). Zedekiah honored Ebedmelech’s request, and commanded 30 men to deliver Jeremiah from the prison, to “the court of the prison” (38:10-13).

Zedekiah’s Secret Consultation with Jeremiah (38:14-24)

Soon after, Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah, and in secret, enquired of the prophet, “I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me” (38:14). The king wanted to know what would become of him and the nation, but Jeremiah did not trust the king, and feared he would both reject his words and kill him (38:15). The king answered Jeremiah’s fears, and assured the prophet he would not be harmed (38:16).

Tragically, nothing had changed in what God had purposed and foretold through his prophet, and Jeremiah counseled the king he must surrender the city, or death and destruction would befall the king’s family and his city (38:20). Refusing to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, would surely bring mocking from the women of the king’s household for heeding the counsel of his “friends” (38:21-22). Finally, the king’s harem and his children would become slaves in Babylon, and the city would be burned to the ground (38:23).

Zedekiah Rejected the Prophet’s Counsel (38:24-28)

Fearing the wrath of men, rather than the judgment of God (38:19), Zedekiah demanded Jeremiah would tell no one of his conversation with the king (38:24-25). Should some ask what he said to the king, Jeremiah was to answer he had requested the king not return him to the dungeon (38:26).

Closing thoughts – Those men who hated Jeremiah came demanding what he had spoken to the king, and Jeremiah answered as the king instructed (26:27). “So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken” (38:28).

Jeremiah 39 – The Final Phase: The Fall of Jerusalem

The Babylonian siege lasted 18 months, and the sorrows and afflictions that arose within the city in that time were overwhelming and recorded in the Book of Lamentations (Lamentations 4:4-5, 9-11, 18). Zedekiah, having failed to heed Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, was forced to flee the city (39:4), but the Chaldean army pursued him (39:5).

Nebuchadnezzar commanded king Zedekiah and his entourage to appear before him, where he sat in judgment (39:5). As the king of Judah looked on, his sons were slain “before his eyes” as were also “all the nobles of Judah” (39:6) Lastly, Zedekiah’s eyes were put out, and he was bound in chains, and carried away to Babylon (39:7).

The city of Jerusalem was burned, its buildings destroyed, the remnant of those who survived the siege were led away to Babylon, leaving only the poorest of the people to occupy the land (39:8-10).

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

Closing thoughts – History is truly “His [God’s] Story,” and a testimony of the providential working of God Who is Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all things.  The LORD is El Shaddai, Almighty God and able to direct the evil purposes of men to the ends that are good for His people and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).

Whatever circumstances you face, or whoever your enemy might be, they are not greater, nor are they beyond the sovereignty of El Shaddai – Almighty God!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

How Will You Be Remembered? (Jeremiah 35)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 35

The drama between the prophet Jeremiah (32:2; 33:1), and Zedekiah king of Judah, was interrupted in Jeremiah 35. I do not know why Jeremiah’s narrative interjected an incident from the reign of Jehoiakim (the third to the last of the kings of Judah); however, the occasion is certainly instructive for 21st century believers.

Jeremiah 35 – The House of the Rechabites

We are introduced to the “house of the Rechabites” (35:2), who were not Hebrew by lineage, but associated with the house of Israel initially through Moses. The Rechabites were descendants of the Kenites, original inhabitants of Canaan. Jethro (Exodus 18:12), Moses’ father-in-law was a Kenite (Judges 1:16; 1 Chronicles 2:55). The Rechabites were a nomadic people, and believers in Yahweh.

A Lesson in Fidelity (35:2-11)

The LORD commanded Jeremiah to summon the Rechabites to the Temple, and set before them “wine to drink” (35:2). The men of Rechab were directed to a chamber off the Temple, where a test of their devotion would be seen by others (35:3-4). Obeying the LORD, Jeremiah “set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and [the prophet] said unto them, Drink ye wine” (35:5). The Rechabites, however, refused to obey Jeremiah, and said, “We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever” (35:6).

Who was Jonadab? He lived some 200 years before Jeremiah, and was of the Kenite clan, and a son of Rechab. While he was not descended from the Tribes, he had been a mighty man in Israel and was numbered among those who cut off the lineage of Ahab, the wicked king of Israel (2 Kings 10:15-28). Desiring to see his people continue their nomadic way of life and not be enticed by the world and its pleasures, Jonadab instructed the Rechabites to “drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: 7Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers” (35:6b-7).

Two hundred years later, the Rechabites continued to obey Jonadab’s instructions (35:8-10). However, because of Babylon’s invasion, and raiders from Babylon and Syria ravaging the country, the Rechabites were forced to abandon their tents and move into Jerusalem (35:11).

Judah and Jerusalem Rebuked (35:12-17)

The Rechabites faithfulness to the teachings of Jonadab served as a backdrop to Jeremiah rebuking the people’s unfaithfulness to the LORD (35:12-13). While the Rechabites continued to honor the teachings of Jonadab, a man who lived two centuries before (35:14), Judah and Jerusalem refused to obey the LORD (35:14b).

The LORD sent prophets and called on the people to forsake their sins and idols, and repent, but they refused to obey Him (35:13). The Rechabites, in contrast, obeyed Jonadab’s instructions, though he was a man. Judah and Jerusalem would not hear or obey the LORD (35:15).

Because the people refused to obey the LORD, and put away their idols and sinful ways, Jeremiah warned, God would bring upon them “all the evil [He had] pronounced against them” (35:17).

God Promised to Bless the Rechabites (35:18-19)

Remembering the LORD is Judge, and His judgment is just, Jeremiah declared the LORD would bless the Rechabites. They had obeyed the commands of a righteous man, and “kept all his precepts” (35:18). Therefore, the LORD determined He would bless their faithfulness. While many households of Judah and Jerusalem would perish, the LORD promised He would remember the household of Rechab, and Jonadab’s lineage would never be without a son (35:19). True to His promise, 150 years later, a descendant of Rechab is named among those who returned to Jerusalem with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:14).

Closing thoughts – How different our lives and families would be, if we would deny ourselves the sins and pleasures of the world! Will you choose to be a Jonadab in your generation, and seek to leave a godly lineage?

I fear the majority of believers are busy championing their liberties, and few are willing to consider their legacy and lasting testimony. In the words of an old gospel song,

“This world is not my home; I’m just passing through.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

God’s Promises Never Fail! (Jeremiah 33; Jeremiah 34)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 33; Jeremiah 34

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with Jeremiah a prisoner of king Zedekiah (33:1). Though imprisoned, God’s prophet was not forsaken, and the LORD continued to put His Word in Jeremiah’s heart (33:2).

Jeremiah 33 

Who is the LORD? (33:1-13)

The LORD came to Jeremiah, and reminded His servant He is “Yahweh,” the God who makes and keeps covenant with His people (33:2). The same God who had power to create (33:2), was and is able also to keep His promises, and hear and answer prayer (33:3). The LORD encouraged Jeremiah, He would show him “great and mighty things, which [Jeremiah knew] not” (33:3).

The Character of the LORD (33:5-13)

The LORD assured Jeremiah He was just, and His judgment were sure. While the king and the leaders of Jerusalem strengthened their defenses, Jeremiah was told the battlements would fail, and their homes would be filled with the bodies of the dead (33:5).

Yet, God would not altogether forsake His people, and foretold the day when Judah would be delivered from captivity and restored to their land (33:6-7). In that day, the LORD would not only restore His people, but promised He would “cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me” (33:8).

In that day, the nations of the earth would witness Judah’s restoration, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The heathen would look upon God’s blessings in awe (33:9). The judgment of God would leave Judah desolate, and the cities in ruin. Nevertheless, the LORD promised the day would come when the cities and villages of Judah would be filled once again with the sounds of joy, and the voices of youth (33:10-13).

The Coming Messiah King (33:14-26)

There were some in Judah who rejected the prophecies of a coming Messiah King, and discouraged the people contending the God of Israel had forsaken them (33:24).

The LORD answered the naysayers, and declared, “the days come…that I will perform that good thing which I have promised15In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness” (33:14-16)

Only One can fulfill that Messianic prophecy, and He is Jesus the Christ! Only Christ is of the lineage of David (being born of the virgin Mary, who was of David’s line, and adopted by Joseph who was a “son of David,” Matthew 1:1, 20). Christ is the altogether Righteous One, and when He comes again He will rule in justice, and save His people (33:15-16). In that day, Christ will reign eternal (Revelation 19:16; 22:16), and serve as the Eternal Mediator and Intercessor of His people (Hebrews 7:24-28).

Closing thoughts – How sure are God’s covenant promises? They are as certain as the rising and setting sun (33:19-21, 25). The same God who set the seasons, and times of the rising and setting sun, will fulfill His covenant.

What did that mean for Jeremiah (who was in prison), and those who were captives in Babylon? The LORD promised, “I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them” (33:26).

Believer, may the rising and setting sun remind you: God’s promises never fail!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah 34 – Death Comes Knocking

With Nebuchadnezzar’s great army arrayed outside the walls of Jerusalem (34:1), the LORD came to Jeremiah and commanded His prophet to declare to the king the imminent the destruction of Jerusalem (34:1-2). Jeremiah warned Zedekiah he would be taken prisoner to Babylon (34:3), but assured the king he would not die by the sword, but would die in peace in that foreign city (34:4-5).

The LORD then demanded there be no slaves in Judah, and all who were servants were to be set free by their masters before the captivity (34:8-9). The people covenanted with Zedekiah to set their servants free, and to be bound by the covenant (34:10). Yet, with death and destruction knocking at the gates of the city, the foolish people broke their covenant with the king (34:11), enslaved their brethren, and invited God’s judgment for their defiance (34:12-21).

One would hope the hearts of the people would be tender, and humbled before the LORD and their king; however, they treated the king with disdain, and persecuted God’s prophet. Such is the fate of many who dare to preach God’s Word to a people or nation that rejects the LORD.

Closing thoughts Times have changed, but sinners have not.  The tragedy of 21st century “Christianity” (and I use that term in the broadest sense), is the majority of those who profess to be “Christian,” in practice shun the authority of God’s Word in their lives. Like Israel and Judah, a nation and people reject the Scriptures at their peril.

“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Warning: Reject the Word of God, and the Wrath of the LORD will Fall!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Who’s to Blame? – Derelict Pastors! (Jeremiah 10; Jeremiah 11)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 10; Jeremiah 11

Our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah continues with our Scripture reading comprising Jeremiah 10-11. Jeremiah 10 will be the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

Assuming Jeremiah was continuing his message “in the gate of the LORD’s house” (Jeremiah 7:2), we pick up our study with the prophet heralding to those who had come to the Temple: “1Hear ye the word which the Lordspeaketh unto you, O house of Israel: 2Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, And be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; For the heathen are dismayed at them” (10:1-2).

The heathen of Jeremiah’s day, were a superstitious, fearful lot, who looked to “the signs of the heaven” for wisdom and direction. Jeremiah challenged the people, to not follow the foolish ways of the heathen!

Jeremiah Mocked the Idols Men Worshipped. (10:3-5)

The prophet described the absurdity of men who worship gods of their own making, and imagined them cutting down trees, taking the stock, and then carving and shaping it into an idol they worship (10:3). Such men adorned their gods, overlaying the wood with silver and gold, and taking up hammer and nail to fasten the parts (10:4).

Drawing upon the foolishness of idols, Jeremiah mocked those who worship impotent gods that cannot speak, nor move of their own will (10:5a). Such idols must be borne about, and God’s people have no reason to fear them, for they can do neither evil or good (10:5c).

There is None Like the God of Heaven. (10:6-13)

Contrasting the “brutish and foolish” (stupid and senseless) men who worship idols made by “cunning men” (10:8-9), Jeremiah reminded the people the God of Israel had revealed Himself to them (10:6-7, 10-13).

Lifting his eyes to heaven, Jeremiah worshipped the LORD and declared, the LORD is not a God among many; He is great, mighty, and the Sovereign of the nations (10:6-7a). He is superior, and “there is none like unto [Him]” (10:7b). The LORD is true, living, eternal, and He is a just and righteous judge (10:10).

While the heathen worship idols that have created nothing and will come to nothing (10:11), the God of the Scriptures is the Creator of earth, and by His wisdom, He sustains and knows the breadth of the heavens (10:12). He is the God of nature, for by His voice the waters move, and complete their cycle (evaporation, rain, lightings, and wind, 10:13).

The Natural Man Apart from God and His Revelation (10:14-15)

What is man? He is “brutish in his knowledge,” a foolish, senseless being (10:14a). He is like the idols he has fashioned, vain, and delusional (10:15a), and in the day of God’s judgment he shall perish with his gods (10:15b).

God’s Covenant People (10:16-18)

Unlike the heathen who, left to themselves, were without knowledge and spiritually depraved, the LORD had chosen Israel for His inheritance (10:16). The God of Jacob “is the former [Creator; framer; maker] of all things” (10:16a). The LORD chose Israel as the “rod [the symbol of a tribe or people] of His inheritance” (10:16b). Who is God? “The LORD of hosts is His name” (10:16c), for He is the LORD of all!

Though the LORD had chosen Israel and Judah, they had broken covenant with Him, and He had removed His blessings and protection. Jeremiah declared, “Gather up thy wares” (pack up your belongings), inhabitants of Jerusalem (10:17). The people of Judah, like Israel before them, would be expelled out of the land, and afflicted (10:18).

A Faithful Prophet (10:19-20)

Though Jeremiah would serve as God’s prophet for 40 years, Judah refused to heed his warnings, and spurned his invitations to turn from their sins to the LORD. Yet, he felt the anguish of His people, and cried, “19Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: But I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it” (10:19). He was a preacher who loved the LORD, and cherished His people, but they had become a grief to bear. His own home [“tabernacle”] was destroyed, and there were none to come to his aid (10:20).

Derelict Pastors (10:21-22)

The failure of the people to hear the word of the LORD was not that of His prophet. The pastors, the civic and spiritual leaders, had failed the people (10:21). The pastors of Judah were a “brutish,” foolish, morally depraved lot, and had “not sought the LORD” (10:21a). The people, following their leadership, would not know the blessing of the LORD, and would be scattered among the heathen like sheep lost in the wilderness (10:21b).

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah foretold Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion would come upon Judah, and the cities would be destroyed, and become a haven for “a den of dragons” (jackals; wild beasts, 10:22c). Then, Jeremiah did the one thing you and I can do when we observe the frightening state of our country and world…He prayed (10:23-25).

Jeremiah confessed the natural man is foolish, and finds no wisdom or direction within himself (10:23). He prayed for God’s grace and mercy, saying, “24O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; Not in thine anger…” (10:24). He called upon the LORD to remember how the heathen had abused His people, and to pour out His wrath upon those men who had not known, or called upon Him (10:25).

Oh that God’s people would remember who the LORD is (10:6-13), and pray for His grace and mercy upon our families, friends, and nation (10:23-25).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

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

Scripture Reading –2 Kings 20; 2 Kings 21

Having concluded our study of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, I am reminded he had prophesied during the reigns of four kings of Judah, with Hezekiah being the fourth (Isaiah 1:1). By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, had fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, had been destroyed, and the citizens of Israel taken captive. Following their pattern, Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations, and in time they intermarried with the remnant of Israel. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people, would become known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 – The Sinful Pride of Hezekiah and the Threat of Imminent Death

The narrative in 2 Kings 20 is familiar to “Heart of a Shepherd” readers, for it is a rehearsal of events we studied in Isaiah 38:1-8 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26.

Our Scripture reading picks up the story of the life and times of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hezekiah had been a beloved leader of Judah, and the LORD blessed the nation because its king loved the LORD. Leading by example and edict, Hezekiah led the people in a time of spiritual revival, and restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments. He repaired the Temple, revived worship and offerings, and destroyed the worship of idols throughout the land.

2 Kings 20 follows a great victory God had given Judah over Sennacherib, king of Assyria (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37:36). Soon after Judah’s victory, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing to Hezekiah the news of the king’s impending death. Isaiah warned the king, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

Think about it: How would you respond if you were given a terminal diagnosis?

Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints. The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). He blocked out everything and everyone, and cried to the LORD, saying, “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently]” (2 Kings 20:3).

The king began to rehearse his walk with the LORD, and how he had kept God’s covenant. He claimed God’s covenant promise, and clung to the hope the LORD would heal him.

After he had delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah went to the Temple, where the LORD found the prophet in “the middle court,” and commanded him: “5Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord” (20:5).

Isaiah assured Hezekiah the LORD would heal him “on the third day” (20:5) and would “add unto [his] days fifteen years” (20:6). Tragically, Hezekiah made a grave decision when he greeted ambassadors from Babylon, and in pride, showed them the treasuries of his kingdom (20:12-13). Isaiah, learning of the strangers in the king’s house, confronted the king and questioned him (20:14-15). When Hezekiah confessed his actions, Isaiah condemned the king and prophesied all the Babylonians had seen would be taken away, and his own sons would be forced to serve the king of Babylon (20:16-18).

Hezekiah accepted the prophecy of God’s judgment with humility (20:19), and the chapter concludes with him dying fifteen years later, and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Unlike his father Hezekiah, Manasseh set a course of wickedness that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). He established idolatry in the land (21:3), desecrated the Temple (21:4), and offered his son as a sacrifice to idols (21:6).

Manasseh’s sins provoked God’s wrath, and by breaking covenant with God, robbed that nation of the blessings God had promised He would pour out upon the land (21:8). Instead, the king “seduced [beguiled the people] to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (21:9).

The LORD sent prophets who confronted the sins of the king and Judah (Jeremiah 2:9-13; Amos 9:7; Habakkuk 1:5), but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned how Jerusalem would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

Closing thought – Manasseh died, but was not buried in the tomb of the kings in Jerusalem (21:17-18). His son Amon reigned in his stead, and like his father, “walked in, and served the idols…and worshipped them” (21:19-22). Amon was slain by his servants after reigning for two years (21:23), who were themselves slain by the people (21:24).

Following the glorious reign and revival under Hezekiah, Judah had plunged into a depth of depravity that would have been unimaginable in the previous generation. In one generation, Judah went from a spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that included human sacrifice.

A nation, society, church, and ministry is one generation removed from a steep descent into sin that demands God’s judgment.

Are we that generation?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Way of Transgressors Is Hard (Hosea 14)

Scripture reading – Hosea 14

Our study of Hosea will conclude today with our Scripture reading, Hosea 14. For those unfamiliar with Old Testament prophecies, this weeklong study has probably been challenging. Yet, what have we learned?

Using the life of Hosea as a parable of His love for wayward Israel, the LORD commanded His prophet to take an adulterous woman to be his wife (Hosea 1). Like Israel, estranged from the LORD, Hosea’s wife left him and their sons and daughter for other men (Hosea 2).

The LORD then commanded the prophet to seek, and entreat his wife to leave her adulterous ways (Hosea 3:1). Finding her in a slave market, Hosea redeemed her (Hosea 3:2), brought her home, and restored her as his wife (Hosea 3:3).

Hosea’s love for his wife was a living portrait of the LORD’s unfailing love for Israel. The LORD was longsuffering, and merciful toward His people. Like a father loves a prodigal, the LORD’S love for His people, in spite of their spiritual adultery, was never in doubt. Yet, sadly, and irrespective of the prophet’s warning, God’s judgment was imminent, because the people refused to repent and return to the LORD.

Hosea 14

The Final Appeal (14:1-7)

Hosea 14 records the prophet’s last invitation to that rebellious nation: “O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity” (14:1). Though the people had broken covenant with Him, the LORD never forsook Israel, nor forgot His covenant with them.

Urging the people to repent and turn to the LORD, Hosea appealed: “Take with you words [confess], and turn [repent] to the Lord: Say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously” (14:2).

Knowing only the LORD could save Israel from the devastating judgment he had foretold, Hosea warned, “Asshur [Assyria] shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses [used in war]: Neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy” (14:3).

Like Hosea restored his adulterous wife, the LORD spoke directly to Israel and invited the people to return to Him. Expressing His longing to forgive the people of their sins and restore them, we read, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him” (14:4).

What a wonderful lesson in God’s unfailing love for sinners! Not only was He longing to restore Israel, He promised to: Heal them; Love them unconditionally; Forgive and Revive them (14:5); Restore the beauty of the nation (14:6), secure them “under His shadow” (14:7); and make the nation Fruitful again (14:7b).

A Spiritual Crossroads (14:8)

For Ephraim (and the whole of Israel), the nation was at a spiritual crossroads. If they repented of their sins, they would be restored whole, and would surely declare, “What have I to do any more with idols?” (14:8a) Knowing the LORD’S offer of forgiveness, and that His promises never fail, Hosea promised, the people would have no desire for their idols. They would be as an evergreen tree, and have need of nothing (14:8).

An Invitation (14:9)

Having presented his closing invitation to Israel, it was time for the people to make a decision, and Hosea proposed two questions: “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? Prudent, and he shall know them?” (14:9a).

The wise would understand their spiritual dilemma, and the prudent would surely repent (14:9a). If they confessed their sins, and turned from idols, they would know “the ways [laws and commandments] of the Lord are right[just], and the just shall walk in them [laws and commandments] (14:9b). If they continued in their sins, Hosea warned: “the transgressors shall fall [be destroyed] therein” (14:9c).

The LORD was patient, and longed not only to forgive Israel for her sins, but to heal and restore her beauty and glory. Tragically, that nation rejected the message of the prophets, refused to repent, and was destroyed.

Closing thoughts – When I reflect on history, I fear for our world and my country. God is longsuffering, gracious, and willing to forgive; however, He is also holy and just. He will not tolerate a nation’s sins forever. While the world celebrates and glamorizes sin, let us not forget “transgressors shall fall” (14:9c). I close with a proverb of Solomon:

“Good understanding [prudence; insight; discretion] giveth [earns] favour [grace; kindness]: but the way [path; course; journey] of transgressors is hard [path; course; journey](Proverbs 13:15).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Israel is an Empty Vine” (Hosea 9; Hosea 10)

Scripture reading – Hosea 9; Hosea 10

Hosea 9 and 10 continue Hosea’s prophecies concerning the judgments soon to befall Israel.

Hosea 9

Beginning with the admonition, “Rejoice not, O Israel” (9:1), the nation was condemned as a spiritual whore, for the people had “gone a whoring from [their] God” (9:1).

The prophet declared how the people “loved a reward upon every cornfloor” (9:1), apparently an observation when they believed their idols had blessed their crops. The LORD announced the fruit of their fields they had taken for granted would be taken from them as an act of God’s judgment (9:2-4). The people would be taken into bondage (9:3a), and be forced to “eat the unclean things in Assyria” (9:3b). In bondage, they would be unable to bring “wine offerings to the LORD” (9:4a), unable to “come into the house of the LORD” (9:4).

“The Days of Visitation” (Judgment) Had Come (9:7-17)

Knowing the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), we understand “the days of recompence,” the time of God’s wrath had come (9:7a). As a nation, Israel had looked upon the prophets as fools, and the spiritual men as though they were mad (9:7b).

Ephraim, the principal tribe of Israel, should have been God’s watchman, but instead, they led the nation to hate “the house of God” (9:8). Like Gibeah of old (Judges 19:1-20:48), Israel was guilty of gross immorality (9:9).

Because the people had rejected the LORD, the prophet foretold the glory of Ephraim would “fly away like a bird” (9:11). The children would die in their youth (9:12), her men would be slain (9:13), and the mothers would miscarry their infants (9:14).

Because Israel had rejected God’s mercy and refused to repent, the LORD rejected the people saying, “I hated them: for their wickedness…I will love them no more…their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit” (9:15-16).

Hosea then declared, “My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: And they shall be wanderers [scattered] among the nations” (9:17).

Hosea 10 – “Israel is an empty vine”

Israel’s spiritual state was summed up as, “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (10:1a).  Does that not define a backslidden believer? The people had rejected the LORD, and consumed their wealth, and the blessings of God for their own pleasure.

Knowing the hearts of his people, Hosea declared their hearts were divided (i.e., deceived), their altars would be destroyed, and their king would be removed (10:2-3). As a people, they had made covenants, “swearing falsely” (10:4).

The Bull of Bethaven (10:5-8)

Jeroboam, the king who had led away the northern ten tribes, making calves for the people to worship. One calf was placed in Bethel, that sacred place known as the “house of God.” Because of the wickedness of Bethel, its name was changed to Bethaven, “house of evil” (10:5).

Hosea declared the “calves of Bethaven” would be “carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb” (10:6a). and Ephraim and Israel would be shamed, for they had consulted with idols (10:6b). The idol places would be destroyed, and thorns and briars would overgrow them (10:8). Bearing the wrath of the LORD dispensed by Israel’s enemy, the people would cry for the hills to cover them, and fall on them (10:8).

The Moral Depravity of Israel (10:9-11)

Once again, Gibeah, notorious for its wickedness and immorality, is mentioned to remind us how far Israel had departed from their covenant with God (10:9; Judges 19:1-20:48). Declaring he would use the nation to punish His people (10:10), Hosea prophesied Ephraim would bear the yoke of bondage like a heifer bears a yoke when it treads out seed (10:11).

Briefly, the prophet returns to a penitent message, and appeals to the nation to turn to the LORD, saying, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground [hard hearts]: For it is time to seek the Lord, Till he come and rain righteousness upon you” (10:12).

Israel’s Sins and God’s Judgment (10:13-15)

Our devotional concludes with the prophet being reminded how Israel had “plowed wickedness [and] reaped iniquity;” they had lived off lies and deceit, and were proud and self-sufficient (10:13).

The judgment of the LORD was certain, and the brutality of the Assyrian soldiers was pictured (10:14). Bethel, would not be spared, and the king of Israel would be taken away (10:15).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith