Tag Archives: Patriotic

God is Sovereign and The Most Powerful Monarch Bows to His Will.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 33-36

Unlike his father Hezekiah, under whose reign Judah experienced revival (2 Chronicles 30:1-9) when he destroyed the places of idol worship (2 Chronicles 31), Manasseh began to reign as king of Judah when he was twelve years old, reigning fifty-five years, but he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

There were no bounds to the depths of depravity to which Manasseh stooped.  He rebuilt the groves of prostitution where Baal was worshipped, desecrated the Temple, practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing his own children to idols, participated in witchcraft, and led Jerusalem to commit wickedness “worse than the heathen” (33:9).  What a horrible biography of depravity and wickedness, practiced by the young king and tolerated by his advisors and the masses!

I marvel how a godly king like Hezekiah who led Judah in spiritual revival; might have a son like Manasseh who succeeded his father as king and proceeded down a path of evil that exceeded the wickedness of the heathen (33:9).  If you will allow a personal observation (after all, this is a commentary); I am oft amazed how men in authority influence a people, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, and leave in their wake the destruction of families, communities, nations and the deaths of millions of men and women.

As a product of the 20th century and a student of its history, I reflect on the century past (the rise of Communism, Nazi-fascists, militant Islamists, and our present-day conflict with anarchists of all stripes…political and religious) and understand the tragic consequences that befall nations that choose wicked, unprincipled, godless leaders.  King Solomon taught his son the same, writing:

Proverbs 29:2 – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

In spite of his evil ways, we read, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s patience and longing to forgive and restore His people!  Being reminded God’s ways are not our ways, the LORD sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and fetters and brought him to Babylon” (33:11).  Reminding us to not give up on wayward sinners, in the throes of his suffering and humiliation, Manasseh “besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13  And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God” (33:12-13).

Having repented of his sins, God restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem and he began a crusade to fortify the walls of the city, removing the traces of his own wickedness in tearing down places of idol worship,  repairing the Temple altar and commanding “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:13-16).

Manasseh, by example and edict, led the nation to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; however, he was unable to reverse the effect of his sins on Amon, his son who did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23) until his servants assassinated him in the palace (33:24).

Being reminded of God’s grace, Josiah, the son of Amon and grandson of Hezekiah, turned from the sins of his father and followed his grandfather’s example and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 34-35:1-19).  Josiah’s death on the battlefield (35:20-24) and how the prophet Jeremiah and the people mourned his death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

2 Chronicles 36 records the final days of Judah as a nation before Babylonian captivity.  Long prophesied by the prophets, the burning of the Temple, ruin of the palaces, destruction of Jerusalem, and the people being led away captive to Babylon for seventy years were fulfilled (36:1-24).

Today’s scripture reading concludes with a reminder:  God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “ 22  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Preachers who lack the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment will lead their ministries to ruin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 29-32

Our study of the histories of Israel and Judah continues with 2 Chronicles 29.  As a reminder, Israel is a divided kingdom.  Following the reign of Solomon, the ten tribes in the north rebelled and became known as Israel or Ephraim; the two remaining tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, united as one kingdom, became known as Judah with Jerusalem serving as the capital city.

It is Judah, during the reign of Hezekiah, that is the subject of 2 Chronicles 29-32.  Permit me to set the stage for the spiritual revival that takes place in today’s devotional. 

The reign of Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, had been a curse to Judah for “he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father” (2 Chronicles 28:1).  That a man born of David’s lineage could commit such wickedness is a testimony to the tragic nature of sin that indwells the heart of man apart from God.   Ahaz not only turned from the LORD, but also “burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen” (28:3).

We read, “For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD” (28:19).  Rather than repent, Ahaz did all he could to destroy the LORD’s Temple, cutting in pieces vessels used in the Temple and shutting up the doors (28:24).

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah began to reign and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (29:2).  Rather than follow in his father’s sins, Hezekiah turned to the LORD and began repairing the Temple (29:3) and set his heart to “make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel” (29:10).

Hezekiah’s first command was to summon the Levites and direct them to cleanse the Temple (29:4-11).  Having cleansed the Temple (29:12-17), the priests reported to Hezekiah who “went up to the house of the LORD”, offered sacrifices (29:18-25) and commanded the Levites to lead the congregation in worship with musical instruments and song (29:26-30).

Restoring the observance of the Passover, Hezekiah invited all Israel and Judah to turn to the LORD and come to Jerusalem and worship (30:1-9).  While some in Israel heeded the king’s call to humble themselves and worship the LORD, there were many who “laughed them to scorn, and mocked them” (30:10-11).

Notice revival in Judah began with the king and the nation’s spiritual leadership.  Heeding the king’s invitation to return to the LORD, the people assembled in Jerusalem to observe the Passover and tore down altars of idolatry in the land.   When the Passover lamb was killed, those who ministered the Passover were pricked in their hearts and “were ashamed, and sanctified themselves” (30:15) because they “had not cleansed themselves” (30:17-18).

On a personal note, rather than bemoaning the backslidden state of our churches and schools, might it not be the crux of the problem, the reason our churches are spiritually dead and our schools, colleges and seminaries are carnal is best addressed to those who stand in the pulpits? 

In the manner of a pastor calling sinning saints to come home to the LORD, “Hezekiah prayed for them [the Levites], saying, The good LORD pardon every one” and “spake comfortably unto all the Levites” (30:18, 22).  The phrase, “spake comfortably”, might mislead some to think the king made the Levites comfortable; however, the word translated “comfortably” is the Hebrew word for the heart or mind.  In other words, the king did not appeal to their emotions, but to their hearts.

Judah’s revival continues in 2 Chronicles 31 as the places of idol worship are destroyed (31:1) and the sacrificial offerings brought by the people was so great there was a problem in how to dispose of the tithes and offerings (31:2-10).

An enemy of Judah, “Sennacherib king of Assyria” (32:1), invades Judah in chapter 32 and began to undermine the nation’s confidence in the king and the LORD (32:2-19).   Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory He alone was due (32:25) for Judah’s victory over Assyria.  The king’s illness was terminal, “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26) God restored his health.

Permit me to close with a personal observation.  King Solomon taught his son who would be king, When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime.   In contradiction to the assertion of some that a leader’s character doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming… A leader’s character does matter!   Whether the leader of a nation, state, city, church or school…a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on a people.  Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin.

Don’t take my word.  Examine the devastating influence of past presidents or the destructive influence of pastors or administrators who, lacking the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment, lead their ministries to ruin.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Some Men Define the Meaning of “Hero”

Good morning Hillsdale families and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

Today’s Scripture reading assignment is Acts 9-10 and I encourage you to read that passage in the absence of my devotional commentary.  I am afraid today’s schedule prevents me from investing the time I need to write and post my daily commentary.

On a personal note, it is my opinion we use the word “hero” too flippantly and frequently in our day.  This 21st century generation claims as heroes men and women who have done nothing of importance or lasting value.  Indeed, the millennials often claim as heroes men and women that are antagonists, provocateurs, and the antithesis of the definition of hero.

By definition, a hero is a man or woman whose life defines honor, courage, self-sacrifice, faithfulness, and achievement.  This morning I have the privilege of speaking in an 11:00 AM Memorial Service honoring Al Pereira, Sr., a longtime member of Hillsdale and an American hero who served in the Navy and fought in the Pacific throughout World War II.   Chief Petty Officer, Adalberto Pereira’s memories of the Pacific invasion were graphic and as realistic as anything you and I have ever seen portrayed in Hollywood war movies.  As he cared for Mela, his bride and wife of 76 years, the quietness of their lives brought to Al’s mind vivid memories of war that he shared with me and others.

What a privilege to know a man whose life epitomized what author Tom Brokaw described as, “The Greatest Generation”.  Al was more than a patriot; he was a faithful husband, proud father, and most importantly…a man who unashamedly professed his love for his Savior.

While our thoughts and prayers are with his family, my heart resonates with this truth:

Psalm 116:15 – “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

“A Nation’s Character Is Oft Reflected in the Character of Its Leaders!”

October 5, 2017

Scripture reading – Proverbs 28

Our scripture reading this Thursday, October 5, 2017 is Proverbs 28.  Remembering the Book of Proverbs is in a real sense, “sounds bites of wisdom”, brief statements of truth Solomon imparted to a son who would one day be king, it comes as no surprise that many of the statements in Proverbs 28 reflect on the reign of righteous leaders contrasted with the rule of wicked men who abuse the people.  Two proverbs will be the subject of today’s devotional commentary.

Proverbs 28:2  “For the transgression [sin; rebellion] of a land [nation] many are the princes [chief; commander; rulers] thereof: but by a man of understanding [discernment] and knowledge [by observation and experience] the state [rightness; well-being; preparation] thereof [the land, i.e. nation] shall be prolonged [lengthened].”

Solomon’s political proverb reveals one of the afflictions of a rebellious nation—many leaders!  The implication is that a country, which turns its back on God, will be weak and divided by its leaders.  An obvious illustration of a divided nation is civil war; however, the two-party rhetoric of our day portends to the same rift without taking up arms.

The vitriolic, venomous speeches of our leaders reflect the sins of a divided nation.  We are a nation of many leaders, few of whom desire to see America on a righteous course.   Our leaders have distorted life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; systematically taking the lives of nearly 60 million unborn and attacking the sanctity of marriage and family with a deluded definition of equal rights in the name of diversity, we are a rebellious nation!

Proverbs 28:2 also reminds us leaders with wisdom, insight and discernment are a blessing to a nation.   It is the character of the leader, not the office he holds, that defines such a leader.   His integrity and dependence on God imparts to the nation stability and security that prolongs the nation’s life and prosperity.

Proverbs 28:5 is the second proverb I invite you to ponder.

Proverbs 28:5  “Evil men [wicked, sinful] understand [consider; perceive; discern] not judgment [rights; order; verdict; cause]: but they that seek [strive after; enquire; desire; search out] the LORD [Eternal, Self-existent Jehovah] understand [consider; discern] all things.”

The exercise of law and justice and keeping and preserving the law are subjects of this proverb.  While the righteous consider God’s commandments and fear His judgment, the wicked have no immutable standard of right and wrong.

Such has become the malady of America’s judicial system.  Once the envy of the world, our judicial system is corrupt and “Lady Justice” is no longer blind.   Sadly, the weight of the law is often balanced in favor of the wicked and their cronies.

With rare exceptions, the day has passed when good men and women go into the practice of law driven by a passion for justice and dedicated to upholding the Constitution and laws of the land.   For decades, our citizenry has elected corrupt officials who, once in office, appoint judges like themselves.

We are a nation in decline and have lost our role as the world’s leader and force for good.   One need look no further than the character of the men and women we have elected to office and who sit in places of judgment to understand, a nation’s leaders are indicative of that nation’s character—they are who we are!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

America: There is a Pay Day Someday!

October 3, 2017

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11-15

Today’s scripture reading, 2 Chronicles 11-15, is not only filled with colorful historical facts, but is also bursting with opportunities of taking and applying spiritual principles that are as applicable in our day as they were nearly 3,000 year ago.

The setting of our study follows the death of king Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31) and the ascension of his son Rehoboam to the throne of Israel (2 Chronicles 10).   Hearing Solomon was dead, Jeroboam, an old adversary of Solomon returned from exile in Egypt and led an uprising against young and inexperienced Rehoboam.

Rejecting the counsel of his father’s counselors, Rehoboam hearkened to the reckless counsel of his peers, provoking rebellion among the northern ten tribes who followed Jeroboam dividing the nation (2 Chronicles 10:8-19).   The northern ten tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became one nation known as Judah.  Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, thought to raise an army and 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).

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates how quickly a nation can depart from the LORD and turn to other gods.   We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast 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, instituting 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).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised wisdom and discernment; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:7-23).   Comfortable in his palace and enjoying the blessing of the LORD, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).  Because Rehoboam turned his heart and the nation from the LORD, the LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah to turn the heart of the king and nation back to Him (12:1-5).

The LORD sent Shemaiah, his prophet, to confront the king and leaders of Judah (12:5) who, hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, humbled themselves before the LORD (12:5-8).  In His mercy, the LORD spared Judah from destruction, however, He allowed Shishak to put Rehoboam and Judah under servitude.   Adding to the nation’s humiliation, Shishak removed from the walls of Rehoboam’s palace “shields of gold which Solomon had made” (12:9).  Rehoboam, rather than repent of his sins and turn back to the LORD, “made shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard, that kept the entrance of the king’s house” (12:10).

What a tragedy!  Rather than humble himself and repent of his sinful ways, Rehoboam substituted a counterfeit, shields of brass, to adorn the walls of his palace.  Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, concealed the miserable state of the nation!

America, her leaders, her churches and Christians would be wise to take a lesson from 2 Chronicles 11-12.   Emerging from the late 19th century, America was a rural, agricultural nation of family farms and Christian values; however, the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries transformed our nation into a power that was the envy of the world by the end of World War II.

Like Judah of old, our wealth and prosperity as a nation has deceived us and America has turned from the LORD.   Our homes, churches and schools are no longer strongholds of moral virtue and, in the same way Rehoboam counterfeited the loss of “shields of gold” with brass shields, the leaders of our United States have enslaved our nation to a $20 trillion debt carried largely by enemies committed to our demise.

Our federal government can print dollar bills night and day and Americans can pursue possessions and sinful pleasures veiled in a mounting, crippling debt; however, in the words of the old evangelists… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to the Nation That Celebrates Perversity and Attacks Morality!

September 15, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-4

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (Amos 1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.   When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

“Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and the nation maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom; making no pretense of worshipping the LORD, that nation built an altar in Bethel and offered sacrifices to a golden calf.

Amos, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), was a courageous prophet.  With the word of the LORD upon his lips, he delivered a series of prophecies against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5)… Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8)… Tyre (1:9-10)… Edom (1:11-12)… Ammon (1:13-15)… and Moab (2:1-3) all were warned the judgment of God was imminent.

Turning his focus from the six Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged “because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God sent prophets, but the people said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

In chapter 3 Amos prophesied reminding the people the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) as His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, rejected the LORD and He set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1).

Adding to the Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments come to this?  How could they be so blind they lost sense and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts becomes desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

My friend, the same condemnation is true of our beloved United States!

The lunacy of atheism coupled with the perversity of humanism is so entrenched in government, education, religion and media it has crippled our judgment as a society.   Having rejected God and His Laws, our moral judgment as a nation is twisted and perverted and we “know not to do right” (3:10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Prayer and Note of Appreciation to First Responders

September 10, 2017

Remembering tomorrow is September 11, I am writing this brief note of appreciation Sunday evening, not knowing what trials Hurricane Irma may leave in her wake for those who call Tampa Bay home.

As I seek shelter from the storm I know First Responders are ready and waiting to rush into Hurricane Irma’s winds and wade into her flood waters to save lives as their brothers and sisters did in New York City September 11, 2001.   May we never forget those who answered the call to duty and rushed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers as others fled to safety.

My prayer is for God to bless each of you, keep you safe through the night and restore you to the families anxiously waiting for you to come home.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL