Tag Archives: Political

The Mark of the Beast is 666 (Revelation 13)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading – Revelation 13

Our Scripture reading places us prophetically in the latter times described in the Bible as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) and the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14). A scroll with seven seals was opened by Christ, and each seal announced a great judgment that would follow (Revelation 6). Breaking the first four of the seven seals, four horsemen of the Apocalypse went forth from the Lord leaving in their way paths of judgment, destruction and death (Revelation 6:1-8). Then, the fifth and sixth seals were opened, and each heralded a new season of suffering and sorrow (Revelation 6:9-17).

The seventh and final seal was opened in Revelation 8, and the judgments that followed were announced by seven trumpets. The troubles and trials of the first four trumpets were described in Revelation 8:7-12. Before the fifth trumpet was sounded, John observed “and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth” (8:13). Then, the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets sounded, and announced a season of “woe” that would afflict the earth and its inhabitants during the great tribulation (Revelation 9:1-11:19).

Revelation 12 introduced the presence of the devil who was portrayed as a “great red dragon,” and described the war he has waged against God since his fall (12:3-4, 7-9). Revelation 13 introduced two other characters and the role they will have when they join forces under the devil, and wage war against the Lord and mankind.

The Antichrist: The Beast of Revelation (13:1-10)

To put the introduction of the Antichrist in context, consider the preceding verse where his master, “the dragon,” was described as making war against Israel (portrayed as “the woman,” 12:1-2, 13-17), and “the remnant” of believers who “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” during the tribulation (12:17).

Briefly, Revelation 13:1-10 gives a spiritual portrait of the Antichrist (the “beast”) and the power imparted to him by the dragon (the devil, 13:1-2). With the exception of a few who refused to take the mark of the beast, the world will worship the antichrist, even while he wages war against those who will be saved during the tribulation (13:3-11).

The False Prophet of the Tribulation (13:11-14)

John observed another who arose after the Antichrist (the first beast, 13:1-3), and described him as “another beast coming up out of the earth” (13:11a). Though portrayed as beasts, we must remember these are real men, given over to serve Satan and empowered by demon spirits. While the Antichrist was determined to be the supreme ruler of the nations of the earth (13:1-2, 8), the second man, portrayed as a beast, sought to persuade men to worship the Antichrist (13:12). He manifested demonic power like the Antichrist (13:12), performed miracles (calling fire down from heaven, 13:13), and persuaded men to worship the image of the antichrist (13:14).

The Mark of the Beast and His Reign of Terror (13:15-18)

Revelation 13 closed with verses that should resonate with some living in a society that is becoming more oppressive and restrictive. Recent advancements in “Artificial Intelligence” (AI), and robotics has made what we read in verse 15 not only convincing, but plausible. For instance, John observed the second beast (13:11), whom scholars identify as the “false prophet,” and it was said to have “power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed” (13:15).

The sign of those who worshipped the beast was a “mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (13:16). Again, modern technology has instituted small devices that can be implanted in the body, and serve as digital conduits of every detail of a man’s life, private information, and movements. There are politicians and maniacal authoritarians who would have government control every aspect of our lives, finances, and freedoms. The ground work and means for this phase of the tribulation is already present, for the ”false teacher” will control the economy, and “no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (13:17).

Closing thoughts (13:18) – The closing verse stated, “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (13:18). The meaning of that statement is uncertain, but we can deduce some meaning in this: the number seven is the number associated with God, and His perfection (for He created six days, and on the seventh rested); the number six is the number of man (for man was created on the sixth day, and by sin is imperfect). So, we read, “the number of the beast…is Six hundred threescore and six (666)” (13:18).

What does it mean? I don’t know, but I know this…the days of the Antichrist are numbered, and his judgment is determined. John observes in Revelation 19:20 – “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

By the way, do you know your days are also numbered? David exhorted believers, “12So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Judgment: Seven Seals and Seven Trumpets (Revelation 8)

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Scripture reading – Revelation 8

Our study in “The Revelation of the Apostle John” finds us in the midst of the Tribulation as we come in our search into Revelation 8. The setting continues to be the throne of heaven (Revelation 4:2), and the focus those things witnessed and recorded by John the apostle (Revelation 4-7). He had beheld God sitting on His throne, and holding in His right hand a book or scroll bearing seven seals (Revelation 5:1). (Some scholars have suggested the scroll was the deed to the earth, its inhabitants, and those things which were yet to come. Perhaps that is an apt depiction).

As John looked on, he heard the voice of a “strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (5:2) John wept when no one was found worthy to open the book (5:2). Yet, there was someone, and it was Christ whom the Scriptures described as “the Lamb” who stood by the throne of heaven (5:6). When He took in hand the scroll, John heard all creatures of heaven, earth, and sea lift up their voices and say, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (5:13).

When the first seal was opened, the first of four horsemen emerged riding on a white horse. I have identified him as the antichrist, and we know from Scripture he will proffer a peace treaty, and will rule a large part of the earth without going to war (Revelation 6:2). Christ then opened the second, third, and fourth seals, and each was followed by the emergence of a horsemen bringing with him death and destruction (6:3-8). The fifth and sixth seals followed, and introduced an ever-growing terror and a time of suffering such as the world had not known, Yet, the time of tribulation was only beginning (Revelation 6:9-7:17).

Revelation 8 – The Seventh and Final Seal

When the seventh seal was opened, the prophetic moment was so terrifying in its anticipation, that “there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (8:1). I have wondered, has there ever been a time past when heaven was silent? It seemed the angels looked in stunned, foreboding silence. By the time the seventh seal was broken, the earth was in the midst of great tribulation, and was filled with violence, suffering, sorrow, and death. What more could befall humanity and men not repent, and cry out to God for mercy?

Seven Angels Bearing Seven Trumpets (8:2-5)

John then saw seven angels, “which stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets” (8:2). (The names of the angels were not given, but I wonder if the angel Gabriel was not one of the seven. Remember, he identified himself to Zechariah as one that did “stand in the presence of God,” Luke 1:19). Since ancient times, trumpets have been a means of communication. They have been employed in war, worship, announcing the coronation of kings, and sounding a warning of judgment.

The seven angels did not sound their trumpets, and John observed “another angel [that] came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer” (8:3). The heavenly altar was a “golden altar…[and] was before the throne” of God (8:3). The angel carried a golden pot of coals upon which incense burned (8:3b), and the smoke rising from the incense symbolized the “prayers of all saints” (perhaps the prayers of the tribulation saints, 8:3, 4). The “golden altar” was reminiscent of the altar of incense nearest the curtain that had separated the outer courts of the Tabernacle and Temple from the “Holy of holies” (wherein was the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat).

Suddenly, the silence of heaven was broken when the angel bearing the censer, “filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth” (8:5). The horror of judgment was heard from the earth as “there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake” (8:5).

The Blaring of Four Trumpets (8:6-12)

We read, “the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound,” and thus heralded a time of dreadful judgment should follow (8:6). The first trumpet sounded, and hail, fire, and blood fell from heaven to earth and one-third of the trees and grasses of the earth were burned (8:7). A second trumpet sounded, and John saw “a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood” (8:8). Perhaps describing a great volcanic explosion, the result was one third of sea creatures died, and one third of the ships at sea were destroyed (the hardships that would follow this catastrophe are unimaginable, 8:9).

The sound of the third trumpet brought a disaster caused by a great meteor or asteroid passing through earth’s atmosphere (described as a burning lamp or torch, 8:10). It fell to the earth and polluted the rivers and fresh waters (8:10). This astronomical wonder was called “Wormwood,” a plant with toxic leaves (8:11).

The fourth, of the seven trumpets, was a judgment that extinguished one third of the light of the sun, moon, and stars (8:12). Imagine the terror of the darkness, and the hardships caused when one third of the light and heat of the sun was eroded. Agricultural crops would fail, plunging temperatures would stifle growth in many regions, and death would ensue.

Closing thoughts (8:13) – A threefold angelic cry of “Woe,” followed the first four of the seven trumpets, and there were yet three more trumpets that would sound the terror of God’s judgment (8:13). I close with a couple of observations. The first, the “smoke of the incense” that was burned on the golden altar before God’s throne reminds us God hears the prayer of His people (8:3-4). Secondly, the judgments that followed the soundings of the trumpets remind us no sin of man will go unpunished.

Though the wrath and judgment of God will be poured out on the earth, I remind you, the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Will you turn your heart to the Lord, and receive his offer of salvation, before it is too late?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character and Moral Depravity of the Last Days (2 Timothy 3; 2 Timothy 4)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading – 2 Timothy 3; 2 Timothy 4

Our Scripture reading brings us to the close of Paul’s final epistle. Addressed to Timothy, his “dearly beloved son” in the faith (1:2), one can sense the power and passion of that great apostle whose life was a testimony of God’s grace and humility. 2 Timothy 3 served as a powerful warning and exhortation to not only Timothy, but to all believers. 2 Timothy 4 recorded Paul’s final salute, his farewell address to Timothy and all who would read this epistle.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (3:16-17), Paul wrote with the passion of a man who knew his earthly ministry and days were ending. For our devotion, I will limit my focus to 2 Timothy 3, with the hope I might return to this powerful passage in the future.

2 Timothy 3 – Preaching to the Church of the Last Days

After urging Timothy to be faithful, and reminding him of his spiritual heritage (2:14-15), Paul admonished the young preacher with a prophetic portrait of “the last days,” warning, “perilous times shall come” (3:1).

The Character of the Last Days (3:1)

The “last days” are the days that followed Christ’s ascension to heaven (Acts 1-2), and precede the Second Coming of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-19). Paul warned: “This know” (meaning be sure, don’t be surprised), “in the last days” (the final time, the end of the ages), “perilous times shall come” (difficult, violent, dangerous times of wickedness and depravity).

Paul warned, the latter days of the earth will be marked by wickedness and apostasy like the world had not seen since the days of Noah. The apostle John would later write concerning the apostate church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-20), the church of the last days: “Thou art neither cold nor hot… thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17). Tragically, the 21st century church is everything John warned the apostate church would become!

The Moral Depravity of the Church in the Last Days (3:2-9)

In amazing, prophetic detail, Paul described not only the world, but in particular the congregations of professing believers in the last days. For our study, I suggest four vivid portraits that are an apt depiction of the 21st century church and its moral depravity. (Please note that words in brackets are from the author and meant to amplify or illuminate your study.)

A Heresy of Self-love (3:2-4)

2For men shall be lovers of their own selves [self-centered; self-serving], covetous [lovers of silver], boasters, proud, blasphemers [cursing, reviling God’s name], disobedient to parents (Exodus 20:12), unthankful, unholy [having no regard for God],

3Without natural affection [indifferent; unloving], trucebreakers [hostile; divisive], false accusers [slanderers], incontinent [immoral], fierce [cruel; savage], despisers of those that are good, [hate the righteous] 4Traitors [betrayers], heady [heady], highminded [puffed up], lovers of pleasures [narcissistic] more than lovers of God” (3:2-4)

A Prevalence of Hypocrisy (3:5)

The second trait of the church in the last days is hypocrisy. Professing believers are described as displaying an outward piety, but their lives show no effect of the conviction and power of God’s Word. Paul warned, “turn away” from them (3:5). In other words, do not be a member of a fellowship that is guilty of a pattern of sin and ungodliness (1 Corinthians 5:9-11, 13; 2 Corinthians 6:17).

The Presence of Apostates Leading Astray the Spiritually Weak (3:6-7)

In the last days, the church will be afflicted with false teachers and their doctrines (3:6-7). With the introduction of mass publishing, radio and television in the 20th century, and the internet in the 21st century, apostate teaching has become epidemic. False teachers “creep into houses,” and “silly,” foolish women often fall victim, taking their families with them into all manner of evil (3:6). Interestingly, they are described as “ever learning,” always seeking some new doctrine, but tragically, they are blinded by sin and “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (3:7).

The Exposure and Punishment of False Teachers (3:8-9)

Apostate teachers were compared with men who were believed to have been part of Pharoah’s court (Exodus 7:11).  We read, Jannes and Jambres had “withstood Moses” (3:8), and perhaps counterfeited the signs (miracles) performed by him. Paul warned, false teachers were like Jannes and Jambres. They are dangerous, often skilled orators, and at first their deviation from the Truth is subtle. Only those with spiritual discernment are able to avoid being carried away with their false doctrine. As Jannes and Jambres were eventually exposed as frauds, and counterfeiters, so false teachers should be exposed, and allowed to “proceed no further” (3:9a).

Question – How might believers avoid false teachers?

Two closing principles (3:10-12; 15-17)

1) Know who you are following (3:10-12).

2) Study and know the Scriptures: They “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith…[for] 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (3:15-17).

I urge you to examine not only your church fellowship, but those you follow for spiritual direction.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“An America Worth Fighting For” – Democracy or Republic: Is there a difference? 

Heart of A Shepherd Readers and Followers:

You are invited to join me for a “politically incorrect,” but Biblically sound message I preached Veteran’s Day Sunday, November 13, 2022, titled, “An America Worth Fighting For.” My Scripture was Romans 13, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, and Genesis 47:13-26.

Democracy or Republic: Is there a difference? 

The word “Democracy” does not occur in our Declaration of Independence, or in the Constitution of the United States. The United States is a Republic, not a Democracy.

In a Republic, individuals have a voice, and their rights and liberties are protected. In a Democracy, the majority rules, and dissenting voices are suppressed.

Warning – When the virtuous character of a nation declines, so does its tolerance for individual rights and freedoms.

This message will draw a parallel with ancient Egypt (Genesis 47:13-26), and how current USA policy is taking us down the road to being a socialist nation.

Warning – Government dependence invariably leads to government bondage.

ConclusionOnly men of great moral character are able to govern a great nation.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625.

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Tyranny of the Majority – “Democracy is on the Ballot” – (Romans 13-14)

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Scripture reading – Romans 13; Romans 14

Today’s Scripture reading touches upon many important subjects that are both doctrinal and practical. For instance, Romans 13 introduced the question of the believer and his relationship with civil government and human authority (13:1-7). Paul then addressed debt (“owe no man anything,” 13:8a), and emphasized the overriding command to “love one another” (the sum of the commandments, 13:8-10).

Romans 14 continued the practical application of the Scriptures to one’s daily life and walk, and focused on the believer’s liberty, deportment and influence on other believers (14:1-2, 7-9, 16-23). In the matter of a critical, judgmental spirit (14:3-4, 10-15), Paul warned, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (14:12).

The balance of today’s devotional may seem political, but it is taken from Romans 13:1-7 and addresses the believer’s citizenship and relationship with civil authority.

Democracy vs. Republic: Is there a difference?

If you live in the United States, you are aware we have an opportunity to exercise our civic duty in the next few days, and vote for those who represent us in government. “Democracy is on the ballot,” is the relentless theme of the Democratic party, and the implication is the candidates of the other party (Republican) are a threat to Democracy.

The government of the United States is a Republic, not a Democracy.

A republic is a form of government that represents “We the People.” The elected leaders rule by consent of the people, and function as representatives of the people for the common good. In a republic, there is no hierarchy or upper tier of leadership; the power of government rests with individual citizens, who delegate to leaders their authority.

The statement, “Democracy is on the ballot,” should be a grave concern to every American. Though the nature of a democracy is dependent upon the will of the people, it poses a frightening danger I will describe as “the tyranny of the majority.” An individual citizen has protected rights and a voice in a republican form of government. A democracy, on the other hand, has a tendency to evolve into the rule of the majority at the oppression and sacrifice of the individual.

When the virtuous character of a society deteriorates, so does its tolerance for the individual and individual rights. For instance, Adolf Hitler rose to power in the German Weimar Republic. In a void of leadership, Hitler and the Nazi party (representing Democratic Socialist policies) slowly gained a following of the majority of the German people. With the majority in power, a campaign of intimidation began to attack and silence political opponents. Concentration camps were opened and political opponents were arrested. Finally, when all opposition political parties were outlawed, a campaign to exterminate the Jewish people began, and the freedom of the press and speech were revoked.

As a Bible believer, whether you identify as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent…there is one thing that cannot be on the ballot—our submission to King Jesus. Paul’s letter to believers in Rome was addressed to citizens of that empire who knew all too well the tyranny of a dictator. No doubt the apostle, who was himself a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), had been questioned concerning the relationship and obligation believers had to those in authority. Romans 13:1-6 addressed in very specific terms the moral obligation believers have to all human authorities.

In his first letter to the early church, Peter commanded believers to “Honour the king” (1 Peter 2:17c). While there was much about a king’s character that was not honorable, there was nevertheless a responsibility for believers to treat the ruler with dignity, regarding his office and authority. Yet, believers are not only to honor those in authority, but recognize human authority as delegated by God (13:1). While the governed are to submit to authority, government has a responsibility to protect and ensure the safety and security of the citizens (13:2-4).

Closing thoughts – Whether a republic, democracy, or monarchy, leaders are accountable to God, and are to rule understanding their role is that of a “minister (servant) of God” (13:4a). Believers are to revere leaders as the servants of God for good (13:4a), and the wicked should fear the judgment of the same (13:4b). The inherent sinfulness of man (Romans 3:10, 12, 23) requires a government that is ready “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (13:4c).

Finally, believers have a moral obligation to be subject to the laws of man (Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17)—with one exception: When the laws of the land violate God’s law. When the apostles faced authorities who forbade them to preach the Gospel (Acts 5:17-29), they answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by Nebuchadnezzar to worship his idol or die, they respectfully answered, “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). When king Darius commanded that no man was to pray to his God for thirty days, Daniel went home, “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:9-10). God, not government, is the believer’s highest authority.

When you cast your vote, consider: Which candidate aspires to be the “minister (servant) of God” for good?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Without Excuse (Romans 2; Romans 3)

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Scripture reading – Romans 2; Romans 3

Continuing our Scripture reading in the Book of Romans, today’s devotional is taken from Romans 2.

Romans 2

Understanding this was a letter to believers in Rome, and not divided by chapter breaks, we must consider the first verse of chapter 2 as a continuation of the preceding verses. Paul, having considered the sins and wickedness of men (1:26-31), and the imminent judgment of God, observed sinners not only continue in sin, but take “pleasure” in the sinful ways of others (1:32).

The apostle declared, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (2:1). The Jews, who were chosen by God and entrusted with His Law and commandments, were guilty of judging others for the very sins they committed. They were “inexcusable,” for in judging others they condemned themselves (2:1).

Interrogated and Judged According to Truth (2:2-5)

The folly of sin is that sinners have knowledge of God’s truth, and yet, are blind to their own wickedness (2:2-3a). Tragically, some believe they might sin, but “escape the judgment of God” (2:3) They enjoy the goodness and longsuffering of God, but fail to accept His goodness and repent (turn from sin) (2:5).

There is a myriad of sinners in our day, who believe their own lies, and would have us not believe our eyes and ears. Politicians, news media personalities, and educators lie profusely, deny the undeniable (even the unthinkable), and profess things contrary to nature and call it “science.” They are proponents of the adage, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” Others embrace the delusion of the infamous Joseph Goebbels of Nazi Germany, who said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The Inescapable Reality of a Just God (2:6-15)

The basis and promise of God’s judgment is to “render to every man according to his deeds” (2:6). Believers who have sincere faith in Christ, “seek for glory and honour and immortality, [and] eternal life” (2:7). Those who reject Christ, evidence their fallen nature and are “contentious [selfish ambitions], and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation [violent anger] and wrath [outbursts of vengeful anger], 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (2:8-9).  Why the Jew first? They are God’s chosen people, and were entrusted with His Law and Commandments.

Concerning God’s judgment, Paul declared, “there is no respect of persons with God” (2:11; Acts 10:34). The Lord is just, and His judgments are without partiality. He will judge all men by His Law (2:12-16). The Gentiles did not have the written Law and Commandments; nevertheless, God impressed upon the heart of man a moral law, and men therefore “do by nature the things contained in the law” (2:14). Sinners cannot plea ignorance, for God inscribed on the heart of man His law, and the conscience of men everywhere bear witness of their sinfulness (2:15).

Closing thoughts – The day of God’s judgment is determined (2:16a), and God will “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to [Paul’s] gospel”, which is to say, according to the Word of Truth (2:16b). When God judges, men will be without excuses, and it will not matter whether a man is a Jew or Gentile (2:17-29). A believer is a child of God, not after the flesh, but after the circumcision of the heart (putting off and forsaking sin), and coming to God by faith in Jesus Christ (2:28-29).

Are you ready to stand before God’s judgment?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625.

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Judgment of the Nations (Joel 3)

Scripture reading – Joel 3

Today’s Scripture reading marks the end of the Book of Joel (only three chapters long), and an introduction to the prophetic Book of Daniel. This devotional will conclude our study of Joel. A second devotional will follow, and serve as the introduction to the Book of Daniel.

I believe this final section of our study actually began with the closing verses of Joel 2. In its immediate context, the prophecies of Joel were given as the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah recorded how the LORD intervened for the city, and sent His angel who smote 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). King Sennacherib had been forced to retreat to his homeland, where he was later assassinated by his sons (Isaiah 37:33-38).

The Day of the LORD is the prophetic day of God’s judgment, when He will take vengeance on those nations that abused Israel and Judah. With the assurance of His perpetual presence “in the midst,” Israel would know Him as “the LORD your God,” and the day would come when Israel would “never be ashamed” (2:27).

In my opinion, the “last days” began with Christ’s earthly ministry, and the prophecy of the outpouring of His Spirit was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (2:28-30; Acts 2:16-20). Nevertheless, the events recorded in the closing verses of Joel 2 and Joel 3, will not be fulfilled until the close of the Tribulation, and will mark the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.

Joel 3 – The Judgment of the Gentile Nations

A Day of Reckoning for the Nations (3:1-2)

Joel 3:1 was partly fulfilled when the LORD moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to grant the Jews liberty to return to their homeland where they would rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-3). Yet, the final fulfillment of Joel 3 will not come to pass until the close of the Tribulation. The LORD promised He will one day gather His people from the nations (3:1), and exercise judgment on the Gentile nations for their sins against Him and His people (3:2).

Enumeration of the Sins of the Gentiles (3:3-6)

The nations of the earth have forever been at war with God and His people, yet, the sins of some nation have been so egregious, they are specifically named for judgment: Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine (3:4), Egypt, and Sodom (3:19).

The sins committed against God’s people are an offense to God, and He judged the Gentile nations guilty. Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine, Egypt, and Sodom had scattered His chosen people with their persecutions, and parted the land He gave as an inheritance to Israel (3:2c). Those nations had enslaved the Jews (3:3a, 6), trafficked boys and girls as sexual slaves, and placed no more value on their lives than wine (3:3). Spoiling the gold and silver of the land, they had taken away that which was the LORD’s (3:4-6).

Justice and Judgment (3:4, 7-8)

The sins of the Gentile nations will be punished, and they will receive the recompence (be repaid) in kind for the sins they committed against the LORD and His people (3:4). The LORD determined to gather His people and restore them to their land (3:7), and the nations that enslaved them would themselves become slaves (3:8a). Their sons and daughters will be sold “to the Sabeans” (a caravan people of the southern Arabian Peninsula), and trafficked to far away lands (3:8b).

Warfare of the Nations (3:9-16)

Through His prophet, the LORD summoned the nations to gather and prepare for war (3:9). Contrary to the Millennial kingdom and its peace (when the weapons of war will be fashioned into plows, Micah 4:3), the LORD commanded the nations to “beat [their] plowshares into swords, and [their] pruninghooks into spears” (3:10). The nations of the world will assemble for battle (3:11), for the LORD was prepared to judge them “in the valley of Jehoshaphat” (its geographic al location cannot be ascertained, 3:12).

Drawing a picture of Himself as a farmer readied to harvest, the nations of the world were portrayed as ripe for judgment. The LORD’s judgment is likened to a farmer coming with his sickle sharpened, and ready to tread nations underfoot like grapes in a vine press (3:13). A multitude will gather against God’s people (3:14), but it is the LORD whose judgment will darken the sun, moon, and stars (3:15). Suddenly, He will “roar out of Zion, And utter his voice from Jerusalem; And the heavens and the earth shall shake: But the Lord will be the hope of his people, And the strength of the children of Israel” (3:16).

The Promise of the LORD’s Perpetual Presence (3:17-21)

Through the LORD’s judgment of the nations, the children of Israel and Judah will come to know Him as “the LORD [their] God” who dwells in Zion (3:17a). The city of Jerusalem would be holy, and no “strangers” (unbelievers) will “pass through her any more” (3:17b). The land will be fertile, the waters will flow, and the River of Life will flow from “the house of the LORD” (3:18). The LORD will avenge the wickedness of Egypt and Edom, for they were guilty of violence and shedding the “innocent blood” of Judah (3:19).

Closing thoughts (3:20-21) – Joel’s prophecies end with the LORD promising Judah the nation will “dwell forever” in the land, “and Jerusalem from generation to generation” (3:20). He will purge the people of their sins, and will forever dwell among them “in Zion” (3:21). Our study of Joel began with a judgment of locusts (Assyria’s army) descending upon Judah and Jerusalem (1:4), and ends with the triumph of God’s people restored to their land and the LORD reigning forever in Jerusalem (3:20-21).

The day of judgment is coming, not only for the nations, but for all men and women. Are you prepared for God’s day of judgment? When the books are opened, and “every man [and woman] will be judged “according to their works?” (Revelation 20:13), will your name be “found written in the book of life?” (Revelation 20:15)

Revelation 20:1515And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

God’s Judgment of Egypt (Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we are in the midst of God’s declaration of judgment on the nations, with the subject being Egypt. The date of this prophesy is not given, and there is good reason to believe it would have followed soon after Ezekiel 29:1, which was in the tenth year, and the tenth month of Ezekiel’s exile in Babylon.

Ezekiel 30 – The Third Judgment

A Storm of God’s Judgment (30:1-9)

Following the pattern of earlier prophecies, Ezekiel was addressed as, “son of man,” and commanded to “prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the day!” (which is to say, Oh no! The day of the Lord is near, a day of clouds, 30:2). With Jerusalem under siege, Ezekiel was to pronounce a storm of God’s judgment would soon pass upon all the nations, for “the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day” (30:3). Doomed with Egypt, were her allies, including Ethiopia (Cush), Libya, Lydia, and Chub (30:5). Egypt’s pride in her strength would fail, and her lands and cities would be laid waste (30:6-7). The Egyptians would know it was the LORD, as her cities burned (30:8). When news of Egypt’s fall reached Ethiopia, her people would be terrified and say of their own demise, “lo, it cometh” (30:9).

Nebuchadnezzar, An Agent of God (30:10-19)

The king of Babylon was named as the servant, the agent of God’s wrath (30:10). Ezekiel was to declare, the “multitude of Egypt” would come to an end as the people were slain, and driven as captives out of the land (30:10-11). The rivers, streams, and irrigation canals flowing from the Nile would be destroyed, and the nation plundered (30:12). All of the great cities of Egypt would become desolate (30:13-18), that the people might know and confess “the LORD” as sovereign (30:19).

The Strength of Pharaoh Would Fail (30:20-26)

Ezekiel 30:20 introduced the fourth judgment of the LORD against the nations. It was in the eleventh year of Ezekiel’s exile when the LORD declared, “I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, lo, it shall not be bound up to be healed” (30:21). Portrayed as a man with broken arms, the strength of Pharaoh would never be reset, nor would Egypt have the strength to war over other nations again (30:21-22). The LORD would scatter the Egyptians among the nations (30:23), and Pharaoh would “groan…with the groanings of a deadly wounded man” (30:24). Thus, Egypt would come to know and confess the God of Israel is “the LORD” (30:26).

Ezekiel 31 – The Fourth Judgment

Egypt’s Judgment Compared to the Fall of Assyria (31:3-9)

Ezekiel 31 continued God’s warning of judgment against Egypt, with the fall of ancient Assyria serving as a warning to “Pharaoh” (31:2). Assyria was portrayed as a great “cedar in Lebanon,” whose stature exceeded all the trees in the “forest” of the nations (31:3). In her zenith, Assyria towered as a giant among the nations of the world, even as Egypt at her peak oppressed weaker nations and people. As the Nile River nourished Egypt, so the rivers and streams of Assyria nourished her fields and forest (31:4-5).

Continuing the portrayal of Assyria as a great cedar, the nations of the world sought shelter in her “branches,” even as times of famine moved the people to retreat to Egypt (the great “bread basket” of ancient times, 31:6). Incomparably proud, the Assyrians boasted their nation excelled all others (portrayed as a great cedar boasting it exceeded “all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God,” 31:8-9).

Assyria’s Fate: A Warning to Egypt (31:10-17)

As the mighty Assyrian “cedar” fell, Egypt’s pride would suffer a crushing defeat as the LORD delivered Pharaoh into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (31:10-11). Assyria, remembered as a ruthless nation, would suffer the same fate, and her allies would desert her (31:12-13).

Though Nebuchadnezzar was God’s agent, it was the LORD who determined all who lift up their proud hearts would “go down to the pit” (31:14). The LORD stopped up the waters of the rivers, as the crops failed, and the “trees of the field fainted” (31:15). When the news of Assyria’s downfall spread, the nations of the world were shaken (31:16). The LORD condemned Assyria to hell, and her allies with her (31:17).

Closing thoughts (31:18) – The fall of Assyria served as God’s warning to Egypt (31:18a). Ezekiel foretold, as it was with Assyria, so it would befall Egypt (31:18b).

Warning – People and nations who exalt themselves against the God of Heaven, will be sentenced “unto the nether parts of the earth” (31:18a).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“I Sought for a Man” – A Memorial Day Weekend Perspective

The scene is as vivid in my mind today as it was that day. I watched a casket, draped with the flag of the United States of America, as it was transported through a sea of dark suits and black veiled hats. I was only 10 or 11 at the time, and Vietnam was a place far from my quiet existence in rural South Carolina. That day, the nightly news recounting American casualties, took on a new meaning that was real and personal. While the toll of combat would number 58,193 by war’s end, it was the sacrifice of one soldier that brought home to me the reality of war, and the price of freedom.

            How do you honor the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for the liberty we enjoy as a nation? Is it enough to place a wreath at a tomb or mark the graves of America’s fallen with flags? I suggest the greater memorial is to incorporate into our lives and families those qualities that made America great.

The Preamble of our Constitution states its purpose was to bind our hearts as a people to “a more perfect Union,” and “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

The leaders of our nation have failed us. Instead of Justice, politicians promote political correctness. Rather than domestic Tranquility, we have corruption, violence, and partisan politics. Our common defense has been weakened by open borders. The general Welfare of our nation has been sacrificed for special interest groups. Tragically, the Blessings of Liberty are despised by those who would enslave us.

America needs believers who will dedicate themselves to the LORD, and “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith