Tag Archives: Promises

Don’t Give Up Hope!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 37-42

Not only is today’s reading a lengthy one, it also has details with numbers and measurements that are sure to leave the average reader wondering what possible application could this have to a 21st century student of God’s Word.   For the sake of brevity, I suggest a simple outline of chapters 37 through 42.

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic illustration of Israel’s resurrection as a nation (remember, the prophet is ministering to the Jews in Babylon after the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem).   My younger readers might enjoy watching a video\audio clip of “Dry Bones” (I avoid referring to it as a “gospel song” since there is hardly a gospel lesson in the recording; however, the classy style of the “Delta Rhythm Boys” compared with today’s “recording artists” is worth the watch).   Ezekiel 37 is not only a prophetic picture of Israel’s resurrection as a nation, but also the unification of the people divided into two nations since Solomon’s reign.

Ezekiel 38 prophesies events that are yet to occur on an international scale against Israel.  There is neither time or space to enter into the debate of the nations portrayed in this chapter; however, it is my opinion this is a prophecy there is a day when the ruler of the north (38:14) which I believe is Russia (38:2 – “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”) will lead an invasion of Middle Eastern nations (identified as “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya” – 38:5) against Israel.   Ezekiel 38:14-39:18 details the invasion of the armies and their defeat.  The LORD intervenes and Israel’s victory will be so overwhelming that the burial of the dead will take seven months (39:14).

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years less one and the time of the writing of Ezekiel 40 was in “the five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).   Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart as a nation to build a new temple (the last destroyed in 70 AD) and worship the LORD.  The plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the future temple are given in Ezekiel 40-42.

Our scripture reading today concludes with Ezekiel 42; however, chapter 43 continues the narrative concerning the future temple with the promise the heavenly glory of the LORD Himself will fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:2-4).

As I close, consider this: The LORD wanted His people to never give up hope!

Remember Ezekiel’s immediate audience was His own people who were captives in Babylon.  Many had witnessed the devastating destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  Humanly speaking, all was lost and apart from divine intervention, the Jews would be numbered among those nations that had come and gone; their cities covered by the sands of the desert and the people assimilated into the populations of the earth and forgotten.

However, such was not the case with God’s chosen people with whom He covenanted to be their God.  God promised Abraham he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), a promise not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus Christ.  The Jews rejected Christ at His first coming as a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53); however, at the end of the Tribulation they will see Him come as a conquering King and He will rule from Jerusalem and the people will worship Him during the Millennial in a new temple.

In the midst of reading the numbers and dimensions of a future temple, consider the revival of joy and hope among God’s people when they were reminded God had not forgotten them and all was not lost!  The day was coming when a new temple would be built and God’s glory would once again fill the temple and the world would know the LORD is in the midst of His people!

Friend, don’t give up hope…remember, this same LORD promised His disciples He was going away to “prepare a place” for them and “will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-4).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 25-30

The historical context of today’s reading finds both Israel and Judah in captivity after God’s people rebelled and turned away from His law and commandments.   Having rejected the warnings of His prophets, the LORD judged those nations as He promised; however, He never forsook them.  Ezekiel 25 reminds us God is jealous for His people.

After destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar’s army took the people of Judah captive to Babylon.   Witnessing the calamity of God’s people, the heathen nations rejoiced in their sorrows and sufferings.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and despised the heathen’s joy in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14) and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel and Judah (25:15-17).

Ezekiel 26-30 continues the prophet’s warning to the nations that their pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel would be rewarded with their own judgment.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia would fall to Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19).  Zidon, a city north of Tyrus, would also suffer the calamity and destruction that was the fate of Tyrus and neighboring nations who reveled in the destruction of Jerusalem (28:20-24).   Ezekiel 28 ends with the blessed promise God would gather His people from Babylonian exile and restore them to their land (28:25-26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Egypt too would be judged for her sins against Israel and her treasures would be the reward of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-16) as Babylon served God’s purpose for bringing judgment against that nation (29:17-21) and her neighbors (30:1-26).

There is a lesson in today’s reading that nations of the 21st century would be wise to heed:

There are grave consequences for those people and nations that take joy in the sorrows and sufferings of the Jews and Christians.

The atrocities committed against the Jews in the Second World War and the virtual annihilation of those nations that perpetrated them (Nazi Germany and fascist Italy) stands as a testimony that God loves His own, even when His people turn from Him.

Many reading this brief devotional are unaware those nations and people occupied by the Soviet Union and overwhelmed by Communist oppression in the years that followed World War II were guilty of crimes against the Jews on a scale that is unfathomable.   Eastern European nations that fell into the Soviet bloc of nations and suffered under communism were themselves guilty of murderous acts against the Jews and suffered their own sorrows until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I close with illustrative verses of God’s love for Israel and a warning for all who harm His people.

Zechariah 1:14 – “…Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

Zechariah 2:8 – “…he that toucheth you [Israel] toucheth the apple [pupil] of His eye[meaning the eye of the LORD].

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”

Warning: Mistreat God’s people and take pleasure in their sorrows and you will inevitably suffer the same, for God is a jealous God.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Common Sense is Wisdom in Overalls”

Farmall tractorThursday, July 06, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 8-9

Of all the chapters in the Book of Proverbs, among my favorite is today’s scheduled reading, chapters 8 and 9.  Before presenting today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to remember I have posted a verse-by-verse commentary on Proverbs on this “From the Heart of a Shepherd” blog in 2014-2015.

Knowing it is an impossible task to address two full chapters in Proverbs, I limit this devotional commentary to a brief introduction of Proverbs 8, a chapter that personifies “Wisdom” delivering a soliloquy on godly wisdom.

I am at a loss to know to whom to attribute the insightful quote that is the heading of today’s devotional proverb, but I love the definition: “Common Sense is wisdom in overalls.”   My late maternal grandfather, Roland Whitley of Monroe, NC, wore overalls throughout my childhood.  Hardworking, diligent, self-sacrificing, faithful to the wife he called “Sugar”, loving to his family, a no-nonsense man of the soil [he always had a beautiful garden]…a common, hardworking, industrious man—he personified Common Sense in overalls!

Common Sense is nigh nonexistent today, not because overalls are out of vogue, but because our society scorns godly wisdom!   

What is wisdom?   Solomon taught his son, “The fear [reverential fear] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”(Proverbs 1:7) and is the “principal [highest] thing” (Proverbs 4:7).  According to Proverbs 8:11 and Job 28:18, wisdom is priceless, “above rubies” and the acquisition of wisdom is possible only if we are willing to acknowledge God and seek Him.  By definition, a man may possess a brilliant intellect and acquire a lot of knowledge; however, if he denies the existence of God he is a fool and wholly lacking in wisdom.  After all, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God…” (Psalm 53:1).

Wisdom implies the “skillful use of knowledge” or the right use of knowledge.   A man who knows Christ as Savior and is a student of God’s Word has the potential of becoming a man of wisdom though he has no formal education (James 1:5).

Solomon introduces Proverbs 8 with two rhetorical questions: “Doth not wisdom cry? And understanding put forth her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1).  The implied answer to the questions is “YES!”  Wisdom does cry and raise her voice yearning to be heard and heeded.

Proverbs 8:2-3“She [Wisdom] standeth in the top of high places [where cities were built in ancient times], by the way in the places of the paths [where roads meet or intersect]. 3 She crieth at the gates [where city elders sat in judgment], at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors [in shops and places of commerce].”

Where can wisdom be found today?

Wisdom’s voice is silent in the halls of academia and expelled from the majority of churches and pulpits.  However, godly wisdom is found where she has always been— “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments…”  (Psalm 111:10).

Godly wisdom belongs to those who have knowledge of God through His Word and His revelation of Himself in His Son Jesus Christ.

An old farmer wearing overalls and driving a Farmall tractor might lack the education of a college graduate; however, he is the personification of godly wisdom if he knows the Lord as His Savior, meditates on God’s Word, and walks according to the law and commandments. farmer on tractor

Godly wisdom belongs to those who fear the Lord” [lit. revere, worship—implying a personal, intimate knowledge of God, made possible through His Son Jesus Christ] and align their lives with His Word.

James 1:5 – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

Three Psalms of Worship and Prayer

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 78-80

Our scripture reading consists of three chapters today, Psalms 78, 79 and 80.  The human author is a priest and musician named Asaph and God’s people would have sung his psalms in worshipping the LORD.

Psalm 78 is a study in Israel’s history as Asaph reminds the people of God’s faithfulness to Israel throughout her history and His longsuffering toward the people when they were a faithless, complaining and disobedient people during their sojourn in the wilderness (78:12-53).

Fathers and mothers were charged with the responsibility of not only remembering, but also teaching their children who would teach their children not only the nation’s history, but God’s providential care of His people (78:3-8).

Psalm 79 is a prophetic psalm that would not occur until Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon conquered Judah and destroyed the city and Temple (79:1).  The devastation was great and the bodies of the dead would be left in the streets (79:2-3).  The psalmist, jealous for the name of the God of Israel, worried the people had “become a reproach” to their heathen neighbors (79:4).    The psalmist prayed for the LORD to deliver His people (79:5-12), promising to offer the LORD perpetual praise.

Like Psalm 79, Psalm 80 is a prophetic psalm most likely set in the time of the Babylonian invasion.  The opening verse is a petition to the LORD identified as the “Shepherd of Israel” and “thou that dwellest between the cherubims” (referring to the Ark of the Covenant as the earthly symbol of God’s heavenly throne).

The psalmist cries out to the LORD on behalf of the nation to come to the aid of His people and restore the nation (80:2-7).  Three times we read the petition, “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (80:3, 7, 19).

Beginning with Psalm 80:8, the psalmist pictures Israel as a “vine out of Egypt” and remembers how God had blessed the nation and “cast out the heathen” and gave His people the land of Canaan.

Israel prospered as long as the hearts of the people were turned to the LORD (80:10-11); however, the psalmist pondered how long God’s providential protection would be departed and the heathen nations allowed to rob her prosperity (80:12).

Psalm 80 concludes with the psalmist petitioning the LORD to “Turn us again” and “cause Thy face to shine” (80:19).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Divorce: Don’t Do It!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 15-16

Today’s devotional reading is from the Gospel of Luke, chapters 15-16 and contains some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD:  The Lost Sheep (15:4-10); The Prodigal Son (15:11-32); The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13); and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31).  The latter is believed by some to not fall into the category of a parable because it uses a man’s proper name, Lazarus.

In the midst of Luke 16 we come to five verses that seem an interruption in the passage until we remember they come as a response to the Pharisees (16:14) who were adversaries of the LORD and often used occasions He taught the people in public to confront Him.   Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) chose the occasion to “deride” the LORD (i.e. to openly mock, sneer, scoff).

Rather than retreat, the LORD answered the derision of the Pharisees using the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  Accusing them of aspiring for men’s venerations, Jesus unmasked the hypocrisy God knew was in their hearts (16:15).

Having rebuked the Pharisees who considered themselves experts in the law of God, I believe Jesus turned His focus to His audience and said, 16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (Luke 16:16-17).

After addressing the transition between the Old Testament Law bridged by John the Baptist to the LORD’s ministry and His preaching concerning the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17), Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and divorce (16:18).

Luke 16:18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

Rather than being strong advocates of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33), the Pharisees misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

I close with a few parting thoughts on marriage, divorce and remarriage.  The first, there is no doubt God’s will and design is that marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman.  The second, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 – “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away”).

Finally, although there is heated debate over this point, I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery and I cite three passages of scripture for my authority in this matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Some might ask, “What if my adulterous spouse claims to be a believer, does 1 Corinthians 7:15 apply?”  My answer is, “Yes”; but you must be a member of a church that is willing to address the sins of its members biblically and follow the guidelines for restoration found in Matthew 18:15-17.  When a professing believer refuses to repent after repeated attempts for restoration, the church is to declare that one “an heathen”, an unbeliever.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who You Gonna Blame? (a version of today’s post and title for this Sunday’s sermon)

Dear Hillsdale family and Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

One of my joys in writing daily devotional commentaries has been my edification from the disciplined readings and meditations in God’s Word.   A fruit of that discipline has been the opportunity of sometimes preaching on a current topic that has an ancient parallel; today’s devotional is such an example.

The subject and context of Ezekiel 18, part of today’s scripture reading, is as current as news headlines in this morning’s newspaper (and a lot more truthful)!   In fact, I have decided to make Ezekiel 18 the topic for this Sunday morning’s patriotic sermon.

As I read and meditated on Ezekiel 18 and observed how the youth in Israel blamed their troubles on their fathers, I realized the “victimhood” complaints of today’s millennial generation, their demands for “entitlements” and practice of blame shifting are a mirror of the depravity that has been in the heart of man since the fall.

I look forward to preaching, “Who You Gonna Blame?” this July 2, 2017 Sunday morning.  I conclude this post with an excerpt from my unabridged post for today.

There was no debate over the question of God judging Israel for sin; however, a question of responsibility for the calamities facing the nation rose among the people.

The younger population said,  “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2).  In other words, some were blaming the nation’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their forefathers.  In our day when “blame shifting” is epidemic and everyone is a victim, Ezekiel 18 is applicable to the homes of believers and non-believers .

The universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin are declared by the LORD: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).  While all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and He blesses the man who chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).

Herein is a spiritual lesson for us all: Every generation bears responsibility for its sins and God does not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13) no more than he holds a son accountable for the sins of his father.   When a son see his father’s sins, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17); however, the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

So, who you gonna blame for your troubles?

I close with a challenge to parents who, though not perfect parents, are loving parents but find themselves burdened with an adult child that is a sorrow to their hearts.  Guard your heart against false guilt!  Don’t allow a child wallowing in the mire of self-pity give you cause to despair.  No man or woman has the privilege to blame others for the consequences of their own sinful choices.

God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30).   A family will suffer consequences for a family member’s sinful choices; however, the key is in how you respond to those troubles and sorrows.

Remember:  “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith