You wake up at your normal time and when you login you see the computer’s clock shows 3 hours earlier. How will you adjust? How will you respond? Are you ready for a new day with an early start? Are you ready for a new adventure? What if you found a surprise last night? What if you gave it up to God rather than worrying in order to get some sleep? How will God take care of it? How will God provide this time? Let’s get ready to go and see what all He will do with today!
Let’s share our takeaways from today’s reading! Did you catch and promises to trust? Did you catch any commands to obey? Did you catch any truths to embrace? Did you catch any warnings to heed? Did you catch any encouragement to rest in? What did you learn about God? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the world? What verse stood out most to you today?
If you are interested in getting together or sharing the information together, please let me know through the comment section below, through email, or even through text messages.
Today’s reading from God’s Word – the Bible comes to us from: (I have chosen to use NIV translation, but feel free to choose whichever version you feel more comfortable with)
Do you realize that sometime to get you where you need to be requires that you are inconvenienced? Similar to how it took the census of Caesar Augustus to get get Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem in time for the birth of Jesus.
Do you realize that sometimes God uses the selfishness or plans of man to accomplish His will? Similar to how Caesar Augustus’s desire to be able to tax, control, manipulate, enlist caused him to take a census of the entire Roman world.
Do you realize that even when others have plans for evil, God can turn them around and use them for good? Similar to how Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave but how it positioned Joseph to save not only Egypt but also his entire family.
Do you realize that God’s plan is for everyone? Similar to how in the midst of the birth of Jesus, He sent out angels to the shepherds so they too can know of the birth of the savior.
Do you realize there is a way and time for everything? God reveals these things in His Word like purification, like Solomon spoke.
Let’s celebrate all the good God has done for us so that others may see it and also glorify our Heavenly Father in heaven.
Do you realize that God will forgive our sins and heal our land? Like He promised in today’s reading when he said:
‘“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ‘ — 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
Do you realize God is revealed through everything in life?
As day 10 of 2020 begins, I would hate to miss giving the opportunity to anyone who hasn’t received Jesus into their lives as their Lord and Savior an opportunity to make the decision this early into 2020 and the blessing to get to live out the rest of 2020 in that power and that truth and that hope.
If you would like to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, why not join me in this prayer?
Did you pray with me? Would you be willing to leave me a comment so that I can pray with and for you about such an incredible decision? Or if you don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment on my blog, why not email or text me instead?
Ever had your friends who you thought knew you make false accusations? Ever had your friends do or say something hurtful to you in the midst of tragedy? Ever had your friends in the midst of the pain seem to turn on you? Ever had your friends who say they had come to comfort you after a while turn around and start to accuse of you things without knowledge or cause?
Ever realized that Satan will look for weakness just like the wolf when watching a flock in order to know where to attack? Ever realized that Satan will look to use those closest to you to try and derail your efforts for God? Are you rested? Are you prayed up? Are you read up on God’s Word? Are you geared up with the full armor of God? Are you getting your family and friends ready too? Ever been that friend? Ever considered that there might be something bigger going on? Ever considered that you don’t know it all and you don’t have all the details?
Have any friends who use sarcasm as their weapon of choice?
We need to be cautious and remember what Jesus taught when being questioned by his disciples about the blind man. We might want to consider God is working in and through it for good. We might want to turn to God rather than trying to cast judgement! We might want to consider God’s glory that might be revealed through the situation.
‘While He was passing by, He noticed a man [who had been] blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi (Teacher), who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed and illustrated in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world [giving guidance through My word and works].” When He had said this, He spat on the ground and made mud with His saliva, and He spread the mud [like an ointment] on the man’s eyes. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. So the neighbors, and those who used to know him as a beggar, said, “Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Still others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But he kept saying, “I am the man.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The Man called Jesus made mud and smeared it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received my sight!” They asked him, “Where is He?” He said, “I do not know.” ‘
Now there are times when we do things that cause us self inflicted pain and suffering. Consider this and don’t be one to point fingers without checking your own life first.
‘ “ Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment], judgment will be measured to you. Why do you look at the [insignificant] speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice and acknowledge the [egregious] log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite (play-actor, pretender), first get the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. ‘
Today’s reading from Job 4 starts into the conversations with Job’s friends who had traveled so far to come and support and comfort him after such devastation and pain.
‘Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, “If we dare to converse with you, will you be impatient [or offended]? But who can restrain himself from speaking? Behold, you have admonished and instructed many, And you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have helped the one who was stumbling to stand, And you have strengthened feeble knees. But now adversity comes upon you, and you are impatient and intolerant; It touches you, and you are horrified. Is not your fear of God your confidence, And [is not] the integrity and uprightness of your ways your hope? “Remember now, who, being innocent, ever perished? Or where [and in what circumstances] were those upright and in right standing with God destroyed? As I have seen, those who plow wickedness And those who sow trouble and harm harvest it. By the breath of God they perish, And by the blast of His anger they are consumed. The roaring of the lion and the voice of the fierce lion, And the teeth of the young lions are broken. The lion perishes for lack of prey, And the cubs of the lioness are scattered. “Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it. Amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, Dread and trembling came upon me, Which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my skin stood on end! The spirit stood still, but I could not discern its appearance; A form was before my eyes; There was silence, and then I heard a voice, saying: ‘Can [mortal] man be just before God or be more righteous than He? Can a man be pure before his Maker or be more cleansed than He? God puts no trust or confidence, even in His [heavenly] servants, And He charges His angels with error. How much more [will He blame and charge] those who dwell in houses (bodies) of clay, Whose foundations are in the dust, Who are crushed like a moth. Between morning and evening they are broken in pieces and destroyed; Unobserved and unnoticed, they perish forever. Is not their tent-cord drawn up within them [so that the tent collapses]? Do they not die, and yet without [acquiring] wisdom?’’
Starting in today’s reading we see the engagement of discussion between Job and his friends. We see that today’s dialog starts with Eliphaz whose name means “my god is gold”. We learn that Eliphaz’s name and native land of Teman are associated with Esau and Edom (Genesis 36:11, 1 Chronicles 1:36, Jeremiah 49:7). Imagine being accused just because your friend had never seen anyone who was innocent suffer. Imagine being accused by your friend of being a hypocrite. Imagine being accused by your friend that you must have done something to deserve the punishment. We know from the reading of God’s Word that Eliphaz has no idea what took place between God and Satan that caused this suffering of Job. We learn that Eliphaz begins with sarcasm as he accuses Job of not practicing what he preaches. Based on the order of the speakers in Job, it would be most probably that Eliphaz would be the eldest and wisest of Job’s sage friends as he gets to speak first. We will see in the continued reading how Eliphaz also happened to be the most compassionate one of the three friends. We learn looking into this more how Eliphaz starts with emphasis on God’s greatness and His judgment of sin. Today’s study provides us with the context around the other two friends as well with:
Eliphaz takes the position of a theologian, emphasizing the greatness of God and His judgment of sin. Bildad takes the position of a traditionalist, emphasizing the principles of wisdom, which he suggests Job has violated. All three of them take a negative view of Job, assuming that he has done something to bring this trouble on himself.
The silence stopped after 7 days of morning. It starts out more compassionately where Job is acknowledged and recognized for being a wise man. We see the truth of Proverbs 17:28 of how wise people can seem as long as they keep quiet. Don’t be so arrogant that you start to speak to only find out that you aren’t as smart you thought or others were thinking. Let’s be prudent and discreet about our words and our thoughts and look to control our tongues and keeping our mouth shut.
“Who can withhold himself from speaking”: When he hears such unreasonable and ungodly words coming from such a person as thou art, whereby thou dost accuse thy Maker, and reproach his providence, and contemn his blessings? No man who hath any respect to God, or love to thee, can forbear reproving thee.
Eliphaz was fully aware that up until this time Job did not want his friends to talk to him. We discussed earlier, that many times deep grief has to be worked out silently within one’s self. Now, Eliphaz believed that it might be time to speak to Job. He was actually asking Job’s permission to speak to him. He had waited 7 days, and now he felt he must speak.
We see how he speaks to how many people Job has helped over the years. We learn how he was able to give them good advice and teaching them lessons. Unfortunately, the sarcasm kicks in though with a finger pointing that Job may not have learned this lesson himself though and could be why he is having to go through this suffering. We learn how Job had been one who encouraged others who were troubled, discouraged, and demoralized through sharing advice, support, and comfort with those who were unable to bear the load of their situation or their responsibility. We learn how Job was one who would help the downcast and needy all around him facing problems of many kinds. We learn how he directed them in the ways of the Lord and helped to strengthen them in the Lord. He helped them in the pressures and the falls by pointing them back to God, God’s promises and care. Job would point them back to God. Job would help strengthen their faith. Job would help them rebuild their trust in God. We learn how just like how Job had concerns over his own family, his kids, we learn that Job also cared for others who were around him. Job’s advice helped them in the midst of their troubles and trials to be able to be renewed and recover.
With Job 4:5, we see the accusation that Job may not be able to take his own medicine. Today’s study notes put it this way:
Job 4:5 “But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.”
That is, the evil which thou didst fear (Job 3:25), or that which had come upon those whom thou didst so comfort.
“And thou faintest”: There is no more spirit left in thee: and thou canst not practice thy own advice.
“It toucheth thee, and thou art troubled”: It is now come to be thine own case, and thou art struck with consternation.
This friend was telling Job that he was good at giving advice, but he was not very good at taking advice. He was also saying, take for yourself the advice you have given others. This friend of Job believed that this calamity that had befallen Job, was a chastisement from God. He was thoroughly convinced that Job had done some terrible thing, and God was punishing him for it.
Eliphaz then turns Job’s faith and trust and belief to the test. He asks him about how he is living in comparison to what he says he believes. Today’s study expands on it this way and we will continue in this chapter tomorrow:
Job 4:6 “[Is] not [this] thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?”
The meaning seems to be, “Should not thy fear or piety be thy confidence, and the uprightness of thy ways or hope? Should not the piety you was so ready to commend to others supply a sufficient ground of hope for thyself?” Or we may understand, “Is not thy reverence, thy confidence, thy hope, and thy integrity shown to be worthless if thou faintest as soon as adversity toucheth thee?” The drift of the speaker is virtually the same in either case.
Job feared God, and had confidence that God would see him through every peril. His hope was that he lived before God the very best that he could. He had done everything as near perfect as he knew how. It was very hard to put that confidence in God into practical application, with as much trouble as Job had at this time. The friend was making a deceptive remark to Job about his righteousness. He was saying, if you were righteous in the sight of God, wouldn’t he save you from this? He had begun to insinuate that Job had sinned.
Verses 7-11: Eliphaz illustrated his belief in the principle of divine retribution (“plow” and “reap”), with an example from the animal kingdom: if a lion does not catch its prey, then it and its cubs will suffer.
Job 4:7 “Remember, I pray thee, who [ever] perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?”
This was, probably, some very good advice that Job had given to his friends in need who had come to him. God would not be cut off. It just appeared that way at the moment.
“Who ever perished, being innocent”? Eliphaz, recognizing Job’s “fear of God” and “integrity” (verse 6), was likely encouraging Job at the outset by saying he wouldn’t die because he was innocent of any deadly iniquity, but must be guilty of some serious sin because he was reaping such anger from God. This was a moral universe and moral order was at work, he thought. He had oversimplified God’s pattern of retribution. This simple axiom, “the righteous will prosper and the wicked will suffer,” does not always hold up in human experience. It is true that plowing and sowing iniquity reaps judgment, so Eliphaz was partially right (Gal. 6:7-9; 1 peter 3:12), but not everything we reap in life is the result of something we have sown (see notes on 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Eliphaz was replacing theology with simplistic logic. To say that wherever there is suffering, it is the result of sowing sin is wrong (Exodus 4:11; John 9:1-3).
Job 4:8 “Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.”
“Even as I have seen,” that is, Eliphaz’s argument was based on personal experience. “They that plow iniquity … reap the same,” meaning, you reap what you sow. Therefore, Job must be suffering because of sin.
With friends like this, Job did not need enemies. His friend was accusing him of sin. Iniquity here, was speaking of both physical and spiritual evil. He was saying, “you reap, what you sow”. He was convinced that Job had sinned and was refusing to repent of that sin. This was not true.
Job 4:9 “By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.”
They and their works, those that plough, the sowers, and reapers of iniquity; the allusion is to the blasting of corn by the east wind, or by mildew, etc. Having used the figures of ploughing and sowing before; and which is as soon and as easily done as corn, or anything else, is blasted in the above manner. And denotes the sudden and easy destruction of wicked men by the power of God, stirred up by his wrath and indignation, because of their sins. Who when he blows a blast on their persons, substance, and families, they perish at once.
“And by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed”: Meaning his wrath and anger, which is like a stream of brimstone, and kindles a fire on the wicked, which are as fuel to it, and are soon consumed by it. The allusion is to breath in a man’s nostrils, and the heat of his wrath and fury discovered thereby. Some think this refers to Job’s children being destroyed by the wind (see Isa. 11:4).
It is the breath of God within all of us that allows us to live. God is in control of our birth and our death regardless of who we are or what we have done. It is also Jesus who is the Judge of all the world. It is his determination of whether we live in heaven or spend an eternity in hell.
So where are you at today? My hope and prayer is that You will ask Jesus into your heart so that I will get to spend eternity in God’s presence with you. Are you ready for forgiveness and peace? Are you ready for a hope and a future? Are you ready for a transformation where the old is gone and the new has come? Are you ready to being the journey of knowing right from wrong? Then let’s pray together to invite Jesus into your heart and your life so that His peace which surpasses all understanding can guide you and comfort you, protect your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. If this is the first time you have prayed to invite Jesus into your heart, leave me a comment so that I can rejoice with the angels in Heaven. If this is a re commitment to Jesus, leave me a comment so that I can rejoice with the angels in Heaven. If you are still questioning or seeking, don’t go it alone, feel free to leave me a comment so we can discuss it.
What if today someone comes to you looking for hope? What if today someone comes to you looking for a reason for the hope that is within you? What if today someone comes to you asking for help? What if today someone comes to you with a truth that will change tomorrow? What if today someone comes to you with a truth that will change your situation? Are you going to be ready? Are you going to be read up? Are you going to be prayed up? Are you going to be filled up? Are you ready?
Will you be ready when the time comes?
Today’s reading from God’s Word gets us started with Ezra 1:
‘In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord , the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord , the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.” Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord . And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings. King Cyrus himself brought out the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord ’s Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods. Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah. This is a list of the items that were returned: 30 gold basins, 1,000 silver basins, 29 silver incense burners, 30 gold bowls, 410 silver bowls, and 1,000 other items. In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and silver. Sheshbazzar brought all of these along when the exiles went from Babylon to Jerusalem.’
‘Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived. Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. This is the number of the men of Israel who returned from exile: The family of Parosh: 2,172, The family of Shephatiah: 372, The family of Arah: 775, The family of Pahath-moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab): 2,812, The family of Elam: 1,254, The family of Zattu: 945, The family of Zaccai: 760, The family of Bani: 642, The family of Bebai: 623, The family of Azgad: 1,222, The family of Adonikam: 666, The family of Bigvai: 2,056, The family of Adin: 454, The family of Ater (descendants of Hezekiah): 98, The family of Bezai: 323, The family of Jorah: 112, The family of Hashum: 223, The family of Gibbar: 95, The people of Bethlehem: 123, The people of Netophah: 56, The people of Anathoth: 128, The people of Beth-azmaveth: 42, The people of Kiriath-jearim, Kephirah, and Beeroth: 743, The people of Ramah and Geba: 621, The people of Micmash: 122, The people of Bethel and Ai: 223, The citizens of Nebo: 52, The citizens of Magbish: 156, The citizens of West Elam: 1,254, The citizens of Harim: 320, The citizens of Lod, Hadid, and Ono: 725, The citizens of Jericho: 345, The citizens of Senaah: 3,630. These are the priests who returned from exile: The family of Parosh: 2,172 The family of Shephatiah: 372 The family of Arah: 775 The family of Pahath-moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab): 2,812 The family of Elam: 1,254 The family of Zattu: 945 The family of Zaccai: 760 The family of Bani: 642 The family of Bebai: 623 The family of Azgad: 1,222 The family of Adonikam: 666 The family of Bigvai: 2,056 The family of Adin: 454 The family of Ater (descendants of Hezekiah): 98 The family of Bezai: 323 The family of Jorah: 112 The family of Hashum: 223 The family of Gibbar: 95 The people of Bethlehem: 123 The people of Netophah: 56 The people of Anathoth: 128 The people of Beth-azmaveth: 42 The people of Kiriath-jearim, Kephirah, and Beeroth: 743 The people of Ramah and Geba: 621 The people of Micmash: 122 The people of Bethel and Ai: 223 The citizens of Nebo: 52 The citizens of Magbish: 156 The citizens of West Elam: 1,254 The citizens of Harim: 320 The citizens of Lod, Hadid, and Ono: 725 The citizens of Jericho: 345 The citizens of Senaah: 3,630 The family of Jedaiah (though the line of Jeshua ): 973, The family of Immer: 1,052, The family of Pashhur: 1,247, The family of Harim: 1,017. These are the Levites who returned from exile: The descendants of the following Temple servants returned from exile: Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth, Keros, Siaha, Padon, Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub, Hagab, Shalmai, Hanan, Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah, Besai, Asnah, Meunim, Nephusim, Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur, Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha, Barkos, Sisera, Temah, Neziah, and Hatipha. The descendants of these servants of King Solomon returned from exile: Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda, Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel, Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-hazzebaim, and Ami. In all, the Temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants numbered 392. Another group returned at this time from the towns of Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Kerub, Addan, and Immer. However, they could not prove that they or their families were descendants of Israel. This group included the families of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda—a total of 652 people. Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name.) They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots. So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, in addition to 7,337 servants and 200 singers, both men and women. They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys. When they arrived at the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the family leaders made voluntary offerings toward the rebuilding of God’s Temple on its original site, and each leader gave as much as he could. The total of their gifts came to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the priests. So the priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled in villages near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.’
‘On March 3, during the twelfth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, mourn for Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and give him this message: “You think of yourself as a strong young lion among the nations, but you are really just a sea monster, heaving around in your own rivers, stirring up mud with your feet. Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will send many people to catch you in my net and haul you out of the water. I will leave you stranded on the land to die. All the birds of the heavens will land on you, and the wild animals of the whole earth will gorge themselves on you. I will scatter your flesh on the hills and fill the valleys with your bones. I will drench the earth with your gushing blood all the way to the mountains, filling the ravines to the brim. When I blot you out, I will veil the heavens and darken the stars. I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give you its light. I will darken the bright stars overhead and cover your land in darkness. I, the Sovereign Lord , have spoken! “I will disturb many hearts when I bring news of your downfall to distant nations you have never seen. Yes, I will shock many lands, and their kings will be terrified at your fate. They will shudder in fear for their lives as I brandish my sword before them on the day of your fall. For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “The sword of the king of Babylon will come against you. I will destroy your hordes with the swords of mighty warriors— the terror of the nations. They will shatter the pride of Egypt, and all its hordes will be destroyed. I will destroy all your flocks and herds that graze beside the streams. Never again will people or animals muddy those waters with their feet. Then I will let the waters of Egypt become calm again, and they will flow as smoothly as olive oil, says the Sovereign Lord . And when I destroy Egypt and strip you of everything you own and strike down all your people, then you will know that I am the Lord . Yes, this is the funeral song they will sing for Egypt. Let all the nations mourn. Let them mourn for Egypt and its hordes. I, the Sovereign Lord , have spoken!” On March 17, during the twelfth year, another message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, weep for the hordes of Egypt and for the other mighty nations. For I will send them down to the world below in company with those who descend to the pit. Say to them, ‘O Egypt, are you lovelier than the other nations? No! So go down to the pit and lie there among the outcasts. ’ The Egyptians will fall with the many who have died by the sword, for the sword is drawn against them. Egypt and its hordes will be dragged away to their judgment. Down in the grave mighty leaders will mockingly welcome Egypt and its allies, saying, ‘They have come down; they lie among the outcasts, hordes slaughtered by the sword.’ “Assyria lies there surrounded by the graves of its army, those who were slaughtered by the sword. Their graves are in the depths of the pit, and they are surrounded by their allies. They struck terror in the hearts of people everywhere, but now they have been slaughtered by the sword. “Elam lies there surrounded by the graves of all its hordes, those who were slaughtered by the sword. They struck terror in the hearts of people everywhere, but now they have descended as outcasts to the world below. Now they lie in the pit and share the shame of those who have gone before them. They have a resting place among the slaughtered, surrounded by the graves of all their hordes. Yes, they terrorized the nations while they lived, but now they lie in shame with others in the pit, all of them outcasts, slaughtered by the sword. “Meshech and Tubal are there, surrounded by the graves of all their hordes. They once struck terror in the hearts of people everywhere. But now they are outcasts, all slaughtered by the sword. They are not buried in honor like their fallen heroes, who went down to the grave with their weapons—their shields covering their bodies and their swords beneath their heads. Their guilt rests upon them because they brought terror to everyone while they were still alive. “You too, Egypt, will lie crushed and broken among the outcasts, all slaughtered by the sword. “Edom is there with its kings and princes. Mighty as they were, they also lie among those slaughtered by the sword, with the outcasts who have gone down to the pit. “All the princes of the north and the Sidonians are there with others who have died. Once a terror, they have been put to shame. They lie there as outcasts with others who were slaughtered by the sword. They share the shame of all who have descended to the pit. “When Pharaoh and his entire army arrive, he will take comfort that he is not alone in having his hordes killed, says the Sovereign Lord . Although I have caused his terror to fall upon all the living, Pharaoh and his hordes will lie there among the outcasts who were slaughtered by the sword. I, the Sovereign Lord , have spoken!”’
Today’s reading from God’s Word then brings us the New Testament reading from Acts 20:
‘When the uproar was over, Paul sent for the believers and encouraged them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia. While there, he encouraged the believers in all the towns he passed through. Then he traveled down to Greece, where he stayed for three months. He was preparing to sail back to Syria when he discovered a plot by some Jews against his life, so he decided to return through Macedonia. Several men were traveling with him. They were Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. They went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. After the Passover ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later joined them in Troas, where we stayed a week. On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved. Paul went by land to Assos, where he had arranged for us to join him, while we traveled by ship. He joined us there, and we sailed together to Mitylene. The next day we sailed past the island of Kios. The following day we crossed to the island of Samos, and a day later we arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail on past Ephesus, for he didn’t want to spend any more time in the province of Asia. He was hurrying to get to Jerusalem, if possible, in time for the Festival of Pentecost. ‘
‘Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days.’
‘Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Children are a gift from the Lord ; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.’
So where are you at today? Are you ready for forgiveness and peace? Are you ready for a hope and a future? Are you ready for a transformation where the old is gone and the new has come? Are you ready to being the journey of knowing right from wrong? Then let’s pray together to invite Jesus into your heart and your life so that His peace which surpasses all understanding can guide you and comfort you, protect your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. If this is the first time you have prayed to invite Jesus into your heart, leave me a comment so that I can rejoice with the angels in Heaven. If this is a recommitment to Jesus, leave me a comment so that I can rejoice with the angels in Heaven. If you are still questioning or seeking, don’t go it alone, feel free to leave me a comment so we can discuss it.
Throughout history when things got really bad and the people got sick and tired of being sick and tired, we found people turned back to God in large numbers. Throughout history we find that when people discover the Word of God, we found people turned back to God in even more powerful ways. An example of reformation is Martin Luther who felt the Word of God had to be in the hands of the people, in the language of the people, and through the process standardized the German language and the Bible using the Gutenberg press was able to get it out into the hands of the people. Martin Luther wrote the 95 theses which put many people in an uproar as he challenged the status quo. We see in and through that time a reformation take place. It didn’t come without challenge or threat, but it transformed a nation and the world.
Are you ready for a reformation? Are we ready for a reformation? Consider all the people who because of personal, political, social decision have removed the Word of God out of the hands of the people, there are so many people who are biblically illiterate and unaware of the promises and truths of God. There are so many people who don’t realize that even though over time words, science, nature, emotions, and feelings change the Word of God doesn’t and has stood the test and the challenges of time. Shouldn’t we be loving God and loving one another rather than watching people get attacked and bullied because of labels that have been put on or assigned to them? Ever noticed how the Bible was or has been removed from the educational system even though the education system including many of the colleges were setup to help train people up in the ministry? Ever noticed how the Bible is trying to get removed from politics and the implication it has had on how things are being done and run? Imagine if people in school received their own New Testament. Imagine if people in school took hold of the golden rule to love God and love one another how that would change the tone and the behavior in school. Imagine if people in government took hold of the golden rule to love God and love one another how that would change the tone and the behavior in government. Imagine the unity even across disagreements. Imagine the truth even across viewpoints. Imagine the transformation and the reformation it would make across the country and around the world.
Are you ready for a reformation?
Today’s reading gets us started in 2 Kings 23 where we learn about Josiah’s religious reforms:
‘Then the king summoned all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. There the king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the Lord ’s Temple. The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord ’s presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. Then the king instructed Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second rank and the Temple gatekeepers to remove from the Lord ’s Temple all the articles that were used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of the heavens. The king had all these things burned outside Jerusalem on the terraces of the Kidron Valley, and he carried the ashes away to Bethel. He did away with the idolatrous priests, who had been appointed by the previous kings of Judah, for they had offered sacrifices at the pagan shrines throughout Judah and even in the vicinity of Jerusalem. They had also offered sacrifices to Baal, and to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and to all the powers of the heavens. The king removed the Asherah pole from the Lord ’s Temple and took it outside Jerusalem to the Kidron Valley, where he burned it. Then he ground the ashes of the pole to dust and threw the dust over the graves of the people. He also tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the Lord , where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole. Josiah brought to Jerusalem all the priests who were living in other towns of Judah. He also defiled the pagan shrines, where they had offered sacrifices—all the way from Geba to Beersheba. He destroyed the shrines at the entrance to the gate of Joshua, the governor of Jerusalem. This gate was located to the left of the city gate as one enters the city. The priests who had served at the pagan shrines were not allowed to serve at the Lord ’s altar in Jerusalem, but they were allowed to eat unleavened bread with the other priests. Then the king defiled the altar of Topheth in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, so no one could ever again use it to sacrifice a son or daughter in the fire as an offering to Molech. He removed from the entrance of the Lord ’s Temple the horse statues that the former kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were near the quarters of Nathan-melech the eunuch, an officer of the court. The king also burned the chariots dedicated to the sun. Josiah tore down the altars that the kings of Judah had built on the palace roof above the upper room of Ahaz. The king destroyed the altars that Manasseh had built in the two courtyards of the Lord ’s Temple. He smashed them to bits and scattered the pieces in the Kidron Valley. The king also desecrated the pagan shrines east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Corruption, where King Solomon of Israel had built shrines for Ashtoreth, the detestable goddess of the Sidonians; and for Chemosh, the detestable god of the Moabites; and for Molech, the vile god of the Ammonites. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. Then he desecrated these places by scattering human bones over them. The king also tore down the altar at Bethel—the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he caused Israel to sin. He burned down the shrine and ground it to dust, and he burned the Asherah pole. Then Josiah turned around and noticed several tombs in the side of the hill. He ordered that the bones be brought out, and he burned them on the altar at Bethel to desecrate it. (This happened just as the Lord had promised through the man of God when Jeroboam stood beside the altar at the festival.) Then Josiah turned and looked up at the tomb of the man of God who had predicted these things. “What is that monument over there?” Josiah asked. And the people of the town told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted the very things that you have just done to the altar at Bethel!” Josiah replied, “Leave it alone. Don’t disturb his bones.” So they did not burn his bones or those of the old prophet from Samaria. Then Josiah demolished all the buildings at the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria, just as he had done at Bethel. They had been built by the various kings of Israel and had made the Lord very angry. He executed the priests of the pagan shrines on their own altars, and he burned human bones on the altars to desecrate them. Finally, he returned to Jerusalem.
King Josiah then issued this order to all the people: “You must celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as required in this Book of the Covenant.” There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, nor throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah’s reign, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem. Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the Lord ’s Temple. Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since. Even so, the Lord was very angry with Judah because of all the wicked things Manasseh had done to provoke him. For the Lord said, “I will also banish Judah from my presence just as I have banished Israel. And I will reject my chosen city of Jerusalem and the Temple where my name was to be honored.” The rest of the events in Josiah’s reign and all his deeds are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. While Josiah was king, Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, went to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. King Josiah and his army marched out to fight him, but King Neco killed him when they met at Megiddo. Josiah’s officers took his body back in a chariot from Megiddo to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. Then the people of the land anointed Josiah’s son Jehoahaz and made him the next king.
Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. He did what was evil in the Lord ’s sight, just as his ancestors had done. Pharaoh Neco put Jehoahaz in prison at Riblah in the land of Hamath to prevent him from ruling in Jerusalem. He also demanded that Judah pay 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold as tribute.
Pharaoh Neco then installed Eliakim, another of Josiah’s sons, to reign in place of his father, and he changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz was taken to Egypt as a prisoner, where he died. In order to get the silver and gold demanded as tribute by Pharaoh Neco, Jehoiakim collected a tax from the people of Judah, requiring them to pay in proportion to their wealth.’
‘On January 7, during the tenth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, turn and face Egypt and prophesy against Pharaoh the king and all the people of Egypt. Give them this message from the Sovereign Lord : “I am your enemy, O Pharaoh, king of Egypt— you great monster, lurking in the streams of the Nile. For you have said, ‘The Nile River is mine; I made it for myself.’ I will put hooks in your jaws and drag you out on the land with fish sticking to your scales. I will leave you and all your fish stranded in the wilderness to die. You will lie unburied on the open ground, for I have given you as food to the wild animals and birds. All the people of Egypt will know that I am the Lord , for to Israel you were just a staff made of reeds. When Israel leaned on you, you splintered and broke and stabbed her in the armpit. When she put her weight on you, you collapsed, and her legs gave way. “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will bring an army against you, O Egypt, and destroy both people and animals. The land of Egypt will become a desolate wasteland, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord . “Because you said, ‘The Nile River is mine; I made it,’ I am now the enemy of both you and your river. I will make the land of Egypt a totally desolate wasteland, from Migdol to Aswan, as far south as the border of Ethiopia. For forty years not a soul will pass that way, neither people nor animals. It will be completely uninhabited. I will make Egypt desolate, and it will be surrounded by other desolate nations. Its cities will be empty and desolate for forty years, surrounded by other ruined cities. I will scatter the Egyptians to distant lands. “But this is what the Sovereign Lord also says: At the end of the forty years I will bring the Egyptians home again from the nations to which they have been scattered. I will restore the prosperity of Egypt and bring its people back to the land of Pathros in southern Egypt from which they came. But Egypt will remain an unimportant, minor kingdom. It will be the lowliest of all the nations, never again great enough to rise above its neighbors. “Then Israel will no longer be tempted to trust in Egypt for help. Egypt’s shattered condition will remind Israel of how sinful she was to trust Egypt in earlier days. Then Israel will know that I am the Sovereign Lord .”
On April 26, the first day of the new year, during the twenty-seventh year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, this message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon fought so hard against Tyre that the warriors’ heads were rubbed bare and their shoulders were raw and blistered. Yet Nebuchadnezzar and his army won no plunder to compensate them for all their work. Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He will carry off its wealth, plundering everything it has so he can pay his army. Yes, I have given him the land of Egypt as a reward for his work, says the Sovereign Lord , because he was working for me when he destroyed Tyre. “And the day will come when I will cause the ancient glory of Israel to revive, and then, Ezekiel, your words will be respected. Then they will know that I am the Lord .”’
Today’s reading brings us into the New Testament starting in Acts 19:
‘God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled. A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered. The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.’
‘Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered. When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.” Then the angel I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand toward heaven. He swore an oath in the name of the one who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and everything in them, the earth and everything in it, and the sea and everything in it. He said, “There will be no more delay. When the seventh angel blows his trumpet, God’s mysterious plan will be fulfilled. It will happen just as he announced it to his servants the prophets.” Then the voice from heaven spoke to me again: “Go and take the open scroll from the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. “Yes, take it and eat it,” he said. “It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!” So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”’
‘What if the Lord had not been on our side? Let all Israel repeat: What if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us? They would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger. The waters would have engulfed us; a torrent would have overwhelmed us. Yes, the raging waters of their fury would have overwhelmed our very lives. Praise the Lord , who did not let their teeth tear us apart! We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free! Our help is from the Lord , who made heaven and earth.’
There is only so much we can do in our own strength. Even if we do all that we can it won’t be enough to save the world. God knows that and is why He sent Jesus to pay the price once for all so that all we need to do is receive the gift of grace which is Jesus Christ so that we can be saved. We are saved by works so that nobody can boast. We are saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but rather that through Him the world can be saved. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a part in God’s plans, it means that we live by faith and because of our faith do we do works. As Martin Luther put it with the 5 Solas:
Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
So where are you at today? Are you ready for forgiveness and peace? Are you ready for a hope and a future? Are you ready for a transformation where the old is gone and the new has come? Are you ready to being the journey of knowing right from wrong? Then let’s pray together to invite Jesus into your heart and your life so that His peace which surpasses all understanding can guide you and comfort you, protect your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. If this is the first time you have prayed to invite Jesus into your heart, leave me a comment so that I can rejoice with the angels in Heaven. If this is a recommitment to Jesus, leave me a comment so that I can rejoice with the angels in Heaven. If you are still questioning or seeking, don’t go it alone, feel free to leave me a comment so we can discuss it.
Heavenly Father, I thank You Lord for this new day and for Your Word that is a lamp unto my feet and alight unto my path. I thank You Lord that Your Word isn’t stale or outdated but rather is alive and true. Help me today Lord to make it all about You in the words I use, the tone I use, the actions I take, the responses I make so that in and through it all Lord I can be salt and light into the world around me, bringing truth and love and joy into all the people You bring across my path. Help me Lord with wisdom and discernment to see beyond the surface, beyond the tone and the words that are used and into the core of the situation in order to speak life and truth in love for each situation, conversation, and decision. Help me Lord I pray to live out my Happy Today in a way that will bring You praise, honor, and glory in Jesus’s name. Amen.
Today’s reading from God’s Word as we get started and prepared for today comes from 1 Kings 5:
‘King Hiram of Tyre had always been a loyal friend of David. When Hiram learned that David’s son Solomon was the new king of Israel, he sent ambassadors to congratulate him. Then Solomon sent this message back to Hiram: “You know that my father, David, was not able to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord his God because of the many wars waged against him by surrounding nations. He could not build until the Lord gave him victory over all his enemies. But now the Lord my God has given me peace on every side; I have no enemies, and all is well. So I am planning to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God, just as he had instructed my father, David. For the Lord told him, ‘Your son, whom I will place on your throne, will build the Temple to honor my name.’ “Therefore, please command that cedars from Lebanon be cut for me. Let my men work alongside yours, and I will pay your men whatever wages you ask. As you know, there is no one among us who can cut timber like you Sidonians!” When Hiram received Solomon’s message, he was very pleased and said, “Praise the Lord today for giving David a wise son to be king of the great nation of Israel.” Then he sent this reply to Solomon: “I have received your message, and I will supply all the cedar and cypress timber you need. My servants will bring the logs from the Lebanon mountains to the Mediterranean Sea and make them into rafts and float them along the coast to whatever place you choose. Then we will break the rafts apart so you can carry the logs away. You can pay me by supplying me with food for my household.” So Hiram supplied as much cedar and cypress timber as Solomon desired. In return, Solomon sent him an annual payment of 100,000 bushels of wheat for his household and 110,000 gallons of pure olive oil. So the Lord gave wisdom to Solomon, just as he had promised. And Hiram and Solomon made a formal alliance of peace. Then King Solomon conscripted a labor force of 30,000 men from all Israel. He sent them to Lebanon in shifts, 10,000 every month, so that each man would be one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of this labor force. Solomon also had 70,000 common laborers, 80,000 quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen to supervise the work. At the king’s command, they quarried large blocks of high-quality stone and shaped them to make the foundation of the Temple. Men from the city of Gebal helped Solomon’s and Hiram’s builders prepare the timber and stone for the Temple.’
‘This is the vision that the Sovereign Lord revealed to Obadiah concerning the land of Edom. We have heard a message from the Lord that an ambassador was sent to the nations to say, “Get ready, everyone! Let’s assemble our armies and attack Edom!” The Lord says to Edom, “I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised. You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,” says the Lord . “If thieves came at night and robbed you (what a disaster awaits you!), they would not take everything. Those who harvest grapes always leave a few for the poor. But your enemies will wipe you out completely! Every nook and cranny of Edom will be searched and looted. Every treasure will be found and taken. “All your allies will turn against you. They will help to chase you from your land. They will promise you peace while plotting to deceive and destroy you. Your trusted friends will set traps for you, and you won’t even know about it. At that time not a single wise person will be left in the whole land of Edom,” says the Lord . “For on the mountains of Edom I will destroy everyone who has understanding. The mightiest warriors of Teman will be terrified, and everyone on the mountains of Edom will be cut down in the slaughter. “Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel, you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever. When they were invaded, you stood aloof, refusing to help them. Foreign invaders carried off their wealth and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem, but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies. “You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands. You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble. You should not have plundered the land of Israel when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have gloated over their destruction when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have seized their wealth when they were suffering such calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads, killing those who tried to escape. You should not have captured the survivors and handed them over in their terrible time of trouble. “The day is near when I, the Lord , will judge all godless nations! As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you. All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads. Just as you swallowed up my people on my holy mountain, so you and the surrounding nations will swallow the punishment I pour out on you. Yes, all you nations will drink and stagger and disappear from history. “But Jerusalem will become a refuge for those who escape; it will be a holy place. And the people of Israel will come back to reclaim their inheritance. The people of Israel will be a raging fire, and Edom a field of dry stubble. The descendants of Joseph will be a flame roaring across the field, devouring everything. There will be no survivors in Edom. I, the Lord , have spoken! “Then my people living in the Negev will occupy the mountains of Edom. Those living in the foothills of Judah will possess the Philistine plains and take over the fields of Ephraim and Samaria. And the people of Benjamin will occupy the land of Gilead. The exiles of Israel will return to their land and occupy the Phoenician coast as far north as Zarephath. The captives from Jerusalem exiled in the north will return home and resettle the towns of the Negev. Those who have been rescued will go up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem to rule over the mountains of Edom. And the Lord himself will be king!”’
‘Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. When they realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! ‘
‘These false teachers are like unthinking animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed. They scoff at things they do not understand, and like animals, they will be destroyed. Their destruction is their reward for the harm they have done. They love to indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight. They are a disgrace and a stain among you. They delight in deception even as they eat with you in your fellowship meals. They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied. They lure unstable people into sin, and they are well trained in greed. They live under God’s curse. They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice. These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”’
‘Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals!” For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. In the morning it blooms and flourishes, but by evening it is dry and withered. We wither beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your fury. You spread out our sins before you— our secret sins—and you see them all. We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan. Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve. Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. O Lord , come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!’
Do you see the behaviors? Do you see the attitudes? Do you see the activities? Do you see the speech? Do you see the responses? Do you see the beliefs? Do you see only at the surface or can you see deeper? Do you see in 2D or 3D or more or less?
What is your role? What role do you have to play in response to what is going on around you? Is there anything you can do? Will it help? Will it hinder?
How will you know what to do? How will you know how to interpret what is going on? Will you be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you? Will you be ready to share the Good News in the midst of the turmoil? Are you ready? Have you put on the full armor of God? Are you read up? Are you prayed up? Are you ready physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to play your role?
Who will you put your trust in? Will you put your trust in God or man? Will you submit yourself to God and put yourself at His mercy? Will you seek wisdom from God in order to do your part paying whatever it takes? Will you be a living sacrifice to God? Will you do it even if it costs you? Will you point people in the right direction? Will people turn back to God? Will a revival happen?
Today’s reading gets started in 2 Samuel 24:
‘Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him. So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel—from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south—so I may know how many people there are.” But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God let you live to see a hundred times as many people as there are now! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this?” But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab and the commanders of the army went out to count the people of Israel. First they crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, south of the town in the valley, in the direction of Gad. Then they went on to Jazer, then to Gilead in the land of Tahtim-hodshi and to Dan-jaan and around to Sidon. Then they came to the fortress of Tyre, and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went south to Judah as far as Beersheba. Having gone through the entire land for nine months and twenty days, they returned to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of people to the king. There were 800,000 capable warriors in Israel who could handle a sword, and 500,000 in Judah. But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord , “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, Lord , for doing this foolish thing.” The next morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message: “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’” So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.” “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord , for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.” So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord , “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.” That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked. David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.” “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.” But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.’
‘Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave. She sobs through the night; tears stream down her cheeks. Among all her lovers, there is no one left to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her and become her enemies. Judah has been led away into captivity, oppressed with cruel slavery. She lives among foreign nations and has no place of rest. Her enemies have chased her down, and she has nowhere to turn. The roads to Jerusalem are in mourning, for crowds no longer come to celebrate the festivals. The city gates are silent, her priests groan, her young women are crying— how bitter is her fate! Her oppressors have become her masters, and her enemies prosper, for the Lord has punished Jerusalem for her many sins. Her children have been captured and taken away to distant lands. All the majesty of beautiful Jerusalem has been stripped away. Her princes are like starving deer searching for pasture. They are too weak to run from the pursuing enemy. In the midst of her sadness and wandering, Jerusalem remembers her ancient splendor. But now she has fallen to her enemy, and there is no one to help her. Her enemy struck her down and laughed as she fell. Jerusalem has sinned greatly, so she has been tossed away like a filthy rag. All who once honored her now despise her, for they have seen her stripped naked and humiliated. All she can do is groan and hide her face. She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out. “ Lord , see my misery,” she cries. “The enemy has triumphed.” The enemy has plundered her completely, taking every precious thing she owns. She has seen foreigners violate her sacred Temple, the place the Lord had forbidden them to enter. Her people groan as they search for bread. They have sold their treasures for food to stay alive. “O Lord , look,” she mourns, “and see how I am despised. “Does it mean nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see if there is any suffering like mine, which the Lord brought on me when he erupted in fierce anger. “He has sent fire from heaven that burns in my bones. He has placed a trap in my path and turned me back. He has left me devastated, racked with sickness all day long. “He wove my sins into ropes to hitch me to a yoke of captivity. The Lord sapped my strength and turned me over to my enemies; I am helpless in their hands. “The Lord has treated my mighty men with contempt. At his command a great army has come to crush my young warriors. The Lord has trampled his beloved city like grapes are trampled in a winepress. “For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away. My children have no future, for the enemy has conquered us.” Jerusalem reaches out for help, but no one comforts her. Regarding his people Israel, the Lord has said, “Let their neighbors be their enemies! Let them be thrown away like a filthy rag!” “The Lord is right,” Jerusalem says, “for I rebelled against him. Listen, people everywhere; look upon my anguish and despair, for my sons and daughters have been taken captive to distant lands. “I begged my allies for help, but they betrayed me. My priests and leaders starved to death in the city, even as they searched for food to save their lives. “ Lord , see my anguish! My heart is broken and my soul despairs, for I have rebelled against you. In the streets the sword kills, and at home there is only death. “Others heard my groans, but no one turned to comfort me. When my enemies heard about my troubles, they were happy to see what you had done. Oh, bring the day you promised, when they will suffer as I have suffered. “Look at all their evil deeds, Lord . Punish them, as you have punished me for all my sins. My groans are many, and I am sick at heart.”’
‘In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God. Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with#1:5 Or in; also in 1:5b. water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”’
‘Timothy, please come as soon as you can. Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. Be careful of him, for he fought against everything we said. The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.’
‘Lord , you poured out blessings on your land! You restored the fortunes of Israel. You forgave the guilt of your people— yes, you covered all their sins. Interlude You held back your fury. You kept back your blazing anger. Now restore us again, O God of our salvation. Put aside your anger against us once more. Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations? Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O Lord , and grant us your salvation. I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, so our land will be filled with his glory. Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! Truth springs up from the earth, and righteousness smiles down from heaven. Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest. Righteousness goes as a herald before him, preparing the way for his steps.’
If you learn of a wrong, will you do something to make it right? If you learn of a wrong you made, will you do something to make it right? If you learn of a wrong done by someone else, will you do something to make it right? Will you think about it or actually do something? Will you be someone who plans or someone who does? Will you ask the wronged party what reconciliation would require? Will you go beyond your thoughts and ideas and ask those who were impacted? Will you respond immediately or will you have to ponder it? Does it matter how you found out? Does it matter who did the wrong? Does it matter when it happened? Are you ready to make things right? Are you ready to take care of it right now?
Today’s reading gets us started in God’s Word with 2 Samuel 21 showing us how David responds to just such an occasion…
‘There was a famine during David’s reign that lasted for three years, so David asked the Lord about it. And the Lord said, “The famine has come because Saul and his family are guilty of murdering the Gibeonites.” So the king summoned the Gibeonites. They were not part of Israel but were all that was left of the nation of the Amorites. The people of Israel had sworn not to kill them, but Saul, in his zeal for Israel and Judah, had tried to wipe them out. David asked them, “What can I do for you? How can I make amends so that you will bless the Lord ’s people again?” “Well, money can’t settle this matter between us and the family of Saul,” the Gibeonites replied. “Neither can we demand the life of anyone in Israel.” “What can I do then?” David asked. “Just tell me and I will do it for you.” Then they replied, “It was Saul who planned to destroy us, to keep us from having any place at all in the territory of Israel. So let seven of Saul’s sons be handed over to us, and we will execute them before the Lord at Gibeon, on the mountain of the Lord . ” “All right,” the king said, “I will do it.” The king spared Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, who was Saul’s grandson, because of the oath David and Jonathan had sworn before the Lord . But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. The men of Gibeon executed them on the mountain before the Lord . So all seven of them died together at the beginning of the barley harvest. Then Rizpah daughter of Aiah, the mother of two of the men, spread burlap on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented the scavenger birds from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. (When the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, the people of Jabesh-gilead stole their bodies from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hung them.) So David obtained the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed. Then the king ordered that they bury the bones in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land. Once again the Philistines were at war with Israel. And when David and his men were in the thick of battle, David became weak and exhausted. Ishbi-benob was a descendant of the giants ; his bronze spearhead weighed more than seven pounds, and he was armed with a new sword. He had cornered David and was about to kill him. But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue and killed the Philistine. Then David’s men declared, “You are not going out to battle with us again! Why risk snuffing out the light of Israel?” After this, there was another battle against the Philistines at Gob. As they fought, Sibbecai from Hushah killed Saph, another descendant of the giants. During another battle at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair from Bethlehem killed the brother of Goliath of Gath. The handle of his spear was as thick as a weaver’s beam! In another battle with the Philistines at Gath, they encountered a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in all, who was also a descendant of the giants. But when he defied and taunted Israel, he was killed by Jonathan, the son of David’s brother Shimea. These four Philistines were descendants of the giants of Gath, but David and his warriors killed them.’
‘The Lord gave Jeremiah the prophet this message concerning Babylon and the land of the Babylonians. This is what the Lord says: “Tell the whole world, and keep nothing back. Raise a signal flag to tell everyone that Babylon will fall! Her images and idols will be shattered. Her gods Bel and Marduk will be utterly disgraced. For a nation will attack her from the north and bring such destruction that no one will live there again. Everything will be gone; both people and animals will flee. “In those coming days,” says the Lord , “the people of Israel will return home together with the people of Judah. They will come weeping and seeking the Lord their God. They will ask the way to Jerusalem and will start back home again. They will bind themselves to the Lord with an eternal covenant that will never be forgotten. “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray and turned them loose in the mountains. They have lost their way and can’t remember how to get back to the sheepfold. All who found them devoured them. Their enemies said, ‘We did nothing wrong in attacking them, for they sinned against the Lord , their true place of rest, and the hope of their ancestors.’ “But now, flee from Babylon! Leave the land of the Babylonians. Like male goats at the head of the flock, lead my people home again. For I am raising up an army of great nations from the north. They will join forces to attack Babylon, and she will be captured. The enemies’ arrows will go straight to the mark; they will not miss! Babylonia will be looted until the attackers are glutted with loot. I, the Lord , have spoken! “You rejoice and are glad, you who plundered my chosen people. You frisk about like a calf in a meadow and neigh like a stallion. But your homeland will be overwhelmed with shame and disgrace. You will become the least of nations— a wilderness, a dry and desolate land. Because of the Lord ’s anger, Babylon will become a deserted wasteland. All who pass by will be horrified and will gasp at the destruction they see there. “Yes, prepare to attack Babylon, all you surrounding nations. Let your archers shoot at her; spare no arrows. For she has sinned against the Lord . Shout war cries against her from every side. Look! She surrenders! Her walls have fallen. It is the Lord ’s vengeance, so take vengeance on her. Do to her as she has done to others! Take from Babylon all those who plant crops; send all the harvesters away. Because of the sword of the enemy, everyone will run away and rush back to their own lands. “The Israelites are like sheep that have been scattered by lions. First the king of Assyria ate them up. Then King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon cracked their bones.” Therefore, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Now I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, just as I punished the king of Assyria. And I will bring Israel home again to its own land, to feed in the fields of Carmel and Bashan, and to be satisfied once more in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead. In those days,” says the Lord , “no sin will be found in Israel or in Judah, for I will forgive the remnant I preserve. “Go up, my warriors, against the land of Merathaim and against the people of Pekod. Pursue, kill, and completely destroy them, as I have commanded you,” says the Lord . “Let the battle cry be heard in the land, a shout of great destruction. Babylon, the mightiest hammer in all the earth, lies broken and shattered. Babylon is desolate among the nations! Listen, Babylon, for I have set a trap for you. You are caught, for you have fought against the Lord . The Lord has opened his armory and brought out weapons to vent his fury. The terror that falls upon the Babylonians will be the work of the Sovereign Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Yes, come against her from distant lands. Break open her granaries. Crush her walls and houses into heaps of rubble. Destroy her completely, and leave nothing! Destroy even her young bulls— it will be terrible for them, too! Slaughter them all! For Babylon’s day of reckoning has come. Listen to the people who have escaped from Babylon, as they tell in Jerusalem how the Lord our God has taken vengeance against those who destroyed his Temple. “Send out a call for archers to come to Babylon. Surround the city so none can escape. Do to her as she has done to others, for she has defied the Lord , the Holy One of Israel. Her young men will fall in the streets and die. Her soldiers will all be killed,” says the Lord . “See, I am your enemy, you arrogant people,” says the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Your day of reckoning has arrived— the day when I will punish you. O land of arrogance, you will stumble and fall, and no one will raise you up. For I will light a fire in the cities of Babylon that will burn up everything around them.” This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: “The people of Israel and Judah have been wronged. Their captors hold them and refuse to let them go. But the one who redeems them is strong. His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. He will defend them and give them rest again in Israel. But for the people of Babylon there will be no rest! “The sword of destruction will strike the Babylonians,” says the Lord . “It will strike the people of Babylon— her officials and wise men, too. The sword will strike her wise counselors, and they will become fools. The sword will strike her mightiest warriors, and panic will seize them. The sword will strike her horses and chariots and her allies from other lands, and they will all become like women. The sword will strike her treasures, and they all will be plundered. A drought will strike her water supply, causing it to dry up. And why? Because the whole land is filled with idols, and the people are madly in love with them. “Soon Babylon will be inhabited by desert animals and hyenas. It will be a home for owls. Never again will people live there; it will lie desolate forever. I will destroy it as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns,” says the Lord . “No one will live there; no one will inhabit it. “Look! A great army is coming from the north. A great nation and many kings are rising against you from far-off lands. They are armed with bows and spears. They are cruel and show no mercy. As they ride forward on horses, they sound like a roaring sea. They are coming in battle formation, planning to destroy you, Babylon. The king of Babylon has heard reports about the enemy, and he is weak with fright. Pangs of anguish have gripped him, like those of a woman in labor. “I will come like a lion from the thickets of the Jordan, leaping on the sheep in the pasture. I will chase Babylon from its land, and I will appoint the leader of my choice. For who is like me, and who can challenge me? What ruler can oppose my will?” Listen to the Lord ’s plans against Babylon and the land of the Babylonians. Even the little children will be dragged off like sheep, and their homes will be destroyed. The earth will shake with the shout, “Babylon has been taken!” and its cry of despair will be heard around the world.’
‘Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin. As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.’
‘But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.’
‘You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth.) These teachers oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. But they won’t get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are, just as with Jannes and Jambres.’
‘God presides over heaven’s court; he pronounces judgment on the heavenly beings: “How long will you hand down unjust decisions by favoring the wicked? Interlude “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. But these oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! They wander about in darkness, while the whole world is shaken to the core. I say, ‘You are gods; you are all children of the Most High. But you will die like mere mortals and fall like every other ruler.’” Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you.’
Does it require effort? Does it require a plan? Does it require an itinerary? Does it require commitment? Does it require time? Does it require sacrifice? Does it matter the type of event? Does it matter if it is for you or for others? Does it matter the timing? Does it matter the venue? Does it matter the audience? Does it matter the purpose?
So today is the day… How will you get ready? How will you wake up? How will you get ready? How will you get dressed? How will you get prepared?
Today’s reading gets us started in Joshua:
‘When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings who lived along the Mediterranean coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River so the people of Israel could cross, they lost heart and were paralyzed with fear because of them.
At that time the Lord told Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise this second generation of Israelites. ” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the entire male population of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. Joshua had to circumcise them because all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died in the wilderness. Those who left Egypt had all been circumcised, but none of those born after the Exodus, during the years in the wilderness, had been circumcised. The Israelites had traveled in the wilderness for forty years until all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died. For they had disobeyed the Lord , and the Lord vowed he would not let them enter the land he had sworn to give us—a land flowing with milk and honey. So Joshua circumcised their sons—those who had grown up to take their fathers’ places—for they had not been circumcised on the way to the Promised Land. After all the males had been circumcised, they rested in the camp until they were healed. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt.” So that place has been called Gilgal to this day. While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. The very next day they began to eat unleavened bread and roasted grain harvested from the land. No manna appeared on the day they first ate from the crops of the land, and it was never seen again. So from that time on the Israelites ate from the crops of Canaan. When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord ’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the Lord ’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.’
‘Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” So Joshua called together the priests and said, “Take up the Ark of the Lord ’s Covenant, and assign seven priests to walk in front of it, each carrying a ram’s horn.” Then he gave orders to the people: “March around the town, and the armed men will lead the way in front of the Ark of the Lord .” After Joshua spoke to the people, the seven priests with the rams’ horns started marching in the presence of the Lord , blowing the horns as they marched. And the Ark of the Lord ’s Covenant followed behind them. Some of the armed men marched in front of the priests with the horns and some behind the Ark, with the priests continually blowing the horns. “Do not shout; do not even talk,” Joshua commanded. “Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So the Ark of the Lord was carried around the town once that day, and then everyone returned to spend the night in the camp. Joshua got up early the next morning, and the priests again carried the Ark of the Lord . The seven priests with the rams’ horns marched in front of the Ark of the Lord , blowing their horns. Again the armed men marched both in front of the priests with the horns and behind the Ark of the Lord . All this time the priests were blowing their horns. On the second day they again marched around the town once and returned to the camp. They followed this pattern for six days. On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the town as they had done before. But this time they went around the town seven times. The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the town! Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the Lord . Only Rahab the prostitute and the others in her house will be spared, for she protected our spies. “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the Lord and must be brought into his treasury.” When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. Meanwhile, Joshua said to the two spies, “Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.” The men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel. Then the Israelites burned the town and everything in it. Only the things made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron were kept for the treasury of the Lord ’s house. So Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute and her relatives who were with her in the house, because she had hidden the spies Joshua sent to Jericho. And she lives among the Israelites to this day. At that time Joshua invoked this curse: “May the curse of the Lord fall on anyone who tries to rebuild the town of Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son, he will lay its foundation. At the cost of his youngest son, he will set up its gates.” So the Lord was with Joshua, and his reputation spread throughout the land.’
‘“Listen in silence before me, you lands beyond the sea. Bring your strongest arguments. Come now and speak. The court is ready for your case. “Who has stirred up this king from the east, rightly calling him to God’s service? Who gives this man victory over many nations and permits him to trample their kings underfoot? With his sword, he reduces armies to dust. With his bow, he scatters them like chaff before the wind. He chases them away and goes on safely, though he is walking over unfamiliar ground. Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the Lord , the First and the Last. I alone am he.” The lands beyond the sea watch in fear. Remote lands tremble and mobilize for war. The idol makers encourage one another, saying to each other, “Be strong!” The carver encourages the goldsmith, and the molder helps at the anvil. “Good,” they say. “It’s coming along fine.” Carefully they join the parts together, then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over. “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. “See, all your angry enemies lie there, confused and humiliated. Anyone who opposes you will die and come to nothing. You will look in vain for those who tried to conquer you. Those who attack you will come to nothing. For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the Lord , your Redeemer. I am the Holy One of Israel.’ You will be a new threshing instrument with many sharp teeth. You will tear your enemies apart, making chaff of mountains. You will toss them into the air, and the wind will blow them all away; a whirlwind will scatter them. Then you will rejoice in the Lord . You will glory in the Holy One of Israel. “When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched from thirst, then I, the Lord , will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them. I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus. I will give them fountains of water in the valleys. I will fill the desert with pools of water. Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground. I will plant trees in the barren desert— cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine. I am doing this so all who see this miracle will understand what it means— that it is the Lord who has done this, the Holy One of Israel who created it. “Present the case for your idols,” says the Lord . “Let them show what they can do,” says the King of Israel. “Let them try to tell us what happened long ago so that we may consider the evidence. Or let them tell us what the future holds, so we can know what’s going to happen. Yes, tell us what will occur in the days ahead. Then we will know you are gods. In fact, do anything—good or bad! Do something that will amaze and frighten us. But no! You are less than nothing and can do nothing at all. Those who choose you pollute themselves. “But I have stirred up a leader who will approach from the north. From the east he will call on my name. I will give him victory over kings and princes. He will trample them as a potter treads on clay. “Who told you from the beginning that this would happen? Who predicted this, making you admit that he was right? No one said a word! I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look! Help is on the way!’ I will send Jerusalem a messenger with good news. Not one of your idols told you this. Not one gave any answer when I asked. See, they are all foolish, worthless things. All your idols are as empty as the wind.’
Today’s reading then brings us into the New Testament starting in Matthew:
‘“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”’
‘Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges ; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
‘Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them. Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury. For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.” The king proclaims the Lord ’s decree: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. You will break them with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.’” Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities— for his anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in him!’
‘Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia Grove and arrived at the banks of the Jordan River, where they camped before crossing. Three days later the Israelite officers went through the camp, giving these instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about half a mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer.” Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.” In the morning Joshua said to the priests, “Lift up the Ark of the Covenant and lead the people across the river.” And so they started out and went ahead of the people. The Lord told Joshua, “Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites. They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses. Give this command to the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant: ‘When you reach the banks of the Jordan River, take a few steps into the river and stop there.’” So Joshua told the Israelites, “Come and listen to what the Lord your God says. Today you will know that the living God is among you. He will surely drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites ahead of you. Look, the Ark of the Covenant, which belongs to the Lord of the whole earth, will lead you across the Jordan River! Now choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. The priests will carry the Ark of the Lord , the Lord of all the earth. As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall.” So the people left their camp to cross the Jordan, and the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. It was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord ’s Covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by. They waited there until the whole nation of Israel had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’
‘When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’” So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord ’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” So the men did as Joshua had commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe, just as the Lord had told Joshua. They carried them to the place where they camped for the night and constructed the memorial there. Joshua also set up another pile of twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, at the place where the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant were standing. And they are there to this day. The priests who were carrying the Ark stood in the middle of the river until all of the Lord ’s commands that Moses had given to Joshua were carried out. Meanwhile, the people hurried across the riverbed. And when everyone was safely on the other side, the priests crossed over with the Ark of the Lord as the people watched. The armed warriors from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh led the Israelites across the Jordan, just as Moses had directed. These armed men—about 40,000 strong—were ready for battle, and the Lord was with them as they crossed over to the plains of Jericho. That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses. The Lord had said to Joshua, “Command the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant to come up out of the riverbed.” So Joshua gave the command. As soon as the priests carrying the Ark of the Lord ’s Covenant came up out of the riverbed and their feet were on high ground, the water of the Jordan returned and overflowed its banks as before. The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. Then they camped at Gilgal, just east of Jericho. It was there at Gilgal that Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River. Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord ’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”’
‘“Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned. Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over for all her sins.” Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord ! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord . And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes. He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.
Who else has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord ? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him? Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand. All the wood in Lebanon’s forests and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough to make a burnt offering worthy of our God. The nations of the world are worth nothing to him. In his eyes they count for less than nothing— mere emptiness and froth. To whom can you compare God? What image can you find to resemble him? Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold, overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains? Or if people are too poor for that, they might at least choose wood that won’t decay and a skilled craftsman to carve an image that won’t fall down! Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God— the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff. “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One. Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.’
Today’s reading then brings us into the New Testament:
‘“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver A talent is equal to 75 pounds or 34 kilograms. to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’’
‘And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.
For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.’
Today’s reading concludes with a new start in Psalms:
‘Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord , meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.’
How are you living your life? How are you walking out your purpose? How are you following God’s plan? Are you preparing for whatever comes next? Are you getting ready in case they need to call you up? Are you going to be prepared when the opening comes? Are you working at the level necessary to fill in the spot?
Today’s reading begins with us being in Numbers 27.
‘One day a petition was presented by the daughters of Zelophehad—Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. Their father, Zelophehad, was a descendant of Hepher son of Gilead, son of Makir, son of Manasseh, son of Joseph. These women stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the tribal leaders, and the entire community at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Our father died in the wilderness,” they said. “He was not among Korah’s followers, who rebelled against the Lord ; he died because of his own sin. But he had no sons. Why should the name of our father disappear from his clan just because he had no sons? Give us property along with the rest of our relatives.” So Moses brought their case before the Lord . And the Lord replied to Moses, “The claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is legitimate. You must give them a grant of land along with their father’s relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father. “And give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If a man dies and has no son, then give his inheritance to his daughters. And if he has no daughter either, transfer his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. But if his father has no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan. This is a legal requirement for the people of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses.”
One day the Lord said to Moses, “Climb one of the mountains east of the river, and look out over the land I have given the people of Israel. After you have seen it, you will die like your brother, Aaron, for you both rebelled against my instructions in the wilderness of Zin. When the people of Israel rebelled, you failed to demonstrate my holiness to them at the waters.” (These are the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) Then Moses said to the Lord , “O Lord , you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” The Lord replied, “Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him. Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him to lead the people. Transfer some of your authority to him so the whole community of Israel will obey him. When direction from the Lord is needed, Joshua will stand before Eleazar the priest, who will use the Urim—one of the sacred lots cast before the Lord —to determine his will. This is how Joshua and the rest of the community of Israel will determine everything they should do.” So Moses did as the Lord commanded. He presented Joshua to Eleazar the priest and the whole community. Moses laid his hands on him and commissioned him to lead the people, just as the Lord had commanded through Moses.’
‘The Lord gave this message to Hosea son of Beeri during the years when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah, and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.” So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son. And the Lord said, “Name the child Jezreel, for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel’s independence. I will break its military power in the Jezreel Valley.” Soon Gomer became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to Hosea, “Name your daughter Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them. But I will show love to the people of Judah. I will free them from their enemies—not with weapons and armies or horses and charioteers, but by my power as the Lord their God.” After Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she again became pregnant and gave birth to a second son. And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God. “Yet the time will come when Israel’s people will be like the sands of the seashore—too many to count! Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said, ‘You are children of the living God.’ Then the people of Judah and Israel will unite together. They will choose one leader for themselves, and they will return from exile together. What a day that will be—the day of Jezreel —when God will again plant his people in his land. “In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—‘My people.’ And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—‘The ones I love.’’
‘“But now bring charges against Israel—your mother— for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to remove the prostitute’s makeup from her face and the clothing that exposes her breasts. Otherwise, I will strip her as naked as she was on the day she was born. I will leave her to die of thirst, as in a dry and barren wilderness. And I will not love her children, for they were conceived in prostitution. Their mother is a shameless prostitute and became pregnant in a shameful way. She said, ‘I’ll run after other lovers and sell myself to them for food and water, for clothing of wool and linen, and for olive oil and drinks.’ “For this reason I will fence her in with thornbushes. I will block her path with a wall to make her lose her way. When she runs after her lovers, she won’t be able to catch them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think, ‘I might as well return to my husband, for I was better off with him than I am now.’ She doesn’t realize it was I who gave her everything she has— the grain, the new wine, the olive oil; I even gave her silver and gold. But she gave all my gifts to Baal. “But now I will take back the ripened grain and new wine I generously provided each harvest season. I will take away the wool and linen clothing I gave her to cover her nakedness. I will strip her naked in public, while all her lovers look on. No one will be able to rescue her from my hands. I will put an end to her annual festivals, her new moon celebrations, and her Sabbath days— all her appointed festivals. I will destroy her grapevines and fig trees, things she claims her lovers gave her. I will let them grow into tangled thickets, where only wild animals will eat the fruit. I will punish her for all those times when she burned incense to her images of Baal, when she put on her earrings and jewels and went out to look for her lovers but forgot all about me,” says the Lord . “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. When that day comes,” says the Lord , “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips, and you will never mention them again. On that day I will make a covenant with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky and the animals that scurry along the ground so they will not harm you. I will remove all weapons of war from the land, all swords and bows, so you can live unafraid in peace and safety. I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord . “In that day, I will answer,” says the Lord . “I will answer the sky as it pleads for clouds. And the sky will answer the earth with rain. Then the earth will answer the thirsty cries of the grain, the grapevines, and the olive trees. And they in turn will answer, ‘Jezreel’—‘God plants!’ At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”’
‘Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them. ” So I bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine. Then I said to her, “You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution. During this time, you will not have sexual relations with anyone, not even with me. ” This shows that Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness.’
Today’s reading next brings us into the New Testament starting with Matthew 9
‘Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for giving humans such authority.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum? ” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?” Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”’
‘Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.’
‘I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord : “Please, Lord , save me!” How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord ’s presence as I live here on earth! I believed in you, so I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord .” In my anxiety I cried out to you, “These people are all liars!” What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord ’s name for saving me. I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all his people. The Lord cares deeply when his loved ones die. O Lord , I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord . I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people— in the house of the Lord in the heart of Jerusalem. Praise the Lord !’
So what is the first step in your preparation process? What needs to be in place for you to get started? What if it was as simple as getting ready for dinner? What if it was a bit more and including guests coming over? What if it was getting ready for a new employee? What if it was getting ready for a new job? What if it was getting ready to lead? What if it was getting ready to train and teach?
Are you ready? If not, what is it going to take?
Are you setup? If not, what is missing and needing to get done?
Are you prepared? If not, what will you need to do?
‘The Lord gave these instructions to Moses: “Command the people of Israel to remove from the camp anyone who has a skin disease or a discharge, or who has become ceremonially unclean by touching a dead person. This command applies to men and women alike. Remove them so they will not defile the camp in which I live among them.” So the Israelites did as the Lord had commanded Moses and removed such people from the camp. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If any of the people—men or women—betray the Lord by doing wrong to another person, they are guilty. They must confess their sin and make full restitution for what they have done, adding an additional 20 percent and returning it to the person who was wronged. But if the person who was wronged is dead, and there are no near relatives to whom restitution can be made, the payment belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest. Those who are guilty must also bring a ram as a sacrifice, and they will be purified and made right with the Lord . All the sacred offerings that the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. Each priest may keep all the sacred donations that he receives.”
And the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. “Suppose a man’s wife goes astray, and she is unfaithful to her husband and has sex with another man, but neither her husband nor anyone else knows about it. She has defiled herself, even though there was no witness and she was not caught in the act. If her husband becomes jealous and is suspicious of his wife and needs to know whether or not she has defiled herself, the husband must bring his wife to the priest. He must also bring an offering of two quarts of barley flour to be presented on her behalf. Do not mix it with olive oil or frankincense, for it is a jealousy offering—an offering to prove whether or not she is guilty. “The priest will then present her to stand trial before the Lord . He must take some holy water in a clay jar and pour into it dust he has taken from the Tabernacle floor. When the priest has presented the woman before the Lord , he must unbind her hair and place in her hands the offering of proof—the jealousy offering to determine whether her husband’s suspicions are justified. The priest will stand before her, holding the jar of bitter water that brings a curse to those who are guilty. The priest will then put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sex with you, and you have not gone astray and defiled yourself while under your husband’s authority, may you be immune from the effects of this bitter water that brings on the curse. But if you have gone astray by being unfaithful to your husband, and have defiled yourself by having sex with another man—’ “At this point the priest must put the woman under oath by saying, ‘May the people know that the Lord ’s curse is upon you when he makes you infertile, causing your womb to shrivel and your abdomen to swell. Now may this water that brings the curse enter your body and cause your abdomen to swell and your womb to shrivel. ’ And the woman will be required to say, ‘Yes, let it be so.’ And the priest will write these curses on a piece of leather and wash them off into the bitter water. He will make the woman drink the bitter water that brings on the curse. When the water enters her body, it will cause bitter suffering if she is guilty. “The priest will take the jealousy offering from the woman’s hand, lift it up before the Lord , and carry it to the altar. He will take a handful of the flour as a token portion and burn it on the altar, and he will require the woman to drink the water. If she has defiled herself by being unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings on the curse will cause bitter suffering. Her abdomen will swell and her womb will shrink, and her name will become a curse among her people. But if she has not defiled herself and is pure, then she will be unharmed and will still be able to have children. “This is the ritual law for dealing with suspicion. If a woman goes astray and defiles herself while under her husband’s authority, or if a man becomes jealous and is suspicious that his wife has been unfaithful, the husband must present his wife before the Lord , and the priest will apply this entire ritual law to her. The husband will be innocent of any guilt in this matter, but his wife will be held accountable for her sin.”’
‘These are the words of the Teacher, King David’s son, who ruled in Jerusalem.
“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
I, the Teacher, was king of Israel, and I lived in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom everything being done under heaven. I soon discovered that God has dealt a tragic existence to the human race. I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. What is wrong cannot be made right. What is missing cannot be recovered. I said to myself, “Look, I am wiser than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. I have greater wisdom and knowledge than any of them.” So I set out to learn everything from wisdom to madness and folly. But I learned firsthand that pursuing all this is like chasing the wind. The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.’
‘I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?” After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world. I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king? ). I thought, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten. So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world. Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless. So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.’
Today’s reading next brings us into the New Testament starting with Mark 16 (concluding our reading from Mark)
‘Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened.
[ The most ancient manuscripts of Mark conclude with verse 16:8. Later manuscripts add one or both of the following endings. ]
[ Shorter Ending of Mark ]
Then they briefly reported all this to Peter and his companions. Afterward Jesus himself sent them out from east to west with the sacred and unfailing message of salvation that gives eternal life. Amen.
[ Longer Ending of Mark ]
After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead. And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.’
‘I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way. Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece will ever stop me from boasting about this. Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do. But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours. These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.’
As we consider being ready, as we consider getting prepared, as we consider setting the table, let’s pause and meditate on God’s Word from today and what it is speaking to us and over us.
Today’s reading concludes with today’s psalm from Psalms 98
‘Sing a new song to the Lord , for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power! The Lord has announced his victory and has revealed his righteousness to every nation! He has remembered his promise to love and be faithful to Israel. The ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Shout to the Lord , all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy! Sing your praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song, with trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn. Make a joyful symphony before the Lord , the King! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the earth and all living things join in. Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the Lord , for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with fairness.’
How have you chosen to live your life? What have you chosen to believe? How will you chose to get ready? What will you do to make sure you are prepared? Don’t be like the people who weren’t prepared and missed the wedding. Be prepared like the 5 so you won’t miss the events of that day! The day is coming when those who are ready and prepared will be taken away and others will be left behind. Imagine not being ready and not having prepared and finding yourself left behind while millions of people disappear from the face of the earth. What would you do? How would you response? How will you respond? What things will go through your mind? Will you consider the offer you received to invite Jesus into your heart? Will you remember the words that had been shared and turn back before it is too late? What will it take for you to believe? Would it take being left behind? What will it take for you to believe? Would be someone sharing their story with you? What will it take for you to get ready and prepared before the day comes? Would it be an invitation to join a friend at church? Would it be an invitation to an event or concert? Is your heart ready to receive? Is your heart prepared to accept the truth? Are you ready to be set free? Are you prepared for Jesus’s return? Are you ready to have to stand before God and give an answer for your life? Are you prepared to give answers at the judgement seat of God for the way you have chosen to live your life? Will today be the day you decide? Will today be the day you receive? Will today be the day you are ready? Will today be the day you get prepared?
‘The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who died after they entered the Lord ’s presence and burned the wrong kind of fire before him. The Lord said to Moses, “Warn your brother, Aaron, not to enter the Most Holy Place behind the inner curtain whenever he chooses; if he does, he will die. For the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—is there, and I myself am present in the cloud above the atonement cover. “When Aaron enters the sanctuary area, he must follow these instructions fully. He must bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He must put on his linen tunic and the linen undergarments worn next to his body. He must tie the linen sash around his waist and put the linen turban on his head. These are sacred garments, so he must bathe himself in water before he puts them on. Aaron must take from the community of Israel two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. “Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the Lord . Then he must take the two male goats and present them to the Lord at the entrance of the Tabernacle. He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the Lord and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel. Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the Lord . The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the Lord . When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the Lord . “Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the Lord . After he has slaughtered the bull as a sin offering, he will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the Lord . Then he will take two handfuls of fragrant powdered incense and will carry the burner and the incense behind the inner curtain. There in the Lord ’s presence he will put the incense on the burning coals so that a cloud of incense will rise over the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. If he follows these instructions, he will not die. Then he must take some of the blood of the bull, dip his finger in it, and sprinkle it on the east side of the atonement cover. He must sprinkle blood seven times with his finger in front of the atonement cover. “Then Aaron must slaughter the first goat as a sin offering for the people and carry its blood behind the inner curtain. There he will sprinkle the goat’s blood over the atonement cover and in front of it, just as he did with the bull’s blood. Through this process, he will purify the Most Holy Place, and he will do the same for the entire Tabernacle, because of the defiling sin and rebellion of the Israelites. No one else is allowed inside the Tabernacle when Aaron enters it for the purification ceremony in the Most Holy Place. No one may enter until he comes out again after purifying himself, his family, and all the congregation of Israel, making them right with the Lord . “Then Aaron will come out to purify the altar that stands before the Lord . He will do this by taking some of the blood from the bull and the goat and putting it on each of the horns of the altar. Then he must sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times over the altar. In this way, he will cleanse it from Israel’s defilement and make it holy. “When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place and the Tabernacle and the altar, he must present the live goat. He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land. “When Aaron goes back into the Tabernacle, he must take off the linen garments he was wearing when he entered the Most Holy Place, and he must leave the garments there. Then he must bathe himself with water in a sacred place, put on his regular garments, and go out to sacrifice a burnt offering for himself and a burnt offering for the people. Through this process, he will purify himself and the people, making them right with the Lord . He must then burn all the fat of the sin offering on the altar. “The man chosen to drive the scapegoat into the wilderness of Azazel must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. Then he may return to the camp. “The bull and the goat presented as sin offerings, whose blood Aaron takes into the Most Holy Place for the purification ceremony, will be carried outside the camp. The animals’ hides, internal organs, and dung are all to be burned. The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water before returning to the camp. “On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn, you must deny yourselves. Neither native-born Israelites nor foreigners living among you may do any kind of work. This is a permanent law for you. On that day offerings of purification will be made for you, and you will be purified in the Lord ’s presence from all your sins. It will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. This is a permanent law for you. In future generations, the purification ceremony will be performed by the priest who has been anointed and ordained to serve as high priest in place of his ancestor Aaron. He will put on the holy linen garments and purify the Most Holy Place, the Tabernacle, the altar, the priests, and the entire congregation. This is a permanent law for you, to purify the people of Israel from their sins, making them right with the Lord once each year.” Moses followed all these instructions exactly as the Lord had commanded him.’
Today’s reading takes us into the book of wisdom with reading from Proverbs 12.
‘To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. The Lord approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness. Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots. A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones. The plans of the godly are just; the advice of the wicked is treacherous. The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush, but the words of the godly save lives. The wicked die and disappear, but the family of the godly stands firm. A sensible person wins admiration, but a warped mind is despised. Better to be an ordinary person with a servant than to be self-important but have no food. The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel. A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense. Thieves are jealous of each other’s loot, but the godly are well rooted and bear their own fruit. The wicked are trapped by their own words, but the godly escape such trouble. Wise words bring many benefits, and hard work brings rewards. Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted. An honest witness tells the truth; a false witness tells lies. Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed. Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil; joy fills hearts that are planning peace! No harm comes to the godly, but the wicked have their fill of trouble. The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth. The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness. Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave. Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray. Lazy people don’t even cook the game they catch, but the diligent make use of everything they find. The way of the godly leads to life; that path does not lead to death.’
Today’s reading takes us into the New Testament starting with Mark 11.
‘When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching. That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city. The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. But if you refuse to forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.” Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?” “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!” They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. So they finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”’
‘I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt all of you more than he hurt me. Most of you opposed him, and that was punishment enough. Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement. So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions. When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. But I had no peace of mind because my dear brother Titus hadn’t yet arrived with a report from you. So I said good-bye and went on to Macedonia to find him.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this? You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.’
‘O God, do not be silent! Do not be deaf. Do not be quiet, O God. Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up? They devise crafty schemes against your people; they conspire against your precious ones. “Come,” they say, “let us wipe out Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence.” Yes, this was their unanimous decision. They signed a treaty as allies against you— these Edomites and Ishmaelites; Moabites and Hagrites; Gebalites, Ammonites, and Amalekites; and people from Philistia and Tyre. Assyria has joined them, too, and is allied with the descendants of Lot. Interlude Do to them as you did to the Midianites and as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the Kishon River. They were destroyed at Endor, and their decaying corpses fertilized the soil. Let their mighty nobles die as Oreb and Zeeb did. Let all their princes die like Zebah and Zalmunna, for they said, “Let us seize for our own use these pasturelands of God!” O my God, scatter them like tumbleweed, like chaff before the wind! As a fire burns a forest and as a flame sets mountains ablaze, chase them with your fierce storm; terrify them with your tempest. Utterly disgrace them until they submit to your name, O Lord . Let them be ashamed and terrified forever. Let them die in disgrace. Then they will learn that you alone are called the Lord , that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth.’
So let’s consider God’s Word for today. Let’s pray and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives to solidify Jesus as our foundation and cornerstone for life. Let’s choose to live our lives in a way that will bring God all the praise, the honor, and the glory in Jesus’s name. Let’s choose to be ready for Jesus’s return! Let’ choose to be prepared for whatever comes our way today! Let’s decide today to have Jesus be in our hearts and be the center of our lives for the rest of our lives. We need to believe in our hearts! So let’s believe and ask Jesus to help when we have unbelief. Do not be robbed by fear and doubt! Share the hope that is within you with all those God brings into your life!