Tag Archives: Spiritual disciplines

The Messianic Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ the King (Zechariah 10-14)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 10-14

Today’s Bible reading concludes our study of the Book of Zechariah, the prophet to the post-exilic people of the Babylonian captivity. Of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, only Judah and Benjamin had returned to Judah following the edict of Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1).

Though he began his ministry as a young prophet, and was a contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah was nevertheless a bold prophet who did not shy from his calling. Whether confronting the sins of his people and calling them to repentance, or assuring them with the prophecies and promises of a coming Messiah, Zechariah was faithful and true to the Word of the LORD.

As we have seen, Zechariah was privileged with foretelling some of the great Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament Scriptures and fulfilled by Jesus Christ in His first coming. For today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to consider Zechariah’s prophecies in light of the Messiah King, Jesus Christ.

The Messiah would come to Jerusalem “riding upon an ass, And upon the colt the foal of an ass” and He would be called King. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:37; Mark 11:7-11)

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; Lowly, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass.

The Messiah would be betrayed. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 26:14-16)

Zechariah 11:12-13 – And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised [i.e. prized or appraised] at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

The Messiah’s price would be used to purchase a potter’s field. (Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 27:9-10)

The Messiah would be pierced: Romans soldiers pierced Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; John 20:25-27)

Zechariah 12:10 – And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, The spirit of grace and of supplications: And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, And shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Notice that the prophecies of Zechariah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, our Savior Redeemer, in exact detail.

Surely, Christ is coming again as the prophets foretold, and as He promised! Even so Lord, come quickly! (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Fifth Vision of Zechariah: A Flying Scroll (Zechariah 5-9)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 5-9

Today’s Scripture reading is Zechariah 5-9, and finds us in the midst of eight visions that came to the prophet Zechariah in the night. We have already noted the first five of the eight visions.

The first vision was of horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17). The second vision was of “four horns,” each representing four world powers (1:18-21). The third vision was of a man who was surveying the city of Jerusalem” (2:1-13). A fourth vision was of the high priest Joshua who was seen wearing “filthy garments” and was given a “change of raiment” (3:1-10), symbolic of Israel repenting, being cleansed of her sin and restored. The fifth vision was of a Menorah, golden lampstand (“candlestick of gold”) that presented “seven lamps” supplied with oil by “two olive trees” (4:1-14).

Zechariah 5 presents us with two visions of the eight visions recorded by Zechariah. The sixth vision is described as a “flying roll” (5:1).  The seventh vision was of a woman in “an ephah [i.e. basket] that goeth forth” (5:5).  The eighth and last nightly vision of Zechariah was of “four chariots” pulled by horses (6:1-3). The four horse drawn chariots represented four angels of judgment (described as “the four spirits of the heavens” (6:5).

I will limit the focus of today’s devotional to the sixth vision found in Zechariah 5:1-4.

The Sixth Vision (5:1-4)

Zechariah’s sixth vision was of “a flying roll,” or perhaps more precisely, a flying scroll (5:1). Zechariah describes his conversation with a man, whom we have already identified as the “angel of the LORD” (1:11; 2:3; 3:6; 4:1; 5:5), and whom I believe was a pre-incarnate appearance of the LORD Jesus Christ).

The angel asked, “What seest thou?” (5:2). Zechariah then described a “flying roll,” giving its dimensions (5:3); however, he did not know its meaning. The angel then revealed to Zechariah that the scroll was a symbol of the Law of God and was inscribed with two commandments:  The third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7), and the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”(Exodus 20:15).

I am unsure why only two commandments were inscribed on the “flying roll;” however, it is certain that the Commandments were a reminder to Zechariah: Break the Law of God and you will surely “be cut off” (5:3, 4).

Entering the house as a “flying roll,” the Law remained “in the midst of [the] house” (5:4).  A reminder that, though we might dismiss the weight of the Law of God, we cannot dismiss its judgment.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Has Chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1-4)

Daily reading assignment – Zechariah 1-4

Today’s Scripture reading introduces us to the prophecies of Zechariah, a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Both prophets were called by the LORD to minister in Jerusalem during the post-exilic era (Ezra 1:1-2). Zechariah, a young prophet at the time of this writing, had the same task as Haggai: To challenge and exhort God’s people to rebuild the Temple on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.

The focus of Haggai’s prophecies was to encourage the people to finish rebuilding the temple. The prophecies of Zechariah had an even far-reaching context; one that was not only applicable to the world of his day, but also to the world at the Second Coming of Christ when He returns as the Messiah King.

Zechariah 1:1-6 – Zechariah’s Commission to the Work of the Prophet

Zechariah announced with exactness the date his ministry as prophet began in Jerusalem: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (1:1). We know from history that the date was 520 B.C., two months after the commencement of Haggai’s ministry (Haggai 1:1).

Zechariah would have been born in Babylon during the seventy years of captivity. Like Haggai, his ministry was to convey to God’s people the LORD’S displeasure for their neglect of His house (the Temple, 1:2). Their failure to build the Temple had provoked God’s wrath; however, the LORD is longsuffering. Zechariah was commanded to go to the people and “say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts” (1:3).

Zechariah 1:7-4:14 – Eight Nightly Visions

To enlighten His prophet, the LORD came to Zechariah in eight nighttime visions that are recorded in Zechariah 1:7-6:8. These eight visions gave the prophet a glimpse of the future blessings and the glory the LORD would pour out on His people if they would repent of their sins and turn to Him. I will list five of the eight visions, but will only consider the first for today’s devotional.

The first of the eight visions was of horsemen among a grove of myrtle trees (1:7-17). The second vision was of “four horns” that each represented four world powers (1:18-21). The third vision was of a man who was seen surveying with “a measuring [the city of Jerusalem with a] line in his hand,” (2:1-13). A fourth vision was of “Joshua the high priest” wearing “filthy garments,” but given a “change of raiment” (3:1-10), symbolic of Israel repenting, being cleansed of her sin and restored.

Zechariah’s fifth vision was of a golden lampstand (“candlestick of gold”) that presented “seven lamps” supplied with oil by “two olive trees.” The olive oil flowed into a bowl that supplied the seven lamps with oil (4:1-14).

Time nor space permits me to focus on the eight visions the LORD revealed to Zechariah; however, I will draw your attention to the first vision (1:8-17).

Zechariah saw a “man riding upon a red horse” who was seen “among the myrtle trees…and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white” (1:8). While the number of hoses is not given, we notice that the horses had riders (1:10-11). I believe the man on the horse was “the angel of the LORD” (1:8-12) and a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. This same is true of the man seen surveying the city of Jerusalem in Zechariah’s third vision (2:1-13).

Zechariah 1:11 shows that this vision occurred at a time when the Gentile nations of the world were at peace (the Persians having subdued the nations of the Babylonian empire). The Jews; however, were not at peace after being oppressed by Assyria, and serving Babylon in captivity for seventy years (1:12).

Indicating a season of judgment was to come upon the Gentile nations for their harsh treatment of His people, Zechariah was commanded to cry out against the heathen nations and declare for the LORD, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15  And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease” (1:14-15).

The LORD promised to show mercy, and prosper His people if they would rebuild His Temple (1:16). What a joy it would have been for the Jews to hear Zechariah prophesy, saying,

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (1:17).

God had not forgotten His people, nor the wrongs they had suffered. The LORD was waiting for His people to repent of their sins, that He might overwhelm them with His blessings.

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Consider you ways!” (Haggai 1-2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1-2

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

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

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

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes.  For ten years, from 530 BC to 520 BC, the Temple was neglected while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not finished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps even yourself?  Most of us do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD. However, we might often be guilty of procrastination and suggesting by our words and attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

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

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

Haggai left no doubt why the people were struggling, laboring much while harvesting so little, and detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in obtaining comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

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

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

Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is With You in The Midst of Trials (Ezra 1-3)

Scripture reading – Ezra 1-3

Our chronological Scripture reading schedule brings us today to the Book of Ezra and the return of the Jews to their homeland. Jeremiah had prophesied the captivity of Judah would last seventy years (Jeremiah 25:9-11), and when it was finished, the Jews would return their homeland. True to His Word, God remembered the prophecies of Jeremiah and “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (1:1).

Ezra 1 is a testimony that God is faithful to His promises.

Permit me a recap of historical events that led up to the miraculous return of God’s chosen people to their homeland. The following dates are approximate; however, they give us a timeline that serves as a reminder that“HIS-STORY” is a testimony of God’s sovereignty and providential dealings with His people.

Solomon’s Temple is believed to have been completed in 949 B.C. In 722 B.C. the Northern Kingdom known as Israel, fell to Assyria. Nebuchadnezzar first subdued Jerusalem and Judah in 606 B.C., taking Judah’s King Jehoiakim captive, along with several other Jewish youth, among them Daniel (Daniel 1:3-4). The 606 B.C. date was the commencement of the seventy years of captivity that Jeremiah had prophesied (Jeremiah 25:9-11). Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The Medo-Persian armies conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.

In 536 B.C., seventy years after the first Babylonian captivity, Cyrus of Persia became the sole regent of the Babylonian empire and issued an edict proclaiming, “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (1:1-2).

Seventy years after the first captivity began, God moved on the heart of Cyrus to free the Jews to “go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem” (1:3).

Consider two extraordinary events found in the opening verses of Ezra. The first, that God moved on the heart of a heathen king to finance the rebuilding of His Temple in Jerusalem. The second, that Cyrus issued and edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland.

The same LORD who moved the heart of a pagan king to do His will, is the same God who controls the heart of every authority in your life. King Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

After granting the Jews liberty to return to their homeland, only a small number, less than 50,000, shared the vision and heart for returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (1:5). With the exception of some priests and Levites, only two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were represented in the number who were sensitive to the Spirit of God and were willing to leave Babylon and begin the task of rebuilding the Temple and Jerusalem.

Why were the other tribes not moved to return to the land God had promised His people for an inheritance? I fear they had been in Babylon too long (taken captive by Assyria 136 years prior to Judah’s captivity). The Babylonian culture was part of them and they had no heart of longing for the land of their ancestry. Sadly, the majority of the Jews treasured Babylon, and their hearts were not in Jerusalem.

Where is your treasure?

 Matthew 6:19-2119 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Hosts and Their Opposition to the Prayers of the Saints (Daniel 10-12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 10-12

Daniel 10-12 is the fourth and final vision of Daniel. Daniel 10 introduces the vision. Daniel 11:1-35 revealed the immediate future, while Daniel 11:36-12:4 was a revelation of the distant future and a time we know as the Tribulation: “the time of the end” (11:36) in which the antichrist will appear. Daniel’s final vision concludes with a revelation of the Great White Throne (12:4-13) and God’s final judgment.

Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Daniel 10 and the introduction of the final vision.

Daniel 10:1-9 – A Heavenly Messenger

Writing in the third person, Daniel employs his Chaldean name Belteshazzar (no doubt the name he employed in his official capacity as an officer of the king’s court), and revealed a transition of leadership in Babylon citing the time of his fourth and final vision as, “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1).

The date of the vision was about 536 B.C., about the time of Daniel’s experience in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6) and soon after King Cyrus had issued his edict, freeing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1). Fifty thousand captives had returned to Israel, but soon after their arrival they faced opposition that not only hindered the work on the Temple, but finally succeeded in stopping it altogether.

Daniel, serving as an official in the Persian court, must have been privy to the opposition his brethren were facing in Israel and that may have been the cause for his “mourning three full weeks” (10:2). Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, and about the time of the Passover, “in the four and twentieth day of the first month” (10:4), God sent a messenger to Daniel as he “was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel” (the Tigris River, 10:4).

The messenger, described as “a certain man” (10:5), was so brilliant in appearance (10:5-6) that Daniel and his companions were terrified, though only Daniel saw the vision (10:7). With a voice that sounded “like the voice of a multitude” (10:6) and was accompanied by a great earthquake, Daniel’s companions fled (10:7), leaving Daniel alone to see the “great vision” (10:8).

Though the man in Daniel’s vision was not identified, I am of the opinion he was a pre-incarnate appearance of the LORD Jesus Christ.  The prophet was so overwhelmed by the heavenly presence of the man, that he felt himself to be utterly corrupt and physically weak (10:8). Lying prostrate before the man and his face to the ground, the voice and words of Daniel’s visitor brought on a “deep sleep” (10:9).

Daniel 10:10-21 – Revelation of an Unseen Spiritual Battle: The Angels of the LORD vs. The Demons of Darkness

Daniel was suddenly awakened when a hand touched him, lifting him up on his knees and the palms of his hands (10:10). The hand of this second visitor is not identified; however, he was an angel and might have been the angel Gabriel who had appeared twice before in Daniel 8:16 and Daniel 9:21. Comforting the prophet with his salutation, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent” (10:11a), Daniel stood to his feet still trembling (10:11b).

Daniel 10:12-21 gives us a great insight into an invisible spiritual conflict between the LORD and His angels, and Satan and his demons of darkness.  The angel informed Daniel that he had been sent by the LORD on the first day when he had prayed (10:2-3, 12); however, he had been hindered in his mission by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” who had resisted him twenty-one days until Michael the archangel had come to assist him (10:13).

The angel stated the purpose of his mission in coming to Daniel saying, “I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people [the believing Jews] in the latter days [the time of tribulation]: for yet the vision is for many days” (10:14). Hearing the news of what would become of God’s people at the end of the ages, Daniel once again fell to the ground, dumbstruck and deeply troubled by the vision (10:15-17). Strengthened by the touch and encouraging words of his angelic visitor (10:16, 18-19), Daniel was ready to receive the prophecy that would follow (Daniel 11-12).

I close inviting you to consider the revelation of an invisible, spiritual warfare that is being waged by the angels of heaven against the demonic angels (10:20). Two great and wicked fallen angels are identified as “the prince of Persia,” and one who will follow him, “the prince of Grecia” (10:20b).

The next time you pray and grow anxious waiting on the LORD to answer your prayer, remember: There is an evil host of angels that are actively opposing God’s work on earth. They influence and possess men and women in the great halls of government, wield power for evil in society, and are ever encouraging wicked men and women to oppose God and commit evil against His people.

Ephesians 6:11-1211  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Daniel 1-3

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

Daniel 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Day of the LORD (Joel 1-3)

Scripture reading – Joel 1-3

The Book of Joel is another of the minor prophets of the Old Testament Scriptures (not minor in the sense that his ministry was unimportant, but in the brevity of the book that bears his name and fills only three chapters in the Bible).

We know little of Joel except that his ministry was to Judah, the Southern Kingdom ,and he was the “son of Pethuel” (Joel 1:1). Even the dates that Joel ministered are unknown, although scholars suggest he might have prophesied during the reign of King Joash (835-796 B.C.).

The Book of Joel described three catastrophic invasions that would befall Judah and serve as symbols of the great and dreadful judgment that would come upon the world in the “Day of the LORD.”

Joel 1 – A Plague of Locusts

From antiquity to our modern day, locusts have been the haunt of mankind, often devasting a nation’s crops and producing a famine that leaves both man and beast starving.

Joel called upon all the people of Judah to acknowledge the plague of locusts was unlike any the nation had faced (1:2-3). Coming in four waves (1:4), the locusts had entered Judah like an invading army, and there was nothing left to feed or sustain the population (1:4-7). Fruit vines, trees, and crops were in ruin, and the “field is wasted…corn is wasted” (1:10). There were no offerings to the LORD, because there was no harvest (1:9).

Why would the LORD allow this frightening hoard of locusts to descend upon His people and leave them starving? Because the LORD in His mercy will use natural disasters to cause a nation to reflect on its sin, repent, and turn to Him.

Joel called upon the “ministers of God, the priests, to stand between the altar and the porch of the Temple. Dressed in “sackcloth,” there were to “howl” all night and sorrow that there were no offerings, because there was no harvest (1:13). If the people did not repent of their sins and turn to God, Joel warned “the day of the LORD [was] at hand, as a destruction from the Almighty” (1:15).

After describing the devastation left in the wake of God’s judgment (1:16-18), Joel cried out to the LORD for the nation,

Joel 1:19-2019  O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. 20  The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.”

Joel 2 – The Invasion of a Heathen Horde

The second invasion that comes as God’s judgment on Judah was that of a great army, so vast in number, they were like the locusts that had darkened the sky in Joel 1. Once again, the warning of an invading army gave cause for the people to repent of their sins and call upon the LORD (2:1).

We read, “the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand” (2:1). A day described as, “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness” (2:2). The enemy will be “a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it” (2:2b).

The enemy of God’s people would spread across the land like a “fire devoureth” (2:3) and the sound will be “like the noise of a flame of fire [that] devoured” (2:5). The judgment of God on “the day of the LORD” will affect the universe, for “the earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (2:10).

Having stated the “day of the LORD is great and very terrible” (2:11), Joel declared the invitation of the LORD saying,

“Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:12-13).

Joel prayed for a national revival and called out to God,  “Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:17b).

Knowing God is gracious and merciful, Joel encouraged the people if they would repent, the LORD would restore the nation, bless the land and “restore to you the years that the locust have eaten…26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied” (2:18-26).

Joel 3 – Armageddon

Joel prophesied the regathering of the Jews to Judah and Jerusalem (3:1), and the Gentile nations gathering against Israel (3:2) in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (3:2, 12). The sins of the nations against Israel are listed (3:3) and God promised he will reward those nations for the evil they have done to His people (3:4). Knowing the oppression and ill treatment Israel and Judah had suffered (3:3-8), the LORD promised to make war against the nations of the earth (3:9-17).

I close observing there are two Gentile nations that are specifically named for destruction in the Day of the LORD: Egypt and Edom (3:19).

From time immemorial, Egypt and Edom (represented among the Arab tribes and nations of our day), have been perpetual enemies of Israel and Judah. Of those nations we read,

“Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah” (3:19).

All of this will surely be done in that day, “for the LORD dwelleth in Zion” (3:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Failure of Israel’s Pastors (Ezekiel 34-36)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 34-36

We have seen that Ezekiel was a priest (1:3) whom God called to be prophet to His people of the Babylonian captivity. With the siege of Jerusalem ended, the Temple plundered, and the walls and city of Jerusalem in piles of rubble, the attention of God’s prophet now turned to the failure of the religious leaders of Israel.

Ezekiel 34 – The Tragedy When Spiritual Leaders Fail God’s People

Ezekiel 34 is an indictment of the “shepherds of Israel” (the religious leaders), for their self-righteous, ungracious spirit. Consider the Character (34:1-10), the Conduct (34:16b-18), and the Calamity of the “shepherds of Israel” (34:19-21).

The Corrupt Character of Spiritual Shepherds (34:1-10)

Ezekiel 34:2b – “…Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”

The shepherds (pastors) of Israel were self-centered consumers. They had put their interests above the needs of the people (34:2). They had saved the best of the sacrifices for themselves, rather than give the LORD the best (34:3). They had eaten the best portions of men, killed the best of the flock, clothed themselves in fine wool, but failed to spiritually feed the flock of God.

The pastors had neglected the needy (34:4a), failed to attend the sick (34:4b), and failed to set right those whose bones were broken (34:4b). When the sheep (people) strayed, they failed to gather them and protect them from wild beasts (heathen invaders) (34:5-6). Instead of leading the people, the pastors had terrorized them “with force [harsh, sharp] and with cruelty [cruel, severe](Ezek. 34:4).

The spiritual shepherds of Israel had neglected the sheep by failing to lead them to green pastures where they might have prospered (Psalm 23; John 10).

The Conduct of the Bad Spiritual Shepherds (34:16b-18)

The shepherds were inconsiderate of the spiritually weak and immature (34:18). The pastors had allowed the strong to “[eat] up the good pasture…tread down [stamped upon] with [their] feet the residue of your pastures” (34:18). The shepherds had neglected the weaker sheep and allowed the stronger to “foul the residue” (34:18b) and make it unfit for the weaker sheep.

The shepherds were also insensitive (34:20. They had allowed spiritual bullies to “thrust with side and with shoulder and “pushed all the diseased [weak and sick] with [their] horns” (34:21).

 The Calamity When Spiritual Shepherds Fail the Sheep (34:19-21)

Israel’s shepherds had failed the people and robbed them of an opportunity to enjoy God’s best. Like sheep neglected by their shepherd, God’s people had been forced to “eat that which [had been] trodden” and “drink that which [had been] fouled with [their] feet” (34:19). The shepherd’s insensitivity to the sheep had resulted in the sheep being scattered (34:21).

I close inviting you to consider the love and passion of the LORD, the Good Shepherd who is a model of grace and forgiveness (34:11-16a).

Like a Good Shepherd, the LORD loved His people and promised, “I will bring them…gather them…to their own land…[and] feed them” (34:13b-14a). The people “lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture…and…lie down…I will seek that which was lost, and bring again…and will bind up…and will strengthen” (Ezek. 34:14-16a).

It comes as no surprise that Jesus Christ’s description of Himself as the Good Shepherd reflects the longing of the LORD we find in Ezekiel 34.

Matthew 18:11 – For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Is the LORD Jesus Christ your Shepherd?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith