Tag Archives: President

Warning: God Gives a Nation the Leaders It Deserves (2 Kings 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 24

Our Scripture reading returns to the book of 2 Kings where our study picks up the narrative of events that are the background of God’s judgment against Jerusalem.

Remember how Jehoiakim, the third to the last king of Judah, burned Jeremiah’s scroll warning the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent? (Jeremiah 36:20-24) The prophet warned the king his evil deeds would bring God’s judgment upon Judah (Jeremiah 36:29-31). Yet, the king continued in his sin, “and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done” (2 Kings 23:37).

2 Kings 24

Returning to 2 Kings 24, we find Jehoiakim king in name only, for he was now a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, and subject to the whims and demands of the king of Babylon. Jehoiakim, as foolish as he was evil, set his heart against the king of Babylon and “rebelled against him” (24:1). Nebuchadnezzar responded to Jehoiakim’s rebellion, and sent mercenary raiders against Judah, to destroy the nation as the LORD “spake by His servants the prophets” (24:2). Daniel records the same in his book where we read, “1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it” (Daniel 1:1).

The LORD had not forgotten the sins of Manasseh and his lineage, and how Judah had shed “innocent blood,” sacrificing their sons and daughters (24:3-4). (The slaughter of the innocent ones, and the fact “the LORD would not pardon” that sin should give 21st century nations pause. Surely abortion of the unborn in our day is no less egregious in the eyes of God, and as demanding of His judgment.)

Jehoiakim died (24:5), and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. Then, Nebuchadnezzar “came up against Jerusalem” (24:10), and the king of Judah surrendered and was taken to Babylon after reigning for three months (24:8-12). Fulfilling all the LORD had foretold, Nebuchadnezzar “carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord” (24:13).

Determined to remove any threat of another uprising, Nebuchadnezzar “carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land” (24:14). Numbered among the captives was the royal household (24:15), the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1), and “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah” (Daniel 1:6). In addition to the poor who were able to till the land and harvest crops (24:14; Jeremiah 40:10), there were some who escaped Jerusalem and fled to neighboring nations (Jeremiah 40:8).

Zedekiah, the Last King of Judah (24:17-20)

Jehoiakim, was succeeded by his uncle, “Mattaniah his father’s brother,” whom Nebuchadnezzar appointed and changed his name to Zedekiah (24:17). He was a mere  21 years old when he became king, and “reigned eleven years in Jerusalem” (24:18).

Closing thoughts – Young and foolish, Zedekiah was left with an impoverished nation that lacked leadership, and the skills for government and war. Zedekiah was the end of a long line of foolish, wicked kings. Like the kings before him, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (24:19), and “rebelled against the king of Babylon” (24:20). To rebel against Nebuchadnezzar was the height of folly; however, we will see in our next devotional that was the path chosen by Zedekiah (2 Kings 25).

Remembering history is “His Story,” I am convinced God gives a nation the leaders it deserves. Surely that is as true in our day, as it was in Judah’s day.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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No King (or President) is too Big for God (Isaiah 10)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 10

The first four verses of Isaiah 10 are in fact a summary of the preceding chapter’s warning to Judah for the injustices that nation’s leaders had committed against the poor and needy (10:1-2). Because God’s people had rejected Him, His Law and Commandments, they would be subject to the harsh laws, and leadership of wicked rulers.

An Admonition to Those Who Abuse Justice (10:1-4)

Knowing God is immutable and just, no nation or people should be blind to the justice He expects of those in authority. As we consider our world today, we can see that the injustices committed by the leaders of Judah are the same injustices prevalent today: The needy and poor are denied justice (10::2a), widows are preyed upon by unscrupulous men, and orphans are tragically trafficked and abused. What becomes of a people who ignores injustices? Such a nation will ultimately fall into such degradation that it will lose its identity and fall to the hand of enemy (10:4).

A Warning of Judgment Against Assyria (10:5-19)

Why was Assyria the focus of God’s wrath in this passage?

That great empire had been the tool, the vessel God used to punish Israel for that nation’s rebellion against the LORD (10:5-6). The king of Assyria was blind to the truth, “1The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

The Assyrian king’s ambition to conquer other nations was planted in his heart by the God of heaven (10:7). He boasted his “princes” (leaders he had ordained to rule over the people he had conquered) were as powerful as kings in their own right (10:8-9). Blinded by ambition, the Assyrian king was unaware when he had “performed his whole work” (all God had ordained to punish Jerusalem, 10:12), He would be punished (10:16). The king boasted he had gathered the riches of other nations, like a farmer gathers eggs (10:14). He believed all he had accomplished was “by the strength” of his own hand (10:13-15).

God promised He would send against Assyria an enemy (Babylon) that would take away that nation’s wealth, and destroy its strength with fire (10:16-19).

God Remembered Israel (10:20-33)

Assyria would destroy Israel (the northern ten tribes), and afflict Judah, but the LORD promised He would not forget “the remnant of Israel” (10:20). Though God’s people would suffer great afflictions for their sins, He promised “the remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God” (10:21). God had promised Abraham his seed would “be as the sand of the sea” (Genesis 22:17; 32:12), but the sins of the people had reduced their number to a “remnant” whom the LORD promised would one day return to their land (10:22-23).

Assured by God’s promises, the prophet encouraged the people that “dwellest in Zion” (Jerusalem), “Be not afraid of the Assyrian: He shall smite thee with a rod…25For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, And mine anger in their destruction” (10:24-25).

Closing thoughts – Judah would be afflicted by Assyria, but it would not be overcome (10:26-27). The Assyrian army would march south, and the cities north of Jerusalem would fall in succession (10:28-32). The citizens of Jerusalem would be shaken, but the LORD promised to intervene, and figuratively “lop the bough [the head of the king] with terror” (10:33).

Assyria appeared unstoppable. Nation after nation, and city after city had fallen to that nation’s army. Israel was destroyed, and the people had been taken captive. The cities north of Jerusalem were conquered, and the king and the people believed they would succumb to the terror of that enemy.

Had the nation heeded Isaiah’s prophecy, they would have known there was no cause to fear Assyria, for the LORD had planned the demise of that nation (10:34).

A word of encouragement – Do you wonder who is behind world events? Do you lack confidence in your nation’s leaders? Do you fear the effects of wicked leaders? Take heart, and be encouraged:

Proverbs 8:15–1615By me [the LORD] kings reign, And princes decree justice. 16By me princes rule, And nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

Remember: The same God who “lopped off” the head of Assyria, is still Sovereign God.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Remembering September 11, 2001 – A Memorial to All Who Have Perished

September 11, 2001

I find myself at a loss for words this morning, the 20th anniversary of the unprovoked attack by militant Muslims on the United States of America. A whirl of emotions rises up in me when I remember watching the news feed showing a passenger jet flying into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. Seventeen minutes later, as I and millions of Americans were watching the horrific scene of fire and death in the North Tower, a second jet crashed into the South Tower of the WTC at 9:03 AM.

From all over New York City, first responders rushed to the site of the disaster, and into a scene of apocalyptic chaos. Fifty-six minutes later, at 9:59 AM, the unthinkable occurred when the South Tower collapsed into a heap of dust, debris, and fire. In spite of the terror and devastation, first responders continued their heroic efforts to save lives in the North Tower, even as those trapped in the Towers leaped to their deaths to escape the flames.

Twenty years later, and at an estimated cost of $8 trillion in the War on Terror ($2.3 trillion spent in Afghanistan), President Joe Biden announced on August 31, 2021, America’s retreat (some prefer “withdrawal”) from Afghanistan. The Biden administration abandoned an unknown number of American citizens, Afghans employed by the U.S., and Christians, knowing they would face the inevitable brutality of militant Islamic insurgents (Taliban). In addition, the U.S. left behind billions of dollars of military equipment and supplies.

The greatest toll of the War on Terror has been the loss of lives, and the physical and emotional scars of war left on soldiers, families, and our nation. Since September 11, 2001, 7,074 U.S. Military and Department of Defense civilians have given their lives in service to our nation. 20,740 U.S. military were wounded in action in Afghanistan, including 18 who were injured in the August 26, 2021 attack at the airport in Kabul. In Afghanistan alone, 2,455 U.S. soldiers were killed, including 13 who were killed at the airport on August 26, 2021.

With sorrow, I close this memorial letter with the names of the 13 service members who were killed August 26, 2021.

Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, 22, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, 31, Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20,

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Pity the Nation (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Continuing our Scripture readings in the Psalms, our focus is again on one of the twelve psalms attributed to Asaph, a chief musician during David’s reign. Psalm 75 challenges us to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth.

Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God is a Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, that the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, but “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved,” will be the judgment of God’s righteous verdict. If our hope for justice was found only in the discretion of men, we would have cause for anxiety. God, however, has assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, the foundations of the world.

God Admonishes Foolish Leaders (75:4-8)

We find a warning to every leader who bears rule over the lives of men with a heavy, proud hand. The LORD admonished, “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How soon those in authority forget they are nothing without God! Civil government has been ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the King or President, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

What of leaders who defy God’s authority, scorn His Law, and abuse their appointments?

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and He is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

When the Foundations Shake, May the Saints Sing God’s Praises (75:9-10)

The psalmist has painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers that fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Nevertheless, the believer’s faith rests in the LORD and we should declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – Though the foundations of a nation may be shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority, be assured: 10All the horns [power and strength of their office] of the wicked also will [the LORD]cut off; But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (75:10).

God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath and be destroyed; however, He has promised to bless the righteous. Fools sing their own praises, and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), but a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation”

June 16, 2020

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

I am not one given to self-promotion; however, there are subjects I address in the pulpit at Hillsdale that I wish were preached in every pulpit across America. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. I find few pastors willing to confront the sins of society and honestly address the spiritual issues of our day.

I fear the majority of churches in America will never hear anything more from their pastors than a spirit of compromise and appeasement when it comes to honestly confronting and addressing the social issues that are tearing at the soul and moral fiber of the United States.

I am writing to invite you to listen to this past Sunday’s introductory sermon in the Prophetic Book of Isaiah. https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=615201554572035

You can also watch a video of the same sermon on Facebook that begins at the about the 37:00 minute mark in the service. https://www.facebook.com/hillsdalebaptistchurch/videos/642918159899564/

I encourage you to have your Bible in hand and follow me as I go systematically through Isaiah 1:1-10. I will address the moral failings of the United States, using the backdrop of the cyclical nature of the rise and fall of nations that is illustrated in God’s warning of judgment to Judah that was delivered by His prophet Isaiah.

I promise to end the sermon on an encouraging note.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Remember When Superman Symbolized Justice and “The American Way?”

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 16-18

Continuing our chronological daily reading of the Scriptures, you are invited to read Proverbs 16-18. Today’s devotional will be based on Proverbs 16:10-13.

Americans live in a republic whose laws should be as binding on her leaders as they are on common citizens.  Idealistically, no leader is above the law and the scales of justice are in no man’s favor.

In a monarchy, however, the king is the embodiment of the law and the citizens of his realm can only pray that their king is a righteous man who fears the judgment and wrath of God.

Proverbs 16:10-13 expresses four principles that serve as a guide for every leader and those he serves.

Proverbs 16:10 – “A divine sentence [decision reflecting God’s Law] is in [proceeds from; is on] the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not [does not commit trespass] in judgment [sentence; verdict].”

Kings, rulers, judges and all who are in authority are to exercise judgment being mindful that God, not man, is the ultimate authority of right and wrong.  When godly men sit in places of judgment, their hearts are able to weigh matters with the discernment God alone gives.  How is that possible?

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 – “And it shall be, when he [king] sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he [king] shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”

The kings of Israel were to possess a copy of God’s Law written in their own hand (17:18).  The Law of God was to be a king’s daily meditation (17:19) and he was to remember he was God’s servant and a minister to his people (17:20).

Proverbs 16:11 – “A just weight [right verdict; scale] and balance [scales] are the LORD’S: all the weights [stones; measurements] of the bag are His work [labor; work of His hands].”

Lady Justice continues to serve as an international symbol of equity. She is often depicted wearing a blindfold, holding in her left hand the scales of justice, and in her right the double-edged sword of judgment.  She serves as a modern reminder of what kings were to remember: God is the final judge and arbitrator.  Israel’s king was to remember that God’s Law and the immutable principles of His holiness, grace and mercy were the final word when he executed judgment.

Proverbs 16:12 – “It is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome; repulsive] to kings to commit [do; execute] wickedness [moral wrong]: for the throne [seat of authority and judgment] is established [fixed; firmly established; made strong] by righteousness [rightness; moral virtue].”

Proverbs 16:12 addresses the responsibility and influence of kings and all who are in authority. I believe America is in a quagmire of immorality and injustice because our leaders have forsaken the Law of God, and have no moral compass for discerning right and wrong. The decay of our strength and security as a nation has paralleled the erosion of our confidence and respect for those in authority.

Proverbs 16:13 – “Righteous [true; just] lips are the delight [desire; pleasure] of kings; and they love [desire; like] him that speaketh right [just; upright].”

The integrity of a leader may be measured by the moral character of his counselors.  Godless leaders seek counsel from those who serve their immoral ends, but godly leaders have a passion for truth and love those whose words and counsel are honest and just.

Do you desire wisdom and discernment? Study God’s Word and meditate on His Laws and Commandments.

Psalm 119:103-105 – “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104  Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. 105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Exhortation to Pray for Our President (Psalm 20)

Today’s Bible Reading is Exodus 1-2, Psalm 20, and Matthew 20. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 20.

Psalm 20 is a nation’s intercessory prayer for her king the day before he leads the sons of Israel into battle.  The psalm is instructive and serves as a reminder of our responsibility to pray and intercede with God on behalf of our leaders.

I am afraid the majority of 21st century Christians look at the drama in Washington, DC as little more than political theater.  Some Christians suggest we be impartial in political matters and give little thought or time to them.  Of course, the matter of praying for those in authority is unquestionably commanded by God (1 Timothy 2:1-3).  Let us consider Israel’s prayer for her king (Psalm 20).

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid] from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

Israel was confident the king had come before the LORD, sought His wisdom and offered sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God.  The people prayed God would not only hear the prayers of the king, but would go before him into battle (20:1-2).

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people prayed He would accept the king’s sacrifices, hear, and answer his prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Before the battle was fought, the people promised the LORD He would be the object of their praise believing He would answer their prayers and give the king victory (20:5).

Psalm 20:5 – “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil  [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

On a personal note, troubles and spiritual battles are an ever-present reality for us in this sin cursed world.  Some adversaries threaten us with physical harm, others attack our character, question our motives and assail our testimony.  We also face spiritual trials that tempt us to turn aside from God’s purpose, question His goodness, and threaten our joy.

Consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20.

The first, the LORD hears and answers prayer.  Israel prayed for God to bless the king in battle and be his shield and fortress (20:1-2).  Christian friend, we should pray the same for our President.  As Israel prayed for her king, we should pray for President Trump.

The second, we need to pray and assure leaders of our prayers (20:3-4).  More than an assurance of goodwill, Israel assured the king their prayer was for the LORD to grant him wisdom and bless his strategy for battle.  Agree or disagree with his politics,  believers should be brokenhearted to hear President Trump’s enemies assail him, his family, and supporters with a vitriol exceeding any we have witnessed in modern times.  Such malicious attacks should move us to pray for our President and nation.

The third lesson expresses the faith of the nation in God’s grace and blessings.  Before the battle was waged, the people were planning the victory celebration; confident God heard and would answer their prayers.

A farmer told the story how he heard a voice when he was walking through the woods near Washington’s army encampment at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. Drawing near, the farmer found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God.

Returning home, the farmer assured his wife America would win her independence.

When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure.  He answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Is Love Really All You Need?

In July 1967 the iconic English rock band known as the Beatles released a single titled “All You Need is Love”.  The “hippy” movement embraced the song and it became the defining song of a summer that became known as the “Summer of Love”.  Abandoning the moral values of their parents and voicing an open rebellion to authority and government, a whole generation of youth embarked on a journey defined by the use of psychedelic drugs, “free love” and sex.

It is that generation, the late “baby boomers” now in their 60’s and early 70’s, that has shaped American society by their cavalier disdain of moral values, religion, and law.  They have invaded every stratum of government, education, commerce, and media.  From governing in the Oval Office of the Presidency of the United States to inculcating minds of 5-year-old kindergarteners, the influence of the “All You Need is Love” generation is pervasive.  Is it any wonder they have spawned a generation of selfish, narcissistic youth embracing a socialistic ideology that threatens our society and nation with anarchy?

The “All You Need is Love” generation has so skewed the definition of “LOVE” it has become an excuse for all manner of sin, wickedness and depravity.  Liberals in the media, government, and education would have you believe, regardless of what you do and who it hurts, all that matters is LOVE.  The measure of right and wrong is no longer immutable truth and undeniable facts, but whether or not one’s intentions were loving.

Love becomes an excuse for all manner of sin. Teens, college students, and adults defend fornication and open adultery with the excuse, “I am in love.”  Society accepts homosexuality reasoning, “they love each other.”  The LGTBQ crowd demands society accept their sin because that is the loving thing to do.  Women are counseled to abort unwanted infants because that is a loving choice.

Some quote Romans 13:8, “…love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”; however, they fail to read Romans 13:9-10 which identifies the restraints and standards on God’s definition of LOVE.

Romans 13:9-10 – “9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there beany other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

My generation, the “baby boomers”, believed “love is all you need” and are finding too late the heartache and emptiness of a philosophy of life devoid of absolute truth and genuine LOVE.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 by Travis D. Smith

“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (part 1)

I am afraid America is no longer that nation.  We have become a people who put politics before patriotism.  We have defied a Holy God with our sins and are divided by racism, prejudice, partisan politics, corruption and gross depravity. Our liberties are under assault and justice has faltered.

It is with sorrow I confess the Church has failed God and our nation.  We are commanded to be the “Salt of the Earth”, but we have become “good for nothing…”(Mt. 5:13).  We are to be the “light of the world” (Mt. 5:14), but we have abdicated the moral high ground for sinful pleasures.

While the political left assaults Biblical convictions and moral values, our pulpits retreat refusing to engage an enemy greater than flesh and blood politics.  The apostle Paul warned the Church, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Peter describes the enemy “as your adversary…a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Nothing has brought to the forefront the division we suffer as a nation more than the vitriol directed at a President who aspires to “Make America Great Again”. The unrelenting attacks of the media and the vicious assaults of the Left serve as a revelation that many of our leaders are enemies of the founding principles that made America great.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), the great French statesman of the 19thcentury and author of Democracy in America, traveled these United States in search of the qualities that defined America’s greatness as a democracy. Tocqueville wrote:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” [emphasis added]  From Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume 1, Copyright 1945 and renewed 1973 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a division of Random House Inc.

It is that last statement I find prophetic.  Christian friend, if we have any hope of seeing “America Great Again”, we must take up our role as the “Salt of the Earth” and “Light of the World”!

In his first epistle to the church, Peter challenged Christians with four mandates that define Christian citizenship: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”
 (1 Peter 2:17)

Let us focus only on the first mandate: “Honour all men(1 Peter 2:17a).

What a striking contrast this mandate of Christian citizenship is with 21stcentury American society.   A lack of civility, rudeness and crassness has become the way of our nation.  The President is cursed by a Congressional intern who receives a mere slap on the wrist and a brief suspension.  FBI agents write texts referencing the President in boorish terms while protestors march in the streets expressing all manner of vulgarities.  Civility, respect for authority, and humility are lost.

And yet, the church is commanded, “Honour all men…” (1 Peter 2:17a).  To honor is to ascribe worth to an individual by one’s words and actions. It is to treat another with dignity; to prize, value, regard, and respect.

Notice the command to “Honor all” is universal in scope.  There is no room for prejudices, knowing men and women are created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:27).  “Honor” is blind to race and ethnicity. Honor does not discriminate based on skin color or physical characteristics.

“Honor” however, is not without discretion. For instance, though we are persuaded to “honor all”, we are not to lack discretion and honor the wicked in their sins.  Solomon urged his son, “…so honour is not seemly [fitting] for a fool [an immoral, insolent man]” (Proverbs 26:1). We have learned all too well, promoting the wicked to places and positions of influence will invariably “corrupt good manners (morals)” of a nation (1 Corinthians 15:33).

We also understand some are more deserving of honor than others. There are some who are like “vessels of gold and silver”; there are others like vessels “of wood and of earth (clay)” (2 Timothy 2:20).  In other words, we are for the most part common, ordinary men and women.  While “all men are created equal”, some are more talented, gifted, and honorable than others.

Finally, the nature of virtue calls for honor.  We might say of some, “He is a good man” or “She is a good woman.”  The implication is an individual possesses character qualities that are treasured and therefore honorable. Of such a one Paul writes, “Render therefore…honour to whom honour”is due (Romans 13:7).

My next post will invite you to consider: While all men are to be honored, some are to be purposely and specifically honored.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 33-36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith