Tag Archives: Holy

“Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1

The book of Haggai falls chronologically at the conclusion of Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). Incredibly, eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, had declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him an house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by an edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3).

As is often seen when great works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and then set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar), who served as governor of Judah, and was of the Davidic line (named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13), the preparations to lay the Temple foundation were halted when adversaries opposed the work and discouraged the people (Ezra 4).

It was at this time, a time of discouragement, that God raised up two prophets to minister in Judah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, both mentioned in Ezra 5:1, were contemporaries in Judah. Though the book of Haggai is only two chapters in length, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation, “Get to work!”

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their homes.  The Temple was neglected for ten years, while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the Temple was unfinished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps yourself?  Many believers do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD; yet, we may be guilty of procrastination, and suggesting by our words or attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

The LORD had been longsuffering with His people; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent Haggai to prophesy and rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7). He warned the LORD would withhold His blessings, and their labor in the fields would be futile until the Temple was built (1:6-11).

The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops), but what they had failed to do.

Leaving no doubt why they struggled, and the harvests were so little, Haggai detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in achieving comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

Haggai 1:9 – Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Godly men that they were, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).

Closing thought (1:13-15) – Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD,  14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (1:13-14).

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority: “For the LordGod is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless]” (Psalm 84:11).

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A New Beginning (Ezra 6, Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 6, Psalm 137

We are continuing our study of Israel’s history after the Jews returned from exile. With the decree of king Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-3), one might think the work on the Temple would be without opposition. After all, God’s people came to Zion with the affirmation of the king, his assurance of financial support, and the command for those Jews not returning to support those who were (1:4-11).

Fifty thousand Jews responded to the prospect of going home to the land God had promised Israel (2:1-70). After arriving in the land and settling in their homes, the people set about the task of building an altar (3:1-4) and laid the foundation of the Temple (3:5-11). A celebration began when the last stone of the foundation was set in its place, (3:11); however, rejoicing was soon followed by sorrow. There arose enemies who opposed the work on the Temple (Ezra 4). When they failed to halt the work (4:1-11), they appealed to the king of Persia (4:11-16) and accused the children of Israel of plotting a rebellion against the king.

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, ordered a search of the archives of the kings (4:17-22). Finding Israel and Judah had a history of rebelling against the occupation of their lands and cities, the king decreed the work on the Temple to cease (4:23-24).

Sixteen years passed, until the LORD sent His prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (5:1), who “prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem (5:1). “2Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God…and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2). Again, the enemies of God’s people rose up to oppose them, and then appealed to the king (5:3-17).

Ezra 6

King Darius commanded a search be made of the archives (6:1), where it was discovered Cyrus, king of Persia, had commanded the Temple be built (6:3). Additionally, the king  had made provision for sacrifices, and given the dimensions and material composition of the Temple (6:3-5).

In a twist of humor, and serving as a testimony to the sovereignty of God, the attempt of the enemy to derail the work on the Temple concluded with the Jews being favored by the king. King Darius not only commanded the Jews’ enemies financially support their work, but also supply what was needed for food and sacrifices (6:6-10). Giving warning to any who might oppose them, the king proclaimed, “I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this” (6:11).

Ezra 6 concluded with a glorious celebratory dedication of the new Temple (6:15-17). The priests and Levites were divided and assigned their duties “as it [was] written in the book of Moses” (6:18), and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were renewed (6:19-22).

What a wonderful, providential turn of events in the lives of God’s people! Knowing a king of Persia could not rescind a law once it was avowed, the LORD had preserved Cyrus’ decree for the Temple to be rebuilt. Darius was bound to the king’s edict, and moved to ensure it was fulfilled.

Closing thoughts – Notice Psalm 137 affords us a perspective on the sorrows the Jews bore during their years in Babylon. The children of Israel took for granted the grace and mercies of God, and continued in their sins until there was no remedy but the judgment of the LORD. God raised up many prophets to warn Israel and Judah, should they continue in their sins He would deliver them to their enemies.  Yet, they would not heed the warnings of His prophets, but continued in their sins until all was lost.

Arriving as captives in Babylon, the Jews were haunted by the memories of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Temple destroyed by fire. So, we read, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (137:1).

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Great Tribulation and Armageddon (Daniel 12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 12

Our study of the Book of Daniel closes with what is yet to be, The Great Tribulation. Daniel 11 concluded with the rise of great wickedness in the world, and the Antichrist exalting himself (“the little horn” of Daniel 7) above the nations of the world (11:36a). He will do as he pleases, and cursing “the God of gods” (11:36b; Revelation 13:5-6), will “magnify himself above all” (11:36c).

“At the time of the end” the Antichrist will invade “the glorious land” (Israel), and either by treaty or force, conquering other nations that stand in his way of world dominion (11:39-43). When nations out of the east (most likely Jordan, Iraq, and Iran) and north (especially Russia) move to defeat the Antichrist, he will mobilize his forces for the great battle of Armageddon in the valley of Megiddo (11:44).  The LORD Himself will rush upon the Antichrist, and the armies of the nations gathered for battle (Revelation 19:17-21; Ezekiel 12:1-9; 14:1-21).

Daniel 12

Michael the Archangel appears “at that time” to save Israel, even as the Antichrist will mount his final assault on God’s people. It is the time of The Great Tribulation (Daniel 11:36-12:13; Matthew 24:21), and the last three and a half years of the Tribulation Period. A time of wickedness and trouble like the world has not seen (12:1a). Christ described it as the “abomination of desolation” Daniel had spoken of (Matthew 24:15-26), and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). It is “the latter days” (Daniel 2:28; 10:14) and the “time of the end” (Daniel 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9).

In the midst of the sorrows, Jesus Christ will come to reign on the earth (Isaiah 2:1-5), and the Scriptures promise true believers will be resurrected, and delivered from the dead to eternal life (12:2a). Those who rejected the LORD are promised they will come “to shame, and everlasting contempt (12:2b; consummated at the judgment of the Great White Throne, Revelation 20:11-15). Believers will then share in the brightness of Christ’s heavenly glory (12:3).

Details of the Great Tribulation Sealed (12:4-13)

Daniel was commanded to seal the scroll upon which he was recording the future events of the Tribulation, though there would be many who would seek to understand them (12:5). Two angels appeared in the vision, and one of the two questioned “the man clothed in linen” (whom I have suggested was the pre-incarnate Christ, 10:5-6) – “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” (12:6).

The “man in linen” answered, and said, “it shall be for a time, times, and an half” [a “time” being one year; “times” being two years; and “an half” being a half year]. The Great Tribulation, which is the second half of the Tribulation period, will last 3.5 years and will conclude with Israel finding no place to turn but to the LORD, for the Antichrist will “scatter [crush; smash] the power of the holy people” (12:7b; Zechariah 14:2-3).

Daniel’s Confusion (12:8-9)

Daniel desired for an explanation of what he had seen and heard (12:8), but was commanded, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (12:9). In other words, the prophecies were sealed, and would be understood by those living at the time of the end.

Closing thoughts (12:10-13) – In the last days, true believers will “be purified, and made white, and tried” (12:10a), but wickedness will abound. The wicked “shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (12:10b). Believers will understand that which is coming to pass, but the wicked will not (12:10b).

The Great Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist abolishes worship in the Temple (Daniel 9:27), and sets in the Temple the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15). The original length of the Great Tribulation was 1260 days, but Daniel 12:11 adds an additional 30 days to the number of days. There are various opinions for the difference in the days, but I find the most plausible explanation is the 30 additional days are for when the nations will be judged (Matthew 25:31-46). Daniel 12:12 adds another 45 days to the total of days at the close of the Tribulation, and some suggest it is this time when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom. Again, these are inadequate explanations for what we cannot know or prove.

Our study of Daniel concludes with the old prophet (now nearly 100 years old) being told, “Blessed is he that waiteth [patient; tarries] …Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (12:12a, 13).

Challenge – Be patient…Live out your days…Rest…Standfast to the end.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Heavenly Visitors and Hellish Foes (Daniel 10)

Scripture reading – Daniel 10; Daniel 11

While today’s Scripture reading is two chapters, Daniel 10 and 11, the focus of our devotional will be Daniel 10.

The Book of Daniel has captivated the imagination of the saints of God for more than two millennia. Daniel, who was a captive of Babylon following the first siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC, spent his life as counselor to the kings of Babylon, and the Medes and Persians. A mere teen when he first arrived in Babylon, he was probably in his late 80’s when we read, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar” (10:1).

We have considered three prophetic visions in our study of the Book of Daniel. Daniel 7 gave us a vision of four beasts, representing four kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome). In Daniel 8, there was the vision of a Ram that represented Persia, and a “He Goat” that was a symbol of Greece. The vision of 70 prophetic weeks was recorded in Daniel 9, bringing us to the fourth and final vision recorded in Daniel 10-12.

Introduction to the Final Revelation (10:1-4)

A transition in leadership is noted in Daniel 10, as “Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1) succeeded Darius, as king of the Medo-Persian\Chaldean Empire. The “thing” that was “revealed unto Daniel” served as an introduction to Daniel’s fourth and final vision (10:1). Though the setting was during the reign of Cyrus, the vision itself was set far into the future, for “the time appointed was long” (10:1b). Notable is the effect the vision had on Daniel, for he mourned saying, “three full weeks…[I] ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint [bathe or anoint] myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (10:3).

The cause of Daniel’s sorrow is not revealed, but I suspect it was that so few of the Jews elected to return to Jerusalem when Cyrus gave his decree to set the children of Israel at liberty to return home and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4). The defeat of the Chaldeans, followed by Cyrus’ decree, provided the children of Israel the long-foretold opportunity to return to Israel. Tragically, after 70 years in Babylon, the majority of the Jews were Babylonian by nature and birth. Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, with no word from God in response to his prayers. On the 24th day of the first month (“Nisan,” April 24), as he was standing by the Tigris River (“Hiddekel,” 1:4), the LORD gave the prophet a heavenly vision of things yet to be (10:5-21).

A Heavenly Vision (10:5-9)

I believe the central figure of the vision was Jesus Christ; a theophany, or pre-incarnate appearance of Christ in His heavenly glory (10:5-6). Daniel did not see a beast, nor an image of a man, he looked up and saw “a certain man clothed in linen” (10:5). [For further study, you are invited to compare the apostle John’s vision of Christ in Revelation 1:12-16.]

The Effect of the Vision (10:7-9)

We learn that Daniel was not alone, for there were other men with him at the time of the vision, yet, they did not see the man (10:1-6). A sudden earthquake caused those men to flee and “hide themselves” (10:7). Thus, Daniel was alone and as he gazed upon his heavenly visitor, and writes, “there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (10:8). In his solitude, Daniel heard the voice of the man, and fell into “a deep sleep” (10:9).

Heavenly Visitors (10:10-12, 14-20a, 21)

In his vision, Daniel was awakened, when a hand touched him (10:10). Standing to his feet, though trembling with fear (10:11), Daniel was addressed by an angel as  “a man greatly beloved” (10:11), and was told how God had dispatched him to Daniel on the first day he prayed (10:12). His prayers had been heard, but not immediately answered, because a spiritual battle had been waged between God’s angel and a demon, a servant of Satan (10:13).

What an amazing story! Daniel had fasted and prayed 21 days, and waited for God to answer his prayers. Yet, though the LORD responded to his prophet’s prayers, the angelic messenger was delayed by a great conflict that was waged between the heavenly angels and the fallen angels (10:13)

An Angelic Message: The Purpose of the Vision (10:14-19)

God sent His angel to give Daniel understanding of “what shall befall thy people [children of Israel] in the latter days [the end of days]: for yet the vision is for many days” (10:14). The vision left Daniel fainthearted and speechless (10:15), and so the angel touched and revived him a second time (10:16a). The prophet was physicallyexhausted and emotionally shaken by the sight of Israel’s sufferings and sorrows that were yet to be (10:16b). Weakened from his struggle to converse with one much greater than himself (10:17), Daniel writes he was strengthened a third time, and said to the angel, “Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (10:18-19).

The Battle with Hellish Foes (10:13, 20-21)

The angel was delayed in his mission to answer Daniel’s prayer, having battled with a foe identified as the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” (10:13a). Persia was the name of ancient Iran (today, Iranians refer to themselves as Persian), and was the world empire of its day. Understanding no human prince could contend with an angel, we conclude this prince was a demon responsible for Satan’s interests in Persia (as God’s angels are organized into a heavenly host, it seems Satan has his demons ordered by rank and assignment, 10:13). The demon was powerful and withstood the angel, requiring Michael the Archangel to be dispatched (10:13), and help the angel go on his way and complete his mission to Daniel (10:14).

Closing thoughts (10:20-21) – Several questions come to mind, with the obvious being the one proposed by the angel: “Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee?” (10:20) Why did God send His angel to Daniel? Why did the demon obstruct the angel’s mission?

Rather than answer the question, the angel departed, and announced he must return to wage battle against the “prince [demon] of Persia,” and the “prince [demon] of Grecia” (10:20). Two demons so powerful they required not only the opposition of a heavenly angel, but the intervention of the Archangel described to Daniel as, “Michael your prince” (10:21).

Spiritual Truth – Though unseen by human eyes, there is a perpetual war that is waged in the spirit world between God’s holy angels and the fallen angels [demons].

Ephesians 6:1212For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Blessed Promise: God’s Promise to Forgive and Restore (Joel 1; Joel 2)

Scripture reading – Joel 1; Joel 2

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Joel. Authored by the prophet whose name it bears; Joel is only three chapters in length, and he is therefore named among the minor prophets. The subject of the book was the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), and God’s imminent judgment of Judah.

Joel 1

Summons to Old Men (1:2-4)

Summoning the “old men” to hear and give ear, Joel called upon them to testify of the judgment coming upon the nation, and that it was like none other that preceded it (1:2). The severity of God’s judgment would be so great, that it behooved the “old men” to tell the story of God’s judgment to the generations that would follow (1:3). Taking the locust and its four stages of growth as a symbol of four judgments, the portrait was drawn of a vast judgment that might provoke God’s people to repent and turn to the LORD (1:4; Jeremiah 15:3; Ezekiel 14:21).

Summons to the Drunkards (1:5-7)

After awakening the “old men,” the “drunkards” were summoned by Joel (1:5-7). These “drunkards” were a symbol of the hedonistic, pleasure-seeking people who reveled in the pleasures of wine and drunkenness (1:5). The judgment of God would fall upon the drunkards, and “the new wine…[would be] cut off from [their] mouth” (1:5b). Rather than locusts, the judgment of God would be carried out by “a nation [that was] come up upon [the LORD’s] land” (1:6).

Scholars are generally agreed this nation was Assyria, which a century before Joel’s prophecy had taken northern Israel captive (the ten tribes of the north). Described as “strong, and without number,” Assyria’s soldiers were the bane of the ancient world.  Twice we read, the army of Assyria had “the teeth of a lion” (1:6). Joel prophesied the enemy would strip the land bare, wasting the vine (symbol of Judah), and the fig tree (most likely a symbol of Jerusalem, 1:7).

A General Summons to the Congregation (1:8-14)

With Assyria encamped outside the walls of Jerusalem, Joel summoned the people to gather before the LORD and call upon him. He implored the people to cry to the LORD like a young widow mourning the death of her husband (1:8). Judah was impoverished, and there was no harvest, therefore no offerings to the LORD (1:9-10). The farmer was commanded to bemoan the failure of his crops, and “be…ashamed” (1:11). Of the workers of the orchards, it was said their “joy [was] withered away,” for the vines and the fruit trees were withered (1:12). The priests and ministers [Levites] who assisted them were called to mourn and lament, for there were no offerings to present to the LORD (1:13).

Joel longed for the LORD to deliver Jerusalem from the enemy, and he called the people to gather at the Temple and display signs of repentance: Fast (sign of grief), “solemn assembly” (a common sorrow), gather at the Temple (a public sign of repentance), and “cry unto the LORD” to save them (1:14).

A Prophetic Lamentation (1:15-20)

Understanding only the LORD could save Judah, Joel cried, “15Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand [Day of Judgment]” (1:15). The siege of Jerusalem brought famine (“meat cut off before our eyes”), and a time of sorrow (1:16). There was no harvest, no offerings, and the barns rotted and the crops withered (1:17). The beasts failed, for there was no pastures (1:18). Joel cried to the LORD, “19O Lord, to thee will I cry” for all was lost without the LORD’s help (1:19-20).

Joel 2 – The Day of the LORD, the Day of Judgment

Joel’s penitent prayer for Jerusalem (Zion), continued in chapter 2, as the prophet summoned the priests to pray for the nation. “Blow ye the trumpet,” sound the alarm, “let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD” was imminent (2:1). The judgment the LORD brought upon Judah by Assyria was described as, “2A day of darkness and of gloominess, A day of clouds and of thick darkness” (2:2a).

The Assyrian armies that marched through Judah had destroyed everything in their path (2:3), and the army encamped outside Jerusalem was mighty and terrifying to look upon (2:4-5). All nations, walled fortresses, and cities had fallen to Assyria, and without the LORD, there was no hope for Jerusalem (2:6-9). Indeed, the whole earth trembled, and in the words of the prophet, even the sun, moon, and stars were moved by the sight of the great army of Assyria (2:10-11).

 Why was the LORD bringing this great judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem? (2:12-32)

It was to the end the people would repent of their sin, turn to the LORD with all their “heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (2:12). Joel exhorted the people, “rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God” (2:13). Cut away the callousness of your sinful hearts and repent, for “the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:13). Joel longed for a national revival, and called upon the priests to, “weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people…[lest the heathen] say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).

Closing thoughts – Joel’s longing for revival should be the passion of every believer. Yet, the LORD requires His children to acknowledge and confess their sins, and turn to the LORD. Repentance might bring with it the LORD’s gracious promise to “restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (2:25).

Believer, you cannot get back the time you have wasted in sin, but the LORD is merciful. In His grace He is able, and may repay what was lost in your foolishness, and give you cause to praise His name (2:26).

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

He that is Mighty Watches over Israel! (Ezekiel 48)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 48

Today’s Scripture marks the conclusion of our study of The Prophecies of Ezekiel, the prophet of God to the children of Israel living in Babylon. Ezekiel 48 returned to the matter of dividing the Promised Land among the Twelve Tribes of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom.

The prophet had recorded the borders of the land of Israel in Ezekiel 47:15-20. The westernmost boundary was the Mediterranean Sea (47:15-17, 21). The northern boundary of Israel in the Millennial began with the Mediterranean Sea in the west and reached eastward to Damascus (47:15-17). The eastern boundary of the land was the Jordan River (47:18). The southern border, located south of the Dead Sea, followed a river westward to the Mediterranean Sea (48:19).

Instructions were also given in Ezekiel 47 for dividing the land among the sons of Joseph (47:13-14). Joseph was father of two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were numbered among the Twelve Tribes (for the Tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to serve Him as priests to Israel). The descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would each receive a portion of the land (47:14).

Ezekiel 48 – The Division of the Land in Messiah’s Kingdom

Faithful to His promise, the LORD will gather the Twelve Tribes of Israel from the nations of the world, and restore them to their land in His Millennial Kingdom.

Seven Tribes North of the Sacred District (48:1-7)

Beginning with the tribe of Dan in the north and reaching south, the first seven tribes were assigned their portions (48:1). To the south of Dan was Asher (48:2), and was followed by Naphtali (48:3). Next to Naphtali was Manasseh (48:4; Genesis 48:5-6, 22), and south of Manasseh was Ephraim (48:5). The tribal land of Reuben was south of Ephraim (48:6), and next to it was Judah (48:7).

The Central Land Dedicated to the LORD (48:8-22)

The central land was set aside by the LORD to serve as the location of the Temple (48:8-9), and the city of Jerusalem. The portion assigned to the Levites bordered Judah’s southern border (48:13). The priests’ portion was north of the city, but south of the land assigned to the Levites (48:10-12). South of the priests’ land was New Jerusalem, described as “a profane place,” meaning a common, not holy land (48:15).

The city will be 9 miles square, with houses and “suburbs” (open spaces for pasture) found within its borders (48:15-17). There will also be land for farming, to provide “food unto them that serve the city (48:18). Workers, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel, will reside in and serve the city (48:19).

The “prince” of the land, who will serve as the administrator for the LORD, will be assigned a portion of land to the east and west of the Sacred district (48:21-22).

Four Tribal Lands South of the Central Land (48:23-28).

Land for the tribe of Benjamin was immediately south of the Sacred section (48:23), and was followed by Simeon(48:24), Issachar (48:25), Zebulun (48:26), and Gad, the southernmost tribe (48:27-28). Ezekiel 48:29 reminded Israel that the division of the land was determined by the LORD.

The Gates of Jerusalem (48:30-35)

Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom will have twelve gates, with each bearing the name of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (48:30-34). The circumference of the city will be 35.8 miles, or about 9 miles square (48:35).

Closing thoughts (48:35b) – The name of the new Jerusalem will be changed, for it will be called “Yahweh Shammah,” meaning, “The LORD is there” (48:35b).

For some, the boundaries and geographical locations may seem unimportant, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  The locations given to each tribe serves as a legal transaction between Yahweh and His people.  No nation today may lay perpetual claim to these lands, for they have been given to the Twelve Tribes as an inheritance.

What a great inspiration for the Jews living in captivity, and to the other tribes that they will one day receive their inheritance! The LORD promised His people there would come a day when He would draw the Twelve Tribes of Israel out of the nations, and bring them home. That day is yet to be, but the promise of “Emmanuel” (“God with us”) will be perpetual, for the glory of the LORD will dwell forever in the midst of His people. What a glorious day that will be!

He that is Mighty watches over Israel!

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

What Does God Require? Cool or Holy Ministers? (Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42

Our consideration of the new Temple of the Millennial Kingdom continues with a description of the outer and inner sanctuaries of the Temple (Ezekiel 41-42). Rather than belabor the dimensional details of the Temple (height, length, breadth), I will highlight the various aspects of the Temple grounds that includes the walls, doors, courtyards, buildings, and the Temple itself.

The Outer Sanctuary of the Millennial Temple (40:48-41:26)

The heavenly messenger led Ezekiel up the steps and through the portico of the Temple (40:48-49), and into the outer sanctuary (41:1-2) which measured 70 feet long and was 35 feet wide (41:2).

The Inner Sanctuary – “The Most Holy Place” (41:3-5)

The inner sanctuary was a perfect square that measured 35 feet by 35 feet. Unlike the Tabernacle and the earlier Temples (Solomon’s, and Zerubbabel’s built after the Babylonian captivity, and Herod’s Temple), the Millennial Temple did not have a veil that separated the inner sanctuary from the outer sanctuary.

Other Details of the Temple (41:6-26)

Ezekiel noticed there were side rooms of the Temple that stood three stories, with 30 rooms on each floor (41:6). Connecting the floors was a winding staircase that extended from the ground floor to the upper floors (41:7). The foundation of the Temple was elevated, and stood 10.5 feet high (41:8). There was a separate building at the west end of the Temple, but its use was not identified (41:12). The measurement of the Temple was 175 feet square (41:13-15).

The Décor of the Temple (41:16-21)

The walls, floor and ceiling of the Temple were covered with wood, as were the long, narrow windows (41:16-17). The walls of the Temple were of paneled wood (41:17), and were carved with an alternating pattern of cherubim and palm trees (41:18-20).

Before going further, let’s visit the subject of the missing veil. Beginning with the Tabernacle and continuing through the Temple era, a veil separated the outer court of the sanctuary from the innermost room of the Temple known as the Holy of Holies (also the “Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place”). The veil represented a barrier of separation that was between sinful man and God who is holy. It served the purpose of preventing men from seeing or entering into the presence of God (Exodus 26:31-35). When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, the veil was torn from the top to the bottom, for His sacrifice removed the barrier between God and sinners (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-23; 1 Peter 3:18).

The Furniture of the Temple (41:21-26)

The tabernacle and earlier Temples were furnished with the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, upon which there were two cherubim that faced one another (all gold-plated, Exodus 25:10; 37:1-9). This was the place of God’s presence on earth. In the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, only a wood altar (perhaps used for burning incense), 3.5 feet square, and standing 5.25 feet tall was found in the most holy place (41:22).  Double doors served as the panel between the outer and inner sanctuary (41:23-24).  Carved cherubim and palm trees decorated the panels of the doors, and the narrow windows were decorated with palm trees and wood overhangings (41:25-26).

Ezekiel 42 – Buildings for the Priests (note 40:44-46)

Located in the outer court of the Temple, and against the wall of the inner court, were buildings for priests. We are given the dimensions of the buildings (42:2-3), as well as the fact they stood three stories tall (42:3b). The upper floors of the buildings were narrower than the first, making room for walkways (42:4-6). A wall separated the priests’ building from the outer court (42:7-9). On the south side of the Temple was a second building for the priests, and its dimensions were identical to the first (42:10-12).

The Purpose of the Priests’ Buildings (42:13-14)

The buildings for the priests provided a place to prepare for their ministry in the Temple. They were described as “holy chambers” (42:13), for there the priests prepared to minister before the LORD. It was in the “holy chambers” that food offerings were stored, and to be eaten (42:13). This was also the place the priests were to change out of their priestly “garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people” (42:14). The priests were not to wear their priestly robes outside the Temple complex. Also, they were not to wear the clothes of their secular lives when ministering for the LORD in His holy Temple.

Closing thoughts (42:15-20) – Our study concludes with the angelic messenger leading Ezekiel out the east gate, where he measured the wall that surrounded the Temple area. It was perfectly squared, with the north, south, east, and west walls being 5,250 feet in length (42:15-20). The outer wall of the Temple complex provided a separation between the world, and God and His holy Temple.

The Holiness of God and the Doctrine of Separation – I suggest the overriding lesson from today’s study is the reminder God is Holy, and deserves and demands we be the same. Today’s churches advertise, “come as you are,” and even pastors have succumbed to being “cool” and wearing ripped jeans, and even shorts. While the clothes of the priests reminded everyone the LORD required holiness (Leviticus 20:7), it appears that preachers and believers of this generation are more interested in looking “cool” than they are in being holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Temple of the Millennial Kingdom (Ezekiel 40)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 40

I have suggested in earlier devotionals that Ezekiel, and perhaps Daniel, were among the first captives taken from Judah and to Babylon when king Jehoiachin was removed from his throne. Ezekiel dated the time and year of his visions, with Jehoiachin’s captivity, and therefore I believe his own.

Ezekiel 40 – Israel’s Glorious Future

The vision recorded in Ezekiel 40 comes 25 years after Ezekiel received his first vision (he was 30 years old at the time (1:1), and it was the “fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity” 1:2). We can determine the prophet was 55 years old, and Israel’s captivity would last another 45 years when the vision of the new Temple occurred (Ezekiel 40:1-2).

The Vision and a Heavenly Messenger (40:2-4)

In Ezekiel’s vision, he was taken “into the land of Israel” to a “very high mountain” from which he was able to observe the rebuilding of Jerusalem (40:2). The LORD sent a man whose appearance gives us the opinion he was an angelic messenger, for his appearance was like bronze (40:3a). In the man’s hand was a line of twine and a measuring rod (40:3b). Ezekiel was instructed, “Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (40:4).

The Temple of the Millennial Kingdom (40:5-26)

In his vision, Ezekiel followed his heavenly guide through a gate that entered into the outer court of the Temple. They passed through the East Gate and the wall that secured the outer court of the Temple (40:5). The verses that followed were a schematic of the dimensions of the outer court of the Temple, and described the porches, doorways, windows, and chambers, giving the dimensions by cubits (a cubit believed to be 18 inches).

Inner Courtyard of the Temple in the Millennial Kingdom (40:27-47)

Ezekiel, accompanying his heavenly messenger, observed the man as he directed the prophet to record the measurements of the inner courtyard of the Temple, including the palm trees that adorned the posts, and the steps that led into the Temple (40:27-37).

Within the inner courtyard, Ezekiel observed various “chambers” (rooms), with doorways and porches. He noticed eight tables made of hewn stone for slaying and washing the animals for the burnt offering, sin offering, and the trespass offering (40:38-40). The other four hewn stone tables served as a place “whereupon also they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burn offering and the sacrifice” (40:41-42). On the walls of those rooms were hooks, where the flesh of the offerings was hanged that all the blood might drain from the flesh (40:43).

Apartments for the Priests (40:44-46)

In the inner courtyard, were rooms dedicated to the Temple singers (40:44). Facing toward the south was another compartment that was used for priests who served as “keepers” or guards of the Temple (40:45). At the south gate, and facing northward was another apartment that was used by the priests in charge of the sacrifices and who served the altar (40:46).

The Temple (40:48-49)

Following his heavenly messenger, Ezekiel was led up the steps to the porch entrance of the Temple (40:48), and the entrance to the outer sanctuary of the Temple (40:49).

Closing thoughts – Ezekiel’s record of his vision of the Temple will continue through chapter 41 and will include the inner sanctuary of the Temple, “The Most Holy Place” (41:4).

I close today’s devotional reflecting on the gates and doors of the Temple, and the analogy the LORD drew of Himself when He taught His disciples: “I am the door of the sheep… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 10:7; 14:6)

The only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death for your sins, and resurrection from the dead. There is no other way to enter heaven, and into the presence of God than through Jesus Christ. Is He your Savior?

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Defeat of Gog of Magog (Ezekiel 38; Ezekiel 39)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 38; Ezekiel 39

You may recognize today’s Scripture reading if you are a student of Bible prophecy. Ezekiel 38 and 39 have been the subject of much debate in the past century. I acknowledge there are various interpretations for today’s passage, and I do not want to add my voice among the speculations, nor add to the confusion.

Remembering many prophecies have an immediate application and a far-reaching implication, I believe the near setting of today’s study was in the decades and centuries after Israel returned from captivity. The far-reaching implication has been suggested by some to reflect the gathering of the nations against Israel preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Whatever your interpretation, the overriding lesson for me is the oversight and loving compassion the LORD has for Israel, His chosen people.

Ezekiel 38

Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy against Gog, the ruler of the land of Magog, who was identified as “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (38:1-2). Many have suggested “Magog” is today’s Russia, and the cities “Meshech and Tubal” are Russian cities we know today as Moscow and Tobolsk. I am satisfied to name Gog as the king of Magog, whom the LORD would employ to move a coalition of nations from the north against Israel (Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, and Gomer might be identified as nations of today’s Middle East, 38:5-6).

Though it was Gog who sat his heart on invading Israel, it was the LORD who brought forth (figuratively, putting hooks in his jaws, 38:4) to the end He would accomplish His divine purpose. The armies of Magog and its allies would descend upon Israel “like a storm…[and] like a cloud to cover the land” (38:9). All this evil would spring from the mind of Gog, that he might make spoil of Israel (38:12-15). Yet, it was the LORD who determined He would destroy those armies of the heathen that gathered against Israel (38:16-18).

King Gog and his coalition of nations would come to destroy Israel, but they would face the God of Israel who in His jealousy and wrath, would send “a great shaking in the land of Israel” (38:19). The whole earth, and all its creatures would be shaken by the earthquake, and men would be terrified (38:20). In their confusion, the soldiers would turn on each other until “every man’s sword [would] be against his brother” (38:21). The LORD would send “pestilence” (disease), and rain, hail, fire, and brimstone would fall from the sky (38:22).

Closing thought (38:23) – We do not find any mention of Israel sending soldiers against the invading armies, for it was the LORD who determined His name would be magnified among the nations, and they would know and acknowledge Him as “the LORD” (38:23).

Ezekiel 39 – Burying the Dead

As we noted in Ezekiel 38, the LORD intervened and gave Israel a victory over insurmountable odds, thus defeating her enemies. The task of burying the dead would take seven months (39:14). Corpses would fill the land of Israel, and birds and beasts of prey would feed upon the dead (39:4). The LORD’s wrath also turned against the land of Magog and her allies, for Ezekiel foretold the LORD would “send a fire,” that “they shall know that [He is] the LORD” (39:5). Israel would witness the LORD make His holy name known not only to His people, but also to the heathen (39:7). In that day, Israel would gather the weapons of war and burn them for seven years that the land might ultimately be cleansed (39:8-10).

Closing thoughts (39:21-29) – Throughout our study of Ezekiel, the LORD has stated one overriding purpose for His judgments: To the end His people and the nations would know He is God, the LORD and Sovereign of the earth. It was His desire that the heathen would see His glory, and His judgment executed (39:21). It was to the end the “house of Israel [would] know [acknowledge] that [He] was the Lord their God from that day and forward.” (39:22; note 39:28).

Sometimes we wonder why trials and troubles come upon us. Have you considered it may be to the end you will humble yourself, and confess He is “the LORD” and sovereign of your life?

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, 6201 Ehrlich Rd, Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.