Tag Archives: Spiritual disciplines

God Orders the Starts and Stops! (Jonah 1-4)

Scripture reading Jonah 1-4

The Book of Jonah is today’s Scripture reading assignment. Though only four chapters in length, this historical drama is powerful and telling: Nineveh, a wicked, idolatrous city, unaware of the imminence of God’s judgment and the threat of annihilation. The LORD and Sovereign Creator is holy and just, but also merciful and loving toward sinners. Jonah, a reluctant, rebellious prophet, defied God’s command to warn Nineveh and call the people to repent of their sins.

Have you ever wanted to run?

You may remember a childhood tantrum that resulted in your threat to take your little red wagon and run away from home. To your chagrin, your mother pretended to take you up on your plan, and even offered to help you pack!  If you were strong willed, you might have even followed through with strong determination! Fortunately, for a child, minutes can seem like hours and a hundred yards like a mile. Upon returning home from your self-willed excursion, your mom probably greeted you, “Well, you’re back! Wash your hands and get ready for dinner!”

Two lessons come to the forefront of this scenario: The first, “What is best for you is not always what you think is best.”  The second, may not be realized until years later; although you could not see her, your mother never took her eyes off you!

Some 2800 years ago, a passionate, patriotic and popular preacher in Israel named Jonah received God’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh…” (1:2). 

Nineveh was a great city with a population of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11). However, Nineveh was also a wicked city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and a great adversary of Israel!

Possibly fearing his nation’s enemy or the rejection of His own people, Jonah refused to preach against Nineveh, later confessing he feared the LORD would spare that city from destruction!  Jonah resigned his calling as God’s prophet (Jonah 1:3), paid his fare, and took a ship for Tarshish, a city on the western most edge of the known world in his day (1:3).

In his flight from the LORD, Jonah soon found himself caught in a great storm and the sea threatening to take him and his fellow passengers to a watery grave (1:4-6).  Evidencing the callousness of a backslidden sinner, Jonah slept in the bottom of the ship until he was awakened by the sailors. Jonah confessed he was a prophet of the LORD and the storm was sent by God to chastise him. Fearing for their lives, the sailors reluctantly cast Jonah into the sea where he was swallowed by a great fish providentially provided by the LORD.

We read that Jonah confessed his sin and “prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (2:1) and “He heard me” (2:2). 

The prophet understood his miserable state was a watery grave unless the LORD delivered him (2:9-10).  The LORD mercifully answered Jonah’s prayer and “spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

Jonah obeyed the LORD, went to Nineveh and began warning that great city, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). 

Amazingly, the people of Nineveh believed the word of that reluctant prophet and repented (3:5-9).  Hearing Nineveh’s penitent cry, the LORD was moved with compassion and set aside His judgment (3:10).

Jonah 3:10 – “And God saw [looked;; beheld; perceived] their works [behavior; deeds], that they turned [turned back] from their evil [sinful; wicked] way; and God repented [reckoned; moved with compassion] of the evil [destruction; bad—not sin], that he had said that he would do [make; wrought; perform; accomplish] unto them; and he did it not.”

We would number Jonah among the greatest preachers and prophets of all time, if he had also longed to see Nineveh repent. Jonah, however, did not rejoice in the LORD’s compassion, or the city being spared His judgment. We read:

Jonah 4:1-2 – “But it displeased [so angry he trembled] Jonah exceedingly [overcome with anger], and he was very angry [incensed; burned with anger]. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God], and said [charged], I pray thee [lit. “Ah, now!”], O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful [full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment].”

Jonah was angry that God had spared a city that was the enemy of Israel. Jonah then left Nineveh, built a temporary dwelling outside the city, and sat down and waited to see if God would destroy the city (Jonah 4:5).

Here we find a characteristic of men who abandon their calling…they are more interested in temporal comforts than they are in lost souls (4:6). 

Jonah 4:6 – “And the LORD God prepared [appointed; told] a gourd, and made it to come up [ascend; mount up]over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver [preserve; recover; escape] him from his grief [lit. sin; evil; wickedness; distress; misery]. So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

Jonah became angry and despaired of life when the LORD destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine. “God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd? And he said, I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (4:9).

God then challenged Jonah to consider his priorities, along with his foolish, self-centered attitude.

Jonah 4:10 – “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:”

This brief biography of Jonah’s life ends with a question:

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?”

There may be someone reading this devotion who has quit on God and taken a ship to your own Tarshish. 

I understand the temptation that comes with hard times, difficult people, harsh criticisms and little encouragement. To quit is appealing in the midst of disappointments, especially when a “gourd” promises you rest and comfort. However, such a path comes at the sacrifice of the best part…the will of the LORD.

Take a lesson from Jonah’s life: God orders the starts and stops, not man! 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and Will Accomplish His Purpose (2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25)

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 25

2 Kings 14, and 2 Chronicles 25 are records of the same historical events: The reigns of Joash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah.

I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy and had been guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24).  During Joash’s reign, Judah had experienced a spiritual renaissance and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died (24:15), and Joash heeded the counsel of wicked men.

Someone has observed the path of sin will always take you further than you ever planned to go, and so it was with Joash. He forgot the kindness of his lifelong friend, the chief priest Jehoiada (24:22), and eventually fell in with those men who stoned to death the prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:20-22). Tragically, Joash’s reign ended when he was assassinated by his servants who avenged the slaying of Zechariah (24:24-26).

Joash’s son, Amaziah became king in Judah (24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart” (25:2).

It is that last phrase, “but not with a perfect heart” (25:2), that will shadow the life and reign of Amaziah.  Amaziah exacted justice for his father’s assassination, killing those who murdered his father; however, unlike other kings, he did not prevail upon the families of the assassins, and spared the lives of their sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah organized his army in preparation for war with Edom (descendants of Esua, who lived on the east side of the Dead Sea); however, he foolishly hired mercenary soldiers out of Israel (25:6). When God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah that hiring idol worshipping mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7), the king heeded the warning and sent the soldiers of Israel home (25:10).

As Amaziah led his army into what would be a glorious victory over Edom, the mercenary soldiers from Israel, for the slight of not going to war and taking the spoils of battle, turned and attacked cities along the border of Judah (25:13).

Remembering Amaziah was a man who lacked “a perfect heart” for the LORD, we read he committed idolatry (25:14) following his victory over Edom and foolishly worshipped the idols of Edom! The LORD sent a prophet who warned the king he had provoked God’s wrath for foolishly worshipping the gods of the very people he had defeated (25:15-16). His heart lifted up with pride, Amaziah rejected the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill him (25:16).

Fresh off his victory over Edom, Amaziah initiated a call to war against Joash, king of Israel. Joash warned Amaziah to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19). Blinded by pride and heeding the counsel of his peers (25:17), Amaziah, went to war and was defeated by Joash who took him prisoner (25:21-23).

With King Amaziah as his prisoner, Joash broke down the northern wall of Jerusalem and plundered the treasuries of the palace and the Temple (25:21-24).

I close with a principle concerning the sovereignty of the LORD.

Sinful pride distorts the thoughts within man, and Amaziah deluded by victory, refused to heed the warning sent to him in a fable by Joash, king of Israel (25:18-20). We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).

Amaziah refused the prophet’s warning and rejected the caution of Israel’s king. The king’s pride led to Judah’s humiliating defeat, the disgrace of being taken prisoner, the eventual plundering of the Temple, and pilfering of the palace treasuries (25:21-23). The king suffered his final humiliation when his servants conspired to slay him (25:28).

Warning: Pride distorts a man’s thinking, blinds him to his faults, and invariably brings him to ruin. In the words of Solomon:

Proverbs 16:18 – Pride [arrogance] goeth before destruction [calamity; breach], and an haughty [proud; self-sufficient] spirit before a fall [ruin].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Tragedy: When We Forget the Kindness of Others (2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our Scripture reading focuses on two parallel accounts of the life and times of Joash (i.e. Jehoash), the young king of Judah, who began to reign when he was seven years old, and Jehoiada who served as the chief priest in the Temple and was the spiritual mentor for the king until his death at 130 years old.

2 Kings 12

Jehoash ascended to the throne of Judah when he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:3-4, 12) and under the influence of the chief priest Jehoiada, the young king began a revival of worship in the Temple (12:2). The Temple had been neglected and fallen into disrepair during the reign Queen-mother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 24:7).

The king, therefore commanded that offerings be collected and dedicated to repairing the “house of the LORD” (12:4-6). When he realized the repairs were not being made as he had commanded (2 Chronicles 24:5), the king demanded a report on the state of the offerings (12:7-8) and ordered that the money given by the people would be secured and the repairs a priority (12:9-16; 2 Chronicles 24:8-13).

2 Kings 13 – Death of Elisha

There is an interesting dynamic recorded here between the great prophet Elisha and Joash, the king of Israel (13:14). Although we read that the king “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (13:11), he nevertheless respected the old prophet and his ministry in Israel. King Joash came to Elisha’s death bed and “wept over” the venerable prophet saying, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2 Chronicles 24:11).

Elisha left the king with one final prophecy, that Israel would defeat Syria in three battles (13:15-19); however, the nation would fail to completely destroy their adversary (13:19).

To complete today’s devotional, I invite you to turn your attention to 2 Chronicles 24 and the record of the death of the chief priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:15-16), and the assassination of Jehoash (i.e. Joash) who reigned forty years over Judah (2 Chronicles 24:1, 24-25).

2 Chronicles 24 – The Death of the Priest Jehoiada and the Conspiracy to Kill King Joash

Jehoiada, the chief priest and mentor of King Joash (i.e. Jehoash), died at the age of 130 (24:15). Without his godly, aged mentor, the king was soon encouraged by younger leaders in Judah to tolerate idol worship in the kingdom (24:17-18).

Having turned to idols, Judah provoked the LORD’S wrath against the nation. Restraining His judgment for a season, the LORD mercifully sent prophets to call the people to repent (24:19). One of those faithful prophets was Zechariah, the son of the late chief priest Jehoiada (24:20), who had been the king’s spiritual mentor.

Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation and warned of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22). Rather than heed the words of the prophet, the king conspired with the young leaders and killed the son of the man who had spared his life when he was an infant (2 Kings 11:3).

Zechariah was stoned to death, even as he warned the LORD would avenge his death (24:21-22). Fulfilling Zechariah’s dying prophecy, the stage was set for Jehoash to be wounded in battle against the King of Syria (24:23-25a). Recovering from his wounds suffered in battle, the king was slain by his servants (24:25b-26).

Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest, who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of then, Bob Jones College, reminded the students, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him” (24:22a).  How could a man whose life was spared by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the cruel death of his son?

Bitterness! When Joash’s sin was exposed and confronted, rather than repent, the king became enraged! You and I can avoid the same folly if we will heed Ephesians 4:31-32.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips (2 Kings 5-8)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5-8

Our Scripture reading covers four chapters; however, today’s devotional will focus only on 2 Kings 5.

2 Kings 5

With Elijah’s dramatic departure into the presence of the LORD (2 Kings 2), Elisha became the principal prophet in Israel. Several miracles, including those recorded in 2 Kings 4, validated that Elisha was Elijah’s successor and proved the power of God rested upon him.

The news of God’s anointing upon Elisha reached the household of a man named Naaman, “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1). We read that Naaman “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great in size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was a physical affliction…leprosy. Apart from a miracle, there was no cure. A leper would eventually face exclusion from the living, as the dreaded disease slowly ate away his face, limbs, and extremities of his body.

Providentially, a slave girl from Israel shared with Naaman’s wife that there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  Hearing there was hope for the captain of his armies to be healed, the king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel with gifts and a letter to the king requesting that his servant might be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was an impossible one for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).

When Elisha understood the king of Israel’s distress, he requested that Naaman be sent to his household, assuring the king, “let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Imagine the drama as Naaman, the great captain of Syria, arrives at Elisha’s house. His plight with leprosy was no doubt visible and this great warrior found his body plagued with a curse that not only stole his dignity, but would inevitably rob him of life.

Rather than the dramatic miracle healing he had hoped, Elisha sent a messenger and commanded Naaman to take a path of humiliation and “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10). Naaman’s response brings to light the fact that Naaman not only had an affliction of the flesh, his soul was also cursed and blinded with another disease…pride.

Naaman was enraged (5:11-12). Instead of some great, ceremonial act of healing, the prophet’s demand that he wash himself in Israel’s small Jordan River (5:9-10) was an affront to the man of Syria. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants prevailed upon him and persuaded their master to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Miraculously healed, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman then responded with a moving statement of his faith in the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel, and swore that he would never again offer sacrifices to other gods (5:17-18).

The closing verses of 2 Kings 5 turns the spiritual lens of this passage from Naaman’s dramatic statement of faith to the petty, covetousness of “Gehazi, the servant of Elisha” (5:20). Knowing Elisha had refused Naaman’s reward for healing him of leprosy, Gehazi determined he would not allow the moment to pass without seeking opportunity to enrich himself (5:20-22).

Without Elisha’s knowledge, Gehazi followed after Naaman and when the captain of Syria saw him he halted. Stepping down from his chariot, Naaman greeted Elisha’s servant with a question of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21). Gehazi responded with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), but then lied by suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward. Naaman granted Gehazi’s request who then took and hid the gifts (5:23-24) before returning to Elisha (5:25).

With the keen discernment of a spiritual man, Elisha questioned his servant “whence comest thou” (5:25). Gehazi lied, answering, his master, “Thy servant went no whither” (5:25). Knowing the covetous, disingenuous spirit of Gehazi, Elisha pronounced God’s judgment on his unfaithful servant who was immediately smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).

There are many spiritual lessons we might take from 2 Kings 5. One is that Naaman’s sinful pride nearly robbed him of not only the physical healing of his body from leprosy, but also the spiritual healing that came to his soul when he believed and confessed, he would only offer sacrifices to the LORD hereafter (5:17).

Another spiritual lesson is the reminder that God hates covetousness and lying lips: Gehazi coveted Naaman’s reward and then lied to Elisha. The consequences of his sins was not only that leprosy would plague him the rest of his life, but his children would also bear the curse of their father’s sins (5:27).

I close being reminded there are seven things the LORD despises and that will invite His judgment (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Proverbs 6:16-19 – “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A New Era, A New Prophet: Elisha (2 Kings 1-4)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 1-4

With no introduction, the Book of 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings ended.  The old prophet Elijah is in the last days of his earthly ministry and his protégé Elisha is prepared to take up his “mantle,” literally and figuratively (2 Kings 2:13). Due to the length of today’s reading, I will focus on a few highlights from each of the four chapters.

2 Kings 1

Israel’s King Ahaziah, the son of Ahab and Jezebel (1:2), reigned two years before he fell through the lattice work of an upper window and suffered what would be a terminal injury (1:2). Wondering if he might recover from the fall, the king sent servants to enquire of the pagan god Baalzebub (1:2).  Yahweh, however, intervened and sent Elijah to confront the king’s messengers.  After reproving the king for sending his servants to enquire of Baalzebub, Elijah announced that a premature death would befall the king (1:3-4).

When his couriers returned, Ahaziah questioned why they had returned so soon (1:5). The messengers then explained how they had met a prophet who rebuked them for turning to Baalzebub and then prophesied the king’s death (1:6).

Distressed, Ahaziah demanded “what manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?” (1:7) Hearing the physical description of the prophet, Ahaziah exclaimed, “It is Elijah the Tishbite” (1:8).

Determined to exact revenge on the prophet, the king sent a captain and fifty soldiers to demand that Elijah come to the king. Elijah boldly contested the demands of the wicked king and declared, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty” (1:10). A second time, Ahaziah sent a captain and fifty soldiers demanding Elijah come to the king and those men were also consumed when “the fire of God came down from heaven” (1:12). When King Ahaziah sent the third captain and his fifty soldiers to meet Elijah, they came with humility and a reverential fear of the man of God (1:13-14).

Elijah, bearing the power of God on his life and ministry, stood courageously before the king who was laying upon his bed and prophesied, “Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die” (1:16). Ahaziah died and Jehoram, his younger brother, reigned in his stead as King of Israel (1:17).

A brief explanation: You will notice in 1 Kings 1:17 the mention of two men named Jehoram. There was the Jehoram who became the king of Israel after his brother Ahaziah died. Another Jehoram was the son of Jehoshaphat, the godly king who reigned in Judah.

2 Kings 2

2 Kings 2 records the momentous occasion when God sent a fiery chariot to take up Elijah to heaven. Witnessing Elijah’s departure, Elisha was blessed with a double portion of the old prophet’s spirit (2:9-11).

2 Kings 3

Elisha served as God’s prophet before the kings of three nations in 2 Kings 3. The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom all learned God had a prophet in the land and that prophet was Elisha.

2 Kings 4 – Four miracles performed by Elisha. 

The first miracle, multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).  The second miracle, blessing a childless, elderly woman and her husband with a son, as a reward for their serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  Raising that same elderly couples’ son from the dead was Elisha’s third miracle (4:18-37).  The fourth miracle was turning a poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Dead Man Walking: Ahab’s Tragic Death (1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18

As noted in earlier devotions, 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 are parallel accounts of the same historical events. The focus of today’s devotion is 1 Kings 22.

1 Kings 22 – The Tragic Death of King Ahab

1 Kings 21 concluded with the prophet Elijah prophesying that Ahab, king of Israel, and his wife Jezebel would die horrifying deaths for murdering Naboth for his vineyard (21:17-24). Hearing the prophesy of his own death, Ahab had humbled himself and God spared him (21:27-29).

1 Kings 22 is the climax of King Ahab’s reign over Israel.  Three years had passed since Syria and Israel warred (22:1) and in the third year, Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, visited Ahab who asked if Judah would be Israel’s ally and go to war against Syria (22:2-4).

You might wonder what motive Judah had to be Israel’s ally.  The answer is revealed when we read, “Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people” (22:4).  Jehoshaphat and Ahab had become family by marriage; Jehoshaphat’s son having married Ahab’s daughter (2 Kings 8:16-18).

Evidencing the judgment of a wise king, Jehoshaphat desired the LORD’s direction before going to battle and requested, “Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day” (22:5).

Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and gathered nearly four hundred of his own prophets who prophesied the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory on the battlefield over the king of Syria (22:6).  Godly Jehoshaphat was not satisfied and enquired if there was not another prophet in Israel, one who had not compromised himself with Ahab’s prophets (22:7).

Ahab confessed there was one prophet whose name was “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22: 8); however, Ahab confessed, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8).

Ahab sent a servant to invite Micaiah to prophesy, who warned the prophet that the other prophets were of “one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which isgood” (22:13).

In a twist of irony, Micaiah prophesied exactly what Ahab wanted to hear (22:15); however, the king rebuked him and demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” (22:16).

Micaiah prophesied that Ahab would die and Israel would be “scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (22:17).  Acknowledging his own self-fulfilling sentiment, Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, “Did I not tell thee that he [the prophet Micaiah] would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (22:18).

Micaiah completed his task as God’s prophet and his prophesy was proven true when Ahab was slain in battle, dying in his chariot (22:34-35). The words of Elijah were fulfilled when Ahab’s blood was washed from his chariot and “the dogs licked up his blood” (22:38; note 21:19).

I close with an observation: While Ahab was committed to prophets who would tell him what he wanted to hear, Jehoshaphat desired a true word of prophecy (22:5-7).

A word to the naive: Dismiss the warning of faithful, God-fearing men and you do so to your own demise.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Oh Lord, Hear Our Cry and Heal Our Land” (1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 17 complement one another with historic details that indicate the presence and providence of God’s guiding hand in human history.

1 Kings 16 – A Succession of Wicked Kings in Israel

While Asa, the third king of Judah, reigned for forty-one years and that nation enjoyed a season of revival and peace (15:11-14), the northern ten tribes known as Israel, went through a succession of wicked kings who doomed that nation to all manner of sin, idolatry, and violent assassinations (1 Kings 16).

Knowing God uses the penchant of wicked men to work His design for man, the LORD sent the prophet Jehu to remind Baasha that he was king because God had ordained it (16:2a). That does not mean God ordained the assassination of the former king, but that he used Baasha’s intent to accomplish His divine purpose.

1 Kings 16 gives us a record of a rapid succession of wicked kings. King Baasha died and his son Elah became the fourth king of Israel (16:6-8). Elah reigned only one year before he was slain in an assassination plot by Zimri (16:10-20). Zimri became the fifth king of Israel, but took his own life by setting fire to the palace when Omri laid siege to the city (16:16-20). A brief division of Israel as a nation followed with half the nation following Tibni (16:21-22) and the other half following after Omri (16:21-23).

After Tibni’s death, Omri united Israel, made himself king (16:23-24), setting the stage for the rise of the most notorious king and queen in Israel’s history:

“Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him…Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead” (16:25, 28).

There are few men or women in history whose infamy is so appalling that the mere mention of their name paints in one’s mind a picture of gross, notorious wickedness. King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel defined wickedness in the extreme (16:29-33). Of Ahab we read, he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (16:33).

2 Chronicles 17 – A Revival in Judah

Having learned from the failures of his father, Jehoshaphat, son of King Asa, became Judah’s fourth king and “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 [sins and wickedness]of Israel” (17:3-4).

While the people of Israel suffered oppression due to the wickedness of their kings, Judah returned to a time of spiritual revival. King Jehoshaphat turned his heart to the LORD and began to walk in the way of God’s Law and Commandments (17:4), God began to bless Judah. After tearing down the idol places, Jehoshaphat dispatched throughout Judah five leaders, two priests, and nine Levites who were charged with instructing the people in “the book of the law of the LORD” (17:7-9).

God blessed Jehoshaphat and the “fear of the LORD” fell upon Judah’s neighbors who began paying tribute to Judah (17:10-11).

Jehoshaphat’s love and dedication to the LORD and His Commandments, inspired “mighty men of valour” to rally around him in Jerusalem and Judah began to enjoy a season of peace and prosperity (17:13-19).

A concluding thought: I doubt many would debate that we are living in a time of sorrow and uncertainty. The plague of locusts in Africa threatens widespread famine, while the menace of a pandemic has afflicted hundreds of thousands, killed many, and crippled the world’s economy. Accompanying that terror is widespread lawlessness and violence in our nation that might well plunge our nation into a civil war.

What hope is there for these troubled times?

The answer is the same as it was in Judah’s day: We need leaders who, like Jehoshaphat, will lead our nation to repent of her sins, turn to the LORD, and walk in the ways of His Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, 10, 12-13).

Only then will the LORD hear our cry and heal our land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Tragic Legacy: How will you be remembered? (1 Kings 15, 2 Chronicles 13-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 13-16

Once again, we find 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 13-16 are parallel records of the same events. In today’s reading we find historical record in 2 Chronicles to be more detailed and giving us a greater insight into the drama between Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

1 Kings 15

1 Kings 15 records a succession of kings reigning over Israel and Judah.  Judah’s King, Rehoboam, died and his son Abijam was crowned king and reigned only three years (15:1-2). Continuing in the sins of Solomon and Rehoboam (15:3-8), his life was cut short and his son Asa ascended to the throne of Judah (15:8) and reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem (15:10).

The reign of Asa was a glorious time in Judah, and the king began leading the nation back to the LORD (15:11). The sodomites (male prostitutes) that had found refuge in Judah during Rehoboam’s reign (15:24) were driven out of the land in Asa’s reign (15:12). Even Asa’s mother was not spared the reform as she was deposed from her throne as Queen mother for worshipping idols (15:13).

A contemporary of Asa in Judah was Baasha king of Israel (15:16) who designed to make war against Judah (15:17) until Asa emptied the treasuries of the Temple and his palace to pay for a league with the king of Syria (15:18-21). As we will learn in 2 Chronicles 16, his decision to align himself with the king of Syria was not the will of the LORD (2 Chronicles 16:7-10).

2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Chronicles continues the same history, adding more detail and insight into the LORD’S dealings with both Judah and Israel. There was a succession of kings of David’s bloodline in Judah and some, particularly, King Asa, followed the will of the LORD and led the nation in spiritual revival (2 Chronicles 14:2-7).

In Israel, however, there was a succession of kings who continued that nation’s rebellion and rejection of the God of Israel.

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace, and prosperity, until the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Asa turned from the LORD and put his trust in his reasoning apart from the LORD (2 Chronicles 16). When Baasha, king of Israel, led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and sought a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Though successful in the immediate, Asa’s decision to seek a league with Syria was foolish and offended God. A prophet named Hanani declared Asa’s lack of faith would haunt him the rest of his life, and he would face wars until his death (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and imprisoned the prophet, and then “oppressed” some of the people who were no doubt critical of the king’s decisions (16:10).

Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a critical disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest gout, but I wonder if it was not gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa, whose heart was not right with the LORD, turned to his physicians and not 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).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

Pay Day Someday! (2 Chronicles 10-12)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 10-12

You will find that today’s Scripture reading in 2 Chronicles parallels events that are recorded in our preceding reading assignment (1 Kings 12-14).

2 Chronicles 10 – A Tragic Time in Israel’s History

Following the death of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31), his son Rehoboam ascended the throne and all Israel came to Shechem to make him king (10:1).

Unfortunately, all was not well in Israel. Though not yet physically divided, the nation was spiritually duplicitous and Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4). The LORD had warned Solomon that his failure to keep the Law and Commandments would be punished by Israel being divided by one of his own servants. The identity of that servant is revealed as Solomon’s old adversary, Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:2-3).

Evidencing the foolishness of his youth and inexperience, Rehoboam faced the grievances of Israel, lacking both grace and humility (10:4-5).  Rejecting the counsel of his father’s older and wiser advisors (10:6-7), Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and the king’s harshness provoked the people to rebel (10:8-14).

Remembering the LORD is sovereign, we read, “So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God” (10:15).  The ten northern tribes of Israel, after hearing the king’s words, “went to their tents” (10:16) and “rebelled against the house of David” (10:19).

2 Chronicles 11 – A Nation Divided

Under Jeroboam, the ten northern tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of the south, Judah and Benjamin, became one nation known as Judah. King Rehoboam had thought to raise an army to seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4). Dissuaded from civil war, Rehoboam set about building fortresses (11:4-12) to strengthen Judah against the battles that would be provoked by a divided kingdom.

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates the swift decline of a nation that rejects God (11:13-15).

We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts [borders; i.e. cities and lands in Israel]… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off [i.e. cut them off] from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually. He instituted a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15). Thankfully we read that there were a few left in Israel who “set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel” and they continued to worship in Jerusalem (11:16).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised the wisdom passed on to him by his father; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:17-23).

2 Chronicles 12 – The Menace of Pride and Arrogance

Comfortable in his palace and with Judah secured and strengthened, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).

The LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah. The prophet Shemaiah declared that the sins of Rehoboam were to be punished by the LORD delivering his kingdom over to serve Egypt (12:1-5). Hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, the king and his leaders humbled themselves before the LORD, Who in His mercy, spared Judah from destruction (12:5-8).

Adding to Judah’s humiliation, Shishak removed “shields of gold which Solomon had made” from the walls of the palace (12:9).  Rehoboam, perhaps to save face in front of his people, contented himself with a counterfeit of the glory that once belonged to his kingdom, and “made shields of brass” to replace the “shields of gold” (12:10).

What a tragedy! Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, masked the miserable state of the nation!

I close pondering what lessons we might take from today’s Scripture.

Is it possible that, like Judah of old, our nation’s wealth and prosperity has deceived us? In the same way Rehoboam became servant to Egypt and counterfeited the loss of his “shields of gold” with brass shields, I fear we have become a nation enslaved to a mounting debt we owe to enemies committed to our own demise.

The United States has rejected the LORD, His Word, Law and Commandments. Is it possible our nation’s pursuit of the pleasures of sin has blinded us to the warnings of the evangelists of old… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Kingdom is Divided (1 Kings 12-14)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 12-14

When Jeroboam learned that Solomon was dead and his son Rehoboam reigned in his stead (11:43-12:1), he returned from Egypt where he had found refuge (12:3).

1 Kings 12 – The Precipitous Decline of Israel and the Threat of Civil War

Summoned by the northern ten tribes, Jeroboam asserted himself to speak on behalf of the tribes of Israel, and petitioned that King Rehoboam would relieve the heavy burden of taxation and servitude under which the people had suffered during Solomon’s reign (12:3-4).

Though having the advantage of his father’s counselors (12:6-7), Rehoboam, dismissed them and heeded the counsel of his peers who stoked his pride and ambition (12:8-11). Rehoboam’s arrogance set in motion a rebellion that threatened civil war in Israel and led to the division of the kingdom (12:12-33).

The northern ten tribes calling themselves “Israel,” made Jeroboam the first king (12:19-20). Those tribes not only rebelled against King Rehoboam, but also set themselves against God. They abandoned worship at the Temple in Jerusalem and made themselves “two calves of gold” (12:19-20, 25-30).

Because the priests of Levi refused to follow Jeroboam’s insurrection, he “made priests of the lowest of the people” (12:31) and erected and altar in Bethel that “he had devised of his own heart” (12:31).

1 Kings 13 – Great Wickedness in the Northern Ten Tribes (Israel)

1 Kings 13 gives us the beginning history of a divided Israel represented by the ten tribes of the north that had rebelled against Rehoboam. The rebellious tribes followed Jeroboam into idolatry (13:1-34), and it appears he acted not only as king, but also as priest over the people (12:33-13:1).

We read that Jeroboam “returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places” (13:33). The description of Jeroboam’s priests as the “lowest of the people” illustrates how little regard he placed on worship and the priesthood. He gave no thought of a man’s birth, lineage, or character when he chose priests for Israel, as stipulated by God.

1 Kings 14 – The Spiritual and Moral Decline of Judah

1 Kings 14 begins as a prophecy against Jeroboam and reveals his lineage would be cut off.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over Judah; however, his reign was marked by wickedness and the nation’s decline into all manner of sin and ungodliness (14:21-24). Even in Judah, idol worship flourished and the depth of that nation’s wickedness is expressed in this: “There were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations”(14:24).

Not even the invasion of the armies of Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt, caused the people of Judah to turn their hearts to the LORD (14:25). Raiding the treasures of Solomon, Shishak also took the shields of gold that decorated the walls of Solomon’s palace to Egypt (14:25-26).  Adding to the disgrace, Rehoboam instructed that shields of brass be substituted for the shields of gold that were removed by the king of Egypt (14:27-28).

God’s warning to Solomon that his sins would be the catalyst for a divided kingdom were fulfilled and we read, “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (14:31).

Our devotion ends with the news that “Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried” (14:31); reminding us that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith