Tag Archives: Patriotic

“Four Universal Principles for Life, Family, and Nation” (Ezekiel 22), Sunday AM, May 29, 2022

Two fundamental problems at the root of America’s moral implosion:

1) The first is Spiritual. – All men are sinners. (Rom. 3:23)

2) The second is the erosion of marriage, and the traditional family.

When a nation rejects the spiritual precepts of God’s Word, it takes a path of self-destruction that results in God’s judgment.

Four Parenting Principles: 1) Consistent, 2) Cautious, 3) Chargeable (Accountable), 4) Committed

Wise parents have the distinct advantage to discern their child’s character, strengths and weaknesses.

 

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“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

You are invited to join me for, “The News, and Nothing but the News.”

Heart of a Shepherd followers,

It is my joy to invite you to consider becoming a part of www.DailyTestify.com, “an up and coming” social network site owned by Bible believers, and whose membership is almost entirely conservative Bible believers.

While “Heart of a Shepherd” is dedicated to daily devotionals, I also have a presence on Daily Testify (as opposed to Facebook). Daily Testify has just opened the door for a “Closed Group” to be formed on their network that is dedicated to covering National and International News, and Current Events from a Biblical worldview.  

As a follower and reader of “Heart A Shepherd,” I invite you to join me for the Daily News, and set up an account with Daily Testify. Then request to join the  “Closed Group” that will look at daily news and world events.

On a personal note, I survey several news outlets everyday, and never watch network news. I refuse to be brainwashed by “talking heads” who are opposed to everything I stand for as a believer. Yet, I enjoy imparting a Biblical perspective on news and world events without the political drama (which got me band from Facebook).

I plan to post daily news articles, and you are invited to join me and do the same. You will find my posts will typically have a brief comment, and in the words of the 1960’s Sgt. Friday, present you with “the news, and just the news.” 

Check it out at https://dailytestify.com/index.php/currentevents-news/

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Author of “Heart of A Shepherd.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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.

Warning: No Nation is Too Big to Fail! (Jeremiah 49; Jeremiah 50)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 49; Jeremiah 50

Today’s Scripture reading continues the record of God’s vengeance against the Gentile nations that were adversaries of Israel and Judah. While there are many lessons we might take from God’s judgment of the nations, I suggest the overriding one is this:

God is Sovereign Over all men, and LORD of the nations of the world.

Jeremiah 49 – The Vengeance of the LORD

Like the other nations against whom Jeremiah brought a warning judgment (Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab, Jeremiah 46-48), the Ammonites (descendants of Lot’s incest with his daughters, Genesis 19:32-38), were also warned they would be judged and destroyed by Babylon’s army.

Through His prophet, the LORD challenged the Ammonites settlement in Israel, asking, “Hath Israel no sons? hath he no heir? Why then doth their king inherit Gad, And his people dwell in his cities?” (49:1) With Israel exiled from her lands, the Ammonites had settled onto land that was once home to the Tribe of Gad (49:1). Probably assuming Israel would be assimilated into Assyrian society and become nothing more than a footnote in history, the Ammonites took possession of the land that was Israel’s inheritance from the LORD.

Because they had been Israel’s adversaries, the LORD warned the Ammonites they would be judged because of their greed and covetousness (49:4-5). Yet, in a wonderful evidence of God’s grace, Jeremiah prophesied “the children of Ammon” would be numbered among believers when Christ’s comes to reign on the earth (49:6).

Other Gentile nations to be judged for their sins were the Edomites (49:7-22), descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, whose destruction was compared to that of “Sodom and Gomorrah” (49:13-18). Nebuchadnezzar was described as coming upon Edom like a roaring lion (49:19), and the army of Babylon sweeping over the land like an eagle (49:22).  Syria, represented by its capital Damascus, would also be destroyed in God’s judgment (49:23-27).

The judgment of three nomadic Arabian tribes was foretold: Kedar (49:28-29), Hazor (49:30-33) and Elam (49:34-37). Once again, reminding us of God’s grace, Jeremiah 49:38-39 foretold at the end of time (“in the latter days”), some of Elam will be part of Christ’s kingdom.

Jeremiah 50 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Babylon

Jeremiah 50 is an incredible passage foretelling the destruction of Babylon. What a striking prophecy this must have been to Jeremiah, for Babylon was the lone super power of his day, and would have seemed invincible to the prophet.

The LORD declared the idols of Babylon, Bel and Merodach, would be “broken in pieces” rendering no help for that city (50:2). Though Nebuchadnezzar was defeating all nations at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy, nevertheless, the LORD foretold a coalition of nations “out of the north” (50:3, 9, 41-42) would come against the great city bringing desolation. We know from the Scriptures and history that collation of nations would be the Medes and Persians under the leadership of King Cyrus. In one night, devastation struck the city to such a degree it rendered the great Babylon unfit for man and beast (50:3).

Jeremiah prophesied how the “children of Israel” would be liberated by the “nations out of the north,” and the people would return to their land (50:4-7).“Going and weeping: they shall go, And seek the Lord their God. 5They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord In a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten (50:4-5).

God warned the captives of Babylon to flee the city for her destruction was sealed (50:9-16). That wicked nation had scattered God’s people like sheep (50:17), and the LORD promised vengeance, saying, “Babylon [would]become a desolation among the nations” (50:23). No nation, great or small, can stand against the “Lord God of hosts” when He has declared, “I am against thee” (50:31). Babylon had defied God and now He would take vengeance on that nation (50:24-32). The fall of Babylon was prophesied to be so great, “the earth is moved” by her fall (50:46).

Closing thought – Though Israel and Judah were scattered among the nations, God would not forget His people. He warned the nations, Israel’s “Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name” (50:34).

I have heard 21st century leaders employ the adage, “Too Big to Fail!” Oh, foolish men, no nation or people is so great they can stand when God has set Himself against them!

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

Warning: God Gives a Nation the Leaders It Deserves (2 Kings 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 24

Our Scripture reading returns to the book of 2 Kings where our study picks up the narrative of events that are the background of God’s judgment against Jerusalem.

Remember how Jehoiakim, the third to the last king of Judah, burned Jeremiah’s scroll warning the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent? (Jeremiah 36:20-24) The prophet warned the king his evil deeds would bring God’s judgment upon Judah (Jeremiah 36:29-31). Yet, the king continued in his sin, “and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37).

2 Kings 24

Returning to 2 Kings 24, we find Jehoiakim king in name only, for he was now a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, and subject to the whims and demands of the king of Babylon. Jehoiakim, as foolish as he was evil, set his heart against the king of Babylon and “rebelled against him” (24:1). Nebuchadnezzar responded to Jehoiakim’s rebellion, and sent mercenary raiders against Judah, to destroy the nation as the LORD “spake by His servants the prophets” (24:2). Daniel records the same in his book where we read, “1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (Daniel 1:1).

The LORD had not forgotten the sins of Manasseh and his lineage, and how Judah had shed “innocent blood,” sacrificing their sons and daughters (24:3-4). (The slaughter of the innocent ones, and the fact “the LORD would not pardon” that sin should give 21st century nations pause. Surely abortion of the unborn in our day is no less egregious in the eyes of God, and as demanding of His judgment.)

Jehoiakim died (24:5), and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. Then, Nebuchadnezzar “came up against Jerusalem” (24:10), and the king of Judah surrendered and was taken to Babylon after reigning for three months (24:8-12). Fulfilling all the LORD had foretold, Nebuchadnezzar “carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord” (24:13).

Determined to remove any threat of another uprising, Nebuchadnezzar “carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land” (24:14). Numbered among the captives was the royal household (24:15), the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1), and “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (Daniel 1:6). In addition to the poor who were able to till the land and harvest crops (24:14; Jeremiah 40:10), there were some who escaped Jerusalem and fled to neighboring nations (Jeremiah 40:8).

Zedekiah, the Last King of Judah (24:17-20)

Jehoiakim, was succeeded by his uncle, “Mattaniah his father’s brother,” whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed and changed his name to Zedekiah (24:17). He was a mere  21 years old when he became king, and “reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (24:18).

Closing thoughts – Young and foolish, Zedekiah was left with an impoverished nation that lacked leadership, and the skills for government and war. Zedekiah was the end of a long line of foolish, wicked kings. Like the kings before him, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (24:19), and “rebelled against the king of Babylon” (24:20). To rebel against Nebuchadnezzar was the height of folly; however, we will see in our next devotional that was the path chosen by Zedekiah (2 Kings 25).

Remembering history is “His Story,” I am convinced God gives a nation the leaders it deserves. Surely that is as true in our day, as it was in Judah’s day.

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.

Does Character Matter? (2 Chronicles 32; 2 Chronicles 33)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 32; 2 Chronicles 33

We have considered the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s Scripture reading is a condensed version of the life and times of Hezekiah, his son Manasseh, and grandson Amon.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel had opened the way for Sennacherib, king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1). Consulting with his leaders, Hezekiah, king of Judah, determined to re-enforce the city walls, and by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city, he deprived Assyria’s army of water (32:2-5).

Demonstrating his faith in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people: “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him: 8 With him [Sennacherib] is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).

Addressing letters to be read by the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned the people’s confidence in the king. The king of Assyria then spoke against the God of Israel, asserting Judah’s God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Sennacherib warned, saying. Hezekiah had deceived the people, and led them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character, and the offense Sennacherib had raised against God?

Hezekiah determined he would not focus on the threats of his enemy, nor his own army. Instead, “the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven” (Isaiah 37:14-17). The LORD heard the king’s prayer, and 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).

Failing to render to the LORD the glory He was due for Judah’s victory over Assyria, (32:25), Hezekiah became ill, “sick to the death” (32:24; 2 Kings 20:1a). Yet, the LORD in His grace heard Hezekiah’s prayer, and because the king “humbled himself,” his health was restored and he lived another 15 years (32:26; 2 Kings 20:6).

2 Chronicles 33 – God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

Judah had experienced revival during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:1-9; 31), and when he died, his twelve-year-old son Manasseh ascended the throne. He reigned as king fifty-five years (33:1), but unlike his father, he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

The Wickedness of Manasseh (33:3-10)

Stooping to unbounded and seeming unending depths of depravity, the young king rebuilt the groves of prostitution, desecrated the Temple, and sacrificed his own children to idols (33:6). He “made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel” (33:9). What a horrific commentary of decadence and depravity for a king who should have followed in the righteous path of his father!

In spite of his evil ways, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s longsuffering towards His people!

The Humiliation of Manasseh (33:11-13)

The LORD, because He is just, sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh “and bound him with fetters [chains], and brought him to Babylon” (33:11). 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).

The Restoration and Death of Manasseh (33:14-20)

After repenting of his sins, the LORD restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem. Then the king began a crusade and fortified the walls of the city (33:14), and removed the traces of his own wickedness (33:15). He tore down places of idol worship, repaired the Temple altar, and commanded “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:14-16).

Though he led people of Judah to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; Manasseh could not reverse the effect of his sins on his son Amon. When Amon became king, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23). Tragically, Amnon’s servants, conspired against him, and slew him in his own house” (33:24-25; 2 Kings 21:24).

Closing thoughts – In contradiction to the assertion that the character of a leader doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming: A leader’s character does matter!

A leader’s character can leave an indelible print on families, institutions, and nations. Leaders may call a nation to repent and turn to the LORD, or on the contrary, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, leaving in their wake the destruction of families, institutions, and nations.

King Solomon observed, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

Wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Sovereign of the Nations (2 Kings 19)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 19

If today’s Scripture reading seems familiar, it is because it is a parallel account of historical events Isaiah recorded in chapter 37 of the book that bears his name. Rather than repeat the obvious, I encourage you to read 2 Kings 19, and I hope my brief outline of events will be a blessing.

Hezekiah’s Petition to the LORD (19:1-7)

With the Assyrian army encamped outside Jerusalem, king Hezekiah was shaken by the threats of Rabshakeh, the Assyrian general (18:28-35).  The king “rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord” (19:1). Hezekiah also sent messengers to appeal to Isaiah, and implore God’s prophet to pray for Judah and Jerusalem (19:2-5).

Isaiah then comforted the king, and encouraged him, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me” (19:6). For all of king Sennacherib’s boastings, he was nothing compared to the LORD who promised to “send a blast upon him, and he shall hear a rumour” (19:7), and send the king and his army fleeing to their homeland where he would “fall by the sword in his own land” (19:7).

Hezekiah’s Desperate Prayer (19:8-19)

Soon after Isaiah prophesied Sennacherib’s defeat, that king received news of a threat from Tirhakah king of Ethiopia. Realizing the coming danger against him, Sennacherib made one final threat against Jerusalem (19:9-13).

The Assyrian king mocked Hezekiah’s faith and declared, “Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria” (19:10). Naming all the kings who had fallen to Assyria (19:11-12), Sennacherib asserted the God of Israel and Judah would not deliver Jerusalem or Hezekiah from his assault.

When Hezekiah received Sennacherib’s letter, he made his way to the Temple, spread out the letter before the LORD, and prayed (19:14-19).

Consider with me some instructive elements we find in Hezekiah’s prayer that should serve as a model for believers. The king declared his faith in the God of heaven whose presence had been revealed in the Tabernacle and Temple, praying, “O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone” (19:15a). He acknowledged the sovereignty of the LORD over the “kingdoms of the earth” (19:15b), and declared His God was the Creator, for He “made heaven and earth” (19:15c).

After worshipping the LORD in prayer, Hezekiah appealed to Him to hear Sennacherib’s insults, and the reproaches he had cast upon “the living God” (19:16). He recounted the nations that had fallen to Assyria, and the gods of those nations that “were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them” (19:18). Hezekiah appealed to the LORD to save His people, asking “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only” (19:19).

Isaiah’s Assurance: Hezekiah’s Prayer Would Be Answered. (19:20-31)

Referring to Jerusalem as “the virgin daughter of Zion” (19:21), Isaiah declared Hezekiah’s prayer had been heard, and the LORD had heard the scorn and mocking of Sennacherib king of Assyria (19:20). Proud and foolish, the king of Assyria had reproached and blasphemed “the Holy One of Israel” (19:22-24).

Sennacherib refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of the LORD, and did not understand God had strengthened him, and given him power over the nations (19:25-26). The king of Assyria, however, refused to accept that the God of heaven knew all about him, and his rage against the LORD (19:27). The LORD, therefore, had determined Sennacherib would be led away from Judah to his homeland, like a beast with a ring in its nose, and a bridle in its mouth (19:28).

What assurance would Hezekiah have that the LORD had performed all He had promised His people? The people would harvest volunteer crops for two years that they had not planted. The third year, there would be peace and the people would plant seed and reap a harvest (19:29). Furthermore, the remnant that escaped Assyria, would be blessed with a growing population (19:30-31).

Sennacherib and his Assyrian soldiers would never enter Jerusalem, although they were an overwhelming force (19:32-33). The LORD declared, “I will defend this city [Jerusalem], to save it, For mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (19:34). That very night, the LORD sent forth his angel and 185,000 Assyrians were slain (19:35). All that the LORD had promised came to pass, for Sennacherib returned to his homeland defeated, and years later “his sons smote him with the sword,” and a third son “reigned in his [father’s] stead” (19:37).

Closing thoughts – Our Scripture reading concluded today with a reminder for the ages: God is sovereign over men and nations. The LORD determines the boundaries of nations, and their success and destruction. Foolish man may not acknowledge Him, and some will scoff, but be forewarned: God determines the rise and fall of leaders and nations.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

It is Not Too Late to Repent (Hosea 11)

Scripture reading – Hosea 11

We are nearing the conclusion of our study of the prophecies of Hosea, and I am reminded of the prophet’s experience with his adulterous wife (Hosea 1-3). The betrayal and heartache he suffered had impassioned his plea for Israel to return to the LORD.

The LORD’s Unfailing Love for Israel (11:1-4)

The LORD reminded Hosea how He delivered Israel out of bondage, declaring, “I loved him [Israel], and called my son [the Twelve Tribes] out of Egypt” (11:1). Yet, Israel betrayed the LORD, and offered sacrifices to Baal, and “burned incense to graven images” (11:2).

The LORD described His love for Israel in the terms of a father’s affections for a son. He had taken up Ephraim in His arms (11:3). With the cords and “bands of love,” He guided and fed Israel (11:4).

The LORD Disciplined Israel (11:5-7)

Because Israel refused to repent (11:5), the LORD promised He would send Assyria to discipline the nation (11:5). Though the people made a pretense of calling on the LORD (11:7), they were backslidden (11:7), and none sincerely worshipped Him.

The LORD’s Dilemma (11:8-9)

With a broken heart, the LORD made a passionate plea for His people, saying, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel?” (11:8a). He loved the people, but Israel did not love Him. He recalled how He had judged Admah and Zeboim, two cities in the plain that were destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah (11:8; Genesis 14:2; Deuteronomy 29:22), and confessed, “Mine heart is turned within me, My repentings are kindled together” (11:8).

He had destroyed other nations for the same wickedness, but the LORD would not forget His covenant with Israel (11:9). He would judge Israel for her sins; however, He would not annihilate His people (11:9).

The LORD’s Promise to Restore Israel (11:10-12)

The balance of Hosea 11 is a declaration from the LORD that He will restore His people to their land. He would roar like a lion, and the people will return to Him “from the west” [perhaps Europe] with fear and trembling (11:10). They would come back like “a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria” (11:11a). The LORD promised He would restore His people and “place them in their houses” (11:11b).

Closing thoughts – We are reminded once again that the LORD is both just and longsuffering. The lies and deceit of Ephraim (Hosea 11:12), and the rambling and wandering ways of Judah demanded God’s judgment, and yet God waited for His people to repent.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith