Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

The Judgment of the Nations (Joel 3)

Scripture reading – Joel 3

Today’s Scripture reading marks the end of the Book of Joel (only three chapters long), and an introduction to the prophetic Book of Daniel. This devotional will conclude our study of Joel. A second devotional will follow, and serve as the introduction to the Book of Daniel.

I believe this final section of our study actually began with the closing verses of Joel 2. In its immediate context, the prophecies of Joel were given as the Assyrian army laid siege to Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah recorded how the LORD intervened for the city, and sent His angel who smote 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). King Sennacherib had been forced to retreat to his homeland, where he was later assassinated by his sons (Isaiah 37:33-38).

The Day of the LORD is the prophetic day of God’s judgment, when He will take vengeance on those nations that abused Israel and Judah. With the assurance of His perpetual presence “in the midst,” Israel would know Him as “the LORD your God,” and the day would come when Israel would “never be ashamed” (2:27).

In my opinion, the “last days” began with Christ’s earthly ministry, and the prophecy of the outpouring of His Spirit was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (2:28-30; Acts 2:16-20). Nevertheless, the events recorded in the closing verses of Joel 2 and Joel 3, will not be fulfilled until the close of the Tribulation, and will mark the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.

Joel 3 – The Judgment of the Gentile Nations

A Day of Reckoning for the Nations (3:1-2)

Joel 3:1 was partly fulfilled when the LORD moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to grant the Jews liberty to return to their homeland where they would rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-3). Yet, the final fulfillment of Joel 3 will not come to pass until the close of the Tribulation. The LORD promised He will one day gather His people from the nations (3:1), and exercise judgment on the Gentile nations for their sins against Him and His people (3:2).

Enumeration of the Sins of the Gentiles (3:3-6)

The nations of the earth have forever been at war with God and His people, yet, the sins of some nation have been so egregious, they are specifically named for judgment: Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine (3:4), Egypt, and Sodom (3:19).

The sins committed against God’s people are an offense to God, and He judged the Gentile nations guilty. Tyre, Zidon, the nations of Palestine, Egypt, and Sodom had scattered His chosen people with their persecutions, and parted the land He gave as an inheritance to Israel (3:2c). Those nations had enslaved the Jews (3:3a, 6), trafficked boys and girls as sexual slaves, and placed no more value on their lives than wine (3:3). Spoiling the gold and silver of the land, they had taken away that which was the LORD’s (3:4-6).

Justice and Judgment (3:4, 7-8)

The sins of the Gentile nations will be punished, and they will receive the recompence (be repaid) in kind for the sins they committed against the LORD and His people (3:4). The LORD determined to gather His people and restore them to their land (3:7), and the nations that enslaved them would themselves become slaves (3:8a). Their sons and daughters will be sold “to the Sabeans” (a caravan people of the southern Arabian Peninsula), and trafficked to far away lands (3:8b).

Warfare of the Nations (3:9-16)

Through His prophet, the LORD summoned the nations to gather and prepare for war (3:9). Contrary to the Millennial kingdom and its peace (when the weapons of war will be fashioned into plows, Micah 4:3), the LORD commanded the nations to “beat [their] plowshares into swords, and [their] pruninghooks into spears” (3:10). The nations of the world will assemble for battle (3:11), for the LORD was prepared to judge them “in the valley of Jehoshaphat” (its geographic al location cannot be ascertained, 3:12).

Drawing a picture of Himself as a farmer readied to harvest, the nations of the world were portrayed as ripe for judgment. The LORD’s judgment is likened to a farmer coming with his sickle sharpened, and ready to tread nations underfoot like grapes in a vine press (3:13). A multitude will gather against God’s people (3:14), but it is the LORD whose judgment will darken the sun, moon, and stars (3:15). Suddenly, He will “roar out of Zion, And utter his voice from Jerusalem; And the heavens and the earth shall shake: But the Lord will be the hope of his people, And the strength of the children of Israel” (3:16).

The Promise of the LORD’s Perpetual Presence (3:17-21)

Through the LORD’s judgment of the nations, the children of Israel and Judah will come to know Him as “the LORD [their] God” who dwells in Zion (3:17a). The city of Jerusalem would be holy, and no “strangers” (unbelievers) will “pass through her any more” (3:17b). The land will be fertile, the waters will flow, and the River of Life will flow from “the house of the LORD” (3:18). The LORD will avenge the wickedness of Egypt and Edom, for they were guilty of violence and shedding the “innocent blood” of Judah (3:19).

Closing thoughts (3:20-21) – Joel’s prophecies end with the LORD promising Judah the nation will “dwell forever” in the land, “and Jerusalem from generation to generation” (3:20). He will purge the people of their sins, and will forever dwell among them “in Zion” (3:21). Our study of Joel began with a judgment of locusts (Assyria’s army) descending upon Judah and Jerusalem (1:4), and ends with the triumph of God’s people restored to their land and the LORD reigning forever in Jerusalem (3:20-21).

The day of judgment is coming, not only for the nations, but for all men and women. Are you prepared for God’s day of judgment? When the books are opened, and “every man [and woman] will be judged “according to their works?” (Revelation 20:13), will your name be “found written in the book of life?” (Revelation 20:15)

Revelation 20:1515And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Defeat of Gog of Magog (Ezekiel 38; Ezekiel 39)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 38; Ezekiel 39

You may recognize today’s Scripture reading if you are a student of Bible prophecy. Ezekiel 38 and 39 have been the subject of much debate in the past century. I acknowledge there are various interpretations for today’s passage, and I do not want to add my voice among the speculations, nor add to the confusion.

Remembering many prophecies have an immediate application and a far-reaching implication, I believe the near setting of today’s study was in the decades and centuries after Israel returned from captivity. The far-reaching implication has been suggested by some to reflect the gathering of the nations against Israel preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Whatever your interpretation, the overriding lesson for me is the oversight and loving compassion the LORD has for Israel, His chosen people.

Ezekiel 38

Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy against Gog, the ruler of the land of Magog, who was identified as “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (38:1-2). Many have suggested “Magog” is today’s Russia, and the cities “Meshech and Tubal” are Russian cities we know today as Moscow and Tobolsk. I am satisfied to name Gog as the king of Magog, whom the LORD would employ to move a coalition of nations from the north against Israel (Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, and Gomer might be identified as nations of today’s Middle East, 38:5-6).

Though it was Gog who sat his heart on invading Israel, it was the LORD who brought forth (figuratively, putting hooks in his jaws, 38:4) to the end He would accomplish His divine purpose. The armies of Magog and its allies would descend upon Israel “like a storm…[and] like a cloud to cover the land” (38:9). All this evil would spring from the mind of Gog, that he might make spoil of Israel (38:12-15). Yet, it was the LORD who determined He would destroy those armies of the heathen that gathered against Israel (38:16-18).

King Gog and his coalition of nations would come to destroy Israel, but they would face the God of Israel who in His jealousy and wrath, would send “a great shaking in the land of Israel” (38:19). The whole earth, and all its creatures would be shaken by the earthquake, and men would be terrified (38:20). In their confusion, the soldiers would turn on each other until “every man’s sword [would] be against his brother” (38:21). The LORD would send “pestilence” (disease), and rain, hail, fire, and brimstone would fall from the sky (38:22).

Closing thought (38:23) – We do not find any mention of Israel sending soldiers against the invading armies, for it was the LORD who determined His name would be magnified among the nations, and they would know and acknowledge Him as “the LORD” (38:23).

Ezekiel 39 – Burying the Dead

As we noted in Ezekiel 38, the LORD intervened and gave Israel a victory over insurmountable odds, thus defeating her enemies. The task of burying the dead would take seven months (39:14). Corpses would fill the land of Israel, and birds and beasts of prey would feed upon the dead (39:4). The LORD’s wrath also turned against the land of Magog and her allies, for Ezekiel foretold the LORD would “send a fire,” that “they shall know that [He is] the LORD” (39:5). Israel would witness the LORD make His holy name known not only to His people, but also to the heathen (39:7). In that day, Israel would gather the weapons of war and burn them for seven years that the land might ultimately be cleansed (39:8-10).

Closing thoughts (39:21-29) – Throughout our study of Ezekiel, the LORD has stated one overriding purpose for His judgments: To the end His people and the nations would know He is God, the LORD and Sovereign of the earth. It was His desire that the heathen would see His glory, and His judgment executed (39:21). It was to the end the “house of Israel [would] know [acknowledge] that [He] was the Lord their God from that day and forward.” (39:22; note 39:28).

Sometimes we wonder why trials and troubles come upon us. Have you considered it may be to the end you will humble yourself, and confess He is “the LORD” and sovereign of your life?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd, Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Ezekiel: God’s Watchman on the Wall (Ezekiel 33; Ezekiel 34)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 33; Ezekiel 34

Ezekiel 33 moved the focus of our Scripture readings from God’s judgment of Egypt and the nations (Ezekiel 29-32), to the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility to serve the LORD as His watchman. Ezekiel’s task was not an enviable one. He was charged to deliver a message to the people of the captivity, and it was one they despised. Ezekiel’s task was to remind the nation of its past, discern the times, and declare God’s judgment should the people continue in their sins.

Ezekiel 33 – God Provided His People a Watchman

Far from Jerusalem, and living as a captive in Babylon, Ezekiel was charged with speaking the word of the LORD “to the children of [his] people” (33:2). God provided His people watchmen, whose ministry was to warn the sword of judgment was come into the land (33:2). Some of the watchmen were faithful to their tasks, but there were many who failed to sound the warning (“blow the trumpet”), and thus left the people unprepared, and unprotected.

Ezekiel was told, when a faithful watchman sounds the warning, and the people refuse to heed the sound of the trumpet, their blood was on their own head. Yet, should the prophet fail the nation, and not warn them, the blood of the people would be upon his head as God’s watchmen (33:3-6).

Ezekiel was Israel’s Watchman (33:7-11)

The LORD called and commissioned Ezekiel to be a “watchman unto the house of Israel” (33:7), and it was his task to hear the LORD and warn the nation (33:7). He was to warn the wicked saying, “thou shalt surely die,” but should Ezekiel fail, the blood of the wicked would be upon his hand (33:8). Yet, if Ezekiel was a faithful prophet, and the wicked refused to heed his warning, he would be delivered from the guilt of their blood when they perished (33:9). His mission was to call the people to repent, and assure them the LORD would extend His compassion (33:10-11).

Righteous Repentance vs. Righteous Work (33:12-16)

Lest any believe salvation by grace through faith is a New Testament doctrine, or that the saints of the Old Testament placed their faith in works to merit God’s favor, the LORD declared to Ezekiel: “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression” (33:12).

Good works do not save, they never have and they never will.  Only God can save! Those who trust in their own righteousness “shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it” (33:13). Yet, the wicked who repent of their sins, turn to the LORD and prove their faith by walking in His will “shall surely live, he shall not die” (33:15). Indeed, the wicked who have repented are promised, “16None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (33:16).

News of Jerusalem’s Destruction (33:21-26)

The year was 585 BC, “the twelfth year of [the] captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month” (33:21), a messenger from Jerusalem arrived in Babylon. Having escaped the city under siege, he brought the dreaded news Ezekiel had prophesied should come to pass: “The city is smitten” (33:21c). The prophet shared how, the evening before the messenger arrived, “the hand of the LORD was upon” him (31:23). The LORD put in Ezekiel’s mouth His words, and revealed the cause of God’s judgment.

In their pride, the children of Israel boasted confidently of the Abrahamic lineage, and asserted the land of Israel was their inheritance (33:23-24). Yet, their sins brought God’s judgment, for they had defiled the land with their wickedness (32:25-26).

The Consequences of Israel’s Sins (33:27-29)

The fall of Jerusalem was only the beginning of sorrows for those who survived the destruction of the city. Those who fled the city would be slain by the sword, and others would be killed by wild beasts in the fields (33:27a). Some sheltered in caves, only to perish of disease (33:27b). Jerusalem’s pride in her strength came to an end, and the land was left desolate (33:28). All this that the people would know the judgment was come upon them “because of all their abominations which they [had] committed” (33:29).

Ezekiel: A Persecuted Prophet (33:30-33)

One would think the affirmation of all Ezekiel prophesied would command the respect of the people in captivity, but it did not. Instead, the LORD warned His prophet, “the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother” (30:30). Some came to Ezekiel and made a pretense of listening to the word of the LORD through His prophet (33:30), but they were hypocrites. With their mouths they claimed to love the LORD, but “their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31). They complimented the prophet on his voice, and heard his words, but refused to obey (33:32).

Ezekiel 34 – The Failure of Unfaithful Pastors

The prophet took the unfaithful shepherds of Israel to task in Ezekiel 34. Men who were entrusted with shepherding, and leading God’s people had failed them. They had taken advantage of the people, and abused their roles as pastors of Israel (34:1-8). Because they failed to feed and shepherd His people, the LORD warned, “I am against the shepherds” (34:9-10).  In spite of the dire state of the children of Israel, the LORD comforted Ezekiel and assured him He would one day gather His people together as a loving shepherd gathers His sheep (34:11-31).

Closing thoughts (33:33) – What comfort might the prophet take from this great tragedy? Jerusalem was destroyed, and Judah was a desolate land. The people of the captivity not only refused to repent and turn to the LORD, they persecuted His prophet.

Though he was rejected by his people, Ezekiel was assured the time would come, and “lo, it will come,” when the people would know and remember, “a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Finale of the Nations (Ezekiel 32)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 32

Egypt continues to be the primary subject of our current study, as we conclude this section that foretold God’s judgment against all the nations of the world. The prophecy before us was given in the twelfth year of Ezekiel’s exile to Babylon.

The Inescapable Judgment of the Nations (32:1-16)

A Lament for Pharaoh, king of Egypt (32:2-6)

The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “take up a lamentation for Pharaoh king of Egypt” (32:2), and compared the harsh reign of the king to a “young lion of the nations…whale [perhaps a crocodile] among the seas,” and a trouble to his people (represented as “the waters,” 32:2). For his wickedness, the LORD foretold He would cast the net of His judgment upon Pharaoh and Egypt (32:3). The king would be dragged from his throne, and figuratively cast into the wilderness where the nations of the earth would feed upon his flesh (32:4-5). The waters of Egypt would be stained red with the blood of the people (32:6).

A Dreadful Picture of God’s Final Judgment (32:7-10)

As we have seen in earlier studies, prophecies often carry an immediate implication and a far-reaching application, and so it is in the passage before us. Ezekiel 32:7-10 describes the imminent judgment of God as a time of great darkness, even as it will be in the last days (Isaiah 13:9-11: 34:1-4; Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 6:12-17; 8:12). The heart of the nations will be troubled, and the people will shrink back in horror (32:10).

Nebuchadnezzar: The Agent of God’s Judgment (32:11-16)

Leaving no room for ambiguity, Ezekiel prophesied Egypt’s fall to Babylon was determined (32:11), and the ruthless reputation of Babylon was portrayed as “the terrible of the nations” (32:12). Nebuchadnezzar’s army would wreak havoc on the land, spoil the treasures of Egypt, and kill the people and livestock (32:12-13). The nations of the world would look upon Egypt’s sorrows and lament her fall (32:16).

The Nations Sentenced to Hell (32:17-32)

Picturing Hell for what it is, a place of death and torment for sinners who reject the LORD and His Word (32:17-32), the Egyptians were warned they would suffer the fate of other nations (32:18). Assyria was fallen to Babylon, and we read of her slain, their “graves are set in the sides of the pit [hell]” (32:23). Assyria joined other ancient nations who made their graves in hell: Elam, Meshech, Tubal, Edom, and Zidon had all borne “their shame with them that go down to the pit” (32:24-30).

Pharoah and Egypt would not be spared or favored above the nations, and Ezekiel warned, “thou shalt be broken in the midst of the uncircumcised, and shalt lie with them that are slain with the sword” (32:28). The king of Egypt and his army would be “slain by the sword” (32:31), and Pharaoh would take his place “in the midst of the uncircumcised” with the eternal damned (32:32).

Closing thought – Ezekiel’s prophecies of the coming judgments of Egypt and the nations concluded with the words, “saith the LORD God” (32:32). All the LORD revealed to Ezekiel came to pass, and the people and nations of the earth that rejected the LORD perished.

I look forward to sharing with you the balance of the chapters in Ezekiel, for they foretell a glorious future for God’s people (Ezekiel 33:1-39:29).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

God’s Judgment of Egypt (Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 30; Ezekiel 31

Continuing our study of “The Book of the Prophecies of Ezekiel,” we are in the midst of God’s declaration of judgment on the nations, with the subject being Egypt. The date of this prophesy is not given, and there is good reason to believe it would have followed soon after Ezekiel 29:1, which was in the tenth year, and the tenth month of Ezekiel’s exile in Babylon.

Ezekiel 30 – The Third Judgment

A Storm of God’s Judgment (30:1-9)

Following the pattern of earlier prophecies, Ezekiel was addressed as, “son of man,” and commanded to “prophesy and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Howl ye, Woe worth the day!” (which is to say, Oh no! The day of the Lord is near, a day of clouds, 30:2). With Jerusalem under siege, Ezekiel was to pronounce a storm of God’s judgment would soon pass upon all the nations, for “the day of the Lord is near, a cloudy day” (30:3). Doomed with Egypt, were her allies, including Ethiopia (Cush), Libya, Lydia, and Chub (30:5). Egypt’s pride in her strength would fail, and her lands and cities would be laid waste (30:6-7). The Egyptians would know it was the LORD, as her cities burned (30:8). When news of Egypt’s fall reached Ethiopia, her people would be terrified and say of their own demise, “lo, it cometh” (30:9).

Nebuchadnezzar, An Agent of God (30:10-19)

The king of Babylon was named as the servant, the agent of God’s wrath (30:10). Ezekiel was to declare, the “multitude of Egypt” would come to an end as the people were slain, and driven as captives out of the land (30:10-11). The rivers, streams, and irrigation canals flowing from the Nile would be destroyed, and the nation plundered (30:12). All of the great cities of Egypt would become desolate (30:13-18), that the people might know and confess “the LORD” as sovereign (30:19).

The Strength of Pharaoh Would Fail (30:20-26)

Ezekiel 30:20 introduced the fourth judgment of the LORD against the nations. It was in the eleventh year of Ezekiel’s exile when the LORD declared, “I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, lo, it shall not be bound up to be healed” (30:21). Portrayed as a man with broken arms, the strength of Pharaoh would never be reset, nor would Egypt have the strength to war over other nations again (30:21-22). The LORD would scatter the Egyptians among the nations (30:23), and Pharaoh would “groan…with the groanings of a deadly wounded man” (30:24). Thus, Egypt would come to know and confess the God of Israel is “the LORD” (30:26).

Ezekiel 31 – The Fourth Judgment

Egypt’s Judgment Compared to the Fall of Assyria (31:3-9)

Ezekiel 31 continued God’s warning of judgment against Egypt, with the fall of ancient Assyria serving as a warning to “Pharaoh” (31:2). Assyria was portrayed as a great “cedar in Lebanon,” whose stature exceeded all the trees in the “forest” of the nations (31:3). In her zenith, Assyria towered as a giant among the nations of the world, even as Egypt at her peak oppressed weaker nations and people. As the Nile River nourished Egypt, so the rivers and streams of Assyria nourished her fields and forest (31:4-5).

Continuing the portrayal of Assyria as a great cedar, the nations of the world sought shelter in her “branches,” even as times of famine moved the people to retreat to Egypt (the great “bread basket” of ancient times, 31:6). Incomparably proud, the Assyrians boasted their nation excelled all others (portrayed as a great cedar boasting it exceeded “all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God,” 31:8-9).

Assyria’s Fate: A Warning to Egypt (31:10-17)

As the mighty Assyrian “cedar” fell, Egypt’s pride would suffer a crushing defeat as the LORD delivered Pharaoh into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar (31:10-11). Assyria, remembered as a ruthless nation, would suffer the same fate, and her allies would desert her (31:12-13).

Though Nebuchadnezzar was God’s agent, it was the LORD who determined all who lift up their proud hearts would “go down to the pit” (31:14). The LORD stopped up the waters of the rivers, as the crops failed, and the “trees of the field fainted” (31:15). When the news of Assyria’s downfall spread, the nations of the world were shaken (31:16). The LORD condemned Assyria to hell, and her allies with her (31:17).

Closing thoughts (31:18) – The fall of Assyria served as God’s warning to Egypt (31:18a). Ezekiel foretold, as it was with Assyria, so it would befall Egypt (31:18b).

Warning – People and nations who exalt themselves against the God of Heaven, will be sentenced “unto the nether parts of the earth” (31:18a).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The End, of The End is Come (Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 7; Ezekiel 8

Continuing our study of the book of Ezekiel, we remember he was a young priest (1:1-2) when the LORD called him to be His prophet. He was among the first removed from Jerusalem before the fall of that city, and was commissioned to prophesy to the Jews of the captivity in Babylon. In Ezekiel 7, the message to the children of Israel was a message of doom and judgment.

Fourfold Warning to Worshippers of Idols (7:1-4)

With the words, “An end, the end is come,” the fate of Israel and Judah was sealed (7:2). God’s judgment was imminent, the land of Israel would fall to Nebuchadnezzar’s army (7:2). God’s patience with the sins and abominations of His people was exhausted, for they had provoked Him to anger, and the LORD declared He would not show them pity (7:4). All of this, that the people might “know” and acknowledge Him as LORD (7:4).

God’s Purpose for Executing Judgment (7:5-9)

Declaring “an evil, an only evil, behold is come” (7:5), we read the emphatic announcement of judgment: “the end is come…the morning is come…the time is come, the day of trouble is near” (7:6-7). What was the basis of God’s judgment? It was to reward His people for their sinful ways and abominations (7:8-9).

The Description of God’s Judgment (7:10-27)

Though prophesied more than two and one-half millennia ago, there is much to be learned from the decay, death, and destruction of Judah as a nation. As you read this passage, remember Ezekiel is prophesying to the Jews living in captivity in Babylon, while Jeremiah was prophesying in the midst of Jerusalem and warning the people of that which was to come. Provoked to anger by the pride of His people (7:10), none living in Judah would be spared God’s judgment (7:11).

We find here several tragic traits of a rebellious people, and a dying nation. (7:12-27)

The first, a failed economy. The general trade of buying and selling failed (7:12), and the seller could not recover or be made whole (7:13). A dying nation refuses to hear and heed the warnings of prophets (portrayed here as the blowing of the trumpet, 7:14). There is a prevalence of death, as “the sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within” (7:15). Death became an ever-present reality, as the sword was symbolic of violence and war, pestilence is sickness and disease, and famine caused by failed crops and an inability to import food (caused by the siege).

Troubles and trials had brought with them a perpetual state of sorrow, for the moaning of the people sounded like the cooing of the “doves of the valleys” (7:16). Uncertainty and anxiety were portrayed as physical weakness, as fear, sorrows, and shame overtook the nation (7:16-18).

Ezekiel 7:19 returns to the failed economy of Judah and Jerusalem, for the people realized too late their wealth and possessions could not save them (7:19a). With food shortages and little provisions to “fill their bowels,” the people cast their gold and silver in the streets of the city (7:19b).  Their once beloved gold which had adorned their women and decorated their shrines, became spoils for the wicked (7:20-21). Even the LORD’s Temple was plundered and defiled (7:22).

Impoverished, and defeated, the LORD instructed Ezekiel to “make a chain” that served as a symbol of the captivity (7:23). Lest some accuse Him of injustice, the LORD declared, “I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).

Ezekiel 8

Ezekiel 8 gives us again a supernatural revelation of God’s glory. Ezekiel was in his house, and with him the “elders of Judah” (8:1), when “the hand of the Lord God fell there upon [him]” (8:1). As He had when He first appeared to Ezekiel (1:26-28), the LORD displayed the likeness of His heavenly glory (8:2). In the vision, the Spirit of the LORD lifted Ezekiel up, and he was taken to the Temple where he beheld an idol he described as “the image of jealousy” (8:3).

Ezekiel saw “the glory of the God of Israel” (8:4) like that he had seen before, but as he lifted up his eyes, he also saw the “image of jealousy” in the LORD’s sanctuary (8:5-6). In the next verses, the LORD revealed to Ezekiel the desperate wickedness that was practiced by the elder and religious leaders of Judah (8:6). The Spirit of the LORD commanded the prophet to look through a hole in the wall of the Temple, and enlarge it where he peered into, and passed through a door into a secret chamber (8:7-9).

In the chamber, which was a secret room in the Temple, Ezekiel spied on the walls drawings of creatures, beasts, and idols (8:10). Then he saw 70 religious’ leaders of Jerusalem worshipping idols and offering incense to them (8:11), who declared “The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth” (8:12).

Yet, Ezekiel was to see an even greater wickedness in the Temple, for in one room there were women worshipping Tamuz, a fertility god whose worshippers were known to practice gross immorality. In another room of the Temple there were 25 men who worshipped the sun (8:16).

Closing thoughts – Though the LORD need not justify His ways and judgments to any man, yet, He asked Ezekiel, “Hast thou seen this, O son of man?” (8:17). Consider how far the nation had departed from the LORD, His Law and Commandments. They had defiled the Temple with idols (8:1-18), and their elders who were entrusted with teaching the Law and exercising righteous judgment, were guilty of idolatry in secret places. There was no hope for the nation, and in His anger, God declared He would not have pity on the people, and neither would He hear their cry. It was too late.

I cannot say if it is too late for you or your nation to repent. Nevertheless, do you see the signs of God’s judgment in your world? Violence, wars, natural disasters, disease and pandemics, gross immorality, and rumors of impending hunger…

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“The LORD Shall Judge His People” (Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 4; Ezekiel 5

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the introductory chapters of “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Ezekiel 1 records God’s call to a young priest named Ezekiel (1:1-3), and details his testimony of the sight of God’s glory sitting on His heavenly throne (1:26-28). The LORD spoke directly to Ezekiel in chapter 2, and commissioned him to be His prophet to the captives of Judah living in Babylon (2:3). Forewarned the children of Israel were “ a rebellious nation” (2:3), Ezekiel was commissioned to speak the words of the LORD and “not be afraid” of the people (2:6), “whether they [would] hear, or whether they [would] forebear” (2:7).

Ezekiel 4 – The Coming Judgment Against Judah and Jerusalem

From the setting in Ezekiel 4, we understand Jerusalem was under siege, but not yet fallen to Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Remembering Ezekiel was living in Babylon, he and the people were anxious for news from Jerusalem. The LORD came to Ezekiel, and in dramatic fashion, commanded the prophet to symbolically portray the siege of Jerusalem.

As a sign of the siege, Ezekiel was instructed to draw a map of the city on a clay tile, and create around it a mound of soil symbolic of the fortifications Babylon raised up against Jerusalem (4:1-3). Taking an iron pan, he placed it between himself and the walls of the city he built. Leaving no doubt as to the certainty of God’s judgment, the prophet was commanded to lie on his left side facing his model of the city for 390 days (4:4). Each day represented a year of God’s judgment against Israel, with the ten northern tribes being the first taken into captivity. The prophecy was thus, Israel would be judged by God 390 years for her sins (4:5).

Ezekiel was then to lie on his right side, and face his model of Jerusalem for 40 days (again, a day representing a year of God’s judgment, 4:6-7). He was instructed to be bound, symbolizing the people of Jerusalem would be bound and led away into captivity (4:8).

The Sufferings and Afflictions of Jerusalem (4:9-17)

Ezekiel would not see the suffering of Jerusalem, but the LORD made him to know the sorrow that would befall the people. Because the siege of the city would cut off the importation of food, Ezekiel was instructed to observe a meager diet, serving as a symbol of Jerusalem’s famine (4:9-12).

The LORD then commanded Ezekiel to consume the unclean, defiled food of the Gentiles, serving as a symbol of the desperate hunger of the people (4:13). The prophet protested, saying he had never eaten that which the law declared unclean (4:14; Deuteronomy 12:15-18; 14:3-21). He was also instructed to use human waste as fuel for a fire to bake bread, something that was forbidden by the law (4:15; Deuteronomy 23:9-14). All this was meant to serve as a symbol of the desperate suffering of Jerusalem (4:16-17).

Ezekiel 5 – The Signs of Jerusalem’s Humiliation and Judgment

To illustrate God’s judgment against Jerusalem, the LORD commanded Ezekiel to shave his head and beard (signs of sorrow and humiliation). He was then instructed to divide his hair in three-parts (5:1), and illustrate the imminent fall and suffering of Jerusalem. Each part of his hair served as a symbolic portrayal for how the people would perish.

He was instructed to burn one part of his hair, symbolizing the people perishing by fire, and disease (5:2a, 12a). He was to scatter a second portion of his hair, portraying one-third of Jerusalem’s inhabitant would die by the sword (5:2b,12b). The third part of his hair, was to be bound in the hem of his robe, a testimony that a remnant of Jerusalem’s population would be spared (5:3, 12c). Of that remnant, however, some would be slain (5:3-4). (As noted in in earlier readings in 2 Kings 25:22-26, and Jeremiah 40:9-12.)

Why did the LORD judge Jerusalem? (5:5-17)

 The inhabitants of Jerusalem were guilty of three great sins. They were chosen by God, blessed with His Law and Commandments, and His presence (represented in His Temple), but the people had broken covenant with the LORD, and rejected His judgments. In doing all this, their wickedness exceeded the heathen nations (5:6-8).

Having rejected the LORD, the people worshipped idols, and in the depths of their depravity turned to cannibalism, as “fathers [did] eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons [did] eat their fathers” (5:9-10). Lastly, they had defiled the Temple, and erected and worshiped idols within the holy sanctuary (5:11-12).

Closing thoughts – Jerusalem’s destruction served as testimony of God’s righteous indignation (5:13). The ruins of the city would become a reproach for the sins and wickedness of God’s people, and served as a warning to other nations (5:14-15).

For 21st century believers, we should remember what befell Jerusalem is a reminder God is just, His Word is true and what He promises will come to pass (5:16-17). Every generation must remember, “Vengeance belongeth unto [the LORD] and no sin shall go unpunished (Hebrews 10:30b). “The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30c-31).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Prophecies of Judgment Against the Gentile Nations (Jeremiah 46; Jeremiah 47)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 46; Jeremiah 47

With today’s Scripture reading, the focus of Jeremiah’s prophecies shifts from the remnant of Judah to the Gentile nations, all of whom would fall before Nebuchadnezzar and his army. Under that king, Babylon became a world empire, defeating its neighboring nations in rapid succession.

In the closing chapters of Jeremiah, God revealed to His prophet the humiliating defeat Egypt would suffer (Jeremiah 46), and the demise of the Philistines (Jeremiah 47). The nation of Moab also fell to Babylon’s sword (Jeremiah 48), and was followed by the Ammonites (Jeremiah 49:1-6) and Edomites (Jeremiah 49:7-22). Syria became a vassal state of Babylon (Jeremiah 49:23), as did several tribes of the Arabian desert (Jeremiah 49:28-39). Lastly, Jeremiah’s prophecies concluded with revelations concerning Babylon’s future, its decline, and overthrow by the Medo-Persians (Jeremiah 50-52).

Jeremiah 46 – A Prophecy Concerning Egypt

Remembering how Egypt swore a treaty with Judah, Pharaoh led his army out of Egypt and came against Nebuchadnezzar’s army that was laid in siege against Jerusalem. When Nebuchadnezzar heard the Egyptian force was come up against him, he ordered his army to withdraw from Jerusalem and attack the Egyptians.

Babylon’s army crushed the Egyptian soldiers, many of whom were hired mercenaries (46:5, 9). Though armed with shield and sword and skilled as archers, those soldiers learned no nation could stand before an enemy when the LORD sets “a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries” (46:10). The blood of God’s vengeance could not be satisfied, and no medicines could heal the wounds Egypt suffered (46:11). So great was the defeat, Egypt’s soldiers stumbled over each other in their flight (46:12, 16).

The LORD then commanded Jeremiah to declare in Egypt, that the LORD had determined “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon should come and smite the land of Egypt” (46:13). Several metaphors were given to warn Egypt of the humiliating defeat that nation would suffer: Egypt would be like a cow facing the butcher (46:20), and a snake scurrying for safety (46:22). Babylon would afflict Egypt like trees felled by an axe, a forest facing with locusts (46:23), or a daughter raped and disgraced (46:24);

Three Reasons for God’s Judgment (46:25-28)

Egypt would not be spared the wrath of the LORD for the people were guilty of idolatry, they had been led astray by her leaders, and they had placed their trust in evil men (46:25-26). Yet, though other nations would be decimated by Nebuchadnezzar’s forces, Egypt would be spared annihilation and remained inhabited (46:26). Perhaps the explanation for Egypt’s reprieve was the presence of a remnant of Judah that dwelled in that land (46:26-28).

Closing thoughts (46:27-28) – The LORD had not forgotten His wayward people, nor set aside His covenant with Israel. The LORD commanded Jeremiah to declare to His people, “be not dismayed, O Israel…I will save thee from afar off28Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, Saith the Lord: for I am with thee; For I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: But I will not make a full end of thee, But correct [chasten] thee in measure; Yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished” (46:27-28).

Jeremiah 47 – A Prophecy Concerning the Philistines

Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the Gentiles continued in chapter 47, and the Philistines are the focus. We read, “The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza” (47:1). Consider the last phrase, “before that Pharaoh smote Gaza” (47:1b). Why Pharaoh attacked Gaza is not stated; however, perhaps that Philistine stronghold served as a defense for the Egyptian army as it retreated from Judah to its country.

The Rise of the Chaldean Army: Like Flood Waters (47:2-5)

Nebuchadnezzar’s army was pictured as rising flood waters from the north, that flowed over the land devastating everything and killing everyone in its path (47:2). The swiftness and devastation of the Babylonian army was described as “the noise of the stamping of the hoofs…At the rushing of his chariots” (47:3). Philistine’s fathers were said to be so overcome with fear, they failed to look back and wait upon their children (47:3). Philistine cities fell before Nebuchadnezzar, and the men shaved their heads as a sign of humiliation, defeat and mourning (47:5).

Closing thoughts (47:6-7) – Jeremiah’s prophecy against the Philistines concluded with the prophet asking, Lord, how long before your sword is satisfied, and you put it in the “scabbard, [to] rest, and be still” (47:6). Even as he asked the question, the prophet was reminded, God’s sword is a symbol of judgment, and it has purpose and work as long as the LORD has appointed it to do its work (47:7).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith