Tag Archives: Grace

The LORD is Creator and Sovereign of the Universe (Isaiah 44-48)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 44-48

Dear reader, As you will notice, today’s Scripture reading is lengthy. I will limit my commentary to a few brief thoughts.

We have read Isaiah’s prophetic warnings, that because of the people’s sin and rebellion, Judah would be conquered and the city of Jerusalem destroyed. Assyria was still the great power of the world; however, the armies of Babylon were being strengthened and under Nebuchadnezzar, the city of Jerusalem would be razed, the Temple destroyed, and the people taken captive.

Isaiah had prophesied that God would bring a great king from the east (41:1-4) who would conquer nations, and eventually defeat Babylon. The great king would set God’s people free to return to their homeland. Who was this king?

Isaiah identified him as “Cyrus…my shepherd,” more than a hundred years before his birth (Isaiah 44:28)!

Notice throughout today’s Scripture reading (Isaiah 44-48) the emphasis Isaiah placed on identifying the God of Israel as the Creator, Sustainer, Sovereign, and Eternal God.

Isaiah 45:18 is one of the great verses of the Bible that eliminates any possibility of evolution or the co-existence of both a Creator and an evolutionary process.  This verse declares unequivocally, that the God of the Bible is Creator, LORD, Jehovah, Eternal, Self-existent God!

Isaiah 45:18 – “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain [lit. without form; confusion], he formed [made and shaped it like a potter shapes a clay vessel] it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.”

Proponents of evolution would have us believe the earth was a lifeless mass without form and that somehow, over billions of years, a process of evolution caused the earth to become an inhabitable place that would eventually support microscopic life forms and become our world. In my opinion, evolution takes a whole lot of blind faith in a “science” that cannot be tested or proved!

What does Isaiah 45:18 tell us about creation? 

“The LORD created the heavens,” the sun, stars, moons, and planets (45:18a).  The LORD “formed the earth and made it,” and fashioned and shaped it as a potter with a plan and design (45:18b).  The LORD “established” the earth; in other words, He made it perfect according to His purpose (45:18c).

The LORD “created it not in vain;” unlike evolutionist who postulate the universe came into existence out of confusion, Isaiah declares exactly the opposite. God shaped and formed the world so that it was inhabitable from the beginning (45:18d).

To cap off the fact that creation reflects the glory of its Creator, God declares: “I am the LORD; and there is none else.”

Who is the LORD?  Look at His creation and you will see a display of His greatness and glory.

Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

He Alone is God and There is No Other! (Isaiah 40-43)

Scripture reading: Isaiah 40-43

The breadth of today’s Scripture reading is so great that I am limiting my devotional commentary to Isaiah 40.

Isaiah 40

The destruction of Jerusalem and God’s judgment against Judah for her wickedness appears imminent in Isaiah 40. Knowing the grace and longsuffering of the LORD, we are not surprised that nearly a century passed before Babylon attacked the capital city, destroyed the Temple, and took the people captive.

Let’s take a few minutes and glean from Isaiah 40 some insight into the character of God.

The God of Israel is portrayed as longsuffering, forgiving and comforting (40:1-2).   Seven hundred years before he was born, the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah was foretold here (40:3-5; Matthew 3:3).

Observing the temporal nature of this earthly life and knowing that our lives are like grass that withers and flowers that fade, Isaiah declares, “the Word of our God shall stand forever” (40:6-8). What comfort we should take from our confidence in the immutable nature of God! Times change and men change; however, God changes not and His Word is established forever!

Who is my God? 

He is the Creator and the depths of the waters in the oceans are like “the hollow of his hand” (40:12a).  He knows the span of the heavens, the stars, moons, and planets.  He has calculated the dust of the earth and knows the weight of the mountains and hills (40:12b).

My God is so great that all the nations and their armies of the earth are as nothing to Him (40:15-17). 

There is nothing and no one greater than my God!  The beauty of earth’s sphere reflects the glory of His throne and men are like grasshoppers in his presence (40:22-23).  He is omniscient, and calls the stars of heaven by name (40:26).  He is Everlasting God, Creator and Sustainer of all things (40:28).  He is my Savior and my Strength (40:30-31).

Isaiah 40:30-31 – “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31  But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

From whence did my God come?

He was God before there was time and creation.  I confess my poor finite mind cannot explain this doctrine, but His person and handiwork, are they not evidenced in all He has created? (Psalm 90:1-2)

Isaiah 43:10b-11, 13a – “… I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 11  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour…13  Yea, before the day was I am he…”

Before the first day…there was God!  He alone is God!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“And it came to pass” (Isaiah 37-39; Psalm 76)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 37-39; Psalm 76

After Hezekiah humbled himself before the LORD, tore down the “high (unholy) places” and restored worship and sacrifices in the Temple; “it came to pass” (37:1) that God allowed an enemy to taunt, mock, and scorn the people of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36).

Isaiah 37 – God Hears and Answers Prayer

Receiving the threats of war from Rabshakeh, the emissary of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, Hezekiah humbled himself, “rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house [Temple] of the LORD” (37:1).

Desperate for an assuring word from the LORD, Hezekiah sent messengers to Isaiah telling the prophet, “This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy” (37:3).

Isaiah encouraged the king saying, “Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me” (37:6). The LORD promised to “send a blast”, literally a spirit that would trouble the king of Assyria; a rumor that drove him to return to his country where he would be assassinated (37:7).

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, renewed his threat against Jerusalem and mocked Hezekiah’s faith in God, reminding the king of all the nations that had already fallen to his armies (37:8-13). After receiving Sennacherib’s threat, the king took the letter to the Temple, “spread it before the LORD,” and prayed: “O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only” (37:14-15, 37:20).

Isaiah sent word to Hezekiah that the LORD had heard his petition and “the king of Assyria, He shall not come into” Jerusalem (37:33). The LORD promised, “I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (37:35).

Isaiah 37 concludes with the LORD sending an avenging angel that slayed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (37:36). Sennacherib then retreated to Nineveh where he was slain by his own sons (37:37-38).

 

Isaiah 38 – A Premature Obituary: “Thou Shalt Die.”

God wonderfully answered King Hezekiah’s prayer and gave Jerusalem and the king a great triumph over Assyria. The king, no doubt rejoicing, received Isaiah who then delivered a sobering prophecy:  “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (38:1).

While that prophecy was not unusual, for it stated a reality all sinners must inevitably face, it overwhelmed Hezekiah who “turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (38:2).

The king “wept sore,” praying, “O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (38:3).

The LORD received Hezekiah’s prayer and promised to add fifteen years to the king’s life (38:4-6).  As a miraculous sign that his life would be extended, God turned the shadow on the sundial back ten degrees (38:7-8).

Isaiah 38 concludes with a psalm of thanksgiving composed by King Hezekiah, rejoicing in God hearing his prayer and extending his years (38:9-22).

Isaiah 39 – Flattery, Pride and a Foolish King

News of Hezekiah’s sickness had traveled through diplomatic channels and “Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered” (39:1).

No doubt, flattered by his guests, Hezekiah permitted the ambassadors from Babylon to see the wealth of his treasury (39:1-2). When Isaiah learned of the king’s guests, he questioned and then admonished Hezekiah (39:3-4).

Isaiah admonished the king that his arrogant decision to display the nation’s wealth would end with the king of Babylon taking away, not only Judah’s wealth, but also his sons and heirs to the throne (39:7). With humility, the king humbled himself and accepted Isaiah’s rebuke saying, “Good is the word of the LORD” (39:8).

A Spiritual Lesson Concerning Pride

I have witnessed men and women, who after experiencing a measure of success in their endeavors, permitted their hearts to swell with pride. Setting aside humility and dependence on God that was the incentive and catalyst of God’s blessings, they failed to remember, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

Life Challenge: Deflect the best things men say about you, and don’t believe the worst; for somewhere in the middle is the truth about your character and person.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

How Do You Answer an Insolent Fool? (Isaiah 35-36)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 35-36

There are two timelines in today’s Scripture reading. Isaiah 35 describes the yet future Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Isaiah 36 then turns our focus back to the imminent threat of the Assyrian army that had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 35 The earth and the nations of the world after Christ’s judgment and His Millennial Kingdom

After the Second Coming of Christ, His reign on the earth will usher in a time of peace and prosperity like the world has not known since before Adam sinned.

The earth will be restored and the desert will bring forth life and flower with beauty reflecting God’s glory (35:1-2). The physically weak will be strengthened (35:3) and the fearful will be emboldened (35:4). Christ’s reign will be one of perfect justice and believers will find security in Him.

When Christ reigns the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will jump for joy (35:5), the dumb will break forth into singing (35:6), and the desert will flow with streams of water (35:6b) and bloom like an oasis (35:7). What a glorious day that will be!

The world in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will be at peace and believers will come to Zion (new Jerusalem) with “songs and everlasting joy” (35:9). In that day, the day when Christ reigns on the earth, “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35:10). What a happy day that will be!

Isaiah 36 – Isaiah 36 turns our focus from the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 35) to Isaiah’s Day, about 701 B.C.

We find Jerusalem under siege as the Assyrian armies overran and defeated Israel (taking captive the northern ten tribes). The Assyrians have conquered the outlying cities and fortresses of Judah and are encamped outside the great walls  of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36).

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe, sums up Isaiah 36-39 writing, “Hezekiah [the king of Judah] faced three crises in a short time: an international crisis (the invasion of the Assyrian army), a personal crisis (sickness and near death), and a national crisis (the visit of the Babylonian envoys).”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – The Prophets]

The events of Isaiah 36 follow a national revival that had been led by Hezekiah, King of Judah.

We read in 2 Chronicles 32:1 that Sennacherib king of Assyria invaded Judah, “after these things.” After what things? What had occurred in Judah just before the Assyrians invaded? The answer to that question is found here:

2 Chronicles 31:20-21 – “20  And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God21  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”

After Hezekiah had done that which was good, and right, he followed after truth (2 Chronicles 31:10). Hezekiah restored the Temple and worship after he had set his heart to seek God, and obey the law and commandments. Then, and only then, did he begin to prosper. And yet, after those things, an enemy threatened to overthrow the king, destroy Jerusalem, and remove God’s people out of the land.

An emissary of the Assyrian King Sennacherib named Rabshakeh, was sent to confront King Hezekiah (36:4-8) and he demand tribute be paid to the king of Assyria.

Hezekiah sent representatives to reason with Rabshakeh; however, he was insolent and reproached Hezekiah (36:4) and his faith in Judah’s God (36:7).

Somehow Rabshakeh, the Assyrian king’s emissary, had knowledge of Hezekiah’s foolish appeal to Egypt for an alliance and knew that effort had failed. Rabshakeh suggested that should the Assyrians give Judah two thousand horses, they would lack the soldiers to go to war (36:8-9).

Rabshakeh went so far as to suggest that Assyria was laying siege to Jerusalem because Judah’s God had told him to, “Go up against the land, and destroy it” (36:10).

Hearing the emissary’s message and fearing it would disturb the soldiers defending the city walls of Jerusalem, Judah’s leaders asked Rabshakeh to deliver his message in the Syrian language (36:11-12), a language that common soldiers would not understand. Instead of delivering the message as requested, the messenger raised his voice against the men on the wall, mocking King Hezekiah and his faith that God would deliver Judah (36:13-22).

Realizing they were hearing the words of an insolent man, the soldiers on the wall, “held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not” (36:21).

We will pick up our narrative on the siege of Jerusalem and King Hezekiah’s response tomorrow. I will close today’s devotion with a question and a spiritual lesson.

How do you answer an insolent fool? – SILENCE!

Proverbs 26:4-5  “Answer [speak; respond; reply] not a fool according to his folly [foolishness; stupidity], lest thou also be like [equal to; resemble] unto him. 5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise [shrewd] in his own conceit [eye; confidence; disdain].”

“Solomon warned his son in verse 4 that responding to a fool in the midst of his folly has the potential of drawing you into his folly—and you become like him—a fool!

Stated in a different way—You cannot reason with a fool!

It is a waste of time and effort to reason with a man who has rejected Truth and refuses to heed the clear exposition of God’s Word.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Millennial Reign of Jesus the Messiah (Isaiah 31-34)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 31-34

We continue our Scripture reading in the Book of Isaiah with Israel, the northern ten tribes having fallen to Assyria and its armies now threatening Judah.

Isaiah 31

King Hezekiah’s attempt to appease Assyria’s king with gold and silver had failed. Receiving news of the fall of Samaria and the inhabitants of Israel taken captive, the king of Judah sent emissaries to Egypt to seek an alliance against Assyria (31:1). Isaiah condemned the king for his failure to turn to the LORD for help and declared, “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit” (31:3).

In spite of the king’s failure to turn to God, the LORD promised He would “come down to fight for mount Zion” (31:4b) and “the LORD of hosts (would) defend Jerusalem” and “preserve it” (31:5). Isaiah called on the people to repent of their sins (31:6-7), and promised the LORD would come to their defense and “then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword” (31:8).

Isaiah 32

Isaiah 32 opens with a yet to be fulfilled promise of the coming of the Messiah who “shall reign in righteousness” (32:1). Who is the Messiah who will reign as King? Nathanael confessed that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God…the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

Jesus promised His followers He would come again (John 14:1-6) and the angels who were at His ascension promised His disciples, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

When Jesus Christ comes again, He will come as a conquering King and will sit in judgment over the nations of the earth. The apostle John wrote, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

When Christ sits on His throne in Jerusalem the curse of sin that blights and scars the earth will be removed. The eyes of the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and stammering tongues will speak (32:3-4). The barren wilderness will become a fruitful garden (32:15). There will be righteous judgment in the land (32:16), and because righteousness rules, there will be “peace…quietness and assurance for ever” (32:17).

What a contrast to our world where there is no justice in the land. Where rioting and violence, sickness and death are perpetual threats.

Lesson – When righteousness rules, there is peace (32:17).

Isaiah 33

Isaiah 33 picks up the story of King Hezekiah’s failed attempt to appease Assyria, but the prophet warned that the destroyer (Assyria) would itself be destroyed (33:1).

Though the majority of Judah had rebelled and turned from the LORD, there were a few in Judah who prayed and God heard their prayers. The faithful few prayed, “O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble” (33:2). God answered their prayers and promised to deliver Jerusalem by setting Himself against Assyria (33:10-12).

God fulfilled His promise of judgment and destroyed Assyria’s army. The defeat of Judah’s adversary was so complete that it struck fear in the hearts of the people (33:13-14).

A Messianic prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming is found in the closing verses of Isaiah 33. When Christ returns He will repel and destroy the armies of the nations of the earth that will be gathered against Jerusalem (33:17-24).

In the “New Jerusalem” where Christ will reign, there will be no sickness or sin (33:24).

Isaiah 34 speaks of God’s great and universal judgment of the nations of the world.

Isaiah 34 focuses on the “Day of the Lord’s Vengeance,” His final judgment of the nations of the world (34:8).

The nations of the world will be assembled (we know prophetically that this is the Battle of Armageddon, Revelation 19:11-21). Isaiah describes how God will pour out His wrath on the nations for how they mistreated and slaughtered His people (34:1-2). No nation will be spared the wrath of the LORD, and the earth and the heavens will be moved by God’s judgment (34:3-4).

The immediate focus of Isaiah’s prophecy was Edom (or Idumea) and its capital city “Bozrah” (34:6). Edom served as an example of what will become of the nations, when God takes vengeance on the world.

God’s judgment will be terrifying and complete: blood-soaked land, streams running dark, fire and smoke ascending, cities uninhabitable except for wild beasts (34:6-15).

Isaiah warned all the prophecies of the LORD would come to pass and “no one of these shall fail” (34:16).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Invitation: God Is Waiting to Hear Your Call (Isaiah 28-30)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 28-30

Continuing our chronological study of the Old Testament, we transition from the prophecies of Hosea, whose ministry was directed primarily to the northern ten tribes (Israel, also referred to as Ephraim), and return to Isaiah 28.

Isaiah 28 – Isaiah announced two judgments in Isaiah 28.

The first was God’s judgment against “the crown of pride” (which I believe is a reference to the royal capital city of Samaria) and “the drunkards of Ephraim,” which I interpret to be the political and spiritual leaders of the northern ten tribes (28:1-4). Referring to Assyria as “a mighty and strong one” (28:2), Isaiah prophesied the LORD would send against Ephraim a nation that would trod “under feet” (28:3) and “eateth up” (28:4).

Isaiah 28:5-6 refers to a period of time that is still future (unless one considers the reign of Hezekiah, the godly king of Judah as a partial, immediate fulfillment) and will be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming.

The second prophecy of judgment was directed to Judah, who witnessed the destruction of her brethren to the north, but continued in her sin and wickedness (28:7-15).

The wickedness of Judah was revealed in the drunkenness of her priests and prophets. Those leaders who should have called the nation to the LORD were guilty of drunkenness (28:7) and self-indulgence. Their feasts had become drunken banquets vividly portrayed as “tables…full of vomit and filthiness” (28:8).

Realizing the looming threat of Assyria, rather than repent of their sins and turn to the LORD, Judah’s leaders sought an alliance with Egypt (28:14-15; 30:1-5) that God described as “your covenant with death” (28:18).

Judah’s only hope was a Messianic prophecy: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste [not be ashamed; panic]” (28:16). The New Testament reveals the “precious corner stone, a sure foundation” is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-7; Mark 12:10; Romans 9:33).

Isaiah 29

To understand Isaiah 29, when you read “Ariel”, think of Jerusalem for we read that Ariel was “the city where David dwelt” (29:1). Isaiah 29:1-14 is the prophet’s warning of God’s imminent judgment against Jerusalem that would be fulfilled in Assyria’s siege of the capital city.

The distress, mourning, and siege of Jerusalem was a historical event that took place in 701 B.C. when Assyria defeated Israel (the northern ten tribes) and would have overwhelmed Jerusalem if the LORD had not intervened (37:36).  Knowing that prophecy often has an imminent and a far-reaching application, I believe Isaiah 29:7-8 describes the future siege when the nations of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem during the “battle of Armageddon” (Zechariah 14:1-3; Revelation 14:14-20; 16:13-21).

Isaiah 29:15-24 reminds us that the God of Heaven is Sovereign Creator and nothing escapes His knowledge or is beyond His control. The leaders of Judah were foolish, thinking God had no knowledge of their schemes, plans, and sins committed in secret (29:15).  Isaiah reasoned, no more than the potter’s clay could rise up against the potter, how foolish for man to assert of God, “He made me not?” (29:16).

Isaiah 29:17-24 is, in my opinion, a picture of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom after His Second Coming. His earthly kingdom will be glorious: The earth will be transformed and fruitful (29:17), the deaf will hear, the blind will see (29:18), and the meek and poor will rejoice (29:18).  What a glorious day that will be!

Isaiah 30A prophecy of woe against Jerusalem

Rather than turn from her sin and return to the LORD, Judah turned to Pharaoh and Egypt for deliverance from her enemies (30:1-7).  Isaiah warned, Judah’s attempt to purchase Egypt’s protection would all be in vain (30:7).

Isaiah 30:8-17 paints a graphic portrait of Judah’s rebellion against God and His Word.

The LORD commanded Isaiah to write down His warning of judgment (30:8) and to describe the rebellious nature of the people… “lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD” (30:9).

In spite of their sin and rebellion, Isaiah assured the people that God is gracious, compassionate, and just (30:18). When they cry out to Him, He will hear and answer their cry (30:19).

Isaiah 30 closes with a promise of Judah’s restoration to the land (30:18-26). Isaiah prophesied the defeat of Assyria that is, I believe, symbolic of the defeat of all the nations of the earth that will gather against Jerusalem when Christ returns and establishes His Millennial Kingdom (30:27-33; Revelation 19:11-21).

An Invitation: Someone reading today’s devotional might identify in their own life some of the sins of Judah: Hypocritical worship; a disdain for spiritual truth; a pattern of minimizing sins; excusing rebellion, and a defiance of God and authority.

There is hope for you, as there was for Judah, if you are willing to confess your sins, turn to the LORD, and seek His forgiveness.

1 John 1:8-10 – “8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Longsuffering and Waiting to Forgive (Hosea 8-14)

Scripture Reading – Hosea 8-14

Hosea, the first of the minor prophets, was called by God to preach to the northern ten tribes known as Israel, and to call the people to turn from their wicked, idolatrous ways and repent.

Desiring to give Israel, not only a warning of His judgment, but also an illustration of His love and longsuffering, the LORD commanded Hosea to take a wife named Gomer (1:2). Gomer gave birth to three children (1:4-9), but then broke her marriage covenant with Hosea committing adultery, and finally becoming a prostitute (3:1).

To illustrate His unending love for Israel, the LORD commanded Hosea to go and find his wife. When the prophet found her, she was being sold as a slave. In spite of her unfaithfulness and the shame she had brought into his life, Hosea purchased Gomer, and lovingly restored her as his wife (3:3).

Such was the love God had for Israel. Though that nation had committed spiritual whoredom by worshipping idols, the LORD never stopped yearning for His people to repent from their backslidings. Even as the clouds of judgment were manifested in the approach of Assyria, the LORD said, “I would have healed Israel” (7:1).

Hosea 8-10 records God’s warnings of judgment against Israel, “because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law” (8:1).

Hosea defined the principle of “sowing to sin and reaping its consequences” warning, they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (8:7a; 10:12-13).

Like the religious hypocrites they were, the people of Israel had continued a pretense of religion in offering sacrifices; however, Hosea prophesied, “Israel hath forgotten his Maker” (8:14) and “gone a whoring from [her] God” (9:1).

God’s condemnation of Ephraim (another name for Israel), continues in Hosea 9 when the prophet warned the nation would soon fall to Assyria and be led away as slaves, even as they had been in Egypt (9:3).

How had Israel fallen so far from the LORD? Were there no leaders who would call the people from the precipice of God’s judgment?

No! Israel’s leaders had failed the nation. Hosea observed, “The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad” (9:7).

The nation of Israel had broken its covenant with the Lord. The people had disobeyed His Commandments, rejected His mercy, and refused His grace. Finally, the LORD divorced His 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).

The imminent judgment of God against the nation and its spiritual state is summed up, “Israel is an empty vine” (10:1a).

Hosea 14 concludes with the LORD calling Israel to return from her backslidings (14:1).

The LORD’s love for His people had not failed. He longed to forgive them of their sins.  He promised, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him” (14:4).

I close being reminded of the stunning portrait of God’s grace, love, and forgiveness.

Remember how the LORD commanded Hosea to find his adulterous spouse and take her back as his wife (Hosea 3)? Hosea found his wife in a slave market. Her physical beauty wasted, her soul broken, and her place in life reduced to prostitution. Her value to men so negligible that Hosea purchased her for fifteen pieces of silver and some barley (3:3), half the price of a common slave. In an act of loving grace and forgiveness, Hosea took her not only into his house, but more importantly…into his heart (3:3b).

Lesson – Regardless of how far you might have strayed from the LORD, or the shame you have heaped upon His name, God loves you, and He longs for you to repent and return to Him.

1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“God’s Longsuffering Love” (Hosea 1-7)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1-7

Today’s Scripture reading is the first seven chapters of the Book of Hosea. Written by the prophet Hosea, he was the first of the “minor prophets” in the Old Testament (minor in the sense their writings are much shorter than those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel).

There is a general consensus that Hosea’s public ministry spanned 60 years or more, beginning in 748 B.C. His ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

Hosea’s preaching, though sometimes mentioning Judah, was predominately concentrated on the northern ten tribes known as Israel. While maintaining some outward form of worshipping the LORD, Israel had rejected God’s commandments and turned to worshipping and sacrificing to idols.

The Book of Hosea records the ministry of one faithful man who courageously warned His people of God’s imminent judgment should they continue in their wickedness and rebellion. I will limit today’s commentary to Hosea 1-3.

Hosea 1

The book of Hosea opens with the LORD commanding the prophet to, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms” (1:2a). Why such an incredulous command to His prophet?

The LORD was using Hosea’s marriage to a woman who would commit adultery as an illustration of His unfailing love for Israel whom He said had “committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (1:2b).

There is some debate if the woman named Gomer (1:3), whom Hosea took as his wife, was a prostitute before he married her. Regardless, the fact is that the prophet took a wife, who after bearing three children (1:3-4, 6, 8-9), left her husband, committed adultery, and became a prostitute.

For the sake of interpretation, Hosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” is a model of the LORD. Gomer, Hosea’s wife, is a picture of Israel who had broken her covenant with the LORD and turned to serve and worship idols.

Gomer gave birth to three children and their names were reminders of Israel’s broken covenant with God. The firstborn was a son named Jezreel (meaning “God will scatter”- 1:3-4), and foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth. The second born was a daughter named Loruhamah (meaning “love withdrawn” or “not loved” – 1:6). Her name is a reminder that, while the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional, when the people disobeyed and broke their covenant with Him, He withdrew His loving protection of them as a people. The third born was Loammi (meaning “not my people” – 1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery and the LORD had determined to divorce His people.

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising that, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them, and would one day gather them together in the land (1:11). In His grace, the LORD promised, “in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 2

Hosea was heartbroken when Gomer left him and he pled with his children, “Plead with your mother…let her therefore put away her whoredoms” (2:2). Gomer, like Israel, would not heed Hosea’s pitiful plea for her to return to her husband and children (2:3-23).

Hosea 3

Hosea 3 uses the prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer as a backdrop to a portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. In the same way, Gomer had committed whoredom, breaking her marriage covenant and rejecting her husband’s love (3:1), Israel had left the LORD, broke her covenant with Him, and committed spiritual whoredom with the gods of her pagan neighbors.

In spite of her transgressions and the shame she had brought upon her household, God commanded Hosea to find his wife and bring her back to his home.  Incredibly, Hosea found Gomer wasted away and being sold in the slave market (3:2) where he purchased her for half the price of a common household slave: “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley” (3:2).  Taking his adulterous wife home, Hosea promised to be her husband and renew their marriage covenant (3:3).

Hosea’s love for Gomer was a demonstration of God’s forgiving, unconditional love and compassion for Israel (3:4-5). Israel had forsaken the LORD and committed spiritual whoredom; however, Hosea prophesied that though Israel would be without a king for many days, God would restore the people to the land “in the latter days” (3:5).

The “latter days” of Israel’s restoration, not only as a nation (which took place briefly after the Babylonian captivity, and then again in 1948 as a modern state), is still future. Though the Jews are back in their land, yet Israel as a believing people is not. In the future they will come to “seek the LORD their God” (3:5a) with all their heart and devotion and come to “fear [revere] the LORD and His goodness” (3:5b).

The “latter days” or the “last days” (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2) are still future; however, the day is coming when the LORD Jesus Christ will sit on David’s throne as Judge and King of kings (Matthew 19:28; Luke 1:32-33).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in the Sovereignty and Judgment of God (Isaiah 23-27)

Scripture reading: Isaiah 23-27

Isaiah continues his prophecy against the nations in today’s Scripture reading that is admittedly, challenging to both read and understand! This may be your first attempt to read Isaiah’s prophecies and I encourage you to press on. Pray for the LORD to open your eyes to understanding as you open your heart. The primary focus of today’s commentary will be Isaiah 23-24.

Isaiah 23

Three ancient cities are the subject of Isaiah 23. The city of Tyre is the principal subject of the chapter. Tyre was a major shipping port in ancient times (23:1), and was located in Philistia on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea of what is today’s southern Lebanon. Tyre and Zidon (also spelled Sidon) were the two major cities of ancient Philista (23:2, 4, 12). The third city is Tarshish (23:1), a major shipping port in today’s Spain.

Isaiah prophesied that Tyre would be “laid waste” (23:1). Biblical prophecy and recorded history validate that the Chaldeans (the citizens of Babylon) conquered Tyre (23:2-15).  Trade and commerce were disrupted in that region for seventy years (23:15-17).

Why would Israel be interested in the destruction of Tyre? 

The answer to that question is found in these words: “The LORD of hosts hath purposed it…He stretched out his hand over the sea, He shook the kingdoms” (23:9, 11).  The destruction and devastation of Tyre would be a testimony of God’s sovereignty.

No nation, including our own, is so powerful that it can escape God’s judgment once He has set His face against it.

Isaiah 24

Isaiah 24 continues the theme of God’s judgment against the nations, describing a scene where the earth is defiled by sin (24:1-5).  Isaiah prophesied that the earth is cursed and in the day of the LORD, the day of His judgment, “the inhabitants of the earth” will be burned (24:6).

The scene is one of universal judgment (24:1-12) and universal suffering (24:16-17). The earth is violently shaken as the LORD will “punish the host of the high ones…and the kings of the earth” (24:21). The Second Coming of Christ will mark the end of the Great Tribulation (24:23).

Isaiah 25-26

Isaiah 25 transitions from God’s judgment of the nations (Isaiah 23-24) to Israel rejoicing in the LORD who is a refuge for His people (25:1-12).

Isaiah 26 finds Judah restored to her land and rejoicing in the LORD who has promised peace, rest, and everlasting security (26:1-4).

Isaiah 27

Scholars believe the three beasts described in Isaiah 27:1 represent prophetically three empires of the world.

The chapter ends with a yet to be fulfilled prophecy: The restoration of the children of Israel to their land where they will “be gathered one by one” (27:12).

A closing thought: The earth and her inhabitants live under the curse of sin. News reports of natural disasters (earthquakes, storms, pollution), epidemics, violence and rioting serve as daily reminders that “the whole creation groaneth and travileth in pain together” (Romans 1:22).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Is Never Blindsided! (Isaiah 18-22)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 18-22

Today’s devotional reading continues Isaiah’s prophetic message of God’s judgment against the nations and Israel.

Isaiah 18

Isaiah prophesied the doom of Ethiopia as that nation appealed to other nations to come to their aid as the armies of Assyria approached (18:1-2). The nations of the world were pictured as frantic in the face of an Assyrian invasion; however, the LORD revealed to Isaiah, “I will take my rest” (18:4).

Unlike the nations that were overcome with fear and worry, God knew what He would do (18:4b-5a). When the time was come, the LORD promised He would “cut off…take away and cut down” the armies of Assyria like a man takes an axe and pruning shears to the branches of trees (18:5). The armies of Assyria would be brought to ruin and left as carnage for the birds of the air and the wild beasts (18:6).

Isaiah 19

God’s judgment against Egypt (Isaiah 19:1-15; 20:1-6) was fulfilled when Assyria conquered that nation in 670 B.C.

Isaiah 19:16-25 may allude to a description of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom when He will reign over the earth from His throne in Jerusalem. In that day, Egypt’s fear and dread of the LORD will move that nation to turn to the LORD and worship Him (19:16-22).

Egypt, Assyria (i.e. modern-day Iraq and Iran), and Israel will be at peace during the Millennial period (19:23-25).

Isaiah 20

Remembering Isaiah’s prophetic ministry was to Israel, the LORD commanded the prophet to humble himself by stripping off his outer tunic, and walking barefoot (20:2-3). Isaiah’s physical appearance was a symbol of the humiliation Egypt and Ethiopia would suffer when those nations would fall to Assyria (20:4-5).

Isaiah 21

Ancient Babylon is, I believe, the “desert of the sea” (21:1) and is the region of modern-day Iraq. There is some debate among scholars over whether Isaiah’s prophecy of Babylon’s fall (21:9) was to Assyria, when that nation was the greater empire, or later when Babylon was defeated by the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5).

Isaiah 21:2 leaves no doubt to me that it was Babylon’s defeat by the Medes (i.e. Elam) and Persians (i.e. Media) that was intended. Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C.

Isaiah 21:11-17 foretold the doom of the tribes of Arabia.

Isaiah 22

Isaiah 22 is a prophecy of God’s judgment against Judah and the capital city of Jerusalem.

Having witnessed Assyria’s defeat of Israel and the captivity of the northern ten tribes, one would hope Judah would have humbled herself before God. Instead, we read:  “Thou that art full of stirs [noise; shouting], a tumultuous city, a joyous city [jubilant; full of revelers] (22:2).

Rather than turn to the LORD, the self-reliant people of Jerusalem were doing all they could to shore up the walls of the city by taking timbers from Solomon’s palace (“the house of the forest” – 22:8; 1 Kings 7:2) and breaking down the walls of houses to close the breaches in the city walls (22:10). Instead of repenting of their sin, the citizens of Jerusalem mirrored the narcissistic sentiment of the rich fool (Luke 12:19) and boasted, “eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die” (22:12-14).

Isaiah 22:15-19 is a denunciation of a leader, the treasurer of Jerusalem identified as “Shebna” (22:15). Shebna had enriched himself and carved out a sepulchre worthy of a king (22:16).  Isaiah prophesied Shebna would be carried away captive and his tomb would belong to another. In Shebna’s place, God promised to raise up Eliakim, a man He described as “my servant” (22:20-21).  In spite of putting a godly man in the nation’s leadership, God’s judgment of Judah was inevitable (22:25).

What might you and I take from today’s Scripture reading?

The sovereignty of God over the nations is, at least for this writer, a great reminder that, while the nations rage and the threats of war are ever present, nothing takes God by surprise. The LORD revealed to Isaiah, “I will take my rest” (18:4).

God was not frantic with worry or overcome with anxiety. He was not dismayed by the armies of Assyria or the rise of Babylon. Prophesying 200 years before the events took place, Isaiah foretold the armies of the Medes and Persians would conquer Babylon and the king of Persia would send the people of Israel back to their homeland.

Take heart, believer: God knows exactly what He will do in His time!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith