Tag Archives: Home

“The Soul That Sinneth, It Shall Die” (Ezekiel 18)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 17; Ezekiel 18

Ezekiel 18 – A Parable of “Sour Grapes”

The LORD left no doubt that the sins of the people had brought sorrows and judgments upon Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. Yet, there was a question that arose in Babylon: Who was responsible for the calamities?

Speaking in a parable, some said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2) In other words, there were some who blamed Israel’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their fathers and forefathers. God rebuked that generation, and declared an enduring, universal truth: 4Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die”(18:4)

A Hypothetical Study of Three Generations (18:4-20)

One’s personal responsibility for sin and its consequences was the subject, and this passage answers some important questions regarding the justice and fairness of God’s judgment. 1) Are sons punished for the sins of their fathers, or fathers punished for the sins of their sons? 2) If a father chooses a godless lifestyle, is it inevitable a son will follow in his steps? Because “blame shifting” is epidemic in our day, Ezekiel 18 should interest both believer and unbeliever.

A Righteous Father (18:5-9)

God blesses a man who chooses righteousness, and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9). Such a man obeys the Commandments of the LORD. He will not commit adultery, nor oppress those who are weaker (18:6b-7a). The righteous restores the surety to a debtor, does not plunder and rob others by violence, and is charitable to those who are hungry and in need (18:7b). The righteous do not crush a debtor with exorbitant interest, and conducts himself in a lawful manner (18:8). Because he walks in accord with the statutes (ordinances and decrees) and judgments (laws) of the LORD, and deals honestly with others, he is declared just before God, and will live and prosper (18:9).

A Wicked Son (18:10-13)

What if an adult son of a righteous man refuses to follow his father’s godly example, and instead turns to a path of wickedness? Should the father be punished for the sins of a son that is a robber and murderer? (18:10) Should a father be punished because his son offers sacrifices to idols, commits adultery, abuses the poor, robs others, and is immoral (18:11-12)? When a son charges excessive interest, and oppresses debtors, should his father go unpunished? Though his father was righteous, such a son will bear the guilt of his own sins, and “shall not live…he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him” and not his father (18:13).

A Righteous Grandson (18:14-18)

Each generation bears responsibility for its sins, and God will not punish a father for the sins of his son (18:10-13). Should a son see the sins of his father, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17). A wicked father, as a wicked son, will not go unpunished for his sins (18:18-20).

Who you gonna’ blame for your troubles and sorrows? (18:20-24)

Ezekiel repeated the principle of personal, individual responsibility, writing, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (18:20). The LORD is longsuffering, and ready and willing to forgive the sinner who repents and turns from his sins (18:21-22). After all, God does not delight in seeing the wicked die in their sins (18:23).

What if a righteous man turns and follows a path of sin? (18:24a) His past righteousness will not deliver him from the consequences of his present sins (18:24b).

Closing thoughts (18:25-32) – Sinners cannot accuse the LORD of being unjust (18:25). The believer who sins will be punished (18:26), and the wicked who repents of his sins will be forgiven and live (18:27-28). Tragically, family members suffer the consequences of their loved one’s sinful choices. Yet, God is just and He will not judge and condemn the innocent for the sins of the guilty (18:29-30). God will judge every sinner “according to his ways” (18:30).

Our study concludes with a wonderful invitation: When a sinner repents, the LORD promises to give “a new heart and a new spirit” (18:31). While the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), the LORD invites all who sin, saying, “turn yourselves, and live” (18:32).

Don’t wallow in a mire of self-pity, or blame others for your sinful choices!  Repent, and live!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“Who is Teaching Johnny?” (The Four Be’s of Parenting) – this Sunday at Hillsdale.

You are invited to join me as I continue a brief, “politically incorrect” family-life series titled, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” this Sunday, May 15, 10:30am.

The morning worship service will be broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org (Tampa, FL) and www.DailyTestify.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

How Will You Be Remembered? (Jeremiah 35)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 35

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

Jeremiah 35 – The House of the Rechabites

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

A Lesson in Fidelity (35:2-11)

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

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

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

Judah and Jerusalem Rebuked (35:12-17)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

What Love Is This?

Scripture reading – Hosea 2; Hosea 3

Hosea 1 introduced us to the prophet Hosea, and God’s command that he take a “wife of whoredoms” (1:2). That unequal marriage was purposed to serve as a vivid portrait of the spiritual adultery Israel had committed against the LORD. Like the harlot in this tragic tale, God’s people had broken covenant with Him, and worshipped and served idols.

Hosea 2

Hosea 2 opens with the plea of a heartbroken husband, for Gomer (Hosea’s wife and the mother of his three children) had left her marriage and abandoned her family (2:1). Hosea appealed to his younger children, Ammi(without the prefix “Lo,” rendering the youngest son’s name “my people,” 1:9; 2:1), and his daughter Ruhamah(again without the prefix “Lo,” thus meaning “loved,” 1:6; 2:1), “Plead with your mother…let her therefore put away her whoredoms” (2:2).

Drawing a parallel with Gomer’s adultery and Hosea’s sorrow as her husband, Israel had committed spiritual whoredom (2:3), and the LORD warned He would withhold His mercy and compassion they had taken for granted as a nation (2:4).

God’s Chastening (2:5b-13)

Like Israel, Hosea’s wife was guilty of ingratitude (2:5b-9). She took for granted her husband’s loving care, and foolishly turned to her lovers to meet her needs (2:5b).

Just as Gomer, Hosea’s wife, was unappreciative of her loving husband, so Israel took  for granted the LORD’S love for them. The nation “did not know that [the LORD] gave her corn, and wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold, Which they prepared for Baal” (2:8). The LORD therefore, determined He would remove His blessing from the nation (2:9).

Although the people continued to celebrate the Lord’s feast days (2:11), their heart was far from God. They had forgotten the LORD, and He promised that their sins would inevitably bring them to an inglorious, humiliating end (2:12-13).

Redeeming Love (2:14-23; 3:1-5)

Compassion (2:14-23)

Hosea loved his wife, even as the LORD loved Israel. Reflecting God’s love for His wayward people, the prophet promised to restore Gomer as his wife. He promised to “allure her” and to meet her needs by giving “her her vineyards” (2:14-15).

Again, we read a parallel of Hosea’s love for Gomer in God’s promise to remove the idols where Israel had gone a whoring, and re-establish His covenant with them (2:18). In spite of the spiritual waywardness of the nation, God promised He would restore His people with “lovingkindness, and in mercy” (2:19).

Hosea 2:19-23 has not been fulfilled, but one day it will be fully realized when Jesus Christ reigns on David’s throne. Then the LORD will say “Ammi” of the children of Israel, “Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (2:23).

Command (3:1)

The prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer was the backdrop to a portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the LORD. The nation had left the LORD, broke covenant with Him, and committed spiritual whoredom with the idols of the heathen nations. In that same way, Gomer played the harlot, broke her covenant of marriage, and rejected her husband’s love (3:1).

Cost (3:2-3)

In spite of her transgressions, and the shame Gomer had brought to her husband and household, God commanded Hosea to find his wife and restore her.  Hosea sought and found her…a broken, wasted woman, being sold in the slave market (3:2). There he purchased his wife for “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley,” half the price of a household slave (3:2).

Yet, the prophet lovingly assured Gomer of his commitment, and invited her to abide with him. If she would set aside her adulterous ways, he would restore her as his wife (3:3).

Closing thoughts – Hosea’s love for Gomer was a portrait of God’s forgiving, unconditional love, and compassion for Israel (3:4-5). Hosea prophesied, though Israel had played a spiritual whore, the day would come when the LORD would restore His people (3:5).

I remind believers, the love the LORD expressed for wayward Israel is the same love He has for His church, and has commanded a husband to have for his wife. We read,

25Husbands, love your wives, even as [to the same degree] Christ also loved [sacrificially loved] the church, and gave himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“An Amazing Story of Grace, Forgiveness, and Enduring Love” (Hosea 1)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1

Hosea was the first of the minor prophets (minor in the sense that their books are not as lengthy as those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was God’s prophet to Israel (the northern ten tribes), and was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah (whose ministry focused primarily on Judah).

Scholars believe his ministry would have spanned sixty or more years, for he was prophet during “the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel” (1:1). Hosea’s ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

The Book of Hosea chronicles the ministry of one man who courageously, and faithfully warned God’s people that their wickedness and rebellion had provoked the wrath of God, and His judgment was imminent.

Hosea 1 – Romancing an Unfaithful Wife

The Command (1:1-2)

The book of Hosea opens with a startling command: “The Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (1:2).

Hosea was probably a young man when the LORD commanded him to take a wife. As a prophet, he would have had a testimony that was honoring to the LORD and worthy of His calling. Yet, the LORD commanded Hosea to take a wife who would bring shame and dishonor to his life and ministry. Some may debate if “Gomer” (1:3) was a harlot when he took her as his wife, and if not, then she would soon evidence the bent of the “children of whoredoms” (1:2).

The children of Israel had broken their covenant with the LORD, and played the spiritual harlot. Even so, Hosea was to marry a woman who would break the marriage covenant and bring heartache and disgrace to his ministry (1:2).

The Children (1:3-9)

Hosea “took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim” (1:3), and she conceived and gave birth to three children. Her firstborn was a son, whom the LORD commanded Hosea to name “Jezreel” (1:4) meaning “God sows” or “God scatters.” His name foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth.

Gomer then gave birth to a daughter, whom God commanded be named, “Lo-ruhamah” (1:6), implying “Love withdrawn” or “Not Loved.” The LORD had determined He would no longer “have mercy upon the house of Israel” and would “take them away” (1:6-7). Lo-ruhamah’s name was a reminder the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional; however, the people had broken their covenant with Him and disobeyed His law and commandments. The LORD would therefore withdraw His loving protection of them as a nation.

Hosea’s third born was a son whom he named, “Loammi” that interpreted meant, “not my people” (1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery, and the LORD had determined He would divorce them as His people.

The Comfort (1:10-11)

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them. Affirming His love and covenant with the people, “the children of Israel would grow as a people, and their number would “be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered” (1:10). Though in the immediate, they would be displaced from their homes and land as a nation, Hosea prophesied there would come the day when the LORD would declare, “Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 1:11 has not been fulfilled to date, and the remnant of Jews in the modern nation of Israel are much like Gomer, for they are spiritual adulterers with the world. There is a day coming when “the children of Judah and the children of Israel [will] be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head” (1:11). Who will rule Israel? The LORD Jesus Christ when He comes as Judge and King.

Closing thoughtsHosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” was a model of the LORD, and his wife Gomer was a dramatic reminder that Israel had broken her covenant with the LORD, and had turned to serve and worship idols. Israel’s spiritual adultery demanded God’s judgment, but His love would not forget, or cast them aside forever (Zechariah 10:9).

What a wonderful, loving, and longsuffering God we serve! Great is His faithfulness!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Every Generation Must Decide Whom They Serve. (2 Kings 18, 2 Chronicles 29)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 18, 2 Chronicles 29

As a review, the books titled 1st and 2nd Kings were penned as history was unfolding. The books titled 1st and 2ndChronicles were authored after the Jews returned to their homeland from Babylonian captivity. Together, the Kings and Chronicles give us the history of Israel and Judah, and an insight into the bent of nations and people to sin and rebel. Yet, God is sovereign and gives providential oversight of not only His chosen people, but also of the nations of the world.

2 Kings 18 and 2 Chronicles 29 are to some extent, parallel passages of the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah. 2 Kings 18 records the rise of 25-year-old Hezekiah to the throne of Judah where he would reign for 29 years. Setting his heart to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 18:3), Hezekiah began a series of reforms (2 Kings 18:4-6), addressing first Judah’s sins against the LORD.

2 Chronicles 29 – The Reign of Hezekiah

Before continuing our study of 2 Kings 18, I invite you to consider the reform Hezekiah led in his first year as king. 2 Chronicles 29 reveals how far Judah strayed from the LORD as a nation and people.

Repairing the Temple (29:3-11)

Hezekiah’s first challenge was to repair the Temple which had been closed, and the daily worship and sacrifices neglected (29:3). Summoning the priests and Levites, Hezekiah commanded them to cleanse themselves, and then begin the task of cleaning the Temple (29:4-5).

Speaking as the leader of the nation, the king identified the failures of the previous generation, and how they had neglected their spiritual roles in the Temple (29:6-7). Hezekiah stated the sorrows that had befallen Israel resulted as “the wrath of the LORD was upon Judah and Jerusalem” (29:8-9).

Setting an example of humility, and sincerity, Hezekiah revealed his resolve to renew covenant with the LORD, and to pray He would turn away “His fierce wrath” from the nation (29:10). Speaking to the Levites and priests as a loving king, Hezekiah reminded them of their holy calling, saying, “My sons, be not now negligent: for the Lordhath chosen you to stand before him, to serve him, and that ye should minister unto him, and burn incense” (29:11).

A Call for Revival (29:12-36)

Hezekiah then summoned various groups to prepare themselves to serve the LORD, before He summoned the people. He appointed two leaders from each of the three major Levite clans (the sons of Kohath, Merari, and Gershon, 29:12). He then appointed two men from a fourth clan (sons of Elizaphan, 29:13a), and appointed leaders to represent the three musical Levite families (sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, 29:13b-14).

The Levites and priests then began cleaning the Temple and its grounds. The priests cleaned the Temple interior, and removed unclean items that were taken to “the brook of Kidron” (29:15-16), and most likely burned. The cleansing of the Temple lasted sixteen days (29:17), and then the priests and Levites informed Hezekiah (29:18-19).

The king summoned the leaders of Jerusalem, and they “went up to the house of the LORD” (29:20). Rededicating the Temple, the leaders brought animals as offerings according to the law (Leviticus 4:1-5:13). Laying their hands on the animals to be sacrificed, the leaders identified in their deaths the substitute for their sins as individuals and representatives of Judah (29:21-24).

With the Levite musicians taking their places (29:25-26), the king commanded the burnt offerings be sacrificed as the musical instruments accompanied the worship service (29:27). “All the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded” (29:28), and once again the psalms of the LORD were heard in the Temple (29:30).

The congregation of Judah was then invited to bring their individual offerings to the LORD, and the number given was so great the Levites were called upon to assist the priests (29:31-35). What a great lesson in giving when we read, “the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings” (29:31).

The rededication of the Temple, and restoration of worship and offerings were accomplished in Hezekiah’s first year as king (29:3). The chapter concluded with Hezekiah and the people rejoicing (2 Chronicles 29:36).

2 Kings 18 – The Fall of Israel, and the Reign of Hezekiah

The early years of Hezekiah’s reign were glorious, and the LORD blessed his leadership (18:7-8). Nevertheless, storm clouds were on the horizon, for in the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign, Samaria fell to Assyria, and Israel as a nation was taken captive (18:9-11).

Israel’s Fall Presented a Crisis of Faith for Hezekiah and Judah (18:9-12).

Rather than trust the LORD, the king made the decision to enslave Judah to pay tribute to Assyria (18:13-14). The Assyrian king’s demands were so great, Hezekiah was forced to give him the treasuries of his palace, and the Temple (18:15) to meet Assyria’s demands. As a result, Hezekiah was forced to strip the gold overlay from the doors and pillars of the Temple (18:16).

Adding to the humiliation, the king of Assyria sent a great army to lay siege to Jerusalem. A delegation of Assyrian ambassadors demanded Hezekiah surrender the capital city to their king (18:17-22). Hoping to discourage the soldiers, day after day, the Assyrians stood outside the walls of Jerusalem, and mocked the God of Israel, and scorned Hezekiah and his soldiers (18:23-35).

Wisely, the soldiers, obeyed Hezekiah’s command, and answered the Assyrians with silence (18:36).  When he received news of the taunts of the Assyrian delegation (18:37), Hezekiah humbled himself, “rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD” (19:1).

Closing thoughts – Hezekiah led Judah back to the LORD, and he purged the nation of its idolatry (2 Kings 18:4). He was a godly king, unlike any other (18:5-6), but the spiritual revival he led would die with him (2 Kings 21:1-2).

Lesson – Every generation will decide whom they will serve. Tragically, the bent of the heart of man is to do evil, and without revival a nation invites God’s judgment.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Far-reaching Consequences of a Father’s Compromise (2 Chronicles 18)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 18

While the focus of 1 Kings 22 was primarily upon King Ahab and the northern ten Tribes known as Israel, 2 Chronicles 18 was authored after the Babylonian captivity, and gives a greater focus to King Jehoshaphat and the kingdom of Judah (consisting of the two tribes in the south known as Judah and Benjamin).  The focus of this devotional commentary is 2 Chronicles 18.

As a nation, Judah enjoyed God’s blessings during the reign of Jehoshaphat, and the king “had riches and honour in abundance” (18:1). Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat had “joined affinity with Ahab,” king of Israel, and his son Jehoram had taken one of Ahab’s daughters as his wife (2 Chronicles 21:6). Three years passed (1 Kings 22:2), and Jehoshaphat traveled to visit Ahab in Samaria, the capital city of Israel. After a great banquet, Ahab proposed for Judah to support Israel in an attack on Ramoth-gilead, a Levite city of refuge that was occupied at that time by Syria (18:2).

Jehoshaphat was willing to go to war with Ahab and Israel, for they were family by marriage (18:3). Yet, Jehoshaphat, a spiritually-minded king, requested they seek “the word of the LORD” for his will (18:4). “The king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” (18:5). Ahab’s prophets, eager to please the king, answered his inquiry and said, “Go up; for God will deliver it into the king’s hand” (18:5).

Because the character of true prophets of the LORD is to speak independently without fear of consequences, Jehoshaphat, was concerned Ahab’s prophets spoke with one voice. Therefore, the king of Judah asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him?” (18:6). Ahab admitted there was another prophet, but confessed concerning the prophet Micaiah, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil” (18:7).

Micaiah, whom we met in a previous devotional (1 Kings 22), came to the kings of Israel and Judah, and delivered a message the king desired, but the prophet had not attributed his words to the LORD (18:12). When Ahab realized the prophet was not speaking prophetically, he instructed Micaiah saying, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?” (18:15).

The LORD’s prophet then spoke of his vision of a heavenly council gathered around the throne of God. In the vision, Israel was scattered, “as sheep that have no shepherd” (18:16). Because the king of Israel was identified as a shepherd of the people, the prophecy left no doubt that it was a foretelling of Ahab’s death.

Micaiah went on to describe how God had requested that a messenger would go to Ahab, and entice that king to go to battle at Ramoth-gilead where he would be slain (18:19). In the vision, a spirit went out from the LORD, and put “a lying spirit in the mouth of all [Ahab’s] prophets” (18:21).

The prophet then declared, “behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee [Ahab]” (18:22). Exposed as a lying prophet, “Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah[a false prophet of Ajab] came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek” (18:23).

Ahab, hearing his death foretold, was angry and demanded the prophet be imprisoned with nothing more than bread and water, until he returned from battle (18:25-26). Emboldened and confident in his prophecy, Micaiah warned the king, “If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people” (18:27).

In spite of the prophet’s warning, Jehoshaphat went to war with the king of Israel and went into battle against the king of Syria (18:28). Lest he be discovered to be the king of Israel, Ahab disguised himself that he might not be recognized, and targeted by the Syrian soldiers (18:29). Yet, in the providence of God, an arrow from a nameless soldier struck Ahab, mortally wounding him (18:33).

Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for as the sun was setting that day, Ahab, the king of Israel, died (18:34), “and one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake” (1 Kings 21:19; 22:37-38).

Closing thoughts – Though the consequences of Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Israel were not immediately evident, his compromise with Ahab through the marriage of his son to Ahab’s daughter introduced a great wickedness in Judah, and nearly terminated David’s royal lineage (2 Chronicles 21:6; 22:3; 22:10-12).

An observation – When spiritual leaders accommodate the sins of their children, they sacrifice not only their testimonies, but also the ministries and institutions they lead.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith