Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation” – part 2 – (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

As we begin our study of Isaiah, I invite you to picture in your mind a setting that is a heavenly courtroom, with God sitting on His throne, and with the nation of Judah the defendant.

The Case: The Ingratitude of Judah vs. The Love and Grace of God (1:1-2)

Two witnesses were commanded to hear the charge against Judah: the “heavens” and the “earth” (1:2). The LORD charged Judah, saying, “I have nourished and brought up children [people of Judah], and they have rebelled against me(1:2).

How had the LORD nourished and brought up His people? He had chosen Abraham and established His Covenant with his lineage (Genesis 12). He had entrusted Israel with His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20). He had sent prophets who taught the people, and chastened the nation when it strayed. Yet, we read, “They have rebelled against me” (1:2c), rejected His Law, and His offer of love and grace.

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

The First Charge – Rebellious Ingratitude (1:3-4)

While a dumb ox knows its owner, and a donkey appreciates its master’s stall, Israel was a people that “doth not consider” (1:3). Consider what? The sins of the people had blinded them, and they gave no thought to the LORD’s care, love, and provision. The prophet Jeremiah would observe: “For my people [are] foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish [foolish; silly] children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22).

They had become a sinful, wicked people, and were burdened with “iniquity” (the weight of their sin and guilt, 1:4). They had “forsaken the LORD” (1:4), despised His Law and Commandments, and had “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (1:4).

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

The LORD questioned Judah, asking, “Why should ye be stricken [beaten; punished] any more? ye will revolt [rebel] more and more [again and again]: the whole head [whole body] is sick [diseased], and the whole heart faint [sick; feeble].” The stench of Judah’s sins had reached heaven, and the people were infected by wickedness (1:6).

The Consequences of Judah’s Sins (1:7-9)

The sins of nation had resulted in the land being destroyed (“your country is desolate”), “cities burned with fire,” and their riches plundered by foreigners (“strangers” – 1:7). So dreadful was the judgment, if the LORD had not shown the people mercy, Judah “should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah [utterly destroyed with no soul spared]” (1:9).

The Second Charge – Religious Insincerity (1:11-20)

God charged the people as being pious hypocrites (1:11-12), and He declared He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings (1:11). They trampled upon the courts of the Temple, and had given no thought to His presence and holiness in the Temple (1:12). The LORD declared:

“Bring no more vain [false; deceitful; empty] oblations [non-blood offerings – flour, fruit, oil]; incense [perfume; sweet incense] is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome] unto me…it is iniquity [wicked; vanity], even the solemn meeting [sacred assembly for worship]” (1:13-14).

Even their prayers had become an abomination: “When ye spread forth [lay open; stretch forth; display] your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers [supplications], I will not hear [hearken; listen]: your hands are full [overflowing] of blood. [shedding of blood]” (1:15).

In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD extended a pardon if the people would repent of their sins (1:16-18). He called upon the nation, “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins [faults; offences] be as scarlet [color of blood], they shall be as white [purified; without blemish] as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Offering a conditional pardon, the LORD appealed to the people, “If ye be willing [consent] and obedient [hearken; obey], ye shall eat [consume] the good [beauty; blessings] of the land” (1:19); but warned, “if ye refuse [unwilling] and rebel[disobey; provoke], ye shall be devoured [eat up; consumed] with the sword [knife; dagger]: for the mouth [commandment; Word] of the LORD hath spoken it. [pronounced; declared]” (1:20).

The Third Charge – Three Reprehensible Injustices (1:21-23)

Understanding the leaders of a nation are a reflection of the character of the people, I conclude today’s study inviting you to consider three nauseous traits of those who govern a dying nation.

The leaders of Judah were vile, having rejected God’s Law, and were “companions of thieves,” enriching themselves by illicit gain (1:23). The leaders lacked integrity, and were guilty of loving gifts (bribery), and shameless self-promotion (“followeth after rewards” – 1:23; Exodus 23:8; Micah 3:11-12). Finally, the leaders had abused and exploited the weak (“the fatherless…the widow” – 1:23d; Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

Closing thoughts – Take a moment and reflect on your nation, its leaders, and government. Are the failed character traits of Judah’s leaders the same as you see in your society–vile, lacking integrity, and abusing the weak?

Warning – The sinful traits of a nation’s leaders reflect its citizens, and demand God’s judgment (1:24-31).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide from God (2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1

2 Chronicles 25 is a parallel record of events we considered in a prior study of 2 Kings 14:1-2. For that reason, today’s devotional will focus exclusively on the Book of Jonah.

Have you ever wanted to run away? Ever wanted to flee from pressures, people, pain and problems? I am certain there are many who have entertained the notion to run and hide. The book of Jonah will remind you that our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His people. He is omniscient, and knows your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles (Psalm 139:1). He knows your every thought (Psalm 139:2-3), and every word (Psalm 139:4). He is omnipresent, and His presence is inescapable (Psalm 139:7-10). The Scriptures impart a comforting and inescapable reality: “You can run, but you cannot hide from God.”

Jonah 1

Who was Jonah? (1:1-2)

Jonah was a preacher and prophet of the LORD to northern Israel, and served during the reign of the second Jeroboam (i.e., Jeroboam ben Joash). Passionate and patriotic, his life was dedicated to ministering in Israel, until the LORD interrupted his ministry commanding him to, Arise, go to Nineveh” (1:2).

Nineveh is described in the Scriptures as a “great city,” and one known for its wickedness (1:2). Located on the Tigris River in what is today, modern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, with a population of 120,000 (4:11). In ancient times, the Assyrians were known as a cruel, heartless people who buried their enemies alive, and tortured others by skinning them alive until they died. They were also a great enemy of Israel, and eventually conquered that nation, taking the people captive.

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (1:3-4)

The stench of Nineveh’s wickedness had become so grave, that the LORD had determined He would destroy the city if the people did not repent. Revealing His compassion for sinners, and His longsuffering, the LORD determined to give that great city an opportunity to repent of its sins.Jonah, however, refused to go to Nineveh to call on the people to repent (1:3). Some might argue the prophet feared the notorious cruelty of the nation. Others might suggest he did not want to aid Israel’s enemy, and feared his own people might reject him. Jonah 4:1-2, however, reveals Jonah did not want to prophesy against Nineveh for he knew the LORD was gracious, and feared He would spare the people if they repented of their sins. Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah resigned his calling, took a boat going to Tarshish (the opposite direction of Nineveh), and attempted the impossible…to escape “the presence of the LORD” (1:3).

Jonah’s Spiritual Insensitivity (1:4-6)

We read in verse 5 how Jonah “was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep” (1:5). What a poignant insight into the character of a disobedient servant of God! While the heathen battled the storm, desperate to save their lives, the prophet slept!

The ship’s captain assailed that calloused prophet, and asked in disbelief, What meanest thou, O sleeper?” (1:6) How could he be sleeping when so many lives could be lost? Here we see the spiritual profile of a backslidden believer: Emotionally detached, and distant from God and others.

The Sailor’s Interrogation (1:7-11)

The sailors cast lots, and the LORD sovereignly directed the lot to fall on Jonah (1:7). With the storm raging, the sailors demanded to know the cause of Jonah’s guilt that God had sent such a great storm that threatened all their lives. What evil? “What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (1:8)

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (1:9). He declared he had “fled from the presence of the Lord” and the storm had been sent by God to chasten him (1:10). Fearing for their lives, the sailors questioned Jonah, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” (1:11)

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (1:12-17)

Jonah instructed the sailors saying, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (1:12).

Given the desperate plight of the ship, you would think the calloused sailors would have cast the disobedient prophet overboard immediately; however, they continued to row hard hoping to bring the ship to land (1:13). Realizing all effort was for naught, the sailors cast Jonah into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging” (1:15). God mercifully spared the lives of the sailors, and providentially “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17).

Closing thoughts – Several lessons come to mind in our study of Jonah 1. We have seen God’s love for sinners and His longsuffering. In spite of Nineveh’s wickedness, the LORD sent His prophet to call the people of that city to repent (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16). We will also observe that the LORD is a God of second chances. He lovingly pursued Jonah across the sea, and saved him from drowning. Lastly, consider how a disobedient believer can peril the lives of the unsaved, leaving me to ask:

Are you periling lost souls by your disobedience?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

History is “HIS-Story” (2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14

We are in the midst of the era of the kings in Israel and Judah. I encourage you to not allow yourself to become frustrated, attempting to retain the names of all the kings. What is important is to remember that history is “His-Story,” and a testament to the sovereignty and providence of the LORD.

2 Kings 13

The northern ten tribes known as Israel, continued in sin, following the “sins of Jeroboam” who had made two golden calves and “made Israel to sin” (13:2). The sins of the kings of Israel, and their evil influence on the people, was a continual provocation of God’s wrath (13:3). Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy, Hazael king of Syria, and his son Benhadad, continually oppressed Israel (13:4). Yet, when the LORD delivered the people from their enemies, Israel would turn back to their sins and idolatry (13:5-6). Joash (also named Jehoash) succeeded his father Jehoahaz, and he followed in the sins of his father (13:8-13)

The Death of Elisha, God’s Prophet (13:14-21)

We find Elisha, God’s prophet in Israel and the successor of the prophet Elijah, terminally ill (13:14). Although he had often opposed the kings of Israel, king Joash, respected the prophet and came to his bedside and “wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (13:14).

Elisha’s homegoing was not as dramatic as Elijah’s (for he had been taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot), nevertheless, he was honored by the visit of the king and he offered Joash two symbolic and prophetic blessings (13:15-19). The first, Elisha asked Joash to shoot an arrow out the window to the east, and he prophesied the LORD would deliver Israel from Syria (13:16-17). The second symbol, Elisha commanded the king to strike the floor with arrows, which Joash obeyed and struck the floor three times (13:18). The dying prophet was suddenly indignant, for he said had Joash struck the floor more than three times he would have been assured that Syria would be destroyed (13:19).

A miracle followed Elisha’s death and burial, for the body of another man was cast into his grave, and touching the bones of the prophet, was raised from the dead (13:20-21).

2 Kings 13 concluded with a reminder, though Israel had disobeyed the LORD, and broke covenant with Him, God never forgot His “his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet” (13:23).

2 Kings 14

This chapter records a succession of kings and their sons who ruled over Judah and Israel. Amaziah, the son of Joash, became king of Judah (14:1-2), and “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did” (14:3). King David, though not a perfect man, was a man whom God said was “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). Amaziah served the LORD much of his life, but in his last years forsook the LORD, His law, and commandments.

Soon after becoming king, Amaziah sought a covenant of peace with Jehoash the king of Israel; however, that wicked king rose up against Judah, attacked Jerusalem, and broke down a section of the wall of the city. He also took away “all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria” (14:14).

A second king named Jeroboam, probably named after the founding king of the northern ten tribes, became king of Israel in 2 Kings 14:23, and he continued in the idolatry that had been established by his namesake (14:24).

Our Scripture reading concludes reminding us of the grave consequences Israel suffered as a nation for her sins. Consider verse 26: “For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel” (14:26). Yet the Lord had compassion for Israel and remembered them, for “…the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (14.27).

The pride and arrogance of Israel’s kings, and the idolatry and wickedness of the people, are drawing to a close. What is true of a man, is also true of a nation, for,  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Yet, “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Dying Nation (2 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 10

Background of today’s Scripture reading: The LORD had commanded Jehu to annihilate the lineage of Ahab for his role in murdering the prophets of the LORD. Jehu, having been anointed king of Israel (9:1-3), had taken up his bow, and shot king Joram through the heart as he had fled in his chariot (9:23-24). With Joram dead, Jehu turned and went to the palace in Jezreel. Jezebel spied him from a window, and being a woman full of witchcraft and whoredoms, called to him with insolence. Jehu then ordered Jezebel cast out a window of a palace window falling to her death (9:32-33). As foretold, the dogs ate her flesh, fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 21:23).

2 Kings 10

Jehu Secured Israel’s Throne (10:1-14)

To secure the throne of Israel, Jehu ordered the execution of all of Ahab’s lineage (10:1-7). We read, “Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria. And Jehu wrote letters, and sent to Samaria, unto the rulers of Jezreel, to the elders, and to them that brought up Ahab’s children” (10:1). Numbered among the seventy were no doubt grandsons of Ahab.

Making a pretense to encourage the crowning of Ahab’s heir (10:3-4), Jehu in fact had plotted to execute any who might lay claim to the throne of Israel. The leaders of Samaria realized the ruse, and refused to be a party to crowning of a king after Jehu had made himself king of Israel. Jehu then ordered the beheadings of Ahab’s lineage (10:6), and the men “took the king’s sons…and put their heads in baskets, and sent him them to Jezreel” (10:7). As a warning to any who might challenge his reign, Jehu ordered the heads of Ahab’s sons be stacked “in two heaps at the entering in of the gate until the morning” (10:8). Jehu lied to the people (10:10), and suggested he had nothing to do with the beheadings, but asserted, “the LORD hath done that which he spake by His servant Elijah” (10:10). Jehu then continued his eradication of any who might have been loyal to Ahab’s household (10:11). He also ordered the deaths of 42 men who came seeking Ahaziah, and claimed kinship to the deceased king of Judah whom Jehu had slain (9:27; 10:12-14).

The Elimination of All Who Worshipped and Served Baal (10:18-27).

Ahab and Jezebel had introduced the worship of Baal, and would have had many devoted followers among them. Jehu, therefore, determined to kill all who worshipped and sacrificed to Baal. He deceived the followers of Baal, and proposed he would be more devoted to Baal than Ahab and Jezebel (10:18-19). With 80 armed men stationed outside the pagan temple, Jehu gathered the worshippers of Baal (10:20-23), and at the time appointed, ordered all slain, and the images of Baal destroyed (10:24-28).

Jehu’s Failure (10:28-30)

Removing the worship of Baal from Israel was a great thing in the eyes of the LORD. God acknowledged Jehu had obeyed his command and exterminated the household of Ahab. For his obedience, Jehu was promised his lineage would succeed him on the throne of Israel for four generations (10:30; his son Jehoahaz, grandson Joash, great grandson Jeroboam, and great-great grandson Zechariah would reign as kings in Israel). Jehu, however, had failed to purge the nation of the golden calves Jeroboam had set up in Bethel and Dan (10:29).

The Decline of Israel (10:31-36)

Though Jehu reigned as king for 28 years, his failure to “walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart” (10:31), marked the beginning of the end for that nation. Hazael king of Syria, began to invade the borders of Israel (10:32), and its lands and territories were diminished (10:33). Jehu died, and was buried in Samaria, and true to God’s promise, his son Jehoahaz “reigned in his stead” (10:35).

Closing thoughts – We have witnessed the rise and fall of kings in Israel. Jehu’s bloody reign, and his failure to purge Israel of all idolatry, marked the beginning of the final phase of that nation’s precipitous, and final decline. Without the LORD’S blessing and protection, Israel will fall to her enemies, and the northern ten tribes will be taken by Assyria.

Will the same not be true of nations in our day?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Political Corruption, and a Day of Judgment (2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 8; 2 Kings 9

We have observed the fierce faith and courage of the prophet Elisha in earlier devotionals, and in 2 Kings 8 we will observe his compassionate spirit.

2 Kings 8

Lands Restored to a Shunammite Mother and Son (8:1-6)

Knowing Israel would face years of famine, the prophet encouraged the mother, whose son he had raised from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35), to leave Israel and live “in the land of the Philistines seven years,” which she did (8:2). When the seven years past, she returned to Israel, only to find others had occupied her home and lands in her absence.

Providentially, her appeal to the king coincided with that ruler questioning “Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done” 8:4). As Gehazi told how Elisha had “restored a dead body to life,” the mother whose son had been raised from the dead, entered the king’s presence and appealed to him to restore her lands (8:5). The king asked if the story of her son’s resurrection was true, and she confirmed it was so. “So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now” (8:6).

Elisha Foretells the Ascension of Hazael to be King of Syria (8:7-15)

As the prophet of the LORD, Elisha’s prophetic ministry was not limited to Israel. Elisha journeyed to Damascus, and Benhadad, the king of Syria was sick, and feared he was near death (8:7). The king sent a servant named Hazael to inquire if he would recover from his disease (8:8). That servant came to Elisha, and the prophecy he received was that the king would die, and Hazael, his servant would be king (8:10). Having foretold Hazael’s future, Elisha began to weep, for the LORD had revealed how Israel would suffer under Hazael (8:11-12). Hazael was offended by the prophecy, nevertheless, Elisha assured him he would be king (8:13).

Hazael then returned to king Benhadad’s bedside, and he deceived the king and assured him he would recover from his illness (8:14). Yet, the next day, Hazael took matters into his hands, and smothered the king with a thick cloth which he had dipped in water. Benhadad was dead, and Hazael was king of Syria (8:15).

A Review of the Rise and Fall of Kings in Judah and Israel (8:16-29)

The events in 2 Kings 8:16-29, are a parallel of the same from an earlier study in 2 Chronicles 21-22. Now, Joram, king of Israel, was recovering from wounds he had suffered in battle with Syria (8:28). Ahaziah, who was king of Judah and the son of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah, went down to Ramothgilead to visit the king. (8:28-29). (Jezebel, the wicked Queen mother, and wife of Ahab was still alive at this time.)

2 Kings 9

Jehu Anointed King (9:1-10)

While king Joram was away, Elisha, sent a messenger to anoint Jehu to become Israel’s next king (9:2-6). To avenge the deaths of his prophets, Jehu was charged with annihilating the lineage of Ahab, and insure there would be no heir of that wicked king’s family (9:7-10). True to the prophecy of Elijah, Joram was told, “the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her” (9:10).

Jehu’s Insurrection, and the Assassination of Joram and Ahaziah (9:13-27)

With the anointing of the LORD to be king in Israel, Jehu journeyed to Jezreel, determined to slay Joram and claim Israel’s throne (9:13-15). Jehu and his company of soldiers came within sight of Jezreel, and king Joram twice sent messengers to ask him if he had come in peace (9:17-20). Rather than return to the king, the messengers joined Jehu. Then, Joram and Ahazaih ordered their chariots “made ready,” and went out of the city to meet Jehu (9:21). When Joram asked Jehu, “Is it peace?” (meaning, have you come in peace), Jehu replied, “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (9:22)

The king of Israel realized he had been betrayed, and warned Ahaziah to flee, as an arrow from Jehu’s bow pierced Joram’s heart (9:23-24). Remembering how Jezebel had murdered Naboth, and Ahab had claimed his vineyard, Jehu ordered Joram be buried in the field of Naboth (9:25-26). Jehu continued the pursuit of Ahaziah king of Judah, and he was also wounded, and died that day at Megiddo where he had fled (9:27).

The Inglorious Death of Jezebel (9:30-37)

Fulfilling the prophecies of Elijah and Elisha, Jehu came to Jezreel, and the wicked Jezebel adorned herself as a powerful queen (9:30). Looking out the window of the palace, she scorned Jehu, but he answered her asking others, “Who is on my side?… 33And he [Jehu] said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall” (9:33). Jehu’s horses and chariots then trampled Jezebel, and left her lifeless body at the city wall (9:33-34). When Jehu ordered Jezebel’s body be buried, he learned the prophecy of Elijah had been fulfilled, for the dogs had eaten her flesh (9:35-37).

Closing thoughts – We have followed the deaths of kings and queens, and the ascension of sons to be king. As it was then, so it is today. We see in our day the same political intrigue and corruption in nations of the world. Wicked men and women continue to aspire to wealth, power, and position and few give little thought to the day when “the dead, small and great, stand before God…[and will be] judged every man according to their works…and whosever [is] not found written in the book of life [will be] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15).

Are you ready for the judgment day?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

JEHOVAH is God. (Psalm 83)

Scripture reading – Psalm 83, 2 Kings 1

Our Scripture reading brings us today to Psalm 83, and 2 Kings 1. This is the first of two devotionals, and the focus is Psalm 83.

Psalm 83 is titled, “A Song or Psalm of Asaph.”

Psalm 83 is the last of the psalms attributed to Asaph, the Levite who was one of the principal musicians in David’s era. The exact date of Psalm 83 is not given; however, it is prophetic for a time when God’s people would face a confederation of nations committed to the destruction of Israel as a nation. Consider three principal points from the psalm.

Israel’s Desperate Cry to God (83:1-8)

Facing a coalition of nations dedicated to the destruction of Israel, the psalmist cried to the LORD to come to the aid of His people (83:1). The author reasoned with the LORD that Israel’s enemies were the enemies of God, and they hated Him, and had plotted against those referred to as, “thy hidden ones” (literally, those whom the LORD treasured as His Own, 83:3). The enemies had boasted, and encouraged one another saying, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; That the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance” (83:4). They were not content to merely overcome Israel, they desired to annihilate them as a people, that their names would be forgotten (83:4b-5).

Ten heathen nations comprised the confederation that plotted Israel’s destruction: The Edomites (the sons of Esau), Ishmaelites (son of Abraham by Hagar), Moabites (descended from Lot), Hagarenes (a tribe of Ishmaelites named after Hagar), Gebal (a Phoenician, Lebanese people), Ammonites (a son of Lot), Amaelikites, Philistines, citizens of Tyre, and the Assyrians (identified as Assur, 83:8-8).

The Imprecatory Prayer of the Psalmist (83:9-17)

Having identified the enemies of God and Israel, the psalmist prayed for the LORD to destroy them as He had come to Israel’s aid in ancient times (83:9-11). The enemies of Israel had boasted they would raid and plunder “the houses of God” (i.e. the Tabernacle, and its Ark of the Covenant, 83:12), and the psalmist prayed the LORD would utterly destroy them (83:13-17).

He prayed the LORD would crush the enemy, as a wheel grinds grain, and that the enemy would become nothing more than “stubble” carried away by the wind (83:13). He longed to see the LORD burn the enemy in His wrath, as a fire destroys a forest (83:14). He desired God would confound the enemies of Israel, and they would suffer shame till they all perished (83:15-17).

Why this prayer for troubles to be inflicted upon the enemies of the LORD? (83:18)

It was not only so that Israel would see the LORD’S deliverance, but that the heathen would know there is one God, JEHOVAH [Yahweh; the Eternal, Self-existent God of Israel], Who is “the most high over all the earth” (83:18).

Closing thoughts – The existence of Israel in our day, is an undeniable testimony of Jehovah, the God of Israel, and His covenant promises with the people of Abraham’s lineage and faith. While all other ancient civilizations have passed from the stage of history, one has been preserved—Israel.

The nation we know today as Israel is a secular one, and many who live there are far from being a people of faith who love the LORD, and keep His laws and commandments. Yet, there are Hebrew people who also live there, who look for the day the Messiah will return as He has promised–Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, crucified, buried, raised from the dead, and coming again as He has promised!

Acts 1:11b – “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

But for the Providence of God (2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22

Happy New Year, this 1st day of January 2022! Understanding every day is a gift of God’s grace, and more precious than silver and gold, I thank the LORD for allowing me an opportunity to live, and serve Him as I stand upon the threshold of a new beginning!

Entering upon a New Year, we would be wise to heed the proverb of Solomon, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). You cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but I encourage you to plan for the future, and make a list of things that will be a priority in your life. Place at the top of that list the daily study of God’s Word.

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study of 2 Chronicles, and a desperate time in the life of God’s people. In earlier devotionals, we have considered the godly reign of Jehoshaphat, who followed his father, and “and walked in [the LORD’S] commandments” (17:4). Jehoshaphat had enjoyed the LORD’S blessings, but in a foolish decision of political expediency, his eldest son, Jehoram married Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (18:3; 22:3, 10) whose counsel and wickedness nearly ended the Davidic line.

2 Chronicles 21 – The Reign of Jehoram, Son of Jehoshaphat

As with many fathers, though he was a great man, Jehoshaphat was apparently blind to the ungodly character of his eldest son, Jehoram. Before he died, Jehoshaphat set his household in order, and blessed his sons with “great gifts,” but “the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn” (21:3). Putting birthright above character, Jehoshaphat’s decision to give his crown to Jehoram, plunged Judah into an era of spiritual darkness, and political turmoil.

After his father’s death, Jehoram “strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers [many] also of the princes [chief leaders] of Israel” (21:5). No longer bound by the opinions and influence of his brothers or godly leaders, Jehoram did not follow in his father’s spiritual steps, and instead followed in the wicked ways of the kings in Israel (21:6).

Why? Why did this king of a godly lineage, reject the LORD and do “that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (21:6). The answer is found in this statement: “He had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6). Only the intervention of the LORD, and His covenant promise to spare the Davidic lineage, preserved the royal line through which Christ Himself would ascend (21:7).

Rather than the peace and prosperity Judah had enjoyed during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat, under Jehoram’s reign, Judah descended into an era of political turmoil as the Edomites rebelled (21:8-10), and other enemies of Judah soon followed (21:16-17). Rather than repent of his wickedness, Jehoram continued in his sins, and his influence “caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

Even the prophet Elijah, though he was a prophet in Israel, sent a letter to Jehoram, stating that his actions would bring a fatal intestinal disease upon him. Elijah’s words still ring soberness to us today.  Notice the specific detail written against Jehoram: “thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out…an incurable disease” (21:15, 18). Unlike his father and grandfather who were beloved and honored by the nation, Jehoram died a miserable soul. Humiliated, impoverished, stripped of his possessions, his sons and wives abducted, and his health failing, Jehoram died. None in Judah mourned his death, nor was he buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (21:19-20).

2 Chronicles 22

The Reign of Ahaziah (22:1-9)

Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, was chosen by “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” to be king (22:1). Like his father, he continued in the sins of the kings of Israel, and “his mother (the daughter of wicked Ahab) was his counsellor to do wickedly” (22:3). Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah was a wicked king, and his counsellors were of the house of Ahab (22:2, 4).

Ahaziah’s life was cut short when he was killed by a man named Jehu, whom God had appointed to cut off the lineage of Ahab (22:7). When Jehu learned Ahaziah was also in Israel, he determined to slay the king of Judah as well (22:9).

A Wicked Grandmother Slays the Royal Sons (22:10-11)

We read, “when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah [she was the wife of Jehoram, the daughter of Ahab] saw that her son [king Ahaziah] was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” (22:10), and made herself queen of Judah (22:11).

Closing thoughts – It is hard to imagine a grandmother slaying her grandsons; however, the daughter of Ahab was wicked. What was for king Jehoshaphat a pragmatic decision to insure peace and a political alliance with Israel, nearly terminated the Davidic bloodline. Athaliah would have accomplished her wicked plans, except the LORD used “Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king,” to spirit away Joash, saving the life of the man who would one day be king of Judah, and thus preserving the line of David (22:12).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

But for the Providence of God (2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 22

Happy New Year, this 1st day of January 2022! Understanding every day is a gift of God’s grace, and more precious than silver and gold, I thank the LORD for allowing me an opportunity to live, and serve Him as I stand upon the threshold of a new beginning!

Entering upon a New Year, we would be wise to heed the proverb of Solomon, “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). You cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but I encourage you to plan for the future, and make a list of things that will be a priority in your life. Place at the top of that list the daily study of God’s Word.

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study of 2 Chronicles, and a desperate time in the life of God’s people. In earlier devotionals, we have considered the godly reign of Jehoshaphat, who followed his father, and “and walked in [the LORD’S] commandments” (17:4). Jehoshaphat had enjoyed the LORD’S blessings, but in a foolish decision of political expediency, his eldest son, Jehoram married Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab (18:3; 22:3, 10) whose counsel and wickedness nearly ended the Davidic line.

2 Chronicles 21 – The Reign of Jehoram, Son of Jehoshaphat

As with many fathers, though he was a great man, Jehoshaphat was apparently blind to the ungodly character of his eldest son, Jehoram. Before he died, Jehoshaphat set his household in order, and blessed his sons with “great gifts,” but “the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn” (21:3). Putting birthright above character, Jehoshaphat’s decision to give his crown to Jehoram, plunged Judah into an era of spiritual darkness, and political turmoil.

After his father’s death, Jehoram “strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers [many] also of the princes [chief leaders] of Israel” (21:5). No longer bound by the opinions and influence of his brothers or godly leaders, Jehoram did not follow in his father’s spiritual steps, and instead followed in the wicked ways of the kings in Israel (21:6).

Why? Why did this king of a godly lineage, reject the LORD and do “that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD?” (21:6). The answer is found in this statement: “He had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6). Only the intervention of the LORD, and His covenant promise to spare the Davidic lineage, preserved the royal line through which Christ Himself would ascend (21:7).

Rather than the peace and prosperity Judah had enjoyed during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat, under Jehoram’s reign, Judah descended into an era of political turmoil as the Edomites rebelled (21:8-10), and other enemies of Judah soon followed (21:16-17). Rather than repent of his wickedness, Jehoram continued in his sins, and his influence “caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

Even the prophet Elijah, though he was a prophet in Israel, sent a letter to Jehoram, stating that his actions would bring a fatal intestinal disease upon him. Elijah’s words still ring soberness to us today.  Notice the specific detail written against Jehoram: “thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out…an incurable disease” (21:15, 18). Unlike his father and grandfather who were beloved and honored by the nation, Jehoram died a miserable soul. Humiliated, impoverished, stripped of his possessions, his sons and wives abducted, and his health failing, Jehoram died. None in Judah mourned his death, nor was he buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (21:19-20).

2 Chronicles 22

The Reign of Ahaziah (22:1-9)

Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, was chosen by “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” to be king (22:1). Like his father, he continued in the sins of the kings of Israel, and “his mother (the daughter of wicked Ahab) was his counsellor to do wickedly” (22:3). Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah was a wicked king, and his counsellors were of the house of Ahab (22:2, 4).

Ahaziah’s life was cut short when he was killed by a man named Jehu, whom God had appointed to cut off the lineage of Ahab (22:7). When Jehu learned Ahaziah was also in Israel, he determined to slay the king of Judah as well (22:9).

A Wicked Grandmother Slays the Royal Sons (22:10-11)

We read, “when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah [she was the wife of Jehoram, the daughter of Ahab] saw that her son [king Ahaziah] was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” (22:10), and made herself queen of Judah (22:11).

Closing thoughts – It is hard to imagine a grandmother slaying her grandsons; however, the daughter of Ahab was wicked. What was for king Jehoshaphat a pragmatic decision to insure peace and a political alliance with Israel, nearly terminated the Davidic bloodline. Athaliah would have accomplished her wicked plans, except the LORD used “Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king,” to spirit away Joash, saving the life of the man who would one day be king of Judah, and thus preserving the line of David (22:12).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith