Tag Archives: Pray

A Heavenly Vision (Isaiah 6)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 6

Isaiah 6 is a dramatic chapter that has captured the imagination of people down through the ages. We are given a heavenly portrait of God sitting upon His throne. Though a brief chapter, Isaiah 6 is a pivotal moment in our study of Isaiah. Before he was commissioned to be a prophet to Judah, God gave Isaiah a vision of His Creator sitting on heaven’s throne. I invite you to consider with me three major thoughts.

Isaiah’s Reflection on God’s Glory (6:1-4)

The setting of Isaiah 6 was at a time of national mourning (6:1).

It was “in the year king Uzziah died” (6:1). We have considered Uzziah in earlier devotions, and you may remember he reigned 52 years over Judah. His reign was long and prosperous (2 Chronicles 26:1-15), until his heart was lifted up with pride and God struck him with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). Banned from the palace because of the disease, the king’s son oversaw the affairs of the government until his death. The news of the king’s death moved Isaiah to go to the Temple and seek the LORD.

The scene: Isaiah Witnessed the Majesty of the LORD Sitting on His Throne (6:1-3).

King Uzziah was dead, and though Isaiah and the people were shaken, the prophet was reminded that God is sovereign, and His authority is never in doubt. King’s rise, and kings fall, but the LORD is ever “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (6:1). God’s throne is high above all earthly thrones and governments (6:1).

Standing above God’s throne were a number of seraphim. By their name, we know the seraphim were angels with a fiery appearance (representing God’s judgment), and each had six wings, two covering their face (showing reverence for God), two covering their feet, and two wings with which they hovered above the throne (6:2).

The seraphim were engaged in two occupations: They were proclaiming God’s holiness, and crying to one another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts” (6:3a). They also acknowledged the LORD as Creator, and the earth displays His glory (6:3b). In Isaiah’s vision, the Temple was moved by the cry of the seraphim, and “filled with smoke” (6:4; smoke is associated with God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18; 2 Samuel 22:9).

Isaiah’s Response to the Heavenly Vision (6:5)

The vision of the majesty and holiness of God sitting on His throne moved Isaiah to acknowledge his sinful state. Confessing the sorrow of one that is helpless and hopeless (6:5), Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone [dead; doomed]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5).

The prophet not only confessed his “unclean lips” (the sins of his tongue; i.e., rash, harsh, bitter words), but also the sins of the nation (6:5). Judah was guilty of outwardly worshipping and sacrificing to God, but their mouths were filled with pride, mocking, and false piety.

After confessing his sin, a seraph took a live, fiery coal from the altar, and placing the hot coal on Isaiah’s lips, the he pronounced his sins had been purged (6:7).

Isaiah’s Recruitment: His Call and Commission (6:8-13)

Suddenly, the voice of God was heard, and He asked, “Whom shall I send [Send forth], and who will go for us?” (6:8b). Isaiah, with a humble heart and his sins forgiven, did not hesitate to answer God’s call and said, “Here am I; send me” (6:8c).

The LORD then challenged Isaiah, saying, “Go, and tell [speak; command] this people, Hear [Hearken; Obey; Listen] ye indeed [Hearken; Obey; Listen], but understand [consider; discern; regard] not; and see [Look; behold] ye indeed [Look; behold], but perceive not. [know; understand]” (6:9). The people of Judah had grown callous; for they had heard the prophets, but refused to repent (6:9b). They had seen God’s protection and blessings, but refused to consider their sins.

Closing thoughts – Isaiah’s ministry was to go and admonish the people. Some would respond to His preaching and their hearts would become “fat” [calloused]. They would refuse to hear and heed God’s Word, and would become spiritually blind and deaf (6:10). Without repenting, Judah passed the point of no return.

Isaiah wondered, “How long?” How long would the people refuse to hear the truth (6:11a). The LORD revealed they would refuse the truth until His judgment fell upon the nation: The cities would be destroyed, the houses silent (without a man, woman, or child), the land would be wasted, and only one-tenth of the people would remain in the land (6:11-13).

Isaiah 6:13 concluded with a promise that the LORD would not annihilate His people. He would remember His covenant promises to Abraham and David. The Lord would look to a future day when “the holy seed [offspring] [would] be the substance thereof” [would spring for with new growth, and life]. Israel and Judah would be cut down to the ground, but seedlings of faith would begin to sprout into new life.

Copyright 2022 © Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

“God is Sovereign, and The Battle is the Lord’s” (1 Kings 20) – A Bonus Devotional

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20

Now, the LORD commanded the prophet Elijah to anoint three successors to be kings of Israel and Judah, and his own replacement (1 Kings 19:15-21). Hazael, he anointed to succeed Benhadad as king of Syria (19:15). Jehu was anointed to be king of Israel following Ahab (19:16). Finally, Elisha was chosen by the LORD to serve as Elijah’s disciple and his successor as prophet in Israel (19:16b, 19-21).

1 Kings 20 – The Failure of Ahab, and His Death Foretold

1 Kings 20 presents us with a record of how Benhadad, king of Syria, oppressed and impoverished Israel. With arrogance and impunity, he humiliated king Ahab (20:1-12) and demanded that king’s treasury of silver and gold. He abducted Ahab’s wives and took his children as hostages, along with the best of Israel’s population to serve as his slaves (1 Kings 20:2-3). When the king of Syria increased his demands, Ahab realized Benhadad’s demands were intolerable, and would never be appeased (1 Kings 20:5-6).

God in His grace, sent a prophet to encourage Ahab to be courageous and assured him the LORD was on his side (20:13). Promised victory in spite of the odds against him, Ahab withstood Benhadad in a series of three battles and God gave Israel a great victory (20:14-30).

Tragically, Ahab’s heart was lifted up with pride, and when Benhadad begged for his life to be spared, the king of Israel failed to consult the LORD. Ahab made a foolish, and fateful decision; not only did he spare Benhadad’s life, he honored him by setting him in his own chariot before the people (1 Kings 20:32-33). Sparing the enemy of Israel provoked the wrath of the LORD (20:31-34), and He sent a man to Ahab, one described as “of the sons of the prophets” (20:35). The young prophet confronted Ahab, and said:

1 Kings 20:42-43 – “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. 43And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.”

Closing thoughts – 1 Kings 20 was a spiritual crossroads for King Ahab, and true to his evil character, he made decisions independent of the LORD, and promoted his interests before that of the LORD’S.

Consider three spiritual lessons: The first, God is jealous of His glory and name (20:13). Ahab had surrendered to Benhadad’s demands and failed to seek the LORD, and in doing so, sacrificed God’s best for His people. God declared to Ahab, “thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

We are also reminded that God is sovereign over all creation (20:23-28). The LORD is the God of the hills and the valleys. He is not the “god of many,” but the sovereign God of all, and turns the hearts of kings and rulers according to His will (Proverbs 21:1).

Lastly, God is just, and desires obedience (20:32-42). Ahab’s failure to kill his enemy invited the LORD’S judgment upon himself and Israel. Ahab will invite his own death, and Israel will suffer a humiliating defeat (1 Kings 21-22).

What about you? Do you seek the LORD and His will when making decisions? Do you put your faith in the wisdom of man, or in the LORD knowing He is sovereign, and He desires the best for His people?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Take Courage, and Hope in the LORD! – Part 2 (1 Kings 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 17; 1 Kings 17

We have met Ahab, the seventh king of northern Israel, and his queen Jezebel in an earlier devotion (1 Kings 16:29-33). They were a notoriously wicked couple who reigned over northern Israel for 22 years. Ahab followed and exceeded the wickedness of his father Omri and the kings that had gone before him (16:30). His wife Jezebel did not worship the God of Israel, for she “served Baal, and worshipped him” (16:31). Her influence on Ahab ushered in a time of great wickedness, and Ahab built an altar and temple to Baal in Samaria, the capital city of Israel (16:33).

Elijah the Tishbite, The Prophet of God

1 Kings 17 gives a brief introduction to the prophet Elijah, whose life and ministry we will follow for several days in the Scirptures. He was, in my opinion, not only one of the greatest prophets, but one of the greatest men to have ever lived. The Scriptures portray him as a man of passion and faith; one who might boldly confront evil, but then take flight for fear of losing his life.

A Season of Drought (17:1-7)

We are introduced to Elijah when he entered the palace of the wicked Ahab, and delivered a message of judgment: “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (17:1; Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23).

To provide for His prophet during the three years of drought, God commanded Elijah to retreat to the desert, and there He would provide him with water at “the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (17:3). The LORD then sent ravens to bring his prophet bread and meat to eat (17:4). So, the LORD provided all Elijah needed for a season, until “the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (17:7).

The Widow Zarephath (17:8-16)

When there was no water, the LORD provided the next place to which his prophet would retreat during the drought that was troubling Israel. God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath of Zidon, and there he would meet and dwell in the household of a widow and her son (17:9). When he arrived in Zarephath, he met the poor widow as she gathered sticks to bake the last of her flour and oil. Elijah requested water, and she moved to “fetch it;” however, his request for bread was met by protest, for she said, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (17:12).

Confident in the LORD’s leading and provision, Elijah assured her the LORD would provide, and she would never lack for flour or oil, “until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (17:14). Exercising her faith in the LORD, and His prophet, she took the prophet into her home, and every day found the flour and oil replenished, as the prophet had promised (17:15-16).

The Death and Resurrection of the Widow’s Son (17:17-24)

At some time during Elijah’s stay in the widow’s household, her son became ill and died (17:17). In her sorrow, the widow cried out against Elijah as a “man of God,” and wondered if her sins were the cause of her son’s death (17:18).

Elijah was overcome with sorrow, and taking up the widow’s son to his bedchamber, he placed him upon his bed and cried to the LORD saying, “let this child’s soul come into him again” (17:21). The LORD heard and answered the prophet’s prayer, and “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:22).

Closing thoughts – We know the trials Elijah faced in 1 Kings 17 were an opportunity for the prophet to become strong in his faith, and confident the God of Israel hears and answers the prayers of his people. Yes, Elijah felt the consequences of the drought in Israel, but he also experienced God’s care and miraculous provision, even when there was just enough flour and oil for a day. Elijah learned the power of prayer, that prepared him for the great contests he would soon face with Ahab and Jezebel.

Maybe you are reading this devotional and find yourself in the midst of trials, and disappointments. Perhaps you are wrestling with doubts, and wondering if the LORD will hear and answer your prayers. You might feel like the widow of Zarephath, and question if the sorrows you bear are because of your sin (17:18).

Be strong, take courage, and hope in the LORD! He still hears, and answers prayer (1 John 1:9).

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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Before Wisdom Goes Humility” (Proverbs 30)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 30

The opening verses of Proverbs 30 are not as practical as the majority of the proverbs; however, with a little “gold mining” into word meanings, we find nuggets of truth that are applicable to all who seek wisdom.

The human author of Proverbs 30 is debated among scholars. Some believe “Agur” is another name for Solomon; however, the reference of “Agur, the son of Jakeh” would seem to negate that suggestion. In addition, the personal admissions in verses 2-3 and 8-9 would seem out of character for Solomon, a man renowned for his wisdom.

Proverbs 30:1 “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy [utterances inspired by God]: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,”

The words of “Agur” are described as “the prophecy” (30:1), thereby attributing his words to be the inspired word of God. We may be unable to identify the human author; however, there is no doubt that God the Holy Spirit is the divine author. The apostles Paul and Peter testified that the scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments were God-breathed, and inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:20-21).

The prophecy of Agur was delivered to two men of whom nothing is known save their names, “Ithiel and Ucal” (30:1). Perhaps Ithiel and Ucal had come to Agur seeking words of wisdom and instruction. Agur, acknowledging the magnitude of his duty to speak on behalf of God, was overwhelmed with the responsibility.

Proverbs 30:2 “Surely I am more brutish [stupid; foolish; lacking an ability to reason] than any man, and have not the understanding [knowledge and wisdom] of a man.”

Agur admitted his inadequacy to impart wisdom apart from God, confessing he was a “brutish man”, wandering like a beast without reasoning. In my opinion, Agur expresses the humility that should be true of every man. Apart from God’s mercy and grace, we are all sinners, brute beasts, without direction (Isaiah 53:6Romans 1:28).

Proverbs 30:3 – “I neither learned [have not learned] wisdom, nor have [know] the knowledge [discernment; ex. between good and evil] of the holy [sacred; pure].”

Agur’s confession in verse 3 expresses the humility required of those who would seek the wisdom of God. The foolish reject God (Psalm 14:1) and the proud are unwilling to humble themselves. Before a man can acquire the wisdom of God, he must confess his woeful ignorance, and express the humility of Isaiah when he was given a vision of God’s heavenly glory and cried out: “Woe is me! for I am undone…for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Closing thought – Where might one find the wisdom of God?

Godly wisdom, understanding, and discernment come from trusting the LORD by faith, quietly residing in His presence, and meditating on His Word. Such wisdom is not the wisdom of this world, which “is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). The wisdom of God is derived from reading and meditating in His Word, and walking in obedience to His Law and Commandments.

Got wisdom? It is available to those who trust the LORD, come to Him humbly, and obey His Word.

James 1:5 – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God [ask God for wisdom and understanding], that giveth [offers; grants] to all men liberally [generously], and upbraideth not [does not reproach or find fault]; and it shall be given him.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

There is No Fool Like an Old Fool (1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9

Having concluded our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the final years of Solomon, king of Israel, the son of David. You will notice 2 Chronicles 9 is a parallel account of 1 Kings 10. We are reminded that 1 Kings was recorded before the Babylonian captivity, and its parallel account in 1st and 2nd Chronicles was penned after Israel returned from captivity.

2 Chronicles 9 (1 Kings 10)

Once again, we read of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:1), which details the purpose of her visit, describes the great caravan that accompanied her, and lists the special gifts she presented to Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10; 2 Chronicles 9:12).

Solomon’s wisdom, and the vast wealth of his kingdom had gotten international fame. The Queen of Sheba, believed to have been a rich kingdom in the southern Arabian Peninsula, had “heard of the fame of Solomon” (9:1), and came to hear and see if the king was as great as the rumors she had heard of in her kingdom.  She came to “prove Solomon with hard questions,” and spoke of all that was on her heart (9:1; 1 Kings 10:1-3).

She tested Solomon, inspected “the house that he had built” (9:3; 1 Kings 10:4), saw the evidence of his administrative skills, and the rich apparel of those who assisted him (9:3; 1 Kings 10:5). The queen concluded, all she had heard of the king was not only true, but his wisdom exceeded his “fame” (9:6; 1 Kings 10:6). Moreover, all who served Solomon were “happy” (9:7; 1 Kings 10:8).

The balance of our reading in 2 Chronicles 9 parallels the record in 1 Kings 10. We have the gifts the Queen of Sheba presented to the king, and his gifts to her (9:9-12). The opulence of the king’s palace, including his throne of ivory covered in gold (9:17) is recorded. Also, the approach to Solomon’s throne was unlike any in the kingdoms of the world, being appointed with twelve lions (9:18-19). His wealth was so great that he displayed beaten shields of gold in his summer palace, known as “the forest of Lebanon” (9:15-16).

Although Solomon’s death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 9, the writer of that book did not give us the tragic commentary on the last years of his life. For that dreadful tale, we must turn our focus to 1 Kings 11.

1 Kings 11

After stating the fame of Solomon’s wisdom, and the vast wealth of his kingdom (10:14-29), we read how the king was disobedient in his last years, and the consequences of his sins (11:1-8). Following the pattern of heathen kings who seek alliances with other kingdoms by marriage, the king had taken into his palace “many strange women” (11:1), including “the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites” (11:1). Those women brought to Israel their own idols, and despite God’s warnings, Solomon gave his affections “and his wives turned away his heart after other gods…and Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:3,4,6).

Who were the gods of Solomon’s wives?Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians,” the Canaanite goddess of sex and war (11:5). “Milcom,” also known as Molech, to whom the Ammonites, and later Israel, sacrificed their children (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35). The king also built an “high place for Chemosh,” the god of the Moabites (10:7).

Rather than the blessing of the LORD, the latter years of Solomon’s reign provoked God’s wrath (11:9). Because the king had disobeyed the LORD, and “kept not that which the Lord commanded” (11:10), the peace of Israel was replaced with turmoil. God forewarned, the kingdom would be divided upon Solomon’s death (11:11-13).

The LORD raised up three adversaries against Solomon:Hadad the Edomite” (11:14-22), Rezon who “reigned over Syria” (11:23-25), and Jeroboam who fled to Egypt during Solomon’s reign (11:26-32). It was Jeroboam whom the LORD appointed to “rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon,” and his son would face the consequences of God’s judgment for his father’s wickedness (11:31). Upon Solomon’s death, Jeroboam would lead an uprising against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir, and ten of the twelve tribes would follow him (11:31). The tribe of Judah would remain loyal to Solomon’s lineage (11:32), and the tribe of Benjamin which was incorporated within Judah’s territory.

Closing thoughts – Our study of Solomon’s life and his forty-year reign concludes with the revelation that he went the way of all men;  he died and “slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31).

When Solomon was young, and his heart tender, he enjoyed the blessings of the LORD. Tragically, when he was old, the king made wicked, foolish choices that shadowed the final years of his life. The consequences of his sins brought ruin upon his family, and kingdom. Someone has said, “an old fool is the worst kind of fool…and there is no fool like an old fool.”

Whether young or old, the wise choose the path of the righteous, and fools choose the way of sin. What path are you following?

* Please remember to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and have daily devotionals sent to your email address. In the next year, there will be bonus devotionals only available to subscribers of www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Four Principles for a Rewarding Life (Ecclesiastes 11)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 11

Remorse is a heavy burden to carry, but I have known many who, in their later years of life, were haunted by the sorrows of regret. Solomon understood that life holds many tendencies for regret, and wisely taught his son invaluable principles he had learned from years of experience. I invite you to consider Solomon’s wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 11.

Be Charitable. (11:1-4)

Ecclesiastes 11:1–21Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

The word, “cast” means to freely give, and “the waters” in the Scriptures is often a reference to mankind (i.e., the sea of humanity). The implication then is to “freely give” (in this case, bread) to others, for you cannot know what “evil” the days ahead might hold for you. A popular adage sums up a similar warning: “What goes around, comes around.” Solomon urged, while you have the power to give…GIVE, for the day may come when you will find yourself in want.

Illustrating the need to give while you are able, Solomon cited nature, using an illustration to which all could relate, writing, when “clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth” (11:3). In other words, like clouds that do not hoard their lifegiving moisture, we should not be misers with the bounty of that which God has entrusted to us.

Some put off the opportunity or inclination to be charitable, looking for a time when it is more convenient, or the economy more favorable. They are like the lazy farmer; he procrastinates tending his fields, always looking for perfect weather, and a more convenient time for his labor (11:4).

God Has a Plan and Purpose for Your Life. (11:5-6)

Solomon did not have the privilege of scientific research such as we have today. He understood the baby’s body was formed in its mother’s womb (11:5); however, he did not know the essence of DNA (genetics) that guided the formation of that little one from conception (Psalm 139:15-16). The king did not know, and neither do we, how God made us uniquely who we are, imparting to us an eternal spirit, distinctly like no other.

Know this: You are unique, and God has a plan, and purpose for your life (11:5c). He has numbered your days (Psalm 90:12), but you cannot know the number of your years on this earth (11:6). While you are young (“in the morning” of your life), you should “sow thy seed” (give of yourself and your means as you are blessed). “In the evening” of life, when you are old (11:6b), don’t restrain your hand from blessing others. Don’t presume you can put off till tomorrow the good that you should do this day. Whether you are young or old, Do Right!

Wise Men Enjoy the Good Times, But Plan for the Bad. (11:7-8)

The light of a sunrise is welcomed, and when you are young it promises a day that is “sweet, and a pleasant thing” (11:7). The sun of spring and summer brings warmth, and the promise of growth and harvest; however, look ahead, and know “the days of darkness [cometh], for they shall be many” (11:8). Live for today, and fail to plan for the failings and frailty of old age, and you will say, “All that cometh is vanity” (11:8c).

Rejoice in Your Youth, but Remember God will be Judge. (11:9-10)

 Ecclesiastes 11:9 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

“Rejoice,” be glad in the strength of your youth! Enjoy life, but remember, the sins of one’s youth are a draft on old age. “God will bring thee into judgment” (11:9b).

The foolish man counsels the young to, “sow their wild oats,” but fails to warn: the wild seeds planted in one’s youth will sprout weeds that will choke the joys from their future (11:9b).

“Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10 )

Closing thoughts – The king urged youth to not mull over youthful grievances, nor allow them to become a flashpoint for anger and bitterness. The king challenged, “put away evil,” and give no place for the sins and lusts of the flesh.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy, wrote:  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

To put away sin, you must be fill the void with righteous choices, and godly attitudes. (Ephesians 4:22-32)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy (Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5

Continuing our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes, this is the second of two devotionals for today, and is taken from Ecclesiastes 5.

Ecclesiastes 5 – A Call to Worship

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs he taught his sons when they were young. Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say to their children, “Don’t do as I do; do as I say.”

The instructions of Solomon are stated so clearly in Ecclesiastes 5 that there is little need of commentary.

Four Offenses to Avoid When Worshipping the LORD (5:1-7)

We offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).

Solomon wrote: “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness]” (5:1).

While men are given to looking upon worship as an outward act of sacrifice, the Scriptures emphasize the matter of the heart. Solomon challenged his son, “Keep thy heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23), and the prophet Samuel warned King Saul: to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22).

Rather than a deliberate act of earnestness, and a consciousness that a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), 21st century worship has become raucous entertainment. Rather than follow the exhortation, “Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10), today’s “worshippers” dance to the beat of drums, the blare of deafening music, and the strobes of psychedelic lights. Many have forgotten, God is more interested in your heart, than he is in your sacrifice.

We offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2). Solomon admonished:

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

Though God is in heaven, and may seem distant; remember–He hears every word!  I fear we rush into the presence of God in our prayers, state a list of prayer requests, and seldom take time to listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

We offend the LORD when say one thing, and do another (5:4-7a).

God remembers every prayer, vow, and word. He know every thought. The LORD will not forget the vows you have made. He taught His disciples, every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

Finally, God is offended when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

Closing thoughts – When we come before the LORD to worship Him, whether it is in the quietness of our daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints–slow down, and take time to be quiet. Before you sing, and before you pray, remember the LORD hears every word.

Psalm 46:10“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

* Please subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com for future daily devotionals. 

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Need to Be Needed (Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5

We are continuing our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this is the first of two devotionals from today’s Scripture reading, Ecclesiastes 4 and 5.

Ecclesiastes 4

Unfair, Unfair (4:1-3)

Solomon, now an aged king and near the end of his days, returned to a familiar subject in this book. Contemplating the injustices men suffer in life (4:1-3), the king wrote, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter” (4:1).

What a sad commentary on how men oppress and victimize the innocent, and less fortunate. The king observed, the oppressed have nowhere to turn for comfort. In his state of heart and mind, Solomon concluded, an innocent man might be better dead than to suffer the sorrows of oppression (4:2-3).

Four Sinful Attitudes Regarding Wealth (4:4-8)

Moving to another matter, the king considered four sinful attitudes concerning wealth and material possessions. The first was envy. Some people are envious of their neighbor’s wealth and possessions (4:4). While the nature of man is not to envy the labor of another, it is to desire the fruit and success of his work. An envious, jealous spirit is unloving, and violates the command, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

Laziness is also a sinful attitude when it comes to prosperity. Solomon observed, “The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh” (4:5).  The fool in this verse is one who quits work, and is dependent upon others (4:5a). He is a sluggard, and is slothful (Proverbs 19:15; 21:25). The effect of his laziness is that it cannibalizes his future, for he “eateth his own flesh,” and what might have been (4:5b).

The workaholic is the polar opposite of an indolent man, for he labors to fill his hands with wealth, and toils at the sacrifice of himself, his health, and his family (4:6b). Solomon observed, it would be better to have a little (“a handful”), and enjoy peace and “quietness” (4:6b).

The miser is the fourth sinful attitude that was observed by Solomon (4:7-8). Like the rich fool who toils away his life for riches, but is never content (Luke 12:15-21), the miser may find himself rich in goods, but alone. He has money, but no family or friends to bless.

Three Principles for Life, Work and Friendship (4:9-12)

I find three life principles when it comes laboring with others (4:9-12). The first: Working with others is satisfying, and more rewarding than working alone (4:9-10).

Solomon writes, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (4:9). Like oxen that are stronger and more productive when they share the same yoke, we are by nature happier and more satisfied when we work with others (4:9).

The king perceived, For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (4:10). Working together builds a bond, discourages selfishness, and provides an opportunity to encourage and minister to others (4:10).

Working with others affords us protection, and encourages perseverance (4:11-12). Solomon wrote: “if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone12  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (4:11-12).

Everyone needs to be needed, and “huddling together” affords us comfort and encouragement. Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we are made stronger when we laugh together, cry together, and work together!  Should an enemy threaten, or when difficult times come, a sincere friend will keep you from falling or failing (4:12).

Working together fulfills God’s plan, for He never meant for us to be alone (4:12b).

In the beginning, God created everything perfect and good (Genesis 1-2), with one exception–After He created Adam, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:19).

You are happiest when you are needed!  You are more effective in your work, and less likely to quit when you work with others who are striving for the same goals.

One Can Be a Fool at Any Age (4:13-16)

Contrary to the opinion of some, youth does not own the market when it comes to being a foolish. A child that is poor, but wise, is better than a king corrupted by power, and unwilling to hear or heed correction (4:13).

While the foolish sometimes rise from obscurity (i.e., “prison”), and seize opportunity to wield power, their blunders inevitably bring them low (4:14). Remembering people are fickle by nature, they turn and embrace youth (4:15). Those in whom the public celebrate today, they will “not rejoice in” tomorrow (4:16).

Closing review – 1) There will always be injustices, and you should expect them (4:1-3). 2) Warning: The wealth and success of others may tempt you to be envious, or lazy if you sit idly focusing on what others have that you do not (4:4-8). 3) Remember – You will be happiest when you labor with others (4:9-12). 4) People are fickle, and foolishness will characterize the young and old, and the poor and rich.

* Please subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com for future daily devotionals. This is the first of two daily devotionals published today by Pastor Smith. The second devotional will be taken from Ecclesiastes 5, and is only available by going to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith