Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Restores Failures and Uses Imperfect People. (Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3)

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3

Today’s Bible reading assignment consists of three chapters in three of the four Gospels, and is also the first taken from the Gospel of Mark. Having introduced you to the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, it is my joy to introduce you to the Gospel penned by John Mark.

Who was John Mark?

Unlike the authors of the other Gospels who were numbered among Christ’s Twelve apostles, John Mark was not a disciple.  The Book of Acts identifies him as a citizen of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).  Some believe he was the man whom Mark identified as “a certain young man” (Mark 14:51), who fled into the night without his robe when Jesus was arrested in the Garden (Mark 14:50-52).

Mark became a traveling companion of Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul) when that dynamic missionary duo set out on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:1-5). Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for John Mark, his journey with Paul and Barnabas became a spiritual crisis and ended abruptly when we read that, “John [i.e. Mark] departing [going away; deserting] from them [Paul and Barnabas] returned [turning his back]to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).

The cause for John Mark’s sudden departure is not revealed. It could have been the hardships of travel; however, I believe it was the ever-present threat of persecution. John Mark reappears in Acts 15 and became a point of conflict and division between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). That dynamic missionary duo was preparing to depart on their second missions’ trip when we read, “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37).

Paul, however, “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark], who departed from [quit; deserted]them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (15:38).  The dispute over John Mark’s company became so contentious that we read, “they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (15:39-41).

What became of John Mark?

We do not know what transpired in John Mark’s life after he departed with Barnabas and set sail to Cyprus. We do know that he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants, and is the author of the Gospel of Mark!

How did John Mark go from a man with whom the apostle Paul was unwilling to travel, to becoming the author of the second Gospel in our New Testament?

Paul regarded John Mark as a disappointment, however, Barnabas had looked on the young man through the eyes of a mentor, and lovingly restored Mark to ministry.  Perhaps it was this real-life lesson that moved Paul’s heart when he wrote:

Galatians 6:1-2 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

I close with a spiritual lesson that we should take from the life of John Mark:

God restores failures and uses imperfect people to do His work.

Remember, God has not called you to be perfect, but He has called you to be faithful!

1 Corinthians 4:22Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“HIS-STORY: The Cyclical Nature of God’s Providences and Man’s Fallen Nature”

You are invited to Hillsdale Baptist Church for this Sunday’s 10:30am worship service as Pastor Smith continues his prophetic series with our current focus on the writings and prophecies of Joel, the prophet of Judah.

Like other Old Testament prophets, Joel’s prophecies carried not only an imminent application to God’s people in his day, but were also a foretelling of events that are not yet come to pass. In fact, many of the headline news events we are observing in today’s world appear to be setting the stage for the fulfillment of prophecies we read in Joel 2-3.

There is, as the title of this blog states, a cyclical nature in history that evidences not only the sovereign, providential hand of God, but also the sinful, fallen nature of mankind. There is the rise, glory, decay, and eventual destruction of nations. There is a recurring pattern in the history of humanity that is one of spiritual darkness, followed by emerging light, that eventually fades away once again to darkness. There are times when there is a glimmer of hope for a national revival, a spiritual awakening, and renewal. Eventually, however, the depraved nature of humanity seems determined to eclipse the light entirely.

In this repeated cycle of spiritual light and darkness, where do you think we are as individuals, families, communities, churches, and as a nation? I fear we are seeing a growing darkness that is determined to extinguish the LIGHT. I sense an oppression that is already at war with Biblical faith, traditional family values, and our Constitutional freedoms as a nation and people.

There are many things to be learned from history, but the most important is that God is sovereign and we can be confident in His promises and providences. Jesus Christ is KING, LORD, and is Coming Again!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

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

The Rise and Fall of Lucifer (Ezekiel 28-30)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 28-30

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, today’s assignment is Ezekiel 28-30. Our devotional commentary is taken from Ezekiel 28.

Ezekiel’s Prophecies of God’s Coming Judgment of the Nations

Beginning with Ezekiel 25 and continuing through Ezekiel 32, we have the record of Ezekiel’s prophecies against those nations that had oppressed Israel and Judah.

Ezekiel 26-27 introduced us to the great city of Tyrus and the judgment that Ezekiel prophesied would befall its citizens. Located off the western coastline of Phoenicia, on the Mediterranean Sea, Tyrus was a beautiful and well-fortified city. It was a wealthy city and the commercial crossroads for trade in the ancient Middle East.

Ezekiel 28

The subject of God’s judgment against Tyrus continues with the focus on two powerful political figures: The prince of Tyrus (28:1-10) and the King of Tyrus (28:11-19).

Reflecting the pride of his city, the “prince of Tyrus” was a proud, foolish man who dared assert he was a god. The LORD condemned the prince of Tyrus and commanded Ezekiel to say, “Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas [referring to his throne in his island fortress]; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God” (28:2).

There was no hope for the “prince of Tyrus,” because he was too proud to see that he was no more than a mere mortal. He was proud: Proud of his power (28:2), his intellect (28:3), his wealth (28:4), and his self-sufficiency (28:5). It was his pride that moved the LORD to declare His judgment against the prince. The LORD warned that He would bring “strangers” against Tyrus (fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city) who would bloody their swords and defile the beauty of the city (28:7). Ezekiel prophesied the prince would be slain in the street and his body left unburied (28:8-10).

The Humiliation of the King of Tyrus (28:11-19)

The description of the King of Tyrus leaves no doubt that this king was not a man. Though titled “the king of Tyrus” (28:12), the description is of one who was created a perfect being (28:12), and an “anointed cherub” (28:12, 14). He was more than an evil king; he was the wicked one, the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, whose destiny is the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Ezekiel 28 gives us a fascinating revelation of this cherub and his great fall. Before Lucifer was given to pride and his heart lifted up against God, he was a model of perfection and “sealest up the sum” (28:12). He was “full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty” (28:12). He was in the Garden of Eden (28:13) and was attired in precious stones, like those worn on the breastplate of the high priest (28:13). He was musical (28:13). As the “anointed cherub,” he was stationed at the throne of heaven and walked in the presence of God (28:14). Indeed, he was perfect, until his heart was lifted up with pride (28:15).

God is holy and He will not abide sin in His sight! When pride, sin, and violence were discovered in Satan, the LORD cast him out of His presence declaring, “I will destroy thee…I will cast thee to the ground…[and] bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee” (28:16-18).

The history of man, and the rise and fall of nations, is a testimony of the devil’s presence and influence in the affairs of mankind. While it seems that evil triumphs, remember the LORD is the Alpha and Omega, and He has declared that the end of Satan will be terrifying, and he will “never…be any more” (28:19).

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People! (Ezekiel 25-27)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 25-27

The focus of today’s devotional turns from God’s judgment of Jerusalem and Judah for their disobedience and idolatry, to those nations that were adversaries of Israel down through the centuries.

Ezekiel 25 – God’s Judgment of the Nations to the East and West of Jerusalem

Israel and Judah had rebelled and turned from the LORD and His judgment had befallen the nation as He had promised. Nevertheless, the LORD vowed He would not forget the oppression and hardships perpetuated by other nations against His people.

Having seen the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the heathen nations rejoiced in the sorrows and sufferings of God’s people as they were taken captive.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and He despised the heathen who rejoiced in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14), and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of His people (25:15-17).

The Ammonites, descended from Lot’s incest with his daughters, had been a constant adversary of Israel and they cheered when Babylon (“men of the east”), took possession of the land and desecrated the Temple (25:2-4). Ezekiel was to warn the people of Ammon that they would be cut off, perish, and cease to exist (25:5-7)

The Moabites, like the Ammonites, were descended from Lot’s incest with his daughters. Moab had mocked Judah and allied with Babylon (25:8-11). Like the Ammonites, they would be overcome by Babylon and would no more be a nation (25:10-11).

The Edomites, descendants of Esau, had oppressed Judah and Israel and God promised to punish their vengeful spirit (25:12-13).  Ezekiel declared the purpose for God exacting vengeance on Edom for those people to know it was the LORD who had taken vengeance against them (25:14-17).

Ezekiel 26-27 – God’s Vengeance Against Tyrus

God’s displeasure for the nations taking joy in the destruction of Jerusalem continues in Ezekiel 26-27.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia, would be assaulted by Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19) and the Scriptures go into great detail regarding the siege of that great island fortress. Ezekiel 26 describes the assaults Babylon would make against Tyrus; however, that city would not be completely destroyed until it was conquered by Alexander the Great.

The beauty and wealth of Tyrus is described in detail in Ezekiel 27:1-25. Located on the on the Mediterranean Sea, its harbor was a crossroads for international commerce in its day. Tyrus’ great fall, as well as, the reverberation of the loss of that city’s harbor and its devastating effect on other nations’ and their commerce is described in Ezekiel 27:26-36

Ezekiel prophesied of Tyrus, “thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more (27:36). Destroyed by Alexander the Great, in 332 B.C., Tyrus was never rebuilt.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Israel’s Redeemer is Strong; the LORD of Hosts is His Name” (Jeremiah 49-50)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 49-50

Today’s Scripture reading continues the record of God’s vengeance against those nations that had been the adversaries of Israel and Judah. In our previous passage of Scripture (Jeremiah 46-48), we considered the LORD’s vengeance against Egypt (Jeremiah 46), Philistia (Jeremiah 47), and Moab (Jeremiah 48). Jeremiah 49-50continues the same prophetic warnings against those nations who had abused God’s people. We can take many lessons from God’s judgment of the nations; however, I suggest the overriding truth is this: God is sovereign over humanity and the LORD of the world’s nations.

Jeremiah 49 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor and Elam

Like the Moabites (Jeremiah 48), the Ammonites were also descendants of Lot’s incest with his daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:32-38). Jeremiah prophesied that the lands occupied by Ammon would one day be returned to Israel (49:2). The sins of the Ammonites were not only their adversarial relationship with Israel, but also their greed and covetousness (49:4-5). In a wonderful evidence of God’s grace, Jeremiah prophesied when Christ’s comes to reign on the earth, numbered among the believers would be “the children of Ammon” (49:6).

The Edomites (49:7-22), descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, were to be destroyed like “Sodom and Gomorrah” (49:13-18). Nebuchadnezzar would come upon Edom like a roaring lion (49:19) and the army of Babylon would sweep over the land like an eagle (49:22).

The nation of Syria, represented by its capital Damascus would be destroyed in God’s judgment (49:23-27).

Three nomadic Arabian tribes including Kedar (49:28-29), Hazor (49:30-33) and Elam (49:34-37) were condemned for judgment. Jeremiah 49:38-39 foretold the extent of Christ’s kingdom will also include the land of Elam.

Jeremiah 50 – The Vengeance of the LORD Against Babylon

Jeremiah 50 is an incredible passage of Scripture that foretells the destruction of Babylon, a nation that in Jeremiah’s day was not only the most powerful the world had ever witnessed, but which seemed invincible in its day.

Though Babylon was conquering all nations at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy, nevertheless, the LORD foretold a coalition of nations “out of the north” (50:3, 9, 41-42) would so destroy and devastate Babylon that the city would not be fit for man nor beast (50:3). We know from the Scriptures and history the collation of nations out of the north would be the Medes and Persians under the leadership of King Cyrus.

Jeremiah prophesied the “children of Israel” would be liberated by the nation that conquered Babylon and the people would return to their land (50:4-7).

God warned the captives of Babylon to flee the city for her destruction was sealed (50:9-16). Babylon had scattered God’s people like sheep (50:17) and God promised in revenge, “Babylon [would] become a desolation among the nations” (50:23). Babylon had defied God, therefore, He was going to take vengeance on that nation (50:24-32). The fall of Babylon in that time was so great it was prophesied that “the earth is moved” by her fall (50:46).

I close by inviting you to consider God’s promise to His people. Though Israel and Judah were to be scattered among the nations, God would not forget His people and warned the nations, Israel’s “Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name: He shall thoroughly plead [the cause of His people] and in that day the “inhabitants of Babylon” will be terrified (50:34).

Our God is the LION of Judah!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

History is the Story of El Shaddai, Almighty God (Jeremiah 38-40, Psalms 74, 79)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 38-40, Psalms 74, 79

The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah has taken him from the grandstand of the king’s palace to the stocks of a prison cell. In spite of all he has suffered and the humiliation heaped upon him, God’s prophet has not wavered in his devotion to the LORD, nor the LORD in His warnings of impending judgment to come upon Judah and Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 38 – In the Pits, But Not Forsaken

Jeremiah encouraged the people to accept the doom of Jerusalem was sealed and the only hope of life was to surrender to the Chaldeans (38:1-2). Jeremiah prophesied, “This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it” (38:3). Rather than repent, the hearts of the people were so hardened against the LORD that they rose up and demanded His prophet be put to death (38:4).

For the prophet, things went from bad to worse when King Zedekiah heeded the demands of the leaders of Jerusalem and delivered Jeremiah into their hands who then took him from prison and left him to die in a dungeon described as a place where “there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (38:5-6).

Providentially, a man named Ebedmelech interceded for Jeremiah and petitioned the king for the old prophet to be delivered from the dungeon (38:7-13) and taken to the palace prison where he would remain until the Chaldeans conquered Jerusalem (38:14-28).

Jeremiah 39-40 – The Final Siege of Jerusalem

Having failed to heed Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, king Zedekiah and his sons fled Jerusalem and were taken prisoner by the Chaldeans (39:1-5).

Tragically, the sons of Zedekiah and all the nobles of Judah were slain, the King’s eyes were put out, and he and the people were led away to Babylon (39:6-10).

In an ironic, but providential twist of divine providence, Nebuchadnezzar removed Jeremiah from prison and directed his servants to care for his needs and released him to go home (39:11-14; 40:1-6).

History is “His Story;” a testimony of the providential works of God Who is Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. 

He is El Shaddai, Almighty God, and is able to direct the evil purposes of wicked men to be that which is good for His people and for His glory (Romans 8:28-29).

The enemies you face today are not so big they are outside of the sovereignty of El Shaddai!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” (Jeremiah 26-29)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 26-29

Jeremiah 26 – Kill the Prophet!

The nation of Judah has suffered the humiliation of Babylon taking away King Jeconiah in chains (Jeremiah 24:1), and having the treasuries of the Temple and the king’s palace plundered. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has also taken away Judah’s brightest youth (Daniel 1:3-5) and skilled laborers (Jeremiah 24:1; 29:1-2). With a succession of wicked kings on Judah’s throne, and the nation cursed with false prophets and priests, there is a foreboding death and destruction that hangs over the land.

Jeremiah 26:1-10 – “Thus saith the LORD…Diminish not a Word”

Jeremiah has been a faithful prophet of the LORD; however, he has grieved the scorn of his people, and the wrath of Judah’s leaders. In spite of the hardships he has suffered, the LORD commands His prophet to return to “Stand in the court of the LORD’S house (Temple) and…diminish not a word” (26:2).

When Jeremiah’s courageous declaration of God’s Word was ended (26:3-7), the priests and the prophets stirred up the people who said to the prophet, “Thou shalt surely die” (26:8). The uproar was so great that the “princes of Judah” (i.e. leaders) intervened and established a public trial for Jeremiah “in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house” (26:9-10).

Jeremiah 26:11-24 – God’s Prophet on Trial

The wicked priests and false prophets accused Jeremiah of preaching a message of doom against Jerusalem, which they justified him being put to death (26:11). Jeremiah, however, rose to his own defense and declared his authority as God’s prophet saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard” (26:12).

Knowing the “princes of Judah” held in their hands the power of life or death, Jeremiah boldly declared the conditions of God’s loving forgiveness. He encouraged the people to, “amend [their] ways [i.e. do good] and [their] doings, and obey the voice of the LORD” (26:13) and God would withhold the judgment he had determined against them.

The leaders of the people considered two cases to justify Jeremiah’s acquittal (26:16-23). The first was the case of the prophet Micah (26:18-19) who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah and whose life was spared because the king and the people had repented of their sins (Micah 3:12). The second case for acquittal was that of the prophet Urijah (also known as Uriah) who prophesied during the reign of Jehoiakim (26:20-23). Urijah had fled to Egypt; however, the king’s men returned him to Judah and the king slew him and cast his body into a commoners grave (26:23).

Jeremiah, by contrast with Urijah, had not fled nor failed to execute his office as God’s prophet. One man named Ahikam, interceded that the judges would not “give [Jeremiah] into the hand of the people to put him to death” (26:24).

Note – There is much history that transpires in Jeremiah 27-28 and I hope to return to this passage in another year. For the sake of context, this devotional commentary will consider the prophecy found in Jeremiah 29.

Jeremiah 29 – The Prophecy of Seventy Years of Captivity in Babylon

Jeremiah 29 records a letter Jeremiah sent to those whom Nebuchadnezzar had first taken captive to Babylon (29:1-4). Jeremiah prophesied to those in captivity that seventy years would pass before they would be restored to their homeland (29:10).

Rather than allow all hope to fail, Jeremiah instructed his people in Babylon to set their roots in Babylon for a season and “build ye houses…plant gardens…Take ye wives…bear sons and daughters…seek the peace of the city…and pray unto the LORD for it” (29:5-7).

Jeremiah encouraged the people to dismiss the false prophets who predicted a brief captivity (29:8-9). The prophet foretold their captivity would last seventy years (29:10). Assuring the people of God’s love and forgiveness, Jeremiah declared the LORD’S assurances of His benevolent thoughts, His longing for the people to repent of their sins and call upon Him, and His promise to restore them (29:11-13).

False prophets would become the scourge of the exiles in Babylon and not only raised the false hope of a short captivity (29:15-23), but also attacked the integrity and ministry of Jeremiah (29:24-29). One false prophet named Shemaiah, sent a letter from Babylon to Jerusalem and accused Jeremiah of being a mad man, a false prophet, a man who had preached a message of hopelessness and counseled the people that the captivity would be long (29:26-29).

Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah must have been a great discouragement to the prophet. God, however, counseled his prophet to send a letter to the people in Babylon saying, “Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie… he [Shemaiah] hath taught rebellion against the LORD” (29:31-32)

Like some of you, I identify with the sorrows of Jeremiah. God’s command to “diminish not a word” of the LORD (26:2) put him on the receiving end of personal attacks that were unreasonable in nature. Shemaiah’s letter, meant to disparage the prophet and stir an uprising against him, was resolved when the LORD vindicated Jeremiah by exposing Shemaiah as a false prophet (29:31). Shemaiah and his family would be punished (29:32).

1 Samuel 26:9 – “Who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Jeremiah: God’s Prophet to a Nation on the Brink of Judgment” (Jeremiah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 1-3

Our chronological Bible reading schedule brings us to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, and marks the 219th Scripture reading assignment of 2020. For the sake of brevity, today’s devotional commentary will serve as an introduction to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and focus solely on Jeremiah 1.

The book of Jeremiah is biographical and prophetic, chronicling the life and experience of a man of God who stood alone in his day. Written by the prophet whose name it bears, the Book of Jeremiah accounts for the ministry of a faithful prophet. Fifty-two chapters long and spanning fifty-four years, from Judah’s revival years during the reign of King Josiah, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC.

Jeremiah 1 – The Prophet of God

Jeremiah’s ministry was to a people who had turned from God. Israel had broken God’s covenant and disobeyed His commandments. It was for such a time the LORD called one man to stand in the gap and warn His people that should they not repent all would be lost.

Jeremiah’s ministry began during Josiah’s reign (est. 640 BC to 609 BC) and continued through the reigns of four wicked kings: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah died (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36).

He was a Levite by birth. His father Hilkiah was a priest and he was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses (1:1). Anathoth, his hometown, was only about three miles northeast of Jerusalem (1:1; Joshua 21:15-19), and there is little doubt Jeremiah was familiar with the politics of Jerusalem.

The LORD made a wonderful revelation when He called Jeremiah to be His prophet.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 – “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified [consecrated; set apart] thee, and I ordained [appointed] thee a prophet unto the nations.”

In the same way God knew Jeremiah from the moment of conception, He knows you. He knows your talents, gifts, and abilities. He knows your strengths and weaknesses.

Jeremiah protested, “LORD God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (1:6).

Jeremiah was not a child in the chronological sense, but he was a young inexperienced man. The thought of being God’s prophet in the midst of an ungodly nation was no doubt intimidating and overwhelming.

God answered Jeremiah’s objection with the assurance, “I am with thee” (1:8b).

Jeremiah 1:7-8 – “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. 8  Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.”

The breadth of Jeremiah’s ministry and message was universal. (1:9-10)

Jeremiah 1:9b-10 – “The LORD said unto me [Jeremiah], Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 10  See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

From heaven’s perspective, Jeremiah was a messenger of the LORD. From man’s perspective, he was a troublemaker, perhaps an antagonist, called “to root out [sin], and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (1:10).

We will see in our study of Jeremiah that he was a prophet who was hated and despised by his people. The LORD warned him, “they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (1:19).

What a wonderful encouragement to those God has called to teach and declare His Word! The LORD is with us!

Let us, in the words of the apostle Paul, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith