Tag Archives: Political

The Devil is Behind the World’s Hatred of the Jews and Israel

Friday, December 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Revelation 12-17

Today’s scripture reading is a prophecy of the last half of the Tribulation years.  Because the length of the assigned reading is far too long for a brief devotional commentary, I will limit today’s devotional to Revelation 12.

From the time of his fall, Satan and the angels who followed his rebellion (described as “the third part of the stars” who were cast out of heaven – Revelation 12:4; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17), have warred against God.  Satan’s failed rebellion in heaven continued on earth when he, in the form of a serpent, tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God (Genesis 3).

Revelation 12 is a prophetic portrait of the war of the ages and is set in the second half of the Seven Years Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22).

The woman described in Revelation 12:1 is the nation of Israel; identified by the twelve stars in her crown representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is this woman, symbolic of Israel, that is the focus of Satan’s final stand against God.  Israel, pictured as a woman with child suffering labor pains, is an image of persecution (12:2).  The birth of the child being delivered is symbolic of Israel’s coming  Messiah.

The “great red dragon” is Satan (12:3-4) and the “seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads” (12:3) represent nations and thrones that are confederates in the devil’s unrelenting attack on Israel.

Revelation 12:4 describes the rebellion Satan led among the angels in heaven when his heart was lifted up in pride (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17).  After being cast out of heaven (12:7-9), the devil’s focus was to destroy God’s promise of a Savior Redeemer by annihilating the Hebrew people.

The woman (Israel) gives birth to a son in Revelation 12:5b, describing Christ’s birth (His virgin mother Mary being a daughter of Israel of the tribe of Judah) and His ascension to heaven, “caught up unto God”  (reminding us of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ascension – Acts 1:9).

Revelation 12:7-12 turns our focus back to heaven and the rebellion of one-third of the angels led by the “great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (12:9a).  The devil “was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (12:9b).

Adding to the Devil’s deviant resume’ is his title, “the accuser of our brethren” (12:10). We understand from Job 1-2 that Satan, although cast out of heaven, has access before the throne of God and is the persecutor of the Jews and believers.

The cross, rather than a symbol of defeat, became a symbol of victory and salvation with the resurrection of Christ from the dead (12:10b-12a).  Having failed to prevent Christ’s resurrection, the devil pours out his wrath on Israel and “persecuted the woman [Israel] which brought forth the man child” (meaning Christ, 12:13).

Israel’s flight from persecution during the Tribulation is described as “the woman …given two wings of a great eagle”, possibly drawing upon the picture of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings” (Exodus 19:4).  As the trials and troubles of the last years of the Tribulation increase, some of Israel will find a safe place in the wilderness and be spared (12:14); others will become the object of the devil’s wrath as the nations of the earth align against the Jews (12:15-17).

The Hebrew people have been, and continue to be, the object of hate and persecution in the world.  Anti-Semitism is increasing dramatically and its horrid head is visible in the Middle East, throughout Europe, and in the United States.  None of these facts should surprise us. Christ warned His Disciples The Great Tribulation would bring a time of trouble like the world has not seen (Matthew 24:21).   The spirit of anarchy, rioting, violence, and terrorist attacks we are witnessing in our society are ominous signs the Tribulation years are upon us.

Friend, take courage; we know the end of the story and the defeat of Satan’s rebellion is certain.  When Christ comes again, he will defeat Satan and crush the nation’s aligned with him (Rev. 19:11-21).  After the Millennial years, the devil and his demons will be condemned to the lake of fire for ever (Revelation 20:3, 7-10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Providence of God: The Hand Behind the Headlines

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

“Divine providence” is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.

Many great minds have attempted to define providence.  The 19th century clergyman T. Dewitt Talmage said: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

American patriot Benjamin Franklin observed, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer says of God’s providence, “He [God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

What is divine providence?

I suggest, Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of creation and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose. The apostle Paul suggested the same in Romans 8:28-29, writing,

Romans 8:28-29 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

In summary, the providence of God is practical (“all things work together”), personal (to them that love God), and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose (“to them who are the called according to His purpose”)

The Book of Esther is best known as the only book in the Bible that never mentions God by name; however, the events recorded in the book make it clear Esther is a testimony of God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and His preservation of His chosen people by sovereignly guiding the affairs of mankind to fulfill His divine purpose and end.  Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Esther was a Jewish maiden living in Persia, today’s modern Iraq, around 480 B.C.  She was a descendant of the Jews taken captive to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.  After conquering Babylon, the Persians gave the Jews liberty to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem; however, many remained in Babylon; among them a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7), the uncle of Esther who took her into his home after the deaths of her parents.

Esther 1 introduces us to Ahasuerus, the Persian king who was presiding over an empire at its peak, but facing the growing military presence of the Greek Empire.  Some scholars suggest Esther 1 follows Ahasuerus’ first defeat against the Greeks.  His impetuous demotion of Vashti, his beautiful queen, when she failed to obey his command to come to his drunken feast, sets in motion a series of events that will ultimately propel Esther from anonymity to the throne as the wife and queen of Ahasuerus.

Some seven years passed from Vashti’s expulsion as queen to the events occurring in Esther 2.  Historians believe Ahasuerus had suffered another defeat against a confederacy of Greek city-states and, returning to his palace, remembered “Vashti…what she had done” (Esther 2:1).  Knowing the loneliness of the king, his servants suggested he add to his harem, “fair young virgins” (2:3) and among them seek his queen (2:4).

It was the king’s decree that set in motion a series of events that providentially promoted Esther, who was “fair and beautiful” (2:7), to be named among the maidens “gathered together unto Shushan the palace” (2:8).  Following the advice of her uncle, Mordecai, Esther did not reveal she was Jewish (2:10).

A parade of young women entered the king’s bedchamber; however, none pleased the king until we read, “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight…so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen” (2:17). Still, “Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people” (2:20).

Esther 3 introduces us to Haman, a man promoted by king Ahasuerus “above all the princes” (3:1).  Haman hated the Jews and especially despised Mordecai (3:2).  Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman so infuriated the man he determined to use his position to exact revenge on all the Jews (3:1-6).  Pretending a concern for what was in the best interest of the king, Haman brought an evil report against all the Jews and influenced the king to give an edict to annihilate all Jews (3:7-15).

The Jews, receiving news of the edict, began mourning, “fasting, and weeping, and wailing” (4:1-3).  Queen Esther, sheltered in the royal palace, sought to comfort her uncle Mordecai who had “rent his clothes” (4:1); however, he refused her offer of new clothing (4:4).  When she sought to know the cause of the great mourning among the Jews, she learned of the king’s edict (4:5-11).

Mordecai warned Esther her office as queen would not spare her life when her Jewish lineage was divulged (4:12-14).  Giving testimony to divine providence, Mordecai appealed to Esther, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14).

Putting her life at risk, for no one, not even the queen was allowed to enter the king’s court without his invitation; Esther came before the king.  Seeing his queen, Ahasuerus invited her to approach and offered to grant her whatever she requested (5:1-3).  Setting her plan in motion to save her people, Esther requested Haman be summoned for dinner with she and the king (5:4-8).   Receiving the invitation, Haman boasted he was given a private invitation to dinner with the king and queen (5:9-13).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this thought:

God could have chosen any means to save His people, however, Mordecai believed God chose Esther to be instrumental in that task (“for such a time as this” – 4:14).  Mordecai was confident in the sovereignty of God and had faith in God’s providential care of His people (4:13-14).

Friend, God will hold you accountable for your influence and opportunities of service. Bury your talents, refuse to employ your gifts, and the day will come when you give account to the LORD.  Fail to serve Him and the LORD will raise up another to serve in your place (Esther 4:14).

Luke 12:48“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 33-36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 122-124

We continue our study of the Psalms titled under the heading, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134).  As mentioned in an earlier devotional, the word “degrees” has been a subject of debate with some suggesting it may refer to our modern concept of musical keys.  I believe the opening verse of Psalm 122 makes a good case that the “degrees” refer to one’s ascent to Jerusalem.  It is believed this psalm was written by David and sung by pilgrims going to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the holy feasts.  David writes,

Psalm 122:6-7 – “Pray for the peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] of Jerusalem: they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee. 7  Peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] be within thy walls, and prosperity [abundance; quietness; security] within thy palaces [citadel; castle; fortified buildings].”

There is an irony that Jerusalem, a city whose very name means “peace” or “possession of peace”, has known so little peace over three millenniums of human history.   Even in our day, Jerusalem is a city of perpetual turmoil, the target of terrorist attacks and bombings.  Surely if David were alive today he would encourage us to pray, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6a).

The call to pray for Jerusalem’s peace comes with a promise: “…they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee” (Psalm 122:6b).

Some will argue the call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the promise of rest and prosperity to those who love the Jewish people and their land and capital city is not applicable in our day.  I feel; however, the history of humanity is proof enough God blesses and prospers those nations that seek the peace of Jerusalem.  Those nations that oppress the Jewish people and hate their land and capital city have been laid waste in times of war.

Ancient Assyria, Chaldea, Greece, Rome, and the Ottoman Turks, all enemies of the Jews, are nothing more than a footnote in history.   20th century nations that oppressed the Jews are no exception; Germany, Italy and the former Soviet Union, all devastated by war and their great cities left in ruin.

In contrast, the United States has historically been the friend of Israel and unquestionably the most prosperous nation in the world.  In my opinion, much of the trouble and turmoil dividing the United States can be credited to God withdrawing His blessing from America because of President Obama’s eight-year courtship with Israel’s Middle East enemies and that administration’s isolation of Israel.

We know from the scriptures Jerusalem, Israel and the world will not experience lasting peace until the Prince of Peace returns and establishes His kingdom.  Isaiah prophesied, the Christ-child would be born whose names and titles indicate He would be God, “called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).   However, Isaiah 9:7, promising “his government and peace there shall be no end” has yet to be fulfilled.

Praying for the “peace of Jerusalem” is in fact, a prayer for the LORD Jesus Christ to come and establish His millennial kingdom.

The LORD promised, “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20); John responded with the words I pray every time Hillsdale observes the LORD’s Supper, “Even so, come, LORD Jesus” (Rev. 22:20b).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Man’s Pride Distorts His Reasoning

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 25-28

Our reading in 2 Chronicles continues today with chapters 25-28.  The reigns of four kings is found in today’s devotional commentary; Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25), Uzziah (2 Chronicles 25), Jotham (2 Chronicles 26), and Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28).   2 Chronicles 25 and the reign of Amaziah is the focus of my commentary.

As a background, I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy, guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24).  Judah experienced a spiritual renaissance during the early years of Joash’s reign and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died at the ripe old age of 130 years old (2 Chron. 24:15).

With the high priest dead, wicked men began to counsel Joash (24:17-18) and when Zechariah, the son of the late high priest Jehoiada withstood them, they killed him.  Joash gave neither rebuke nor sought justice for Zecharaiah’s death, the son of the man who served as his counsel throughout his reign (24:22).  Tragically, Joash’s reign ended with him turning from the LORD and his assassination when his own servants revenged the slaying of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:24-26).

Following Joash’s death, his son Amaziah became king in Judah (2 Chron. 24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and we read, “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 shadow’s 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 the assassins’ sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah began his reign well, organizing his army and numbering three hundred thousand men who could go to war; however, he foolishly turned to the northern ten tribes of Israel and numbered among his army one hundred thousand mercenaries from that wicked nation (25:6).

God sent a prophet to Amaziah, warning him the mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7).   Amaziah heeded the caution of the “man of God” and sent the men of Israel home (25:10).  However, as Amaziah led his army into battle, the soldiers from Israel turned back and attacked cities in Judah in the absence of their fathers and sons that had gone to war (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.   The LORD sent a prophet to warn the king he had provoked God’s judgment (25:15-16). Amaziah, however, refused to hear the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill the LORD’s prophet (25:16).

Rejecting the rebuke of the prophet and his heart lifted up in pride, Amaziah made a pretense of seeking an alliance (25:17) with the wicked king of Israel.  Israel’s king; however, though a wicked man reigning over a rebellious nation, saw through Amaziah’s motive and warned the king to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19).

The verses that follow (25:20-28) reveal not only the curse of pride, but a lesson regarding the sovereignty of the LORD.  The LORD will accomplish His purpose, even guiding the proud heart of a rebellious man to His own end.

Pride distorted Amaziah’s heart and God determined to use his illusion of greatness to judge him.  We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).  Amaziah rejected the caution of Israel’s king and invaded Israel.  Amaziah’s army fled from the battlefield, humiliating the king who was taken prisoner, and his treasury plundered by the king of Israel (25:21-23).

Amaziah lived in exile in Samaria for fiftenn years after his defeat; however, when he returned to Jerusalem he suffered his final humiliation: His servants conspired against him and the king was eventually assassinated (25:28).

I close with an observation: Pride distorts a man’s reasoning, blinds him to his weaknesses, and invariably brings him to ruin.  A proverb of Solomon is sufficient to support this truth:

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

 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The morality of a nation determines its destiny.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 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 for many believers a book easily overlooked.  Numbered among a group known as the minor prophets, Nahum was a servant and prophet of God of whom little is known.  Because the prophetic subject 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.

Nahum’s bold prophecies against Nineveh and his warning of the fiery destruction of that great city makes the prophet one of the most outspoken and courageous prophets of the Old Testament.

Those who have been accompanying me on our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule will remember my devotional commentary in the Book of Jonah who in his day, a century prior to Nahum, prophesied, warning Nineveh of God’s judgment if that great city did not repent of its sins.  To the dismay of Jonah, the king of Nineveh and the city repented and the LORD spared the city from destruction.

Such would not be the case a century later when Nahum lived.  Unlike Jonah who saw that great city repent of its sins, Nahum’s prophecies warned the destruction of Nineveh and the overthrow of the Assyrian empire by a coalition of the Medes and Babylon was imminent.

Nahum declared God’s holy nature (Nahum 1:2-3) and warned Nineveh, a city that a century earlier was spared destruction because the king and people repented of their sins, not to trifle with 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 (Nahum 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 unconquerable in Nahum’s day.  Its borders encompassed Palestine and reached as far south as Egypt.  The city of Nineveh possibly exceeds the wildest of imaginations that are unfamiliar with archaeological discoveries of the past century.  Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary gives the following description of Nineveh.

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)

Nahum 2 describes the armies God would draw upon to fulfill His judgment of 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 the capital city’s destruction and the slaughter of its inhabitants.  The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary affirms the destruction of Nineveh as Nahum described in his prophecy.

An alliance of Medes, Babylonians, and Scythians destroyed Nineveh in August 612 b.c., after a two-month siege. This great victory was due in part to the releasing of the city’s water supply and the inundation of the Koser River, dissolving the sun-dried brick of which much of the city was built. Nahum prophesied the fall of the “bloody city” (Nahum 2:1-3:19; cf. Zeph. 2:13-15). Nineveh is a site so huge that perhaps it never will be completely excavated. (2)

Nahum 3:8-19 reminds us no nation, city, or people is too big, great or powerful to escape God’s judgment.  The book 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 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.

(1) Illustrated Bible Dictionary: And Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature.

(2) The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Eyes of the LORD Are Upon Us!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 16-20

I pick up our reading of 2 Chronicles, reminding you Israel is a divided nation.  The northern ten tribes, known as Israel, rebelled against king Rehoboam, following the usurper Jeroboam who had been an adversary of king Solomon.  The southern nation, consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, was known as Judah and aligned themselves with heirs of David’s throne and maintained a semblance of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

As we come to 2 Chronicles 16 we find Asa, the great-grandson of Solomon reigning in Judah.  Asa ruled forty-one years and led the nation in revival, purging Judah of idols (2 Chronicles 14:2-5), strengthening the defense of the nation (14:6-8) and most importantly, setting his heart to serve the LORD (14:7).

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace and prosperity, until the closing years of his life.  In the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Baasha, king of Israel led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and made a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Asa’s decision, successful in the immediate, nevertheless proved foolish when he learned from a prophet named Hanani, the LORD would have given him victory not only over Israel, but also Syria if he had turned to the LORD.  Hanani declared Asa’s failure foolish, warning him it would haunt him the rest of his life for “henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and placed Hanani in prison (16:10).  Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest his affliction was gout.  I wonder if it was gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa turned to his physicians rather than to the LORD.  A great memorial was held upon Asa’s death, however, his lifetime of serving the LORD was marred by his faithlessness and rebellion in his later years (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Perhaps learning from the tragic failures of his father, Jehoshaphat son of Asa, “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4).

Jehoshaphat foolishly made a league with Ahab, the wicked king of Israel in 2 Chronicles 18, and allied himself to go to war against Ramothgilead.  The story of Ahab’s inquiry with the prophet Micaiah is humorous, but also tragic.  Jehoshaphat recognized Ahab’s prophets were not of the LORD and asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?” (18:6)

There was one faithful prophet; however, Ahab was disinclined to seek his counsel for, in the king’s words, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla…” (18:7).

Adorned in their royal robes, each sitting upon his own throne, Jehoshaphat and Ahab must have been an impressive sight (18:8-14); however, the prophet Micaiah was not intimidated and even trifled with king Ahab, telling the king what the king wanted to hear (18:14-15).   Ahab became incensed and demanded Micaiah prophesy what the LORD revealed to him (18:15-16).

Micaiah prophesied the scattering of Israel and Ahab’s imminent death in battle (18:16-22).  In spite of an attempt to disguise himself by removing his royal robes (18:28-33), Ahab was struck by an arrow and perished as the sun was setting on the battlefield (18:34).

When Jehoshaphat returned from the battle, Jehu, the son of Hanani whom his father Asa had imprisoned, confronted the king (19:1-2).  Evidencing the boldness of a prophet of God, Jehu condemned the king’s alliance with Ahab saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (19:2).

In spite of Jehoshaphat’s failure, Jehu comforted him with the promise of God’s grace saying, “there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 19:3).  Jehoshaphat set his heart to lead Judah in the way of the LORD and set judges in the land to rule in difficult matters (19:4-11).

Near the latter years of his reign, Jehoshaphat received word a confederacy of enemies was coming to wage war against Judah (20:1-3).  We read, “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” and called upon the LORD before the people in the Temple (20:3-13).

God heard the king’s prayer and sent Jahaziel to prophecy and encourage the king and Judah saying, “Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15).

With God’s assurance, the people went to the battlefield and found their enemies had turned and destroyed one another (20:22-23).  Without lifting a sword or spear, the LORD gave Judah victory and it took three days to gather the spoils (20:24-25).   Receiving the news of Judah’s victory and how the LORD had fought against their enemies, “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms” (20:29).

We can take many lessons from today’s reading…perhaps the most prominent one is the LORD wants us to call upon Him in times of trouble, trials and sickness.  When we are afraid, call upon the LORD.  When enemies threaten and we feel overwhelmed, remember, “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (16:9), for “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith