Tag Archives: Morality

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“For Whom the LORD Loveth He Chasteneth” (Ezekiel 23-24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23-24

Our Scripture reading brings us to the final crisis that Ezekiel has long warned would come: The final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved capital city of Judah and all Israel. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Ezekiel 23.

Ezekiel 23 – A Tale of Two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah

The account of the final days before the fall of Jerusalem and the eradication of both Israel and Judah as nations, is vivid and graphic (23:1-2). In Ezekiel 23 we have the description of Israel and Judah symbolically represented as two sisters who had committed spiritual “whoredoms in Egypt…in their youth” (23:3).

Aholah, identified as the elder sister, was a symbolical name for the nation of Israel (identified in this passage as Samaria, the capital city of the ten northern tribes). Aholibah was the younger of the sisters and was a symbolical name for Judah, the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem (23:4).

Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) are portrayed as sisters who had rebelled, broken covenant with the LORD, and turned to other lovers (i.e. alliances with other nations). Aholah (Israel), awed by the strength and power of Assyria had made an alliance with that nation and turned from the LORD (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). Aholibah (Judah), Aholah’s sister, had sought alliance with Assyria  and also courted the favor of Chaldea (Babylon). King Hezekiah had foolishly displayed to Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassadors the wealth and treasuries of his palace and the Temple (23:11-21; Isaiah 39:1-8).

When Aholibah (Judah) realized the evil intent of Chaldea (Babylon), she appealed to Egypt for aid, but to no avail (23:21; 2 Kings 23:26-30, 31-24:2). Thus, the “lovers,” Assyria and Chaldea, had ravaged both Israel and Judah with their “chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people,” and stripped those nations bare of their wealth and people (23:22-29). God’s judgment against His people and the devastation of Israel and Judah would be an astonishment to the nations who would scorn and disparage them (23:32).

What sins had Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) committed against the LORD that would justify so great a judgment? (23:37-49)

The judgment of Israel and Judah was just because those nations had broken their covenant with God and committed spiritual adultery (23:37). The people had defiled the Temple with idols, forsaken their Sabbaths (23:38), and committed the ultimate act of wickedness and depravity: They had sacrificed their children to Moloch, and on the same day entered the Temple to worship (23:39; note Ezekiel 16:21).

The destruction of Israel and Judah was set and the horror of the people’s sufferings had been determined (23:47). The final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had begun and the days were numbered.

Ezekiel 24:2 – Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.

Why did God chasten and punish His people? Not only because He loved them, but so they would know He is “the LORD GOD” (23:49).

Hebrews 12:6 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

There was No Man, No Intercessor (Isaiah 59-63)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 59-63

We continue our chronological reading of the Scriptures with Isaiah 59-63 serving as today’s Bible reading assignment. My devotional commentary will be limited to Isaiah 59.

Isaiah 59 is a message to the wicked and serves as a terrible indictment against the sins of the nation. Consider several principal points we can take from this chapter.

The first, God longed to save Israel from judgment, but the people were unwilling to repent of their sins (59:1-2).

God was able and willing to save the people, if they cried out to Him (59:1). However, the sins of the people had alienated them from the LORD (59:2), and He refused to hear their impenitent prayers (Psalm 66:18).

The sins of Israel, like the sins of our nation, demanded God’s judgment (59:3-8).

As a whole, the society of Isaiah’s day was cruel and perverse. The hands of the people were “defiled with blood.” They were liars (59:3). There was no justice in the land and none who desired truth (59:4a). The people had put their faith in liars and conspiracies (“mischief”) that they might continue in their sin (59:4b).

They were like “cockatrice’ eggs” (i.e. newly hatched poisonous vipers), ruining and killing (59:5-6). They raced to commit evil and gave little thought to the blood they would shed or the wake of destruction they had caused (59:7). They knew nothing of peace, cared nothing for justice, and mislead any who followed them (59:8).

Isaiah 59:9-11 lists the effects of a nation’s wickedness upon society:

Lawlessness and spiritual darkness (59:9); despair and hopelessness (“grope for the wall like the blind” – 59:10); hostility (“roar all like bears” – 59:11) and mourning (“mourn sore like doves” – 59:11); injustices (“we look for judgment, but there is none” – 59:11), and despair (“salvation…is far off” – 59:11).

There was hope for Israel, but only if that nation confessed and repented of their sins (59:12), hypocrisy (59:13), injustices (59:14), abuse and persecution of the righteous (59:15).

The LORD looked upon Israel and mourned “that there was no intercessor” (Isaiah 59:16). Seeing “no man” to intercede, the LORD was moved to bring “salvation…and His righteousness” (59:16). That salvation would be offered through the suffering Messiah who would be rejected (53:3), sacrificed “as a lamb to the slaughter” (53:7), and “bare the sin of many, and (would make) intercession” (53:12).

The Second Coming of Christ, His Millennial Kingdom on earth, and His judgment of the wicked is prophesied (59:17-21).

Christ will judge the wicked on the basis of His righteousness (59:17a) and will exercise vengeance on those who rejected Him (59:17b-18). Christ will return to reign as “Redeemer…to Zion” (in Jerusalem) and He will rule those who have repented of their sins (59:19-20).

Christ’s return as a Righteous King and Judge is sealed as a perpetual covenant: “My spirit…my words…shall not depart…from henceforth and for ever” (59:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“God’s Longsuffering Love” (Hosea 1-7)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1-7

Today’s Scripture reading is the first seven chapters of the Book of Hosea. Written by the prophet Hosea, he was the first of the “minor prophets” in the Old Testament (minor in the sense their writings are much shorter than those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel).

There is a general consensus that Hosea’s public ministry spanned 60 years or more, beginning in 748 B.C. His ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

Hosea’s preaching, though sometimes mentioning Judah, was predominately concentrated on the northern ten tribes known as Israel. While maintaining some outward form of worshipping the LORD, Israel had rejected God’s commandments and turned to worshipping and sacrificing to idols.

The Book of Hosea records the ministry of one faithful man who courageously warned His people of God’s imminent judgment should they continue in their wickedness and rebellion. I will limit today’s commentary to Hosea 1-3.

Hosea 1

The book of Hosea opens with the LORD commanding the prophet to, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms” (1:2a). Why such an incredulous command to His prophet?

The LORD was using Hosea’s marriage to a woman who would commit adultery as an illustration of His unfailing love for Israel whom He said had “committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (1:2b).

There is some debate if the woman named Gomer (1:3), whom Hosea took as his wife, was a prostitute before he married her. Regardless, the fact is that the prophet took a wife, who after bearing three children (1:3-4, 6, 8-9), left her husband, committed adultery, and became a prostitute.

For the sake of interpretation, Hosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” is a model of the LORD. Gomer, Hosea’s wife, is a picture of Israel who had broken her covenant with the LORD and turned to serve and worship idols.

Gomer gave birth to three children and their names were reminders of Israel’s broken covenant with God. The firstborn was a son named Jezreel (meaning “God will scatter”- 1:3-4), and foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth. The second born was a daughter named Loruhamah (meaning “love withdrawn” or “not loved” – 1:6). Her name is a reminder that, while the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional, when the people disobeyed and broke their covenant with Him, He withdrew His loving protection of them as a people. The third born was Loammi (meaning “not my people” – 1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery and the LORD had determined to divorce His people.

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising that, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them, and would one day gather them together in the land (1:11). In His grace, the LORD promised, “in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 2

Hosea was heartbroken when Gomer left him and he pled with his children, “Plead with your mother…let her therefore put away her whoredoms” (2:2). Gomer, like Israel, would not heed Hosea’s pitiful plea for her to return to her husband and children (2:3-23).

Hosea 3

Hosea 3 uses the prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer as a backdrop to a portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. In the same way, Gomer had committed whoredom, breaking her marriage covenant and rejecting her husband’s love (3:1), Israel had left the LORD, broke her covenant with Him, and committed spiritual whoredom with the gods of her pagan neighbors.

In spite of her transgressions and the shame she had brought upon her household, God commanded Hosea to find his wife and bring her back to his home.  Incredibly, Hosea found Gomer wasted away and being sold in the slave market (3:2) where he purchased her for half the price of a common household slave: “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley” (3:2).  Taking his adulterous wife home, Hosea promised to be her husband and renew their marriage covenant (3:3).

Hosea’s love for Gomer was a demonstration of God’s forgiving, unconditional love and compassion for Israel (3:4-5). Israel had forsaken the LORD and committed spiritual whoredom; however, Hosea prophesied that though Israel would be without a king for many days, God would restore the people to the land “in the latter days” (3:5).

The “latter days” of Israel’s restoration, not only as a nation (which took place briefly after the Babylonian captivity, and then again in 1948 as a modern state), is still future. Though the Jews are back in their land, yet Israel as a believing people is not. In the future they will come to “seek the LORD their God” (3:5a) with all their heart and devotion and come to “fear [revere] the LORD and His goodness” (3:5b).

The “latter days” or the “last days” (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2) are still future; however, the day is coming when the LORD Jesus Christ will sit on David’s throne as Judge and King of kings (Matthew 19:28; Luke 1:32-33).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Oh Lord, Hear Our Cry and Heal Our Land” (1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 17 complement one another with historic details that indicate the presence and providence of God’s guiding hand in human history.

1 Kings 16 – A Succession of Wicked Kings in Israel

While Asa, the third king of Judah, reigned for forty-one years and that nation enjoyed a season of revival and peace (15:11-14), the northern ten tribes known as Israel, went through a succession of wicked kings who doomed that nation to all manner of sin, idolatry, and violent assassinations (1 Kings 16).

Knowing God uses the penchant of wicked men to work His design for man, the LORD sent the prophet Jehu to remind Baasha that he was king because God had ordained it (16:2a). That does not mean God ordained the assassination of the former king, but that he used Baasha’s intent to accomplish His divine purpose.

1 Kings 16 gives us a record of a rapid succession of wicked kings. King Baasha died and his son Elah became the fourth king of Israel (16:6-8). Elah reigned only one year before he was slain in an assassination plot by Zimri (16:10-20). Zimri became the fifth king of Israel, but took his own life by setting fire to the palace when Omri laid siege to the city (16:16-20). A brief division of Israel as a nation followed with half the nation following Tibni (16:21-22) and the other half following after Omri (16:21-23).

After Tibni’s death, Omri united Israel, made himself king (16:23-24), setting the stage for the rise of the most notorious king and queen in Israel’s history:

“Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him…Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead” (16:25, 28).

There are few men or women in history whose infamy is so appalling that the mere mention of their name paints in one’s mind a picture of gross, notorious wickedness. King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel defined wickedness in the extreme (16:29-33). Of Ahab we read, he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (16:33).

2 Chronicles 17 – A Revival in Judah

Having learned from the failures of his father, Jehoshaphat, son of King Asa, became Judah’s fourth king and “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings [sins and wickedness]of Israel” (17:3-4).

While the people of Israel suffered oppression due to the wickedness of their kings, Judah returned to a time of spiritual revival. King Jehoshaphat turned his heart to the LORD and began to walk in the way of God’s Law and Commandments (17:4), God began to bless Judah. After tearing down the idol places, Jehoshaphat dispatched throughout Judah five leaders, two priests, and nine Levites who were charged with instructing the people in “the book of the law of the LORD” (17:7-9).

God blessed Jehoshaphat and the “fear of the LORD” fell upon Judah’s neighbors who began paying tribute to Judah (17:10-11).

Jehoshaphat’s love and dedication to the LORD and His Commandments, inspired “mighty men of valour” to rally around him in Jerusalem and Judah began to enjoy a season of peace and prosperity (17:13-19).

A concluding thought: I doubt many would debate that we are living in a time of sorrow and uncertainty. The plague of locusts in Africa threatens widespread famine, while the menace of a pandemic has afflicted hundreds of thousands, killed many, and crippled the world’s economy. Accompanying that terror is widespread lawlessness and violence in our nation that might well plunge our nation into a civil war.

What hope is there for these troubled times?

The answer is the same as it was in Judah’s day: We need leaders who, like Jehoshaphat, will lead our nation to repent of her sins, turn to the LORD, and walk in the ways of His Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, 10, 12-13).

Only then will the LORD hear our cry and heal our land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Tragic Legacy: How will you be remembered? (1 Kings 15, 2 Chronicles 13-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 13-16

Once again, we find 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 13-16 are parallel records of the same events. In today’s reading we find historical record in 2 Chronicles to be more detailed and giving us a greater insight into the drama between Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

1 Kings 15

1 Kings 15 records a succession of kings reigning over Israel and Judah.  Judah’s King, Rehoboam, died and his son Abijam was crowned king and reigned only three years (15:1-2). Continuing in the sins of Solomon and Rehoboam (15:3-8), his life was cut short and his son Asa ascended to the throne of Judah (15:8) and reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem (15:10).

The reign of Asa was a glorious time in Judah, and the king began leading the nation back to the LORD (15:11). The sodomites (male prostitutes) that had found refuge in Judah during Rehoboam’s reign (15:24) were driven out of the land in Asa’s reign (15:12). Even Asa’s mother was not spared the reform as she was deposed from her throne as Queen mother for worshipping idols (15:13).

A contemporary of Asa in Judah was Baasha king of Israel (15:16) who designed to make war against Judah (15:17) until Asa emptied the treasuries of the Temple and his palace to pay for a league with the king of Syria (15:18-21). As we will learn in 2 Chronicles 16, his decision to align himself with the king of Syria was not the will of the LORD (2 Chronicles 16:7-10).

2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Chronicles continues the same history, adding more detail and insight into the LORD’S dealings with both Judah and Israel. There was a succession of kings of David’s bloodline in Judah and some, particularly, King Asa, followed the will of the LORD and led the nation in spiritual revival (2 Chronicles 14:2-7).

In Israel, however, there was a succession of kings who continued that nation’s rebellion and rejection of the God of Israel.

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace, and prosperity, until the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Asa turned from the LORD and put his trust in his reasoning apart from the LORD (2 Chronicles 16). When Baasha, king of Israel, led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and sought a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Though successful in the immediate, Asa’s decision to seek a league with Syria was foolish and offended God. A prophet named Hanani declared Asa’s lack of faith would haunt him the rest of his life, and he would face wars until his death (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and imprisoned the prophet, and then “oppressed” some of the people who were no doubt critical of the king’s decisions (16:10).

Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a critical disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest gout, but I wonder if it was not gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa, whose heart was not right with the LORD, turned to his physicians and not to the LORD.

A great memorial was held upon Asa’s death, however, his lifetime of serving the LORD was marred by his faithlessness and rebellion in his later years (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

Pay Day Someday! (2 Chronicles 10-12)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 10-12

You will find that today’s Scripture reading in 2 Chronicles parallels events that are recorded in our preceding reading assignment (1 Kings 12-14).

2 Chronicles 10 – A Tragic Time in Israel’s History

Following the death of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31), his son Rehoboam ascended the throne and all Israel came to Shechem to make him king (10:1).

Unfortunately, all was not well in Israel. Though not yet physically divided, the nation was spiritually duplicitous and Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4). The LORD had warned Solomon that his failure to keep the Law and Commandments would be punished by Israel being divided by one of his own servants. The identity of that servant is revealed as Solomon’s old adversary, Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:2-3).

Evidencing the foolishness of his youth and inexperience, Rehoboam faced the grievances of Israel, lacking both grace and humility (10:4-5).  Rejecting the counsel of his father’s older and wiser advisors (10:6-7), Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and the king’s harshness provoked the people to rebel (10:8-14).

Remembering the LORD is sovereign, we read, “So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God” (10:15).  The ten northern tribes of Israel, after hearing the king’s words, “went to their tents” (10:16) and “rebelled against the house of David” (10:19).

2 Chronicles 11 – A Nation Divided

Under Jeroboam, the ten northern tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of the south, Judah and Benjamin, became one nation known as Judah. King Rehoboam had thought to raise an army to seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4). Dissuaded from civil war, Rehoboam set about building fortresses (11:4-12) to strengthen Judah against the battles that would be provoked by a divided kingdom.

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates the swift decline of a nation that rejects God (11:13-15).

We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts [borders; i.e. cities and lands in Israel]… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off [i.e. cut them off] from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually. He instituted a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15). Thankfully we read that there were a few left in Israel who “set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel” and they continued to worship in Jerusalem (11:16).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised the wisdom passed on to him by his father; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:17-23).

2 Chronicles 12 – The Menace of Pride and Arrogance

Comfortable in his palace and with Judah secured and strengthened, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).

The LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah. The prophet Shemaiah declared that the sins of Rehoboam were to be punished by the LORD delivering his kingdom over to serve Egypt (12:1-5). Hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, the king and his leaders humbled themselves before the LORD, Who in His mercy, spared Judah from destruction (12:5-8).

Adding to Judah’s humiliation, Shishak removed “shields of gold which Solomon had made” from the walls of the palace (12:9).  Rehoboam, perhaps to save face in front of his people, contented himself with a counterfeit of the glory that once belonged to his kingdom, and “made shields of brass” to replace the “shields of gold” (12:10).

What a tragedy! Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, masked the miserable state of the nation!

I close pondering what lessons we might take from today’s Scripture.

Is it possible that, like Judah of old, our nation’s wealth and prosperity has deceived us? In the same way Rehoboam became servant to Egypt and counterfeited the loss of his “shields of gold” with brass shields, I fear we have become a nation enslaved to a mounting debt we owe to enemies committed to our own demise.

The United States has rejected the LORD, His Word, Law and Commandments. Is it possible our nation’s pursuit of the pleasures of sin has blinded us to the warnings of the evangelists of old… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Kingdom is Divided (1 Kings 12-14)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 12-14

When Jeroboam learned that Solomon was dead and his son Rehoboam reigned in his stead (11:43-12:1), he returned from Egypt where he had found refuge (12:3).

1 Kings 12 – The Precipitous Decline of Israel and the Threat of Civil War

Summoned by the northern ten tribes, Jeroboam asserted himself to speak on behalf of the tribes of Israel, and petitioned that King Rehoboam would relieve the heavy burden of taxation and servitude under which the people had suffered during Solomon’s reign (12:3-4).

Though having the advantage of his father’s counselors (12:6-7), Rehoboam, dismissed them and heeded the counsel of his peers who stoked his pride and ambition (12:8-11). Rehoboam’s arrogance set in motion a rebellion that threatened civil war in Israel and led to the division of the kingdom (12:12-33).

The northern ten tribes calling themselves “Israel,” made Jeroboam the first king (12:19-20). Those tribes not only rebelled against King Rehoboam, but also set themselves against God. They abandoned worship at the Temple in Jerusalem and made themselves “two calves of gold” (12:19-20, 25-30).

Because the priests of Levi refused to follow Jeroboam’s insurrection, he “made priests of the lowest of the people” (12:31) and erected and altar in Bethel that “he had devised of his own heart” (12:31).

1 Kings 13 – Great Wickedness in the Northern Ten Tribes (Israel)

1 Kings 13 gives us the beginning history of a divided Israel represented by the ten tribes of the north that had rebelled against Rehoboam. The rebellious tribes followed Jeroboam into idolatry (13:1-34), and it appears he acted not only as king, but also as priest over the people (12:33-13:1).

We read that Jeroboam “returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places” (13:33). The description of Jeroboam’s priests as the “lowest of the people” illustrates how little regard he placed on worship and the priesthood. He gave no thought of a man’s birth, lineage, or character when he chose priests for Israel, as stipulated by God.

1 Kings 14 – The Spiritual and Moral Decline of Judah

1 Kings 14 begins as a prophecy against Jeroboam and reveals his lineage would be cut off.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over Judah; however, his reign was marked by wickedness and the nation’s decline into all manner of sin and ungodliness (14:21-24). Even in Judah, idol worship flourished and the depth of that nation’s wickedness is expressed in this: “There were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations”(14:24).

Not even the invasion of the armies of Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt, caused the people of Judah to turn their hearts to the LORD (14:25). Raiding the treasures of Solomon, Shishak also took the shields of gold that decorated the walls of Solomon’s palace to Egypt (14:25-26).  Adding to the disgrace, Rehoboam instructed that shields of brass be substituted for the shields of gold that were removed by the king of Egypt (14:27-28).

God’s warning to Solomon that his sins would be the catalyst for a divided kingdom were fulfilled and we read, “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (14:31).

Our devotion ends with the news that “Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried” (14:31); reminding us that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

 

The Fame, Infamy, and Finale of King Solomon (1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9)

Scripture assignment – 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

With the Temple built and his palace complete, Solomon’s fame became an international sensation (1 Kings 10). The king’s wisdom, wealth, the grandeur of his kingdom, and God’s blessings on his reign became known far and wide.

We read, “When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions (i.e. riddles)” (10:1).

There are many fables and legends that surround the visit of the Queen of Sheba; however, we will consider the only reputable source that we have, the Word of God (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31).

The kingdom of Sheba is believed to have been in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in the area we know today as Yemen. The Queen of Sheba, having received news of Solomon’s remarkable wisdom and the wonders of his kingdom, set out on a journey from her kingdom in the south to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel.  Rather than travel via ship on the Red Sea, the Scriptures indicate she came with a “very great train (caravan), with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (10:2a).

The purpose of the queen’s visit is summed up in, “she communed with him of all that was in her heart” (10:2b; 2 Chronicles 9:2).

Solomon answered all the questions she proposed to him (10:3). We read, “There was no more spirit in her” (10:5) when she gazed on the vast riches of his palace, enjoyed feasts at his table, admired the rich robes of his servants, and viewed from a distance the King’s ascent to the Temple. Breathless at the sight of all she observed, the Queen exclaimed, “the half was not told” (10:7; 2 Chronicles 9:3-6).

Consider the lavish wealth detailed in Solomon’s palace: The tributes paid to him by other nations, the shields of gold, his throne overlaid with ivory and gold (10:18-20; 2 Chronicles 9:17-19), vessels of gold (2 Chronicles 9:20), exotic animals, chariots and champion horses were all part of the king’s legacy (10:21-29; 2 Chronicles 9:21-28).

1 Kings 11 – Solomon’s Spiritual and Moral Failures

The magnificence of Solomon’s kingdom is overshadowed in 1 Kings 11 when we read, “Solomon loved many strange women” (11:1).  Having disregarded the LORD’s admonition concerning the danger of marrying foreign, idol worshiping women, Solomon’s “wives turned away his heart” (11:3).

The king’s sins provoked God’s wrath (11:9) until his family and the nation suffered for his apostasy (11:10-13). When God removed His blessings, the peace and prosperity of Israel failed as the nation faced enemies without (i.e. Pharaoh and Egypt – 11:14-25), and enemies within (i.e. Jeroboam, a “mighty man of valour” who Solomon recognized too late as a threat to his kingdom – 11:26-40).  Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he stayed until he received news that Solomon was dead and “Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:40-43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31).

I close inviting you to consider the great and tragic end of Solomon’s reign.  Though the wisest man who ever lived, yet in his old age he disobeyed the LORD and “his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (11:4).  He “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:6).

Notice the statement, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old” (1 Kings 11:4).

How old is “old?” Knowing he reigned forty years (11:42), I deduce Solomon was in his mid-fifties. In other words, he was old enough to know better! Old enough to understand the consequences of sin. Old enough to know his wicked choices would invariably affect his family and kingdom.

Solomon’s failure to have a “perfect heart with the LORD” (11:4) led him, his household, and the nation down a path that ended in God’s judgment. Oh that the king would have heeded his own proverbs:

Proverbs 3:5-75  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith