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“The Cry of a Compassionate Prophet” (Jeremiah 4-6)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 4-6

Our study in the Book of Jeremiah continues with chapters 4-6 as our Scripture reading, and Jeremiah 4 as the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

We have so far considered: The calling of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet to Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 1); the assertion that Israel and Judah, though beloved by the LORD, as a husband loves his wife (Jeremiah 2:1-12), had rebelled and broken their covenant with the God (2:13-37); finally, Jeremiah’s declaration that the LORD had divorced His people for their spiritual adultery and failure to obey His commandments (3:1-5, 20-24).

Jeremiah 4

Israel, consisting of the northern ten tribes, has been removed from her land and the people taken into captivity by Assyria, nevertheless, the LORD extended to His people an invitation:

Jeremiah 4:1 –  “If thou wilt return [turn back; i.e. repent], O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away [detest; depart from] thine abominations [idols] out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove [no longer wander; i.e. the LORD would have compassion on].”

What a comfort that verse should be to believers. While the sins and wickedness of Israel were almost incomprehensible (immorality, worship of idols, child sacrifices), the LORD was still pleading for the people to repent, promising He would have compassion on them.

Moving from His invitation to Israel (4:1-2), Jeremiah was commanded to appeal to Judah (the southern tribes) to repent of her sins. Illustrating how sin hardens the hearts of a nation, Jeremiah used two metaphors.

The first, a sin hardened heart is like a farmer’s field that needs plowing before it can be planted. Jeremiah called upon the people of Judah to recognize the hardness of their hearts. Painting a picture of a farmer breaking up the ground with a plow to prepare it for planting, Jeremiah encouraged the people to, “Break up your fallow ground [with a plow], and sow not among thorns [which would choke out new growth]” (4:3).

The second picture is that of a sin-calloused heart: Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (4:4a). Jeremiah concluded the call to repent with the warning that, should Judah not repent of her sins, God would pour forth His fury like fire, and “burn that none [could] quench it, because of the evil of [their] doings” (4:4).

The balance of Jeremiah 4 is a vivid portrait of the future days of God’s judgment (4:5-31).

Reminding Jeremiah, he has been called to be a spiritual watchman for the LORD, God commanded His prophet, “Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities [fortified; walled]” (4:5).

Jeremiah was to call the people to retreat into the city, warning their adversary, like a lion, was coming from the north, identified as “the destroyer of the Gentiles” (4:7). We know this adversary was Babylon and the lion its king, Nebuchadnezzar (4:7).

Understanding the path of destruction Judah would soon face, Jeremiah warned the judgment of God would be swift, like a “dry wind” and a “full wind” (4:11-12). The sight of Nebuchadnezzar’s army would move “the heart of the king” to perish (4:9) and his chariots would come like a whirlwind, his horses swifter than eagles (4:13).

Realizing the dreadful judgment of the LORD and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah wept and cried out to the LORD (4:19-20).

Jeremiah 4:19-20 – “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20  Destruction upon destruction [lit. disaster upon disaster] is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.”

The destruction that would soon descend upon Judah and Jerusalem is graphic in detail (4:23-31).

Before I close today’s devotional commentary, allow me to draw your attention to the catalyst of God’s judgment for it is the same today as it was in Jeremiah’s day. The people had rejected God, despised His Law and Commandments, embraced wickedness, and become spiritually oblivious to discern good and evil (4:22).

I will close allowing Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome to be the sum of the wickedness of man that demands the judgment of God.

Romans 1:21-22 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The hour of revival had past, and it was too late! (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35). 2 Kings was a contemporary history record; however, 2 Chronicles was authored while Israel and Judah were in captivity. Both are historical accounts of the promise of blessings (when kings obey the LORD’s Law and Commandments) and judgment (when those same kings rebel and disobey the LORD). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the accounts in 2 Kings 22-23.

2 Kings 22

The glorious reign of Josiah, the grandson of King Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years) and the son of Amon (a wicked king who reigned two years), was a period of revival in Judah.

Josiah began to reign when he was eight years old, and perhaps because of the influence of his mother, he chose to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

The king commanded that the Temple be repaired (22:3-7), and in the course of doing so the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8). The “book of the law” was taken to King Josiah and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah, overwhelmed by the words of the law and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), sent messengers to enquire of a prophetess named Huldah (22:13-14). Huldah confirmed to the king that the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah was assured that he would not see the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in his lifetime because his “heart was tender” and he had humbled himself before the LORD (22:18-19).

2 Kings 23

Josiah set his heart to begin a national reformation of Judah, and one that reached northward to the land and remnant of Israel (2 Kings 23). Gathering all the leaders and people of Judah, the king renewed Judah’s covenant with the LORD (23:1-3).

The king commanded the Temple be cleansed of idolatry and all the elements associated with such wickedness destroyed, ground to powder, and burned (23:4-6). Demonstrating the depth of depravity to which Judah had descended, we find there were “houses of the sodomites” (homosexuals) located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah took his crusade for reformation to Bethel where Jeroboam, the first king of the northern ten tribes, had established idolatry (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough that he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

Josiah also observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).

The reign of Josiah was celebrated in Judah. In the annals of Judah’s history there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Nevertheless, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of King Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of Manasseh, had sealed the fate of that nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).

Three rebellious kings followed Josiah in quick succession (23:31-37) and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, began to overshadow the land (2 Kings 24).

For Judah, the hour of revival had past, and it was too late.

Genesis 6:3 – “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 20-21

Our study of the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah will soon end. By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, has fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, has been destroyed and the citizens of Israel taken away captive. Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations who in time would intermarry with the remnant of Israelites. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people with Israel would be known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 (note also 2 Chronicles 32:24-26; Isaiah 38:1-8)

The narrative found in 2 Kings 20 is familiar for it is a rehearsal of events we have studied in both Isaiah 38:1-8and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26

Hezekiah was the king of Judah and Judah had been blessed because its ruler loved the LORD.  Hezekiah had led the people in a time of spiritual revival by both example and edict. He restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments, Temple worship and sacrifices, and destroyed the places of idol worship throughout the land.

Israel had fallen to Sennacherib, king of Assyria; however, God had answered Hezekiah’s prayer and spared Judah. The “Angel of the LORD” destroyed the army of Assyria, slaying 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36).

Soon after Judah’s victory over Assyria, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing the news of impending death to the King. Isaiah said to the king, “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

How would you respond if your doctor gave you 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). In other words, Hezekiah blocked out everything and everyone, and then he cried out to the LORD. He then began to rehearse his walk with the LORD and how he had kept God’s covenant. The king prayed,

2 Kings 20:3 – “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].”

Hezekiah claimed God’s covenant promise and clung to the hope God would heal him. Having delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah rejoiced when the LORD commanded him to turn back and tell Hezekiah that God heard and would answer his prayer (20:5). Isaiah assured the king that the LORD would heal him (20:5) and “add unto thy days fifteen years” (20:6).

2 Kings 20 concludes with Hezekiah dying fifteen years later and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Tragically, unlike his father Hezekiah, King Manasseh set a course of wickedness in Judah that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). Idolatry (21:3), desecrating the Temple (21:4), and human sacrifice were the practice of the king and Judah (21:6).

The LORD sent prophets to confront the sins of the king and Judah, but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned that Jerusalem and Judah 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).

I close observing the swift departure of Judah from the righteous reign of Hezekiah into a depth of depravity that would have defied the imagination of the previous generation. From spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that demanded God’s judgment…one generation.

A nation is one generation from a steep descent into sin that will demand God’s judgment. Are we that generation?

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“We are the Clay, and Thou Our Potter” (Isaiah 64-66)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 64-66

Today’s Scripture reading is Isaiah 64-66; however, today’s devotional commentary will focus on the closing verses of Isaiah 63 and Isaiah 64.

Isaiah 63

To put Isaiah 64 in context, I invite you to look back to Isaiah 63, the chapter preceding today’s devotion, and consider a series of cries Isaiah made to the LORD for Israel and Judah (63:15-19).

Isaiah petitioned the LORD that He would show mercy and compassion to His people (63:15b). He reminded God that He alone was the Father and Redeemer of Israel. (63:16).  The prophet prayed for the LORD to return and help His people (63:17b), and reminded Him that He had chosen Israel to be a holy people, but their enemies had destroyed the Temple (63:18, a future event).  Though alienated from God by their sins, the people reminded the LORD, “We are thine” (63:19).

Isaiah 64 – Three Cries to the LORD

We consider three cries to the LORD that are recorded in Isaiah 64. The first was a cry for the LORD to save His people from their adversaries (64:1-4). In the immediate, the enemy who would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple would be Babylon. However, this is also a far-reaching prophecy that is still future. The description of “when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil” (64:2) is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ at the climax of the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 21:11-19).

Isaiah prayed for the LORD to come and execute judgment (64:3) and prove He alone is God, and He helps those who wait on His coming (64:4).

The second cry was one of confession (64:5b-8). Isaiah confessed the universality of man’s sin.

Without exception, we are all sinners by birth (64:5) and the problem of sin is universal. Isaiah confessed, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [our best attempt at keeping the law and commandments falls short] are as filthy rags [bloody, soiled rags]” (64:6).

Isaiah observed that the hearts of the people were so hardened by sin that there was “none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee” (64:7a). The LORD Who is Holy and will not look upon sin, had turned his face (his blessings and mercies) from the people and they were consumed and enslaved by their wickedness (64:7b).

Realizing the helpless, hopeless state of the nation, Isaiah confessed, “O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (64:8).

Like clay in a potter’s hands who shapes, and fashions it into a vessel that reflects his will and purpose, believers should acknowledge God is sovereign and it is His desire to fashion us as the work of His hand (64:8b).

We close with Isaiah’s cry for forgiveness on behalf of Israel and Judah (64:9-12).

Isaiah reminded the LORD, “we are all thy people” (64:9b). Recollecting that we are considering events that had not yet happened, but would when Nebuchadnezzar’s army lay siege to Jerusalem, Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, “our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee” destroyed by fire (64:10-11).

No doubt a prayer that the people would pray in Babylon during their captivity, Isaiah prayed, “Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?” (Isaiah 64:12)

Isaiah 65-66 is God’s answer to Isaiah’s questions. We are blessed to look back on history and know God did hear the prayers of His people, and Israel did return to her land as a nation.

Truth – God is never slack concerning His promises!

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

There was No Man, No Intercessor (Isaiah 59-63)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 59-63

We continue our chronological reading of the Scriptures with Isaiah 59-63 serving as today’s Bible reading assignment. My devotional commentary will be limited to Isaiah 59.

Isaiah 59 is a message to the wicked and serves as a terrible indictment against the sins of the nation. Consider several principal points we can take from this chapter.

The first, God longed to save Israel from judgment, but the people were unwilling to repent of their sins (59:1-2).

God was able and willing to save the people, if they cried out to Him (59:1). However, the sins of the people had alienated them from the LORD (59:2), and He refused to hear their impenitent prayers (Psalm 66:18).

The sins of Israel, like the sins of our nation, demanded God’s judgment (59:3-8).

As a whole, the society of Isaiah’s day was cruel and perverse. The hands of the people were “defiled with blood.” They were liars (59:3). There was no justice in the land and none who desired truth (59:4a). The people had put their faith in liars and conspiracies (“mischief”) that they might continue in their sin (59:4b).

They were like “cockatrice’ eggs” (i.e. newly hatched poisonous vipers), ruining and killing (59:5-6). They raced to commit evil and gave little thought to the blood they would shed or the wake of destruction they had caused (59:7). They knew nothing of peace, cared nothing for justice, and mislead any who followed them (59:8).

Isaiah 59:9-11 lists the effects of a nation’s wickedness upon society:

Lawlessness and spiritual darkness (59:9); despair and hopelessness (“grope for the wall like the blind” – 59:10); hostility (“roar all like bears” – 59:11) and mourning (“mourn sore like doves” – 59:11); injustices (“we look for judgment, but there is none” – 59:11), and despair (“salvation…is far off” – 59:11).

There was hope for Israel, but only if that nation confessed and repented of their sins (59:12), hypocrisy (59:13), injustices (59:14), abuse and persecution of the righteous (59:15).

The LORD looked upon Israel and mourned “that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 59:16). Seeing “no man” to intercede, the LORD was moved to bring “salvation…and His righteousness” (59:16). That salvation would be offered through the suffering Messiah who would be rejected (53:3), sacrificed “as a lamb to the slaughter” (53:7), and “bare the sin of many, and (would make) intercession” (53:12).

The Second Coming of Christ, His Millennial Kingdom on earth, and His judgment of the wicked is prophesied (59:17-21).

Christ will judge the wicked on the basis of His righteousness (59:17a) and will exercise vengeance on those who rejected Him (59:17b-18). Christ will return to reign as “Redeemer…to Zion” (in Jerusalem) and He will rule those who have repented of their sins (59:19-20).

Christ’s return as a Righteous King and Judge is sealed as a perpetual covenant: “My spirit…my words…shall not depart…from henceforth and for ever” (59:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“God is Our Refuge and Strength” (2 Kings 19; Psalms 46, 80, 135)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 19; Psalms 46, 80, 135

Our Scripture reading returns today to 2 Kings 19, but you will notice that it takes us to a familiar time and place that is recorded in 2 Chronicles and the Book of Isaiah.

We have already noted that Hezekiah, king of Judah, was a great king who humbled himself before the LORD (2 Chronicles 31:10), organized the priesthood, restored worship and offering sacrifices in the Temple, and decreed that the people obey the Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 31:20-21).

As we have noted in our study of 2 Chronicles 36, the Assyrian King Sennacherib had invaded Israel, overthrown Samaria, that nation’s capital city, and then began his campaign against Judah. Sennacherib sent an emissary named Rabshakeh who demanded Hezekiah pay tribute to Assyria. Rather than turn to the LORD, Hezekiah foolishly sought an alliance with Egypt that failed.

2 Kings 19

Facing the threat of a formidable foe, Hezekiah went to the Temple and cried out to the LORD (19:1). The king then sent messengers to Isaiah, seeking his counsel and a word from the LORD (19:2-5).

Isaiah sent an assurance from the LORD that He would send a “rumour” that would so trouble the king of Assyria, and that he would withdraw from Judah and return to his homeland where he would “fall by the sword” (19:6-7).

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was incensed by Hezekiah’s refusal and scoffed His faith in the LORD (19:10). Boasting of all the nations he had conquered and the gods of those nation’s failure to help them, Sennacherib threatened he would do the same to Judah (19:11-13). Hezekiah then cried out to the LORD and Isaiah sent a messenger to the king who assured him that God would utterly defeat Assyria (19:20-34).

The LORD kept His promise and we read, “it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they [Judah] arose early in the morning, behold, they [Assyrians soldiers] were all dead corpses” (19:35).

As Isaiah had prophesied, Sennacherib return defeated to his homeland where he was killed by his sons (19:36-37).

I close with a blessed assurance of God’s sovereignty (Psalm 46:1-3, 9-11).

Psalm 46:1-3 – “1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

Psalm 46:9-11 – “9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. 10  Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

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 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