Tag Archives: Holy

“He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

I introduced the Book of Esther last week stating, “Divine providence is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.”   That observation is illustrated in a hilarious and tragic way in today’s scripture reading, Esther 6-10.

The world call its, “Instant Karma”; derived from an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism.  “Karma” represents a principle we might define as “Cause and Effect” suggesting, whether disparaging or showing grace, you should anticipate “instant karma”, in other words…payback!

“Instant Karma”, suggests a fatalism that belies, even belittles the “Providence of God”… that He is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end.  The apostle Paul summed up the doctrine of God’s sovereignty writing, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Solomon taught his son the same; “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor] (Proverbs 21:1).

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king.  King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes), finds himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.  We know by revelation the king’s insomnia (Esther 6:1) was used by God to direct the thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end; however, from the king’s perspective, it was a sleepless night and he determined to have his servants read historical records chronicling his reign.

Providentially, the name of Mordecai, the uncle of Queen Esther, came to the king’s attention and how he had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king.  Recalling that event, the king wondered, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).  Realizing the Jew named Mordecai had not been rewarded for his service, the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him for his service.

Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree for the extermination of all the Jews, entered the king’s court to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5).

In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma”, Haman listened as the king sought his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).  Haman, believing he was the man to be rewarded, suggested a very public honor, parading the servant in “royal apparel”, riding on the king’s horse, and wearing the “crown royal…set upon his head” (6:8-9).  Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directs the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.  Haman’s wicked designs to annihilate the Jews was not only foiled, but he falls himself victim to the gallows he constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Friend, man is a free will agent and not a robot; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, parent, son or daughter…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and reach of God.

Remember: “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 26-28

Our scripture reading is Deuteronomy 26-28 and continues Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure.  As noted in previous devotional commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is charging Israel with laws and spiritual principles that are to guide the people as they become a nation in their own land (Deuteronomy 26:1).

Moses reminds Israel when they come into the land God has promised, they are to give tithes of the fruit (or profit) of their labor.  Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (Dt. 26:1-11), the firstfruits offering was taken to the place of worship, given as a sacrifice and supported the priestly tribe of Levi and their households.

In the third year, a special tithe was given coinciding with tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them.  The tithe given in the third year was used locally to meet immediate needs in one’s own community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16 and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounds to the nation the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments.  With the promise God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (Dt. 26:16-19), Moses admonished the people to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (Dt. 26:19b).

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were to erect a memorial pillar of stones on the west side of the Jordan River serving as a reminder of LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the laws and commandments were to be inscribed on the stones as a lasting testimony (27:2-10).

Reminding the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to teach the people obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

Moses pronounced a series of twelve curses should the people disobey the LORD and reject His Law and Commandments (Dt. 27:15-26).  The following sins invited God’s judgment:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit is cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse is upon one who is unjust in how they treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother is cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them…”

Deuteronomy 28 enumerates God’s blessings for the people and nation who obey His Laws and Commandments (Dt. 28:1-14).  The promise of God’s blessings on Israel if the people obeyed His Law and Commandments is stunning!  The nation had so much to aspire to, if only they obeyed the LORD.

If Israel “observe and to do all His commandments”, God promised He would “set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1).  The blessings of the LORD are described as so great Israel would be overtaken by them (28:2)!  Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised to Israel…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fruit of the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).  All this was promised to Israel, if the people obeyed the LORD’s Law and Commandments.

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the curses that would come upon Israel should the nation turn from the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments (28:15-68).  In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him.

If the nation continued in the LORD’s Law and Commandments, the LORD promised His blessings would overtake them (28:2); however, should they disobey the LORD they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).  The city, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives and livestock…all cursed (28:16-18).  The coming and going of the people…cursed (28:19)… “until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly” (28:20).  The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses!

Sadly, Israel would turn from the LORD and all the curses noted in today’s scripture reading befell the nation!

Friend, it is not popular and few preachers have the courage to state it so, but “Choices Have Consequences” and no nation, people, or family should expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed!

The message of the scriptures is one of redemption through the blood of Christ!  The Gospel is a message of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness…and there is nothing required of a sinner to be saved than believing Christ, the sinless Son of God died for their sins, was buried and raised from the dead victorious over sin and the grave. The apostle Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus,

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace [God’s unmerited favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

However, “Choices Have Consequences” and ignoring that truth does not change it. 

 The pulpits of fundamental churches, schools and Bible colleges are filled with a generation of preachers failing to remind the saints while salvation is “by grace”, God’s blessings are conditional.  “Good works” is evidence of the genuineness and sincerity of our salvation.  Paul writes,

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we [believers] are his workmanship [product; result of God’s grace], created [made and renewed] in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them [i.e. our life in Christ is to be a testimony of good works].

I close with a reminder of the manner of people believers are to be:

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 John 1-3

A personal greeting: Today is Sunday, November 26, 2017 and many believers living in these United States are traveling this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  For those who are able, I trust you are planning to worship with your church family today.  After undergoing two surgical procedures in the last three weeks, I am looking forward to attending worship with the Hillsdale Baptist Church family this Sunday morning!

Today’s Scripture reading is the First Epistle of John, chapters 1-3.  It is an understatement to describe this brief epistle as rich in content and application.  I find 1st John both challenging and convicting.  Penned by the apostle John to the early church nearly 2000 years ago, the principles and precepts in its pages are as applicable today as they were in the first century.

John is writing to a persecuted church and the testimony of the apostle who was an eyewitness and companion of the Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry is powerful (1 John 1:1-5).   Exhorting believers to walk in the light of God’s truths and in accord with His commandments, John comforts the saints with the assurance of God’s forgiveness writing, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In chapter 2, John addressed heresies and disputes that sowed doubt and discord in the 1st century church.  The contradiction between sincere believers and those who merely professed to be Christians is explained by John:

1 John 2:3-5 – And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4  He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5  But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

Some claimed to be believers but continued in sin and others departed from the church.    Of these John writes,

1 John 2:19 – “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued [remained] with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest [made clear] that they were not all of us.”

I close today’s devotional commentary with John’s reminder that the natural inclination of lost sinners is to reject God and despise those who walk in righteousness (1 John 3:11-13).  The righteous character of the children of God arouses the hatred of the children of this world.

1 John 3:13 – “Marvel not [do not wonder or be afraid], my brethren, if the world [humanity, under the devil’s influence] hate you [holds animosity].”

There is a natural antagonism between good and evil, and the children of God and children of the devil.  To be hated by the world was not merely a future possibility, by the end of the first century it had become a present reality.  John admonished believers, the world will hate you (John 15:18-19)!

I close with a quote by author Edmund Hiebert.  Hiebert writes,

“Whenever the [church] acts so as to expose the greed…hatred, and the wickedness of the world, it must expect rejection; and if it should go so far as to interfere with its evil practices, as Jesus did…it may expect suffering and brutal death…’History confirms that the hatred of the world is most aggressive whenever the life and witness of the church are vital and Spirit-empowered.” 

Edmond Hiebert, “The Epistles of John – An Expositional Commentary” (Greenville: Bob Jones University Press,1991), p. 155.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and The Most Powerful Monarch Bows to His Will.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 33-36

Unlike his father Hezekiah, under whose reign Judah experienced revival (2 Chronicles 30:1-9) when he destroyed the places of idol worship (2 Chronicles 31), Manasseh began to reign as king of Judah when he was twelve years old, reigning fifty-five years, but he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

There were no bounds to the depths of depravity to which Manasseh stooped.  He rebuilt the groves of prostitution where Baal was worshipped, desecrated the Temple, practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing his own children to idols, participated in witchcraft, and led Jerusalem to commit wickedness “worse than the heathen” (33:9).  What a horrible biography of depravity and wickedness, practiced by the young king and tolerated by his advisors and the masses!

I marvel how a godly king like Hezekiah who led Judah in spiritual revival; might have a son like Manasseh who succeeded his father as king and proceeded down a path of evil that exceeded the wickedness of the heathen (33:9).  If you will allow a personal observation (after all, this is a commentary); I am oft amazed how men in authority influence a people, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, and leave in their wake the destruction of families, communities, nations and the deaths of millions of men and women.

As a product of the 20th century and a student of its history, I reflect on the century past (the rise of Communism, Nazi-fascists, militant Islamists, and our present-day conflict with anarchists of all stripes…political and religious) and understand the tragic consequences that befall nations that choose wicked, unprincipled, godless leaders.  King Solomon taught his son the same, writing:

Proverbs 29:2 – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

In spite of his evil ways, we read, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s patience and longing to forgive and restore His people!  Being reminded God’s ways are not our ways, the LORD sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and fetters and brought him to Babylon” (33:11).  Reminding us to not give up on wayward sinners, in the throes of his suffering and humiliation, Manasseh “besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13  And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God” (33:12-13).

Having repented of his sins, God restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem and he began a crusade to fortify the walls of the city, removing the traces of his own wickedness in tearing down places of idol worship,  repairing the Temple altar and commanding “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:13-16).

Manasseh, by example and edict, led the nation to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; however, he was unable to reverse the effect of his sins on Amon, his son who did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23) until his servants assassinated him in the palace (33:24).

Being reminded of God’s grace, Josiah, the son of Amon and grandson of Hezekiah, turned from the sins of his father and followed his grandfather’s example and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 34-35:1-19).  Josiah’s death on the battlefield (35:20-24) and how the prophet Jeremiah and the people mourned his death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

2 Chronicles 36 records the final days of Judah as a nation before Babylonian captivity.  Long prophesied by the prophets, the burning of the Temple, ruin of the palaces, destruction of Jerusalem, and the people being led away captive to Babylon for seventy years were fulfilled (36:1-24).

Today’s scripture reading concludes with a reminder:  God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “ 22  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Called to Be Holy

Monday, November 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 10-12

Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure continues in today’s scripture reading, Deuteronomy 10-12.

deut-10-12.jpgLest the people believe God chose Israel because they were more righteous than the heathen nations, Deuteronomy 9 concludes with Moses reminding the people how the previous generation sinned against the LORD while he was receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Provoked by the wickedness of the people, Moses had cast the LORD’s Commandments to the ground (Deuteronomy 9:17) and prayed for God to not utterly destroy the nation (9:18-29).

Moses continues in Deuteronomy 10 reminding the people how the LORD showed mercy to Israel following the people’s idolatry and directed him to prepare two tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments would be written a second time (10:1-5).  The first four of the Ten Commandments establishing man’s relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-11); the sixth through the tenth commandments man’s relationship with his fellow-man (Exodus 20:12-17).

Breaking the first tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, Moses demonstrated that Israel broke the nation’s covenant with the LORD and, apart from His mercy and grace, deserved God’s judgment.  As a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, God commanded Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. 2  And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark” (10:1-2).

The generation Moses addressed in Deuteronomy 10 were the children of those who disobeyed God, refused to enter the Promise Land, and died in the wilderness.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, Moses was the last of that generation and the LORD had determined he would not be allowed to enter the land with Israel.  With the urgency of a father who loves his children and knows his opportunity to teach and guide them is waning, Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives (10:12-13).

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Moses then rehearsed the character of Israel’s God  (10:14-22).

The God of Israel is Creator and “the heaven of heavens…and the earth also, with all that therein is” is the LORD’S (10:14).   He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared]”.  He is Just and “regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18  He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow [those who are weak and unable to defend themselves].”

The exhortation for Israel to love the LORD and keep His commandments continues in Deuteronomy 11 as Moses reminds the people of God’s past mercies; how He delivered the nation out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness (11:1-7).

Exhorting the people to obey the LORD’S commandments and keep His statutes (11:8), Moses rehearsed God’s promise to “give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey” (11:9).  Reminding them  the promise of God’s blessings was conditional (11:10-17), he challenged them to keep the commandments and the LORD will send rain (11:10-15); “serve other gods…And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you…that there be no rain” (11:16-17).  Moses warned, “27  A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28  And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God” (11:27-28a).

Moses reminded Israel they were chosen by God and called to be a holy nation.  When they possessed the land they were to “observe to do all the statutes and judgments” which the LORD commanded them (11:31-32).

Is there a lesson for 21st century believers to take from God’s covenant with Israel and Moses’ challenge for the people to obey His commandments?

Absolutely!  To their credit, many Bible fundamental pulpits have a renewed compulsion to trumpet the “Gospel”, however, I am afraid the clarion warning of God’s judgment is falling silent.  Preachers and evangelists of this present generation herald God’s Grace and the believer’s Liberty in Christ, but neglect to remind the saints the same God Who is Loving and Merciful is also Holy and Just!

Believers are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9); however, that does not mean the LORD allows a believer to choose a middle ground between worldliness and holiness.  As Israel was to be a holy nation and obey the LORD’S commandments (Deuteronomy 12); believers are commanded to be “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Remember When Preachers Warned God’s Judgment Was Imminent?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Zephaniah 1-3

Our devotional reading in 2 Chronicles 29-32 (see October 31, 2017) was timely, given today’s scripture reading in the Book of Zephaniah follows chronologically my commentary on King Hezekiah’s reign in Judah.  The introductory verse of Zephaniah sets the time of this prophetic book during the reign of King Josiah, the grandson of Hezekiah.  A brief lineage of the prophet Zephaniah is given in the opening verse of this book that bears his name.

Zephaniah 1:1 – “The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.”

Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah and served as prophet to Judah during the reign of Josiah (1:1b).  Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was born of royal lineage.  King Josiah, like his grandfather Hezekiah, sought to lead Judah back to the LORD and perhaps it was the influence of Zephaniah that was the impetus for the king’s longing for revival.

The prophecies of Zephaniah not only warn Judah of God’s approaching judgment (1:2-2:15), but prophetically warn the day is coming when God will judge all nations.  Zephaniah declared the severity of God’s wrath in terms that left no doubt the time of judgment was imminent.  Quoting the LORD, Zephaniah prophesied:

Zephaniah 1:2-3 – “I will utterly consume all things…man and beast…fowls of the heaven, the fishes of the sea…I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.”

In spite of the prophet’s warnings and King Josiah’s effort to call the nation to repent, the revival was short-lived.   Following Josiah’s death, the people returned to idolatry and soon after the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, and leading the people into captivity.

The prophecies of Zephaniah, though imminent for Judah, foretold God’s judgment not only against Judah, but all nations of the world.  Having herald God’s warning of judgment against Judah, Zephaniah turned his message toward other nations, prophesying God’s judgments against the Philistines (2:4-8), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), and Ethiopia and Assyria (2:12-15).

Judah, specifically the capital city of Jerusalem, becomes the prophet’s focus in Zephaniah 3.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem were privilege to have the Temple in their midst and priests and prophets ministering among them.  In spite of God’s grace and mercies, the citizens of Jerusalem worshipped idols and took pleasure in wickedness.

Zephaniah describes Jerusalem as “filthy and polluted” (3:1), disobedient, incorrigible [“she received not correction”] and faithless (3:2).  Her rulers like “roaring lions” (3:3), her judges like “evening wolves”, her spiritual leaders “light [reckless] and treacherous [deceivers]” (3:4) and her priests “polluted [defiled; desecrated] the sanctuary…have done violence [violated; wrong] to the law” (3:4).

Lest some say the LORD is unjust, Zephaniah testifies, “The just LORD is in the midst…every morning doth He bring His judgment to light” (3:5).

Having prophesied God’s judgment of Judah and the nations, Zephaniah foretells God would one day gather the nations of the world for a universal judgment… “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (3:8).

Zephaniah concludes with a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, promising the LORD will one day gather Israel, restore His people to their land, and dwell in the midst (3:14-20).

On a personal note, when I was a young believer I often heard preachers heralding the prophecies of God’s final judgment on the nations and humanity.  Knowing the wickedness and violent straits of today’s world, I am surprise the pulpits of Gospel preaching churches have grown silent regarding the wrath and final judgment of God.  [Perhaps the word “surprise” is an overstatement since sissy preachers hardly have the stomach or the courage to preach against sin, let along a lukewarm congregation tolerate preaching on God’s judgment.]

To the church of Laodicea, which I believe is the church of the last days, the LORD commanded the apostle John to write…

Revelation 3:15-16 “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

I am afraid a “lukewarm” generation is filling the pulpits and occupying the pews of churches and schools that were once leaders of Bible fundamentalism, but have become “neither cold nor hot…[and are] rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:15-16).

We need a generation of preachers who have the zeal, courage and devotion to call believers to repent and warn the nations of the earth the judgment of God is imminent!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith