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“The Eyes of the LORD Run to and Fro” (Zechariah 4)

Scripture reading – Zechariah 4

We have considered the rich symbolism of Zechariah’s visions in our study of the Book of Zechariah: 1) A horsemen [a pre-incarnate appearance of Jess Christ] riding a red horse, among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17); 2) Four horns, that represented four world powers (1:18-21); 3) A surveyor [a pre-incarnate appearance of Jess Christ] measuring Jerusalem (2:1-13); and 4) Joshua, the high priest, changing from “filthy garments,” representing Jerusalem’s spiritual cleansing and restoration (3:3-10). Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the fifth vision.

Zechariah 4 – The Fifth Vision

The angel, whom I believe was Christ incarnate, came to Zechariah and finding the prophet sleeping, awakened him and said, “What seest thou?” (4:2)

Zechariah observed and described “a candlestick all of gold [a golden lampstand], with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes [funneling oil] to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: 3And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof [providing oil]” (4:2-3).

Having described the vision, Zechariah wondered at the meaning and asked, “What are these, my lord?” (4:4) Answering a question with a question, the angel asked Zechariah, “Knowest thou not what these be?” (4:5) The prophet was then made to understand the vision was a message he was to convey to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah (4:6-14).

An Interpretation of the Symbols of the Vision (4:2-3, 14)

When it comes to symbols in the Bible, one must interpret scripture with scripture to understand both the meaning and application. We know the lampstand was indicative of light and reminds us of the golden lampstand (menorah) that was in the tabernacle, and the Temple, and I believe was a picture of Christ who is “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5). The seven bowls of the lampstand were fed by seven pipes (4:2), through which oil passed from two live trees (4:3). I believe the two olive trees (4:3) were symbolic of the offices of the high priest (Joshua) and the political leader of Judah (Zerubbabel). Verse 14 would seem to prove that interpretation for there we read, “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (4:14).

The Purpose of the Vision (4:6-11)

As he set his heart to build the Temple, Zerubbabel found he was facing opposition from within and without. Should he lean upon his own strength and resources, the building of the Temple was doomed to fail. Facing a “mountain” of discouragement (4:6a), the message from the LORD to Zerubbabel was summed up in this: “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (4:6b).

The LORD assured Zerubbabel, a “great mountain [would] become a plain” before him (4:7a), and with His blessing, the foundation would be laid, and “His hands shall also finish it” (4:9). After all, “the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth” were upon Zerubbabel (4:10).

Closing thought – Believer, apart from the LORD’s blessing, there is nothing we can do of lasting value when we face “mountains” of opposition. Yet, humbling ourselves before the LORD, we can trust He will not only bless, but will strengthen us. In the words of Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”(Philippians 4:13).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The LORD Has Chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

This is the second of two daily devotionals. The prophet Zechariah was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Both prophets ministered in Jerusalem during the post-exilic era (Ezra 1:1-2). Zechariah, a young prophet at the time, had the same task as Haggai: To challenge and exhort God’s people to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

While the prophecies of Haggai focused on encouraging the Jews to finish rebuilding the Temple, the prophecies of Zechariah had a far-reaching context. In fact, the prophecies of the latter were not only applicable to the Jews of his day, but to all believers who live in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ when He returns as the Messiah King.

Zechariah 1:1-6 – Zechariah’s Commission

Zechariah announced with exactness the date his ministry as prophet began in Jerusalem, for it was “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (520 B.C.,  1:1), and two months after the commencement of Haggai’s ministry (Haggai 1:1). Born in Babylon during the captivity, Zechariah’s ministry was to convey to the Jews the LORD’s displeasure for neglecting His house (the Temple, 1:2). Their failure provoked God’s wrath; however, the LORD was longsuffering. He commanded Zechariah to say to the people, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (1:3).

To enlighten His prophet, the LORD came to Zechariah in eight nighttime visions. The visions gave the prophet a glimpse of future blessings, and the LORD’s promise to pour out His glory on His people if they would repent of their sins and turn to Him. Briefly, today’s devotional will consider the first and second visions.

The first vision: Horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17)

Zechariah saw a “man riding upon a red horse…among the myrtle trees…and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white” (1:8). While the number of horses is not given, we notice the horses had riders (1:10-11). I believe the man on the red horse was “the angel of the LORD” (1:8-12), a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Zechariah 1:11 reveals the vision occurred at a time when the nations of the world were at peace (the Persians having subdued the nations of the Babylonian empire). The Jews, having served Babylon in captivity for seventy years, were not at peace (1:12).

 

Indicating a season of judgment would come upon the Gentile nations for their harsh treatment of His people, Zechariah cried out against the heathen and declared for the LORD, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease [peace] (1:14-15). Then, the LORD promised to show mercy, and prosper His people if they would rebuild His Temple (1:16). What a joy it would have been for the impoverished Jews to hear Zechariah prophesy, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).

The second vision: “Four horns” representing four world powers (1:18-21)

We have noted in earlier devotionals that horns were symbols of strength, power, and authority. The four horns represented four Gentile nations that had and would “scatter Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (1:18-19). Historically and prophetically, we know those nations were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (reminding us of Nebuchadnezzar’s image which represented the same nations, Daniel 2). In the vision, the LORD sent “four carpenters” [builders] who were to “cast out” or cut off the “horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it” (1:21).

Closing thoughts – The four carpenters were not identified, but we have here a wonderful reminder how the LORD had not forgotten His people, nor the wrongs they suffered. God was waiting for the Jews to repent of their sins, that He might defeat their enemies, and overwhelm them with His blessings.

Is the LORD waiting on you? He promises to bless His people when they confess their sins, repent, and turn to Him.

Psalm 51:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

The Book of Ezra revealed there were adversaries who disrupted, and for 15 years curtailed the work on the Temple. They had made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3). Those same enemies accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  When Darius became king of Persia, the enemy accused the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6). This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Haggai 2

The LORD countered the voices of the enemies and critics, and sent His prophets (Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra 5:1), who encouraged the people saying, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel (the civic leader), saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (2:4).

Assuring the people the LORD would fill the new Temple with His glory (2:7), Haggai declared, “8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. 9The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (2:8-9).

How did the LORD fill the second Temple with His glory, especially since there is no record of such an event as it was with Solomon’s Temple? (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Though the second Temple lacked the beauty and splendor of the first, unbeknownst to the Jews, the LORD Himself would one day grace its halls with His bodily presence. Jesus, the incarnate, virgin born Son of God would be dedicated there as an infant (Luke 2:25-38). As a boy, he would be found both listening and questioning the rabbis regarding the Word of the LORD in the Temple court (Luke 2:46-52). As a man, Christ brought to the Temple a message of hope and peace for all men (2:9; Luke 4:17-22).

A Question of Holiness and Contamination (2:10-19)

Haggai’s fourth message to God’s people was recorded in the closing verses of this brief book. Stirred by the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were building the Temple with a zeal that would finally see it completed. The sermon was delivered two months after the third message, and the subject was on God’s stipulations for purity and holiness (as opposed to that which is unholy and “unclean,” 2:12-13). The implication of the lesson was, the LORD only accepts and blesses that which is righteous (2:14). When God’s people sin, they sacrifice His blessings, and invite His judgment (2:15-19).

A Challenge to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)

On the same day he delivered the fourth message to the people building the Temple, Haggai had a final revelation for Zerubbabel, the leaders and governor of Judah (2:20-23). Who was Zerubbabel? He was a leader of the tribe of Judah, but more importantly, he was of the linage of David, and named in the lineage of Christ (2:6; Matthew 1:12-13).

The LORD made a far-reaching promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth” (2:21). Babylon had been overthrown, and Persia ruled the world, but the LORD reminded Zerubbabel He alone was sovereign and nations rise and fall within His divine providence (2:22). No king or kingdom is so strong that the LORD will not overthrow and “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen” (2:22).

Closing thought – Haggai closed with a wonderful, Messianic promise (2:23). The LORD revealed Zerubbabel was chosen by “the LORD of hosts,” and one of his lineage would bear the “signet” (typically a ring monarchs used to seal covenants or legal documents in wax). The Messiah would come not only through David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16), but also through Zerubbabel, for he had been chosen! (2:23).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A New Beginning (Ezra 6, Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 6, Psalm 137

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

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

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

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

Ezra 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Great Tribulation and Armageddon (Daniel 12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 12

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

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

Daniel 12

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Confusion (12:8-9)

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

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

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

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

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

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

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

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Décor of the Temple (41:16-21)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Two Adulteress, One Pot of Boiling Scum, and the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (Ezekiel 23; Ezekiel 24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23; Ezekiel 24

Our Scripture reading, consisting of two chapters (Ezekiel 23 and 24), are introduced with Ezekiel recounting, 1The word of the Lord came…unto me, saying, Son of man” (23:1; 24:1-2). “Son of man” reminded Ezekiel, though he was a priest by lineage, and a prophet by calling, he was nevertheless a man with the weaknesses and failings of men. “Son of Man” was also a frequent title Christ used of Himself (Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 11:19; Mark 2:28; Luke 19:10), reminding His followers He was the “Son of God” by nature (John 1:14; 3:16; Galatians 4:4-5), and the “Son of Man” by birth (being conceived by the virgin Mary).

Ezekiel 23

Two Sisters Who Became Adulterers (23:1-21)

The LORD came to Ezekiel with a parable of two sisters, and a mother (23:2). The mother was symbolic of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (23:2), and the daughters represented the divided kingdoms. Samaria, identified as the elder sister “Aholah,” symbolized the ten northern tribes known as Israel (23:4). The city of Jerusalem was identified as “Aholibah,” and symbolized Judah, the southern kingdom (23:4)

The Sins and Wickedness of Samaria (23:4-10)

Samaria and Jerusalem were guilty of spiritual adultery, for they had turned from the LORD to the gods of other nations. Forsaking her covenant with the LORD, Samaria turned to Assyria, and embraced that nation’s idols with their wicked, immoral practices (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). A century had passed since the LORD gave Samaria over to Assyria, and that northern Israel was stripped of its wealth, and her sons and daughters taken into captivity (23:9-10)

The Sins and Wickedness of Jerusalem (23:11-21)

Jerusalem followed in the sins of Samaria, portrayed in Ezekiel 23 as that nation’s sister (23:11). Privileged to have the Temple representing the presence of the LORD in her midst, the sins and wickedness of Jerusalem exceeded those of Samaria. Ezekiel was to declare, Jerusalem “was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms” (23:11).

Like Samaria, Jerusalem turned from the LORD, sought the favor of Assyria (2 Kings 16:5-18; Isaiah 7:1-25), and defiled herself with the idols of that heathen nation (23:13). When Assyria fell to Babylon, Jerusalem turned to the idols of that nation, and lusted for the great men of the Chaldeans (23:14-16). Rejecting the LORD, the kings of Jerusalem had flirted with Babylon like an adulterous woman (23:15-16). Rather than favor, Babylon abused Jerusalem, shamed and humiliated the people (23:17-18). Failing to turn to the LORD, the king of Jerusalem turned to Egypt for help and failed (23:19-21; 2 Kings 23:26-24:2).

God Determined to Judge Jerusalem and Judah (23:22-35)

As with Samaria, so it was with Jerusalem, for the LORD determined that city would be judged for her wickedness and spiritual idolatry. Ezekiel prophesied the LORD would bring a great army against Jerusalem (23:22-23), and fulfill the judgment He had determined against the city (23:24). The soldiers of Babylon would show no mercy to the people, and would take their children captive (23:25-29). As the cup of God’s wrath would be poured out, Jerusalem would fall (23:30-35).

Consequences of Sin, and the Righteous End of God’s Judgment (23:36-49)

Lest any question God’s justice, Ezekiel declared the sins of Jerusalem (23:36-42), and God’s judgment (23:43-47). Why did the LORD bring upon His people all of this sorrow and suffering? It was to the end they might feel the weight of their sins, repent and know the God of Israel is “the Lord God” (23:48-49).

Ezekiel 24 – A Boiling Caldron

Briefly, Ezekiel 24 records the parable of a boiling pot, that represented God’s final judgment on Jerusalem. It was on the day the LORD came to Ezekiel with the parable (24:1), that Nebuchadnezzar began his final siege of Jerusalem (24:2). The parable was addressed to the rebels of Judah (24:3), and the boiling pot represented Jerusalem (“the blood city, 24:6a). The fire in the parable identified the wrath of God’s judgment, and the scum in the pot symbolized the sin and wickedness of Jerusalem (24:6-11). In their rebellion, the people of Jerusalem became a filthy, lewd people whose sins stipulated God’s judgment (24:12-13). Indeed, until His justice was satisfied, God’s judgment would not cease (23:14).

The Sign from the Death of Ezekiel’s Wife (24:15-27)

Our devotion concludes, not with a parable, but a sign. The LORD revealed to Ezekiel: “Son of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire [Ezekiel’s wife] of thine eyes with a stroke: yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep, neither shall thy tears run down” (24:15-16). Ezekiel’s refusal to mourn the death of his wife in public, was to serve as a sign for the people to refrain from mourning the news of Jerusalem’s fall (24:17-23).

Closing thoughts (24:24-27) – Why were the people to abstain from mourning in public, after they received the news of Jerusalem’s fall?

They were not to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the city, but rather the sins and wickedness of the people that had necessitated its ruin it (24:24-25). To that end, it was the LORD’s desire that His people would, in the midst of their private sorrows, come to hear and know Him as LORD (24:27).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

God Sought for a Man, and Found None (Ezekiel 22)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 22

The sins and wickedness of Jerusalem is the subject of Ezekiel 22. How could one nation, given the favor of the LORD like none other, sink to the depths of sin and depravity we find in this chapter? It is both frightening and convicting, when you realize how Judah’s sins parallel the sins of the 21st century. I was moved to sadness as I studied Ezekiel 22. I found myself sorrowing not only for Israel in history past, but for my own day and nation.

Indictment of Jerusalem and Her Citizens (22:1-22)

Today’s Scripture begins with the LORD summoning His prophet to serve as His prosecutor, and asking him, son of man, wilt thou judge [denounce; pass judgment], wilt thou judge the bloody city? (22:2a). The LORD answered His question, and asserted, “yea, thou shalt shew her all her [Jerusalem’s] abominations” (22:2b).

As the prosecutor of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was to charge the people of that city with two crimes (22:3): Violence (for “the city sheddeth blood”), and Idolatry (for the people had rejected the LORD, and made idols). The consequences of Jerusalem’s sins were fourfold: The LORD declared the people to be guilty, defiled, worthy of death (“for her sins had “caused [her] days to draw near,” and “a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries” (22:4-5).

Twelve National Sins (22:6-12)

The egregious nature of Jerusalem’s sins were declared boldly by the LORD through His prophet. They had become a murderous, abusive people (22:6), whose sons and daughters dishonored their parents (22:7a). They oppressed the helpless (who were non-Hebrews in their midst, as well as orphans and widows, 22:7b), despised those things that were holy, and desecrated the Sabbath (22:8). They slandered, and were immoral (22:9). They committed incest with their fathers (22:10), and adultery with those who were not their wives (22:11). Their families were scandalously incestuous (22:11), and men bribed to kill, charged exorbitant interest, and blackmailed others for gain (22:12).

God’s Judgment (22:12c-22)

Jerusalem’s wickedness was summed up in this: They had forsaken and “forgotten” the LORD (22:12c), and their sins demanded His judgment. The LORD clapped His hands at the people in disgust, for they provoked Him to anger with their fraudulent gain (22:13). Once a powerful and valiant people, Judah had become a weak, cowardice people (22:14). The LORD had determined to scatter His people among the nations of the world (22:15a), and declared He would consume their wickedness in His wrath (22:15b). All this would be done, that the people might confess and acknowledge Him as “the LORD” (22:16). In the fire of His wrath, He would purify His people of their sins (22:18).

They had become as worthless dross, impure and unholy (22:18). In His wrath, the LORD drove His people to seek shelter in Jerusalem (22:19), and that city became a boiling caldron of fiery judgment (22:20-21; 2 Kings 25:9). To what end would this great judgment fall upon Jerusalem?

Ezekiel 22:2222As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you.

Indictment of Jerusalem’s Leaders (22:23-31)

Judah’s and Jerusalem’s leaders had failed the people, and already the LORD had withheld the rains that would lead to thirst and famine (22:23). King Zedekiah and his court had become ravenous lions, devouring the people, robbing them by corrupt means, whose violence and wars made many widows (22:25).

The priests, the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem, had violated the Laws and Commandments, and desecrated the Temple with idols and sacrifices (22:25). They failed to sanctify that which was holy, nor did they keep the sabbaths (22:26).

The “princes” (political leaders) of Jerusalem and Judah were like ravenous wolves, shedding the blood of the innocent to increase their “dishonest gain” (22:27).

There were false prophets in the midst of the people who “daubed” the sins of the people with “untempered morter” (thus whitewashing their sins). They lied, made empty promises, and deceived, claiming to speak the words of the LORD (22:28).

Finally, there was an indictment of the people themselves. Like their leaders, they were guilty of extortion, theft, oppressing the poor and needy, and treating unjustly the non-Jewish people in their midst (22:29).

Closing thoughts – Was there any hope for Jerusalem? Were there any whom God might use to condemn the sins of the nation, and call the people to repent? The answer to those questions is summed up in this:

Ezekiel 22:3030And I sought for [searched and attempted to find] a man among them, that should make up the hedge [a wall], and stand in the gap [in the breach] before me for the land, that I should not destroy it [to annihilate; desolate]: but I found none [no one].

One man might have made the difference for Jerusalem; but the king, the leaders, and the people had rejected and scorned Jeremiah. Tragically, all was lost and the wrath of God would not be appeased (22:31).

Are there any willing to answer God’s call in the 21st century, and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap?”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed.” (Ezekiel 6; Lamentations 3:22)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 6

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we will consider one chapter, Ezekiel 6. The LORD came to His prophet (6:1), addressing him once again as “Son of man,” Ezekiel was given a mandate. “Set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them” (6:2).

The Destruction of the Places of Idol Worship (6:2-7)

Why prophesy against the mountains? The mountains were one of Israel’s and Judah’s principal places of idolatry. Indeed, from reading verse 3, it appears the whole countryside of the nation was full of places of idol worship. The mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys were all places of idolatry where all manner of evil was committed in the name of worship (6:3).

What was Ezekiel to prophesy towards those places, and the people who worshipped idols? In a word—judgment! The LORD warned, “Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places…your altars…and your images shall be broken” (6:3b-4).

Not only would the idols be destroyed, but those who worshipped and placed their idols above the Creator, would be slain and their bodies stacked among the idols. Adding an even greater humiliation, the bones of the dead would find their resting place scattered among their broken altars (6:4-5). Of those  who rejected the LORD, every vestige of their lives would be destroyed. Their homes and cities would be laid waste (6:6b). With none to bury them, the “slain [would] fall in the midst” (6:7).

The Promise of Mercy to a Remnant (6:8-10)

In His mercy, God spared a few, a remnant, who would be scattered among the nations (6:8). Those who were spared, would remember how they sinned against the LORD, and broke His heart with their idolatry (6:9). They would loathe their wickedness, and all they suffered, and would remember, “know” and confess the God of Israel is LORD (6:10).

The Cause for God’s Judgment (6:11-14)

To demonstrate God’s disgust with the “evil abominations” of His people, Ezekiel was to, “smite with [his] hand, and stamp with [his] foot” (6:11). Because they sinned against the LORD, the children of Israel would die “by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (6:11).

Closing thoughts – Why would all this come upon Judah? Why would so many perish, and their lifeless bodies be left among their altars in hills, mountains, and groves? (6:13).

It was to the end the people would know the LORD is God “when their slain men [would] be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.” (6:13)

What have we learned? Though the LORD is merciful, He is also just and has no tolerance for sin!  In the words of Jeremiah,

Lamentations 3:22–2322It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Heavenly Glory: The Prophet Ezekiel’s Call (Ezekiel 1)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 1

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, and having concluded our study of the prophecies and lamentations of Jeremiah, we move to “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Jeremiah served the LORD as prophet to Judah, and his ministry had spanned the reigns of the last five kings of that nation. Jeremiah was the elder statesman of God’s prophets, and Ezekiel would have known of the old prophet. At the age of 25, Ezekiel had been taken from Judah to Babylon, and was numbered among the first captives (he and Daniel were contemporaries, but there is no record the two men knew one another).

The end of Jeremiah’s ministry, which came to a close with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity, marked the beginning of Ezekiel’s ministry. His ministry began in Babylon with him foretelling the imminent judgment of God and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He would spend his life in Babylon, calling the Jews to repent of their sins and turn to God. His task was to remind the people the LORD would keep covenant with Israel, and when 70 years were accomplished, they would be restored to their homeland.

Ezekiel’s Calling (1:1-3)

Being a man of priestly stock (for his father was a priest), Ezekiel was 30 years old when the LORD called him to serve as both priest and prophet (30 years old being the age men were ordained to the priesthood, 1:1-2). With knowledge of the Law and Commandments, trained for the Temple and its rituals, and knowledge of the office and work of the priesthood, Ezekiel was eminently qualified to serve his people as a spiritual leader. Ordained a priest, and called to be a prophet, Ezekiel would minister to a discouraged people who were living in the shadow of God’s judgment, and serving a heathen people.

A Heavenly Vision (1:3-28)

Like the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6), who preceded him more than a century (760-681 BC), Ezekiel’s calling was a vision of God’s glory with the Lord sitting on the throne of heaven (1:1). Describing the vision, Ezekiel testified, “I was among the captives by the river of Chebar [Kedar], that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (1:1b).  Seeing the heavens rolled back as a scroll, we read, “3The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest…and the hand of the Lord was there upon him” (1:3). Ezekiel 1 records three visions that together gave Ezekiel an appreciation of “the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (1:28b).

Humbled by the majesty of the LORD, Ezekiel writes, “I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28c). You will notice that fire has a prominent place in Ezekiel’s visions (in the Scripture, fire is indicative of holiness, as well as, the judgment of God). Ezekiel testified, “I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a [burning] fire infolding itself [revolving circle of fire], and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber [i.e. molten bronze], out of the midst of the fire” (1:4).

Vision of Cherubim (1:5)

Ezekiel had a vision of four “living creatures” (1:5), that are later identified in Ezekiel 10 as cherubim, that attended the throne of God (1:5-14; 10:1-22). What are cherubim? They are “living creatures [beings]” (1:5, 14, 15; 10:15). Ezekiel described them as having “the likeness of a man” (1:5).

Cherubim were angels who were guardians of the Tree of Life and stood guard at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:24). Two golden cherubim were on the top of the Ark of the Covenant facing one another on the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:18-20). David said of the LORD, “He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10). We also find cherubim are stationed at the base of the throne of God (Ezekiel 10:1, 20).

Physical Appearance of Cherubim (1:5-9)

The cherubim were described as having four faces, like that “of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle” (1:6, 10; 10:13). (Scholars suggest the faces represent various attributes of the cherubim. The face of the man symbolizes intelligence, the lion physical strength, the ox a service animal, and the eagle swiftness.) Briefly, notice the cherubim were described as having legs with “a calf’s foot” (1:7), the “hands of a man” (1:8), and wings (1:9).

What purpose did Cherubim serve? (1:12-14)

The cherubim were to serve the LORD wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:12). They were described as going “straight forward” and never turning aside from their ministry (1:12). Their movement was as a fiery torch, and as swift as bright flashes of lightning (1:13-14).

A Symbolic Picture of God’s Heavenly Throne Upon Four Wheels (1:15-21; 10:9)

The cherubim were described as each having a wheel that supported God’s throne. I suggest the wheels represented God’s readiness to move swiftly to meet the needs of His people. It was by means of the wheels that the cherubim moved to accomplish their tasks, wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:19-20). Implying the omniscience and omnipresence of God, the wheels of the cherubim are described as having an inner rim, like an inner circle “full of eyes (1:18).

The Sound of Cherubim’s Wings (1:22-25)

Above the heads of the cherubim was an expanse Ezekiel described as the color of “crystal” (i.e., like sparkling ice, 1:22). The movement of the cherubim wings was so loud, Ezekiel writes, “…I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host [a great army]: when they stood, they let down their wings” (1:24). When God spoke, the wings of the cherubim were suddenly stilled (1:25).

The Glory of God Sitting on His Sapphire Throne (1:26-28)

Ezekiel portrays God in the likeness of a man, sitting on a throne of “sapphire stone” (1:26). From his waist up, God’s appearance was like a fiery molten metal (1:27a). From his waist down, He had the “appearance of fire” (1:27b). The brightness of God’s glory appeared as a brilliant rainbow in the sky (1:28a).

Closing thought – How did Ezekiel respond when he gazed upon the heavenly glory of God, and heard Him speak? Ezekiel testified, “When I saw it, I fell upon my face.” (1:28).

Tomorrow’s devotional will continue our study of Ezekiel’s divine calling and commission.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith