Tag Archives: Sanctification

Discouragement: The Devil’s Favorite Tool (Ezra 4; Ezra 5)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4; Ezra 5

With the foundation of the Temple laid, the air was filled with the sound of trumpets and cymbals, and the people “sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel” (3:11). The shouts of the younger generation, mingled with the tears of the “ancient men” (3:12), were “heard afar off” (3:13). Unbeknown to the people, their adversaries heard the noise of the celebration, and determined to halt the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1). Ezra wrote, “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).

Ezra 4 – Four Methods the Enemy Employed to Discourage God’s People (4:1-16)

On the pretense of friendship, the adversaries came to Zerubbabel (whom I believe was identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”), and suggested Assimilation. These enemies had been a part of the Assyrian policy to resettle a conquered land with people of other nations. Though they were a wicked, idolatrous people, they said to Zerubbabel, “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). Zerubbabel and Jeshua, joined by “the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel” (4:3), rejected the pretext of assimilation, saying, “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 desire to hinder rebuilding the Temple, the enemies began a campaign of Aggravation (4:4-5). As time passed, “the people of the land [foreigners occupying Judah’s land] weakened the hands [the resolve] of the people of Judah, and troubled [terrified] them in building” (4:4). They even “hired counsellors [conspirators; agitators] against them, to frustrate their purpose” (4:5).

When assimilation and aggravation failed to stop the work on the Temple, the enemy turned to Adjudication, and addressed a letter to the king of Persia, and challenged the legality and legitimacy of the work to rebuild the Temple (4:6-10).

When all else failed, the adversaries of the people made a fourth attempt to impede the work on the Temple, and brought false Accusations against the Jews. The enemy employed two tactics in their spurious charges against the Jews: Deception; though the people were building the Temple, the enemy charged them with “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12). The second tactic was Distortion, for the enemy questioned the integrity of God’s people, and implied the Jews were rebuilding the fortress of Jerusalem to the end they might rebel (4:13-15). The false accusations against the Jews were so serious, they eventually moved the king to send a letter to Jerusalem that demanded the work cease (4:23-24).

Closing thoughts – The antagonism and unrelenting attacks of their adversaries not only discouraged the people, but eventually halted the work on the Temple. Succumbing to spiritual lethargy, it seemed the enemies of Judah and Benjamin had succeeded. The work on the Temple ceased for 15 long years (Haggai 1:2-11), and the jubilation of Ezra 3, turned to sorrow and discouragement (4:24).

Lesson – Of all the implements in the devil’s toolbox, the most effective is discouragement. Believer, faithful servants of the LORD will always have detractors. Sadly, there are some in the church who feel their calling is to be a critic (by the way, they are usually the ones sitting on the sidelines of ministry).

Ezra 5

The work on the Temple had ceased, but the LORD had an answer for discouragement: He sent His prophets! “Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, [who] prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them” (5:1). Haggai preached messages that convicted (Haggai 1:5, 7, 9-11), while Zechariah preached messages of comfort and exhortation [dreams and visions]. Stirred by the prophets of God, Zerubbabel and Jeshua returned to the work, and “began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (5:2).

Closing thoughts – No sooner had the work on the Temple begun, than the adversaries returned, asking, “Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?” (5:3). Recognizing there was nothing they could do or say to appease their adversaries, the men working on the Temple answered the question with their own question: “What are the names of the men that make this building?” (5:4) Stated in another way: What business is it of yours, who has commanded us to build? We do not see your name on the list of contractors!

The elders of the people determined they would not be stopped from building the house of the Lord. They were confident “the eye of their God was upon” them (5:5). Once again, their enemies accused the Jews to the king (5:4-5). Unwittingly, they gave him cause to search the historical records of the kings of Persia, remembering the decree of a Persian king could not be rescinded (5:6-17).

As you will see, the tide will turn in Ezra 6 when the enemies opposed to rebuilding the Temple, will be forced to finance it with their own offerings.

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.

What Does God Require? Cool or Holy Ministers? (Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42

Our consideration of the new Temple of the Millennial Kingdom continues with a description of the outer and inner sanctuaries of the Temple (Ezekiel 41-42). Rather than belabor the dimensional details of the Temple (height, length, breadth), I will highlight the various aspects of the Temple grounds that includes the walls, doors, courtyards, buildings, and the Temple itself.

The Outer Sanctuary of the Millennial Temple (40:48-41:26)

The heavenly messenger led Ezekiel up the steps and through the portico of the Temple (40:48-49), and into the outer sanctuary (41:1-2) which measured 70 feet long and was 35 feet wide (41:2).

The Inner Sanctuary – “The Most Holy Place” (41:3-5)

The inner sanctuary was a perfect square that measured 35 feet by 35 feet. Unlike the Tabernacle and the earlier Temples (Solomon’s, and Zerubbabel’s built after the Babylonian captivity, and Herod’s Temple), the Millennial Temple did not have a veil that separated the inner sanctuary from the outer sanctuary.

Other Details of the Temple (41:6-26)

Ezekiel noticed there were side rooms of the Temple that stood three stories, with 30 rooms on each floor (41:6). Connecting the floors was a winding staircase that extended from the ground floor to the upper floors (41:7). The foundation of the Temple was elevated, and stood 10.5 feet high (41:8). There was a separate building at the west end of the Temple, but its use was not identified (41:12). The measurement of the Temple was 175 feet square (41:13-15).

The Décor of the Temple (41:16-21)

The walls, floor and ceiling of the Temple were covered with wood, as were the long, narrow windows (41:16-17). The walls of the Temple were of paneled wood (41:17), and were carved with an alternating pattern of cherubim and palm trees (41:18-20).

Before going further, let’s visit the subject of the missing veil. Beginning with the Tabernacle and continuing through the Temple era, a veil separated the outer court of the sanctuary from the innermost room of the Temple known as the Holy of Holies (also the “Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place”). The veil represented a barrier of separation that was between sinful man and God who is holy. It served the purpose of preventing men from seeing or entering into the presence of God (Exodus 26:31-35). When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, the veil was torn from the top to the bottom, for His sacrifice removed the barrier between God and sinners (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-23; 1 Peter 3:18).

The Furniture of the Temple (41:21-26)

The tabernacle and earlier Temples were furnished with the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, upon which there were two cherubim that faced one another (all gold-plated, Exodus 25:10; 37:1-9). This was the place of God’s presence on earth. In the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, only a wood altar (perhaps used for burning incense), 3.5 feet square, and standing 5.25 feet tall was found in the most holy place (41:22).  Double doors served as the panel between the outer and inner sanctuary (41:23-24).  Carved cherubim and palm trees decorated the panels of the doors, and the narrow windows were decorated with palm trees and wood overhangings (41:25-26).

Ezekiel 42 – Buildings for the Priests (note 40:44-46)

Located in the outer court of the Temple, and against the wall of the inner court, were buildings for priests. We are given the dimensions of the buildings (42:2-3), as well as the fact they stood three stories tall (42:3b). The upper floors of the buildings were narrower than the first, making room for walkways (42:4-6). A wall separated the priests’ building from the outer court (42:7-9). On the south side of the Temple was a second building for the priests, and its dimensions were identical to the first (42:10-12).

The Purpose of the Priests’ Buildings (42:13-14)

The buildings for the priests provided a place to prepare for their ministry in the Temple. They were described as “holy chambers” (42:13), for there the priests prepared to minister before the LORD. It was in the “holy chambers” that food offerings were stored, and to be eaten (42:13). This was also the place the priests were to change out of their priestly “garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people” (42:14). The priests were not to wear their priestly robes outside the Temple complex. Also, they were not to wear the clothes of their secular lives when ministering for the LORD in His holy Temple.

Closing thoughts (42:15-20) – Our study concludes with the angelic messenger leading Ezekiel out the east gate, where he measured the wall that surrounded the Temple area. It was perfectly squared, with the north, south, east, and west walls being 5,250 feet in length (42:15-20). The outer wall of the Temple complex provided a separation between the world, and God and His holy Temple.

The Holiness of God and the Doctrine of Separation – I suggest the overriding lesson from today’s study is the reminder God is Holy, and deserves and demands we be the same. Today’s churches advertise, “come as you are,” and even pastors have succumbed to being “cool” and wearing ripped jeans, and even shorts. While the clothes of the priests reminded everyone the LORD required holiness (Leviticus 20:7), it appears that preachers and believers of this generation are more interested in looking “cool” than they are in being holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

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 Temple of the Millennial Kingdom (Ezekiel 40)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 40

I have suggested in earlier devotionals that Ezekiel, and perhaps Daniel, were among the first captives taken from Judah and to Babylon when king Jehoiachin was removed from his throne. Ezekiel dated the time and year of his visions, with Jehoiachin’s captivity, and therefore I believe his own.

Ezekiel 40 – Israel’s Glorious Future

The vision recorded in Ezekiel 40 comes 25 years after Ezekiel received his first vision (he was 30 years old at the time (1:1), and it was the “fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity” 1:2). We can determine the prophet was 55 years old, and Israel’s captivity would last another 45 years when the vision of the new Temple occurred (Ezekiel 40:1-2).

The Vision and a Heavenly Messenger (40:2-4)

In Ezekiel’s vision, he was taken “into the land of Israel” to a “very high mountain” from which he was able to observe the rebuilding of Jerusalem (40:2). The LORD sent a man whose appearance gives us the opinion he was an angelic messenger, for his appearance was like bronze (40:3a). In the man’s hand was a line of twine and a measuring rod (40:3b). Ezekiel was instructed, “Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (40:4).

The Temple of the Millennial Kingdom (40:5-26)

In his vision, Ezekiel followed his heavenly guide through a gate that entered into the outer court of the Temple. They passed through the East Gate and the wall that secured the outer court of the Temple (40:5). The verses that followed were a schematic of the dimensions of the outer court of the Temple, and described the porches, doorways, windows, and chambers, giving the dimensions by cubits (a cubit believed to be 18 inches).

Inner Courtyard of the Temple in the Millennial Kingdom (40:27-47)

Ezekiel, accompanying his heavenly messenger, observed the man as he directed the prophet to record the measurements of the inner courtyard of the Temple, including the palm trees that adorned the posts, and the steps that led into the Temple (40:27-37).

Within the inner courtyard, Ezekiel observed various “chambers” (rooms), with doorways and porches. He noticed eight tables made of hewn stone for slaying and washing the animals for the burnt offering, sin offering, and the trespass offering (40:38-40). The other four hewn stone tables served as a place “whereupon also they laid the instruments wherewith they slew the burn offering and the sacrifice” (40:41-42). On the walls of those rooms were hooks, where the flesh of the offerings was hanged that all the blood might drain from the flesh (40:43).

Apartments for the Priests (40:44-46)

In the inner courtyard, were rooms dedicated to the Temple singers (40:44). Facing toward the south was another compartment that was used for priests who served as “keepers” or guards of the Temple (40:45). At the south gate, and facing northward was another apartment that was used by the priests in charge of the sacrifices and who served the altar (40:46).

The Temple (40:48-49)

Following his heavenly messenger, Ezekiel was led up the steps to the porch entrance of the Temple (40:48), and the entrance to the outer sanctuary of the Temple (40:49).

Closing thoughts – Ezekiel’s record of his vision of the Temple will continue through chapter 41 and will include the inner sanctuary of the Temple, “The Most Holy Place” (41:4).

I close today’s devotional reflecting on the gates and doors of the Temple, and the analogy the LORD drew of Himself when He taught His disciples: “I am the door of the sheep… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 10:7; 14:6)

The only way of salvation is through Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death for your sins, and resurrection from the dead. There is no other way to enter heaven, and into the presence of God than through Jesus Christ. Is He your Savior?

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.

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Comfort in Times of Sorrow (Jeremiah 28; Jeremiah 29)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 28; Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah prophesied the utter destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, and the captivity that would remove the people to Babylon, leaving Judah a desolate land (27:19-22). There were false prophets who offered comfort to the people, saying all that Jeremiah had prophesied would not come to pass (27:16). Nevertheless, the prophet faithfully declared what would come to pass, and warned the people would be “carried to Babylon” where they would serve “seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; 29:10).

Jeremiah 28

The time of Jeremiah 28 is during the reign of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah (28:1). The setting is the Temple, and there a false prophet named Hananiah dared rebuke Jeremiah. Bearing the yoke the LORD commanded him to fashion as a symbol of Judah’s bondage to Babylon (27:2), Jeremiah listened as Hananiah claimed to speak for the LORD (28:2). Contradicting the prophet, Hananiah falsely prophesied the LORD had said, “I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon” (28:3). Giving the people false hope, Hananiah prophesied king Jeconiah would return to Judah, and Babylon would be defeated (28:4-5).

Jeremiah answered Hananiah’s false prophecy with “Amen” (28:6), for he longed to see Hananiah’s prophecy fulfilled (28:6-9). Yet, he reminded the people, the test of whether or not a prophet is of the LORD is if his prophecies come to pass (28:7-9).

Angered by Jeremiah’s rebuke, Hananiah rose up and broke Jeremiah’s yoke, and mocked the prophet. He went on to repeat his false prophesy, and claimed Babylon’s yoke on Judah would be broken in two years (28:10-11).  Rather than answer the prophet’s lies, Jeremiah departed the Temple, only to have the LORD send him to denounce Hananiah for his lies (28:12). Rather than a yoke of wood, Jeremiah prophesied the people would bear the weight of “yokes of iron” (28:13-14). Because he had led the people astray with his lies, Jeremiah prophesied Hananiah would die in that same year (28:15-17).

Jeremiah 29

The reign of Zedekiah was marked by the first deportations of God’s people to Babylon. We find recorded in Jeremiah 29 a letter that was sent from Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon (29:1-7). Among the first captives were king Jeconiah and his mother (for he had been deposed in favor of Zedekiah who reigned in his stead, 29:1-2; 2 Kings 24:12-16).

Using diplomatic carriers (29:3), the letter was addressed to captives who listened to false prophets, and believed the Babylonian captivity would be brief. The purpose of Jeremiah’s letter was to encourage the people to accept God’s will, and from a human perspective, “make the best of a bad situation” (29:4-7)

In his letter, Jeremiah instructed the people to set their roots in Babylon, saying “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7).  He urged the people to dismiss the lies of the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9).  Jeremiah stated the captivity in Babylon would be 70 years, but assured the people the nation would one day return to the land the LORD had promised Israel (29:8-10).

Though far from home, subjects of Nebuchadnezzar, and living in the midst of a heathen nation, Jeremiah encouraged the people they were not beyond the LORD’s loving care and longsuffering. Assuring the captives the LORD heard their cries and prayers (29:10-13), Jeremiah wrote:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah prophesied to the remnant of God’s people that remained in Jerusalem and Judah, that they would suffer many things before being taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar  (29:14-23). He urged the people to refuse the lies of the false prophets, and warned them they would become the object of great sorrows (29:17-19).

There were false prophets in Babylon, and Jeremiah boldly named and condemned them in his letter (29:20-22). They had sinned against the LORD and His people. They were adulterers, and liars, and God declared, “even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord” (29:23).

Jeremiah’s letter closed, addressing a false prophet named Shemaiah, who was living among the Jewish captives (29:24-28). Shemaiah was not content with speaking lies, he made accusations against Jeremiah, and accused the priest Zephaniah of being lenient for failing to imprison Jeremiah (29:24-27). Shemaiah accused Jeremiah of lies, and sowing despair among the people (29:27-28; note, 29:5-7).

Jeremiah responded to Shemaiah’s accusations, and condemned him as a false prophet who had mislead the captives (29:30-31). Declaring God’s judgment, Jeremiah prophesied Shemaiah would suffer, and his lineage would never see the blessings God had planned for His people. Why? For Shemaiah had “taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:32).

Closing thought – We find ourselves living in troubling times, and yet, we should take heart, and be comforted by the LORD’s loving care, and omniscience. Surely, His thoughts toward us are “thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (29:11) and when we pray we can take comfort He hears and answers prayer (29:12). Yet, that wonderful promise comes with a condition: We must turn from our sins, seek the LORD, and search for Him with all our heart. (29:13).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Heart is Deceitful (Jeremiah 17)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 17

Our study of Jeremiah brings us to an oft quoted verse, serving as a reminder to the beguiling nature of man’s heart. We read in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Before I address some observations inspired by that verse, let us first consider the context of that spiritual truth.

Jeremiah 17 – The Sinful Depravity that Lies in the Heart of Man

Chapter 17 opens with the prophet bemoaning the sins of Judah, and declaring the permanent scar sin engraves upon the heart. Leaving no doubt for why God’s judgment would come upon the nation, Jeremiah rebuked the people saying, “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron [for engraving upon stone tablets], and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns [corners] of [their] altars” (17:1).

We recall the LORD’s exhortation given to Israel through His servant Moses, when He instructed His words and commandments were to reside in the people’s hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6). Jeremiah’s generation, however, eschewed the Law and had no regard for the word of the LORD. It was the sins of the people, not the word of the LORD, that was “graven” and deeply furrowed in the hearts of the people (17:1).

Generational Sins (17:2)

What a sad, and tragic lesson! Rather than be known for the blessing the Lord’s Commandments bring, Judah was known for being engraved with the ways of the sinful nations that surrounded them. Even more tragic, we read,“their children remember” (17:2). To “remember,” was to follow in the steps of their parents. What did the children remember? They remembered the sins of their forefathers, and the altars where they sacrificed their sons and daughters. They remembered the notorious “groves” that were known for their idolatries and adulteries (17:2).

The Tragic Consequences of a Nation’s Sins (17:3-4)

Jeremiah declared God’s judgment, saying “my mountain in the field I will give” (probably a reference to Mount Zion, upon which the Temple of the LORD was built), and “all thy treasures to the spoil” (17:3). The army of Babylon would raze the Temple, palaces, and the dwellings of Jerusalem (17:3-4).

Cursed is A People Who Trust in Man (17:5-11)

The world is governed predominately by a man-centered philosophy, and is the product of man’s musings apart from God. The LORD, however, would have His people be God-centered, and follow a path clearly defined in His Word, and is antithetical to the natural bent of man’s heart.

What does God’s Word teach concerning a people that look to man for purpose of life and direction? Jeremiah 17:5-11 contrast two philosophies of life: one is cursed and the other blessed.

Jeremiah 17:5-6 declared a man-centered outlook on life is cursed, because it “trusteth in man” (17:5a), and is departed “from the LORD” (17:5). Such a man is like a stunted bush of the desert, and will not thrive (17:6).

Quoting Psalm 1:1-3, the LORD reminded Judah, a man is blessed when he rejects the philosophies of the world and delights in the Word of the LORD. Such a man is blessed and he “shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (17:7-8).

After contrasting the foolish heart of the man that trusts in man, with the blessed heart that trusts in the LORD, Jeremiah warned: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (17:9)

Jeremiah 17:10 is a comfort to the godly, but woe to the sinner who continues in his sin, for the LORD declared: “10I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (17:10).

Closing thoughts – There is much more to consider in the balance of today’s Scripture reading (Jeremiah 17:12-27), but our devotional concludes with an invitation for you to ponder Jeremiah 17:11, which reads, “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.”

Perhaps this little parable sounds strange, until we ponder the empty, meaningless life of a bird (“partridge”), that spends her life brooding on eggs that remain lifeless, and come to nothing (17:11). The partridge sitting on eggs that “come to nothing” is a waste (17:11a), but not as tragic as the covetous man whose greed drives him to accumulate and sit upon wealth, only to be unprepared for the inevitability of death. His barns may be filled, and overflowing, like the rich fool who failed to plan for eternity (Luke 12:18-21), but “his end shall be a fool” (17:11).

Warning: The heart of man is naturally self-deceived (17:9), and every man will be rewarded “according to the fruit of his doings” (17:10).

How is your heart?

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah: A Portrait of a Faithful Servant (Jeremiah 15; Jeremiah 16)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 15; Jeremiah 16

We continue our study of Jeremiah’s prophecies in today’s Scripture reading. I will propose a brief outline and commentary of Jeremiah 15, and an expositional commentary of Jeremiah 16.

Jeremiah 15 – The Inevitability of God’s Judgment

The wickedness of Judah was exceeding during the reign of Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, and the LORD revealed to Jeremiah the certainty of impending judgment. Consider the words which the Lord spoke to Jeremiah regarding His people during this time: “6Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting. 7And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways” (15:6-7).

I invite you to consider four major points in my outline of Jeremiah 15.

The Revelation: The Judgment of God was Imminent (15:1-9)

Jeremiah’s Lament (15:10-14)

His preaching had borne little fruit, and so he cried out to the LORD, lamenting the sorrows and rejection he had suffered as God’s prophet. He had been the object of scorn, and pitied the day of his birth (15:10). Yet, the LORD assured Jeremiah He would intercede for him, and even his enemies would eventually come seeking his counsel (15:11). God’s judgment, like iron, would not be broken (15:12), and the nation would be spoiled of its wealth (15:13). The wrath of God for the sins of His people would be expressed in their captivity (15:13-14).

Jeremiah Bemoaned His Loneliness (15:18-21)

He had been an object of scorn and persecution (15:15), and he sought solace in that the LORD would remember him, avenge him, and favor him (15:15).

Where did Jeremiah turn for comfort and hope? He found refuge and hope in God’s promises. The prophet prayed, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts” (15:16).

He followed the pattern of the “blessed” man of Psalm 1, and had not fellowshipped with the wicked. Jeremiah wrote: “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation” (15:17; Psalm 1:1). Yet, he wondered why there was no end to his sufferings and disappointments (15:18).

The LORD’s Exhortation and Loving Assurances (15:19-21)

Lovingly correcting the attitude and outlook of his prophet (15:19), the LORD assured Jeremiah: “I am with theeto save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 21  And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible” (Jeremiah 15:20-21).

Closing thought – What a blessed promise for those who endure persecution, and put their trust in the LORD! In his letter to believer’s in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote: ““57  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Jeremiah 16 – Jeremiah: A Portrait of Sacrifice, Dedication and Sanctification

Describing the imminence of God’s judgment to be fulfilled when Babylon lay siege to Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and the city, the LORD directed Jeremiah not to participate in three events that were a normal part of Jewish life.

The first, Jeremiah was not to take a wife, less the deaths of a wife, sons and daughters be added to the sorrows he would bear in the midst of God’s judgment (16:1-3).  The second activity Jeremiah was to avoid was he was not to mourn for the dead (16:4) nor attend their funerals (16:5-7).   Thirdly, Jeremiah was to avoid weddings and their celebratory feasts (16:8-9).

Refusing to take a wife as Jeremiah was expected to do, served as a testimony and symbolic act before the people, a sign of the imminence of God’s judgment (16:1-3).

Though not a command, Paul observed somewhat the same in his letter to believers in Corinth when he states the “unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: 33 But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 …the unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord…she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

In spite of their wickedness, the LORD instructed Jeremiah that the people would ask, “Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?” (16:10).  Jeremiah was to tell the people their wickedness had exceeded that of their fathers (16:11-12).

Leaving no doubt concerning the reason of God’s judgment and the destruction that would soon come upon the nation, Jeremiah was to remind the people, because they had turned to worship idols and forsaken the LORD and His law (16:11), they would be removed from their land and taken as captives to another (16:12-13).  Describing the invasion and conquest of Judah fulfilled by the Babylonians, Jeremiah prophesied, “the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth” (16:19).

Finally, the LORD did not leave His prophet or the people hopeless, for Jeremiah was to tell the people that the LORD would not forget His covenant and would one day restore them to their land (16:14-15).

I close with an observation: God is Holy and Just and a man, family, or nation that turns from the LORD and forsakes His Word will bear the consequences of their sin.  Let us love the LORD, study His Word, and walk in His ways (Psalm 1:1-3)!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Who’s to Blame? – Derelict Pastors! (Jeremiah 10; Jeremiah 11)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 10; Jeremiah 11

Our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah continues with our Scripture reading comprising Jeremiah 10-11. Jeremiah 10 will be the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

Assuming Jeremiah was continuing his message “in the gate of the LORD’s house” (Jeremiah 7:2), we pick up our study with the prophet heralding to those who had come to the Temple: “1Hear ye the word which the Lordspeaketh unto you, O house of Israel: 2Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, And be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; For the heathen are dismayed at them” (10:1-2).

The heathen of Jeremiah’s day, were a superstitious, fearful lot, who looked to “the signs of the heaven” for wisdom and direction. Jeremiah challenged the people, to not follow the foolish ways of the heathen!

Jeremiah Mocked the Idols Men Worshipped. (10:3-5)

The prophet described the absurdity of men who worship gods of their own making, and imagined them cutting down trees, taking the stock, and then carving and shaping it into an idol they worship (10:3). Such men adorned their gods, overlaying the wood with silver and gold, and taking up hammer and nail to fasten the parts (10:4).

Drawing upon the foolishness of idols, Jeremiah mocked those who worship impotent gods that cannot speak, nor move of their own will (10:5a). Such idols must be borne about, and God’s people have no reason to fear them, for they can do neither evil or good (10:5c).

There is None Like the God of Heaven. (10:6-13)

Contrasting the “brutish and foolish” (stupid and senseless) men who worship idols made by “cunning men” (10:8-9), Jeremiah reminded the people the God of Israel had revealed Himself to them (10:6-7, 10-13).

Lifting his eyes to heaven, Jeremiah worshipped the LORD and declared, the LORD is not a God among many; He is great, mighty, and the Sovereign of the nations (10:6-7a). He is superior, and “there is none like unto [Him]” (10:7b). The LORD is true, living, eternal, and He is a just and righteous judge (10:10).

While the heathen worship idols that have created nothing and will come to nothing (10:11), the God of the Scriptures is the Creator of earth, and by His wisdom, He sustains and knows the breadth of the heavens (10:12). He is the God of nature, for by His voice the waters move, and complete their cycle (evaporation, rain, lightings, and wind, 10:13).

The Natural Man Apart from God and His Revelation (10:14-15)

What is man? He is “brutish in his knowledge,” a foolish, senseless being (10:14a). He is like the idols he has fashioned, vain, and delusional (10:15a), and in the day of God’s judgment he shall perish with his gods (10:15b).

God’s Covenant People (10:16-18)

Unlike the heathen who, left to themselves, were without knowledge and spiritually depraved, the LORD had chosen Israel for His inheritance (10:16). The God of Jacob “is the former [Creator; framer; maker] of all things” (10:16a). The LORD chose Israel as the “rod [the symbol of a tribe or people] of His inheritance” (10:16b). Who is God? “The LORD of hosts is His name” (10:16c), for He is the LORD of all!

Though the LORD had chosen Israel and Judah, they had broken covenant with Him, and He had removed His blessings and protection. Jeremiah declared, “Gather up thy wares” (pack up your belongings), inhabitants of Jerusalem (10:17). The people of Judah, like Israel before them, would be expelled out of the land, and afflicted (10:18).

A Faithful Prophet (10:19-20)

Though Jeremiah would serve as God’s prophet for 40 years, Judah refused to heed his warnings, and spurned his invitations to turn from their sins to the LORD. Yet, he felt the anguish of His people, and cried, “19Woe is me for my hurt! my wound is grievous: But I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it” (10:19). He was a preacher who loved the LORD, and cherished His people, but they had become a grief to bear. His own home [“tabernacle”] was destroyed, and there were none to come to his aid (10:20).

Derelict Pastors (10:21-22)

The failure of the people to hear the word of the LORD was not that of His prophet. The pastors, the civic and spiritual leaders, had failed the people (10:21). The pastors of Judah were a “brutish,” foolish, morally depraved lot, and had “not sought the LORD” (10:21a). The people, following their leadership, would not know the blessing of the LORD, and would be scattered among the heathen like sheep lost in the wilderness (10:21b).

Closing thoughts – Jeremiah foretold Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion would come upon Judah, and the cities would be destroyed, and become a haven for “a den of dragons” (jackals; wild beasts, 10:22c). Then, Jeremiah did the one thing you and I can do when we observe the frightening state of our country and world…He prayed (10:23-25).

Jeremiah confessed the natural man is foolish, and finds no wisdom or direction within himself (10:23). He prayed for God’s grace and mercy, saying, “24O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; Not in thine anger…” (10:24). He called upon the LORD to remember how the heathen had abused His people, and to pour out His wrath upon those men who had not known, or called upon Him (10:25).

Oh that God’s people would remember who the LORD is (10:6-13), and pray for His grace and mercy upon our families, friends, and nation (10:23-25).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Will You Be Valiant for the Truth? (Jeremiah 9)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 9

Known as the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah certainly epitomized that label in Jeremiah 9. I believe it can be supposed he was continuing to stand in the gate of the Temple where the LORD had sent him to proclaim the word of the LORD to the worshippers (7:2).

Jeremiah 9 – Jeremiah’s Lament over Jerusalem

Overcome with sorrow, Jeremiah described a perpetual state of tears, saying, “1Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (9:1). He wept day and night (9:1), and wished there was a place of escape, “a lodging place of wayfaring [traveling]men” (9:2). He would rather have been a resident in the wilderness, than live in the midst of an adulteress nation of treacherous, unfaithful men (9:2).

The Wickedness and Hypocrisy in Jeremiah’s Day (9:3-16)

Standing before those who had come to make a pretense of worship in the Temple, Jeremiah did not spare words when he described their hypocrisy. We read, “They bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant [strong; mighty; heroic] for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil [sin; wickedness] to evil, and they know [understand; acknowledge] not me, saith the LORD” (9:3).

Do those words not describe our world, and churches? Preachers bend the truth with their tongues, like the bent arch of a bow (9:3a). People do not know, nor do they understand the ways of the LORD, for He is holy (9:3c). In Jeremiah’s day, there were none who could be trusted (9:4a), for everyone had become like Jacob (Genesis 27:36), a liar, and deceiver (9:4). They did not speak the truth (9:5a; Ephesians 4:25), and wearied themselves pursuing sin (9:6b).

Judah had become a nation of liars and hypocrites (9:6), and there were none “valiant for the truth” (9:3b).

Is that not the fundamental sin, the spiritual flaw of our day? There are few who “speak the truth” (9:5), and “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). There are few pastors that will, “2preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). In Jeremiah’s day, as it is in our day, when the clarion call of truth was needed, there were none “valiant for the truth” (9:3).

Judah had become a nation of proud, stubborn, conceited, and incorrigible murderers, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters (9:3-8). Yet, the LORD would have shown them mercy if they had repented and turned to Him (9:10). Taking His mercies for granted, they followed in the sinful steps of their fathers (9:12-14).

The time for repentance had past, and the LORD declared he would feed His people with “wormwood” (bitter herbs), “give them water of gall to drink” (a poisonous blend, 9:15), and scatter them among the heathen (9:16).

Three Declarations of God’s Judgment (9:17-24)

1) Jeremiah was commanded to call for the professional mourners to weep over Jerusalem; however, so many would die there would not be enough mourners to weep over the dead (9:17-21). 2) Describing the brutality of Babylon’s victory over Jerusalem, Jeremiah foretold their dead bodies would be left unburied (9:22). 3) Finally, there would be nothing the people could do to save themselves. The wise were warned their wisdom would not save them. The strength of the mighty men would not avail. The wealth of the rich man would perish with him (9:23).

There was only one thing in which men could place their hope, and that was the knowledge of God’s immutable character. He declared of Himself, “I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (9:24).

Closing thoughts – Foolish men boast in much, but the godly boast only in the character and promises of the LORD who is gracious and merciful (“lovingkindness”), just (for He judges between the righteous and the wicked), and holy (for He is wholly righteous, 9:24).

Does your heart burn with passion for the Truth? Many lament the moral decay of our society, and the carnality in our homes, churches and schools. But how many of us contend for the faith, and pursue godliness and holiness? (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 1:16).

What about you? Too many occupy churches that entertain the masses, and sit under preaching that tickles the ears, but never pierces the heart.

Are you “valiant for the truth?”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

What Does the LORD Require of You? (Isaiah 58)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 58

If we could condense the whole of Isaiah 58 to just one word, that word would be “hypocrisy.” The chapter opens with the LORD instructing Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, And shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1).

Unlike some fainthearted preachers in our day, the prophet was not to sugarcoat the Word of the LORD. He was to lift up his voice, not sparing a word, and herald God’s warning of judgment like a trumpet calling soldiers to battle.

What were the transgressions and sins of God’s people? (58:2-5)

They were religious phonies, hypocrites, whose ways were acceptable, but whose heart and motives for following the Lord’s paths were based on selfish reasons. Though outwardly pious, the Lord looked past their actions and saw deep into their hearts (58:2). They, like many today who say they worship the Lord, had lost the “why” behind their actions, leaving in their wake emptiness, strife and selfish gain (58:3a).

The LORD answered their complaints, saying, “Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure [i.e., you go seeking joy; delight], and exact [oppress; demand; collect] all your labours [they gave and forgave nothing]” (58:3b). What they did in worship was not out of love to the LORD, but that He might be obligated to them.

Outwardly they fasted, but they were contentious and quarreling among themselves (58:4). Their fasting and praying in “sackcloth and ashes,” gave an appearance of piety, but the LORD asked, “Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” (58:5)

The Fasting God Favors (58:6-7)

Fasting had become a religious ritual, but it was not the fasting God had commanded His people to observe (58:6a). What would please the LORD? What was the fasting God favored? Before they approached the LORD in their fasting and prayers, God commanded them to address the sins and wickedness in their lives (58:6b-7).

How might men prepare their hearts to worship the LORD? To worship the LORD, we must be willing to forgive those who have offended us, and “loose the bands of wickedness” committed by others (58:6b). God will not hear our prayers, nor honor fasting, if we harbor bitterness, and oppress others (58:6c; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

What honors the LORD? We honor the LORD, when we feed the hungry, and give shelter to the poor (58:7a; Luke 10:30-36). We invite God’s blessings, when we clothe the naked, and give aid to our family (58:7b; Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10).

The Rewards to Those Who Repent of Hypocrisy and Obey the LORD (58:8-14)

1) Light and good health (58:8a)
2) Covered in the righteousness of God, and His glory.
3) The LORD will hear and answer prayer. (58:9)
4) We become a blessing to others. (58:10)
5) The LORD promises to guide us. (58:11a)
6) The LORD will satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of our souls. (58:11b)
7) The LORD will strengthen us. (58:12a)
8) The LORD will give His people a new name: “The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths [or broken walls] to dwell in” (58:12b).

Closing thoughts – The Means of Delighting the LORD, and Enjoying His Blessings (58:13-14)

The people had ritualized fasting (which God did not command), and neglected and abused the Sabbath, which the LORD had commanded. The fourth commandment states, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”(Exodus 20:8), but the people spent the Lord’s Day pursuing pleasure, and neglected to honor and worship Him (58:13). The LORD promised, if His people would honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy, He would fill them with joy, bless them, and give them an inheritance (58:14).

Are you honoring the LORD, not just in your practice, but in your heart? What place have you given Him in your life? What does the LORD require of you?

Romans 12:1–21I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith