Tag Archives: Sanctification

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Called to Be Holy

Monday, November 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 10-12

Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure continues in today’s scripture reading, Deuteronomy 10-12.

deut-10-12.jpgLest the people believe God chose Israel because they were more righteous than the heathen nations, Deuteronomy 9 concludes with Moses reminding the people how the previous generation sinned against the LORD while he was receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Provoked by the wickedness of the people, Moses had cast the LORD’s Commandments to the ground (Deuteronomy 9:17) and prayed for God to not utterly destroy the nation (9:18-29).

Moses continues in Deuteronomy 10 reminding the people how the LORD showed mercy to Israel following the people’s idolatry and directed him to prepare two tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments would be written a second time (10:1-5).  The first four of the Ten Commandments establishing man’s relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-11); the sixth through the tenth commandments man’s relationship with his fellow-man (Exodus 20:12-17).

Breaking the first tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, Moses demonstrated that Israel broke the nation’s covenant with the LORD and, apart from His mercy and grace, deserved God’s judgment.  As a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, God commanded Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. 2  And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark” (10:1-2).

The generation Moses addressed in Deuteronomy 10 were the children of those who disobeyed God, refused to enter the Promise Land, and died in the wilderness.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, Moses was the last of that generation and the LORD had determined he would not be allowed to enter the land with Israel.  With the urgency of a father who loves his children and knows his opportunity to teach and guide them is waning, Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives (10:12-13).

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Moses then rehearsed the character of Israel’s God  (10:14-22).

The God of Israel is Creator and “the heaven of heavens…and the earth also, with all that therein is” is the LORD’S (10:14).   He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared]”.  He is Just and “regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18  He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow [those who are weak and unable to defend themselves].”

The exhortation for Israel to love the LORD and keep His commandments continues in Deuteronomy 11 as Moses reminds the people of God’s past mercies; how He delivered the nation out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness (11:1-7).

Exhorting the people to obey the LORD’S commandments and keep His statutes (11:8), Moses rehearsed God’s promise to “give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey” (11:9).  Reminding them  the promise of God’s blessings was conditional (11:10-17), he challenged them to keep the commandments and the LORD will send rain (11:10-15); “serve other gods…And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you…that there be no rain” (11:16-17).  Moses warned, “27  A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28  And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God” (11:27-28a).

Moses reminded Israel they were chosen by God and called to be a holy nation.  When they possessed the land they were to “observe to do all the statutes and judgments” which the LORD commanded them (11:31-32).

Is there a lesson for 21st century believers to take from God’s covenant with Israel and Moses’ challenge for the people to obey His commandments?

Absolutely!  To their credit, many Bible fundamental pulpits have a renewed compulsion to trumpet the “Gospel”, however, I am afraid the clarion warning of God’s judgment is falling silent.  Preachers and evangelists of this present generation herald God’s Grace and the believer’s Liberty in Christ, but neglect to remind the saints the same God Who is Loving and Merciful is also Holy and Just!

Believers are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9); however, that does not mean the LORD allows a believer to choose a middle ground between worldliness and holiness.  As Israel was to be a holy nation and obey the LORD’S commandments (Deuteronomy 12); believers are commanded to be “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who are the “chosen”? Who are the “elect”? Who then can be “saved”?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Peter 1-3

For those following our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule, today’s scripture reading brings us to the 1st Epistle of Peter, chapters 1-3.  The task before me is an impossible one…to sum up in one devotional commentary a passage of scripture that consumed twenty weeks of study when I preached a sermon series in this epistle in 2014.  For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the opening salutation of 1 Peter.

Peter’s first epistle is one of encouragement and exhortation to 1st century Christians experiencing the first wave of persecution.  Rome ruled the known world and the infamous Nero was emperor.  The Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes the reign of Nero as follows:

“[Nero] became emperor of Rome when he was about seventeen years of age (A.D. 54), and soon began to exhibit the character of a cruel tyrant… In May A.D. 64, a terrible [fire] broke out in Rome, which raged for six days and seven nights, and [destroying] a great part of the city. The guilt of this fire was attached to [Nero] at the time, and the general verdict of history accuses him of the crime.

Tacitus, a Roman Senator and historian writes (Annals, xv. 44)] “Hence, to suppress the rumour…[Nero] falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians…in their deaths they were also made the subjects of sport; for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and, when day declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle…”

Among those who died during Nero’s assault on the church were the apostles Paul and Peter.  Peter identifies himself as the author and greets the intended recipients of his letter In the opening verses (1:1-2).

1 Peter 1:1-2 – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia [the regions of Asia Minor/ modern Turkey],
2  Elect [favored, chosen before the foundation of the world] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father [saved in accord with God’s foreknowledge, who by divine influence, embraced Christ as Savior], through sanctification [rendered holy, consecrated, separated] of the Spirit, unto obedience [incomplete submission] and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace [favor, acceptance, goodwill] unto you, and peace, be multiplied [increased, spread].”

Let us note first of all the author: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:1a).  What a testimony of saving grace and the LORD’s favor!  Peter, a fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), brother of Andrew, not only a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ, but an apostle!  Peter, the disciple who thrice denied Jesus the night He was betrayed.  Faithful Peter, his life a testimony of forgiveness and restoration; a natural leader privileged to be named in Christ’s inner circle (Mt. 17:1-2; Mk. 5:37, 9:2, 14:23).

Writing to “the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1).  Peter is an elderly man, a beloved apostle; a seasoned veteran of suffering and persecution.  The recipients of his letter were not strangers to Peter, but “strangers”, aliens, foreigners to this world (1:1).  Scattered by persecution, rejected by their family, friends, and neighbors; driven from their homes…they were sojourners…people without a home or country in this world.

The recipients of Peter’s letter were not only “strangers”, they were also “saved”… “Elect”, literally “chosen by God” (1:2a). 

The doctrine of “election” is one of the most hotly debated doctrines in churches and seminaries.  Borrowing a definition of Election from Augustus H. Strong’s Systematic Theology, we read:

“Election is that eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain out of the number of sinful men to be the recipients of the special grace of His Spirit, and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ’s salvation.” [Augustus H. Strong; Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1907) p. 779.]

There is no doubt the Scriptures set forth the doctrine of Election; however, the debate centers around the extent of its application. 

God has chosen, according to His foreknowledge, those who would be the objects of His saving grace through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for sin.  The apostle Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words:

Ephesians 1:4 – “According as [Even as] He hath chosen us in Him [for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy [consecrated & set apart] and without blame [above reproach] before him in love:

The believer’s salvation was part of God’s divine plan in response to man’s sin: God chose us, we did not choose Him.  Jesus taught His disciples, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained [appointed] you…” (John 15:16).

Who then are the “chosen”?  Who are the “elect”? Who then can be “saved”?

Some will no doubt take me to task on this point, but my answer is, “whosoever will”.  The elect are “whosoever will”.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I close with a simple summary on this matter of Election by quoting the great American evangelist of the late 19th century, D. L. Moody.

When asked the question, “Who are the elect?”, Moody answered: “The whosoever wills are the elect and the whosoever won’ts are the non-elect.”

I cannot remember the source, but someone else addressed the debate over “Election” and “Free Will” in this manner:  On the door to heaven, from our side, it says, “Whosoever will may enter.  When you get on the other side of the door someday in heaven, you’re going to look back, and on that door you will find written, “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.”  (Eph. 1:4)

My heart rejoices to close this devotional commentary with this eternal truth:

 1 John 2:2 – And He [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Preachers Catering to Carnality Is the Curse of 21st Century Christianity

Monday, October 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 7-9

Having challenged Israel to remember and rehearse the providences and promises of the LORD, and reminding the people to obey the commandments and teach them to their sons and daughters, Moses challenged the nation to not commune or assimilate with other nations (Deuteronomy 7).

Assuring Israel the LORD was them and would drive the heathen nations out of Canaan, Moses reminded the people God chose them to be a distinct people.  Realizing how easily Israel could be turned aside from the LORD by the sinful ways of the heathen, God commanded the nation to “smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them” (Deuteronomy 7:2).

Antagonists of 21st century Christianity take the commands given to Israel in Deuteronomy 7 out of historical context and foolishly equate them to our day.  Adversaries of believers and the Church declare the Bible is a violent book and Christianity is as evil as militant Islam.  Those who assert such are either disingenuous or ignorant!

It is true the LORD commanded Israel to not covenant with other nations or tolerate intermarriage of their children with heathens (7:3-4), as was the custom of enemies who sought peace through marrying and giving in marriage their sons and daughters.  However, the LORD is jealous of His people and knew the influence of idol worshippers would invariably turn the hearts of their children from the LORD and His covenant (7:4).

The LORD’s covenant required Israel to be intolerant of the ways of the heathen (7:5) for He had chosen them and commanded the nation to be a “holy people” (7:6).  Assuring the people of His love, grace and mercy, the LORD commanded the nation to keep His commandments, hearken to His judgments, promising to bless them “above all people” (7:7-14).

God’s love for Israel was unconditional; however, His promise of blessings was conditioned upon Israel trusting God and purging the land of its idols and those who worshipped them (7:15-26).

Moses’ challenge to Israel continues in Deuteronomy 8.  Not wanting the people to forget God’s faithfulness, Moses rehearsed how the LORD blessed and sustained them during Israel’s forty years in the wilderness (8:1-2).  Reminding the people of God’s loving care and miraculous provision (8:3-4), Moses challenged them to know the LORD will chasten His people as a loving father chastens his son (8:5).  As the people obeyed the LORD and His commandments, God promised to bless them (8:6-10); however, should the people become proud and forget His commandments, He promised to bring His judgment upon the nation (8:11-20).

Lest the people’s heart be lifted up in pride, Moses reminded the nation the land the LORD promised Abraham and his lineage was occupied by nations “greater and mightier” (9:1-2) than Israel.  Israel would be victorious over the nations, not because the people were more righteous or powerful than their enemies, but because the LORD was with them (9:3-5).

Moses reminded the people when he was receiving the commandments of the LORD they returned to the sinful ways and idolatry of Egypt and God would have destroyed them in His wrath if He had not heeded Moses’ intercessory prayer for their sakes (9:6-29).

Permit me to close with a few applications of truths we have seen in today’s scripture reading.

The first, like Israel, we are saved from the curse of sin, not because we are good, but because God is merciful and gracious.   In his letter to Titus, Paul writes,

Titus 3:5-7 – “Not by works [deeds] of righteousness [i.e. by keeping the law] which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6  Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7  That being justified by His grace [undeserved, unmerited favor], we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

A second truth seldom taught or preached today is the LORD has commanded His people and church to be holy, a reflection of His holiness.

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

The doctrine of Sanctification, the LORD’s command for His church to separate from the ungodly and their sinful ways was the hallmark of Biblical fundamentalism in the 20th century; however, separation is almost universally neglected by 21st century fundamental churches in preaching, principle and practice.   As it was commanded of Israel, it is no less commanded of the church.  In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes,

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together [by contract or covenant; an alliance in business or marriage] with unbelievers: for what fellowship [partnership; common interests] hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion [harmony] hath light with darkness?
15  And what concord [harmony; business] hath Christ with Belial [wickedness]? or what part [business] hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

2 Corinthians 6:17 – “Wherefore come out from [lit. get out from] among them [unbelievers], and be ye separate [exclude; limit; sever], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”

Moses was aware of the temptations God’s people faced in Canaan if they failed to obey the LORD’s commands and tolerated sin and wickedness in their midst.  I am afraid the same cannot be said of the majority of my peers in Bible fundamental pulpits.

Fearing the wrath of a generation who trifle with the LORD’s call to holiness, a generation of preachers catering to carnality has failed to call the church to holiness and sanctification.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson and Admonition for Social Drinkers

Friday, October 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Habakkuk 1-3

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” challenge continues today focusing on a small prophetic book in the Old Testament, the Book of Habakkuk.  Habakkuk was a prophet whose brief ministry served as a final warning of the LORD’s judgment on Judah for the sins of the people.  A contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s lamentation over Judah and the imminent invasion of the Chaldeans was an ominous conclusion of a succession of warnings faithfully delivered by the prophets.

Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were as much an appeal to the LORD for Judah as they were a lamentation over the devastation God’s people would soon face as the invading armies of Babylon (the Chaldeans) swept over land, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Habakkuk 1 is a record of Judah’s sins (1:1-4) and a warning that God would use the wicked Chaldeans to punish the sins of His rebellious people (1:5-17).  Habakkuk questioned why the LORD would use Babylon, a heathen nation whose wickedness far exceeded the sins of Judah, to punish His chosen people (1:12-13).

Habakkuk 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked [Babylon] devoureth the man [i.e. Judah] that is more righteous than he?”

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1) and the LORD graciously responded (2:2-4).  The judgment of God was set against Judah; however, God had not forsaken His chosen people, therefore, “the just shall live by his faith” (2:4; note Romans 1:16-17).

Although God would use Babylon as a tool to exact justice on Judah for the wickedness of the people, He was not blind to the sins and wickedness of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).  There are several grievances the prophet raises against Babylon, among them their drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19-20).

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sorrows and sufferings that would soon engulf Judah (1:1-4), but ends with the prophet praying and acknowledging the LORD’s sovereignty (3:1-2) and majesty (3:3-16).  The prophet had moved from questioning the LORD to trusting His ways and rejoicing in His faithfulness (3:17-19).

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

I close this devotional drawing your attention to two verses too many 21st century Christians trivialize and dismiss as they assail any who dare question their “Liberty”.   Berating the sins and wickedness of Babylon, one in particular is mentioned twice…wine and drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:5, 15).  The Chaldeans are condemned not only for their drunkenness, but also for giving strong drink to mock and take advantage of their neighbor.

Habakkuk 2:5 – “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:”

Habakkuk 2:15 – “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

Lesson: Wine and strong drink chart the path to unrestrained pride, shameless adultery, uninhibited lust, and gross immorality.

Warning: What foolish parents and charlatan pastors exercise in moderation, their children will practice to excess…and heartache and ruin will invariably be the end!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 4-6

We began reading the Book of Deuteronomy last Monday and continue in the same this day with our study focusing on chapter 4-6.  As a reminder, we are in the midst of Moses’ challenge and final words of exhortation to Israel before God takes him home to Himself.

Having rehearsed God’s providences and faithfulness to His chosen people, Moses communicated to Israel he was not allowed to enter Canaan because He had sinned against the LORD (Deut. 3:25-27).  The LORD, however, promised to give Moses a vision of the land He promised the nation.   One of the final acts of Moses’ leadership was God’s command for him “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (Deut. 3:28).

Moses’ exhortation continues in Deuteronomy 4 when he reminds the people of their special covenant relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 4:1 – “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.”

Unlike any other, the LORD chose Israel and privileged that nation to know Him personally for He revealed His character and person in His Word and “statutes and judgments”.   The people knew the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:7-14).

Moses exhorted Israel to not take lightly their covenant responsibility to know and obey the LORD’s commandments, warning, the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” [He will not accept second place in the lives of His people] (4:24).

Less the people be disheartened, Moses reminded the people the LORD is not only a “consuming fire, even a jealous God”, He is also merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving.

Deuteronomy 4:31 – “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.”

Who is Israel’s God?  He is the Creator and the God of heaven (Deut. 4:21).  He is God alone and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39).

Moses rehearsed God’s covenant, the giving of His Commandments at Mount Horeb, and the commandments themselves in Deuteronomy 5.

Deuteronomy 6 states not only the responsibility of knowing, keeping and obeying the “commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” (6:1) of the LORD, but also the individual responsibility of parents imparting to their sons and daughters the LORD’s commands.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest (Matthew 22:36-37), He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5.

Deuteronomy 6:5 – “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Each generation was to not only obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they were also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be the subject of every household in Israel.   The commands, statutes, and laws were the standard and spiritual guide for every area of life…sitting down, walking, lying down at night or rising at dawn.  No area of a man’s life was to go unchecked.

Deuteronomy 6:17-18 – “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. 18  And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,”

I close with two spiritual lessons in today’s study.  The first, remembering the providences of the LORD and how He delivered Israel out of Egypt and slavery is a frequent theme of Moses’ final address to Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy.  The same should be true of 21st century believers; we need to remember the LORD’s providences in our lives, how He saved us from the condemnation and bondage of sin through Christ’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection (Romans 3:23-28).

A second lesson is, Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.  Moses challenged Israel to obey the LORD’s instructions, assuring the people their God was intimately invested in the “good [of Israel] always” and their preservation as His chosen people (6:24).  The apostle Paul gives that same assurance to believers in Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Eyes of the LORD Are Upon Us!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 16-20

I pick up our reading of 2 Chronicles, reminding you Israel is a divided nation.  The northern ten tribes, known as Israel, rebelled against king Rehoboam, following the usurper Jeroboam who had been an adversary of king Solomon.  The southern nation, consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, was known as Judah and aligned themselves with heirs of David’s throne and maintained a semblance of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

As we come to 2 Chronicles 16 we find Asa, the great-grandson of Solomon reigning in Judah.  Asa ruled forty-one years and led the nation in revival, purging Judah of idols (2 Chronicles 14:2-5), strengthening the defense of the nation (14:6-8) and most importantly, setting his heart to serve the LORD (14:7).

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace and prosperity, until the closing years of his life.  In the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Baasha, king of Israel led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and made a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Asa’s decision, successful in the immediate, nevertheless proved foolish when he learned from a prophet named Hanani, the LORD would have given him victory not only over Israel, but also Syria if he had turned to the LORD.  Hanani declared Asa’s failure foolish, warning him it would haunt him the rest of his life for “henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and placed Hanani in prison (16:10).  Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest his affliction was gout.  I wonder if it was gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa turned to his physicians rather than to the LORD.  A great memorial was held upon Asa’s death, however, his lifetime of serving the LORD was marred by his faithlessness and rebellion in his later years (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Perhaps learning from the tragic failures of his father, Jehoshaphat son of Asa, “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4).

Jehoshaphat foolishly made a league with Ahab, the wicked king of Israel in 2 Chronicles 18, and allied himself to go to war against Ramothgilead.  The story of Ahab’s inquiry with the prophet Micaiah is humorous, but also tragic.  Jehoshaphat recognized Ahab’s prophets were not of the LORD and asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?” (18:6)

There was one faithful prophet; however, Ahab was disinclined to seek his counsel for, in the king’s words, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla…” (18:7).

Adorned in their royal robes, each sitting upon his own throne, Jehoshaphat and Ahab must have been an impressive sight (18:8-14); however, the prophet Micaiah was not intimidated and even trifled with king Ahab, telling the king what the king wanted to hear (18:14-15).   Ahab became incensed and demanded Micaiah prophesy what the LORD revealed to him (18:15-16).

Micaiah prophesied the scattering of Israel and Ahab’s imminent death in battle (18:16-22).  In spite of an attempt to disguise himself by removing his royal robes (18:28-33), Ahab was struck by an arrow and perished as the sun was setting on the battlefield (18:34).

When Jehoshaphat returned from the battle, Jehu, the son of Hanani whom his father Asa had imprisoned, confronted the king (19:1-2).  Evidencing the boldness of a prophet of God, Jehu condemned the king’s alliance with Ahab saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (19:2).

In spite of Jehoshaphat’s failure, Jehu comforted him with the promise of God’s grace saying, “there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 19:3).  Jehoshaphat set his heart to lead Judah in the way of the LORD and set judges in the land to rule in difficult matters (19:4-11).

Near the latter years of his reign, Jehoshaphat received word a confederacy of enemies was coming to wage war against Judah (20:1-3).  We read, “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” and called upon the LORD before the people in the Temple (20:3-13).

God heard the king’s prayer and sent Jahaziel to prophecy and encourage the king and Judah saying, “Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15).

With God’s assurance, the people went to the battlefield and found their enemies had turned and destroyed one another (20:22-23).  Without lifting a sword or spear, the LORD gave Judah victory and it took three days to gather the spoils (20:24-25).   Receiving the news of Judah’s victory and how the LORD had fought against their enemies, “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms” (20:29).

We can take many lessons from today’s reading…perhaps the most prominent one is the LORD wants us to call upon Him in times of trouble, trials and sickness.  When we are afraid, call upon the LORD.  When enemies threaten and we feel overwhelmed, remember, “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (16:9), for “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith