Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

How Do You Answer an Insolent Fool? (Isaiah 35-36)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 35-36

There are two timelines in today’s Scripture reading. Isaiah 35 describes the yet future Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Isaiah 36 then turns our focus back to the imminent threat of the Assyrian army that had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 35 The earth and the nations of the world after Christ’s judgment and His Millennial Kingdom

After the Second Coming of Christ, His reign on the earth will usher in a time of peace and prosperity like the world has not known since before Adam sinned.

The earth will be restored and the desert will bring forth life and flower with beauty reflecting God’s glory (35:1-2). The physically weak will be strengthened (35:3) and the fearful will be emboldened (35:4). Christ’s reign will be one of perfect justice and believers will find security in Him.

When Christ reigns the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will jump for joy (35:5), the dumb will break forth into singing (35:6), and the desert will flow with streams of water (35:6b) and bloom like an oasis (35:7). What a glorious day that will be!

The world in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom will be at peace and believers will come to Zion (new Jerusalem) with “songs and everlasting joy” (35:9). In that day, the day when Christ reigns on the earth, “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (35:10). What a happy day that will be!

Isaiah 36 – Isaiah 36 turns our focus from the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 35) to Isaiah’s Day, about 701 B.C.

We find Jerusalem under siege as the Assyrian armies overran and defeated Israel (taking captive the northern ten tribes). The Assyrians have conquered the outlying cities and fortresses of Judah and are encamped outside the great walls  of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36).

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe, sums up Isaiah 36-39 writing, “Hezekiah [the king of Judah] faced three crises in a short time: an international crisis (the invasion of the Assyrian army), a personal crisis (sickness and near death), and a national crisis (the visit of the Babylonian envoys).”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – The Prophets]

The events of Isaiah 36 follow a national revival that had been led by Hezekiah, King of Judah.

We read in 2 Chronicles 32:1 that Sennacherib king of Assyria invaded Judah, “after these things.” After what things? What had occurred in Judah just before the Assyrians invaded? The answer to that question is found here:

2 Chronicles 31:20-21 – “20  And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God21  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”

After Hezekiah had done that which was good, and right, he followed after truth (2 Chronicles 31:10). Hezekiah restored the Temple and worship after he had set his heart to seek God, and obey the law and commandments. Then, and only then, did he begin to prosper. And yet, after those things, an enemy threatened to overthrow the king, destroy Jerusalem, and remove God’s people out of the land.

An emissary of the Assyrian King Sennacherib named Rabshakeh, was sent to confront King Hezekiah (36:4-8) and he demand tribute be paid to the king of Assyria.

Hezekiah sent representatives to reason with Rabshakeh; however, he was insolent and reproached Hezekiah (36:4) and his faith in Judah’s God (36:7).

Somehow Rabshakeh, the Assyrian king’s emissary, had knowledge of Hezekiah’s foolish appeal to Egypt for an alliance and knew that effort had failed. Rabshakeh suggested that should the Assyrians give Judah two thousand horses, they would lack the soldiers to go to war (36:8-9).

Rabshakeh went so far as to suggest that Assyria was laying siege to Jerusalem because Judah’s God had told him to, “Go up against the land, and destroy it” (36:10).

Hearing the emissary’s message and fearing it would disturb the soldiers defending the city walls of Jerusalem, Judah’s leaders asked Rabshakeh to deliver his message in the Syrian language (36:11-12), a language that common soldiers would not understand. Instead of delivering the message as requested, the messenger raised his voice against the men on the wall, mocking King Hezekiah and his faith that God would deliver Judah (36:13-22).

Realizing they were hearing the words of an insolent man, the soldiers on the wall, “held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was, saying, Answer him not” (36:21).

We will pick up our narrative on the siege of Jerusalem and King Hezekiah’s response tomorrow. I will close today’s devotion with a question and a spiritual lesson.

How do you answer an insolent fool? – SILENCE!

Proverbs 26:4-5  “Answer [speak; respond; reply] not a fool according to his folly [foolishness; stupidity], lest thou also be like [equal to; resemble] unto him. 5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise [shrewd] in his own conceit [eye; confidence; disdain].”

“Solomon warned his son in verse 4 that responding to a fool in the midst of his folly has the potential of drawing you into his folly—and you become like him—a fool!

Stated in a different way—You cannot reason with a fool!

It is a waste of time and effort to reason with a man who has rejected Truth and refuses to heed the clear exposition of God’s Word.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Millennial Reign of Jesus the Messiah (Isaiah 31-34)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 31-34

We continue our Scripture reading in the Book of Isaiah with Israel, the northern ten tribes having fallen to Assyria and its armies now threatening Judah.

Isaiah 31

King Hezekiah’s attempt to appease Assyria’s king with gold and silver had failed. Receiving news of the fall of Samaria and the inhabitants of Israel taken captive, the king of Judah sent emissaries to Egypt to seek an alliance against Assyria (31:1). Isaiah condemned the king for his failure to turn to the LORD for help and declared, “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit” (31:3).

In spite of the king’s failure to turn to God, the LORD promised He would “come down to fight for mount Zion” (31:4b) and “the LORD of hosts (would) defend Jerusalem” and “preserve it” (31:5). Isaiah called on the people to repent of their sins (31:6-7), and promised the LORD would come to their defense and “then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword” (31:8).

Isaiah 32

Isaiah 32 opens with a yet to be fulfilled promise of the coming of the Messiah who “shall reign in righteousness” (32:1). Who is the Messiah who will reign as King? Nathanael confessed that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God…the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

Jesus promised His followers He would come again (John 14:1-6) and the angels who were at His ascension promised His disciples, “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” (Acts 1:11).

When Jesus Christ comes again, He will come as a conquering King and will sit in judgment over the nations of the earth. The apostle John wrote, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

When Christ sits on His throne in Jerusalem the curse of sin that blights and scars the earth will be removed. The eyes of the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and stammering tongues will speak (32:3-4). The barren wilderness will become a fruitful garden (32:15). There will be righteous judgment in the land (32:16), and because righteousness rules, there will be “peace…quietness and assurance for ever” (32:17).

What a contrast to our world where there is no justice in the land. Where rioting and violence, sickness and death are perpetual threats.

Lesson – When righteousness rules, there is peace (32:17).

Isaiah 33

Isaiah 33 picks up the story of King Hezekiah’s failed attempt to appease Assyria, but the prophet warned that the destroyer (Assyria) would itself be destroyed (33:1).

Though the majority of Judah had rebelled and turned from the LORD, there were a few in Judah who prayed and God heard their prayers. The faithful few prayed, “O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble” (33:2). God answered their prayers and promised to deliver Jerusalem by setting Himself against Assyria (33:10-12).

God fulfilled His promise of judgment and destroyed Assyria’s army. The defeat of Judah’s adversary was so complete that it struck fear in the hearts of the people (33:13-14).

A Messianic prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming is found in the closing verses of Isaiah 33. When Christ returns He will repel and destroy the armies of the nations of the earth that will be gathered against Jerusalem (33:17-24).

In the “New Jerusalem” where Christ will reign, there will be no sickness or sin (33:24).

Isaiah 34 speaks of God’s great and universal judgment of the nations of the world.

Isaiah 34 focuses on the “Day of the Lord’s Vengeance,” His final judgment of the nations of the world (34:8).

The nations of the world will be assembled (we know prophetically that this is the Battle of Armageddon, Revelation 19:11-21). Isaiah describes how God will pour out His wrath on the nations for how they mistreated and slaughtered His people (34:1-2). No nation will be spared the wrath of the LORD, and the earth and the heavens will be moved by God’s judgment (34:3-4).

The immediate focus of Isaiah’s prophecy was Edom (or Idumea) and its capital city “Bozrah” (34:6). Edom served as an example of what will become of the nations, when God takes vengeance on the world.

God’s judgment will be terrifying and complete: blood-soaked land, streams running dark, fire and smoke ascending, cities uninhabitable except for wild beasts (34:6-15).

Isaiah warned all the prophecies of the LORD would come to pass and “no one of these shall fail” (34:16).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Invitation: God Is Waiting to Hear Your Call (Isaiah 28-30)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 28-30

Continuing our chronological study of the Old Testament, we transition from the prophecies of Hosea, whose ministry was directed primarily to the northern ten tribes (Israel, also referred to as Ephraim), and return to Isaiah 28.

Isaiah 28 – Isaiah announced two judgments in Isaiah 28.

The first was God’s judgment against “the crown of pride” (which I believe is a reference to the royal capital city of Samaria) and “the drunkards of Ephraim,” which I interpret to be the political and spiritual leaders of the northern ten tribes (28:1-4). Referring to Assyria as “a mighty and strong one” (28:2), Isaiah prophesied the LORD would send against Ephraim a nation that would trod “under feet” (28:3) and “eateth up” (28:4).

Isaiah 28:5-6 refers to a period of time that is still future (unless one considers the reign of Hezekiah, the godly king of Judah as a partial, immediate fulfillment) and will be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming.

The second prophecy of judgment was directed to Judah, who witnessed the destruction of her brethren to the north, but continued in her sin and wickedness (28:7-15).

The wickedness of Judah was revealed in the drunkenness of her priests and prophets. Those leaders who should have called the nation to the LORD were guilty of drunkenness (28:7) and self-indulgence. Their feasts had become drunken banquets vividly portrayed as “tables…full of vomit and filthiness” (28:8).

Realizing the looming threat of Assyria, rather than repent of their sins and turn to the LORD, Judah’s leaders sought an alliance with Egypt (28:14-15; 30:1-5) that God described as “your covenant with death” (28:18).

Judah’s only hope was a Messianic prophecy: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste [not be ashamed; panic]” (28:16). The New Testament reveals the “precious corner stone, a sure foundation” is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-7; Mark 12:10; Romans 9:33).

Isaiah 29

To understand Isaiah 29, when you read “Ariel”, think of Jerusalem for we read that Ariel was “the city where David dwelt” (29:1). Isaiah 29:1-14 is the prophet’s warning of God’s imminent judgment against Jerusalem that would be fulfilled in Assyria’s siege of the capital city.

The distress, mourning, and siege of Jerusalem was a historical event that took place in 701 B.C. when Assyria defeated Israel (the northern ten tribes) and would have overwhelmed Jerusalem if the LORD had not intervened (37:36).  Knowing that prophecy often has an imminent and a far-reaching application, I believe Isaiah 29:7-8 describes the future siege when the nations of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem during the “battle of Armageddon” (Zechariah 14:1-3; Revelation 14:14-20; 16:13-21).

Isaiah 29:15-24 reminds us that the God of Heaven is Sovereign Creator and nothing escapes His knowledge or is beyond His control. The leaders of Judah were foolish, thinking God had no knowledge of their schemes, plans, and sins committed in secret (29:15).  Isaiah reasoned, no more than the potter’s clay could rise up against the potter, how foolish for man to assert of God, “He made me not?” (29:16).

Isaiah 29:17-24 is, in my opinion, a picture of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom after His Second Coming. His earthly kingdom will be glorious: The earth will be transformed and fruitful (29:17), the deaf will hear, the blind will see (29:18), and the meek and poor will rejoice (29:18).  What a glorious day that will be!

Isaiah 30A prophecy of woe against Jerusalem

Rather than turn from her sin and return to the LORD, Judah turned to Pharaoh and Egypt for deliverance from her enemies (30:1-7).  Isaiah warned, Judah’s attempt to purchase Egypt’s protection would all be in vain (30:7).

Isaiah 30:8-17 paints a graphic portrait of Judah’s rebellion against God and His Word.

The LORD commanded Isaiah to write down His warning of judgment (30:8) and to describe the rebellious nature of the people… “lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD” (30:9).

In spite of their sin and rebellion, Isaiah assured the people that God is gracious, compassionate, and just (30:18). When they cry out to Him, He will hear and answer their cry (30:19).

Isaiah 30 closes with a promise of Judah’s restoration to the land (30:18-26). Isaiah prophesied the defeat of Assyria that is, I believe, symbolic of the defeat of all the nations of the earth that will gather against Jerusalem when Christ returns and establishes His Millennial Kingdom (30:27-33; Revelation 19:11-21).

An Invitation: Someone reading today’s devotional might identify in their own life some of the sins of Judah: Hypocritical worship; a disdain for spiritual truth; a pattern of minimizing sins; excusing rebellion, and a defiance of God and authority.

There is hope for you, as there was for Judah, if you are willing to confess your sins, turn to the LORD, and seek His forgiveness.

1 John 1:8-10 – “8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Sovereignty and Providential Care (Isaiah 13-17)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 13-17

Caution: Today’s study covers a great swath of history, from ancient Assyria and the emergence of Babylon, to the “day of the LORD” and His future coming and Millennial Kingdom on the earth. The doom of four nations is prophesied: Babylon (Isaiah 13; 14:1-23), Assyria (Isaiah 14:24-27), Philistia (Isaiah 14:24-32), Moab (Isaiah 15-16), and Syria (identified as Damascus) with whom Israel (identified as Ephraim) was allied and eventually suffered that nation’s fate (Isaiah 17).

Isaiah 13-14 described the prophetic judgment God would bring against Babylon, the nation that would lay siege to Jerusalem and take the Jews captive.  Described in Isaiah 13:1 as the “burden (i.e. doom) of Babylon,” the Book of Daniel records not only the Jewish captivity by Babylon, but also the destruction of that city by the armies of the Medes and Persian nearly two centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 13:1-5, 17-18; Daniel 5). Isaiah 13:19-22 paints a prophetic picture of the devastation Babylon would eventually suffer. To this day, Babylon lies in ruins under the sands of the desert in Iraq.

Isaiah 14 continues the prophecy against Babylon and predicts the miraculous return of Israel following their captivity (14:1-3). Remarkably, the destruction of the city of Babylon, considered unassailable in its day, is foretold in prophetic detail (Isaiah 14:9-23).

Isaiah 14:12-14 compares the sudden fall of the great king of Babylon to the fall of the archangel Lucifer, who was described as the “son of the morning” (14:12).  The sinful pride that moved Lucifer to challenge the God of Heaven, is the pride that moved Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon to boast he would assail Israel and “exalt my throne above the stars of God” (14:13).  The parallel between the fall of Lucifer and the king of Babylon continues in verse 15.

Isaiah 14:16-23 completes the prophecy against the king of Babylon, describing how the people will gaze upon the king’s lifeless body with wonder, that so powerful a man would be brought to the grave like all men. Indeed, hell itself is said to have been stirred at the entrance of the fallen king of Babylon (14:21-23).

Isaiah 15-16 is a prophecy concerning the “burden of Moab” (literally the doom or prophecy concerning Moab). The Moabites were descendants of Lot’s incest and were perpetual adversaries of Israel. Their geographical lands were located east of the Jordan River, on the southeast side of the Dead Sea.

The subject of Isaiah 17 is the “burden (i.e. doom) of Damascus” (17:1), a prophetic picture of the destruction of Syria’s capital city that was an ally of Israel, and identified as Ephraim (17:3).

Damascus’ destruction would serve as a prophetic warning to Israel of its own impending destruction by Assyria (17:12-14).

A closing note of exhortation: Long passages of prophecy are challenging; however, a daily discipline in God’s Word will not only impart knowledge, but also enrich your appreciation for God’s sovereignty and His providential care of His people.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to a people who celebrate perversity! (Amos 1-5)

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-5

Amos 1

In the days of the prophet Amos, “Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and that nation had maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” (thus identifying him as Jeroboam II) was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom. That nation made no pretense of worshipping the LORD. Founded by Jeroboam I who set up and sacrificed to a golden calf at Bethel, Israel had rejected the LORD and departed from His Law and Commandments.

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.  When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

With the word of the LORD upon his lips, Amos courageously delivered a series of prophecies concerning the imminent judgement of God against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8), Tyre (1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3).

Amos 2

Turning his focus from the Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged because they had “despised the law of the LORD, and [had] not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God had sent prophets, but the people had said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

Amos 3

Amos reminded the people how the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both Israel and Judah) to be His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, had rejected the LORD and He had set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:1).

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: “For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments, come to “know not to do right?”  How could they be so blind? Why had they lost the knowledge and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts become so desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law that the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

On a personal note, I fear our society has followed the same sin pattern. The lunacy of atheism and the perversity of humanism have become so entrenched in government, education, religion and media that our judgment as a society is perverted.  When a people reject God and His Laws, the moral judgment of that nation is so twisted that the people “know not to do right” (3:10).

Amos 4 – The Chastisement of Israel and a Prophecy of That Nation’s Fall and Exile

Amos 5

Remembering the distinction between Israel, the northern kingdom made up of ten tribes, and Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, Amos takes up the prophecy of the LORD against Israel in Amos 5.

God’s condemnation and exposure of Israel’s hypocrisy gives way to His lamentation over the judgment and sorrows that will soon come upon the people (5:1-3).   Knowing the heart of the nation was set to do evil, nevertheless the LORD appealed to Israel to hear, heed and repent (5:4, 6, 8, 14-15)!

Amos names the sins of Israel: Unjust and rejecting righteousness (5:7), hating bearers of truth (5:10), abusing the poor (5:11), afflicting the righteous, and taking bribes (5:12).

A pronouncement of “woe!” brings this chapter to a close (5:18-27).  The people had continued to make a pretense of worship (“your feast days…solemn assemblies” 5:21-22), but God knew their hearts and the prophet condemned their hypocrisy, and even their songs were noise to His ears (5:23).

I close with a challenge that Israel ignored, but that we should heed:

Amos 5:15 – “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Be a Fool: Character Does Matter! (2 Kings 9-11)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 9-11

My first memory of a public debate concerning the significance of a man’s character in public office dates to the presidential races of the late 20th century. In today’s world, the subject of character and integrity has become so unimportant that it is no longer a topic for discussion or debate!

What is character? Character is a moral compass, an internal standard that charts a man’s course in life and determines his conduct and destiny. A man’s character is defined by his moral values and can prove to be either a blessing or curse to others.

The opening verses of 2 Kings 11 are illustrative of the matter of character and indicative of the depths of depravity a soul will descend when driven by a covetous heart set upon power, position and possessions.

True to His promise that the lineage of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel would be cut off (9:8-9), the LORD moved on the heart of His prophet Elisha to send a young priest with oil and anoint Jehu to be king of Israel (9:1-7). Obeying the LORD’s command, Jehu then set out to kill every heir of Ahab’s seed and found not only Joram, king of Israel, but also Ahaziah, the king of Judah, and Jehu slew both kings (9:22-28).

Jehu’s next act was to order that Jezebel be cast down from the window of her palace (9:30-33). Fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy, Jezebel’s body was consumed by dogs (9:34-37).

When the news of Ahaziah’s death reached Jerusalem, the king’s mother (daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) moved immediately to secure the throne of Judah for herself.  Queen-mother Athaliah commanded that every son of King Ahaziah be slain (11:1). In spite of his grandmother’s murderous rampage, Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah was spared when his aunt hid him and his nurse in her house. Joash was later moved to the Temple where he would be kept secretly for six years (11:2-3).

Josiah is Made King II KIngs 22:1

In the seventh year of queen Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada, a priest in the Temple, called together the commanders of Judah’s armies and revealed that Joash, the son of the late king Ahaziah was alive (11:4-11).  Swearing allegiance to Joash, the military leaders crowned him king of Judah (11:12) and Jehoiada ordered that Athaliah be executed outside the Temple grounds (11:13-16; 2 Chronicles 23:12-15).

Following the death of Athaliah, the nation of Judah enjoyed a season of spiritual revival (2 Kings 11:17-21). Jehoiada renewed the nation’s covenant with the LORD “that they should be the LORD’S people” (11:17) and directed the destruction of the altars of Baal (11:18).

Although only seven years old (11:21),  Jehoash (i.e. Joash), was profoundly influenced by the high priest, and “all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet” (11:20).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Battle is the LORD’S (2 Chronicles 19-23)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19-23

Our Scripture reading is five chapters long, but I will limit today’s devotional commentary to 2 Chronicles 19-20.

2 Chronicles 19

With Ahab, king of Israel, slain in his battle with Syria, his ally King Jehoshaphat returned to his palace in Jerusalem where he was confronted by Jehu, the son of Hanani whom Asa had imprisoned (19:1-2).

With the boldness of a prophet of the LORD, Jehu condemned the king’s alliance with Ahab saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (19:2).

In spite of Jehoshaphat’s inappropriate alliance with the late king of Israel, Jehu comforted the king with God’s promise of grace saying, “there are good things found in thee…and hast prepared thine heart to seek God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat set his heart to lead Judah in the way of the LORD and set judges in the land to rule in difficult matters (19:4-11) and admonishing them, “Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment” (19:6).

2 Chronicles 20

Near the latter years of his reign, Jehoshaphat received word that a confederacy of enemies was gathering to wage war against Judah (20:1-2).  Fearing the size of the armies aligned against Judah, Jehoshaphat “set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah (20:3). The people gathered in Jerusalem and joined their king before the Temple where he called upon the LORD (20:4).

King Jehoshaphat, standing in the midst of his people, rehearsed in his prayer God’s covenant promises to Israel and how the LORD had promised the land “to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever” (20:5-7).

What a stirring prayer! What an inspiring scene! As Judah’s King called upon the LORD and confessed he was powerless to face such a great foe (20:12), “all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children” (20:13).

God heard Jehoshaphat’s prayer and sent Jahaziel to prophecy and encourage the king and Judah saying, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15).

With God’s assurance, the people went to the battlefield and found their enemies had turned and destroyed one another (20:22-23).  Without lifting a sword or spear, the LORD gave Judah victory and the spoils of war were so great it took three days to gather them (20:24-25).

When neighboring kingdoms heard the news of Judah’s victory and how the LORD had fought against their enemies, “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms” (20:29).

While there are many lessons we might take from today’s Scripture reading, perhaps the most principal one is that the LORD wants us to call upon Him in times of trouble, trials and sickness.

When we are afraid, call upon the LORD.  When enemies threaten us and we feel overwhelmed, remember, “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

“The battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

An Unconscionable Demand, A Gift of Grace, a Foolish Covenant, and a Tragic End (1 Kings 20-21)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20-21

Our Scripture reading is rich in drama and too long and involved for one devotional commentary. I encourage you to read both chapters, while I limit our devotional study to 1 Kings 20. By God’s grace, I hope to return to this great drama in another year.

1 Kings 20 – A Fearless Adversary and An Unconscionable Demand

Recalling Judah’s alliance with Benhadad, king of Syria (1 Kings 15:18-20), we find the armies of Syria and thirty-two other kings aligned against Ahab, king of Israel (20:1).

King Benhadad issued three demands to Ahab, each demand increasing in its severity. The first demand was for an unequivocal surrender of Ahab’s gold, silver, his wives, and his children (20:3-4).

Disgracefully, King Ahab capitulated to the first demand and it was soon followed by a second demand. Emboldened, Benhadad magnified his incursion into Israel’s autonomy and announced that his servants would not only plunder the treasuries of the palace, but the households of his servants (20:5-7).

Realizing there would be no end to his adversaries’ demands, King Ahab called his leaders to conference (20:7). The king shared how he had conceded his own household to Benhadad, however, his adversary’s second demand was to invade their homes and take their possessions. Ahab’s elders counseled him, “Hearken not unto him, nor consent” (20:8).

Refusing to accept Benhadad’s terms (20:9), the Syrian king threatened he would not rest until Ahab was dead (20:10). Empowered by the counsel of his elders, Ahab responded to Benhadad, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off” (20:11). If you will allow, I suggest a modern adage that sums up Ahab’s response is: “Don’t count your chicks until they hatch!”

Drunk with wine and clearly not possessing the good judgment of a warrior king, Benhadad ordered the kings of his alliance to make their armies ready for battle (20:12).

God mercifully, in an act of grace and in spite of the wickedness of King Ahab, sent a prophet to the king. The prophet encouraged Ahab, “Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

Assured he would have the support of the young leaders of Israel (20:14), Ahab numbered his soldiers, and preempted a battle with Syria.  God gave Israel the victory (20:15-21); however, Benhadad escaped and the prophet warned Ahab he must prepare Israel’s army for a second battle that would follow the next year (20:22).

In spite of their defeat, the Syrians began to boast that Israel’s God was “not God of the valleys” (20:23, 28). The kings in alliance with Benhadad were reassured they would defeat Israel in the plains (20:24-27).

Facing an enormous Syrian army that had gathered in the plains, God sent a prophet to assure Ahab, “Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD” (20:28).

Seven days later, with their armies arrayed in battle, the LORD gave Ahab victory, and Israel slew one hundred thousand soldiers (20:29). Fleeing the battlefield to seek safety in the city of Aphek, another twenty-seven thousand Syrians died when the wall of that city fell and crushed them (20:30).

Fresh off his victory, King Ahab foolishly entered into an alliance with Benhadad who, following the counsel of his servants, depicted the humility of a defeated foe hoping that his life would be spared (20:30b-32). Failing to seek the LORD in the decision, Ahab made a covenant with the Syrian king and soon learned it was a disastrous decision for himself and Israel (20:33-34).

To portray the folly of Ahab’s covenant with Benhadad, God sent a young prophet who disguised himself as a wounded soldier (20:35-38). When the king passed by, the prophet, masquerading as a casualty of war, called to the king.  The young prophet’s true identity concealed, he explained how he had unwittingly allowed his enemy to escape and his penalty would be either to “pay a talent of silver” or forfeit his life (20:40).

King Ahab, rather than spare the “wounded soldier” and extend to him mercy and pardon, instead condemned the man (20:40). The young prophet then revealed that Ahab had pronounced his own judgment (20:41), revealing the king’s failure to kill his adversary would cost him his own life (20:42;22:34-38). Rather than repent of his sin, Ahab returned to Samaria knowing his failure to obey the LORD (20:42) had sealed his own fate (20:43).

I close with an oft spoken, but true adage: Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Oh Lord, Hear Our Cry and Heal Our Land” (1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 17 complement one another with historic details that indicate the presence and providence of God’s guiding hand in human history.

1 Kings 16 – A Succession of Wicked Kings in Israel

While Asa, the third king of Judah, reigned for forty-one years and that nation enjoyed a season of revival and peace (15:11-14), the northern ten tribes known as Israel, went through a succession of wicked kings who doomed that nation to all manner of sin, idolatry, and violent assassinations (1 Kings 16).

Knowing God uses the penchant of wicked men to work His design for man, the LORD sent the prophet Jehu to remind Baasha that he was king because God had ordained it (16:2a). That does not mean God ordained the assassination of the former king, but that he used Baasha’s intent to accomplish His divine purpose.

1 Kings 16 gives us a record of a rapid succession of wicked kings. King Baasha died and his son Elah became the fourth king of Israel (16:6-8). Elah reigned only one year before he was slain in an assassination plot by Zimri (16:10-20). Zimri became the fifth king of Israel, but took his own life by setting fire to the palace when Omri laid siege to the city (16:16-20). A brief division of Israel as a nation followed with half the nation following Tibni (16:21-22) and the other half following after Omri (16:21-23).

After Tibni’s death, Omri united Israel, made himself king (16:23-24), setting the stage for the rise of the most notorious king and queen in Israel’s history:

“Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him…Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead” (16:25, 28).

There are few men or women in history whose infamy is so appalling that the mere mention of their name paints in one’s mind a picture of gross, notorious wickedness. King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel defined wickedness in the extreme (16:29-33). Of Ahab we read, he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (16:33).

2 Chronicles 17 – A Revival in Judah

Having learned from the failures of his father, Jehoshaphat, son of King Asa, became Judah’s fourth king and “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings [sins and wickedness]of Israel” (17:3-4).

While the people of Israel suffered oppression due to the wickedness of their kings, Judah returned to a time of spiritual revival. King Jehoshaphat turned his heart to the LORD and began to walk in the way of God’s Law and Commandments (17:4), God began to bless Judah. After tearing down the idol places, Jehoshaphat dispatched throughout Judah five leaders, two priests, and nine Levites who were charged with instructing the people in “the book of the law of the LORD” (17:7-9).

God blessed Jehoshaphat and the “fear of the LORD” fell upon Judah’s neighbors who began paying tribute to Judah (17:10-11).

Jehoshaphat’s love and dedication to the LORD and His Commandments, inspired “mighty men of valour” to rally around him in Jerusalem and Judah began to enjoy a season of peace and prosperity (17:13-19).

A concluding thought: I doubt many would debate that we are living in a time of sorrow and uncertainty. The plague of locusts in Africa threatens widespread famine, while the menace of a pandemic has afflicted hundreds of thousands, killed many, and crippled the world’s economy. Accompanying that terror is widespread lawlessness and violence in our nation that might well plunge our nation into a civil war.

What hope is there for these troubled times?

The answer is the same as it was in Judah’s day: We need leaders who, like Jehoshaphat, will lead our nation to repent of her sins, turn to the LORD, and walk in the ways of His Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, 10, 12-13).

Only then will the LORD hear our cry and heal our land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Wisdom’s Appeal to Sinners (Proverbs 7-9)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 7-9

We are continuing our daily reading in the Proverbs of Solomon with Proverbs 7-9 being the subject of today’s devotional commentary.

Proverbs 7 – The Calamity of Sexual Immorality

“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the Seventh Commandment, states clearly God’s plan for humanity’s sexuality and the posterity of the human race.  From the beginning, the companionship of one man and one woman for life has never been in doubt (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 20-25).

Human history, however, reveals not only a rejection of marriage, but also the tragic toll of sexual immorality. Crushed dreams, divided hearts, broken families, physical disease, and despair has been the haunt of all who reject the sanctity of marriage. The lesson is indisputable:

Give rein to lusts that cannot be righteously satisfied and you will be consumed by them.

Proverbs 7 serves as a graphic tale of a young man’s folly. Whether a personal observation of the sorrows that followed in the wake of his father’s adultery or a consequence of his own sinful choices, Solomon gives us a portrait that serves as a warning to all who reject godly wisdom and choose the path of immorality. The king warned his son, the house of an adulterer is “the way to hell” (7:27).

Proverbs 8 – Wisdom Anthropomorphized

My theme for Proverbs 8 is expressed in a word consisting of seventeen letters and five syllables. What is the definition of anthropomorphized? It means to take on human characteristics. Wisdom does that in Proverbs 8, and is in my interpretation, the embodiment of the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Solomon introduces us to Wisdom in the first three verses of the chapter (8:1-3), and then she (Wisdom) begins to speak throughout the balance of the chapter (8:4-36). You will notice the personification of Wisdom expressed in personal pronouns throughout Proverbs 8.

Proverbs 8:4 – “Unto you, O men, I call.”

Proverbs 8:7 – “My mouth shall speak truth.”

Proverbs 8:12 – “I wisdom dwell with prudence.”

Proverbs 8:17 – “I love them that love me: and those that seek me early shall find me.”

Proverbs 8:34 – “Blessed is the man that heareth me.”

Proverbs 8 concludes with wisdom’s invitation and warning:

Proverbs 8:35-36  For whoso findeth me [Wisdom personified in Jesus Christ] findeth life [spiritual and eternal life – 1 John 5:11], and shall obtain [get] favour [acceptance; good pleasure; goodwill] of the LORD. 36 But he that against me [Christ the Lord] wrongeth [violates] his own soul [life; person; mind; spirit]: all they that hate [to reject; are enemies or foes] me [wisdom] love death [pestilence; ruin; hades].”

Proverbs 9 – Wisdom’s Invitation

Solomon continues his personification of Wisdom in chapter 9 and we find her building a house described as having “seven pillars” (9:1). [In the Scriptures the number seven indicates completeness or wholeness.]

Consider this chapter as an offering of two spiritual scholarships to two opposing schools of thought and philosophy.

The first scholarship is to the University of Godly Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1-6) and the second to the School of Folly (Proverbs 9:13-18). You will notice that Proverbs 9:7-12 serve as transitional verses between the two schools.

As you read Proverbs 9, ponder this question: In what school of thought or philosophy are you enrolled?

Are you enrolled in the University of Godly Wisdom? Are you a student in the School of Folly where gullible, simple men dwell?  [The “simple” are those who lack godly wisdom, are slaves to sin, and follow a course of sorrow, destruction, and eventual death.]

It is not too late to become a student in the LORD’S University of Godly Wisdom by humbling yourself and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. Christ taught His followers, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:35, 37).

I invite you, enroll in the University of Godly Wisdom without delay by opening your heart to the Lord.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith