Tag Archives: Morality

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

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.

Dare to be A Daniel (Daniel 1)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history. Beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, our study of Daniel will encompass a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow: The Medo-Persian empire, followed by Greece, and then Rome. Yet, as we will see, the visions God imparted to Daniel were of the history of man that is past, present, and still future. Daniel’s writing included prophecies that are more than a footnote of history past; they are a foretelling of future events that will conclude with the Second Coming of Christ.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account of events we studied in 2 Kings 24:12-16, for it was “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah (605 BC) came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (1:1). This was the first of three sieges by Babylon. The others that followed were 597 BC, and 586 BC (the final destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, Jeremiah 25:9-12; 2 Kings 25).

The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings, if the people did not repent and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon,” the LORD would return His people to their land (Jeremiah 29:10).

The events recorded in Daniel 1 occurred at the time the Temple was plundered, and king Jehoiakim was taken captive to Babylon (1:1-2). 10,000 Jews were also taken captive following the first siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:14-16), and among them were the finest young men of Jerusalem: “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:3-4).

Named among the captives of Judah were “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (1:6). Desiring to complete their assimilation into the Babylonian culture, “the prince of the eunuchs gave names [to the Jewish captives]: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abed-nego” (1:7). Though we cannot be certain of his age, Daniel was probably between 13-17 years old when he was taken from his home and brought to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture.

Nebuchadnezzar chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth, and prepared them to one day take their place in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was among those youth (1:4), and soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a man of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7).

Leading by example and conviction, “Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself” (Daniel 1:8).

Daniel pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work, and providentially “brought Daniel into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince [chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined) by Nebuchadnezzar, they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

Closing thoughts (1:17-20) – We will see in our study, how the testing of Daniel’s faith prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

In closing, I invite you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive heart, and his sensitivity to the authority in his life: 1) He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); 2) He was sincere in his appeal (1:12); 3) He was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); 4) He was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

Following Daniel as a perfect model of faith and convictions, every believer would do well to examine his own spirit, manner, convictions, and relationship with the authorities in his life.

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 Sought for a Man” – A Memorial Day Weekend Perspective

The scene is as vivid in my mind today as it was that day. I watched a casket, draped with the flag of the United States of America, as it was transported through a sea of dark suits and black veiled hats. I was only 10 or 11 at the time, and Vietnam was a place far from my quiet existence in rural South Carolina. That day, the nightly news recounting American casualties, took on a new meaning that was real and personal. While the toll of combat would number 58,193 by war’s end, it was the sacrifice of one soldier that brought home to me the reality of war, and the price of freedom.

            How do you honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the liberty we enjoy as a nation? Is it enough to place a wreath at a tomb or mark the graves of America’s fallen with flags? I suggest the greater memorial is to incorporate into our lives and families those qualities that made America great.

The Preamble of our Constitution states its purpose was to bind our hearts as a people to “a more perfect Union,” and “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

The leaders of our nation have failed us. Instead of Justice, politicians promote political correctness. Rather than domestic Tranquility, we have corruption, violence, and partisan politics. Our common defense has been weakened by open borders. The general Welfare of our nation has been sacrificed for special interest groups. Tragically, the Blessings of Liberty are despised by those who would enslave us.

America needs believers who will dedicate themselves to the LORD, and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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.

The End, of The End is Come (Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8

Continuing our study of the book of Ezekiel, we remember he was a young priest (1:1-2) when the LORD called him to be His prophet. He was among the first removed from Jerusalem before the fall of that city, and was commissioned to prophesy to the Jews of the captivity in Babylon. In Ezekiel 7, the message to the children of Israel was a message of doom and judgment.

Fourfold Warning to Worshippers of Idols (7:1-4)

With the words, “An end, the end is come,” the fate of Israel and Judah was sealed (7:2). God’s judgment was imminent, the land of Israel would fall to Nebuchadnezzar’s army (7:2). God’s patience with the sins and abominations of His people was exhausted, for they had provoked Him to anger, and the LORD declared He would not show them pity (7:4). All of this, that the people might “know” and acknowledge Him as LORD (7:4).

God’s Purpose for Executing Judgment (7:5-9)

Declaring “an evil, an only evil, behold is come” (7:5), we read the emphatic announcement of judgment: “the end is come…the morning is come…the time is come, the day of trouble is near” (7:6-7). What was the basis of God’s judgment? It was to reward His people for their sinful ways and abominations (7:8-9).

The Description of God’s Judgment (7:10-27)

Though prophesied more than two and one-half millennia ago, there is much to be learned from the decay, death, and destruction of Judah as a nation. As you read this passage, remember Ezekiel is prophesying to the Jews living in captivity in Babylon, while Jeremiah was prophesying in the midst of Jerusalem and warning the people of that which was to come. Provoked to anger by the pride of His people (7:10), none living in Judah would be spared God’s judgment (7:11).

We find here several tragic traits of a rebellious people, and a dying nation. (7:12-27)

The first, a failed economy. The general trade of buying and selling failed (7:12), and the seller could not recover or be made whole (7:13). A dying nation refuses to hear and heed the warnings of prophets (portrayed here as the blowing of the trumpet, 7:14). There is a prevalence of death, as “the sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within” (7:15). Death became an ever-present reality, as the sword was symbolic of violence and war, pestilence is sickness and disease, and famine caused by failed crops and an inability to import food (caused by the siege).

Troubles and trials had brought with them a perpetual state of sorrow, for the moaning of the people sounded like the cooing of the “doves of the valleys” (7:16). Uncertainty and anxiety were portrayed as physical weakness, as fear, sorrows, and shame overtook the nation (7:16-18).

Ezekiel 7:19 returns to the failed economy of Judah and Jerusalem, for the people realized too late their wealth and possessions could not save them (7:19a). With food shortages and little provisions to “fill their bowels,” the people cast their gold and silver in the streets of the city (7:19b).  Their once beloved gold which had adorned their women and decorated their shrines, became spoils for the wicked (7:20-21). Even the LORD’s Temple was plundered and defiled (7:22).

Impoverished, and defeated, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to “make a chain” that served as a symbol of the captivity (7:23). Lest some accuse Him of injustice, the LORD declared, “I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).

Ezekiel 8

Ezekiel 8 gives us again a supernatural revelation of God’s glory. Ezekiel was in his house, and with him the “elders of Judah” (8:1), when “the hand of the Lord God fell there upon [him]” (8:1). As He had when He first appeared to Ezekiel (1:26-28), the LORD displayed the likeness of His heavenly glory (8:2). In the vision, the Spirit of the LORD lifted Ezekiel up, and he was taken to the Temple where he beheld an idol he described as “the image of jealousy” (8:3).

Ezekiel saw “the glory of the God of Israel” (8:4) like that he had seen before, but as he lifted up his eyes, he also saw the “image of jealousy” in the LORD’s sanctuary (8:5-6). In the next verses, the LORD revealed to Ezekiel the desperate wickedness that was practiced by the elder and religious leaders of Judah (8:6). The Spirit of the LORD commanded the prophet to look through a hole in the wall of the Temple, and enlarge it where he peered into, and passed through a door into a secret chamber (8:7-9).

In the chamber, which was a secret room in the Temple, Ezekiel spied on the walls drawings of creatures, beasts, and idols (8:10). Then he saw 70 religious’ leaders of Jerusalem worshipping idols and offering incense to them (8:11), who declared “The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth” (8:12).

Yet, Ezekiel was to see an even greater wickedness in the Temple, for in one room there were women worshipping Tamuz, a fertility god whose worshippers were known to practice gross immorality. In another room of the Temple there were 25 men who worshipped the sun (8:16).

Closing thoughts – Though the LORD need not justify His ways and judgments to any man, yet, He asked Ezekiel, “Hast thou seen this, O son of man?” (8:17). Consider how far the nation had departed from the LORD, His Law and Commandments. They had defiled the Temple with idols (8:1-18), and their elders who were entrusted with teaching the Law and exercising righteous judgment, were guilty of idolatry in secret places. There was no hope for the nation, and in His anger, God declared He would not have pity on the people, and neither would He hear their cry. It was too late.

I cannot say if it is too late for you or your nation to repent. Nevertheless, do you see the signs of God’s judgment in your world? Violence, wars, natural disasters, disease and pandemics, gross immorality, and rumors of impending hunger…

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

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

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

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

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Pity the Nation Governed By the Wicked (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75; Psalm 79

Continuing our chronological study of the Bible, today’s Scripture reading begins a brief departure from our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah. For the next five days, we will consider a compilation of writings that were contemporary to the fall of Jerusalem.

Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 are attributed to Asaph, a Levite musician who was a contemporary of King David. As noted in earlier devotions, there were several psalms credited to Asaph; however, there is some debate regarding whether or not Psalm 75 and Psalm 79 were penned by Asaph, or authored by a member of his household after the fall of Jerusalem. There is much about the content of both psalms that lend themselves to being a record of the devastation left in the wake of Nebuchadnezzar’s army. This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Psalm 75 challenges believers to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth. Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving and praise. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God, The Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, and “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved” (75:3). God’s judgment, however, is righteous, and He assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, and the foundations of the world.

All in Authority are Subject to God. (75:4-8)

Lest some leaders feel they are above the law and judgment of God, the LORD admonished: “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How different our world would be if those who wield authority remembered they were nothing without God! Civil governments are ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the ruler of a nation, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

Though the Foundations of Nations are Shaken, May the Saints Sing Praises to God (75:9-10)

The psalmist painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers who fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Yet, the believer’s faith rests not in man, but in the LORD. We should boldly declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob [Israel]” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – We are living in uncertain times when the nations of the world are shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority. Nevertheless, God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath. While fools sing their own praises and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

The wise man remembers, “God is the judge: He putteth down [humbles; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts]another” (75:7).

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.

Will You Be Valiant for the Truth? (Jeremiah 9)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 9

Known as the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah certainly epitomized that label in Jeremiah 9. I believe it can be supposed he was continuing to stand in the gate of the Temple where the LORD had sent him to proclaim the word of the LORD to the worshippers (7:2).

Jeremiah 9 – Jeremiah’s Lament over Jerusalem

Overcome with sorrow, Jeremiah described a perpetual state of tears, saying, “1Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (9:1). He wept day and night (9:1), and wished there was a place of escape, “a lodging place of wayfaring [traveling]men” (9:2). He would rather have been a resident in the wilderness, than live in the midst of an adulteress nation of treacherous, unfaithful men (9:2).

The Wickedness and Hypocrisy in Jeremiah’s Day (9:3-16)

Standing before those who had come to make a pretense of worship in the Temple, Jeremiah did not spare words when he described their hypocrisy. We read, “They bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant [strong; mighty; heroic] for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil [sin; wickedness] to evil, and they know [understand; acknowledge] not me, saith the LORD” (9:3).

Do those words not describe our world, and churches? Preachers bend the truth with their tongues, like the bent arch of a bow (9:3a). People do not know, nor do they understand the ways of the LORD, for He is holy (9:3c). In Jeremiah’s day, there were none who could be trusted (9:4a), for everyone had become like Jacob (Genesis 27:36), a liar, and deceiver (9:4). They did not speak the truth (9:5a; Ephesians 4:25), and wearied themselves pursuing sin (9:6b).

Judah had become a nation of liars and hypocrites (9:6), and there were none “valiant for the truth” (9:3b).

Is that not the fundamental sin, the spiritual flaw of our day? There are few who “speak the truth” (9:5), and “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). There are few pastors that will, “2preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). In Jeremiah’s day, as it is in our day, when the clarion call of truth was needed, there were none “valiant for the truth” (9:3).

Judah had become a nation of proud, stubborn, conceited, and incorrigible murderers, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters (9:3-8). Yet, the LORD would have shown them mercy if they had repented and turned to Him (9:10). Taking His mercies for granted, they followed in the sinful steps of their fathers (9:12-14).

The time for repentance had past, and the LORD declared he would feed His people with “wormwood” (bitter herbs), “give them water of gall to drink” (a poisonous blend, 9:15), and scatter them among the heathen (9:16).

Three Declarations of God’s Judgment (9:17-24)

1) Jeremiah was commanded to call for the professional mourners to weep over Jerusalem; however, so many would die there would not be enough mourners to weep over the dead (9:17-21). 2) Describing the brutality of Babylon’s victory over Jerusalem, Jeremiah foretold their dead bodies would be left unburied (9:22). 3) Finally, there would be nothing the people could do to save themselves. The wise were warned their wisdom would not save them. The strength of the mighty men would not avail. The wealth of the rich man would perish with him (9:23).

There was only one thing in which men could place their hope, and that was the knowledge of God’s immutable character. He declared of Himself, “I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (9:24).

Closing thoughts – Foolish men boast in much, but the godly boast only in the character and promises of the LORD who is gracious and merciful (“lovingkindness”), just (for He judges between the righteous and the wicked), and holy (for He is wholly righteous, 9:24).

Does your heart burn with passion for the Truth? Many lament the moral decay of our society, and the carnality in our homes, churches and schools. But how many of us contend for the faith, and pursue godliness and holiness? (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 1:16).

What about you? Too many occupy churches that entertain the masses, and sit under preaching that tickles the ears, but never pierces the heart.

Are you “valiant for the truth?”

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.