Tag Archives: Worship

“Consider you ways!” (Haggai 1-2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1-2

The book of Haggai falls chronologically at the conclusion of Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). Incredibly, eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, had declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him an house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by an edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3).

As is too often seen when great works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and then set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar), who served as governor of Judah, and was of the Davidic line (named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13), the preparations to lay the Temple foundation were halted when adversaries opposed the work and discouraged the people (Ezra 4).

It was at this time, a time of discouragement, that God raised up two prophets to minister in Judah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, both mentioned in Ezra 5:1, were contemporaries in Judah. Though the book of Haggai is only two chapters in length, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation, “Get to work!”

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes.  For ten years, from 530 BC to 520 BC, the Temple was neglected while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not finished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps even yourself?  Most of us do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD. However, we might often be guilty of procrastination and suggesting by our words and attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

The LORD had been longsuffering with His people; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent His prophet Haggai to rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), warning the people that the LORD was withholding His blessings from the nation, and their labor in the fields would be futile until the Temple was built (1:6-11).

The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops), but what they had failed to do.

Haggai left no doubt why the people were struggling, laboring much while harvesting so little, and detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in obtaining comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

Haggai 1:9 – Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Godly men that they were, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).

Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Your Critics! (Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

Seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first Jews captive to Babylon, God had moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the people to their land (Ezra 1:1-2).

Mount Moriah, the place where the Temple was being rebuilt, had been strewn with the rubble of Solomon’s Temple for nearly fifty years. That glorious place, once called the “house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1) and served as a physical reminder of God’s presence among His chosen people; had become a testimony of God’s judgment against Israel for breaking covenant by disobeying God’s Laws and Commandments.

As we come to today’s Scripture reading (Ezra 4-6), we find the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem, encountering both disappointment and discouragement. “The ancient men, that had seen the first [Temple],” perhaps remembering the glory of the previous Temple, “wept with a loud voice” (3:12). There were also enemies without who were determined to stop the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1).

Reminding us only two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had accepted King Cyrus’ proclamation that they were free to return to their homeland, we read, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Under the pretense of friendship, non-Israelite enemies who had been resettled in Israel by Assyria, came to Zerubbabel (perhaps identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2).

Evidencing godly wisdom and discernment, Zerubbabel and other leaders of Israel, answered, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their opposition, those same enemies continued their antagonism for sixteen long years (Ezra 4:7-23; Haggai 1:1) and “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (4:4).

Ezra 4 reminds us that when God’s people are doing God’s work they will face opposition.  Israel’s enemies employed four methods of discouraging and hindering God’s work.

The first, they suggested Assimilation, an unholy alliance, a partnership that God would not have blessed (4:2-3). Zerubbabel recognized his enemies for who they were, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (4:1)! In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul stated the principle Zerubbabel employed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Aggravation was a second means Israel’s enemies employed in opposing the work on the Temple. Ezra and the leaders of Israel were strong and confident when they first confronted their adversaries (4:3); however, as time passed, “the people of the land weakened [made them weak and feeble] the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled[terrified; paralyze with fear] them in building, 5And hired counsellors [advisers; consultants; conspirators] against them, to frustrate [to cause to cease; bring to an end] their purpose” (4:4-5).

The enemy discouraged Israel with Adjudication, challenging the legality and legitimacy of the work on the Temple (4:6-10).

Fourthly, Israel’s adversaries prepared Accusations: Deception, suggesting the Jews were “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12); Distortion, attacking the character and integrity of God’s people (4:13); and Deceit, questioning their motives (4:15).

Dear friend, there will always be critics. Some people have a negative, critical outlook on life. They can become a constant source of discouragement and if you allow them, they will hinder your service and God’s work. There are many who are spectators, not participators; they are watchers, and not workers.

Take a moment and reread Ezra 3:12-13 and notice the ones who were weeping as they remembered the past, and those who were shouting for joy and living in the triumph of the moment.

It was the “ancient men” (3:12), the “priests and Levites and chief of the fathers,” who were looking back and weeping. Old friend, memories can be cherished and pleasing; however, they can also turn you into nothing more than an old critic.

I challenge you who are faithfully serving the LORD, Be Not Discouraged!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited to, “The King of Kings is Coming!” – Sunday, September 13, 2020

Good morning! You are invited to join Hillsdale Baptist Church for our public worship services this Sunday morning. We are looking forward to an uplifting day of worship in music and a message in the 10:30am service on the Sovereignty of God.

Our Children’s Rally time begins at 9:00am in the Friendship Hall and is followed by Kid’s Choir (9:15am-9:45am) with Music Pastor Steve Armstrong. Our Children transition to their Sunday School classes at 9:45am.

Teen and Adult Bible Studies all begin in their individual classes at 9:15am. Pastor Brian Barber will be teaching the auditorium class and broadcasting live at 9:15am on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Pastor Smith is continuing his prophetic series in Hillsdale’s 10:30am service with a message titled, “The King of Kings is Coming,” a study in the sovereignty of God taken from the Book of Joel, chapter 1. Please click on the links to print out your student notes for today’s message.

The King of Kings is Coming (part 2) – September 13, 2020 AM student blank

The King of Kings is Coming (part 2) – September 13, 2020 AM student blank

Reminder: Hillsdale’s 9:15am Bible studies and 10:30am worship service are open to the public and also broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Missing Veil (Ezekiel 40-42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 40-42

Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart to build a new temple (the last was destroyed in 70 A.D.) and worship the LORD. The Temple described in today’s Scripture reading is the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom. Ezekiel 40-42 gives us the plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the Millennial Temple.

Ezekiel 40 – A Vision of a New Jerusalem and the Temple

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years and the time of the vision recorded in Ezekiel 40 is in the “five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).  Ezekiel has been in captivity for 25 years, and 14 years had passed since Jerusalem was destroyed (40:1).

The LORD sent an angelic messenger whom Ezekiel described as “a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass” (40:3). The messenger held in his hand a “line of flax” (a tape measure) and a “measuring reed of six cubits long” (40:3, 5). While there is some debate regarding the exact length of a cubit, we will accept the traditional definition of one cubit being 18 inches in length.

The measurement of the outer court of the Temple is given (40:5-26), along with the measurement of the inner court (40:27-47). Ezekiel noticed there were rooms used to prepare sacrifices (40:32-38), and butcher tables that were used to prepare meats (40:39-43).

Ezekiel 40:48-41:26 – The Outer and Inner Sanctuaries of the Temple

The Temple in Ezekiel’s vision had a large portico (porch) measuring thirty-five feet long and its width twenty-one feet (41:2). The Outer Sanctuary of the Temple measured seventy feet by thirty-five feet (41:1-2). The Inner Sanctuary, known as the Holy of Holies, was a perfect square measuring thirty-five feet by thirty-five feet and its walls were ten and one-half feet thick (41:3-5).

The side chambers of the Temple were three stories tall with a winding staircase leading to the upward floors. Thirty rooms were on each floor of the chambers (41:6-11).

Ezekiel 41:16-26 records the Temple decorations, furnishings, and the design of the doorframes. Remembering this is the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, I invite you to consider there is one item missing in this Temple that was essential in Moses’ Tabernacle, and in Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod’s Temples.

Notice there is no mention of the Veil that separated the Outer Sanctuary of the Tabernacle and the Temple from the Inner Sanctuary known as the Holy of Holies.

The veil in the Temple separated the outer court from the Holy of Holies where was found the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat symbolizing the throne and presence of God. The veil represented man’s separation from God. Only the High Priest could enter into the Holy Place, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 26:33).

We read in Matthew’s account of Christ’s death on the Cross: “When he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51).

Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection removed the veil that separated sinful man from God. We, by faith in Christ, have access into the presence of God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

Hebrews 10:19-20 – “19  Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20  By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“For Whom the LORD Loveth He Chasteneth” (Ezekiel 23-24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23-24

Our Scripture reading brings us to the final crisis that Ezekiel has long warned would come: The final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved capital city of Judah and all Israel. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Ezekiel 23.

Ezekiel 23 – A Tale of Two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah

The account of the final days before the fall of Jerusalem and the eradication of both Israel and Judah as nations, is vivid and graphic (23:1-2). In Ezekiel 23 we have the description of Israel and Judah symbolically represented as two sisters who had committed spiritual “whoredoms in Egypt…in their youth” (23:3).

Aholah, identified as the elder sister, was a symbolical name for the nation of Israel (identified in this passage as Samaria, the capital city of the ten northern tribes). Aholibah was the younger of the sisters and was a symbolical name for Judah, the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem (23:4).

Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) are portrayed as sisters who had rebelled, broken covenant with the LORD, and turned to other lovers (i.e. alliances with other nations). Aholah (Israel), awed by the strength and power of Assyria had made an alliance with that nation and turned from the LORD (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). Aholibah (Judah), Aholah’s sister, had sought alliance with Assyria  and also courted the favor of Chaldea (Babylon). King Hezekiah had foolishly displayed to Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassadors the wealth and treasuries of his palace and the Temple (23:11-21; Isaiah 39:1-8).

When Aholibah (Judah) realized the evil intent of Chaldea (Babylon), she appealed to Egypt for aid, but to no avail (23:21; 2 Kings 23:26-30, 31-24:2). Thus, the “lovers,” Assyria and Chaldea, had ravaged both Israel and Judah with their “chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people,” and stripped those nations bare of their wealth and people (23:22-29). God’s judgment against His people and the devastation of Israel and Judah would be an astonishment to the nations who would scorn and disparage them (23:32).

What sins had Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) committed against the LORD that would justify so great a judgment? (23:37-49)

The judgment of Israel and Judah was just because those nations had broken their covenant with God and committed spiritual adultery (23:37). The people had defiled the Temple with idols, forsaken their Sabbaths (23:38), and committed the ultimate act of wickedness and depravity: They had sacrificed their children to Moloch, and on the same day entered the Temple to worship (23:39; note Ezekiel 16:21).

The destruction of Israel and Judah was set and the horror of the people’s sufferings had been determined (23:47). The final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had begun and the days were numbered.

Ezekiel 24:2 – Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.

Why did God chasten and punish His people? Not only because He loved them, but so they would know He is “the LORD GOD” (23:49).

Hebrews 12:6 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Ezekiel’s Call and Commission as God’s Prophet (Ezekiel 1-4)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 1-4

Our chronological reading schedule of the Bible brings us today to the Book of Ezekiel and a focus on the ministry of the man whose name it bears. Today’s devotional commentary will serve as an introduction of Ezekiel and will focus on chapter 1.

Ezekiel 1:1-3 – The Prophet Ezekiel

Ezekiel was a contemporary of Jeremiah in the latter years of that prophet’s ministry in Jerusalem. Unlike Jeremiah, who had been left to minister to the remnant of Jerusalem after that city’s destruction, Ezekiel had been carried to Babylon as one of the captives of Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel was also a contemporary of the prophet Daniel; however, there is no indication in the Scriptures that the two men would have known one another.

A few other details are given concerning Ezekiel and his calling to be a prophet. The opening verse of the Book of Ezekiel introduce him as a thirty-year-old man. Assuming he was taken captive when Jehoiachin, king of Judah, was taken prisoner five years earlier (1:2), we can deduce Ezekiel was about twenty-five years old when he arrived in Babylon.

Another important detail of Ezekiel was that he was of a priestly lineage (1:3). Because priest were trained and began serving in their office when they were thirty years old, we know he was prepared to serve the LORD and His people, having knowledge of the Law and Commandments, the Temple and its rituals (of course, the Temple was destroyed), and the function of the priesthood.

Ezekiel would spend his life in Babylon encouraging God’s people to remember the prophecies that when seventy years were accomplished, the LORD had promised He would remember His people and restore them to their land where they would rebuild the Temple, their homes, Jerusalem and the nation.

Ezekiel 1 – The Calling and Commission of Ezekiel

While Ezekiel had been preparing his whole life to serve the LORD as His priest, that calling suddenly changed when we read, “The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest…and the hand of the LORD was there upon him” (1:3).

Ezekiel found himself moved from the esteemed ministry of a priest, to the prophet of God charged with confronting the sins of His people and calling them to repentance. With a wonderful, poetic flare, Ezekiel looked toward heaven as the clouds were rolled back and heaven appeared as a fire of molten bronze (1:4). Four heavenly beings with the “likeness of a man” appeared (1:5). They were Cherubim whose descriptions are given in Ezekiel 1:5-14 as having four faces, four wings, and whose likeness was as bright and fiery as “burning coals of fire” (1:13). These angels served the bidding of God’s spirit (1:12) and “ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning” (1:14). The Cherubim’s readiness to serve the LORD is portrayed as each had a wheel with a rim or inner circle “full of eyes” (1:18) and they went where the Spirit of God sent them (1:20).

Ezekiel also describes a vision of heaven with an expanse describes as “crystal” (1:22). The Cherubim, with fluttering wings so loud the noise was described “like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host [a great army]: when they stood, they let down their wings” (1:24). When God’s voice was suddenly heard, the wings of the Cherubim were stilled and heaven was silent (1:25).

Ezekiel is given a vision of God, portrayed in the likeness of man and sitting on His throne of “sapphire stone” (1:26). From his waist up, the appearance of God was a fiery molten metal (1:27a), and from his waist down He had the “appearance of fire” (1:27b). God’s glory is described as the brightness of a brilliant rainbow in the sky (1:28a).

When Ezekiel gazed upon God in all His glory and heard Him speak, Ezekiel writes, “I fell upon my face” (1:28).

Imagine how much you and I would be changed if we, by faith, gazed upon God in all His heavenly glory!

2 Corinthians 3:18 – “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Your God? (Jeremiah 10-13)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 10-13

Our study of the prophecies of Jeremiah continue today with our Scripture reading comprising Jeremiah 10-13. Jeremiah 10 will be the focus of today’s devotional commentary.

Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry spanned the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. He was a man of passion who loved the LORD and faithfully proclaimed His Word from His calling as a young man (Jeremiah 1:6-8) to the fall of Jerusalem and the first years of Babylonian captivity. He endured the scorn of his people, the persecution of his nation’s leaders, and wept as Judah fell to Babylon. His reputation as the “weeping prophet” is borne out by the sorrows that are recorded in the book that bears his name and in the Book of Lamentations, his second book.

Jeremiah challenged the people to contrast the false gods whom they worshipped (10:1-5) with the God of Israel who had revealed Himself to Israel (10:6-11).

Jeremiah 10:1-5 – Jeremiah Mocked the Idols Men Worshipped.

Describing the absurdity of worshipping idols conceived and made by men, Jeremiah pictured a man cutting down a tree, carving and shaping an idol from the wood (10:3), then overlaying it with silver and gold (10:4).

Mocking the idea of anything man might make being a god worthy of worship, Jeremiah stated the impotence of such a god: It cannot move about of its own will (10:4b); it cannot speak (10:5a); in fact, it must be carried about by one foolish enough to worship and sacrifice to its image (10:5b). Jeremiah admonished the people, “Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (10:5c).

Jeremiah 10:6-11 – There is None Like the God of Heaven.

I will step away from my role as an author and allow the Scriptures to declare the majesty of God without commentary.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 – “6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is greatin might. 7  Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.

Jeremiah 10:10 – But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

Jeremiah 10:12 – He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

Jeremiah 10:16 – The portion of Jacob is not like them: for He is the former [framer; potter; maker] of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.

Who is Your God? (10:6-16)

My God is the Great One, unlike any other (10:6). He is the King and Sovereign of all nations (10:7). He is incomparable in His person, majesty, and wisdom (10:7b). He is Truth (10:10a). He is the God of life (10:10b). He is the Eternal, Everlasting King, the Sovereign of Creation (10:10c). He is a God of righteousness and justice (10:10d).

My God is the One and Only Creator (10:12a) and sustains the earth by His power (10:12b) and in His wisdom He set the expanse of the heavens (10:12c). He is the God of Jacob (10:16a) and Israel is His chosen inheritance (10:16b).

My God is the “framer,” the maker, the creator of all things (10:16b). He is “the LORD of hosts,” the Commander and Master of the angels of heaven (10:16c).

Who Is Your God?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The hour of revival had past, and it was too late! (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35). 2 Kings was a contemporary history record; however, 2 Chronicles was authored while Israel and Judah were in captivity. Both are historical accounts of the promise of blessings (when kings obey the LORD’s Law and Commandments) and judgment (when those same kings rebel and disobey the LORD). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the accounts in 2 Kings 22-23.

2 Kings 22

The glorious reign of Josiah, the grandson of King Manasseh (who reigned in Judah 55 years) and the son of Amon (a wicked king who reigned two years), was a period of revival in Judah.

Josiah began to reign when he was eight years old, and perhaps because of the influence of his mother, he chose to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left” (22:2).

The king commanded that the Temple be repaired (22:3-7), and in the course of doing so the high priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law in the house of the LORD” (22:8). The “book of the law” was taken to King Josiah and “when the king had heard the words of the book of the law…he rent his clothes” in a public act of repentance and humility (22:11).

Josiah, overwhelmed by the words of the law and its promises of blessings and cursings (22:12-13), sent messengers to enquire of a prophetess named Huldah (22:13-14). Huldah confirmed to the king that the sins of Judah had sealed the nation’s fate and judgment was imminent (22:15-20). Josiah was assured that he would not see the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in his lifetime because his “heart was tender” and he had humbled himself before the LORD (22:18-19).

2 Kings 23

Josiah set his heart to begin a national reformation of Judah, and one that reached northward to the land and remnant of Israel (2 Kings 23). Gathering all the leaders and people of Judah, the king renewed Judah’s covenant with the LORD (23:1-3).

The king commanded the Temple be cleansed of idolatry and all the elements associated with such wickedness destroyed, ground to powder, and burned (23:4-6). Demonstrating the depth of depravity to which Judah had descended, we find there were “houses of the sodomites” (homosexuals) located on the Temple mount “by the house of the LORD” (23:7).

Josiah took his crusade for reformation to Bethel where Jeroboam, the first king of the northern ten tribes, had established idolatry (23:15). With the exception of two faithful prophets who were buried near Bethel, Josiah’s cleansing of wickedness in that land was so thorough that he commanded the bones of the wicked be removed from their tombs and burned (23:16-19).

Josiah also observed the Passover on a scale that had not been followed since the days of the Judges (23:21-23; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).

The reign of Josiah was celebrated in Judah. In the annals of Judah’s history there was “no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (23:25).

Nevertheless, it was too late for Judah. The wickedness of King Manasseh, Josiah’s grandfather, and Judah’s willingness to follow the sins of Manasseh, had sealed the fate of that nation. “The LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (23:27).

Three rebellious kings followed Josiah in quick succession (23:31-37) and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, began to overshadow the land (2 Kings 24).

For Judah, the hour of revival had past, and it was too late.

Genesis 6:3 – “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man…”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A God Who Hears and Answers Prayer (2 Chronicles 32-33)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 32-33

Today’s Scripture reading is an abridged version of the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah that has been considered in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s devotional commentary will focus solely on 2 Chronicles 32.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel to the north opened the way for Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1).

King Hezekiah consulted with his leaders and determined to enforce the city walls and deprive Assyria’s army of water by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city (32:2-5). Displaying his faith and confidence in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people:

2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him8  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”

Sending messengers and writing letters to the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned their confidence in the king. The king of Assyria also spoke against the God of Israel, asserting their God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Finally, Sennacherib declared that Hezekiah had deceived the people of Jerusalem, leading them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character and the offense Sennacherib had raised against the God of Israel?

2 Chronicles 32:20 – “Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.”

Isaiah describes this moment observing that “Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the [Assyrian] messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up unto the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed unto the LORD” (Isaiah 37:14-17).

Hezekiah’s focus was not on the threats of his enemy or his own strengths. The king’s faith and hope were in the LORD who heard the king’s prayer and “saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:20).

Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory God alone was due (32:25).  The king was “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26), God restored his health.

Permit me to close with an observation and application. 

King Solomon taught his son, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime. A leader’s character does matter!  Whether it is the leadership of a nation, state, city, church or school, a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on people.

Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Set Thine House In Order; For Thou Shalt Die” (2 Kings 20-21)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 20-21

Our study of the times of the Kings of Israel and Judah will soon end. By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, has fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, has been destroyed and the citizens of Israel taken away captive. Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations who in time would intermarry with the remnant of Israelites. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people with Israel would be known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 (note also 2 Chronicles 32:24-26; Isaiah 38:1-8)

The narrative found in 2 Kings 20 is familiar for it is a rehearsal of events we have studied in both Isaiah 38:1-8and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26

Hezekiah was the king of Judah and Judah had been blessed because its ruler loved the LORD.  Hezekiah had led the people in a time of spiritual revival by both example and edict. He restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments, Temple worship and sacrifices, and destroyed the places of idol worship throughout the land.

Israel had fallen to Sennacherib, king of Assyria; however, God had answered Hezekiah’s prayer and spared Judah. The “Angel of the LORD” destroyed the army of Assyria, slaying 185,000 soldiers (Isaiah 37:36).

Soon after Judah’s victory over Assyria, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing the news of impending death to the King. Isaiah said to the king, “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

How would you respond if your doctor gave you a terminal diagnosis? Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints.

The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). In other words, Hezekiah blocked out everything and everyone, and then he cried out to the LORD. He then began to rehearse his walk with the LORD and how he had kept God’s covenant. The king prayed,

2 Kings 20:3 – “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently].”

Hezekiah claimed God’s covenant promise and clung to the hope God would heal him. Having delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah rejoiced when the LORD commanded him to turn back and tell Hezekiah that God heard and would answer his prayer (20:5). Isaiah assured the king that the LORD would heal him (20:5) and “add unto thy days fifteen years” (20:6).

2 Kings 20 concludes with Hezekiah dying fifteen years later and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Tragically, unlike his father Hezekiah, King Manasseh set a course of wickedness in Judah that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). Idolatry (21:3), desecrating the Temple (21:4), and human sacrifice were the practice of the king and Judah (21:6).

The LORD sent prophets to confront the sins of the king and Judah, but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned that Jerusalem and Judah would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

I close observing the swift departure of Judah from the righteous reign of Hezekiah into a depth of depravity that would have defied the imagination of the previous generation. From spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that demanded God’s judgment…one generation.

A nation is one generation from a steep descent into sin that will demand God’s judgment. Are we that generation?

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith