Tag Archives: Worship

“Real Men Don’t Read Instructions; or Do They?” – Sunday at Hillsdale, May 22, 2022

Topic: A Biblical View of Parenting (part 3)

Text – Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Series – The Four “Be’s” of Parenting

Children do not come with an instruction’s manual; however, God has given us His Word and clear principles and precepts for the role and responsibility of parents in teaching and training their sons and daughters.

Four universal principles for Life and Family. Today’s message considers the first of the four: Be Consistent.

 

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Preach the Word of the LORD! (Ezekiel 2; Ezekiel 3)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 2; Ezekiel 3

At the sound of God’s voice, heaven became silent as the cherubim “let down their wings” (1:25b). With the vision of the glory of God, and Him sitting on His heavenly throne, Ezekiel fell on his face. Lying prostrate, he “heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28) saying, “Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee” (2:1).

Ezekiel 2

Addressing Ezekiel as “Son of man,” the young priest (30 years old, 1:1), learned the gravity of his ministry to the children of Israel living in Babylon (2:3-4). God’s calling would move Ezekiel from anonymity, to a ministry that would invite the anger of his rebellious people.

The LORD instructed Ezekiel to stand up, and listen as He warned, “Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me” (2:3a). The sins of Israel were generational, for the people and “their fathers have [had] transgressed against” the LORD (2:3b). They were spiritually obstinate and hardhearted (2:4). Ezekiel would face a rebellious people, but if he was faithful to his calling, God assured him, the people would “know that there hath been a prophet among them” (2:5). God commanded Ezekiel, “be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words,” for the task to which he was called would be fraught with danger, and rejection (2:6).

Where would Ezekiel derive the courage to face a people God described as “most rebellious”? (2:7-10)

The LORD prepared His prophet, giving him the spiritual nourishment, he needed to confront a stiff hearted people! The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.” (2:8). What did God put in his mouth? The Word of God, declaring His judgment of Israel. It was a scroll, “a roll of a book” that was placed in Ezekiel’s mouth (2:9), and upon it was written “lamentations, and mourning, and woe” (2:10).

Ezekiel 3

The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel” (3:1).  The prophet devoured the words of the roll, and declared, “it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness” (3:3). With the words of the LORD in his mouth, Ezekiel was commanded, “get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (3:4). He was cautioned, he was not to go to the heathen, “a people of a strange [foreign] speech” (3:5). He was to take the words of God’s judgment to “the house of Israel” (3:5), but was forewarned, they “will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted” (3:7).

Though charged with a difficult task, he was not to be afraid, for the LORD promised He would strengthen Ezekiel, and he would be able to stand against the people (3:8). The LORD then challenged His prophet, be strong and determined, and “fear them not, neither be dismayed” (3:9).

The Burden of Proclaiming God’s Word to a Wicked People (3:10-15)

Ezekiel was to “receive…and hear” the words the LORD spoke to him (3:10). Then, he was to “get…to them of the captivity…and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God” (3:11a). He was to deliver the word from the LORD, but he was not responsible for whether the people received or rejected the message (3:11).

The Spirit of God then lifted up Ezekiel, and carried him (3:12-14). Though he was troubled in spirit, he could not escape for “the hand of the Lord was strong upon [him]” (3:14). Ezekiel then found himself among the people of the captivity, and for seven days he sat in their midst, silent and astonished (3:15).

Called to be God’s Watchman (3:16-27)

After seven days were past, the LORD came and commissioned Ezekiel to serve as “a watchman unto the house of Israel” (3:17). His ministry was to call the wicked to repent, but their response was not his burden. Should he fail, God warned, the blood of the wicked “will I require at thine hand” (3:18). Warn the wicked, and he would deliver his soul from judgment (3:19). Ezekiel was also to call the righteous to turn from sin, but should he fail, the LORD warned, the blood of the righteous who died in their sin, would be on his hand (3:20). Warn the righteous, and should he repent, “he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul” (3:21).

The LORD then sent Ezekiel into a valley, and along the way gave him another vision of His heavenly glory (3:21-24). He was then instructed to wait alone in a house, and bind himself with cords to insure his solitude (3:24-25). He was to be silent (3:26), and wait until the LORD opened his mouth (3:27). Finally, he was reminded, whether or not the people would hear his words, was not his burden. His duty was to faithfully warn (3:27).

Closing thoughts – How many preachers fear men’s rejection, more than they fear God’s judgment? How many believers sit in cold, dead churches, pastored by men who lack both the passion and conviction for preaching the Word of God? Let us pray the LORD will raise up a generation like Ezekiel, who fear only the LORD should they fail to declare His Word! I close with the words of Paul’s farewell address to the churches as my aspiration:

“I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God”(Acts 20:26b-27).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heavenly Glory: The Prophet Ezekiel’s Call (Ezekiel 1)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 1

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, and having concluded our study of the prophecies and lamentations of Jeremiah, we move to “The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.” Jeremiah served the LORD as prophet to Judah, and his ministry had spanned the reigns of the last five kings of that nation. Jeremiah was the elder statesman of God’s prophets, and Ezekiel would have known of the old prophet. At the age of 25, Ezekiel had been taken from Judah to Babylon, and was numbered among the first captives (he and Daniel were contemporaries, but there is no record the two men knew one another).

The end of Jeremiah’s ministry, which came to a close with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity, marked the beginning of Ezekiel’s ministry. His ministry began in Babylon with him foretelling the imminent judgment of God and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He would spend his life in Babylon, calling the Jews to repent of their sins and turn to God. His task was to remind the people the LORD would keep covenant with Israel, and when 70 years were accomplished, they would be restored to their homeland.

Ezekiel’s Calling (1:1-3)

Being a man of priestly stock (for his father was a priest), Ezekiel was 30 years old when the LORD called him to serve as both priest and prophet (30 years old being the age men were ordained to the priesthood, 1:1-2). With knowledge of the Law and Commandments, trained for the Temple and its rituals, and knowledge of the office and work of the priesthood, Ezekiel was eminently qualified to serve his people as a spiritual leader. Ordained a priest, and called to be a prophet, Ezekiel would minister to a discouraged people who were living in the shadow of God’s judgment, and serving a heathen people.

A Heavenly Vision (1:3-28)

Like the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6), who preceded him more than a century (760-681 BC), Ezekiel’s calling was a vision of God’s glory with the Lord sitting on the throne of heaven (1:1). Describing the vision, Ezekiel testified, “I was among the captives by the river of Chebar [Kedar], that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God” (1:1b).  Seeing the heavens rolled back as a scroll, we read, “3The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest…and the hand of the Lord was there upon him” (1:3). Ezekiel 1 records three visions that together gave Ezekiel an appreciation of “the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (1:28b).

Humbled by the majesty of the LORD, Ezekiel writes, “I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (1:28c). You will notice that fire has a prominent place in Ezekiel’s visions (in the Scripture, fire is indicative of holiness, as well as, the judgment of God). Ezekiel testified, “I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a [burning] fire infolding itself [revolving circle of fire], and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber [i.e. molten bronze], out of the midst of the fire” (1:4).

Vision of Cherubim (1:5)

Ezekiel had a vision of four “living creatures” (1:5), that are later identified in Ezekiel 10 as cherubim, that attended the throne of God (1:5-14; 10:1-22). What are cherubim? They are “living creatures [beings]” (1:5, 14, 15; 10:15). Ezekiel described them as having “the likeness of a man” (1:5).

Cherubim were angels who were guardians of the Tree of Life and stood guard at the entrance to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:24). Two golden cherubim were on the top of the Ark of the Covenant facing one another on the Mercy Seat (Exodus 25:18-20). David said of the LORD, “He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind” (2 Samuel 22:11; Psalm 18:10). We also find cherubim are stationed at the base of the throne of God (Ezekiel 10:1, 20).

Physical Appearance of Cherubim (1:5-9)

The cherubim were described as having four faces, like that “of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle” (1:6, 10; 10:13). (Scholars suggest the faces represent various attributes of the cherubim. The face of the man symbolizes intelligence, the lion physical strength, the ox a service animal, and the eagle swiftness.) Briefly, notice the cherubim were described as having legs with “a calf’s foot” (1:7), the “hands of a man” (1:8), and wings (1:9).

What purpose did Cherubim serve? (1:12-14)

The cherubim were to serve the LORD wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:12). They were described as going “straight forward” and never turning aside from their ministry (1:12). Their movement was as a fiery torch, and as swift as bright flashes of lightning (1:13-14).

A Symbolic Picture of God’s Heavenly Throne Upon Four Wheels (1:15-21; 10:9)

The cherubim were described as each having a wheel that supported God’s throne. I suggest the wheels represented God’s readiness to move swiftly to meet the needs of His people. It was by means of the wheels that the cherubim moved to accomplish their tasks, wherever the Spirit of God did lead (1:19-20). Implying the omniscience and omnipresence of God, the wheels of the cherubim are described as having an inner rim, like an inner circle “full of eyes (1:18).

The Sound of Cherubim’s Wings (1:22-25)

Above the heads of the cherubim was an expanse Ezekiel described as the color of “crystal” (i.e., like sparkling ice, 1:22). The movement of the cherubim wings was so loud, Ezekiel writes, “…I heard the noise of their wings, 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 spoke, the wings of the cherubim were suddenly stilled (1:25).

The Glory of God Sitting on His Sapphire Throne (1:26-28)

Ezekiel portrays God in the likeness of a man, sitting on a throne of “sapphire stone” (1:26). From his waist up, God’s appearance was like a fiery molten metal (1:27a). From his waist down, He had the “appearance of fire” (1:27b). The brightness of God’s glory appeared as a brilliant rainbow in the sky (1:28a).

Closing thought – How did Ezekiel respond when he gazed upon the heavenly glory of God, and heard Him speak? Ezekiel testified, “When I saw it, I fell upon my face.” (1:28).

Tomorrow’s devotional will continue our study of Ezekiel’s divine calling and commission.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Your invitation to Pastor Smith’s “Uncommon, Common Sense” Wednesday night study of Proverbs 24.

You are invited to join Pastor Smith’s weekly study in the Book of Proverbs titled, “Uncommon, Common Sense.” Tonight’s study will consider Proverbs 24:1-16.

Student notes are available, but only upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com. Requests will be honored if made before 4:00 pm.

Of course, the best way of enjoying an interactive Bible study is by attending class; however, the class will be broadcast live beginning at 6:30 pm on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org and www.DailyTestify.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

 

Reject God’s Word at Your Peril (Jeremiah 36)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 36; Jeremiah 37

Our study of Jeremiah continues, and covers a span of years from the reign of Jehoiakim (the third to the last king of Judah, Jeremiah 36), to the reign of Zedekiah (the last king of Judah, Jeremiah 37). Baruch, who acted as both Jeremiah’s assistant and scribe (Jeremiah 32:12), takes a central role in our Scripture reading.

Jeremiah 36

God’s Inspired Word (36:1-2)

Remembering Jeremiah’s ministry spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah, the setting for events recorded in Jeremiah 36 were during the reign of Jehoiakim.

The LORD came to Jeremiah, and commanded, “Take a roll [scroll] of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations” (36:2). Notice the command was specific: “write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee” (36:2). In that statement, we find a brief definition of the doctrine of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures.

The Bible does not merely contain the Word of God, it is the very words of God, revealed, penned, and preserved by Him. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, “16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Peter penned the same, stating, “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Purpose and Method for Writing God’s Word (36:3-4)

Ever longsuffering, the LORD declared His desire for “the house of Judah” to hear His words, and know the “evil” [the judgment] that would befall them as a people if they did not repent (36:3). Serving as Jeremiah’s scribe, “Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book” (36:4). As Jeremiah spoke the words the LORD put in his mouth, Baruch inscribed them upon a scroll (36:4).

The Public Reading of God’s Word (36:5-8)

Having penned “all the words” the LORD had spoken to Jeremiah (36:4), the prophet commanded Baruch to take the scroll to the Temple on a day of fasting (36:6) when all Judah would be in attendance. Again. We see the LORD longing for the people to repent of their sins when they hear they had provoked “the anger and the fury” of the LORD (33:7-8).

Baruch, A Faithful, Courageous Servant (36:9-19)

Faithful and obedient, Baruch made his way to the Temple on the day of fasting proclaimed by Jehoiakim (36:9). Standing in the Temple, he read “the words of Jeremiah…at the entry of the new gate of the LORD’s house, in the ears of all the people (36:10).

“When Michaiah the son of the scribe Gemariah” heard the “words of the LORD” read by Baruch (36:11), he went to the king’s palace, and told the officials all that he had heard (36:12-13). After hearing Michaiah’s report, they summoned Baruch to the palace with the scroll in hand (36:14). Deferring to Baruch, they requested he would read the words in the scroll (36:15). Hearing the judgment God had declared for Judah and Jerusalem, “they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?”  (36:17)

When Baruch declared the words penned in the scroll were from Jeremiah (36:18), the officials of Jehoiakim’s palace urged him and Jeremiah to hide, and “let no man know where ye be” (33:19), for the king was an enemy of the prophet­­.

King Jehoiakim Rejected God’s Word (36:20-26)

The king’s officials determined to convey the message in the scroll to the king; however, they secured the scroll “in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king” (36:20). The king, not content with merely hearing the message of the scroll, demanded it be brought to him, and commanded it be read aloud to him and his court (36:21).

Hearing the declaration of God’s judgment (36:24), the king slashed the leaves of the scroll with a knife, and threw it into a fire “until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (36:23). Some had besought the king to “not burn the roll: but he would not hear them” (36:25), and he demanded the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah, “but the LORD hid them” (36:26).

God’s Word Preserved: The Second Writing (36:27-32)

Jehoiakim despised the words of the LORD, and destroyed the scroll; however, his actions did not silence the warning of God’s imminent judgment (36:27). The LORD then commanded his prophet to direct Baruch to write a second scroll, like the one destroyed by the king (36:28).

Closing thought – Jehoiakim destroyed the scroll bearing the word of the LORD; however, God’s Word would not be voided. He refused to accept the warnings of God’s judgment, and the LORD declared the king, and his household suffer for his sin and rebellion. No son of the king would suceed him on the throne, and when he died his body would be left exposed and unburied (36:30).

Because Jehoiakim rejected the Word of the LORD, the king’s family, servants, and the citizens of Jerusalem and Judah suffered the judgments God “pronounced against them” (36:31).

Isaiah 40:88The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Reject God’s Word at your peril.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“Woe to the Pastors” (Jeremiah 23; Jeremiah 24)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 23; Jeremiah 24

Jeremiah 23

After addressing the failures of the kings of Judah (Jeremiah 22), Jeremiah was tasked with confronting the failure of the pastors. In the broadest use, the “pastors” were both the religious and civic leaders of Jerusalem and Judah.

Jeremiah 23:1-2 – A Denouncement of Unfaithful Pastors

 “Woe be unto the pastors [shepherd; leader; religious and civic leaders] that destroy [lead astray] and scatter [drive away] the sheep of my pasture” (23:1; note, Ezekiel 34:1-10).

Like the shepherd whose work is to lead, protect, and feed his sheep, so is the calling of a “pastor” to lead His people to better places spiritually. Judah, however, had been plagued with derelict pastors (23:1). Rather than gathering and guiding the nation to the LORD, the pastors had destroyed, abused and scattered the people. The LORD admonished the pastors, “Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited [inspected; nurtured] them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord” (23:2).

Jeremiah 23:3-8 – The Messiah King and the Millennial Kingdom

Remembering His covenant with Israel, the LORD would not leave His people without hope. He had scattered Israel in His wrath, and determined the same would befall Judah, yet, He had not forgotten His promises. The LORD declared there would be a day when “the remnant of my flock” (Israel and Judah) would be gathered “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (23:3). In that day, the LORD promised to appoint spiritual “shepherds…which [would] feed [His people]: and they [would] fear no more…neither [would] they be lacking” (23:4).

Leaving no doubt who will be King in the Messianic Kingdom, we read, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).

Who was this “righteous branch” of David’s lineage? (23:5) Only one man could fulfill that prophecy, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten, virgin-born, Son of God (Isaiah 9:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-5:11).

Jeremiah 23:9-32 – False Prophets and Their Error

Jeremiah, realizing the judgment Judah would suffer, wrote, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets” (23:9). False prophets had become the curse of Judah. In a searing indictment of their sins, Jeremiah identified the ungodly character of the false prophets and their effect on the people. Jeremiah prophesied, “The land is full of adulterers” (23:10) and prophet and priest were “profane” (godless, wicked, polluted, and corrupt, 23:11, 23:13).

The sins of Judah had become so egregious, the LORD likened them to “Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (23:14).  Gripped by their sins, and lacking spiritual discernment, the people believed the assurances of false prophets who said, “No evil shall come upon you” (23:17). The LORD declared, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (23:21).

Jeremiah 23:33-36 – Judah’s Contempt for the LORD’s Message and Messenger

Having embraced the lies of false priests and prophets, the people ridiculed Jeremiah. When Jeremiah was asked, “What is the burden of the LORD?” (23:33), he was instructed to say, the “burden of the LORD” was that He had forsaken them (23:33b).

Jeremiah 23 concluded with a stern warning against the false prophets, saying: “I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: 40  And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten” (23:39b-40).

Closing thought – The work of the pastor is a great calling, as is the privilege of teaching and preaching God’s Word. Yet, such a burden is not to be taken lightly. All who aspire to teach the Word of the LORD must remember they will face the greater judgment.

James 3:1 – “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers; instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater [larger; greatest] condemnation [judgment; punishment; i.e. sentence].”

Jeremiah 24

Illustrating the imminent judgment of God, Jeremiah told a parable concerning “two baskets of figs” (24:1). The parable was spoken at the time Jeconiah, the second to the last king of Judah, was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (24:1). The two baskets of figs represented the people of Judah. One basket of figs was described as “good figs” that could be eaten, and the other “very evil, that cannot be eaten” (24:3).

Interpretation – The LORD promised the “good figs” would be carried away by Babylon, but would one day be restored to their land (24:4-7). The bad or “evil figs” represented king Zedekiah, and the officers of his court (24:8). Zedekiah was a wicked king, and the last king of Judah before Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were taken captive (24:9).

Closing thought –The “pastors” of Judah (the king, his officials, and religious leaders) had denied the LORD, and failed the people. Therefore, God had determined His judgment against Judah, and foretold He would scatter that nation among the “kingdoms of the earth” (24:9). God’s people would be afflicted, and the heathen would taunt and curse them (24:9b). Sword, famine, and pestilence would be their lot, until there were no more of the people left in the land (24:10).

The Jewish people have known the highest privilege as God’s chosen people; however, they have rejected the LORD, and their eyes are blind. Perhaps as none other, they have been hated as a people. Yet, the LORD has not forgotten His people and will one day all the earth will know, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” reigns in Israel (23:5-6).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Josiah: The Boy King with A Heart for God (2 Chronicles 34)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 34

As noticed in earlier devotionals, the books titled Chronicles in our Bibles are believed to have been written after the Babylonian captivity. They serve as a parallel historical account of the providences of God and primarily His dealings with Israel as a nation, and then as a divided kingdom (consisting of Israel, reduced to ten tribes in the north, and Judah, the southern kingdom that was made up of two tribes, Judah and the tribe of Benjamin).

Today’s Scripture reading, will consider 2 Chronicles 34, and is a parallel record of our previous study in 2 Kings 23.

2 Chronicles 34

I will not belabor the content from our devotional in 2 Kings 23, but I am reminded of God’s grace when I consider the life and reign of Josiah (34:1). Who was Josiah? He was the son of the wicked king Amon, who was slain by his servants, after reigning as king for two years (33:21-25). When he was 8 years old, Josiah succeeded his father to the throne, and reigned 31 years in Jerusalem (34:1).

A Teenage King, with a Passion for God (34:2-3)

Rather than follow the sinful footsteps of his father, Josiah determined to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (34:2).  We read, “in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father” (34:3). The young king was 16 years old, and while we are not told what or whom encouraged him to “seek after God” (34:3), I believe it may have been the influence of the prophet Jeremiah.

Comparing Scripture with Scripture, we know Jeremiah’s public ministry began “in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign” (Jeremiah 1:2). The spiritual reformation led by Josiah, when he was just 20 years old, began one year before Jeremiah received “the word of the LORD” (34:3; Jeremiah 1:2),

Josiah’s Zeal for the LORD (34:4-13)

I have detailed the steps of revival that were taken by the king, and how he did not compromise his passion to rid Judah of the vestiges of its idolatry and wickedness. For Josiah, it was not enough to remove the idols and the places of idol worship (34:3b-7); the king went so far as to even burn the bones of the false priests that had led the people astray (34:5). The balance of our text reviewed the renovations the king directed regarding the Temple (3:8) and the wages that were due the laborers (34:9-13).

Renovation, Repentance, and Revival (34:14-32)

The discovery of the “book of the law” stirred both conviction and repentance in the heart of the king (34:14-19). Knowing the judgment of God was imminent (34:20-26), Josiah was promised his dedication to the LORD would spare him from witnessing the utter destruction that would befall Jerusalem (34:27-28); yet, the king’s spirit was not at ease.

Knowing the terror of God’s judgment, Josiah summoned the leaders and people to the Temple. There he “read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord” (34:30). The king called upon the people to renew their “covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book” (34:31).

To the day of his death, Josiah dedicated himself to encourage the nation to keep covenant with the LORD, “to serve, even to serve the Lord their God” (34:32a). Gratefully, we read of Josiah’s efforts that, “all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers” (34:32).

Closing thoughts – What have we learned? Though young, a son or daughter with a tender heart, is able to make spiritual decisions that chart the course of their lives; after all Josiah was a teenager when “he began to seek after the God of David” (34:3). We have also observed the difference one believer can make when, like Josiah, he or she makes “a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written” in His Book (34:31).

Have you made a decision to trust Christ as Savior, and to seek Him? Have you set your heart to obey His Word? If not, will you make that decision today? I invite you to share your decision with me, by writing to: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

What a Difference Christ Makes! (Isaiah 61; Isaiah 62)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 61; Isaiah 62

Our chronological Scripture reading continues as we near the conclusion of our study of Isaiah. Remember, the Old Testament Scriptures lay the foundation for our future study in the New Testament.

Isaiah 61

The prophecies recorded in Isaiah 61 foretell the setting and circumstances of both the first and second comings of Christ.

Isaiah foretold the Messiah would come as God’s Spirit anointed servant (61:1). It was the first coming of Christ, and His earthly ministry that was in view in Isaiah 61:1. How can we know Isaiah 61:1 is a depiction of Christ? By interpreting Scripture with Scripture, we know Jesus applied Isaiah 61:1 to Himself in the Gospel of Luke 4:16-21.

The Messiah’s Calling (61:1-3)

The Messiah’s calling would be that of a preacher, for He would “preach good tidings unto the meek” (61:1b). He would heal, and “bind up the brokenhearted” (61:1c). He would deliver His people from sin, and “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (61:1d). The Messiah would “comfort all that mourn” (61:2).

Promises to Those Jews Returning from Captivity (61:3-5)

As a reminder, prophecies often carry an imminent application, and far-reaching implication. Isaiah 61:3 began, in my opinion, as a description of the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, but there is also the far-reaching implication of events that will not be fulfilled until the Second Coming of Christ.

The captive of Israel (mostly Jews from the tribe of Judah) were set at liberty by king Cyrus of Persia, and allowed to return to the Land. There, the LORD blessed His people as He gave “unto them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (61:3a). Of course, all this would be done that the LORD “might be glorified” (61:3). The once named exiles rebuilt their houses, and repaired their cities (61:4). It came to pass, those who had been slaves in Babylon, were blessed to have “strangers” (non-Hebrews) serve them in Israel (61:5).

A Kingdom of Priests and the Blessings of a Double Portion (61:6-9)

Those who had been slaves in Babylon (a city that is a type of the world), would be renamed in Israel, “Priests of the LORD…Ministers of our God” (61:6). For the shame and humiliation, they had suffered during captivity, God promised to reward His people a double portion of His blessings in Israel (61:7). Where they had suffered lawlessness, God declared, “I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering…And I will make an everlasting covenant with them” (61:8).

A Song of Salvation (61:10-11)

Isaiah 61 concluded stating two reasons for rejoicing: “Greatly rejoice in the LORD” for “the garments of salvation,” and for “the robe of righteousness” (61:10).

Isaiah 62

Isaiah 62:1-5 is a prophetic picture of the day the LORD will return in all His heavenly glory, and reign in Jerusalem.

With an undying passion, Isaiah preached, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth” (Isaiah 62:1).  Of course, the righteousness of which Isaiah spoke was not that of men, but the imputed righteousness of the LORD Himself!

Everything Israel could long for was promised to her: Righteousness and salvation (62:1); Glory (62:2); Prosperity (62:3); and the righteous reign with the LORD as King (62:3).

Israel had been named “Forsaken” and “Desolate” because of her rebellion and lawlessness (62:4); however, when the LORD reigns in Jerusalem she will have a new name, “Hephzibah”, meaning “my delight is in her” and the land of Israel will be named “Beulah”, meaning “married”. Instead of the sorrow and shame of Israel’s rebellion and her divorce from the LORD, He promised to lovingly restore His people to Himself as a groom joyfully receives his virgin bride (62:5).

Continuing with Jerusalem as the subject, the LORD made the following promise to His beloved people that He would, “set watchmen [guards] upon [their] walls…Which shall never hold their peace day nor night” (62:6). What was the duty of the watchmen? It was to guard, guide, and pray night and day. In fact, “make mention of the LORD, Keep not silence” (62:6). Isaiah urged, “give Him [the LORD] no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (62:7).

Closing thought – In other words, never stop praying until the LORD has fulfilled all He has promised! The people were urged to prepare for the coming of the LORD, and say, “Behold, thy salvation cometh” (62:11). In the Millennial Kingdom, God’s people will be called, “The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord,” and the city once forsaken will be called, “Sought out” (62:12).

What a difference Christ makes!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

What Does the LORD Require of You? (Isaiah 58)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 58

If we could condense the whole of Isaiah 58 to just one word, that word would be “hypocrisy.” The chapter opens with the LORD instructing Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, And shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1).

Unlike some fainthearted preachers in our day, the prophet was not to sugarcoat the Word of the LORD. He was to lift up his voice, not sparing a word, and herald God’s warning of judgment like a trumpet calling soldiers to battle.

What were the transgressions and sins of God’s people? (58:2-5)

They were religious phonies, hypocrites, whose ways were acceptable, but whose heart and motives for following the Lord’s paths were based on selfish reasons. Though outwardly pious, the Lord looked past their actions and saw deep into their hearts (58:2). They, like many today who say they worship the Lord, had lost the “why” behind their actions, leaving in their wake emptiness, strife and selfish gain (58:3a).

The LORD answered their complaints, saying, “Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure [i.e., you go seeking joy; delight], and exact [oppress; demand; collect] all your labours [they gave and forgave nothing]” (58:3b). What they did in worship was not out of love to the LORD, but that He might be obligated to them.

Outwardly they fasted, but they were contentious and quarreling among themselves (58:4). Their fasting and praying in “sackcloth and ashes,” gave an appearance of piety, but the LORD asked, “Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” (58:5)

The Fasting God Favors (58:6-7)

Fasting had become a religious ritual, but it was not the fasting God had commanded His people to observe (58:6a). What would please the LORD? What was the fasting God favored? Before they approached the LORD in their fasting and prayers, God commanded them to address the sins and wickedness in their lives (58:6b-7).

How might men prepare their hearts to worship the LORD? To worship the LORD, we must be willing to forgive those who have offended us, and “loose the bands of wickedness” committed by others (58:6b). God will not hear our prayers, nor honor fasting, if we harbor bitterness, and oppress others (58:6c; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

What honors the LORD? We honor the LORD, when we feed the hungry, and give shelter to the poor (58:7a; Luke 10:30-36). We invite God’s blessings, when we clothe the naked, and give aid to our family (58:7b; Galatians 6:1-2, 9-10).

The Rewards to Those Who Repent of Hypocrisy and Obey the LORD (58:8-14)

1) Light and good health (58:8a)
2) Covered in the righteousness of God, and His glory.
3) The LORD will hear and answer prayer. (58:9)
4) We become a blessing to others. (58:10)
5) The LORD promises to guide us. (58:11a)
6) The LORD will satisfy the spiritual thirst and hunger of our souls. (58:11b)
7) The LORD will strengthen us. (58:12a)
8) The LORD will give His people a new name: “The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths [or broken walls] to dwell in” (58:12b).

Closing thoughts – The Means of Delighting the LORD, and Enjoying His Blessings (58:13-14)

The people had ritualized fasting (which God did not command), and neglected and abused the Sabbath, which the LORD had commanded. The fourth commandment states, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”(Exodus 20:8), but the people spent the Lord’s Day pursuing pleasure, and neglected to honor and worship Him (58:13). The LORD promised, if His people would honor the Sabbath, and keep it holy, He would fill them with joy, bless them, and give them an inheritance (58:14).

Are you honoring the LORD, not just in your practice, but in your heart? What place have you given Him in your life? What does the LORD require of you?

Romans 12:1–21I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

There is No Peace for the Wicked (Isaiah 56; Isaiah 57)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 56; Isaiah 57

Isaiah 56 – What does it mean to “seek the LORD?”

The Duty of Man and the Mercy of God (56:1-2)

Those who “seek the LORD” will seek righteousness and do righteousness. They will guard and keep the Law and Commandments. To them, the LORD promised, “my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed” (56:1). Such a man is “blessed” [happy] and he “keepeth the Sabbath,” and “keepeth his hand from doing any evil” [not defile the Sabbath, but keeping it as a day of worship, and rest] (56:2).

The Sabbath and its adherence by the “children of Israel” (Exodus 31:12-18) was a sign of sanctification to both Jews and Gentile believers who became part of Israel (“sons of the stranger,” 56:3, 6).

The Blessings of the LORD: A Universal Invitation (56:3-8)

Understanding the heart and compassion of the LORD for sinners, and reflecting the Great Commission of the New Testament (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:8), the invitation to come to the LORD was universal. The LORD assured believers, both the “son of the stranger” [non-Hebrews who had come by faith to accept the God of the Scriptures] and “the eunuch” [castrated or disfigured men unable to procreate] had their place among His covenant people (56:3-4). Yet, the inclusion among God’s people was not without duty, for they were to “keep[the] sabbath…and take hold of [God’s] covenant” (56:4). To “join themselves to the LORD,” non-Hebrew believers were to serve the LORD, love His name, “be His servants,” and keep “the sabbath from polluting it” (56:6).

None who came to the LORD by faith would be turned away. They could to come to Zion (the “holy mountain”), offer sacrifices, and worship there because the Temple would “be called an house of prayer for all people”(56:7). Isaiah promised, the LORD would not only gather “the outcasts of Israel” (those taken captive to other lands), but also “gather others to him” (56:8).

The Failure of Israel’s Leaders (56:9-12)

Isaiah prophesied that hostile nations, described as “beasts of the field…[and] beasts in the forest” (56:9), would attack Judah, but the leaders of God’s people had failed to warn the people. The LORD’s “watchmen” (His prophets and priests), were spiritually blind, lacking discernment, lazy, and immoral (56:10). They had become like “greedy dogs,” selfish and looking to their own pleasures.

Closing thoughts – Reminiscent of many unfaithful pastors in our day, the “shepherds” (spiritual teachers of Israel) were foolish. They were self-serving (56:11), drunk, and narcissistic (56:12a). Rather than warn the nation concerning the consequences of breaking covenant with the LORD, they persuaded the people every day would be the same, and failed to warn the people regarding the imminent judgment of the LORD (56:12b).

Isaiah 57

Remembering Isaiah’s prophecies were the precursor of God’s judgment, the prophet proposed the righteous who died (57:1) were fortunate to “enter into peace” (57:2). They would escape the sorrow of watching Jerusalem destroyed, and the people led away into captivity.

The Folly and Fate of Spiritual Adulterers (57:3-15)

Judah had become a nation of spiritual adulterers, who made sport of the righteous, and mocked the LORD (57:3-4). They worshipped lifeless “idols under every green tree,” and sacrificed their “children in the valleys” (57:5; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35).

The nation failed to turn to the LORD, debased themselves before the heathen, and sought the favor of kings (57:9). Without the LORD’s blessings, the people despaired with “no hope” (57:10). They had forsaken the LORD, and in their hour of need, He became silent (“I held my peace,” 57:11). God declared, Judah’s pretense of righteousness, “shall not profit thee” (57:12). The LORD warned, when you cry, “let thy companies [idols] deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them [idols] all away” (57:13).

Though Judah would be punished for her sins, the LORD promised, “he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain” (57:13). Isaiah reminded His people their covenant was with “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity [eternal God], whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place [heaven], with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (57:15).

Closing thoughts – Though Judah would be punished for that nation’s sins, the LORD promised He would not be angry forever (57:16). He lovingly assured Judah He would “heal[pardon; restore],lead[guide], and “comfort” His people (57:18). The wicked, however, like a troubled sea, would not find rest (57:20), for “there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (57:21).

Are you at peace? While there is no peace to the wicked, those who trust Christ as Savior are “justified by faith, [and] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Perfect peace is promised to those “whose mind is stayed on [the LORD]: Because he trusteth in [the LORD]” (Isaiah 26:3).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith