Tag Archives: Political

To All Who Secured Our Freedoms, and to Those Whose Loved Ones Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice, THANK YOU!

“The American Experiment,” as some have described the founding of our union, began with a unanimous Declaration by thirteen colonies, who identified themselves as, “the thirteen united states of America.”

Thomas Jefferson, and fifty-five other patriots who represented their home states, declared and affirmed a foundational principle of liberty for which they were willing to lay down their lives, and sacrifice their wealth:

“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.”

Jefferson went on to write, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

I denoted the phrase, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” for we have become a nation whose government is managed by self-appointed oligarchs, and that assert powers for which we, the American people, have not consented!

I have not consented that federal, state, or municipal governments have the right to limit my freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of religion. I have not consented to politicians the authority to define the sanctity of human life, or the definition of male and female. I have not consented to the right of the state to enforce laws, guidelines, and policies that restrict my “Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.”

Ronald Reagan, the late 40th president of the United States, once said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Unfortunately, the pandemic of 2020-2021 became a catalyst for politicians, judges, and bureaucrats to erode our freedoms, under the pretext that they are limiting our liberties in the interests of the citizenry.

Remember, whatever can be taken from you is effectively not yours. I fear we have lost many of the freedoms for which brave men and women have died in the service of our nation. I pray the membership of Hillsdale Baptist Church might remember our indebtedness to those who have lived, fought, and died, and in the words of Patrick Henry, declare: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Only a Nation of Fools Eradicates Its History (Numbers 36; Deuteronomy 1)

Scripture reading – Numbers 36; Deuteronomy 1

Numbers 36 – Women’s Rights, and a Question of Inheritance

The Book of Numbers ended on an interesting note, as a concern regarding inheritance was raised once again. We considered in an earlier devotional the matter of a man’s inheritance, should he die without a son as heir (Numbers 27:7-11). A Hebrew man named Zelophehad had died without a son, and his five daughters had petitioned that they were their father’s heirs, and rightful heirs of his possession in the Promised Land (27:4-5). The LORD had directed Moses that Zelophehad’s daughters would be given their father’s inheritance (27:6-11).

Because the lands were assigned by tribes, and families, there was concern for what would become of tribal lands should a man’s heirs be his daughters (Numbers 36:1-4), and marry outside their tribe. It was contended that the lands would be lost to a tribe, should the daughters marry outside their tribe. The quandary was resolved, by the daughters being required to take a husband from their father’s tribe (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophehad,” submitting to the LORD’s will, and marrying men within their tribe. Thus, the land was secured for future generations of their tribal family (36:10-13).

An Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book, of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness, and gave us a record of God’s Law and Commandments.

The Book of Deuteronomy begins at the conclusion of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, with that nation encamped at the threshold of the Promised Land. With the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation that had departed Egypt, and were twenty years old and older at that time, was dead.

Deuteronomy 1 – The Final Words and Exhortation of Moses to Israel

Deuteronomy records the final words, and exhortations of a man that had shepherded Israel forty years.  We read: “And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them” (1:3).

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation. Moses challenged the people, “8Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them” (Deuteronomy 1:8).

Much as a man might research his ancestral family tree to know the history of his lineage, Moses sought to pass to the new generation a knowledge of not only their physical ancestry, but more importantly, their spiritualheritage as God’s chosen people.

The balance of the first chapter of Deuteronomy served as a recap of Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, and the previous generation’s refusal to trust the LORD. For any who might question why the generation before them had perished in the wilderness, Moses reminded them as a nation:

Deuteronomy 1:32–3832Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God,
33Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.
34And the Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying,
35Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers,
36Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the Lord.
37Also the Lord was angry with me for your sakes, saying, Thou also shalt not go in thither.
38But Joshua the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither: encourage him: for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.

History is important, and only a doomed society dare deny its history, and fail to learn from its past. Eradicating the history, and symbols of a nation might pacify a few, but it will invariably destine its people to repeat its failures.

In the words of the British statesman, Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard (Numbers 26-27)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 26-27

The gross adultery, and idolatry recorded in Numbers 25 had provoked God to send a plague in Israel that occasioned the deaths of twenty-four thousand people (25:9). With the plague past, the LORD commanded Moses to take a final census before crossing over the Jordan River, “from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel” (26:2).

Numbers 26 – The Final Census, Before the Promised Land

A census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had first been taken in Numbers 1-4. A comparison of that census, with this later one reveals a slight decrease in the Twelve Tribes overall (the first totaling 603,500 men, and the second 601,730 men, who were twenty years or older). Some tribes had experienced a decline (Simeon declining from 59,300 men, to 22,200 men, twenty years and older). Other tribes had experienced a large growth in population (the men of the tribe of Manasseh had increased from 32,200, to 52,700 men, twenty years and older). The names and the numbering of the Twelve Tribes is recorded in Numbers 26:5-50.

The census was important, for it became the basis for assigning each tribe their own territory in the Promised Land (26:52-56). The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe chosen by the LORD to serve Him, did not receive an inheritance of land in Canaan (26:62).

Numbers 26 concludes with a sobering reminder of God’s judgment upon Israel (26:64). The prior generation of people who had come out of Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD and obey Him, had all perished in the wilderness, save two men: “65For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun” (26:65).

Numbers 27 – Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard

The Scriptures prove the LORD’s judgments are just in the matter of women’s rights. Numbers 27:1-11 is a wonderful case study regarding the rights of women, and reveals the inequitable laws women protest are not God’s way, but men’s! If men would follow the ethics of the Scriptures, they would realize the ways of the LORD are wise, benevolent, and compassionate.

Five daughters, of one man of the tribe of Manasseh, came to Moses, and Eleazar the high priest (27:1-2). Their father had died, with no son, and leaving no male heir. The daughters were permitted to plead their case regarding their late father’s right-of-inheritance in the Promised Land (27:1-4). According to the law, a man’s inheritance was to pass to his son; however, without a son, what was to become of a man’s possessions?

The daughters reasoned, “4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son?” (27:4) Arguing they, and their father had been slighted, the women petitioned, “Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (27:4).

Rather than make a hasty, ill-advised decision, or trust men’s opinions, Moses withdrew, and “brought [the] cause [of the daughters] before the LORD” (27:5). The LORD, affirmed the sisters assertion (27:6), and answered Moses: “Thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter” (27:7). Ensuring a family’s possessions would remain within the tribe, should a man die and have neither a son or daughter, his inheritance would pass to his next of kin (27:9-11).

Numbers 27:12-23 – End of an Era

The LORD commanded Moses, “Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13  And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (27:12-13).

Moses was reminded that he would not enter the Land of Promise (27:14; 20:7-13), and accepted the consequence of his sin with grace. Like a true shepherd leader, Moses requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation” (27:16). Moses desired to ensure his successor would be a man of God’s choosing, and a man with a shepherd’s heart (27:17).

God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit [of God]” (27:18).  Leaving no uncertainty that Joshua was God’s choice (27:18), the LORD directed Moses to confirm him before “all the congregation” (27:19-20). Moses obeyed the LORD, and took Joshua, and “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

A closing thought: Although he was one of the greatest men to ever live, Moses did inevitably go the way of all flesh, and was “gathered unto [his] people, as Aaron [his] brother was gathered” (27:13).  Miriam was dead; Aaron was dead; and because he had sinned before all the people, Moses would die, without crossing into the Promised Land (27:14).

The author of Hebrews writes, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tower of Babel and One Big Unhappy Family (Genesis 10-11)

Scripture reading – Genesis 10-11

The conflicts among the races and nations of the world have their origin in today’s Scripture reading (Genesis 10-11). Genesis 10 lists the descendants of Noah’s three sons and concludes by introducing us to Terah, the father of Abraham, the patriarch. We find in Genesis 10-11 the common kinship of all humanity, traced back to Noah’s three sons.

Genesis 10 is where God begins to deal with the Hebrew people through the lineage of Shem. Though the Old Testament focuses upon the history of Israel, and God’s dealing with His chosen people, nonetheless, the LORD never forsook humanity.

Genesis 10

Genesis 10 records the names of sixteen sons who were born to Noah’s three sons (and perhaps as many daughters). Genesis 10 registers seventy individual nations that emerged from Noah’s sons: fourteen associated with Japheth (10:2-5), thirty linked to Ham (10:25-27), and twenty-six from Shem (10:21-31).

Japheth, Noah’s oldest son, was the father of many Gentile nations (9:27; 10:2-5), among them the ancient empires of Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the European people (namely, Germans, Russians, Italians, French, Spanish, and the English).

Ham, Noah’s youngest son who was identified as “Canaan” in Genesis 9:25, was father to some of the great empires of the ancient world, among them the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and some scholars would suggest Chinese, Japanese, American Indians, and African tribes (10:6-20).

Although cursed to be a “servant of servants” (9:25-27), the accomplishments of Ham’s progeny were so vast that it appears they set their minds to cast off the curse of being a “servant of servants.” Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, and the son of Cush, was the first ruler following the flood (10:8-10). He was a “mighty hunter” (10:9), and founded what would become ancient “Babel…in the land of Shinar” (10:10).

Shem, Noah’s second born son, was “the father of all the children of Eber” (10:21-31). Scholars believe the name “Eber,” is an ancient word from which the word “Hebrew” was derived (10:21). “Eber” was the father of the Hebrews (Abraham is described as “Abram the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13, and the nomadic Arab tribes and nations.

Shem’s lineage is the ancestral line through which God would fulfill His promise of a Redeemer Savior. Genesis 10 concludes leaving no doubt that all nations and people in our world today are descended from Noah’s three sons:

Genesis 10:32 – “32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

Resisting God’s command to “replenish the earth” (9:1), Noah’s sons and their families continued as “one language, and of one speech” (11:1), and congregated in “a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there” (11:2).

Arising from their desire to continue as they were (being “of one language, and of one speech,” 11:1), mankind resolved to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (11:4). Man’s sinful pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion was summed up in this: Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4).

Once again, we are made privy to a heavenly conversation when the LORD determined to intervene, lest the wickedness and rebellion of man be carried so far that there would be no hope of salvation, and “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (11:6).

Confounding their one language into multiple languages, the LORD caused the work on the tower and the city to cease, and men were forced to scatter abroad “upon the face of all the earth” (11:7-8).

Genesis 11 concludes with the lineage of Shem, and leading our Bible study to a great crossroads in the history of mankind: God calling Abraham (11:31-12:1).

Friend, never forget that the story of history is “HIS-STORY;” a testimony of God’s invisible, providential hand and His “Amazing Grace.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The hour of revival had past, and it was too late! (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35). 2 Kings was a contemporary history record; however, 2 Chronicles was authored while Israel and Judah were in captivity. Both are historical accounts of the promise of blessings (when kings obey the LORD’s Law and Commandments) and judgment (when those same kings rebel and disobey the LORD). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the accounts in 2 Kings 22-23.

2 Kings 22

The glorious reign of Josiah, the grandson of King Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years) and the son of Amon (a wicked king who reigned two years), was a period of revival in Judah.

Josiah began to reign when he was eight years old, and perhaps because of the influence of his mother, he chose to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

The king commanded that the Temple be repaired (22:3-7), and in the course of doing so the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8). The “book of the law” was taken to King Josiah and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah, overwhelmed by the words of the law and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), sent messengers to enquire of a prophetess named Huldah (22:13-14). Huldah confirmed to the king that the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah was assured that he would not see the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in his lifetime because his “heart was tender” and he had humbled himself before the LORD (22:18-19).

2 Kings 23

Josiah set his heart to begin a national reformation of Judah, and one that reached northward to the land and remnant of Israel (2 Kings 23). Gathering all the leaders and people of Judah, the king renewed Judah’s covenant with the LORD (23:1-3).

The king commanded the Temple be cleansed of idolatry and all the elements associated with such wickedness destroyed, ground to powder, and burned (23:4-6). Demonstrating the depth of depravity to which Judah had descended, we find there were “houses of the sodomites” (homosexuals) located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah took his crusade for reformation to Bethel where Jeroboam, the first king of the northern ten tribes, had established idolatry (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough that he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

Josiah also observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).

The reign of Josiah was celebrated in Judah. In the annals of Judah’s history there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Nevertheless, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of King Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of Manasseh, had sealed the fate of that nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).

Three rebellious kings followed Josiah in quick succession (23:31-37) and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, began to overshadow the land (2 Kings 24).

For Judah, the hour of revival had past, and it was too late.

Genesis 6:3 – “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The morality of a nation determines its destiny. (Nahum 1-3)

Scripture reading – Nahum 1-3

Our Scripture reading today is the Book of Nahum.  Only three chapters long and authored by the man whose name it bears, it is a book easily overlooked.  Numbered among the minor prophets, Nahum was a servant and prophet of God of whom little is known. Because the prophetic content of the book is the destruction of Nineveh (Nahum 1:1), the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire, we can place the date of Nahum’s ministry in the 7th century B.C.

A century earlier, when Jonah was God’s prophet, Nineveh had been spared destruction when the king and the citizens of that city repented of their sins, but now for its abuses of Israel, Nineveh would not be spared. Nahum warned of imminent destruction of Nineveh, and the overthrow of the Assyrian empire by a coalition of the Medes and Babylon.

Nahum declared God’s holy nature (1:2-3) and warned the people that the LORD whom the prophet described as “jealous…furious… slow to anger (meaning, patient and longsuffering), and great in power, and [Just] will not at all acquit the wicked” (1:2-3).

In the midst of his prophecies against Nineveh (1:4-6, 8-14), Nahum reminded the people of Judah, “The LORD is good [altogether good; right], a strong hold [fortress; rock; place of safety] in the day of trouble [distress; affliction]; and he knoweth [perceive; understands; cares for] them that trust [confide; hope; flee to for protection] in Him” (1:7).

The Assyrian empire seemed invincible in Nahum’s day.  Its borders encompassed Palestine and reached as far south as Egypt.  Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary describes Nineveh, the Assyrian capital city:

This “exceeding great city” lay on the eastern or left bank of the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles, having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient cities. (1) Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature.

Nahum 2 describes the armies that God would draw upon to fulfill His judgment against Nineveh and the Assyrian empire.  The prophet describes the invasion of Assyria (2:1-4) and the capture of the city and its leaders (2:5-13).

Nahum 3 gives us a vivid picture of Nineveh’s destruction and the slaughter of its inhabitants.  Nahum 3:8-19 reminds us no nation, city, or people are too big, great or powerful to escape God’s judgment.  Nahum ends with a question our own nation and leaders would be wise to ponder:

Nahum 3:19 – “There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?

Nineveh’s wickedness, its idolatry and immorality, moved it beyond God’s patience and the city and nation were doomed.  The evil the nation had committed against others would now fall upon that great city.

May that truth serve as a warning to our nation, institutions, churches and homes. Solomon writes the same truth in a proverb he taught his son.

Proverbs 14:34“Righteousness [moral uprightness] exalteth [elevates] a nation: but sin is a reproach[shame] to any people.”

Make no mistake, the morality of a nation determines its destiny.  When a people have a passion for righteousness they are blessed, however, sin inevitably humiliates and eventually destroys.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A God Who Hears and Answers Prayer (2 Chronicles 32-33)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 32-33

Today’s Scripture reading is an abridged version of the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah that has been considered 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 devotional commentary will focus solely on 2 Chronicles 32.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel to the north opened the way for Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1).

King Hezekiah consulted with his leaders and determined to enforce the city walls and deprive Assyria’s army of water by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city (32:2-5). Displaying his faith and confidence in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people:

2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – “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 him8  With him 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.”

Sending messengers and writing letters to the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned their confidence in the king. The king of Assyria also spoke against the God of Israel, asserting their God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Finally, Sennacherib declared that Hezekiah had deceived the people of Jerusalem, leading 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 the God of Israel?

2 Chronicles 32:20 – “Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.”

Isaiah describes this moment observing that “Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the [Assyrian] messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD” (Isaiah 37:14-17).

Hezekiah’s focus was not on the threats of his enemy or his own strengths. The king’s faith and hope were in the LORD who heard the king’s prayer and “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:20).

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 God alone was due (32:25).  The king was “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26), God restored his health.

Permit me to close with an observation and application. 

King Solomon taught his son, “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. A leader’s character does matter!  Whether it is the leadership of a nation, state, city, church or school, a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on people.

Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in the Sovereignty and Judgment of God (Isaiah 23-27)

Scripture reading: Isaiah 23-27

Isaiah continues his prophecy against the nations in today’s Scripture reading that is admittedly, challenging to both read and understand! This may be your first attempt to read Isaiah’s prophecies and I encourage you to press on. Pray for the LORD to open your eyes to understanding as you open your heart. The primary focus of today’s commentary will be Isaiah 23-24.

Isaiah 23

Three ancient cities are the subject of Isaiah 23. The city of Tyre is the principal subject of the chapter. Tyre was a major shipping port in ancient times (23:1), and was located in Philistia on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea of what is today’s southern Lebanon. Tyre and Zidon (also spelled Sidon) were the two major cities of ancient Philista (23:2, 4, 12). The third city is Tarshish (23:1), a major shipping port in today’s Spain.

Isaiah prophesied that Tyre would be “laid waste” (23:1). Biblical prophecy and recorded history validate that the Chaldeans (the citizens of Babylon) conquered Tyre (23:2-15).  Trade and commerce were disrupted in that region for seventy years (23:15-17).

Why would Israel be interested in the destruction of Tyre? 

The answer to that question is found in these words: “The LORD of hosts hath purposed it…He stretched out his hand over the sea, He shook the kingdoms” (23:9, 11).  The destruction and devastation of Tyre would be a testimony of God’s sovereignty.

No nation, including our own, is so powerful that it can escape God’s judgment once He has set His face against it.

Isaiah 24

Isaiah 24 continues the theme of God’s judgment against the nations, describing a scene where the earth is defiled by sin (24:1-5).  Isaiah prophesied that the earth is cursed and in the day of the LORD, the day of His judgment, “the inhabitants of the earth” will be burned (24:6).

The scene is one of universal judgment (24:1-12) and universal suffering (24:16-17). The earth is violently shaken as the LORD will “punish the host of the high ones…and the kings of the earth” (24:21). The Second Coming of Christ will mark the end of the Great Tribulation (24:23).

Isaiah 25-26

Isaiah 25 transitions from God’s judgment of the nations (Isaiah 23-24) to Israel rejoicing in the LORD who is a refuge for His people (25:1-12).

Isaiah 26 finds Judah restored to her land and rejoicing in the LORD who has promised peace, rest, and everlasting security (26:1-4).

Isaiah 27

Scholars believe the three beasts described in Isaiah 27:1 represent prophetically three empires of the world.

The chapter ends with a yet to be fulfilled prophecy: The restoration of the children of Israel to their land where they will “be gathered one by one” (27:12).

A closing thought: The earth and her inhabitants live under the curse of sin. News reports of natural disasters (earthquakes, storms, pollution), epidemics, violence and rioting serve as daily reminders that “the whole creation groaneth and travileth in pain together” (Romans 1:22).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and Will Accomplish His Purpose (2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25)

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25

2 Kings 14, and 2 Chronicles 25 are records of the same historical events: The reigns of Joash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah.

I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy and had been guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24).  During Joash’s reign, Judah had experienced a spiritual renaissance and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died (24:15), and Joash heeded the counsel of wicked men.

Someone has observed the path of sin will always take you further than you ever planned to go, and so it was with Joash. He forgot the kindness of his lifelong friend, the chief priest Jehoiada (24:22), and eventually fell in with those men who stoned to death the prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:20-22). Tragically, Joash’s reign ended when he was assassinated by his servants who avenged the slaying of Zechariah (24:24-26).

Joash’s son, Amaziah became king in Judah (24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart” (25:2).

It is that last phrase, “but not with a perfect heart” (25:2), that will shadow the life and reign of Amaziah.  Amaziah exacted justice for his father’s assassination, killing those who murdered his father; however, unlike other kings, he did not prevail upon the families of the assassins, and spared the lives of their sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah organized his army in preparation for war with Edom (descendants of Esua, who lived on the east side of the Dead Sea); however, he foolishly hired mercenary soldiers out of Israel (25:6). When God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah that hiring idol worshipping mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7), the king heeded the warning and sent the soldiers of Israel home (25:10).

As Amaziah led his army into what would be a glorious victory over Edom, the mercenary soldiers from Israel, for the slight of not going to war and taking the spoils of battle, turned and attacked cities along the border of Judah (25:13).

Remembering Amaziah was a man who lacked “a perfect heart” for the LORD, we read he committed idolatry (25:14) following his victory over Edom and foolishly worshipped the idols of Edom! The LORD sent a prophet who warned the king he had provoked God’s wrath for foolishly worshipping the gods of the very people he had defeated (25:15-16). His heart lifted up with pride, Amaziah rejected the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill him (25:16).

Fresh off his victory over Edom, Amaziah initiated a call to war against Joash, king of Israel. Joash warned Amaziah to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19). Blinded by pride and heeding the counsel of his peers (25:17), Amaziah, went to war and was defeated by Joash who took him prisoner (25:21-23).

With King Amaziah as his prisoner, Joash broke down the northern wall of Jerusalem and plundered the treasuries of the palace and the Temple (25:21-24).

I close with a principle concerning the sovereignty of the LORD.

Sinful pride distorts the thoughts within man, and Amaziah deluded by victory, refused to heed the warning sent to him in a fable by Joash, king of Israel (25:18-20). We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).

Amaziah refused the prophet’s warning and rejected the caution of Israel’s king. The king’s pride led to Judah’s humiliating defeat, the disgrace of being taken prisoner, the eventual plundering of the Temple, and pilfering of the palace treasuries (25:21-23). The king suffered his final humiliation when his servants conspired to slay him (25:28).

Warning: Pride distorts a man’s thinking, blinds him to his faults, and invariably brings him to ruin. In the words of Solomon:

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [arrogance] goeth before destruction [calamity; breach], and an haughty [proud; self-sufficient] spirit before a fall [ruin].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips (2 Kings 5-8)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5-8

Our Scripture reading covers four chapters; however, today’s devotional will focus only on 2 Kings 5.

2 Kings 5

With Elijah’s dramatic departure into the presence of the LORD (2 Kings 2), Elisha became the principal prophet in Israel. Several miracles, including those recorded in 2 Kings 4, validated that Elisha was Elijah’s successor and proved the power of God rested upon him.

The news of God’s anointing upon Elisha reached the household of a man named Naaman, “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1). We read that Naaman “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great in size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was a physical affliction…leprosy. Apart from a miracle, there was no cure. A leper would eventually face exclusion from the living, as the dreaded disease slowly ate away his face, limbs, and extremities of his body.

Providentially, a slave girl from Israel shared with Naaman’s wife that there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  Hearing there was hope for the captain of his armies to be healed, the king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel with gifts and a letter to the king requesting that his servant might be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was an impossible one for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).

When Elisha understood the king of Israel’s distress, he requested that Naaman be sent to his household, assuring the king, “let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Imagine the drama as Naaman, the great captain of Syria, arrives at Elisha’s house. His plight with leprosy was no doubt visible and this great warrior found his body plagued with a curse that not only stole his dignity, but would inevitably rob him of life.

Rather than the dramatic miracle healing he had hoped, Elisha sent a messenger and commanded Naaman to take a path of humiliation and “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10). Naaman’s response brings to light the fact that Naaman not only had an affliction of the flesh, his soul was also cursed and blinded with another disease…pride.

Naaman was enraged (5:11-12). Instead of some great, ceremonial act of healing, the prophet’s demand that he wash himself in Israel’s small Jordan River (5:9-10) was an affront to the man of Syria. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants prevailed upon him and persuaded their master to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Miraculously healed, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman then responded with a moving statement of his faith in the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel, and swore that he would never again offer sacrifices to other gods (5:17-18).

The closing verses of 2 Kings 5 turns the spiritual lens of this passage from Naaman’s dramatic statement of faith to the petty, covetousness of “Gehazi, the servant of Elisha” (5:20). Knowing Elisha had refused Naaman’s reward for healing him of leprosy, Gehazi determined he would not allow the moment to pass without seeking opportunity to enrich himself (5:20-22).

Without Elisha’s knowledge, Gehazi followed after Naaman and when the captain of Syria saw him he halted. Stepping down from his chariot, Naaman greeted Elisha’s servant with a question of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21). Gehazi responded with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), but then lied by suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward. Naaman granted Gehazi’s request who then took and hid the gifts (5:23-24) before returning to Elisha (5:25).

With the keen discernment of a spiritual man, Elisha questioned his servant “whence comest thou” (5:25). Gehazi lied, answering, his master, “Thy servant went no whither” (5:25). Knowing the covetous, disingenuous spirit of Gehazi, Elisha pronounced God’s judgment on his unfaithful servant who was immediately smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).

There are many spiritual lessons we might take from 2 Kings 5. One is that Naaman’s sinful pride nearly robbed him of not only the physical healing of his body from leprosy, but also the spiritual healing that came to his soul when he believed and confessed, he would only offer sacrifices to the LORD hereafter (5:17).

Another spiritual lesson is the reminder that God hates covetousness and lying lips: Gehazi coveted Naaman’s reward and then lied to Elisha. The consequences of his sins was not only that leprosy would plague him the rest of his life, but his children would also bear the curse of their father’s sins (5:27).

I close being reminded there are seven things the LORD despises and that will invite His judgment (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Proverbs 6:16-19 – “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith