Tag Archives: Promises

A Parable: “Two Eagles and A Vine” (Ezekiel 17)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 17; Ezekiel 18

We are considering the third of three prophecies the LORD revealed to Ezekiel, and commanded him to tell the elders of Israel (14:1). The prophecies were given to Ezekiel as symbolic revelations of the judgment that would befall Jerusalem. The first prophecy portrayed Jerusalem as an unfruitful vine that was to be cut down and cast into a fire (symbolic of the fire that would destroy the Temple and the city, Ezekiel 15). The second prophecy portrayed Jerusalem as an abused, adulterous wife, indicating the spiritual harlotry of the people and their worship of idols (Ezekiel 16).

Ezekiel 17 presents the third prophecy, with Jerusalem once again represented as a vine the LORD planted in Canaan (17:1-24). This is the first of two devotionals for today.

Ezekiel 17

Presented as a riddle and parable, Ezekiel 17 introduces a third prophecy foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is once again represented as a vine the LORD had planted in Canaan (17:1-24). As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, are pictures of Israel (17:3, 6).

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was portrayed as the first eagle (the prophet Jeremiah described Nebuchadnezzar as, “he shall fly as an eagle,” Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22). God revealed to Ezekiel that the top branches of the cedar (both Judah and Jerusalem) would be clipped off by the eagle (this occurred when Nebuchadnezzar removed Jehoiachin from his throne in Jerusalem, and brought him as a prisoner to Babylon, 2 Kings 24:7-16).

Following the narrative of the parable, Nebuchadnezzar “took also of the seed of the land and planted it” (17:5-6). That seed was Zedekiah, whom the king of Babylon chose to rule as his puppet in Jerusalem. King Zedekiah rebelled against the rule of Babylon, and made alliance with Egypt (represented as the second “great eagle” in this parable, 17:7). When Babylon returned to lay siege to Jerusalem, rather than to the LORD, Zedekiah turned to Egypt for help (17:8). God declared Judah and Jerusalem would not prosper, but would “wither” and be plucked up by the roots (a picture of the captivity that would follow, 17:9)

Ezekiel 17:11-21 gives the explanation of the riddle (17:1-10), and is a review of the history we have considered in earlier studies (2 Kings 23:31-24:20, 2 Chronicles 36, and Jeremiah 37).

In spite of the utter destruction and devastation of Jerusalem and Judah, the LORD promised He would take a “twig,” replant it in Israel (17:22-23), and exalt “the low tree” (17:24).  Scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the twig represented the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as King of kings and LORD of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

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.

Greater Judgment Befalls Those Who Disdain the LORD’s Blessings. (Ezekiel 15; Ezekiel 16)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 15; Ezekiel 16

The prophecies the LORD imparted to Ezekiel continue in today’s Scripture reading. With the elders of Israel as his audience (14:1), the LORD revealed to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of divine judgment. The first prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an unfruitful vine (Ezekiel 15). A helpless, abused and adulterous woman was the second symbol of Jerusalem’s spiritual condition (Ezekiel 16). In Ezekiel 17 (a future devotional study), Jerusalem was identified as being a vine ravaged by predators.

Ezekiel 15 – An Unfruitful Vine

Israel was often seen in the Scriptures as a fruitful vine, a people the LORD chose and planted in Canaan. In Psalm 80:8, Israel was a vine the LORD “brought…out of Egypt…[and then] cast out the heathen [out of Canaan], and planted it.” Israel was also portrayed as a vineyard the LORD planted and cultivated, and yet it bore “wild (bitter)grapes” (Isaiah 5:1). So, the elders of Israel immediately recognized the analogy of Judah, and in particular, Jerusalem, drawn by Ezekiel, as an unfruitful, useless vine (15:2-3).

In God’s judgment, the wickedness of the people had rendered the vine (Israel) good for nothing, but to be cut off, and “cast into the fire for fuel” (15:4). The fire was said to have devoured the whole of the vine, and served as a prophetic picture of God’s judgment and the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah (15:6-8).

Ezekiel 16 – Jerusalem: An Abused Adulterous Wife

The second prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an abused adulterous wife (16:2). Like a husband who takes a virgin for his wife, the LORD had chosen Jerusalem (the land, and all Israel), and claimed her as His wife (16:1-7). It was noted how ancient Jerusalem had been the birthplace of Canaanite nations (16:3-4), and a place of idols, lawlessness, and immorality. Yet, the LORD chose Jerusalem as a habitation for His people (16:6), and caused that city to become a place of beauty (16:7-8).

Ezekiel 16:9-14, though addressing Jerusalem specifically, did in fact relate to how the LORD blessed Israel as His chosen people. He chose and loved Israel as a husband cherishes his wife. He cleansed (16:9) and clothed (16:10), and blessed the city with wealth (16:11). She was the LORD’s crowned jewel (16:12), and He gave the people of that city the best of everything (16:13), and her beauty was famous among the nations (16:14).

Jerusalem: An Unfaithful Wife (16:15-34)

Rather than loving and serving the LORD out of gratitude and love, Jerusalem had played the harlot. The people repaid the LORD’s favor with shame and humiliation exercised by their gross immorality. The sins committed by Israel were staggering, and the evidence of her wickedness were named by Ezekiel.  God’s people had committed spiritual harlotry (16:15-16), made idols (16:17) and sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (16:20-21).

Rather than repent and turn to the LORD, the children of Israel turned to heathen neighbors for protection (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29). Indeed, the wickedness of the people was akin to a wife playing a harlot on the street corners (16:22-34).

The Certainty of God’s Judgment (16:35-43)

After stating the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel declared His judgment (16:35-43). The nations (“thy lovers”, 16:36) to whom Israel had turned for help, would become the instruments of God’s judgment and Jerusalem’s destruction (16:36-38). The blood of the slain would run through the streets of Jerusalem, and that beautiful city would be humiliated, and her houses burned because the people had forsaken their covenant with the LORD. Ezekiel declared that God’s anger was justified, and He would satisfy His wrath (16:39-43).

The Great Wickedness of Judah (16:44-59)

With the proverb, “As is the mother, so is her daughter” (16:44), we realize the sins of Judah and Jerusalem equaled and exceeded the wickedness of the heathen nations born before her (Hittite and Amorites, 16:45). Even the sins of Jerusalem’s sisters, identified as Samaria (i.e., the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel, 16:46) and Sodom (16:48), paled in contrast to the wickedness of Jerusalem. Ezekiel reminded the leaders of Israel (14:1) how the LORD destroyed Sodom for its gross wickedness (pride, glutton, slothful, uncharitable, haughtiness, and idolatry, 16:49-50), yet the citizens of Jerusalem had exceeded the infamy of those people (16:51-52).

Closing thoughts (16:53-63) – How could the sins of Jerusalem be greater than those of Sodom and Samaria?

Judah and Jerusalem enjoyed God’s favor like no other people. Nevertheless, they despised the LORD, rejected His Law, disobeyed His commandments, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52).  In spite of the sins and rebellion of Israel, God promised He would not forget His covenant with His people, and promised He would restore them to their land (16:53-63).

Truth – Greater Judgment Befalls Those Who Disdain the LORD’s Blessings.

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.

One Man’s Faith Cannot Save Another (Ezekiel 14)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 14

There were living in Babylon among the Jews of the captivity, “certain of the elders of Israel” who came to Ezekiel, most likely to consult with his as God’s prophet (14:1). As they sat down before him, “the word of the Lord came unto” Ezekiel, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?” (14:2-3)

God’s Judgment on Those Who Cherish Idols in Their Heart (14:3-5)

The elders, a sampling of the leaders of the people, were plagued with a spiritual heart disease. But as only the LORD can do, He revealed the hidden secrets within their hearts to the prophet (14:3). Regardless of their pretense for coming to the man of God, the LORD knew their hearts and asked, if He should even be bothered by men who had another god before Him – a violation of the first Commandment (14:3c). Though they feigned to hear the word of the LORD, yet He knew their hearts were far from Him.

The LORD commanded Ezekiel to confront the men, and say, “Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols” (14:4). In other words, God would give those treacherous, deceivers over to the folly of their idols (14:5).

All That Did Not Repent, Would Be Judged (14:6-11)

Rather than entertain the hypocrisy of the elders, Ezekiel called them to repent of their idolatry (14:6-11). While the LORD longed for the children of Israel to repent (14:6; 2 Peter 3:9), He warned, all who cherished idols in their hearts would be judged for their abominations (14:7). They would suffer the consequences of their sins, to the end some might repent and confess the God of Israel was LORD (14:8).

Ezekiel warned, those false prophets would be judged for deceiving the people. Their hypocrisy of claiming to speak the word of the LORD would be recompensed upon them, as “they [would] bear the punishment of their iniquity” (14:9-10).

Four Judgments (14:12-21)

Because the sins of Jerusalem were so great, the LORD declared He would send four judgments upon Judah. The first was famine, and man and beast would hunger (14:12-13). Then the LORD declared He would send wild beasts, and the land would be “desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts” (14:15). A sword was given as a symbol of a third judgment that indicated war (14:17). The fourth judgment was “a pestilence,” for the people would suffer disease and sickness (14:19).

One Man’s Faith Cannot Save Another (14:14b, 18b, 20b)

Three men were given as examples of saints whom God declared righteous, and spared from death (14:14, 16, 18, 20). The first was Noah, who was saved from the flood while the world of his day perished (Genesis 6:9-9:29). The prophet Daniel was the second man, whom God declared righteous, and saved from the lions, because he trusted in the LORD (Daniel 6:1-28). Job, the ancient patriarch, was the third example of a man God declared righteous, for he had been spared death, and was restored.

What spiritual lesson were the elders of Israel to take from the faith of those three men? While they trusted in the LORD, and were righteous in the sight of God, their faith did not save another. Their faith did not save their “sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves” (14:18). The same truth is repeated when we read, “they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness” (14:20).

Closing thoughts (14:21-23) – Ezekiel warned, four judgments would come upon Jerusalem, “the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence” (14:21). Yet, the LORD would not forsake His covenant with Israel, and promised a remnant that had been left in Jerusalem would be brought to Babylon (14:22). The people would hear the wickedness committed in Jerusalem, and all the people suffered (14:22). They would know their sins demanded God’s judgment, to the end they might repent (14:23).

Lesson – Every man, woman, boy and girl must come to the LORD by faith, and put their trust in Him. The faith of one’s parents, or grandparents cannot save a sinner from their sins and God’s judgment. While believers “shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10), those who reject Him will face God’s eternal judgment. For “the dead [will be judged] …according to their works” (Revelation 20:12, 13), and “whosoever [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Remember – One man’s faith cannot save another.

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.

Payday, Someday (Ezekiel 12; Ezekiel 13)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 12; Ezekiel 13

Our Scripture reading continues today with Ezekiel 12 and 13, and I trust you are enjoying the daily study of this prophetic book as much as I.

Ezekiel’s heart had been moved by the visions of God’s judgments. After witnessing the latter vision that warned the judgment of God was imminent (11:21), the Spirit of the LORD placed Ezekiel in the midst of “of the captivity” (those living in Babylon, 11:24). Then, he began to tell the people all God had shown him in visions regarding the fate of Jerusalem (11:25).

Ezekiel 12

To portray the imminent destruction and captivity of Jerusalem, Ezekiel was commanded to portray a symbolic, compelling act. Addressing Ezekiel as “Son of man” (12:2), the LORD described the spiritual condition of the children of Israel as “a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house” (12:2, 9). Though they were His people, their sins had left them spiritually blind and deaf to the voice of God.

An Illustration of God’s Judgment (12:3-16)

To warn the people of the inevitability of the Babylonian captivity, the LORD commanded Ezekiel to pack his personal belongings as though going on a trip (12:3). He was to move his personal property in the day time, that the people might observe his unusual activities (12:4). At evening, he was to depart from his home, portraying how some in Jerusalem would “go forth into captivity” (12:4). As the people watched, Ezekiel then broke through the wall (12:5), and covered his face as one that was blind (12:6). All of this served as a “sign unto the house of Israel” (12:6).

Ezekiel did as he was commanded, and on the next day, when the people asked, “What doest thou?” he was instructed to answer: “Thus saith the Lord God; This burden concerneth the prince [the king] in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that are among them [the Jewish people still living in Jerusalem]. 11Say, I am your sign: like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity” (12:11).

In Ezekiel’s actions, the people witnessed symbolically all that would befall Jerusalem (12:11). The prince, who was king Zedekiah, would flee the city in the night, but be captured, his eyes put out, and taken in chains to Babylon (12:11-13; 2 Kings 25:4-7). Why was all this foretold? It was that the people of the captivity might be aroused to know the LORD (12:15-16).

Terror of God’s Judgment (12:17-20)

The LORD came again to Ezekiel, and asked him to dramatize in his eating and drinking, the fear and trembling the children of Israel would face in the days ahead (12:17-18). He was also commanded to interpret the message, explaining how the people would ration their food (“eat their bread with carefulness,” 12:19a) and water. All this would befall Jerusalem because of the wickedness and violence of the people (12:19).

Closing thoughts (12:21-28) – Though the LORD sent prophets who foretold God’s imminent judgment, yet, there were many who scorned, saying, “the days are prolonged, and every vision faileth” (12:22). Ezekiel was dismissed by the people, yet, all would soon be fulfilled (12:23-24).  Six years passed before Babylon’s army ravaged Jerusalem; however, every word of Ezekiel’s prophecies was fulfilled (12:26-28).

Ezekiel 13 – False Prophets Condemned

False prophets became Ezekiel’s focus in chapter 13, when the LORD commanded him to, “prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy” (Ezekiel 13:2). Judah and Jerusalem were cursed with prophets who deceived the people, and were guilty of preaching their thoughts and opinions as though they were from the LORD (13:2-3). Those false prophets were like “foxes in the deserts” (scavengers, 13:4), who failed the people, preaching lies (13:5-6). They claimed to speak the words of the LORD, but they lied (13:7).

The LORD warned the false prophets, “I am against you, saith the Lord God” (13:8). Because of their wickedness, they would not have an inheritance in the land God promised His people (13:8-9). The LORD sent prophets warning Jerusalem the city was doomed because of its sins, but the false prophets lied, saying, “Peace; and there was no peace” (13:10a). Like a builder who cleverly conceals structural faults with plaster and whitewash, the false prophets were guilty of whitewashing the sins of the people and not speaking truth (13:10-11). When trouble came, the people were consumed by the tumult. Realizing too late they had believed a lie, they became weak and an easy prey (13:12). The approach of God’s wrath was portrayed like a great storm that would cause the walls of Jerusalem to crumble, and the people and false prophets would be destroyed (13:13-14).

Closing thoughts (13:13-23) – The approach of God’s wrath was portrayed like a great storm that would come upon Jerusalem, and the people and false prophets would be destroyed (13:13-14). Ezekiel was also told to prophesy against women who dabbled in the occult, and ensnared the people with their charms and magical claims (13:17-18). Those women were enriched by giving the people false hope (13:19). Therefore, the LORD declared He would destroy their charms (13:20), tear away their veils (13:21), and vindicate His name (13:21-22). All this was foretold, that some might believe and know the God of Israel was LORD (13:23).

A quote of the late Dr. Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) is appropriate as I close:  “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay, Sin will cost you more than you want to pay.”

I fear 21st century believers are guilty of dismissing the consequences of sin and, in the words of Dr. Robert G. Lee, have forgotten the promise, there is a Payday Someday.

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.

Six Angels of Death, and One Redeemer (Ezekiel 9)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 9

Appearing to Ezekiel in a vision (8:1), the Spirit of the LORD took him to the Temple where he looked upon the great wickedness of Judah, for even the sanctuary was defiled by idols (8:5-6). Ezekiel found the religious leaders of Judah in a room whose walls were engraved with the likeness of false gods (8:7-11), and he heard the men boast, “The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth” (8:12).

Ezekiel also saw women worshipping Tammuz, the fertility god (8:14), and men who “worshipped the sun toward the east” (8:16). With the question, “Hast thou seen this, O son of man?”, the LORD concluded the tour of the Temple, and declared, “18Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (8:18).

Ezekiel 9 – The Vision of God’s Judgment of Jerusalem

Suddenly, Ezekiel heard the LORD cry out, “Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand” (9:1). Six men answered the summons, and a seventh [man]accompanied them” (9:2).

Who were these men? I believe they were angelic beings. Each came to Jerusalem with “a slaughter weapon in his hand” (9:2a). The seventh man, “clothed with linen,” carried the tools of a writer, for he came “with a writer’s inkhorn by his side” (9:2-3). I believe the seventh man might have been the Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14).

With the arrival of the men who were bearing weapons of death and slaughter, “the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub” (9:3). I believe it was in that moment the LORD withdrew His presence from between the cherubim on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The LORD was then removed “to the threshold” of the Temple (9:3).

The Righteous Marked for Salvation, the Wicked Doomed to Judgment (9:3-8)

The vision continued with the LORD summoning “the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side” (9:3), and commanding him to go through the city and put a mark on the forehead of everyone who grieved because of the wickedness of the city (9:4).

The six men followed, each bearing “a slaughter weapon in his hand” (9:2a), to slay all who were not marked on their forehead. No one was to be spared death, except those who were marked as grieving the wickedness of the city (9:6). God’s judgment began at the Temple, when the six men executed the “ancient men” who worshipped idols in the sanctuary (9:6; 8:11-12). The bodies of the dead were left in the Temple and its rooms, and the six executioners continued to go throughout Jerusalem (9:7).

Witnessing the deaths of so many in his vision, Ezekiel fell upon his face, and cried out, “Ah Lord God! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem?” (9:8) The prophet wondered, LORD, will none be spared?

Closing thoughts (9:9-11) – The LORD answered Ezekiel’s wailful cry, and asserted the wickedness of Israel and Judah was “exceeding great” (9:9). The sins of the people demanded His judgment. They had broken their covenant with the LORD, and “the land [was] full of blood” (murder), “and the city full of perverseness” (idolatry and adultery, Exodus 20:3-16). Yet, the elders lied saying, “The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not” (9:9). The time for pity and compassion was past, and every man would bear the burden of his sin.

Our devotional concludes with a report from the “man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side” (9:11). He had faithfully discharged his work, and marked every man, woman, boy and girl that would be spared God’s judgment.

In the midst of His judgment, the LORD remembered those who were His. What a comfort to all believers, whose sins are marked, and covered by the blood of Christ.

1 Peter 1:18–19 – “18Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

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 End, of The End is Come (Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8

Continuing our study of the book of Ezekiel, we remember he was a young priest (1:1-2) when the LORD called him to be His prophet. He was among the first removed from Jerusalem before the fall of that city, and was commissioned to prophesy to the Jews of the captivity in Babylon. In Ezekiel 7, the message to the children of Israel was a message of doom and judgment.

Fourfold Warning to Worshippers of Idols (7:1-4)

With the words, “An end, the end is come,” the fate of Israel and Judah was sealed (7:2). God’s judgment was imminent, the land of Israel would fall to Nebuchadnezzar’s army (7:2). God’s patience with the sins and abominations of His people was exhausted, for they had provoked Him to anger, and the LORD declared He would not show them pity (7:4). All of this, that the people might “know” and acknowledge Him as LORD (7:4).

God’s Purpose for Executing Judgment (7:5-9)

Declaring “an evil, an only evil, behold is come” (7:5), we read the emphatic announcement of judgment: “the end is come…the morning is come…the time is come, the day of trouble is near” (7:6-7). What was the basis of God’s judgment? It was to reward His people for their sinful ways and abominations (7:8-9).

The Description of God’s Judgment (7:10-27)

Though prophesied more than two and one-half millennia ago, there is much to be learned from the decay, death, and destruction of Judah as a nation. As you read this passage, remember Ezekiel is prophesying to the Jews living in captivity in Babylon, while Jeremiah was prophesying in the midst of Jerusalem and warning the people of that which was to come. Provoked to anger by the pride of His people (7:10), none living in Judah would be spared God’s judgment (7:11).

We find here several tragic traits of a rebellious people, and a dying nation. (7:12-27)

The first, a failed economy. The general trade of buying and selling failed (7:12), and the seller could not recover or be made whole (7:13). A dying nation refuses to hear and heed the warnings of prophets (portrayed here as the blowing of the trumpet, 7:14). There is a prevalence of death, as “the sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within” (7:15). Death became an ever-present reality, as the sword was symbolic of violence and war, pestilence is sickness and disease, and famine caused by failed crops and an inability to import food (caused by the siege).

Troubles and trials had brought with them a perpetual state of sorrow, for the moaning of the people sounded like the cooing of the “doves of the valleys” (7:16). Uncertainty and anxiety were portrayed as physical weakness, as fear, sorrows, and shame overtook the nation (7:16-18).

Ezekiel 7:19 returns to the failed economy of Judah and Jerusalem, for the people realized too late their wealth and possessions could not save them (7:19a). With food shortages and little provisions to “fill their bowels,” the people cast their gold and silver in the streets of the city (7:19b).  Their once beloved gold which had adorned their women and decorated their shrines, became spoils for the wicked (7:20-21). Even the LORD’s Temple was plundered and defiled (7:22).

Impoverished, and defeated, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to “make a chain” that served as a symbol of the captivity (7:23). Lest some accuse Him of injustice, the LORD declared, “I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).

Ezekiel 8

Ezekiel 8 gives us again a supernatural revelation of God’s glory. Ezekiel was in his house, and with him the “elders of Judah” (8:1), when “the hand of the Lord God fell there upon [him]” (8:1). As He had when He first appeared to Ezekiel (1:26-28), the LORD displayed the likeness of His heavenly glory (8:2). In the vision, the Spirit of the LORD lifted Ezekiel up, and he was taken to the Temple where he beheld an idol he described as “the image of jealousy” (8:3).

Ezekiel saw “the glory of the God of Israel” (8:4) like that he had seen before, but as he lifted up his eyes, he also saw the “image of jealousy” in the LORD’s sanctuary (8:5-6). In the next verses, the LORD revealed to Ezekiel the desperate wickedness that was practiced by the elder and religious leaders of Judah (8:6). The Spirit of the LORD commanded the prophet to look through a hole in the wall of the Temple, and enlarge it where he peered into, and passed through a door into a secret chamber (8:7-9).

In the chamber, which was a secret room in the Temple, Ezekiel spied on the walls drawings of creatures, beasts, and idols (8:10). Then he saw 70 religious’ leaders of Jerusalem worshipping idols and offering incense to them (8:11), who declared “The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth” (8:12).

Yet, Ezekiel was to see an even greater wickedness in the Temple, for in one room there were women worshipping Tamuz, a fertility god whose worshippers were known to practice gross immorality. In another room of the Temple there were 25 men who worshipped the sun (8:16).

Closing thoughts – Though the LORD need not justify His ways and judgments to any man, yet, He asked Ezekiel, “Hast thou seen this, O son of man?” (8:17). Consider how far the nation had departed from the LORD, His Law and Commandments. They had defiled the Temple with idols (8:1-18), and their elders who were entrusted with teaching the Law and exercising righteous judgment, were guilty of idolatry in secret places. There was no hope for the nation, and in His anger, God declared He would not have pity on the people, and neither would He hear their cry. It was too late.

I cannot say if it is too late for you or your nation to repent. Nevertheless, do you see the signs of God’s judgment in your world? Violence, wars, natural disasters, disease and pandemics, gross immorality, and rumors of impending hunger…

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.

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed.” (Ezekiel 6; Lamentations 3:22)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 6

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we will consider one chapter, Ezekiel 6. The LORD came to His prophet (6:1), addressing him once again as “Son of man,” Ezekiel was given a mandate. “Set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them” (6:2).

The Destruction of the Places of Idol Worship (6:2-7)

Why prophesy against the mountains? The mountains were one of Israel’s and Judah’s principal places of idolatry. Indeed, from reading verse 3, it appears the whole countryside of the nation was full of places of idol worship. The mountains, hills, rivers, and valleys were all places of idolatry where all manner of evil was committed in the name of worship (6:3).

What was Ezekiel to prophesy towards those places, and the people who worshipped idols? In a word—judgment! The LORD warned, “Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places…your altars…and your images shall be broken” (6:3b-4).

Not only would the idols be destroyed, but those who worshipped and placed their idols above the Creator, would be slain and their bodies stacked among the idols. Adding an even greater humiliation, the bones of the dead would find their resting place scattered among their broken altars (6:4-5). Of those  who rejected the LORD, every vestige of their lives would be destroyed. Their homes and cities would be laid waste (6:6b). With none to bury them, the “slain [would] fall in the midst” (6:7).

The Promise of Mercy to a Remnant (6:8-10)

In His mercy, God spared a few, a remnant, who would be scattered among the nations (6:8). Those who were spared, would remember how they sinned against the LORD, and broke His heart with their idolatry (6:9). They would loathe their wickedness, and all they suffered, and would remember, “know” and confess the God of Israel is LORD (6:10).

The Cause for God’s Judgment (6:11-14)

To demonstrate God’s disgust with the “evil abominations” of His people, Ezekiel was to, “smite with [his] hand, and stamp with [his] foot” (6:11). Because they sinned against the LORD, the children of Israel would die “by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (6:11).

Closing thoughts – Why would all this come upon Judah? Why would so many perish, and their lifeless bodies be left among their altars in hills, mountains, and groves? (6:13).

It was to the end the people would know the LORD is God “when their slain men [would] be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols.” (6:13)

What have we learned? Though the LORD is merciful, He is also just and has no tolerance for sin!  In the words of Jeremiah,

Lamentations 3:22–2322It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

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 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

A Prayer for God’s People (Lamentations 5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

This is part 2 of two devotional studies for today, and is the conclusion of our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah.”

Lamentations 5

A Prayer of Intercession (5:1-13)

Jeremiah prayed, “Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: Consider, and behold our reproach” (5:1).

In his prayer, the prophet reminded the LORD all the people were suffering. They were taken away to Babylon, and their homes and lands fell to other people (5:2). The nation was reduced to a population of orphans and widows (5:3). They were no longer a free people, but were forced to labor to purchase water and food (5:4-5). They were slaves (5:6). Confessing the sins of their fathers (5:7; Exodus 20:5), God’s people were mistreated, abused, sick and diseased, and their wives and daughters violently raped (5:8-11). While their leaders were tortured, their young men and boys were forced to labor (5:12-13).

A Prayer for Forgiveness and Restoration (5:14-21)

Our study of Lamentations concludes with a tragic picture of a nation reaping the consequences of its wickedness. The elders were no longer esteemed, and the young men found no joy in their music. Joy was ceased, and dance was turned to sorrow (5:15-16). The crown of glory once borne by the nation as God’s chosen people was now fallen. The people confessed too late, “we have sinned” (5:16).

Overcome with sorrow, his eyes dimmed by tears, Jeremiah looked upon mount Zion where the Temple once stood, and realized it had become a haven for wild beasts as “foxes walk upon it” (5:18).

Jeremiah’s lamentations closed with him praying for his people. Remembering the LORD is Eternal God, and Sovereign “from generation to generation” (5:19), he called upon the LORD. He confessed he was troubled, for he felt as though God had forgotten and forsaken His people (5:20). Yet, knowing the LORD is merciful, Jeremiah concluded his ministry praying, “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; Renew our days as of old. 22But thou hast utterly rejected us; Thou art very wroth against us” (5:21-22).

Closing thoughts – Like ancient Judah, there is much about our world that is disturbing and disheartening; yet, the LORD used Jeremiah to preserve a historical record of what He requires of His people. Yes, the wickedness of the 21st century demands God’s judgment, and we should both identify the sins, and confess them. Like Jeremiah, we should pray and remember the LORD is Eternal and Sovereign “from generation to generation” (5:19).

Let us call upon the LORD, and turn our hearts to Him.

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 Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

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.