Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

God is With You in The Midst of Trials

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezra 1-5

The setting of the Book of Ezra, a contemporary of Haggai, is the end of the 70-year Babylonian captivity.  Remembering, “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), the opening verses of Ezra serve as notice the God of Israel is the Sovereign God of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:1-2).

Having conquered Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus, declared the God of heaven moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).  Fulfilling the LORD’S promise to restore Israel as a nation, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return to their land (Ezra 1:3).

The hardships that laid before the remnant that returned to Judah would be formidable.  The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, its walls reduced to rubble, and the Temple destroyed.  After seventy years in captivity, many of God’s people had embraced the Babylonian culture and only a small minority were willing to accept the challenge of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 2).

Under Ezra’s leadership, the people rebuilt the altar (3:1-6), laid the Temple foundation (3:7-9), and paused to celebrate and praise the LORD as a free people (3:10-11).

Consider three qualities God’s people share when they set aside personal agendas in favor of the will and purpose of the LORD (Ezra 3).

The first shared quality is a mutual purpose; “they gathered…as one man to Jerusalem (3:1).  The second, they shared a spirit of mutual sacrifice as they “gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters”, meat from their livestock, wine from their vineyards, and oil refined from their olive groves (3:7).  The third is a satisfaction of mutual joy; when the foundation was laid, “all the people shouted with a great shout” (3:11).

Unfortunately, in the midst of those celebrating the newly laid Temple foundation, were some who did not share the joy of those rebuilding the Temple (3:12-13).  A discordant sound arose from the “ancient men”, the elderly who were living in the past instead of celebrating in the moment (3:12-13).

Ezra 3:12-13 – “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  13  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”

The “ancient men” remembered Solomon’s Temple, the one destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and comparing the glory of that Temple to the foundation of the new one, became critical and scoffed at the work being done.  Through Zechariah, the LORD confronted the ancients asking, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10).  The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s question asking, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

Friend, the second Temple would not match the physical splendor and beauty of Solomon’s Temple; however, it would be greater than the first for the LORD Jesus Christ, would grace it with His physical presence as the incarnate Son of God.  Of the new Temple, Haggai prophesied:

Haggai 2:9 – The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

I close on a personal note drawing upon my experiences as the Senior Pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church these past 22 years.

Today’s scripture reading brings back memories of a series I preached in the Book of Ezra in the spring of 2004.  At the time, Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of a relocation and building program that commenced with the purchase of land at our current location in 1999, followed by the design and preparation of architectural blueprints, and the sale of our old facilities February 2003.  From groundbreaking to completion, the timeline for our new facility was to be ten months.

Hillsdale’s pastoral leaders and deacons prepared the church for what was supposed to be a temporary inconvenience of renting a public school auditorium for Sunday worship services while our new home was under construction.  Unforeseen by any of our leadership was an adversarial spirit evidenced by the contractor soon after groundbreaking.

A lack of performance forced the church to terminate the contractor and subcontractors, and embroiled the church in a prolonged legal battle with the surety bond company that, using various legal maneuvers, attempted to exhaust the will of the church and its leaders.  A ten month construction project ended up taking thirty months to complete, followed by legal battles that continued another five years costing Hillsdale hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Late July 2005, Hillsdale Baptist Church experienced the joy of holding our first services in our new home; a joy tempered by a sorrow for some who did not persevere with us to the dedication of our new home.  In the fall of 2010, the surety company and contractors were forced to settle with the church.

The toll on the church was great; however, those who persevered have been richly blessed and God glorified.  Being reminded God is Sovereign, Hillsdale’s adversaries paid a far greater price.  The contractor died in a tragic accident the very day the financial settlement for the church was under deliberation; the construction firm and the majority of subcontractors were either forced into bankruptcy or dissolved.

I close with a verse that carried me through much adversity.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trials] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tested or tried] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [provide you the strength and means to pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Consider Your Ways!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Haggai 1-2

Only two chapters in length and easily overlooked in the pages of our Bibles, the Book of Haggai is a calling to God’s people of the day to “Get to Work!

The historic timeline of Haggai is, as the opening verses state, “In the second year of Darius the king [the king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1).  Having toppled Babylon, Persia emerged as the dominant world empire under Cyrus king of Persia (Ezra 1:1). As a testimony of God’s sovereignty over men and nations, we read:

Ezra 1:2 – “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.”

The 70 year Babylonian captivity ended (Ezra 1:3-4), a remnant of Jews answered the king Cyrus’ invitation to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.   Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, who served as governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest (Ezra 2:1-2), the foundation of the new Temple was laid (Ezra 5:16).

After laying the Temple foundation, critics arose and the people’s focus moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes  (Haggai 1:4).  When reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not complete, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (Haggai 1:2).

Does that remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps yourself?  You do not say “No!” outright; however, by your procrastination you justify not obeying the will of the LORD.  Are you in the throes of wrestling with the will of the LORD and when His Word convicts and His Spirit moves you say, “The time is not come”?

The LORD was longsuffering; 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, Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), and warned, the LORD was withholding His blessings and the labor of the people in the fields would be futile until they rebuilt the Temple (1:6-11).

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 they responded with humility, the LORD encouraged the people, “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,”

Criticism and opposition soon arose against those building the Temple and the LORD sent Haggai to remind the people He was with them and would bless their labor (Haggai 2:1-2).  The most verbal critics were the elders, those one would think should be the most ardent supporters for rebuilding the Temple.  The book of Ezra reveals there were “many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men”; remembering the first Temple, they bemoaned the superiority of that Temple compared to the one being built (Ezra 3:12-13).  [Remember the saying, “the good old days”?].  The LORD answered the critics of His people saying,

Haggai 2:4 – “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:”

There were also enemies without who, on at least three occasions, attempted to disrupt and curtail the rebuilding of the Temple. Some made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3).  Those same enemies later accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  After Darius became king of Persia, they attempted a third time to stop the work on the Temple accusing the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6).

I close with a few observations from this small prophetic book.

The first, those who labor in ministry ought always be ready for opposition.  Looking back over 38 years of ministry, the last 22 years as Senior Pastor at Hillsdale, my most vocal critics were among those I thought would be my most ardent supporters.  My friend, if you dedicate your life to live by faith and serve the LORD, expect criticism and opposition!

An inspirational lesson we take from today’s scripture reading is, when God’s people receive the Word of the Lord with humility and obey His will, a spirit of unity pervades the work and God blesses His people (Haggai1:13-14).

A third lesson concerns the sin of misplaced priorities and procrastination.  When confronted with the unfinished work on the Temple, the people said, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.” (Haggai 1:2).

Some reading this commentary have made procrastination a lifestyle.  You don’t outright refuse to obey the LORD; however, your excuses and failure to “Do Right” and obey Him has become emblematic of squandered years and a wasted life!

Friend, putting off to tomorrow what God would have you do today is foolish!  Failure to obey the LORD today soon turns into weeks, months and years.  Before you realize it, a lifetime has passed!  An old gospel song captures the tragedy of procrastination.

Wasted Years

By Dallas Holm

1) Have you wandered along
On life’s pathway
Have you lived without love
A life of tears
Have you searched for that
Great hidden meaning
Or is your life
Filled with long wasted years

Chorus
Wasted years, wasted years
Oh, how foolish
As you walk on in darkness and fear
Turn around, turn around
God is calling
He’s calling you
From a life of wasted years

2) Search for wisdom and seek
Understanding
There is One who always cares
And understands

3) Give it up, give it up
The load you’re bearing
You can’t go on
With a life of wasted years

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Sutherland Springs, Texas and One Shepherd’s Heart

November 6, 2017

Already there are a multitude of pundits weighing in on the tragedy that unfolded Sunday morning, November 5, 2017 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small quiet town southeast of San Antonio.

(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The name of the gunman (whom I choose to not name), his militant atheistic views, antichristian rhetoric, failed life and empty soul will be the subject of news reports, commentary and conspiracy theorists until another tragedy grabs the news cycle headlines.

While the media will make much of this spectacle of human suffering, sorrow and death; news anchors, psychotherapists, psychologists and politicians will probe for motives and ask with faux-astonishment, “Why? How could this happen? What went wrong in this man’s life that spawned an act of violence sweeping at least 26 innocent lives into eternity?”

King David pondered the same tragic reality when he penned Psalm 2, asking: Why do the heathen [the people and nations of the earth] rage, and the people imagine [ponder; declare] a vain thing [empty; worthless]?” (Psalm 2:1).

The raging of people and the nations of the world and their proclivity for bloodshed and war dominate the nightly news of our nation and world.   Politicians pass laws, courtrooms uphold them, and law enforcement agencies enforce them in a vain attempt to keep peace apart from and in opposition to the Prince of Peace.

Psalm 2:2 – “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD [God of Heaven], and against His anointed [Christ The Messiah]

Why?  Why this provocation of sin and rebellion against God (Psalm 2:2a)? Why this hatred for the LORD and His anointed (Psalm 2:2b)?

It is because men have rejected God, His Law and the order of His creation.  The nature of man is one of sin and rebellion and when a man rejects His Creator, casts aside the “bands” and “cords” of God’s Law (Psalm 2:3), he becomes a law unto himself.

The mass murderer of 26 souls in Sutherland Springs, Texas was a fervent, irreligious atheist; a fool living like all sinners who reject God, His Law and Commandments (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).   He died declaring in word and action, his rejection of the God of heaven and earth; however, that did not diminish God’s person or the reality of His eternal judgment.

What is God’s response to the foolishness of men and nations that reject Him? 

Psalm 2:4 – “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”

Liberal politicians, their media cohorts, and anti-America\anti-liberty antagonists will make hay of this tragedy, all the while, sin and human depravity continue its path of destruction through our homes, communities, schools, churches, and nation.  Peter warned the last days would be marked by a generation of “scoffers”, men who openly mock the God of Heaven (2 Peter 3:3); holding in derision those who look for the coming of the Lord (2 Peter 3:4).

I sorrow to see the state of our nation and world and my heart breaks for families and friends whose loved ones looked into the face of evil Sunday morning, but opened their eyes in eternity to see the LORD Whom they worshipped welcoming them home.

Psalm 2:12b – “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”

Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Remember When Preachers Warned God’s Judgment Was Imminent?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Zephaniah 1-3

Our devotional reading in 2 Chronicles 29-32 (see October 31, 2017) was timely, given today’s scripture reading in the Book of Zephaniah follows chronologically my commentary on King Hezekiah’s reign in Judah.  The introductory verse of Zephaniah sets the time of this prophetic book during the reign of King Josiah, the grandson of Hezekiah.  A brief lineage of the prophet Zephaniah is given in the opening verse of this book that bears his name.

Zephaniah 1:1 – “The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.”

Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah and served as prophet to Judah during the reign of Josiah (1:1b).  Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was born of royal lineage.  King Josiah, like his grandfather Hezekiah, sought to lead Judah back to the LORD and perhaps it was the influence of Zephaniah that was the impetus for the king’s longing for revival.

The prophecies of Zephaniah not only warn Judah of God’s approaching judgment (1:2-2:15), but prophetically warn the day is coming when God will judge all nations.  Zephaniah declared the severity of God’s wrath in terms that left no doubt the time of judgment was imminent.  Quoting the LORD, Zephaniah prophesied:

Zephaniah 1:2-3 – “I will utterly consume all things…man and beast…fowls of the heaven, the fishes of the sea…I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.”

In spite of the prophet’s warnings and King Josiah’s effort to call the nation to repent, the revival was short-lived.   Following Josiah’s death, the people returned to idolatry and soon after the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, and leading the people into captivity.

The prophecies of Zephaniah, though imminent for Judah, foretold God’s judgment not only against Judah, but all nations of the world.  Having herald God’s warning of judgment against Judah, Zephaniah turned his message toward other nations, prophesying God’s judgments against the Philistines (2:4-8), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), and Ethiopia and Assyria (2:12-15).

Judah, specifically the capital city of Jerusalem, becomes the prophet’s focus in Zephaniah 3.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem were privilege to have the Temple in their midst and priests and prophets ministering among them.  In spite of God’s grace and mercies, the citizens of Jerusalem worshipped idols and took pleasure in wickedness.

Zephaniah describes Jerusalem as “filthy and polluted” (3:1), disobedient, incorrigible [“she received not correction”] and faithless (3:2).  Her rulers like “roaring lions” (3:3), her judges like “evening wolves”, her spiritual leaders “light [reckless] and treacherous [deceivers]” (3:4) and her priests “polluted [defiled; desecrated] the sanctuary…have done violence [violated; wrong] to the law” (3:4).

Lest some say the LORD is unjust, Zephaniah testifies, “The just LORD is in the midst…every morning doth He bring His judgment to light” (3:5).

Having prophesied God’s judgment of Judah and the nations, Zephaniah foretells God would one day gather the nations of the world for a universal judgment… “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (3:8).

Zephaniah concludes with a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, promising the LORD will one day gather Israel, restore His people to their land, and dwell in the midst (3:14-20).

On a personal note, when I was a young believer I often heard preachers heralding the prophecies of God’s final judgment on the nations and humanity.  Knowing the wickedness and violent straits of today’s world, I am surprise the pulpits of Gospel preaching churches have grown silent regarding the wrath and final judgment of God.  [Perhaps the word “surprise” is an overstatement since sissy preachers hardly have the stomach or the courage to preach against sin, let along a lukewarm congregation tolerate preaching on God’s judgment.]

To the church of Laodicea, which I believe is the church of the last days, the LORD commanded the apostle John to write…

Revelation 3:15-16 “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

I am afraid a “lukewarm” generation is filling the pulpits and occupying the pews of churches and schools that were once leaders of Bible fundamentalism, but have become “neither cold nor hot…[and are] rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:15-16).

We need a generation of preachers who have the zeal, courage and devotion to call believers to repent and warn the nations of the earth the judgment of God is imminent!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 7-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Man’s Pride Distorts His Reasoning

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 25-28

Our reading in 2 Chronicles continues today with chapters 25-28.  The reigns of four kings is found in today’s devotional commentary; Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25), Uzziah (2 Chronicles 25), Jotham (2 Chronicles 26), and Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28).   2 Chronicles 25 and the reign of Amaziah is the focus of my commentary.

As a background, I remind you that Joash, the father of Amaziah, became king as a seven-year-old boy, guided by the godly counsel of the high priest Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24).  Judah experienced a spiritual renaissance during the early years of Joash’s reign and the kingdom prospered until Jehoiada died at the ripe old age of 130 years old (2 Chron. 24:15).

With the high priest dead, wicked men began to counsel Joash (24:17-18) and when Zechariah, the son of the late high priest Jehoiada withstood them, they killed him.  Joash gave neither rebuke nor sought justice for Zecharaiah’s death, the son of the man who served as his counsel throughout his reign (24:22).  Tragically, Joash’s reign ended with him turning from the LORD and his assassination when his own servants revenged the slaying of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada (24:24-26).

Following Joash’s death, his son Amaziah became king in Judah (2 Chron. 24:27, 28:1).  Like his father before him, Amaziah’s reign began well and we read, “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 shadow’s 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 the assassins’ sons and daughters according to the law (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Amaziah began his reign well, organizing his army and numbering three hundred thousand men who could go to war; however, he foolishly turned to the northern ten tribes of Israel and numbered among his army one hundred thousand mercenaries from that wicked nation (25:6).

God sent a prophet to Amaziah, warning him the mercenaries from Israel was not the will of God (25:7).   Amaziah heeded the caution of the “man of God” and sent the men of Israel home (25:10).  However, as Amaziah led his army into battle, the soldiers from Israel turned back and attacked cities in Judah in the absence of their fathers and sons that had gone to war (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.   The LORD sent a prophet to warn the king he had provoked God’s judgment (25:15-16). Amaziah, however, refused to hear the prophet’s admonition and threatened to kill the LORD’s prophet (25:16).

Rejecting the rebuke of the prophet and his heart lifted up in pride, Amaziah made a pretense of seeking an alliance (25:17) with the wicked king of Israel.  Israel’s king; however, though a wicked man reigning over a rebellious nation, saw through Amaziah’s motive and warned the king to not meddle in the affairs of Israel (25:17-19).

The verses that follow (25:20-28) reveal not only the curse of pride, but a lesson regarding the sovereignty of the LORD.  The LORD will accomplish His purpose, even guiding the proud heart of a rebellious man to His own end.

Pride distorted Amaziah’s heart and God determined to use his illusion of greatness to judge him.  We read, “Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God” (25:20).  Amaziah rejected the caution of Israel’s king and invaded Israel.  Amaziah’s army fled from the battlefield, humiliating the king who was taken prisoner, and his treasury plundered by the king of Israel (25:21-23).

Amaziah lived in exile in Samaria for fiftenn years after his defeat; however, when he returned to Jerusalem he suffered his final humiliation: His servants conspired against him and the king was eventually assassinated (25:28).

I close with an observation: Pride distorts a man’s reasoning, blinds him to his weaknesses, and invariably brings him to ruin.  A proverb of Solomon is sufficient to support this truth:

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

 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Be Strong in the LORD and Your Witness for Him!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 7-8

Our scripture reading this Saturday, October 21 is found in the Book of Acts, chapters 7-8.   Recorded in those chapters are two of the great pivotal points in the maturing of the early church; the death of Stephen the first martyr of the church (Acts 7) and the conversion of Saul the great persecutor of the church on the road to Damascus (Acts 8).

We first meet Stephen in Acts 6 named among the seven men the church chosen to assist the apostles in the rapidly growing church.  Some debate if those men were the first ordained as Deacons, one of only two Biblical offices in the New Testament church, the other being the Pastor\Elder; what we do know is their role was to “serve tables” (Acts 6:2) and their spiritual character is noteworthy: “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

Of the seven men chosen by the church and ordained by the apostles, Stephen, perhaps because he would become the first martyr of the church, is specifically notable as a man, “full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8).   Stephen’s testimony endeared him to the church and his courage in the faith, spiritual wisdom and power in the spirit made him a formidable witness in the synagogues (6:9-10).

As it was with Jesus Christ, so it was for Stephen, that the enemies of the Gospel determined to silence him.  Having arrested Stephen, evil men were employed to bring false accusations of blasphemy against him (6:11-13).   Hurling lies against his character, Stephen amazed those who sat in judgment against him, for his countenance was “as it had been the face of an angel” (6:15).

Having heard the charges of the false witnesses, Stephen answered the enquiry of the high priest, “Are these things so?” (7:1) with one of the great sermons of the New Testament (Acts 7:2-53).

On a personal note, one of the charges against the 21st century church is its neglect of teaching the Old Testament scriptures; sadly, I am afraid the majority of churches are guilty.  In fact, some are so foolish to suggest the New Testament church only need be focused on the Gospels while others suggest the epistles should be the focus of the pastor\teacher.  Not only are those views hurtful, shortsighted, and foolish; they are also contrary to the weight of the scriptures as a whole.  The Apostle Paul argues,

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Stephen’s defense reflected a breadth and depth of knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.  His argument before the Sanhedrin was powerful because his knowledge of the scriptures was commanding.  Stephen systematically set forth a historical case for Christ beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon (Acts 7:2-50).   Concluding his defense, Stephen fearlessly rebuked the Sanhedrin, exposing their hypocrisy and charging them and their fathers with the deaths of the prophets (Acts 7:51-53).

Rather than answer the damning indictment, the lawless members of the Sanhedrin broke their own laws and, without an answer or judgment, stoned Stephen to death (Acts 7:54-58).   They were guilty; guilty of the blood of the prophets and, having already rejected Jesus Christ they now added to their condemnation the blood of Stephen.  There is little doubt the majority died and their sins condemned them to hell for eternity; however, there was one exception in their midst… “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (7:58).

Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church, would come face to face with the reality of the crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

Friend, I trust Stephen’s knowledge of the scriptures and his courageous example will stir your heart to study the Old and New Testament scriptures and, embolden in your faith, be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

Have a blessed day!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith