Tag Archives: Political

Warning: God is Jealous for His People!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 25-30

The historical context of today’s reading finds both Israel and Judah in captivity after God’s people rebelled and turned away from His law and commandments.   Having rejected the warnings of His prophets, the LORD judged those nations as He promised; however, He never forsook them.  Ezekiel 25 reminds us God is jealous for His people.

After destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar’s army took the people of Judah captive to Babylon.   Witnessing the calamity of God’s people, the heathen nations rejoiced in their sorrows and sufferings.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and despised the heathen’s joy in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14) and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel and Judah (25:15-17).

Ezekiel 26-30 continues the prophet’s warning to the nations that their pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel would be rewarded with their own judgment.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia would fall to Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19).  Zidon, a city north of Tyrus, would also suffer the calamity and destruction that was the fate of Tyrus and neighboring nations who reveled in the destruction of Jerusalem (28:20-24).   Ezekiel 28 ends with the blessed promise God would gather His people from Babylonian exile and restore them to their land (28:25-26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Egypt too would be judged for her sins against Israel and her treasures would be the reward of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-16) as Babylon served God’s purpose for bringing judgment against that nation (29:17-21) and her neighbors (30:1-26).

There is a lesson in today’s reading that nations of the 21st century would be wise to heed:

There are grave consequences for those people and nations that take joy in the sorrows and sufferings of the Jews and Christians.

The atrocities committed against the Jews in the Second World War and the virtual annihilation of those nations that perpetrated them (Nazi Germany and fascist Italy) stands as a testimony that God loves His own, even when His people turn from Him.

Many reading this brief devotional are unaware those nations and people occupied by the Soviet Union and overwhelmed by Communist oppression in the years that followed World War II were guilty of crimes against the Jews on a scale that is unfathomable.   Eastern European nations that fell into the Soviet bloc of nations and suffered under communism were themselves guilty of murderous acts against the Jews and suffered their own sorrows until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I close with illustrative verses of God’s love for Israel and a warning for all who harm His people.

Zechariah 1:14 – “…Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

Zechariah 2:8 – “…he that toucheth you [Israel] toucheth the apple [pupil] of His eye[meaning the eye of the LORD].

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”

Warning: Mistreat God’s people and take pleasure in their sorrows and you will inevitably suffer the same, for God is a jealous God.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is the Final Judge and Justice Will Prevail!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 81-83

We continue in our reading and study of the Book of the Psalms each Wednesday and today our assignment is Psalms 81, 82 and 83.   Of course, these psalms are hymns of praise Israel would sing as they worshipped the LORD in His Temple.

Psalm 81 calls the people together to worship, reminding them of the LORD’s love and providential care for Israel.  The occasion is a Jewish holiday (81:3); however, the exact holiday is not stated.   I believe it might have been the Passover since the psalm makes reference to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (81:5-6) and the nation’s journey out of Egypt and in the wilderness (81:7-10).

Psalm 82 focuses on the failure of judges  to exercise righteous judgments in the affairs and disputes arising among the people.   The psalmist reminds the judges and others in positions of leadership, God is the final judge (82:1); “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (82:2).

Reminding us nothing has changed concerning the hearts of sinners, the leaders and judges in Israel were apparently accepting bribes and granting favors to the wicked, at the sacrifice of the good and well-being of the “poor, fatherless, and needy” (82:3-4).   The psalmist admonishes the judges; “do justice to the afflicted and needy… rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (82:3b, 4b).

Psalm 82:5 reminds us when the balances of justice are weighed in favor of the wicked, darkness prevails (82:5a) and the principles of truth and righteousness are “out of course” (82:5b).

On a personal note: Though founded upon spiritual principles that are foundationally Biblical, it is my observation America’s judicial system is skewed by unjust politicians, lawyers and judges who too often rule in favor of the wicked.   Sadly, justice is for sale to the highest bidder in some courts and the poor, needy, and middle class suffer injustices.

Psalm 82:6 reminds those who judge (and I believe this is applicable not only in civil courts, but also when judgment is required of the church in matters of discipline) they are to weigh judicial matters of law and justice as God’s earthly representatives (“…all of you are children of the most High” – 82:6).

Let all who are in authority and bear the trust of God and the people in civil, academic and spiritual matters be reminded God is the final judge and all will be held accountable for their sphere of influence and judgments (82:7-8).

Romans 14:11-12 – For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Keys to Success

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 75-77

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalms 75, 76 and 77 all ascribed to Asaph as the author (as are Psalms 73-83), a priest and musician in the court of king David (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7).  Psalm 75 will be my focus for today’s devotional commentary.

Although we know the author was Asaph, we are not told the occasion that inspired the writing of this psalm of praise.  Given the content of the psalm, it is my speculation it was written following a battle or time of conflict.

We take several spiritual lessons away from Psalm 75.  The first, God is the object of our praise and thanksgiving (75:1). The second, God promises He is a righteous judge (75:2).

The third lesson, when you find yourself living in uncertain, shaky times, rest assure God is not alarmed and will “bear up the pillars” (i.e. the supports) of the earth beneath you (75:3).

We find a warning to boastful fools tempted to “blow their own horn” (75:4b-5a) and to sing their own praises in Psalm 75:4-7.   Such fools are proud, celebrating and promoting themselves, their interests and agenda apart from God’s blessings.  The LORD warns, don’t play the fool and stiffen your neck against the LORD (75:5)

Psalms 75:6 stresses a spiritual principle God’s people, especially their leaders, should heed: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.”

Men crave promotion and positions of authority where they are lauded with praise; however, a wise man remembers whatever promotion might come his way is an act of God’s grace.

After all, “God is the judge [governor; the final dispenser of justice]: He putteth down [humbles; abases; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts; raises up] another” (Psalms 75:7).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD, He Is God!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 14-18

For a proper understanding of the events we will read about in today’s scriptural reading (1 Kings 14-18), I begin with a reminder of the historical context of our passage.  Israel is now a divided nation.  The ten tribes in the north are now named “Israel”; however, they do not include the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin.  Judah and Benjamin combine to become one nation known as “Judah” and Jerusalem serves as the nation’s capital.  Although Israel was a divided nation, God remembered His promises to David and his lineage continued to reign in Jerusalem over Judah.

King David is dead. King Solomon is dead; and Rehoboam, Solomon’s son reigns over a divided nation (1 Kings 12:1-16).   Jeroboam, Solomon’s old enemy returned from exile in Egypt to lead the northern ten tribes in an act of defiance against king Rehoboam and rebellion against the LORD (1 Kings 12:16-33).

We read of Jeroboam, he “returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places” (1 Kings 13:33).  Jeroboam rejected the God of Israel, His Word, worship and sacrifices in Jerusalem and substituted a pretense of religion and ordained morally destitute priests to compliment his and Israel’s (the northern ten tribes) wickedness.

Such is the way of the world and the wicked. Evil leaders and sinners are not necessarily against religion; however, they are against the God of Heaven, His law and commandments that expose and condemn their sins. For sinners and politicians who serve them, religion is one of many tools employed in manipulating the masses and there are always “priests” (and preachers) of the lowest order willing to serve and accommodate their sins.

1 Kings 14 begins as a prophecy against Jeroboam, king of Israel, revealing his son will die and eventually his lineage be cut off from reigning over Israel.   Jeroboam dies (14:20) and his son Nadab ascends to Israel’s throne.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over Judah; however, his reign was marred by all manner of wickedness and the nation’s decline continued (14:21-24).   Shishak king of Egypt invaded Judah and took away the treasures that had marked the wealth and opulence of Solomon’s reign, including the shields of gold decorating the walls of the king’s palace (14:25-26).   To save face and mask the decline of his reign and the nation, Rehoboam had golden shields of brass made as a substitute for the shields of gold taken by the king of Egypt (14:27-28).

For a parallel of the same concealing of reality, I invite you to ponder our own nation’s pretense of wealth and prosperity.   While Rehoboam made shields of brass that were a cheap copy of the shields of gold that were lost, our own nation continues to print dollars and borrowing $20 trillion to keep up a pretense of supporting a government and social programs we can no longer afford.  Such is the way of a nation when its people turn away from God.

1 Kings 15-16 records a succession of kings reigning over Israel and Judah.  While Israel in the north continued in its wickedness, a glimmer of revival rose in Judah when king Asa “did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD” (15:11-14).

The notoriously wicked king Ahab came to reign over Israel and he took to wife an equally wicked wife named Jezebel (1 Kings 16:29-33).  Of Ahab we read, “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:33).

God had not forgotten His people and raised up the prophet Elijah to minister to and confront the sins of Ahab, his wife Jezebel and the nation (1 Kings 17).  While the nation suffered drought, God lovingly provided for Elijah, first at a brook (17:2-7) and then in a widow’s household (17:8-24).

As the drought and famine continued, we learn in 1 Kings 18 the depth of wickedness to which king Ahab and his wife Jezebel had descended.  While Jezebel perpetuated the worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:31-32) she also sought to murder all the prophets of the LORD in Israel (18:3-4).  A man named Obadiah, a servant to king Ahab described as fearing “the LORD greatly” (18:3), saved the lives of one hundred prophets by hiding, feeding and giving them water to drink (18:4).

Having sought for and failed to slay the prophet Elijah, the stage was set in 1 Kings 18 for one of the great contest between the wicked personified in Ahab and Jezebel and Elijah, the prophet of God.  The failure of the prophets of Baal to call down fire from heaven and the blessing of God upon Elijah’s faith fulfilled in the LORD sending fire and consuming the sacrifices was a testimony, “The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God” (18:37-40).

After having slain the prophets of Baal (18:4), the LORD sent rain from heaven (18:41-46). In spite of the testimony of the LORD and His prophet Elijah, Jezebel will continue her quest to slain Elijah in 1 Kings 19.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: America is Not Too Big to Fail!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jeremiah 47-52

Today’s scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of the prophecies of Jeremiah in this book that bears his name.  These final chapters, Jeremiah 47-52, predict the devastating invasion of Babylon’s army (“waters rise up out of the north” – Jeremiah 47:2) and the forthcoming destruction of the nations that were Israel’s ancient adversaries.

The annihilation of the Philistines (Jeremiah 47), the Moabites (Jeremiah 48), the Ammonites and Edomites (Jeremiah 49); even the destruction of Babylon (Jeremiah 50-51) is all predicted.   We can take many lessons from the judgment and destruction suffered by those proud nations that resisted the God of Israel and made themselves enemies of His people.   The Sovereignty of God over nations and the eradication of Israel’s ancient foes is the great lesson we take from Jeremiah’s prophetic revelations.

Jeremiah 52 records the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah.   The sins and rebellion of the people had exhausted God’s longsuffering and He determined to deliver Judah for judgment.   Jeremiah’s record of the suffering of God’s people includes famine, the captivity of king Zedekiah, the slaying of his sons, his eyes “put out” and his imprisonment until he died.   Jeremiah’s book concludes with the king’s palace and the Temple being plundered  (52:12-23) and the people of Judah led away captive to Babylon (52:24-30).

Some closing thoughts on the nations of the world and the sovereignty of God: Politicians and societal experts of the 19th century aspired to “Utopia”, a world of peace and justice where humanity lived in perfect harmony and every man pursued the common good. Unfortunately for those idealists, their ideology of atheism and the good in man was proven false by the atrocities of war and oppression of humanity in the 20th century. From the holocaust and atrocities committed by the Armies of the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) to the crimes against humanity committed by Communist regimes (particularly the old Soviet Union, Vietnam and China), modern nations prove they are no more humane than their ancient counterparts.

One would think any aspirations for “Utopia” that survived the 20th century have surely been extinguished by the barbarity committed by the followers of militant Islam (ISIS, Taliban and Hamas) in the dawning of the 21st century; however, such is not the case.  Crucifixion, stoning, beheading, drowning, fiery deaths, poisonings and mass killings in the name of religion and the perversity and wickedness of modern man are on full display in the Middle East and around the world.

Babylon’s mighty army dominated the ancient world and her city walls appeared impenetrable; however, God declared war and against that nation (Jeremiah 50-51) and Babylon  faltered under the weight of her sin and fell.

Citizens of the United States would do well to remember the LORD bears the sword of judgment (Jeremiah 47:6-7) and no people or nation is beyond His justice or too big to fail.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Wise Man Knows and Remembers the Character of His Enemies

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 1-4

Our scripture reading today brings us to the end of an era in Israel and the beginning of a new book in our “Read-Thru the Bible In A Year” plan.  The opening verse of 1 Kings sets the stage for a transition of leadership in Israel and the waning days of David: “Now king David was old and stricken in years” (1 Kings 1:1).

The mighty king whose youthful exploits were celebrated in song is old, frail, and lying on his deathbed.  David’s body was cold and he succumbed to the counsel of his attendants to accept a young woman to his bed to provide him warmth and comfort (although the scriptures make a point of noting he did not violate her purity and “knew her not” – 1 Kings 1:1-4).

Remembering the prophet Nathan’s warning that the consequences of David’s adultery with Bathsheba was the sword never departing from his house (2 Samuel 12:7-10), we find Adonijah, David’s son, usurping the king and aspiring to the throne before David died (1 Kings 1:5-10).  A weakness seen throughout David’s life has been his unwillingness to confront the sins of his household and such is the case once again with Adonijah when we read, “his father had not displeased him [Adonijah] at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” (1 Kings 1:6).  David’s failure to address his son’s usurpation gave others cause to follow Adonijah, setting the stage for a civil war not only in the king’s household, but also in the land.

On a personal note, I have learned by experience that rebels have an ability to sense the spirit of rebellion in others who, though not sharing the rebel’s impudence, nevertheless have a weakness in character that is easily led astray.   It is no surprise there were some in David’s inner circle who, knowing the king is old and frail, were ready to seize the opportunity to be confederate with Adonijah and commandeer the throne of Israel. Among the traitors that followed Adonijah was Joab (1 Kings 1:7), one of David’s “mighty men” who had disparaged the king’s will in the past and slain two of his generals (2 Samuel 3:27; 20:10).

Rebels also have a sense of those who are loyal to leadership and avoid their company.  Adonijah called several to join him and anoint him as his father’s successor to the throne; however, “Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not” (1 Kings 1:10).  Adonijah knew his actions were contrary to the will of the LORD announced by the prophet Nathan and he therefore did not invite the Nathan, the priest Benaiah or his brother Solomon to his feast and coronation.

Knowing Adonijah was setting in motion a plan to seize the throne from his father, Nathan wisely counseled Bathsheba to intercede with the king for her son Solomon and have him declared king (1 Kings 1:11-31).  David heeded the counsel of his wife and the prophet Nathan and directed that Solomon be anointed king and declared his successor (1:32-40).  When news reached Adonijah that Solomon was king, he and all who had followed him in the rebellion feared for their lives and fled (1:41-53).

We find evidence of another truth in 1 Kings 2: A man’s character tends to be constant. In other words, the strengths and weaknesses of a man’s character are predictable and shadow his life.  Consider the counsel David gives Solomon regarding his adversaries (2:1-9).

Accepting the certainty of his death, David prepared Solomon to reign in his stead, challenging his son to be “strong” and conduct himself according to God’s law, assuring him the LORD’s blessing will rest upon his lineage (2:1-4).

David cautioned Solomon, reminding him of the flaws and failures of certain men in positions of power and influence that had proved untrustworthy and wronged him as king (2:5-9).   Joab’s disloyalty concerned David who urged Solomon to “let not his hoar head (white hairs) go down to the grave in peace” (2:5-6).   There was also Shimei, the man who had cursed David when he fled from his son Absalom.  Shimei had begged for his life and was spared after Absalom’s rebellion, but David urged his son to execute Shimei and not risk him becoming a threat to the throne (2:8-9).

After David dies (2:10-11), Solomon moved to secure his kingdom and the first threat Solomon faced was his own brother Adonijah (2:12-25).  Adonijah, playing on the pity Bathsheba might have for his state, petitioned Solomon’s mother to intercede for him (2:13-18). Solomon discerned Adonijah’s plot and had the failed usurper put to death (2:19-25).

Following his father’s advise, Solomon dealt with each of his enemies.  Abiathar, the priest who had supported Adonijah’s illegitimate claim to the throne was warned his traitorous actions were worthy of death, but he would be spared (2:26-27).  Hearing Solomon was pursuing threats to his reign, Joab fled to the altar hoping to find grace, but was slain (2:28-35).  Solomon also remembered the curses of Shimei against his father and warned him the day he departed Jerusalem he would be slain. (2:36-38). Three years past and Shimei made the foolish decision to leave Jerusalem in haste and was slain (2:39-46).

My commentary on the balance of today’s devotional reading, 1 Kings 3-4, and the great spiritual lessons and truths found in those chapters will continue in another year, Lord willing.

I encourage you to reflect on the character of rebels, the threat they represent to you, your family and church.  Remember, apart from repentance and humility, the strengths and weaknesses of a man’s character tend to be consistent.   In other words, a liar is a liar; a thief is a thief; a traitor is a traitor; and an honest, faithful man is predictably just that…honest, faithful and trustworthy!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 51-53

Our scripture reading today is Psalms 51-53; however, my devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 51 and the setting of that great psalm.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance and a plea for restoration following the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation (2 Samuel 12:7-13) with king David because of his secret sins…his adultery with Bathsheba and his foolish attempt to conceal his sin by directing the murder of her husband Uriah.

It is frightening to consider the depth to which a man or woman might descend into sin and wickedness when they attempt to cover sin rather than confess and forsake it.  Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power; and too often unaccountable to any who might mercifully, but bravely like the prophet Nathan warn his superior, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked by personal accountability to others and a holy, omniscient God.

One should ponder how a man like David fell from the innocence of a shepherd boy in his teens, a national hero in his early-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at the age of 50 becomes in fact an adulterer and murderer.

Every reader should awaken to this truth…the potential of so egregious sins is within each of us.   David acknowledges in Psalm 51:5 the nature and curse of sin: “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  The inclination for sin is within the nature and heart of all men and women and, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

It is not the depths of sin to which David descended, but the fact he tolerated the curse and burden of such sins while acting as king and righteous judge in other men’s matters.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if it weren’t for God employing his prophet to confront the king while he sat on his throne.   We also appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself when we remember oriental monarchs like David had absolute power and the power of life and death rested with them.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to God:

Psalm 51:1-4a – “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…”

Psalm 51:10-12 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

Psalm 51:16-17 – “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

Make no mistake; among the hundreds who will read this devotional commentary are some who, like David, are living out a pretense of good works, maintaining appearances, while concealing a sin that will, like cancer, destroy you, your family and witness.  I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women of all ages.

The first, David entertained unbridled passions in his soul that led inevitably to a sinful neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king.   Friend, your greatest temptations will arise when you are physically and spiritually indolent.  Nearly 40 years in ministry have taught me when a believer is unfaithful and carries a gunny sack of excuses, Sound the Alarm and shout… “Thou art the man!”

The second failure seen in David’s life was his role as king isolated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone…far from the battlefield and apart from his wives and children.  The same is true of many who have leisure time, are self-employed, and home alone…the temptations of the television and Internet are no more than a mouse-click away.

Finally, in spite of David being a man with a heart for God, he was nevertheless too proud to confess his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-22) and accept the consequences of his moral failures.

Believer, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned:  You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).   I invite you to, like David, humble yourself before God for He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith