Tag Archives: Prophecy

The LORD Has Chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

This is the second of two daily devotionals. The prophet Zechariah was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Both prophets ministered in Jerusalem during the post-exilic era (Ezra 1:1-2). Zechariah, a young prophet at the time, had the same task as Haggai: To challenge and exhort God’s people to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

While the prophecies of Haggai focused on encouraging the Jews to finish rebuilding the Temple, the prophecies of Zechariah had a far-reaching context. In fact, the prophecies of the latter were not only applicable to the Jews of his day, but to all believers who live in anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ when He returns as the Messiah King.

Zechariah 1:1-6 – Zechariah’s Commission

Zechariah announced with exactness the date his ministry as prophet began in Jerusalem, for it was “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (520 B.C.,  1:1), and two months after the commencement of Haggai’s ministry (Haggai 1:1). Born in Babylon during the captivity, Zechariah’s ministry was to convey to the Jews the LORD’s displeasure for neglecting His house (the Temple, 1:2). Their failure provoked God’s wrath; however, the LORD was longsuffering. He commanded Zechariah to say to the people, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (1:3).

To enlighten His prophet, the LORD came to Zechariah in eight nighttime visions. The visions gave the prophet a glimpse of future blessings, and the LORD’s promise to pour out His glory on His people if they would repent of their sins and turn to Him. Briefly, today’s devotional will consider the first and second visions.

The first vision: Horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17)

Zechariah saw a “man riding upon a red horse…among the myrtle trees…and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white” (1:8). While the number of horses is not given, we notice the horses had riders (1:10-11). I believe the man on the red horse was “the angel of the LORD” (1:8-12), a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. Zechariah 1:11 reveals the vision occurred at a time when the nations of the world were at peace (the Persians having subdued the nations of the Babylonian empire). The Jews, having served Babylon in captivity for seventy years, were not at peace (1:12).

 

Indicating a season of judgment would come upon the Gentile nations for their harsh treatment of His people, Zechariah cried out against the heathen and declared for the LORD, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease [peace] (1:14-15). Then, the LORD promised to show mercy, and prosper His people if they would rebuild His Temple (1:16). What a joy it would have been for the impoverished Jews to hear Zechariah prophesy, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).

The second vision: “Four horns” representing four world powers (1:18-21)

We have noted in earlier devotionals that horns were symbols of strength, power, and authority. The four horns represented four Gentile nations that had and would “scatter Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (1:18-19). Historically and prophetically, we know those nations were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (reminding us of Nebuchadnezzar’s image which represented the same nations, Daniel 2). In the vision, the LORD sent “four carpenters” [builders] who were to “cast out” or cut off the “horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it” (1:21).

Closing thoughts – The four carpenters were not identified, but we have here a wonderful reminder how the LORD had not forgotten His people, nor the wrongs they suffered. God was waiting for the Jews to repent of their sins, that He might defeat their enemies, and overwhelm them with His blessings.

Is the LORD waiting on you? He promises to bless His people when they confess their sins, repent, and turn to Him.

Psalm 51:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 2, Zechariah 1

The Book of Ezra revealed there were adversaries who disrupted, and for 15 years curtailed the work on the Temple. They had made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3). Those same enemies accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  When Darius became king of Persia, the enemy accused the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6). This is the first of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

Haggai 2

The LORD countered the voices of the enemies and critics, and sent His prophets (Haggai and Zechariah, Ezra 5:1), who encouraged the people saying, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel (the civic leader), saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (2:4).

Assuring the people the LORD would fill the new Temple with His glory (2:7), Haggai declared, “8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. 9The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (2:8-9).

How did the LORD fill the second Temple with His glory, especially since there is no record of such an event as it was with Solomon’s Temple? (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Though the second Temple lacked the beauty and splendor of the first, unbeknownst to the Jews, the LORD Himself would one day grace its halls with His bodily presence. Jesus, the incarnate, virgin born Son of God would be dedicated there as an infant (Luke 2:25-38). As a boy, he would be found both listening and questioning the rabbis regarding the Word of the LORD in the Temple court (Luke 2:46-52). As a man, Christ brought to the Temple a message of hope and peace for all men (2:9; Luke 4:17-22).

A Question of Holiness and Contamination (2:10-19)

Haggai’s fourth message to God’s people was recorded in the closing verses of this brief book. Stirred by the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were building the Temple with a zeal that would finally see it completed. The sermon was delivered two months after the third message, and the subject was on God’s stipulations for purity and holiness (as opposed to that which is unholy and “unclean,” 2:12-13). The implication of the lesson was, the LORD only accepts and blesses that which is righteous (2:14). When God’s people sin, they sacrifice His blessings, and invite His judgment (2:15-19).

A Challenge to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)

On the same day he delivered the fourth message to the people building the Temple, Haggai had a final revelation for Zerubbabel, the leaders and governor of Judah (2:20-23). Who was Zerubbabel? He was a leader of the tribe of Judah, but more importantly, he was of the linage of David, and named in the lineage of Christ (2:6; Matthew 1:12-13).

The LORD made a far-reaching promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth” (2:21). Babylon had been overthrown, and Persia ruled the world, but the LORD reminded Zerubbabel He alone was sovereign and nations rise and fall within His divine providence (2:22). No king or kingdom is so strong that the LORD will not overthrow and “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen” (2:22).

Closing thought – Haggai closed with a wonderful, Messianic promise (2:23). The LORD revealed Zerubbabel was chosen by “the LORD of hosts,” and one of his lineage would bear the “signet” (typically a ring monarchs used to seal covenants or legal documents in wax). The Messiah would come not only through David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16), but also through Zerubbabel, for he had been chosen! (2:23).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1

The book of Haggai falls chronologically at the conclusion of Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). Incredibly, eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, had declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him an house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by an edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3).

As is often seen when great works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and then set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar), who served as governor of Judah, and was of the Davidic line (named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13), the preparations to lay the Temple foundation were halted when adversaries opposed the work and discouraged the people (Ezra 4).

It was at this time, a time of discouragement, that God raised up two prophets to minister in Judah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, both mentioned in Ezra 5:1, were contemporaries in Judah. Though the book of Haggai is only two chapters in length, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation, “Get to work!”

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their homes.  The Temple was neglected for ten years, while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the Temple was unfinished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps yourself?  Many believers do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD; yet, we may be guilty of procrastination, and suggesting by our words or attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

The LORD had been longsuffering with His people; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent Haggai to prophesy and rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7). He warned the LORD would withhold His blessings, and their labor in the fields would be futile until the Temple was built (1:6-11).

The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops), but what they had failed to do.

Leaving no doubt why they struggled, and the harvests were so little, Haggai detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in achieving comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

Haggai 1:9 – Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Godly men that they were, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).

Closing thought (1:13-15) – Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD,  14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God” (1:13-14).

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority: “For the LordGod is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless]” (Psalm 84:11).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A New Beginning (Ezra 6, Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 6, Psalm 137

We are continuing our study of Israel’s history after the Jews returned from exile. With the decree of king Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-3), one might think the work on the Temple would be without opposition. After all, God’s people came to Zion with the affirmation of the king, his assurance of financial support, and the command for those Jews not returning to support those who were (1:4-11).

Fifty thousand Jews responded to the prospect of going home to the land God had promised Israel (2:1-70). After arriving in the land and settling in their homes, the people set about the task of building an altar (3:1-4) and laid the foundation of the Temple (3:5-11). A celebration began when the last stone of the foundation was set in its place, (3:11); however, rejoicing was soon followed by sorrow. There arose enemies who opposed the work on the Temple (Ezra 4). When they failed to halt the work (4:1-11), they appealed to the king of Persia (4:11-16) and accused the children of Israel of plotting a rebellion against the king.

Artaxerxes, king of Persia, ordered a search of the archives of the kings (4:17-22). Finding Israel and Judah had a history of rebelling against the occupation of their lands and cities, the king decreed the work on the Temple to cease (4:23-24).

Sixteen years passed, until the LORD sent His prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (5:1), who “prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem (5:1). “2Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God…and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2). Again, the enemies of God’s people rose up to oppose them, and then appealed to the king (5:3-17).

Ezra 6

King Darius commanded a search be made of the archives (6:1), where it was discovered Cyrus, king of Persia, had commanded the Temple be built (6:3). Additionally, the king  had made provision for sacrifices, and given the dimensions and material composition of the Temple (6:3-5).

In a twist of humor, and serving as a testimony to the sovereignty of God, the attempt of the enemy to derail the work on the Temple concluded with the Jews being favored by the king. King Darius not only commanded the Jews’ enemies financially support their work, but also supply what was needed for food and sacrifices (6:6-10). Giving warning to any who might oppose them, the king proclaimed, “I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this” (6:11).

Ezra 6 concluded with a glorious celebratory dedication of the new Temple (6:15-17). The priests and Levites were divided and assigned their duties “as it [was] written in the book of Moses” (6:18), and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were renewed (6:19-22).

What a wonderful, providential turn of events in the lives of God’s people! Knowing a king of Persia could not rescind a law once it was avowed, the LORD had preserved Cyrus’ decree for the Temple to be rebuilt. Darius was bound to the king’s edict, and moved to ensure it was fulfilled.

Closing thoughts – Notice Psalm 137 affords us a perspective on the sorrows the Jews bore during their years in Babylon. The children of Israel took for granted the grace and mercies of God, and continued in their sins until there was no remedy but the judgment of the LORD. God raised up many prophets to warn Israel and Judah, should they continue in their sins He would deliver them to their enemies.  Yet, they would not heed the warnings of His prophets, but continued in their sins until all was lost.

Arriving as captives in Babylon, the Jews were haunted by the memories of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Temple destroyed by fire. So, we read, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (137:1).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Tears of Joy, Mingled with Tearful Memoires (Ezra 3)

Scripture reading – Ezra 3

As we have seen, the Book of Ezra marked the end of a 70-year period of captivity for God’s people. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. While the LORD sent prophets to call the people to repent, and encourage them with the promise the Jewish people would one day be restored to their land, the majority dismissed the prophets. With the fall of Babylon, many despaired of ever seeing Mount Zion. Then, king Cyrus of Persia decreed, “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (1:2).

Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, responded to the Spirit of God, and along with certain priests and Levites, returned to rebuild the Temple and city of Jerusalem (Ezra 2). Ezra 2 concluded with God’s people arriving in Jerusalem, bearing the offerings of the people who remained in Babylon. With them were the silver and gold vessels Cyrus had released from the treasuries of Babylon.

Ezra 3

Some suggest the difficult journey from Babylon to Jerusalem could have taken as much as four months. Perhaps allowing another three months for the people to rebuild their homes, villages and towns, it was “when the seventh month was come…the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem: (3:1). I suggest three observations for the sake of our study.

A Shared Purpose (3:1, 3-11)

The people “gathered themselves together as one” (3:1). Setting aside their personal interests for the sake of the whole (for they had been building their homes, and planting crops), they “gathered” as one (3:1). They worked together, worshipped together (3:3-5), sacrificed together (3:6-8), and rejoiced together (3:10-11).

A Shared Sacrifice (3:6-7)

Notice the use of the plural pronoun “they” (3:6-7). They came together to “offer burnt offerings unto the LORD” (3:6a). They gave what they could out of what they had, for “they gave money [silver and gold] also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat [from their livestock], and drink [from their vineyards], and oil [from their groves]” (3:7). They recognized the LORD was proprietor of everything they possessed (Haggai 2:8).

A Shared Joy (3:10-11)

I have learned the happiest believers are those who have set aside personal agendas for the opportunity of serving the LORD and others. Because they shared mutual purpose, and a mutual sacrifice, they shared in the celebration. It was natural that they rejoiced as one, when the final stones of the foundation were laid (3:10).

For the celebration, the priests wore their finest robes and sounded the shofar. The Levites, “with cymbals,” lifted their voices and praised the LORD according to the “ordinance of David king of Israel” (3:10). The people, singing and shouting as they praised the LORD, were so loud their voices were heard by their enemies (4:1).

Closing thoughts (3:12-13) – Unfortunately, there were some who did not share in the joy and celebration when the foundation to the Temple was laid. A discordant sound was heard in the midst of the celebration, for certain “ancient men” (elderly priests, Levites, and tribal leaders) remembered seeing the Temple of Solomon before it was destroyed (3:12). They lived in the past, and scoffed at the work that was done.

The LORD confronted the ancients through His prophet Zechariah, and asked, “who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10). The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s sentiment and asked, “Who is left among you that saw this house [the Temple] in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

They were elderly men, and it is doubtful they were numbered among those who physically labored on the foundation of the Temple. They were guilty of a sin I have observed of many through the years:

Personal observations: I have learned the voices of critics usually arise from among those who have sacrificed little.

Remember: A critical, negative spirit eventually marks you, and invariably mars you.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Miracle of Israel’s Presence (Ezra 1; Ezra 2)

Scripture reading – Ezra 1; Ezra 2

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with our focus being the Book of Ezra. Ezra, the author, will not be introduced to until chapter 7; however, he has given us a record of Judah’s return from Babylonian captivity to the Promised Land.

A Historical Perspective

If you are a student of history, you are aware it is a miracle for any people to return from captivity, and once again become a nation. Apart from Israel, I can give no example of an ancient people who recovered from the desolation Israel suffered. The nations of Philistia, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Amalek, Phoenicia, the Hittites, and Amorites no longer exist. The great empires of Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome are mere footnotes in the history of mankind; yet, there is one populace identifiable as an ancient people in today’s world – the Jews.

Although a powerful, influential nation during the reigns of David and Solomon, Israel was and is geographically no more than a sliver of land. Never a great population, or known for military conquests, the Jews, though beloved and despised continue to exist. Of all ancient peoples, why have the Jews continued as a distinctive people?

The presence of a Jewish people in the 21st century is a testimony of God’s Covenant promises to Abraham. God’s promise to bless Abraham and his seed as the stars of heaven, is a promise which continues to this day (Genesis 22:17). Not only has God been faithful to His covenant promises with Abraham, He has also been faithful to His promises to all those who by faith in Christ, become sons of Abraham, of which the apostle Paul wrote, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Ezra 1

The Book of Ezra opened with a statement that set the date and timeline of our study, for it was “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that…the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom” (1:1). The year was about 538 B.C., and the proclamation was issued when Daniel, though aged, was still God’s prophet to God’s people in Babylon. Daniel was near the end of his ministry (having been captive in Babylon for 70 years), but the LORD had chosen a young priest named Ezra to serve Him and His people. While Daniel ministered to a generation who suffered the consequences of their sins, Ezra would be priest to a new generation that would return to Israel, and rebuild their lives and nation.

What an exciting time! Remembering, “The 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 opening verses of Ezra remind us the God of Israel is Sovereign over heaven and earth (1:1-2). Having conquered Babylon, Cyrus, declared the God of heaven had moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).

The Liberty to Go Home (1:3-11)

Fulfilling the LORD’s promise to restore Israel and Judah to their land, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return home. The king challenged them, asking, “3Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem” (1:3).

Facing formidable hardships, for Jerusalem was in ruins and the Temple destroyed, only a small number (estimated 50,000), responded to the call. Those Jews who chose not to return home, were challenged to financially support those willing to return, providing them with silver, gold, goods, and beasts, “beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem” (1:4).

Only two of the twelve tribes (Judah and Benjamin) responded to the challenge to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple (1:5). The Spirit of God also stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites, who were moved “to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem” (1:5).

As commanded by the king, the remaining Jewish people in Babylon gave of their wealth and possessions to support those returning to Israel (1:8). Also, king Cyrus retrieved the gold and silver vessels of the Temple that were taken by Nebuchadnezzar (1:8). After accounting for the number of vessels, the king sent them with those going “up from Babylon unto Jerusalem” (1:11).

Ezra 2 – A Census of Families

A census was taken of those departing Babylon, and returning to Israel. The names of families and households were forever recorded in the Word of God, and we will briefly consider them by their occupations. Two men were principal leaders of those returning: Zerubbabel represented the civic leadership of the people (2:2; Haggai 1:14), while Jeshua represented the spiritual leadership (2:2; 3:2; Haggai 1:14). Individual families were recorded (2:3-20), as well as the villages and cities of their lineage (2:21-35). There were priests (2:36-39), Levites (identified as singers and gatekeepers, 2:41-42), and servants who oversaw the menial tasks of the Temple (2:43-54). There were also families identified as “the children of Solomon’s servants” (2:55-58).

There were also some who accompanied and identified with the children of Israel; however, when the records were examined, there was no record of their lineage (2:59-60). Some aspired to be priests, but when it was found there was no genealogical record of their lineage, they were put out of the priesthood (2:61-63).

Closing thoughts (2:64-70) – The total of those who returned to Jerusalem was 42,360; however, it is believed the number did not include children 12 years and younger. Altogether, I suppose there were more than 50,000 who left the comforts and pleasures of Babylon, and embraced the liberty of believing God’s promises and trusting Him. Sadly, I fear the same might be observed in our day.

Are you numbered among those who live by faith, love the LORD, and obey His Word?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Great Tribulation and Armageddon (Daniel 12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 12

Our study of the Book of Daniel closes with what is yet to be, The Great Tribulation. Daniel 11 concluded with the rise of great wickedness in the world, and the Antichrist exalting himself (“the little horn” of Daniel 7) above the nations of the world (11:36a). He will do as he pleases, and cursing “the God of gods” (11:36b; Revelation 13:5-6), will “magnify himself above all” (11:36c).

“At the time of the end” the Antichrist will invade “the glorious land” (Israel), and either by treaty or force, conquering other nations that stand in his way of world dominion (11:39-43). When nations out of the east (most likely Jordan, Iraq, and Iran) and north (especially Russia) move to defeat the Antichrist, he will mobilize his forces for the great battle of Armageddon in the valley of Megiddo (11:44).  The LORD Himself will rush upon the Antichrist, and the armies of the nations gathered for battle (Revelation 19:17-21; Ezekiel 12:1-9; 14:1-21).

Daniel 12

Michael the Archangel appears “at that time” to save Israel, even as the Antichrist will mount his final assault on God’s people. It is the time of The Great Tribulation (Daniel 11:36-12:13; Matthew 24:21), and the last three and a half years of the Tribulation Period. A time of wickedness and trouble like the world has not seen (12:1a). Christ described it as the “abomination of desolation” Daniel had spoken of (Matthew 24:15-26), and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). It is “the latter days” (Daniel 2:28; 10:14) and the “time of the end” (Daniel 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9).

In the midst of the sorrows, Jesus Christ will come to reign on the earth (Isaiah 2:1-5), and the Scriptures promise true believers will be resurrected, and delivered from the dead to eternal life (12:2a). Those who rejected the LORD are promised they will come “to shame, and everlasting contempt (12:2b; consummated at the judgment of the Great White Throne, Revelation 20:11-15). Believers will then share in the brightness of Christ’s heavenly glory (12:3).

Details of the Great Tribulation Sealed (12:4-13)

Daniel was commanded to seal the scroll upon which he was recording the future events of the Tribulation, though there would be many who would seek to understand them (12:5). Two angels appeared in the vision, and one of the two questioned “the man clothed in linen” (whom I have suggested was the pre-incarnate Christ, 10:5-6) – “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” (12:6).

The “man in linen” answered, and said, “it shall be for a time, times, and an half” [a “time” being one year; “times” being two years; and “an half” being a half year]. The Great Tribulation, which is the second half of the Tribulation period, will last 3.5 years and will conclude with Israel finding no place to turn but to the LORD, for the Antichrist will “scatter [crush; smash] the power of the holy people” (12:7b; Zechariah 14:2-3).

Daniel’s Confusion (12:8-9)

Daniel desired for an explanation of what he had seen and heard (12:8), but was commanded, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (12:9). In other words, the prophecies were sealed, and would be understood by those living at the time of the end.

Closing thoughts (12:10-13) – In the last days, true believers will “be purified, and made white, and tried” (12:10a), but wickedness will abound. The wicked “shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (12:10b). Believers will understand that which is coming to pass, but the wicked will not (12:10b).

The Great Tribulation will begin when the Antichrist abolishes worship in the Temple (Daniel 9:27), and sets in the Temple the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15). The original length of the Great Tribulation was 1260 days, but Daniel 12:11 adds an additional 30 days to the number of days. There are various opinions for the difference in the days, but I find the most plausible explanation is the 30 additional days are for when the nations will be judged (Matthew 25:31-46). Daniel 12:12 adds another 45 days to the total of days at the close of the Tribulation, and some suggest it is this time when Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom. Again, these are inadequate explanations for what we cannot know or prove.

Our study of Daniel concludes with the old prophet (now nearly 100 years old) being told, “Blessed is he that waiteth [patient; tarries] …Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (12:12a, 13).

Challenge – Be patient…Live out your days…Rest…Standfast to the end.

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Heavenly Visitors and Hellish Foes (Daniel 10)

Scripture reading – Daniel 10; Daniel 11

While today’s Scripture reading is two chapters, Daniel 10 and 11, the focus of our devotional will be Daniel 10.

The Book of Daniel has captivated the imagination of the saints of God for more than two millennia. Daniel, who was a captive of Babylon following the first siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC, spent his life as counselor to the kings of Babylon, and the Medes and Persians. A mere teen when he first arrived in Babylon, he was probably in his late 80’s when we read, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar” (10:1).

We have considered three prophetic visions in our study of the Book of Daniel. Daniel 7 gave us a vision of four beasts, representing four kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome). In Daniel 8, there was the vision of a Ram that represented Persia, and a “He Goat” that was a symbol of Greece. The vision of 70 prophetic weeks was recorded in Daniel 9, bringing us to the fourth and final vision recorded in Daniel 10-12.

Introduction to the Final Revelation (10:1-4)

A transition in leadership is noted in Daniel 10, as “Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1) succeeded Darius, as king of the Medo-Persian\Chaldean Empire. The “thing” that was “revealed unto Daniel” served as an introduction to Daniel’s fourth and final vision (10:1). Though the setting was during the reign of Cyrus, the vision itself was set far into the future, for “the time appointed was long” (10:1b). Notable is the effect the vision had on Daniel, for he mourned saying, “three full weeks…[I] ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint [bathe or anoint] myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (10:3).

The cause of Daniel’s sorrow is not revealed, but I suspect it was that so few of the Jews elected to return to Jerusalem when Cyrus gave his decree to set the children of Israel at liberty to return home and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4). The defeat of the Chaldeans, followed by Cyrus’ decree, provided the children of Israel the long-foretold opportunity to return to Israel. Tragically, after 70 years in Babylon, the majority of the Jews were Babylonian by nature and birth. Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, with no word from God in response to his prayers. On the 24th day of the first month (“Nisan,” April 24), as he was standing by the Tigris River (“Hiddekel,” 1:4), the LORD gave the prophet a heavenly vision of things yet to be (10:5-21).

A Heavenly Vision (10:5-9)

I believe the central figure of the vision was Jesus Christ; a theophany, or pre-incarnate appearance of Christ in His heavenly glory (10:5-6). Daniel did not see a beast, nor an image of a man, he looked up and saw “a certain man clothed in linen” (10:5). [For further study, you are invited to compare the apostle John’s vision of Christ in Revelation 1:12-16.]

The Effect of the Vision (10:7-9)

We learn that Daniel was not alone, for there were other men with him at the time of the vision, yet, they did not see the man (10:1-6). A sudden earthquake caused those men to flee and “hide themselves” (10:7). Thus, Daniel was alone and as he gazed upon his heavenly visitor, and writes, “there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (10:8). In his solitude, Daniel heard the voice of the man, and fell into “a deep sleep” (10:9).

Heavenly Visitors (10:10-12, 14-20a, 21)

In his vision, Daniel was awakened, when a hand touched him (10:10). Standing to his feet, though trembling with fear (10:11), Daniel was addressed by an angel as  “a man greatly beloved” (10:11), and was told how God had dispatched him to Daniel on the first day he prayed (10:12). His prayers had been heard, but not immediately answered, because a spiritual battle had been waged between God’s angel and a demon, a servant of Satan (10:13).

What an amazing story! Daniel had fasted and prayed 21 days, and waited for God to answer his prayers. Yet, though the LORD responded to his prophet’s prayers, the angelic messenger was delayed by a great conflict that was waged between the heavenly angels and the fallen angels (10:13)

An Angelic Message: The Purpose of the Vision (10:14-19)

God sent His angel to give Daniel understanding of “what shall befall thy people [children of Israel] in the latter days [the end of days]: for yet the vision is for many days” (10:14). The vision left Daniel fainthearted and speechless (10:15), and so the angel touched and revived him a second time (10:16a). The prophet was physicallyexhausted and emotionally shaken by the sight of Israel’s sufferings and sorrows that were yet to be (10:16b). Weakened from his struggle to converse with one much greater than himself (10:17), Daniel writes he was strengthened a third time, and said to the angel, “Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me” (10:18-19).

The Battle with Hellish Foes (10:13, 20-21)

The angel was delayed in his mission to answer Daniel’s prayer, having battled with a foe identified as the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” (10:13a). Persia was the name of ancient Iran (today, Iranians refer to themselves as Persian), and was the world empire of its day. Understanding no human prince could contend with an angel, we conclude this prince was a demon responsible for Satan’s interests in Persia (as God’s angels are organized into a heavenly host, it seems Satan has his demons ordered by rank and assignment, 10:13). The demon was powerful and withstood the angel, requiring Michael the Archangel to be dispatched (10:13), and help the angel go on his way and complete his mission to Daniel (10:14).

Closing thoughts (10:20-21) – Several questions come to mind, with the obvious being the one proposed by the angel: “Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee?” (10:20) Why did God send His angel to Daniel? Why did the demon obstruct the angel’s mission?

Rather than answer the question, the angel departed, and announced he must return to wage battle against the “prince [demon] of Persia,” and the “prince [demon] of Grecia” (10:20). Two demons so powerful they required not only the opposition of a heavenly angel, but the intervention of the Archangel described to Daniel as, “Michael your prince” (10:21).

Spiritual Truth – Though unseen by human eyes, there is a perpetual war that is waged in the spirit world between God’s holy angels and the fallen angels [demons].

Ephesians 6:1212For 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.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Four Beasts, Four Kingdoms, and God Who is Sovereign (Daniel 7)

Scripture reading – Daniel 7

An old adage goes, “Hindsight is 20\20,” and that is certainly true when we are privileged to look at Bible prophecy “in the rearview mirror.” Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the midst of The Book of Daniel, and its engaging and illuminating prophecies. I do not have time or space for an in-depth study of the prophecy recorded in Daniel 7, yet, I pray a simple study and interpretation of today’s Scripture will be a blessing,

Daniel 7

With the historical events of the rise and fall of Babylon behind us (Daniel 1-6), the next six chapters of our study will be prophetical (Daniel 7-12). The year before us is 553 BC, and was “the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1). Perhaps remembering the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Daniel 7), “Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters” (7:1). As you will see, Daniel’s dream paralleled Nebuchadnezzar’s great image and was a vision of future events.

I suggest there are three parts to Daniel’s dream (7:2-14), with the first section being of four beasts that represented four kings and their kingdoms (7:2-6). The second part of the dream was a dramatic, and terrible transformation that occurred to the fourth beast (7:7-12). The third section was a heavenly vision of the LORD sitting on His throne (7:13-14).

Four Beasts and Four World Empires (7:2-8)

Awakened from his sleep, Daniel wrote, “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea” (7:2). The “great sea” was the “sea of humanity,” and represented the Gentile nations of the world (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:1, 15). “The four winds of the heaven [that] strove upon the great sea” (7:2) portrayed the judgment of God coming from all directions…the east, north, south, and west winds.

The four beasts of Daniel’s dream were a parallel of the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s great image (Daniel 2) that foretold four great Gentile kingdoms. The first beast was depicted as a lion with the eagles’ wings (7:4). Like the head of gold of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, it was a symbol of Babylon. The prophets often depicted Babylon as a lion and eagle (Jeremiah 4:7, 13; 48:40; 49:19, 22; 50:17; Habakkuk 1:6, 9). The “lion-hearted” man was said to have his wings plucked, and to “stand upon the feet as a man” (possibly reminding us how Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled for seven years until he acknowledged God, and then his beastly heart was replaced with “a man’s heart” 7:4).

The second beast in Daniel’s dream resembled a bear with three ribs in its mouth (7:5). Corresponding to the silver arms and chest of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:32, 39), the bear represented the Medes and Persians who would overwhelm Babylon in a night. The bear was portrayed as rising up on one side, and must symbolize how the Persians would become the greater of the Medo-Persian kingdoms. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth might represent three kingdoms that were overcome, but that would be mere speculation on my part.

The third kingdom was represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads (7:6). We have the privilege of looking back on history, and know Greece would supplant Persia as the world empire, and was portrayed in Nebuchadnezzar’s image as having a belly and thighs of brass (2:32, 39). The swiftness of the leopard was a tribute to the speed with which Alexander the Great led Greece, conquering the world in three years’ time (334-331 BC). When Alexander died as a young king of 32 years, Greece was divided into four regions and ruled by four generals, hence, the four wings and heads of the leopard (7:6).

Rome, portrayed as a “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly” beast with “great iron teeth” was the fourth beast of Daniel’s dream (7:7). Equivalent to the legs of iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33, 40), Rome was portrayed as a brutal kingdom. The ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (2:33-35) are represented in Daniel’s dream as the ten horns of the fourth beast (7:7). Representing the strength of a beast, the horn served in the Bible as a symbol of kings (1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 132:17).

The Antichrist: The Rise of the “Little Horn” (7:19-20)

Daniel observed a “little horn” arose in the midst of ten horns (a league of ten kingdoms), and dislodged three horns (kings) in its rise to power (7:8). The prophetic significance was a king would arise in the midst of what would be the Roman Empire, and rise above other kings to reign (7:19-20). Students of prophecy believe the “little horn” will be the antichrist of the last days, for he is depicted as having “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (indicative of pride, boasting, and blasphemy, 7:8, 11, 20, 25). He will be the enemy of the saints, and will reign for 3.5 years (“a time,” being one year; “and times,” two years; “and the dividing of time,” a half year, 7:25).

Closing thoughts (7: 9-14, 26-28) – The reign of the “little horn” (antichrist) will fail, and be destroyed (7:11, 26), when God, who is “the Ancient of days” sits in judgment (7:9-10).  When Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” descends from “the clouds of heaven” (7:13), the “little horn” (antichrist) will be judged and cast into the lake of fire (7:11; Revelation 19:20). Christ, the “Son of man,” will be sovereign of a perpetual kingdom (7:14, 28; Mark 14:61-62) and will rule the world a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-8). We join Daniel in being overwhelmed by the vision of history that is yet to be (7:28), but resting in the sovereignty of God and His promises.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Belshazzar’s Final Feast: The Party is Over (Daniel 5; Daniel 6)

Scripture reading – Daniel 5; Daniel 6

Our Scripture reading is Daniel 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional will be solely Daniel 5.

I have made the observation how the History of the Nations is “His-Story,” the Story of God’s Sovereignty. The rise of nations, and their precipitous fall serve as a testimony of God’s hand. The ruins of failed nations dot the landscape of the world, and are buried under desert sands, or discovered under the relics of past civilizations. Though leaders of nations boast in their might, they would do well to remember, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Daniel 5 – The Fall of Babylon

Babylon’s rise from a city-state to a world empire comes to a sudden, and decisive end in Daniel 5. The Chaldean kingdom barely spanned a century. Her rise to power under Nebuchadnezzar, and sudden fall under Belshazzar fulfilled God’s prophecies of judgment against Israel and her restoration to the land after 70 years (Isaiah 13:17-22; 21:1-10; 47:1-5; Jeremiah 51:33-58).

The Actions of a Foolish King (5:1-12)

The Scriptures introduce us to Belshazzar without an introduction, whom we believe was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar (5:1). Though he knew the astonishing history of his grandfather and the humiliation he suffered when he scorned the LORD (5:21-22), the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar was a fool and dared to blaspheme the God of heaven. Hosting a banquet for a thousand nobles, the drunken king commanded the gold and silver vessels from the LORD’s Temple be brought to his tables. The king and his guests drank from the sacred vessels (5:2-3) and scorned the Creator of the Universe, toasting their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone” (5:4).

Suddenly, the king spied the “fingers of a man’s hand writing on the plaster of the wall, over by a candlestick” (5:5). Illuminated by the glow of the light, and the sight of a man’s fingers etching words into the plaster of the wall, the king was terrified and visibly shaken (5:6). The demeanor of the king silenced the banquet, as the king summoned the wise men of his realm to come, read, and interpret the words on the wall (5:7). The king offered the reward of a scarlet robe, a golden chain (probably a symbol of authority), and the role of “the third ruler in the kingdom” (his father is believed to have been his co-ruler, 5:7). Yet, none of the wise men could read, or tell the meaning of the words on the wall (5:8).

Though not a part of the drunken revelry, the queen mother of the realm (most likely the wife of the late king Nebuchadnezzar), received news the banquet was interrupted, and came to the hall to see her grandson (5:10). Offering comfort and counsel (5:10-11), the queen reminded Belshazzar there was yet a man of the Hebrews who served Nebuchadnezzar, and had the reputation of being a man of wisdom (5:11). The queen counseled her grandson to summon Daniel, for he had the reputation of being a man with “an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams” (5:12).

The Appeal of a Foolish King (5:13-17)

Belshazzar summoned Daniel, who was now an elderly man, and inquired if he had served Nebuchadnezzar as counselor (5:13-14). Relating to Daniel his own wise men failed him (5:15), the king appealed to the aged prophet to read the writing on the wall, and promised to reward him with a scarlet robe, a gold chain, and promote him to “the third ruler in the kingdom” (5:16). Indifferent to the promise of reward and promotion (for a man of God will not be bought or bribed), Daniel rejected the king’s proposal (5:16-17a). He did, however, assure the king he would read “and make known to him the interpretation” (5:17).

Daniel’s Analysis of the Inscription (5:18-23)

Before he interpreted the words on the wall, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his grandfather had been a great and powerful king, “but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he [had been] deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him” (5:20; 4:23). The humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar lasted seven years, until he humbled himself and acknowledged “the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (5:21).

Daniel then rebuked the king, and said, “thou his son [grandson], O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (5:22). The king had mocked “the Lord of heaven” and taken the vessels that were for His Temple, and blasphemed God (5:23). He had praised idols “of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone” (5:23), though they cannot see, “nor hear, nor know” (5:23). Even though the God of heaven holds man’s breath in His hand, Belshazzar had “not glorified” Him (5:23).

Numbered, Numbered, Wanting, and Broken (5:25-28)

Fulfilling his obligation as prophet, and the king’s messenger, Daniel boldly declared and interpreted the writing on the wall: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (5:25).

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave opportunity to humble himself and repent, there would be no mercy for Belshazzar and his kingdom. He would not escape the judgment of God for his days were numbered and fulfilled; he had been weighed in God’s just scales; and the kingdom would be divided, “and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:27-28).

Closing thoughts (5:29-31) – There was no escape for Belshazzar, for he was guilty: Guilty of pride, Guilty of defying, blaspheming, and profaning God’s name; Guilty of idolatry, and Guilty of failing to honor and acknowledge God as Sovereign.

The foolish king’s final act was to honor the servant of God proclaiming him a ruler of a kingdom that was doomed. He dressed Daniel in a robe of purple, and hanging about his neck a chain of gold, yet, all was for naught (5:29). By diverting the waters of the Euphrates River, the Medes and Persians were already pouring into the city, and that night Babylon would fall and “Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans [was] slain” (5:30).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.