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An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Danger of Censorship and An Invitation from the “Heart of A Shepherd”

With readership from around the world, I am humbled and truly challenged by the sacred trust of all who subscribe daily to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

The Danger of Censorship – The Scriptures Are Not “Politically Correct”

If you are a regular reader, you know I tackle difficult, “politically incorrect” topics when they occur in the Scriptures. As a result, www.HeartofAShepherd.com is always in danger of censorship from those who control social media and broadcasts like YouTube. (In August 2020, “Heart of A Shepherd Inc” was banned by Facebook, and cut off from nearly 900 followers.)

Please Subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.comThe only way to guarantee you will continue to have access to daily devotionals from “Heart of A Shepherd Inc” is that you subscribe, and have them sent directly to your email inbox.

If you follow the daily devotionals on your computer, you will notice to the right of this article a “Follow” button, and a place to enter your email address.

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Thank you for following and supporting “Heart of A Shepherd Inc.” I consider your subscription an evidence of your trust.

 Please Subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Email – HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
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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

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide from God (2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1

2 Chronicles 25 is a parallel record of events we considered in a prior study of 2 Kings 14:1-2. For that reason, today’s devotional will focus exclusively on the Book of Jonah.

Have you ever wanted to run away? Ever wanted to flee from pressures, people, pain and problems? I am certain there are many who have entertained the notion to run and hide. The book of Jonah will remind you that our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His people. He is omniscient, and knows your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles (Psalm 139:1). He knows your every thought (Psalm 139:2-3), and every word (Psalm 139:4). He is omnipresent, and His presence is inescapable (Psalm 139:7-10). The Scriptures impart a comforting and inescapable reality: “You can run, but you cannot hide from God.”

Jonah 1

Who was Jonah? (1:1-2)

Jonah was a preacher and prophet of the LORD to northern Israel, and served during the reign of the second Jeroboam (i.e., Jeroboam ben Joash). Passionate and patriotic, his life was dedicated to ministering in Israel, until the LORD interrupted his ministry commanding him to, Arise, go to Nineveh” (1:2).

Nineveh is described in the Scriptures as a “great city,” and one known for its wickedness (1:2). Located on the Tigris River in what is today, modern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, with a population of 120,000 (4:11). In ancient times, the Assyrians were known as a cruel, heartless people who buried their enemies alive, and tortured others by skinning them alive until they died. They were also a great enemy of Israel, and eventually conquered that nation, taking the people captive.

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (1:3-4)

The stench of Nineveh’s wickedness had become so grave, that the LORD had determined He would destroy the city if the people did not repent. Revealing His compassion for sinners, and His longsuffering, the LORD determined to give that great city an opportunity to repent of its sins.Jonah, however, refused to go to Nineveh to call on the people to repent (1:3). Some might argue the prophet feared the notorious cruelty of the nation. Others might suggest he did not want to aid Israel’s enemy, and feared his own people might reject him. Jonah 4:1-2, however, reveals Jonah did not want to prophesy against Nineveh for he knew the LORD was gracious, and feared He would spare the people if they repented of their sins. Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah resigned his calling, took a boat going to Tarshish (the opposite direction of Nineveh), and attempted the impossible…to escape “the presence of the LORD” (1:3).

Jonah’s Spiritual Insensitivity (1:4-6)

We read in verse 5 how Jonah “was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep” (1:5). What a poignant insight into the character of a disobedient servant of God! While the heathen battled the storm, desperate to save their lives, the prophet slept!

The ship’s captain assailed that calloused prophet, and asked in disbelief, What meanest thou, O sleeper?” (1:6) How could he be sleeping when so many lives could be lost? Here we see the spiritual profile of a backslidden believer: Emotionally detached, and distant from God and others.

The Sailor’s Interrogation (1:7-11)

The sailors cast lots, and the LORD sovereignly directed the lot to fall on Jonah (1:7). With the storm raging, the sailors demanded to know the cause of Jonah’s guilt that God had sent such a great storm that threatened all their lives. What evil? “What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (1:8)

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (1:9). He declared he had “fled from the presence of the Lord” and the storm had been sent by God to chasten him (1:10). Fearing for their lives, the sailors questioned Jonah, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” (1:11)

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (1:12-17)

Jonah instructed the sailors saying, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (1:12).

Given the desperate plight of the ship, you would think the calloused sailors would have cast the disobedient prophet overboard immediately; however, they continued to row hard hoping to bring the ship to land (1:13). Realizing all effort was for naught, the sailors cast Jonah into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging” (1:15). God mercifully spared the lives of the sailors, and providentially “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17).

Closing thoughts – Several lessons come to mind in our study of Jonah 1. We have seen God’s love for sinners and His longsuffering. In spite of Nineveh’s wickedness, the LORD sent His prophet to call the people of that city to repent (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16). We will also observe that the LORD is a God of second chances. He lovingly pursued Jonah across the sea, and saved him from drowning. Lastly, consider how a disobedient believer can peril the lives of the unsaved, leaving me to ask:

Are you periling lost souls by your disobedience?

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

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – 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 Scourge of Famine and A Prophecy of Plenty (2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 6; 2 Kings 7

This is the second of two devotionals for today, with the first having focused on 2 Kings 6. This devotional continues the historical narrative that began in 2 Kings 6 with the Syrian invasion of Israel, and the siege of Samara, the capital city. Though there is a chapter break in our Bible, 2 Kings 7 continues the scene in Elisha’s house, where he was confronted not only by the messenger of the king of Israel (6:32), but also by the king himself, of whom Elisha said, “is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him” (6:32-33).

2 Kings 7

Elisha answered the scoffing messenger with the promise on the next day the LORD would provide so abundantly that flour and barley would be inexpensive and available to all Samaria (7:1). One elder of the city questioned Elisha, saying, “Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” (7:2a) Elisha answered the faithless man, and foretold he would see the LORD provide, but he would not live to partake of it (7:2).

Four Starving Lepers (7:3-11)

Leprosy was a terrible scourge in ancient times. Lepers truly understood what it was to “social distance,” and suffered the sorrow and loneliness of being societal outcasts.

Sitting outside the city gate of Samaria (for they would not have been permitted to enter), the lepers realized they would die of starvation, unless someone had mercy on their souls. Therefore, they determined to go to the Syrian encampment and hope they might be shown compassion. They reasoned, “let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (7:4).

Approaching the outer perimeter of the Syrian camp, the lepers found it had been abandoned in haste (7:5). The Scriptures reveal how the LORD had stirred the soldiers of Syria with the sounds of an approaching army and the noise of chariots (7:6a). The Syrians supposed the king of Israel had hired mercenaries (7:6b), and the army had left everything, including “their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life” (7:7).

Overwhelmed at their good fortune, the lepers entered a tent and gorged themselves with food, and then hoarded the silver, gold, and raiment, hiding it for themselves (7:8). They entered a second tent and began the same, until their consciences were pricked, and they remembered those who were starving in Samaria. It was not that they felt guilt for hoarding, but they feared some evil might befall them if they failed to tell others (7:9).

Four Lepers Brought Good Tidings (7:10-20)

The lepers departed, and came to the guard of the gate of Samaria, and told him the good fortune that had befallen Israel, and how the Syrians had abandoned the siege and left all their possessions for spoil (7:10-11). Israel’s king, however, feared the Syrians were lying in ambush, waiting to draw the people out of the city, and take possession of it (7:12).

A servant of the king suggested a small group be sent to scout the countryside, and locate the Syrian army (7:13-14). Agreeing to the proposal, the king sent “two chariot horses” (7:14), who found garments and vessels of the Syrians strewn along the way to the Jordan River (7:15). Returning to the city, the messengers assured the king the Syrians had fled Israel, and cast aside all their provisions in their flight (7:15b). Hearing the news, and realizing spoils of food, abundance of silver, and gold were left by the Syrians, the starving citizens of Samaria rushed out of the city, “and spoiled the tents of the Syrians” (7:16).

Closing thoughts – And so, it came to pass what Elisha had foretold. Flour and barley were sold in the gates of the city for the price he had stated. The man who scoffed that the LORD provide in abundance was trampled underfoot by the people (7:17). He had seen the provision of the LORD, but he did not eat of it as Elisha had prophesied (7:2, 20).

What a tragic ending to a glorious story of God’s care and provision for His people. The man had questioned the LORD’S prophet, but he lived to see all Elisha had prophesied come true. His lack of faith had offended God, and he died seeing the promise fulfilled, but not realizing it for himself.

Will you be numbered among those souls who refuse to trust the LORD, and reject Jesus Christ as Savior? Will you realize too late, your faithlessness has cost you your soul and eternity?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Healing of Naaman the Leper (2 Kings 5)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5

The healing, and conversion of Naaman, the “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1), is one of the most beloved stories of the Old Testament.

Who was Naaman? (5:1-7)

The opening verses of 2 Kings 5 introduce us to a man who served as one of the trusted servants of the king of Syria. He was described as “a great man with his master, and honourable” (5:1a). He was a great warrior, and a national hero of Syria (5:2). Yet, he was afflicted by leprosy, a frightening, infectious disease that was the dread of men in ancient times (5:1).

Providentially, in Naaman’s home was a young Hebrew girl that served his wife as a household slave (5:2). Though she was numbered among some taken as the spoils of war, her heart was tender toward her mistress and master. We are not told how, but the young servant had heard there was a prophet in Samaria, and she expressed to her mistress, “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy” (5:3).

Receiving the words of the young girl, and her faith that the prophet of the LORD might heal him (5:4), the warrior went to the king of Syria who said, “Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment” (5:5).

With gifts in hand, Naaman traveled to Israel with an entourage, for he was the commander of the Syrian army. He came to the king of Israel with a letter from the king of Syria, “saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy” (5:6). Overcome with fear, for the demand that Naaman be healed of leprosy seemed an impossible request, and thus a provocation for conflict between Israel and Syria (5:7).

Elisha’s Intervention and Demand (5:8-13)

News of Naaman’s demand reached Elisha, and the prophet sent a messenger who asked, “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Naaman and his servants journeyed to the Elisha’s home, but the great warrior of Syria was not greeted by the prophet, but by a servant who delivered the message, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10).

Naaman was furious, not only by the slight he had suffered, but the demand that was humiliating to the proud warrior (5:11). He had supposed Elisha should have received him, and would have called on “the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place [where the leprosy was present], and restore his skin (5:11). The thought of washing his skin in the waters of the Jordan River was an offense, and he “turned and went away in a rage” (5:12). As he departed, a brave servant approached Naaman, and reasoned with him, saying, “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (5:13)

Naaman’s Humility, Obedience, and Faith (5:14-19)

The words of that servant quieted Naaman’s anger, and he did as Elisha’s servant had bid him (5:14). Coming out of the waters, his flesh was miraculously made whole as the youthful skin of a child. Naaman returned to Elisha and said to the prophet, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant” (5:15).

What a wonderful confession, and statement of faith! He believed the God of Israel was the One and True God! In gratitude, he urged Elisha to accept the gold, and silver, and garments he had brought as gifts. Elisha, however, refused the gifts, for he would not be named among those prophets who enrich themselves by accepting gifts for that which God alone should be praised (5:16).

Naaman, having acknowledged the God whom Elisha served was “God in all the earth,” made one request: That he might fulfill his duty to the king of Syria, and accompany him when he went to the temple of Rimmon (the Syrian equivalent of Baal, 5:18). Elisha gave his blessing, and Naaman departed (5:19).

The Sin and Covetous Spirit of Gehazi, Servant to Elisha (5:20-27)

The joy and triumph of Naaman’s healing, was soon overshadowed by Gehazi, a greedy, covetous man (5:20). Though the prophet had refused Naaman’s gifts, Gehazi decided to enrich himself, and lied to the Syrian to obtain his favor and gifts (5:21-23). Taking two bags of silver and garments from Naaman, Gehazi hid the gifts in the house (5:24). Elisha then questioned his servant, “Whence camest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither” (5:25).

Closing thoughts – This wonderful story of faith and healing serves as a reminder that the mercies and compassion of the God of heaven are available to all who come to Him in faith.  Tragically, the story ends with a reminder that God punishes sin.

Gehazi had enriched himself with possessions the prophet had refused. He had lied to Naaman and to Elisha, and the judgment for his sins was swift and severe. Elisha warned, Gehazi would bear Naaman’s leprosy, and the consequences would follow his household forever. Gehazi fled Elisha’s presence, and he became “a leper as white as snow” (5:27).

Leprosy became a lifelong reminder to Gehazi and his household that God hates covetousness, and lying lips. 

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Prophet Elisha, and the Spirit of Elijah (2 Kings 3; 2 Kings 4)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 3; 2 Kings 4

Our study of the second book of the Kings continues with the prophet Elisha taking a prominent place in Israel as the man of God. The death of King Ahab, and the ascension of his son Jehoram to the throne of Israel, gave opportunity for the king of Moab to challenge Israel’s demand for tribute (3:4-5).

2 Kings 3

Facing his first challenge as king of Israel, Jehoram numbered his soldiers, and solicited the help of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle?” (3:7a). Remembering the family ties the king of Judah had with the king of Israel (for Jehoshaphat had taken a daughter of Ahab to be the wife of his son), the kings agreed to go to war, saying, “I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses” (3:7).

Agreeing to attack Moab by going south to Edom, and then northward on the westside of the Dead Sea through Edom, the king of Edom joined the kings of Israel and Judah to war against his northern neighbor (3:8). Seven days into their journey, “there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them” (3:9). Three armies and no water was a crisis only God could resolve, and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah asked, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?” (3:10)

A sad irony at this point, it appears none of the kings had sought the LORD’S blessing, and even the godly king of Judah had failed to call a prophet for counsel until the extremity of his need. A servant of Israel’s king answered the king of Judah, and said, “Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah” (3:11).

Elisha, though he had been known as Elijah’s servant, was providentially the counsel of not one king, but three kings who sought his wisdom: “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him” (3:12).

Evidencing the faith and spirit of Elijah, Elisha rebuked Jehoram, the king of Israel, saying, “What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother [i.e. false prophets of Baal]. And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab” (3:13). Elisha asserted, he would give the word of the LORD, not for Jehoram, but because he had respect for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah (3:14).

Sending for a musician, the prophet apparently delivered the word from the LORD with a song, and instructed the kings, “Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches” (3:16). Though the kings would see no wind or sign of rain, they were to prepare reservoirs to contain the waters the LORD promised He would send for the men and their animals (3:17). Elisha promised their obedience and step of faith would be rewarded, and the LORD would deliver the Moabites into the hands of the kings (3:18-21).

When the Moabites heard the kings had come to war against them, they prepared for war and rose up early in the morning. Looking over the desert, “the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood” (3:22). Because the red of the waters looked like blood, the Moabites mistakenly believed the armies had turned on one another (3:23). When they came upon the encampment, the Israelites rose against the Moabites, and drove them back through their own cities (3:24-25).

When the king of Moab realized the battle was lost, he sought to break through a line of Edomite soldiers (3:26). In desperation, and apparently to appease his false gods, the king of Moab sacrificed his eldest son, and the heir to his throne, “and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall” (3:27). Such an act was abhorrent to God’s people, but stirred the Moabites to a “great indignation against Israel,” and the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom “returned to their own land” (3:27)

2 Kings 4

Briefly, notice in 2 Kings 4 that Elisha’s ministry as the prophet of God to Israel was validated by four miracles. The first was multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).   The second miracle brought blessing to a childless woman and her elderly husband with a son as a reward for their household serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  A third miracle raised that same couples’ son from the dead (4:18-37).  Finally, Elisha turned a pot of poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

Closing thoughts – While the miracles performed by Elisha gained him standing in Israel and before the people, they nevertheless had no lasting effect on moving the nation to turn to the LORD.

Repentance and revival come through brokenness, humility, prayer, surrender, and obedience.

2 Chronicles 7:14 14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith