Tag Archives: Sanctification

Overcoming Your Critics! (Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

Seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first Jews captive to Babylon, God had moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the people to their land (Ezra 1:1-2).

Mount Moriah, the place where the Temple was being rebuilt, had been strewn with the rubble of Solomon’s Temple for nearly fifty years. That glorious place, once called the “house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1) and served as a physical reminder of God’s presence among His chosen people; had become a testimony of God’s judgment against Israel for breaking covenant by disobeying God’s Laws and Commandments.

As we come to today’s Scripture reading (Ezra 4-6), we find the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem, encountering both disappointment and discouragement. “The ancient men, that had seen the first [Temple],” perhaps remembering the glory of the previous Temple, “wept with a loud voice” (3:12). There were also enemies without who were determined to stop the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1).

Reminding us only two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had accepted King Cyrus’ proclamation that they were free to return to their homeland, we read, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Under the pretense of friendship, non-Israelite enemies who had been resettled in Israel by Assyria, came to Zerubbabel (perhaps identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2).

Evidencing godly wisdom and discernment, Zerubbabel and other leaders of Israel, answered, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their opposition, those same enemies continued their antagonism for sixteen long years (Ezra 4:7-23; Haggai 1:1) and “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (4:4).

Ezra 4 reminds us that when God’s people are doing God’s work they will face opposition.  Israel’s enemies employed four methods of discouraging and hindering God’s work.

The first, they suggested Assimilation, an unholy alliance, a partnership that God would not have blessed (4:2-3). Zerubbabel recognized his enemies for who they were, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (4:1)! In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul stated the principle Zerubbabel employed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Aggravation was a second means Israel’s enemies employed in opposing the work on the Temple. Ezra and the leaders of Israel were strong and confident when they first confronted their adversaries (4:3); however, as time passed, “the people of the land weakened [made them weak and feeble] the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled[terrified; paralyze with fear] them in building, 5And hired counsellors [advisers; consultants; conspirators] against them, to frustrate [to cause to cease; bring to an end] their purpose” (4:4-5).

The enemy discouraged Israel with Adjudication, challenging the legality and legitimacy of the work on the Temple (4:6-10).

Fourthly, Israel’s adversaries prepared Accusations: Deception, suggesting the Jews were “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12); Distortion, attacking the character and integrity of God’s people (4:13); and Deceit, questioning their motives (4:15).

Dear friend, there will always be critics. Some people have a negative, critical outlook on life. They can become a constant source of discouragement and if you allow them, they will hinder your service and God’s work. There are many who are spectators, not participators; they are watchers, and not workers.

Take a moment and reread Ezra 3:12-13 and notice the ones who were weeping as they remembered the past, and those who were shouting for joy and living in the triumph of the moment.

It was the “ancient men” (3:12), the “priests and Levites and chief of the fathers,” who were looking back and weeping. Old friend, memories can be cherished and pleasing; however, they can also turn you into nothing more than an old critic.

I challenge you who are faithfully serving the LORD, Be Not Discouraged!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Daniel: A Model of Godly Character, Integrity and Courage” (Daniel 1-3)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1-3

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history, beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar and ancient Babylon and encompassing a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow…Medo-Persians, Greece and Rome.  Daniel’s writing includes prophecies that are for the 21st century reader a footnote in history past and a foretelling of future events that conclude with the Second Coming of Christ. Today’s devotional commentary will be taken from Daniel 1.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account and one we are familiar with from our earlier study of 2 Kings 24:12-16. The children of Judah are in Babylonian bondage, and the beloved city of Jerusalem, and the Temple will soon be laid waste (2 Kings 25).  The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings if the people did not repent of their sin and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon [God] will visit you… causing you to return to this place [the promise land]” (Jeremiah 29:10).

Daniel was probably no more than 13-14 years old when he was taken from his home and transported to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, instituted a plan and chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth that they might serve him in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was numbered among those youth who were without blemish, handsome, discerning, cunning, and “understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:4).

Daniel soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a child of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7). Leading by example and conviction, we read,

Daniel 1:8 – “But Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself.”

Daniel purposed: He pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).

What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work and He blessed Daniel and providentially “brought [him] into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince[chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined), they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

We will see in our study, that the testing of Daniel’s faith in his youth prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

I close inviting you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive and sensitive heart to authority: He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); he was sincere in his appeal (1:12); he was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); and he was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

We would do well to weigh our spirit, manner, and relationship with the authorities in our lives, using Daniel as perfect example of a young man of faith and convictions.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Missing Veil (Ezekiel 40-42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 40-42

Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart to build a new temple (the last was destroyed in 70 A.D.) and worship the LORD. The Temple described in today’s Scripture reading is the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom. Ezekiel 40-42 gives us the plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the Millennial Temple.

Ezekiel 40 – A Vision of a New Jerusalem and the Temple

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years and the time of the vision recorded in Ezekiel 40 is in the “five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).  Ezekiel has been in captivity for 25 years, and 14 years had passed since Jerusalem was destroyed (40:1).

The LORD sent an angelic messenger whom Ezekiel described as “a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass” (40:3). The messenger held in his hand a “line of flax” (a tape measure) and a “measuring reed of six cubits long” (40:3, 5). While there is some debate regarding the exact length of a cubit, we will accept the traditional definition of one cubit being 18 inches in length.

The measurement of the outer court of the Temple is given (40:5-26), along with the measurement of the inner court (40:27-47). Ezekiel noticed there were rooms used to prepare sacrifices (40:32-38), and butcher tables that were used to prepare meats (40:39-43).

Ezekiel 40:48-41:26 – The Outer and Inner Sanctuaries of the Temple

The Temple in Ezekiel’s vision had a large portico (porch) measuring thirty-five feet long and its width twenty-one feet (41:2). The Outer Sanctuary of the Temple measured seventy feet by thirty-five feet (41:1-2). The Inner Sanctuary, known as the Holy of Holies, was a perfect square measuring thirty-five feet by thirty-five feet and its walls were ten and one-half feet thick (41:3-5).

The side chambers of the Temple were three stories tall with a winding staircase leading to the upward floors. Thirty rooms were on each floor of the chambers (41:6-11).

Ezekiel 41:16-26 records the Temple decorations, furnishings, and the design of the doorframes. Remembering this is the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, I invite you to consider there is one item missing in this Temple that was essential in Moses’ Tabernacle, and in Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod’s Temples.

Notice there is no mention of the Veil that separated the Outer Sanctuary of the Tabernacle and the Temple from the Inner Sanctuary known as the Holy of Holies.

The veil in the Temple separated the outer court from the Holy of Holies where was found the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat symbolizing the throne and presence of God. The veil represented man’s separation from God. Only the High Priest could enter into the Holy Place, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 26:33).

We read in Matthew’s account of Christ’s death on the Cross: “When he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51).

Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection removed the veil that separated sinful man from God. We, by faith in Christ, have access into the presence of God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

Hebrews 10:19-20 – “19  Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20  By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“For Whom the LORD Loveth He Chasteneth” (Ezekiel 23-24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23-24

Our Scripture reading brings us to the final crisis that Ezekiel has long warned would come: The final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved capital city of Judah and all Israel. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Ezekiel 23.

Ezekiel 23 – A Tale of Two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah

The account of the final days before the fall of Jerusalem and the eradication of both Israel and Judah as nations, is vivid and graphic (23:1-2). In Ezekiel 23 we have the description of Israel and Judah symbolically represented as two sisters who had committed spiritual “whoredoms in Egypt…in their youth” (23:3).

Aholah, identified as the elder sister, was a symbolical name for the nation of Israel (identified in this passage as Samaria, the capital city of the ten northern tribes). Aholibah was the younger of the sisters and was a symbolical name for Judah, the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem (23:4).

Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) are portrayed as sisters who had rebelled, broken covenant with the LORD, and turned to other lovers (i.e. alliances with other nations). Aholah (Israel), awed by the strength and power of Assyria had made an alliance with that nation and turned from the LORD (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). Aholibah (Judah), Aholah’s sister, had sought alliance with Assyria  and also courted the favor of Chaldea (Babylon). King Hezekiah had foolishly displayed to Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassadors the wealth and treasuries of his palace and the Temple (23:11-21; Isaiah 39:1-8).

When Aholibah (Judah) realized the evil intent of Chaldea (Babylon), she appealed to Egypt for aid, but to no avail (23:21; 2 Kings 23:26-30, 31-24:2). Thus, the “lovers,” Assyria and Chaldea, had ravaged both Israel and Judah with their “chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people,” and stripped those nations bare of their wealth and people (23:22-29). God’s judgment against His people and the devastation of Israel and Judah would be an astonishment to the nations who would scorn and disparage them (23:32).

What sins had Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) committed against the LORD that would justify so great a judgment? (23:37-49)

The judgment of Israel and Judah was just because those nations had broken their covenant with God and committed spiritual adultery (23:37). The people had defiled the Temple with idols, forsaken their Sabbaths (23:38), and committed the ultimate act of wickedness and depravity: They had sacrificed their children to Moloch, and on the same day entered the Temple to worship (23:39; note Ezekiel 16:21).

The destruction of Israel and Judah was set and the horror of the people’s sufferings had been determined (23:47). The final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had begun and the days were numbered.

Ezekiel 24:2 – Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.

Why did God chasten and punish His people? Not only because He loved them, but so they would know He is “the LORD GOD” (23:49).

Hebrews 12:6 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Prophetic Pictures of God’s Judgment Against Judah (Ezekiel 16-17)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 16-17

With the elders of Israel serving as his audience (note 14:1), the LORD revealed to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of judgment (Ezekiel 15-17).  The first was a vine (15:1-8), often a symbol of Israel in the scriptures (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1).  The destruction of the vine by fire was a prophetic picture of God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah (15:6-8).

Ezekiel 16

The second prophetic picture portrayed Israel as an abused woman whom the LORD out of His mercy chose to be His wife (16:1-7), and out of His love and grace showered her with jewels and fine robes (16:8-14). Rather than loving and serving her husband out of gratitude, the wife repaid her husband’s favor by heaping shame and humiliation on him with her gross immorality.

Like the unfaithful wife, Israel had turned from the LORD Who had chosen her.  The sins committed by Israel are staggering and the evidence of her wickedness are numbered by Ezekiel. God’s people had played the harlot (16:15-16), made idols (16:17), and offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to idols (16:20-21).

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

Having stated the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel was charged with declaring God’s judgment (16:35-43).  The nations (“thy lovers”, vs. 36) with whom Israel had compromised would despise her and be the instruments God would use to punish His people. Israel’s sin and rebellion against God was greater than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah because the people had enjoyed God’s favor, but despised Him, rejected His Law, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52).  In spite of the nation’s wickedness, God promised to not forget His covenant with Israel and to restore her (16:53-63).

Ezekiel 17

The third picture of God’s judgment against Israel was a riddle of two eagles and three vine shoots (i.e. “twigs”) planted in Israel (17:1-24).  As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, were pictures of Israel; while Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon was pictured as an eagle. The prophet Jeremiah writes concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “he shall fly as an eagle” (Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22).

Leaving no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar is the eagle and Israel and her king are the objects of God’s approaching judgment, we read: “Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon” (Ezekiel 17:12).

In spite of the utter destruction and devastation Jerusalem and Judah would face, the LORD promised to take a “twig” and replant it in Israel (17:22-23), and exalt “the low tree” (17:24).

Bible scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the “twig” represents the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as the King of kings and LORD of lords.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Good Things, and Why You Should Embrace Them (Lamentations 3-5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 3-5

Jeremiah’s lamentations take on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. While today’s Scripture reading is Laminations 3-5, today’s devotional commentary will be limited to chapter 3.

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah has lived to see all that he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poorest people after Babylon conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, the prophet gazes out upon a scene of devastation. The Temple has been destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem have fallen.

Lamentations 3:1-21 is a testimony of the prophet’s afflictions.

Alienated from God, the heavy burden of discipline upon him, Jeremiah felt as though the LORD had turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed in his distress, but felt as though God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). In his sorrows, the prophet felt trapped, abandoned, wounded in heart (3:9-13). Mocked by his own people (3:14) and nearly overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18), Jeremiah was despairing of life (3:19) until he turned his focus from his circumstances to the LORD (3:20-21).

Lamentations 3:21-66 – Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that are the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace]that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases].
23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness[steadfastness].”

Jeremiah continues, “The LORD is good [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good;” however, notice there is a twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of God.

1) First, we must learn to “wait [hope] for Him” (3:25a).

It is easy to counsel others to be patient and wait on the LORD; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.

Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you have been hurt?  To wait when you are ill?  Do you wait on the LORD when you have been mistreated or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait on the LORD when a loved one makes choices that grieve your heart?  “Patience is a virtue,” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply. Jeremiah’s counsel in the midst of deep distress is “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

2) Second, we must truly “seek Him” (3:25b).

What does it mean to seek the LORD? Be diligent to search Him out by reading, inquiring, and meditating in His Word. To seek the LORD one must obey His Law and Commandments, and follow His will (3:40; Jeremiah 29:13)

I close inviting you to consider the things that are said to be “good[pleasant; beautiful; right; pleasing] in Lamentations 3:26-27.

Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”

It is good for a believer to “hope” (3:26a). This “hope” is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul.  It is hope that awaits with anticipation God’s answer to prayer. It is hope that springs from faith that is predicated on the knowledge that God hears and answers prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises.

It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait in silence. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  (I fear the pews of churches are filled with many who are neither patient or quiet!)

Thirdly, it is good when a son bears the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). 

Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”

In the midst of his own afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged that it is a good thing when young men bear the yoke of manhood with its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Many parents coddle their youth and insulate them from a harsh reality: Life can be difficult, even harsh, but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. 

Lesson – Parents rob children of a “good” thing when they fail to make them bear the burdens, blessings, and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Persecute God’s Messenger, But You Do So at Your Peril! (Jeremiah 32-34)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 32-34

17_Weigel Engraving _Hananiah & Jeremiah 28
Emory Pitts Theology archives

In Jeremiah 27, the prophet had been commanded by the LORD to, “Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck” (27:2) and was commanded to go to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyrus, and finally to King Zedekiah of Judah, and warn them their lands and people would all become servants to “Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant” (27:6).

Notice that Nebuchadnezzar was the LORD’s “servant” (27:6). Though driven by his own passion for power and riches, the truth was that the king of Babylon was being used by God to further His divine plan of chastening for the sins of Judah.

In spite of Judah’s sins and the coming seventy years of Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah assured the people that the LORD would not forget His covenant and would restore them to their land (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Today’s devotional commentary will focus primarily on Jeremiah 32.

Jeremiah 32 – What became of Jeremiah, the LORD’s messenger, and his prophecy?

Rather than heed Jeremiah’s admonition, King Zedekiah “shut him up” (32:3), literally and physically!  As the army of Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem, Jeremiah was “shut up in the court of the prison” (32:2).  Despising the prophet’s message from the LORD (32:1), the king of Judah scorned God’s messenger and treated Jeremiah with disdainfully (32:3-5).

As an act of faith in God’s promise that Judah would be restored to her land after the captivity, Jeremiah purchased a field in Judah from his cousin Hanamel (32:6-8). Purchasing land when Jerusalem was facing imminent destruction was foolish from a human perspective; however, the prophet’s actions served as a testimony that he was confident that the LORD would restore His people to their land after the Babylonian captivity (32:9-15).

Jeremiah 32:15 – “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.”

Jeremiah 32:16-25 – Jeremiah’s Prayer of Faith

Remembering Jeremiah was still imprisoned by King Zedekiah while the siege of Jerusalem was underway, the prophet meditated on the greatness of the LORD, remembering God is Creator (32:17), Merciful (32:18), “the Great, the Mighty God, [and] the LORD of hosts” (32:18).

The LORD’S counsel (i.e. purpose) is great and He is mighty in His works (32:19). He knows the ways of man and He is just, rewarding every man according to His works (32:19; 2 Corinthians 5:10). He is the God of miracles (32:20-22). He remembers His covenants with His people (32:23), but because Israel and Judah had rejected His Law and Commandments, the LORD had delivered them over to be chastened under the oppression of the Chaldeans (32:24-25).

Jeremiah 32:26-44 – God’s Judgment Will Not Fail; His Promises Are Sure

The LORD rehearsed with Jeremiah the sorrow that was to come upon the people because of the sins of Israel and Judah (32:26-44).  Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the city of Jerusalem with fire and the people would suffer disease and famine (32:26-29).  God remembered the wickedness and idolatry of the people (32:30-34) and how they had sacrificed their sons and daughters to Molech (32:35).

The LORD had determined that Jerusalem would be destroyed and His people would be captives; however, He would remember His covenant and promise to return them to their land (32:36-44)

Jeremiah 33 – A Message of Hope and Comfort: The Messiah King is Coming

Jeremiah 34 – The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Captivity of King Zedekiah

I close remembering the disdain King Zedekiah and the people had for Jeremiah.

And such is the fate of many who serve as God’s messengers and faithfully declare His Word. “ For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“I Have Loved Thee With An Everlasting Love” (Jeremiah 30-31)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 30-31

The focus of today’s devotional commentary is Jeremiah 30.

The timeline for Jeremiah 30 follows Babylon conquering all of Judah with one exception, Jerusalem, the capital city. Many of the inhabitants of Judah are already captives in Babylon and the fear, suffering, and despair they feel on behalf of Jerusalem is almost overwhelming.

When all seemed lost, the LORD came to Jeremiah and commanded him to write in a book a word of hope (30:1-2). The prophecies recorded in Jeremiah 30-31 had not only an immediate implication that would be fulfilled in seventy years (29:10), but also a future hope that would be fulfilled following “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (30:7).

Jeremiah 30 – A Message of Comfort and Hope

The first prophecy was a promise of a day of restoration when both Israel and Judah would be restored to their land. With the exception of Israel and Judah, the populations of all other ancient nations have been assimilated into the populations of their captors. God, however, kept His Covenant promise to preserve the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12). The LORD assured His people, “I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah…I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” (30:3).

Jeremiah also foretold a day of great judgment (30:4-7). A terrible, foreboding time of sorrow, terror, war and famine (30:5). In the immediate, the days described led up to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and Jerusalem’s destruction. However, in the future, prophetic sense it is a period Christ described in the New Testament as the “Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:21-31; Mark 13:19-27). Though Israel would be hated of all nations, God promised Israel, “he [Israel] shall be saved out of it” (30:7).

A day of salvation is also foretold (30:7c-11). The yoke of servitude Israel would bear in the Babylonian captivity, the LORD promised, “I will break his [Babylon’s] yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve [i.e. enslave] themselves of him [enslave Israel]” (30:8). Faithful to His promise, seventy years would pass (25:11-12) and God’s people would be freed by Cyrus king of Persia, to return to their homeland where they would rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-3) and Jerusalem.

Jeremiah also prophesied of a future day when Israel would “serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I [the LORD] will raise up unto them” (30:9). This Messianic promise will be fulfilled at the close of the Great Tribulation when Christ returns to reign in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom. Although still future, the LORD promised Israel and Judah, “I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee” (30:11).

God promised His divine protection of His people, assuring them that those nations that have oppressed Israel and taken them captive, will themselves be oppressed and destroyed (30:16).

The LORD promised His people, “I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds” (30:17). In that day, Jerusalem will be rebuilt (30:18) and God’s people will give thanks and rejoice (30:19) and the LORD will say, “ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (30:22).

I will close today’s devotional commentary with a beautiful, poetic expression of God’s love for His people. Promising His grace and repeating His promise to renew His covenant with Israel, which the people had broken in their wickedness, we read,

Jeremiah 31:1, 3 – “I [will] be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people… I have loved thee [Israel] with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (31:1, 3).

Though Israel had broken their covenant with the LORD, God never stopped loving His people and promised He would one day reconcile them to Himself.

How is it possible for a sinner to be reconciled to God? By faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, His death, and bodily resurrection from the grave!

Romans 5:8-10 – “8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe be Unto the Pastors” (Jeremiah 23-25)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 23-25

Jeremiah 23:1-2 – A Denouncement of Unfaithful Pastors

As a pastor, I find the opening verses of Jeremiah 23 disturbing. “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (23:1).  In addition to priests, numbered among the “pastors” were most likely the king and civil servants of his realm. Rather than benevolent men who shepherded the people in love and obedience to God’s Word, the pastors had abused and scattered the people. They had failed to “visit,” meaning to shepherd, oversee, or care for the people (23:2).

Jeremiah 23:3-8 – The Messiah King and the Millennial Kingdom

The LORD did not leave Judah without hope, and declared a day when “the remnant of my flock” (Israel and Judah) would be gathered “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (23:3). In that day, the LORD promised to appoint spiritual “shepherds…which shall feed [His people]: and they shall fear no more…neither shall they be lacking” (23:4).

Leaving no doubt who will be King in the Messianic Kingdom, we read, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).

Who is this “righteous branch” of David’s lineage of David? (23:5) Only one man could fulfill this prophecy and He would be the Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-5:11).

Though Israel exists as a nation today, it is not righteous and its government is secular. There is no king who is of David’s lineage or reigns in righteousness. However, when Christ comes as Judge and conquering King, He will gather His people to their land from “out of the north country, and from all countries” where they have been scattered (23:8).

Jeremiah 23:9-32 – The False Prophets and Their Error

Knowing the judgment that His people would suffer, Jeremiah writes, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets” (23:9). False prophets had become the curse of the nation, and in a searing indictment of their sins, Jeremiah identified the ungodly character of the false prophets and their effect on the people: “The land is full of adulterers” (23:10) and the prophet and priest were hypocrites, “profane,” polluted and corrupt (23:11, 23:13).

The sins of the nation were so egregious that the LORD likened them to “Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (23:14).  Engrossed in their sins and lacking spiritual discernment, the people believed the assurances of the false prophets who said, “No evil shall come upon you” (23:17). The LORD, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (23:21).

Jeremiah 23:33-36 – Judah’s Contempt for God’s Message and Messenger

Embracing the lies of false priests and prophets, the people ridiculed God’s prophet. The LORD instructed Jeremiah, when the people, their prophets and priests ask, “What is the burden of the LORD?” (23:33), he was to say, the “burden of the LORD” was that He had forsaken them (23:33b).

Jeremiah 23 concludes with a stern warning to any who pretended to bear “the burden of the LORD” as His messenger:

Jeremiah 23:39b-40 – “I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: 40  And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.”

James states a similar warning to preachers and teachers of God’s Word (James 3:1).

James 3:1 – “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers; instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater [larger; greatest] condemnation [judgment; punishment; i.e. sentence].”

The work of the preacher is a great calling, as is the opportunity of teaching God’s Word. Whether a pastor or a lay Bible teacher, it is a privilege to teach God’s Word; however, we dare not treat it lightly for we will face the greater judgment.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Word Will Endure and His Judgment Will Not Fail (Jeremiah 18-22)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 18-22

We continue in our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah with our Scripture reading being chapters 18-22. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Jeremiah 18.

Jeremiah 18:1-10 – The Potter’s House

The setting of Jeremiah 18 is “the potter’s house” (18:1-3).  God commanded Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house and observe the potter as he fashioned lumps of clay on the potter’s wheel. (A potter’s wheel consisted of two horizontal disks joined by a rod; the lower disk the potter moved with his feet and the upper disk was the surface on which the artisan shaped lumps of clay into vessels.)

The prophet observed the potter fashioning two vessels with his hands.  The first is described as “marred” (18:4), perhaps because a pebble or some other flaw was present in the clay. After removing the impurity, the potter then crushed the clay and began again fashioning the lump into a new vessel that “seemed good” (18:4).

For Jeremiah, the work of the potter was a portrait of the LORD who described Himself as having chosen the nation of Israel as a potter chooses clay (18:5-6).  God asked Israel, “cannot I do with you as this potter?” (18:6), leaving no doubt the implication of the potter’s work with the clay. God warned the potter’s work with the clay was a metaphor of His sovereign authority to “pluck up…pull down…[and] destroy” (18:7) the nation because of its disobedience.

Though He had determined to judge the nation for its sins, God assured the people of His love and mercy if they would “turn from their evil” (18:8). Like the clay yielded to the potter’s hands to be reshaped and fashioned for his purpose, the LORD longed to restore Israel to Himself and bless the nation (18:10).

Jeremiah 18:11-17 – Judah’s Irrational Decision to Reject the LORD

The LORD commanded Jeremiah to go to the people and warn them that God had determined to judge them if they continued in their sins (18:10). Rather than fearing the LORD and repenting, the people rejected His invitation saying, “There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart” (18:12).

The foolishness of rejecting the LORD’s mercy was astounding! God appealed to Jeremiah to tell the people to consider how reckless, how unreasonable they were to reject the LORD (18:13-15). Judah had set upon a ruinous path following after gods that were not gods at all (18:15). The ruins of Judah’s lands and villages would be a lasting testimony of God’s judgment, and other nations would look with wonder upon the ruins of her lands and villages (18:16). The LORD would turn His face from His people and they would be taken captive and scattered (18:17).

Jeremiah 18:18-23 – Judah Rejected the Message and the Messenger and Jeremiah Prayed for Justice and Vengeance

Rather than heed the warning of God’s prophet, the people were emboldened in their sin and boasted they had their own priest, wise men, and prophet (18:18a). Angered by Jeremiah’s boldness, they plotted against him saying, “Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words” (18:18b).

Hearing the plots against him and the pit his enemies had prepared to entrap him, Jeremiah prayed to the LORD, “Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them” (18:20).

Realizing how entrenched the people were in their sin and their resolve to continue in their wickedness, Jeremiah prayed not only that he would be vindicated as the LORD’S prophet, but that the God’s judgment would proceed as He had determined (18:21-23).

Take heart dear friend, for God is faithful to His promises. His justice will not fail, and He hears and answers the prayers of the righteous.

Matthew 5:18 – “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith