Tag Archives: Integrity

The End is Come, and the Word of God is Silenced (Amos 7; Amos 8)

Scripture reading – Amos 7; Amos 8

Continuing his prophetic ministry, Amos delivered to the people of Israel five prophetic visions of imminent judgment. This devotional will consider the first four judgments recorded in Amos 7-8.

Amos 7 – Three Visions of Judgment

A Vision of Grasshoppers [Locusts] (7:1-3)

Locusts (identified as grasshoppers) were, and are, a devastating event for people living in an agrarian economy. Eating and destroying everything in their path, locusts can be so thick in number that they turn the light of day into darkness. In ancient times, the massing of locusts would potentially lead to famine for a people and nation.

God showed to Amos a judgment of locusts that would befall Israel, devouring the second growth of crops (the first crop being that which the king taxed, 7:1). Amos pled with the LORD for Jacob (Israel), stating that Jacob was a small nation, and if met with devastation, how would they survive? The LORD “repented” and had compassion on the people (7:3). Though the sins of the nation invited God’s judgment, the LORD heard the prayer of His prophet and determined to withhold judgment for a season.

A Vision of Fire (7:4-6)

Fire is a symbol of judgment throughout the Scriptures, and the LORD used the same to warn Amos that God’s judgment on Israel would be so destructive, it would consume everything (7:4). Again, Amos interceded for Israel and reasoned with the LORD, saying, “O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee: By whom shall Jacob [the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel] arise? for he is small” (7:5). The LORD heard his prophet’s intercessory prayer, “repented,” and said, “This also shall not be” (7:6).

The Vision of a Plumb Line (7:7-9)

A plumb line was a tool used by builders to ensure the blocks of a wall were laid straight. Attaching a weight to twine or rope, the plumb line would give block layers a straight line to follow as they raised up the walls of a city or building.

God gave Amos a vision of a plumb line, with the LORD Himself standing “upon a wall…with a plumbline in His hand” (7:7). The LORD questioned His prophet, and asked, “Amos, what seest thou?” (7:8a). Amos identified the plumb line, and the LORD said, “Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more” (7:8).

The plumb line was a symbol of a perfect standard, and one by which a man’s work could be judged. In this vision, the plumb line was a symbol of God’s perfect standard for His people…His Law and Commandments. Israel had rejected God’s perfect standard, and was condemned as a nation and people (7:8).

God’s judgment was inevitable, and Amos did not pray for God to spare Israel. The people had failed to obey God’s Law, and refused to measure themselves by His plumb line. Therefore, “the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam [the first king of a divided Israel] with the sword” (7:9).

Amos’ Confrontation with the Spiritual and Political Leaders of Israel (7:10-17)

The words and prophecies of Amos reached the ears of “Amaziah the priest of Bethel,” and he defamed God’s prophet to Jeroboam II, the king of Israel (7:10-11). Amaziah served as priest to the false gods of Israel at Bethel (where Jeroboam I had erected a golden calf for the people to worship). That heathen priest attacked the character and ministry of God’s prophet, and accused Amos of conspiring against Israel. He warned Jeroboam II that the prophet had prophesied he would “die by the sword,” and Israel would be conquered and “led away captive out of their own land” (7:11).

Amaziah had sought to intimidate Amos, and demanded the prophet return to Judah, “and there eat bread, and prophesy” (7:10). Desiring to silence Amos, Amaziah warned, “prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (7:13). Rather than heed God’s warning of judgment against Israel, Amaziah ordered the prophet be silent and “prophesy not again” (7:13).

Amos, however, was undeterred, and refused to be silent. He boldly asserted how he had not sought to be a prophet, and neither was he “a prophet’s son” (7:14). He “was an herdman [shepherd], and a gatherer of sycomore fruit [a farmer]: 15 [Saying] the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (7:14-15).

Amos then answered Amaziah with a personal, prophetic warning directed to that wicked priest. He foretold the great judgments that would befall his household: His wife would become a “harlot in the city,” his sons and daughters would “fall by the sword” (his lineage would die), the land would be divided, “and Israel [would] surely go into captivity” (7:17).

Amos 8

The Fourth Vision (8:1-3)

The imminence of God’s judgment was foretold, as “a basket of summer fruit” that was ready to be harvested (8:1). The LORD warned, “The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” (8:2).

Israel had passed the point of repentance and the “songs of the temple,” would turn to the howls of sorrow and death (8:3). At the time of God’s judgment, there would be so many dead bodies there would be no place or time for a proper burial (8:3).

The End is Near (8:4-10)

The abuses of the rich and powerful, and how they had oppressed the poor (8:4-6), would be answered with God’s judgment. God promised He would not forget their wickedness (8:7-9). Israel’s feasts days and songs would be turned to sorrows and hopeless lamentations (8:10).

Closing thoughts – What would mark the end of days, and the judgment of God? Famine! (8:11-13)

Not a famine of food and water, but a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD” (8:11). The Word of God would be silent, and the prophets no more. Men would “seek the word of the LORD,” and young men and women would “faint for thirst” (8:13). It would be too late, and the Word of the LORD would not be found (8:12-13).

Believer, like Israel of old, that day is upon us, and the Word of God is falling silent.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to the Proud (Amos 6)

Scripture reading – Amos 6

Amos 6

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of woes against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1). Both nations are characterized as being “at ease” (meaning carefree, overly-confident, careless); however, the focus of chapter 6 is primarily upon Israel (the northern ten tribes).

Amos’ Admonition to the Careless Leaders of Israel (6:2-6)

Three great heathen cities are identified in Amos 6:2, and held before Israel as examples of cities greater than Jerusalem and Samaria, that would succumb to a greater enemy (which history reveals as Assyria). Calneh was an ancient city identified as Nimrod, who also founded Babel (6:2a). Hamath was the capital city of Syria (6:2b), and Gath was one of the principal cities of the Philistines.

After identifying those great Gentile cities, for all would fall before the armies of the Assyrian empire, Amos challenged the careless leaders of Israel, “Be they better than these kingdoms? Or their border greater than your border?” (6:2). Amos questioned if the leaders of Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them (6:2). Though they had been warned, there were some who refused to believe and “put far away the evil day” until the “seat of violence” was at the gates of the city (6:3).

They were guilty of self-indulgence, and oppressed the poor of Israel, while the wealthy immersed themselves in extravagant luxury (6:4-6). They were lethargic, and gluttonous (6:4). They desired to be pleasured with music (6:5), were guilty of excessive drinking, and anointed themselves with expensive perfumes, yet, they gave no thought to the sorrows and sufferings of their countrymen (6:6).

The Judgment to Befall the Wealthy, Self-indulgent of Israel (6:7-11)

The ones who had oppressed the poor while pampering themselves in wealth and possessions were the first to be exiled and taken into captivity (6:7). God had sworn an oath of judgment against those who were filled with pride and presumption (6:8).

Amos painted a picture of destruction and devastation that would befall Israel, and the great majority of the people of Israel would perish (8:9). So many would die, the people would resort to cremation (usually reserved for criminals) to dispose the bodies of the dead (6:9-10). The destruction of houses described in Amos 6:11 is believed to have been caused by an earthquake.

Five Things That Should Not Be (6:12-13)

Amos wisely illustrated God’s wisdom by referencing nature as the teacher.  The first and second teaching points are easy to understand: Horses should not run on rocks (for they risk falling and either hurting themselves or their rider), and oxen should not plow over a rock strewn field (for there is little reward, 6:12b).

Amos continues to offer wisdom in terms that register deep with mankind. Polluting justice runs contrary to God’s divine order (6:12C), and is much like perverting the sweetness of righteousness with bitterness (6:12d). Finally, whether a nation or a man, it is foolish to boast of one’s strength, for boasting will inevitably come to nothing and prove you wrong (6:13).

Closing thoughts – For all the pride and boasting of Israel’s leaders, Amos delivered the inescapable fact of God’s judgment. All would be fulfilled as the LORD had promised and Amos had prophesied. Assyria would destroy the strongholds of Israel, and the proud and oppressed would be carried away into captivity (6:14).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Sorry State: Knowing Neither Right nor Wrong (Amos 2-3)

Scripture reading – Amos 2; Amos 3

Amos had prophesied that six Gentile nations would be judged for their transgressions against God, His people (Israel and Judah), and humanity in general (Amos 1): Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities (1:6-8), Tyre (who were Phoenician, 1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3). The judgment of those six nations was certain, and would serve as a warning to Judah and Israel, that God is just and their transgressions would not go unpunished (2:4-16).

The Case Against Judah and Israel (2:4-11)

Amos declared the sins and transgressions of Judah (2:4-5) and Israel (2:6-16) announcing God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the people how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9), led them through the wilderness for forty years, and given them the land of the Amorites for their possession (2:9-10). In His longsuffering and compassion, the LORD had sent prophets to preach His Word and teach His Law and Commandments (2:11).

God’s Response to Israel’s Rebellion (2:12-16)

How had the people responded?

They had tempted the Nazarites (who were models of dedication and service) to violate their sanctification and break their vows (Numbers 6:1-20). When the prophets preached the Word of the LORD, they “commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not” (2:12).

God Declared His Judgment of the People (2:13-16)

The Lord warned, He would crush Israel with the weight of a cart “full of sheaves” (of wheat, 2:13). Israel’s military would be soundly defeated (2:14-16). The soldiers would take flight from the battle, but neither be swift, strong, or able to retreat (2:14). Archers would fail to stand in their places, horsemen could not flee, and the nation’s mightiest warriors would drop their weapons and flee with nothing (“shall flee away naked in that day,” 2:16).

Amos 3 – A Description of Israel’s Judgment for Its Transgressions

The Basis of God’s Judgment Against the “Children of Israel” (3:1-2)

Amos 3:1 declared God’s judgment for their transgressions would not only be against Israel (the ten tribes in the north), but “against the whole family” (thus including Judah, the southern kingdom). The prophet reminded all who were descendants of the Hebrews that came out of Egypt, that they were a chosen, beloved people (Genesis 12:3; 28:14). Yet, the LORD declared, “I will punish you for all your iniquities (3:2).

A Series of Rhetorical Questions that Illustrated “Cause and Effect” (3:3-6)

In a series of questions, Amos declared a principle we will call, “cause and effect.” The first questions made the implication that the answer to each would be, “No.”  The first, “3Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (3:3). Of course, the answer was, “No.” To walk together, there must be an agreement by both parties on the plan (method) and destination.

Two questions regarded the lion on the hunt, and asked, “4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?” (3:4). Again, the answer is, “No.” A lion on the hunt prowls in stealth and is cautious, not alerting its prey; and a young lion would not roar its approval if it has nothing to consume.

The capture of a bird in a trap is the subject of two more questions, that asked: “5Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin [trigger] is for him? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?” (3:5) Again, the presumed answer is, “No.” Without a trigger to snap a trap shut upon its prey, no bird will be entrapped. Of course, removing a snare with no prey makes no sense either.

Two other questions demand “No” for an answer: “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?” (3:6a) In ancient times, the sound of a trumpet would warn the city of an approaching enemy (3:6a), and give reason for fear and for mounting a defense.

The last question was noteworthy, for it illustrated the sovereignty and providence of God: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (3:6b) Whether troubles befall a city, state, or a nation, we are assured it is the doing of the LORD, and for His eternal purpose.

Witnesses to God Punishing His People (3:9-10)

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations to witness His judgment of Israel: Ashdod, a city representing the Philistines, and Egypt (3:9). Those heathen nations were summoned to “the mountains of Samaria” (the capital city of north Israel), and observe God’s judgment upon His people for their sins.

The wealthy and powerful of Israel were guilty of oppressing the weak and the poor, and filling their palaces with plunder and spoil. Because they had rejected God’s Law and Commandments, the people had become spiritually blind, and “know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

God’s Judgment Pronounced: Israel Would Be Devoured by An Enemy (3:11-15)

History reveals Assyria as the enemy that destroyed the northern kingdom. The Assyrians would come through the land, and destroy Israel’s defenses (3:11). The people would be ravaged like a sheep in the mouth of a lion (3:12), and all Israel would be judged (3:13). The altars to the gods erected by Jeroboam would be abolished (3:14), and the great palaces and houses of the wealthy would be utterly destroyed (3:15).

Closing thoughts – When a people and nation make light of God’s Truth, and reject His Commandments, their hearts will become so desensitized to wickedness that they lack moral judgment, and “know not to do right” (3:10).  Sadly, the world around us gives ample evidence of what will become of a society that rejects God and His Laws.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe to the Nation That Turns from the LORD and His Law” (Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5

Our study of the prophecies of Isaiah brings us to Isaiah 4 and 5. Remembering chapter breaks and verse numbers are the effort of editors to assist Bible students, I am in agreement with some that Isaiah 4:1 concludes the previous chapter’s topic and the judgment Isaiah prophesied would befall Jerusalem. Drawing a vivid picture of God’s judgment, the prophet described the desperation of that time.

So many men would die in the battle described in Isaiah 3, that there would be seven women to every man (4:1). Isaiah 4 continued with the prophecy of a future time when Israel would be restored to the land, and Christ Himself will reign (“the branch of the LORD”, 4:2).

Isaiah 5

Employing an agricultural parable, Isaiah described God’s love and care for His people (5:1-7). With the LORD pictured as a farmer, His loving favor for Judah was portrayed as his “well-beloved.”

The LORD’s Loving Preparation for Israel (5:1-2)

God promised to plant his vineyard (a symbol of Israel), upon the best ground, “a very fruitful hill,” (5:1). “He fenced it,” and removed stones [heathen nations] that would hinder the growth of His “vineyard,” and chose the best vines (5:2). He built a “watchtower” (the Temple) in the midst (5:2c).

The LORD’s Disappointments (5:2-4)

Yet, when the LORD inspected His people (“vineyard”), He found “wild grapes” in the midst (5:2). What were the wild grapes? The sins of the people, for they had broken His covenant, and were guilty of idolatry, and all manner of wickedness (5:3-4).

Two Consequences that Befall a Nation That Rejects God (5:5-7)

The first consequence that befell Judah was God’s promise to remove His loving, providential care of His people (“take away the hedge…break down the wall” – 5:5).

The LORD promised He would eliminate the nation’s economic prosperity, and “lay it waste” (5:6). Judah would become like an untended vineyard, overgrown with “briers and thorns” (5:6). Leaving no doubt the prophet was warning Israel and Judah the judgment that would befall those nations, we read: “7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah his pleasant plant: And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; For righteousness, but behold a cry” (5:7).

Six Woes: Elijah’s Warning of God’s Judgment (5:8-23)

Among the sins that provoked God’s wrath, notice six that demanded His judgment. The wealthy were guilty of greed and covetous, and exploited the people (5:8-10). God declared their greed would be rewarded with desolation (5:9), and their investments (“vineyard”) would be unprofitable (5:10).

The people were guilty of pursuing a narcissistic, drunken lifestyle. They would rise  “early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink,” and continue until night (5:11). Their drunken feasts were accompanied by seductive music, so that they gave no thought of the LORD and His providences (5:12).

They were proud, and deceived “with cords of vanity” (5:18), they taunted the LORD (5:19). Having rejected God’s Law and Commandments, they refused moral absolutes. Lacking spiritual discernment, they called “evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (5:20).

They were arrogant and conceited, “wise in their own eyes” (5:21). They perverted justice, and exploited the innocent and weak, and would also “justify the wicked for reward [bribes] (5:23).

Warning: God’s Judgment is Coming (5:24-25)

The “wild grapes” of Israel had provoked God’s judgment, and the fruit of that nation was rebellion, idolatry, and immorality. The leaders did not fear the judgment of God, and Isaiah warned, the LORD had “stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them” (5:25).

The Instruments of God’s Judgment (5:26-30)

Though not named here, Isaiah warned, the LORD would bring against Israel and Judah enemies who would come swiftly, and show the people no mercy. Their adversaries would not tire (5:27), and like the roar of young lions, they would thirst for blood (5:29). The armies of their enemies would sweep over the land like the waters of a storm (5:30).

Closing thoughts – The Assyrians were the first to come, and they took Israel (the northern ten tribes) captive (2 Kings 17:1-41). After Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar led his army against Judah, and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and took the people captive (2 Kings 25:1-30).

Woe to a nation and people who reject God’s Law and Commandments!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation” – part 2 – (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

As we begin our study of Isaiah, I invite you to picture in your mind a setting that is a heavenly courtroom, with God sitting on His throne, and with the nation of Judah the defendant.

The Case: The Ingratitude of Judah vs. The Love and Grace of God (1:1-2)

Two witnesses were commanded to hear the charge against Judah: the “heavens” and the “earth” (1:2). The LORD charged Judah, saying, “I have nourished and brought up children [people of Judah], and they have rebelled against me(1:2).

How had the LORD nourished and brought up His people? He had chosen Abraham and established His Covenant with his lineage (Genesis 12). He had entrusted Israel with His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20). He had sent prophets who taught the people, and chastened the nation when it strayed. Yet, we read, “They have rebelled against me” (1:2c), rejected His Law, and His offer of love and grace.

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

The First Charge – Rebellious Ingratitude (1:3-4)

While a dumb ox knows its owner, and a donkey appreciates its master’s stall, Israel was a people that “doth not consider” (1:3). Consider what? The sins of the people had blinded them, and they gave no thought to the LORD’s care, love, and provision. The prophet Jeremiah would observe: “For my people [are] foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish [foolish; silly] children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22).

They had become a sinful, wicked people, and were burdened with “iniquity” (the weight of their sin and guilt, 1:4). They had “forsaken the LORD” (1:4), despised His Law and Commandments, and had “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (1:4).

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

The LORD questioned Judah, asking, “Why should ye be stricken [beaten; punished] any more? ye will revolt [rebel] more and more [again and again]: the whole head [whole body] is sick [diseased], and the whole heart faint [sick; feeble].” The stench of Judah’s sins had reached heaven, and the people were infected by wickedness (1:6).

The Consequences of Judah’s Sins (1:7-9)

The sins of nation had resulted in the land being destroyed (“your country is desolate”), “cities burned with fire,” and their riches plundered by foreigners (“strangers” – 1:7). So dreadful was the judgment, if the LORD had not shown the people mercy, Judah “should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah [utterly destroyed with no soul spared]” (1:9).

The Second Charge – Religious Insincerity (1:11-20)

God charged the people as being pious hypocrites (1:11-12), and He declared He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings (1:11). They trampled upon the courts of the Temple, and had given no thought to His presence and holiness in the Temple (1:12). The LORD declared:

“Bring no more vain [false; deceitful; empty] oblations [non-blood offerings – flour, fruit, oil]; incense [perfume; sweet incense] is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome] unto me…it is iniquity [wicked; vanity], even the solemn meeting [sacred assembly for worship]” (1:13-14).

Even their prayers had become an abomination: “When ye spread forth [lay open; stretch forth; display] your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers [supplications], I will not hear [hearken; listen]: your hands are full [overflowing] of blood. [shedding of blood]” (1:15).

In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD extended a pardon if the people would repent of their sins (1:16-18). He called upon the nation, “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins [faults; offences] be as scarlet [color of blood], they shall be as white [purified; without blemish] as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Offering a conditional pardon, the LORD appealed to the people, “If ye be willing [consent] and obedient [hearken; obey], ye shall eat [consume] the good [beauty; blessings] of the land” (1:19); but warned, “if ye refuse [unwilling] and rebel[disobey; provoke], ye shall be devoured [eat up; consumed] with the sword [knife; dagger]: for the mouth [commandment; Word] of the LORD hath spoken it. [pronounced; declared]” (1:20).

The Third Charge – Three Reprehensible Injustices (1:21-23)

Understanding the leaders of a nation are a reflection of the character of the people, I conclude today’s study inviting you to consider three nauseous traits of those who govern a dying nation.

The leaders of Judah were vile, having rejected God’s Law, and were “companions of thieves,” enriching themselves by illicit gain (1:23). The leaders lacked integrity, and were guilty of loving gifts (bribery), and shameless self-promotion (“followeth after rewards” – 1:23; Exodus 23:8; Micah 3:11-12). Finally, the leaders had abused and exploited the weak (“the fatherless…the widow” – 1:23d; Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

Closing thoughts – Take a moment and reflect on your nation, its leaders, and government. Are the failed character traits of Judah’s leaders the same as you see in your society–vile, lacking integrity, and abusing the weak?

Warning – The sinful traits of a nation’s leaders reflect its citizens, and demand God’s judgment (1:24-31).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Cursed Be the Man Who Usurps God’s Authority (2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we return to 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26, parallel passages of the same historical events. Though the names of kings might be confusing and their deeds soon forgotten, what is important is that we take from our study of the Scriptures an insight into the ways of the LORD, and His sovereign rule in the affairs of men and nations.

2 Kings 15 – Kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.

His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah.  He was only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, and would reign as king fifty-two years (15:1-2).

2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a “several” [separate] house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).

To understand the cause for the king’s leprosy (which in the Scriptures is a symbol of the dreadfulness of sin), we turn to 2 Chronicles 26.

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah in 2 Kings 15) remarkable achievements are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26, which also gives us the cause for his successes: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah [the high priest], who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he [Uzziah] sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah had been a successful warrior (26:6-8), for “God helped him…and his name spread abroad” (26:7-8). He had reinforced the fortification of Jerusalem, and to secure the land he “built towers in the desert, and digged wells” (essential in the dry, arid wilderness, 26:10). I especially admire the mention of Uzziah’s heart for the agrarian way of life, for we read, “he loved husbandry” (i.e., he loved to farm, (26:10).

Yet, this king with a farmer’s heart, was also a gifted administrator, who numbered and ordered his army, providing for his soldiers the necessary implements for war (26:11-15). Perhaps he was also a gifted engineer, and strategist, for he is said to have “made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal” (26:15a). What those “engines” of war were, is a matter of speculation, but Uzziah achieved the admiration of his friends and foes (26:15b).

Tragically, when he was at the pinnacle of success in his 52-year reign over Judah, we read, “But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16).

Why did the LORD afflict King Uzziah (i.e., Azariah) with leprosy, a dreaded disease that would follow him to his grave?

Uzziah was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy– PRIDE (26:16). Forgetting his successes had come because of the LORD’s blessings, Uzziah’s “heart was lifted up to his destruction” (26:16), and he foolishly usurped the role of the priest and entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).

Bloated with pride from his achievements, the king treaded upon ground God had reserved for the priesthood.

The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy which evidenced on his forehead (26:19). The law regarding leprosy demanded a leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46) to avoid the spread, and seeing the blight on the king’s face, the priests expelled Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20).

As a leper, Uzziah lived the rest of his life in a separate house from the palace. Because he was a leper, he was not buried in a royal tomb, but was instead buried in a field near the place where kings were buried.

Closing thoughts – What a tragedy! The legacy of the great king gave testimony of his skill as a warrior, builder, administrator, but sadly—tainted as a leper. Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah) life, in spite of his achievements, read simply, “He [was] a leper” (26:23).

I wonder what counsel Uzziah might offer, if given an opportunity to counsel a 21st century believer? Perhaps he would warn:

Sinful pride, and one’s failure to honor the Lord and keep His Commandments, will not only risk your legacy, but your life.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Pay Day Shall Surely Come Someday (2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues in 2 Chronicles 24, and you will notice a parallel of events we considered in our prior devotional from 2 Kings 12. Of course, 2 Kings was authored prior to the Babylonian captivity, while 2 Chronicles is believed to have been written by Ezra after the children of Israel returned from exile.

The Reign of Joash (24:1-27)

2 Chronicles 24 gives additional details to the years that Joash reigned as king of Judah. Once again, we are reminded that the king “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). There is also the record that Jehoiada the high priest had taken for Joash “two wives; and he begat sons and daughters” (24:3).

Repairing the Temple (24:6-14)

As we found in 2 Kings 12, Joash had commanded the Temple be repaired (24:4-6). Scripture gives us the cause for those repairs stating: “For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim” (24:7).  The identity of “the sons of Athaliah” is not given; however, they had stripped the Temple of the LORD, and furnished the heathen temple to Baal with its treasures.

The means of collecting monies to rebuild the Temple and pay its workers is recorded (24:8-12), and there was enough given by the people to not only “set the house of God” in order and finish it, but also to make new vessels of gold and silver for offering sacrifices (24:14).

The Death of Jehoiada, the High Priest (24:15-16)

Incredibly, Jehoiada the high priest lived to be 130 years old. What a wonderful, rich life this servant of the LORD had lived. His testimony in Israel was such that he was given a burial worthy of kings.

The Faith of the Saints is Never More Than One Generation from Extinction (24:17-22)

Soon after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah sought his permission to leave “the house [Temple] of the LordGod of their fathers” (24:17), and “the king hearkened unto them” (24:17). What follows is a great tragedy, and a warning to all who call upon the LORD. Jehoiada’s presence in Judah had been a powerful one, and his influence upon king Joash began when he was little more than an infant. The king had faithfully served the LORD under the shadow and guidance of the high priest, but his death revealed the weak spiritual state of the king and leaders of Judah.

With the king’s blessing, the leaders of Judah established groves for idol worship and prostitution (24:18), and provoked the LORD who poured out His wrath “upon Judah and Jerusalem for…their trespass” (24:18). Yet, the LORD sent prophets to call the nation to repent, “but they would not give ear” (24:19).

Then, “the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you” (24:20).

How did the leaders of Judah respond to the preaching of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada? “They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord” (24:21). Even king Joash, who had enjoyed the love and mentoring of Zechariah’s father his whole life, “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his [Zechariah’s] father had done to him, but slew his son” (24:22). As he was dying, Zechariah rebuked the king, “The Lord look upon it, and require it [avenge his murder] (24:22).

Sin Begats Sin, Murder Begats Murder (24:23-27)

At the end of that same year, a Syrian army lay siege to Jerusalem, killing all the leaders among the people, and taking the spoils of Jerusalem to “the king of Damascus” (24:23). Judah’s lust for sin, and the depravity of the people had left the nation so weakened that a mere “small company of men” was all that was necessary for Syria to conquer “a very great host,” for the people “had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers” (24:24).

Closing thoughts – The glorious reign of Joash came to an inglorious end, for he suffered “great diseases,” until “his own servants conspired against him for [shedding] the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed” (24:25). Unlike the honorable burial that had been given to Jehoiada the priest, Joash was not buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (24:25).

Warning: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Warning Knell: Pseudo-Fundamentalists Are Systematically Destroying the Legacy of Biblical Fundamentalism

Heart of A Shepherd followers,

I generally limit posts to daily devotionals on my http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com website. There are, however, some things I come across in my readings that give me pause to not only think, but to share.

Bob Jones University Fashion Show – December 2021

I am currently reading a book authored by a man I do not know and judging from his references, would probably not follow. Nevertheless, Owen Strachan’s recently published book, Christianity and Wokeness, has awakened in me a sensitivity to a frightening reality:

We are not only witnessing a systematic dismantling of our American culture and the broad spectrum of churches in the United States, but a decaying of what has been known for more than a century as historic Bible fundamentalism.

Owen Strachan makes the following observation in his book:

“Though fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals earned a reputation as pugnacious, with the image of the ‘Fightin’ Fundamentalist’ enduring in our time, in actual historical fact, the fundamentalists didn’t fight nearly enough. They lost, and lost, and lost some more. They lost their churches, they lost their seminaries, they lost their missions agencies, they lost their parachurch organizations, and they kept on losing until there was very nearly nothing else left to lose.”1

If my Bible-fundamentalist peers will be honest, for the past two decades we have observed the consequences of compromise when leadership fails to maintain a separatist position in both personal and ecclesiastical fellowship.

Bob Jones University Fashion Design hosted by Fashion Design Seniors, December 2021

Failing to maintain a distinct doctrine of separation has led to a precipitous loss of fundamental churches, schools (Tennessee Temple University, Pillsbury Baptist College, Northland Baptist College, Clearwater Christian College), seminaries (Calvary Seminary), and missions’ agencies.

Unless board members of fundamental churches, schools, universities, mission board agencies, and parachurch organizations (camps) repent for their compromises and purge the leadership leading their institutions, the losses will continue until we have “nearly nothing else left to lose.”2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

1 Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021), 55.
2 Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

How Will You Be Remembered? (2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 11; 2 Kings 12

If today’s Scripture reading sounds familiar, it is because we have reviewed a parallel record in our study of 2 Chronicles 22. Rather than submit an exhaustive study of the same, we will review the personalities and events found in 2 Kings 11 and 12.

2 Kings 11 – Four Historical Events

Athaliah’s Ascension to the Throne of Judah (11:1-3)

After Jehu, the newly crowned king of Israel, slew Ahaziah, the son of Athaliah, she ascended as the queen of Judah. She was the daughter of Israel’s wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel (2 Kings 8:18, 26), and the wife of Joram (also known as Jehoram) who had been king of Judah (2 Chronicles 21).

Receiving news of her son’s death, Athaliah moved quickly to consolidate her rule in Judah, and ordered the deaths of any who could potentially lay claim to the throne, including her own grandchildren. Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah escaped death when his aunt “Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram” (11:2), fled the palace and sought refuge for herself and the young prince in the Temple (11:3).

The Coronation of Joash, King of Judah (11:4-12)

Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah, and the heir to Judah’s throne, was concealed in the Temple for six years, and was under the tutelage and protection of Jehoiada the high priest (11:4). When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada established a covenant with key leaders of the priesthood and the military, and anointed the young prince as king of Judah.

The Assassination of Queen Athaliah (11:13-16)

Six years pass, and Athaliah, hearing the shouts, “God save the king!” rushed to the Temple. There she found her grandson, Joash, wearing the crown of the king, and standing at the pillar that was apparently reserved for the king (11:13-14). “Treason, Treason!” Athaliah shouted, and Jehoiada the high priest commanded she be removed from the Temple, and slain (11:15-16).

A Sacred Covenant (11:14-21)

With the wicked rule of Athaliah ended, “Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people…” (11:17). The temple of Baal and his images were destroyed, and the priest of Baal was killed (11:18). Jehoiada led Joash to the palace, and the young king “sat on the throne of the kings” of Judah, and the nation rejoiced, and Jerusalem enjoyed a season of quiet and peace (11:20).

Closing thoughts – Never underestimate the influence of leadership; whether it be the leaders of a nation, a state, a city, a church, or a school. The observation of Solomon in his proverb still holds true: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

2 Kings 12 – The Reign, and the Shame of Joash (i.e., Jehoash)

As it is with politics throughout history, Judah’s peace and prosperity was not perpetual. Joash (also spelled Jehoash), reigned forty years over Judah, and he honored the LORD, and “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (12:2). Notice the prior phrase, and how the young king remained under the tutelage of the high priest most of his reign in Jerusalem.

Jehoash Ordered the Restoration of the Temple (12:4-16).

Giving us some insight into the years before his reign, the Temple of the LORD had been neglected, and there was a great need for repairs (12:4-5). The king ordered money to be collected and repairs to begin (12:5). Yet, in the twenty-third year of his reign, “the priests had not repaired the breaches of the house” (12:6).

Jehoash challenged the priests, and questioned why they had failed to repair the Temple (12:7). The implication seemed that there had been some dishonesty and mishandling of monies given. The king commanded the priests to “receive no more money of the people” (12:7-8), except that which would be given to those who labored in repairing the Temple (12:9-15).

Hazael, King of Syria, Began to Make War (12:17-21)

Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy (2 Kings 8:10-12), the king of Syria marched through Israel, and laid siege to Jerusalem (12:17). Severely wounded in battle (2 Chronicles 24:25), rather than seek the LORD for deliverance, Jehoash paid a tribute and gave Hazael king of Syria, the treasures of the Temple and his own royal treasures (12:19).

While the king of Syria “went away from Jerusalem,” the king of Judah was weakened, and soon after, Jehoash was assassinated by his own servants (12:20). In his place, Amaziah his son became king (12:21).

Closing thoughtsWhat people remember about us is not how we begin our journey, but how we finish. Joash’s reign as king of Judah began gloriously as a boy; however, we close this chapter on his life, and remember him as a king who compromised with Syria, gave away the treasuries of the Temple, and was slain by his own servants (12:17-21).

Have you thought about how you will be remembered, not only by man, but most importantly by the LORD? All believers should aspire to Paul’s summary of his life and ministry when he wrote: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Political Corruption, and a Day of Judgment (2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9

We have observed the fierce faith and courage of the prophet Elisha in earlier devotionals, and in 2 Kings 8 we will observe his compassionate spirit.

2 Kings 8

Lands Restored to a Shunammite Mother and Son (8:1-6)

Knowing Israel would face years of famine, the prophet encouraged the mother, whose son he had raised from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35), to leave Israel and live “in the land of the Philistines seven years,” which she did (8:2). When the seven years past, she returned to Israel, only to find others had occupied her home and lands in her absence.

Providentially, her appeal to the king coincided with that ruler questioning “Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done” 8:4). As Gehazi told how Elisha had “restored a dead body to life,” the mother whose son had been raised from the dead, entered the king’s presence and appealed to him to restore her lands (8:5). The king asked if the story of her son’s resurrection was true, and she confirmed it was so. “So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now” (8:6).

Elisha Foretells the Ascension of Hazael to be King of Syria (8:7-15)

As the prophet of the LORD, Elisha’s prophetic ministry was not limited to Israel. Elisha journeyed to Damascus, and Benhadad, the king of Syria was sick, and feared he was near death (8:7). The king sent a servant named Hazael to inquire if he would recover from his disease (8:8). That servant came to Elisha, and the prophecy he received was that the king would die, and Hazael, his servant would be king (8:10). Having foretold Hazael’s future, Elisha began to weep, for the LORD had revealed how Israel would suffer under Hazael (8:11-12). Hazael was offended by the prophecy, nevertheless, Elisha assured him he would be king (8:13).

Hazael then returned to king Benhadad’s bedside, and he deceived the king and assured him he would recover from his illness (8:14). Yet, the next day, Hazael took matters into his hands, and smothered the king with a thick cloth which he had dipped in water. Benhadad was dead, and Hazael was king of Syria (8:15).

A Review of the Rise and Fall of Kings in Judah and Israel (8:16-29)

The events in 2 Kings 8:16-29, are a parallel of the same from an earlier study in 2 Chronicles 21-22. Now, Joram, king of Israel, was recovering from wounds he had suffered in battle with Syria (8:28). Ahaziah, who was king of Judah and the son of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, went down to Ramothgilead to visit the king. (8:28-29). (Jezebel, the wicked Queen mother, and wife of Ahab was still alive at this time.)

2 Kings 9

Jehu Anointed King (9:1-10)

While king Joram was away, Elisha, sent a messenger to anoint Jehu to become Israel’s next king (9:2-6). To avenge the deaths of his prophets, Jehu was charged with annihilating the lineage of Ahab, and insure there would be no heir of that wicked king’s family (9:7-10). True to the prophecy of Elijah, Joram was told, “the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her” (9:10).

Jehu’s Insurrection, and the Assassination of Joram and Ahaziah (9:13-27)

With the anointing of the LORD to be king in Israel, Jehu journeyed to Jezreel, determined to slay Joram and claim Israel’s throne (9:13-15). Jehu and his company of soldiers came within sight of Jezreel, and king Joram twice sent messengers to ask him if he had come in peace (9:17-20). Rather than return to the king, the messengers joined Jehu. Then, Joram and Ahazaih ordered their chariots “made ready,” and went out of the city to meet Jehu (9:21). When Joram asked Jehu, “Is it peace?” (meaning, have you come in peace), Jehu replied, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (9:22)

The king of Israel realized he had been betrayed, and warned Ahaziah to flee, as an arrow from Jehu’s bow pierced Joram’s heart (9:23-24). Remembering how Jezebel had murdered Naboth, and Ahab had claimed his vineyard, Jehu ordered Joram be buried in the field of Naboth (9:25-26). Jehu continued the pursuit of Ahaziah king of Judah, and he was also wounded, and died that day at Megiddo where he had fled (9:27).

The Inglorious Death of Jezebel (9:30-37)

Fulfilling the prophecies of Elijah and Elisha, Jehu came to Jezreel, and the wicked Jezebel adorned herself as a powerful queen (9:30). Looking out the window of the palace, she scorned Jehu, but he answered her asking others, “Who is on my side?… 33And he [Jehu] said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall” (9:33). Jehu’s horses and chariots then trampled Jezebel, and left her lifeless body at the city wall (9:33-34). When Jehu ordered Jezebel’s body be buried, he learned the prophecy of Elijah had been fulfilled, for the dogs had eaten her flesh (9:35-37).

Closing thoughts – We have followed the deaths of kings and queens, and the ascension of sons to be king. As it was then, so it is today. We see in our day the same political intrigue and corruption in nations of the world. Wicked men and women continue to aspire to wealth, power, and position and few give little thought to the day when “the dead, small and great, stand before God…[and will be] judged every man according to their works…and whosever [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

Are you ready for the judgment day?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith