Tag Archives: Pray

A Crisis of Faith and Integrity (Daniel 3; Daniel 4)

Scripture reading – Daniel 3; Daniel 4

Scholars suggest a 20-year gap exists between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image (Daniel 2), and his elevation of one “in the plain of Dura,” outside the massive walls of the city of Babylon (Daniel 3:1). Assuming the passing of two decades, Daniel and his three Hebrew companions were then in their mid-30’s, in the prime of manhood, and serving as administrators in Nebuchadnezzar’s government (2:48-49). Today’s devotional will be focused on Daniel 3, though our Scripture reading includes Daniel 4.

The King’s Idol (3:1-3)

In spite of him confessing Daniel’s God was “the God of gods, the Lord of kings” (2:47), the king had gone his own way, and returned to his idolatry, worshipping and offering sacrifices to idols. Yet, the king remembered the image of his dreams, and Daniel’s interpretation that the golden head of the image represented his realm as king (2:38). The proud king, not content with an image bearing only a head of gold, determined to raise an entire image of gold. Standing an impressive 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, the golden image towered above men. Understanding the diversity of nations under his rule, Nebuchadnezzar expected all men to worship his idol (3:2-3).

A Crisis of Integrity (3:4-18)

With a day of dedication determined, a herald called “all people, nations, and languages” (3:4) to bow and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (3:4-5). With the warning, Bow or Burn, all men and women were expected to give homage to “the golden image” (3:7).  A sea of humanity gathered before the great image, and when the music was heard, all bowed before the image, with the exception of three men. The assimilation of the children of Israel into Babylonian culture had been universal, with the exception of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel’s absence was perhaps due to his travels on behalf of the king).

There were some Chaldeans who used the occasion to accuse the three Hebrew men, that prompted an inquisition before the king (3:13-15). Although angered by their refusal, and perhaps out of respect for Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar gave Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego a second opportunity to bow before his idol, but also repeated the consequences should they refuse (3:15).

Though far from their home and the godly influences of their youth, the three men proved steadfast in their convictions (Exodus 20:3-5), and recognized two outcomes for their fidelity:  “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 8But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up“ (3:17-18).

The Fire of the King’s Indignation (3:19-26)

Overcome with “rage and fury” (3:13, 19), Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace heated 7 times hotter than normal. The king then commanded his “most mighty men” (perhaps his own guard) to bind and cast Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego into the furnace (3:19-21). The fire of the furnace instantly killed the mighty men when they cast the men into the furnace (3:21-23). Sitting down to observe, the king was suddenly shaken by the sight of not three, but four men walking about in the furnace, and unscathed by its heat and flames (3: 24). Nebuchadnezzar likened the fourth to a heavenly figure, and said he was “like the Son of God” (3:26).

A Divine Intervention (3:26-27)

Humbled by the miraculous preservation of the three men, and the sight of the divine image of the fourth, the king summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego by name, calling them the “servants of the most high God” (3:26). The men emerged from the furnace (3:26), as their accusers gathered and were amazed “the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them” (3:27).

The King’s Invocation (3:28-30)

Realizing only the ropes that bound them was singed by the flames (3:27), Nebuchadnezzar confessed “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego” had sent His angel to save them (3:28). The king confessed the LORD had overruled his edict, and spared their lives “that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (3:28).

Closing thoughts (3:29-30) – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s conviction to worship no other God, inspired the king to dare any of his kingdom to speak ill of their God, and to declare “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (3:29). The men were not only preserved from death, but were promoted by the king (3:30).

Believer, you might not face a fiery furnace, but you will certainly face fiery troubles and trials. I urge you to follow Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s example. Before they faced the temptation to bow to the golden image, we can be sure they had determined in their hearts they would trust the God of heaven and only worship and serve Him.

Romans 8:35–3935Who shall separate [come between] us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation [trouble], or distress [hardships; anguish], or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come…shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

“The LORD Shall Judge His People” (Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the introductory chapters of “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Ezekiel 1 records God’s call to a young priest named Ezekiel (1:1-3), and details his testimony of the sight of God’s glory sitting on His heavenly throne (1:26-28). The LORD spoke directly to Ezekiel in chapter 2, and commissioned him to be His prophet to the captives of Judah living in Babylon (2:3). Forewarned the children of Israel were “ a rebellious nation” (2:3), Ezekiel was commissioned to speak the words of the LORD and “not be afraid” of the people (2:6), “whether they [would] hear, or whether they [would] forebear” (2:7).

Ezekiel 4 – The Coming Judgment Against Judah and Jerusalem

From the setting in Ezekiel 4, we understand Jerusalem was under siege, but not yet fallen to Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Remembering Ezekiel was living in Babylon, he and the people were anxious for news from Jerusalem. The LORD came to Ezekiel, and in dramatic fashion, commanded the prophet to symbolically portray the siege of Jerusalem.

As a sign of the siege, Ezekiel was instructed to draw a map of the city on a clay tile, and create around it a mound of soil symbolic of the fortifications Babylon raised up against Jerusalem (4:1-3). Taking an iron pan, he placed it between himself and the walls of the city he built. Leaving no doubt as to the certainty of God’s judgment, the prophet was commanded to lie on his left side facing his model of the city for 390 days (4:4). Each day represented a year of God’s judgment against Israel, with the ten northern tribes being the first taken into captivity. The prophecy was thus, Israel would be judged by God 390 years for her sins (4:5).

Ezekiel was then to lie on his right side, and face his model of Jerusalem for 40 days (again, a day representing a year of God’s judgment, 4:6-7). He was instructed to be bound, symbolizing the people of Jerusalem would be bound and led away into captivity (4:8).

The Sufferings and Afflictions of Jerusalem (4:9-17)

Ezekiel would not see the suffering of Jerusalem, but the LORD made him to know the sorrow that would befall the people. Because the siege of the city would cut off the importation of food, Ezekiel was instructed to observe a meager diet, serving as a symbol of Jerusalem’s famine (4:9-12).

The LORD then commanded Ezekiel to consume the unclean, defiled food of the Gentiles, serving as a symbol of the desperate hunger of the people (4:13). The prophet protested, saying he had never eaten that which the law declared unclean (4:14; Deuteronomy 12:15-18; 14:3-21). He was also instructed to use human waste as fuel for a fire to bake bread, something that was forbidden by the law (4:15; Deuteronomy 23:9-14). All this was meant to serve as a symbol of the desperate suffering of Jerusalem (4:16-17).

Ezekiel 5 – The Signs of Jerusalem’s Humiliation and Judgment

To illustrate God’s judgment against Jerusalem, the LORD commanded Ezekiel to shave his head and beard (signs of sorrow and humiliation). He was then instructed to divide his hair in three-parts (5:1), and illustrate the imminent fall and suffering of Jerusalem. Each part of his hair served as a symbolic portrayal for how the people would perish.

He was instructed to burn one part of his hair, symbolizing the people perishing by fire, and disease (5:2a, 12a). He was to scatter a second portion of his hair, portraying one-third of Jerusalem’s inhabitant would die by the sword (5:2b,12b). The third part of his hair, was to be bound in the hem of his robe, a testimony that a remnant of Jerusalem’s population would be spared (5:3, 12c). Of that remnant, however, some would be slain (5:3-4). (As noted in in earlier readings in 2 Kings 25:22-26, and Jeremiah 40:9-12.)

Why did the LORD judge Jerusalem? (5:5-17)

 The inhabitants of Jerusalem were guilty of three great sins. They were chosen by God, blessed with His Law and Commandments, and His presence (represented in His Temple), but the people had broken covenant with the LORD, and rejected His judgments. In doing all this, their wickedness exceeded the heathen nations (5:6-8).

Having rejected the LORD, the people worshipped idols, and in the depths of their depravity turned to cannibalism, as “fathers [did] eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons [did] eat their fathers” (5:9-10). Lastly, they had defiled the Temple, and erected and worshiped idols within the holy sanctuary (5:11-12).

Closing thoughts – Jerusalem’s destruction served as testimony of God’s righteous indignation (5:13). The ruins of the city would become a reproach for the sins and wickedness of God’s people, and served as a warning to other nations (5:14-15).

For 21st century believers, we should remember what befell Jerusalem is a reminder God is just, His Word is true and what He promises will come to pass (5:16-17). Every generation must remember, “Vengeance belongeth unto [the LORD] and no sin shall go unpunished (Hebrews 10:30b). “The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30c-31).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Comfort in Times of Sorrow (Jeremiah 28; Jeremiah 29)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 28; Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah prophesied the utter destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, and the captivity that would remove the people to Babylon, leaving Judah a desolate land (27:19-22). There were false prophets who offered comfort to the people, saying all that Jeremiah had prophesied would not come to pass (27:16). Nevertheless, the prophet faithfully declared what would come to pass, and warned the people would be “carried to Babylon” where they would serve “seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; 29:10).

Jeremiah 28

The time of Jeremiah 28 is during the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (28:1). The setting is the Temple, and there a false prophet named Hananiah dared rebuke Jeremiah. Bearing the yoke the LORD commanded him to fashion as a symbol of Judah’s bondage to Babylon (27:2), Jeremiah listened as Hananiah claimed to speak for the LORD (28:2). Contradicting the prophet, Hananiah falsely prophesied the LORD had said, “I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon” (28:3). Giving the people false hope, Hananiah prophesied king Jeconiah would return to Judah, and Babylon would be defeated (28:4-5).

Jeremiah answered Hananiah’s false prophecy with “Amen” (28:6), for he longed to see Hananiah’s prophecy fulfilled (28:6-9). Yet, he reminded the people, the test of whether or not a prophet is of the LORD is if his prophecies come to pass (28:7-9).

Angered by Jeremiah’s rebuke, Hananiah rose up and broke Jeremiah’s yoke, and mocked the prophet. He went on to repeat his false prophesy, and claimed Babylon’s yoke on Judah would be broken in two years (28:10-11).  Rather than answer the prophet’s lies, Jeremiah departed the Temple, only to have the LORD send him to denounce Hananiah for his lies (28:12). Rather than a yoke of wood, Jeremiah prophesied the people would bear the weight of “yokes of iron” (28:13-14). Because he had led the people astray with his lies, Jeremiah prophesied Hananiah would die in that same year (28:15-17).

Jeremiah 29

The reign of Zedekiah was marked by the first deportations of God’s people to Babylon. We find recorded in Jeremiah 29 a letter that was sent from Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon (29:1-7). Among the first captives were king Jeconiah and his mother (for he had been deposed in favor of Zedekiah who reigned in his stead, 29:1-2; 2 Kings 24:12-16).

Using diplomatic carriers (29:3), the letter was addressed to captives who listened to false prophets, and believed the Babylonian captivity would be brief. The purpose of Jeremiah’s letter was to encourage the people to accept God’s will, and from a human perspective, “make the best of a bad situation” (29:4-7)

In his letter, Jeremiah instructed the people to set their roots in Babylon, saying “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7).  He urged the people to dismiss the lies of the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9).  Jeremiah stated the captivity in Babylon would be 70 years, but assured the people the nation would one day return to the land the LORD had promised Israel (29:8-10).

Though far from home, subjects of Nebuchadnezzar, and living in the midst of a heathen nation, Jeremiah encouraged the people they were not beyond the LORD’s loving care and longsuffering. Assuring the captives the LORD heard their cries and prayers (29:10-13), Jeremiah wrote:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah prophesied to the remnant of God’s people that remained in Jerusalem and Judah, that they would suffer many things before being taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar  (29:14-23). He urged the people to refuse the lies of the false prophets, and warned them they would become the object of great sorrows (29:17-19).

There were false prophets in Babylon, and Jeremiah boldly named and condemned them in his letter (29:20-22). They had sinned against the LORD and His people. They were adulterers, and liars, and God declared, “even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord” (29:23).

Jeremiah’s letter closed, addressing a false prophet named Shemaiah, who was living among the Jewish captives (29:24-28). Shemaiah was not content with speaking lies, he made accusations against Jeremiah, and accused the priest Zephaniah of being lenient for failing to imprison Jeremiah (29:24-27). Shemaiah accused Jeremiah of lies, and sowing despair among the people (29:27-28; note, 29:5-7).

Jeremiah responded to Shemaiah’s accusations, and condemned him as a false prophet who had mislead the captives (29:30-31). Declaring God’s judgment, Jeremiah prophesied Shemaiah would suffer, and his lineage would never see the blessings God had planned for His people. Why? For Shemaiah had “taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:32).

Closing thought – We find ourselves living in troubling times, and yet, we should take heart, and be comforted by the LORD’s loving care, and omniscience. Surely, His thoughts toward us are “thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (29:11) and when we pray we can take comfort He hears and answers prayer (29:12). Yet, that wonderful promise comes with a condition: We must turn from our sins, seek the LORD, and search for Him with all our heart. (29:13).

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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Prophet to A Dying Culture (Jeremiah 20; Jeremiah 21)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 20; Jeremiah 21

Jeremiah 19

Jeremiah had purchased a clay bottle at the potter’s house (19:1) and summoned the elders of the city of Jerusalem (the leaders of the city and the priests) to meet him in “the valley of the son of Hinnom” (19:1-2). As we have noted in earlier Scripture readings, that valley was notorious for idolatry, and most infamously, the people sacrificed their sons and daughters, which is prohibited among God’s people (19:3-5).

The Valley of Slaughter (19:6-9)

Condemning the wickedness of the people, Jeremiah declared, “the valley of the son of Hinnom” would be known as “the valley of slaughter” (19:6). That valley would be the site of mass killings as the army of Babylon lay siege to Jerusalem, and the bodies of the dead lay mutilated on the ground, being carnage for birds and beasts (19:7-8). The suffering and hunger of Jerusalem would move the starving to turn to cannibalism (19:9).

A Symbol of God’s Judgment: Breaking the Clay Bottle (19:10-15)

Announcing God’s judgment in dramatic fashion, Jeremiah was instructed to “break the bottle in the sight of the men” (19:10).  The shattered clay vessel was an undeniable object lesson that what God would break, could not “be made whole again” (19:11). Jeremiah declared the bodies of the dead would be buried, until there would be “no place to bury” (19:11), and the name of Jerusalem would be “Tophet,” meaning “garbage dump” or pile of ruins (19:12).

Jeremiah departed from meeting with the elders of the city, and made his way to the Temple, where he declared in the Temple court: “15Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words” (19:15).

Jeremiah 20

Rather than repent, the elders were enraged with Jeremiah, and one named “Pashur,” the son of the chief priest, and Temple guard, beat Jeremiah and put him in stocks in the prison (20:1-2).  Rather than silencing the prophet, the persecutions emboldened him to prophesy against Pashur and identify Babylon as the nation the LORD would send to slay and take the people captive (20:3-6).

Jeremiah’s Response to Persecution (20:7-10)

Jeremiah had boldly declared the Word of the LORD, and warned the people of God’s imminent judgment, but we are also reminded the great prophet was human and prone to struggle with insecurities and discouragements that plague all who serve the LORD (20:7-18). Jeremiah began to question his call to ministry (20:7), and in private struggled with the personal attacks and injustices he suffered (20:8).  The prophet’s state became so pathetic, he determined to resign as God’s prophet (20:9). Sensing the prophet’s discouragement, his enemies defamed him, and accused him of wrongdoing (20:9).  Even his friends and family (“all my familiars”) opposed him (20:10).

Jeremiah’s Prayer and Confidence (20:11-13)

Like all men, Jeremiah was given to mood swings, but when his thoughts and meditations turned to the LORD, his passion for serving the LORD was restored (20:11-13).  With his faith renewed, and his confidence the LORD would vindicate Him (20:11-12), Jeremiah’s despair turned into songs of praise (20:13).

Closing thought – Every believer can identify with Jeremiah’s times of discouragement and doubt. I have learned that trials and sorrows often follow on the heels of spiritual victories. I do not enjoy trials; however, I have learned God is faithful and just, and He will take me through troubles and sorrows (1 Corinthians 10:13).  In the words of Nehemiah, “the joy of the LORD is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah 21

The introductory verses of Jeremiah 21 give us the time and setting of the chapter, for it was when Zedekiah was king in Judah (21:1). Jeremiah had prophesied, and warned the king of Judah and the people of Jerusalem how the city would fall to “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon” (21:2). Perhaps it might be said that Zedekiah made a “last ditch effort” to ask the prophet to appeal to the LORD for a reprieve of His judgment (21:2).

Yet, the time for repentance was past, and God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah were determined (21:3-4).  The LORD declared He would Himself “fight against” His people, and they would not be pitied (21:5-7).

The Dilemma of Two Ways (21:8-9)

Jeremiah counseled the people to surrender, for if they did not, they would die by the sword, famine, and some would be captives (21:9).  The prophet warned that God had set Himself against the city, and “the king of Babylon…[would] burn it with fire” (21:10-14).

Closing thought – Taking the threat of God’s judgment from the streets, the LORD commanded Jeremiah to go to the palace (21:11). Standing before king Zedekiah, the prophet admonished the king, and declared his oppression of the poor and needy demanded God’s judgment, and the fires of the LORD’s wrath would destroy everything (22:12-14).

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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Jeremiah: A Portrait of a Faithful Servant (Jeremiah 15; Jeremiah 16)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 15; Jeremiah 16

We continue our study of Jeremiah’s prophecies in today’s Scripture reading. I will propose a brief outline and commentary of Jeremiah 15, and an expositional commentary of Jeremiah 16.

Jeremiah 15 – The Inevitability of God’s Judgment

The wickedness of Judah was exceeding during the reign of Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, and the LORD revealed to Jeremiah the certainty of impending judgment. Consider the words which the Lord spoke to Jeremiah regarding His people during this time: “6Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting. 7And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways” (15:6-7).

I invite you to consider four major points in my outline of Jeremiah 15.

The Revelation: The Judgment of God was Imminent (15:1-9)

Jeremiah’s Lament (15:10-14)

His preaching had borne little fruit, and so he cried out to the LORD, lamenting the sorrows and rejection he had suffered as God’s prophet. He had been the object of scorn, and pitied the day of his birth (15:10). Yet, the LORD assured Jeremiah He would intercede for him, and even his enemies would eventually come seeking his counsel (15:11). God’s judgment, like iron, would not be broken (15:12), and the nation would be spoiled of its wealth (15:13). The wrath of God for the sins of His people would be expressed in their captivity (15:13-14).

Jeremiah Bemoaned His Loneliness (15:18-21)

He had been an object of scorn and persecution (15:15), and he sought solace in that the LORD would remember him, avenge him, and favor him (15:15).

Where did Jeremiah turn for comfort and hope? He found refuge and hope in God’s promises. The prophet prayed, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts” (15:16).

He followed the pattern of the “blessed” man of Psalm 1, and had not fellowshipped with the wicked. Jeremiah wrote: “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation” (15:17; Psalm 1:1). Yet, he wondered why there was no end to his sufferings and disappointments (15:18).

The LORD’s Exhortation and Loving Assurances (15:19-21)

Lovingly correcting the attitude and outlook of his prophet (15:19), the LORD assured Jeremiah: “I am with theeto save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 21  And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible” (Jeremiah 15:20-21).

Closing thought – What a blessed promise for those who endure persecution, and put their trust in the LORD! In his letter to believer’s in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote: ““57  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah 16 – Jeremiah: A Portrait of Sacrifice, Dedication and Sanctification

Describing the imminence of God’s judgment to be fulfilled when Babylon lay siege to Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and the city, the LORD directed Jeremiah not to participate in three events that were a normal part of Jewish life.

The first, Jeremiah was not to take a wife, less the deaths of a wife, sons and daughters be added to the sorrows he would bear in the midst of God’s judgment (16:1-3).  The second activity Jeremiah was to avoid was he was not to mourn for the dead (16:4) nor attend their funerals (16:5-7).   Thirdly, Jeremiah was to avoid weddings and their celebratory feasts (16:8-9).

Refusing to take a wife as Jeremiah was expected to do, served as a testimony and symbolic act before the people, a sign of the imminence of God’s judgment (16:1-3).

Though not a command, Paul observed somewhat the same in his letter to believers in Corinth when he states the “unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 …the unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord…she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

In spite of their wickedness, the LORD instructed Jeremiah that the people would ask, “Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?” (16:10).  Jeremiah was to tell the people their wickedness had exceeded that of their fathers (16:11-12).

Leaving no doubt concerning the reason of God’s judgment and the destruction that would soon come upon the nation, Jeremiah was to remind the people, because they had turned to worship idols and forsaken the LORD and His law (16:11), they would be removed from their land and taken as captives to another (16:12-13).  Describing the invasion and conquest of Judah fulfilled by the Babylonians, Jeremiah prophesied, “the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth” (16:19).

Finally, the LORD did not leave His prophet or the people hopeless, for Jeremiah was to tell the people that the LORD would not forget His covenant and would one day restore them to their land (16:14-15).

I close with an observation: God is Holy and Just and a man, family, or nation that turns from the LORD and forsakes His Word will bear the consequences of their sin.  Let us love the LORD, study His Word, and walk in His ways (Psalm 1:1-3)!

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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 7; Jeremiah 8

* Today’s devotional will be taken from Jeremiah 7. A future devotional will consider Jeremiah 8.

Like most prophets of their generation, Jeremiah’s cry for Judah to turn back to the LORD, went unheeded. The prophet faithfully preached the Word of the LORD, and for four decades was reviled by His people and persecuted by the leaders of Judah.

As we come to Jeremiah 7, we find the LORD has commanded Jeremiah to go to the Temple, and stand in the “gate of the LORD’s house,” and preach: Amend your ways and your doings” (7:3). In other words, Do Right! If the people would “Do Right” [turning from their sins, and obeying the LORD and His Commandments] the LORD promised, “I will cause you to dwell in this place (7:3).

Jeremiah 7

I am struck by the hypocrisy of Judah!  They sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (7:30-31), yet continued a pretense of worshipping the LORD in His holy Temple (7:1-2, 4)!  They made an exhibition of public worship (7:2), “saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord” (7:4), yet, their hearts were far from the LORD.

The Condition of God’s Blessings (7:5-10)

Announcing the conditions of God’s blessings, Jeremiah exhorted the people to amend their ways, and do right (7:5). Tragically, the people rejected God’s Word, and placed their “trust in lying words” (7:8).

Breaking their covenant with the LORD, they disobeyed His Commandments. They were thieves (8th commandment), murderers (6th commandment), adulterers (7th commandment), liars (9th commandment), and idolaters who “walked after other gods,” breaking the 1st and 2nd commandments (7:6-11); Exodus 20).

The Temple – “A Den of Robbers” (7:11-16)

Though the people portrayed an outward air of spiritual piety, Jeremiah warned the LORD knew what manner of people they were, for they had turned His house into a “den of robbers” (7:11; note – Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). The prophet reminded the people what had become of Shiloh, the place their fathers had worshipped before the Temple was constructed, and the Philistines had destroyed. Jeremiah warned, if they continued in their sins, the LORD would destroy the Temple and Jerusalem, just as Shiloh had been desecrated and destroyed (7:12-15; Psalm 78:60-64).

As with “Ephraim” before (name for the northern ten tribes of Israel, 7:15), the fate of Judah was sealed. The LORD charged Jeremiah, saying, “pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (7:16).

The Degeneracy of Judah (7:17-20)

Judah was guilty of open idolatry, and the LORD questioned Jeremiah, “17Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” (7:17). Failing to keep covenant with the LORD and obey His Law and Commandments, Judah gave offerings to the “queen of heaven,” and “drink offerings unto other gods” (7:18).

God declared with amazement, “19Do they provoke me to anger? saith the Lord: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces?” (7:19) Like the curse of sin that afflicts creation (Romans 8:22), the LORD declared His wrath and judgment would fall upon the whole of Judah, including man, beast, tree, and “the fruit of the ground” (7:20).

The Fate of Judah as a Nation was Sealed (7:21-27).

No excess of offerings would satisfy the wrath of God (7:21). The LORD had taught their forefathers, He preferred obedience over sacrifice (7:22-23; 1 Samuel 15:22), but they refused His words, and continued “in the imagination of their evil heart” (7:24). He sent prophets (7:25), but they continued in their sins, and “did worse than their fathers” (7:26). The LORD exhorted Jeremiah to be prepared for the people to reject him, saying, “they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee” (7:27).

Closing thoughts – The virtues, and sins of a people dictate the future of a nation (7:28-34).

Speaking the Word of the LORD, Jeremiah warned, “This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished” (7:28). The LORD commanded Jeremiah to tell the people, “29Cut off thine hair [a sign of mourning], O Jerusalem, and cast it away…for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath” (7:29).

The sins of the people sealed the fate of the nation. They profaned the Temple with idolatry (7:30), and maintained a show of public worship in the Temple. Their tragic offense, that of worshipping idols, led them to a most grievous sin of sacrificing their sons and daughters (7:31-32). In the very place of their abominations, Jeremiah warned, their dead bodies would be fed upon by carrion-eating birds and wild beasts (7:33).

What a tragic portrait we have of the fate of that sinful people! The streets of the cities would grow silent, and laughter and mirth would fail. The joys of young love would cease (7:34a), “for the land [would] be desolate” (7:34).

Summing up the imminence of God’s judgment, Jeremiah warned, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and [the people are] not saved” (8:20).

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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

An Impassioned Plea to a Doomed Nation (Jeremiah 4)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 4

In our study of the Book of Jeremiah, we have so far considered Jeremiah’s calling as God’s prophet to Judah (Jeremiah 1). Though the LORD loved Israel with an affection He likened to a groom’s love for his bride (Jeremiah 2:1-12), Israel and Judah rebelled breaking covenant with Him (2:13-37). In Jeremiah 3, the prophet called upon Judah to repent before it was too late (3:1-5). He reminded the people how her sister, the northern ten tribes of Israel, had played a spiritual harlot, and the LORD had divorced them as His people (3:6-11).

Yet, with the love of a compassionate father longing for a prodigal to come home, the LORD appealed to His people: “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings” (3:22). In spite of their idolatry and wicked ways, the LORD longed to restore His people, if they would repent of their sins.

Jeremiah 4

An Appeal to Israel (4:1-2)

So we come to Jeremiah 4, and Jeremiah’s appeal to all Israel: “If thou wilt return [turn back; i.e. repent], O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away [detest; depart from] thine abominations [idols] out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove [no longer wander; i.e. the LORD would have compassion on]” (4:1).

What a comfort that verse is to all believers. The depth of sin and wickedness of Israel was nearly incomprehensible (immorality, worship of idols, child sacrifices). Still, the LORD pleaded for His people to repent, promising He would have compassion on them.

An Appeal to Judah (4:3-4)

Jeremiah 4 began with an invitation to all Israel (4:1-2), and then the prophet appealed to Judah (the southern tribes). Jeremiah employed two metaphors and illustrated how sin hardens the hearts of a people and nation (4:3-4). He admonished Judah as a nation to acknowledge the hardness of their hearts. Employing a picture of a farmer breaking up unplowed ground, Jeremiah exhorted the people, “Break up your fallow ground [with a plow], and sow not among thorns [which would choke out new growth]” (4:3).

Jeremiah then urged,Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem” (4:4a). The hearts of the people had become spiritually calloused, and insensitive to the offence of their sins. He warned the people, should they not turn to the LORD, His “fury [would] come forth like fire, and burn that none [could] quench it, because of the evil of [their] doings” (4:4).

A Vivid Portrait of the LORD’s Judgment (4:5-14)

The LORD then reminded Jeremiah he was to be a spiritual watchman, for the day of God’s judgment was imminent. The LORD commanded His prophet, “Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities [fortified; walled]” (4:5).

Jeremiah called the people to flee to their walled cities (4:5). He identified the enemy as coming from the north (4:6), and warned the adversary would, like a lion, come as “the destroyer of the Gentiles” (4:7). We know from the Scriptures and history, the enemy from the north was Babylon, and the lion Nebuchadnezzar its king (4:7).

The sight of Nebuchadnezzar’s army would move “the heart of the king” of Judah to perish (4:9), and all Judah too (4:8-10). Jeremiah identified the judgment of God as coming upon the land like a “dry wind” and a “full wind” (4:11-12). The chariots of Babylon would pass through the land like a whirlwind, and their horses run swifter than eagles could fly (4:13). Then the people would cry, “Woe unto us! for we are spoiled” (4:13).

Even as the dark clouds of God’s judgment approached from the north, the prophet appealed to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, “14O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?” (4:14)

The Cry of a Compassionate Prophet (4:19-20)

Realizing the dreadful judgment of the LORD, and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah wept over the people and cried, “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20 Destruction upon destruction [lit. disaster upon disaster] is cried; for the whole land is spoiled…” (Jeremiah 4:19-20).

A Horrifying Portrait of God’s Judgment (4:23-31)

Remember, prophesy often has an immediate application, and far-reaching implication. Some of Jeremiah’s depiction of judgment in the closing verses of Jeremiah 4 can be interpreted to describe in the immediate, the terror and chaos Jerusalem would experience when the army of Nebuchadnezzar approached the city (4:23). Also, the description of the earth being “without form,” and the heavens having “no light” (4:23), reminds us of the Battle of Armageddon when the LORD returns and His vengeance on the nations descending upon Jerusalem (2 Peter 3:5-11).

The army of Babylon would be so great that the earth would tremble at the movement of the men and their chariots (4:24). Men would flee, and birds would be scattered (4:25), and “the whole land [would become] desolate” (4:27), but the LORD would spare a remnant (4:27). The LORD had purposed Judah would be punished for the wickedness of the people, and Jerusalem, “the daughter of Zion” would cry, saying, “Woe is me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers” (4:31).

Closing thoughts – Before I close today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to consider the catalyst of God’s judgment, for it is the same today. Israel and Judah had rejected the LORD, despised His Law and Commandments, and became spiritually oblivious, unable to discern good and evil (4:22). So, it is for every nation that rejects the LORD; the wickedness of man demands the judgment of God.

Romans 1:21-22 – “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Time for Repentance Was Past (2 Kings 22; 2 Kings 23)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22; 2 Kings 23

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, we return to the Book of the Kings, with Josiah, reigning as king of Judah. 2 Kings 22-23 is a contemporary account of the reign of Josiah, and a parallel account of the same is recorded in 2 Chronicles 34-35.

2 Kings 22 – The Glorious Reign of Josiah

Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years), was the son of Amon, a wicked king who reigned two years before he was assassinated by his servants (21:23). Though only eight years old when he became king, Josiah did “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father [being of David’s lineage], and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

Repairing the Temple (22:3-7)

In the 18th year of his reign, when he was 26 years old, Josiah set his heart to begin a renovation of the Temple (22:3). We are not told why the Temple had fallen into disrepair, perhaps out of neglect, but the king sent a scribe of his court and commanded a portion of the silver brought by the people to the Temple, was to be used to pay wages to those who labored in the Temple (22:4-6). Those who handled the money were so above reproach, they were not pressed to give an account, “because they dealt faithfully” (22:7).

Discovery of the Book of the Law (22:8-20; 2 Chronicles 34:8-18)

In the course of repairing the Temple, the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8), who then “gave the book to Shapan (the king’s scribe), and he read it” (22:8). Shapan, then brought the “book of the law” to Josiah, and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes,” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah was so overwhelmed by the words of the law, and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), that he commanded, “13Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us (Deuteronomy 28; Leviticus 26)” (22:13).

Five men of Josiah’s court, including Hilkiah the priest, went to a prophetess named Huldah (22:14), and consulted with her concerning all that was written in the law (22:14). Speaking the word of the LORD, the prophetess confirmed the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate, and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah, however, because his “heart was tender,” before the LORD (22:18-19), was assured he would be spared the sorrow of witnessing the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem (22:20).

Consideration – With the shadow of judgment hanging over his beloved nation and people, what was Josiah’s response?

2 Kings 23 – A National Reformation of Judah

Josiah set his heart to begin a spiritual reformation in Judah (2 Kings 23). Gathering the leaders and people of Judah and Jerusalem, the king “went up into the house of the Lord…and he [the king] read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord” (23:2).

Standing in the midst of the people, the king renewed Israel’s covenant with the LORD, “to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood [and affirmed] to the covenant” (23:3).

Purging Wickedness (23:4-19)

The king then commanded a cleansing of the Temple, and a purging of every element of idolatry (23:4-6). Indicating the depth of depravity to which Judah and Jerusalem had descended, we read, Josiah “brake down the houses of the sodomites” [homosexuals; male prostitutes] located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah continued his spiritual crusade, and commanded only in Jerusalem would priests offer sacrifices to the LORD (23:8-9). He destroyed Tophet, and purged the “valley of the children of Hinnom” where the people had offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to Molech (23:10). Because horses were considered sacred by the heathen, “he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given [dedicated] to the sun…and burned the chariots of the sun with fire” (23:11).

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

A Spiritual Renewal (23:20-25)

Josiah observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19). His reign was celebrated in Judah, and in the annals of that nation’s history, there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Josiah was killed in battle with the king of Egypt, and his body was returned to Jerusalem where he was buried in his sepulchre (23:29-30). He was succeeded by two sons in quick succession (Jehoahaz, who was bound and taken prisoner to Egypt, 23:30b-33; and Eliakim his brother, whose name was changed to Jehoiakim, 23:34-37).

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

For Judah, the hour to repent was past. While the LORD is patient and longsuffering, He is also just and holy. As it was in the days of Noah before the flood, so it is through the ages, for the LORD has forewarned: “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith