Today's Reading

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Isaiah 66:1-24; Philippians 3:1-21; Psalms 74:1-23; Proverbs 24:15-16 (Contemporary English Version)

Isaiah 66

True Worship

66 The Lord said:

Heaven is my throne;
    the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house
could you build for me?
    In what place will I rest?
I have made everything;
that’s how it all came to be.[a]
    I, the Lord, have spoken.

The people I treasure most
    are the humble—
they depend only on me
    and tremble when I speak.

You sacrifice oxen to me,
    and you commit murder;
you sacrifice lambs to me
    and dogs to other gods;
you offer grain to me
    and pigs' blood to idols;
you burn incense to me
    and praise your idols.[b]
You have made your own choice
to do these disgusting things
    that you enjoy so much.
You refused to answer
    when I called out;
you paid no attention
    to my instructions.
Instead, you did what I hated,
    knowing it was wrong.
Now I will punish[c] you
    in a way you dread the most.

The Lord Will Help Jerusalem

If you tremble
when the Lord speaks,
    listen to what he says:
“Some of your own people hate
and reject you because of me.
    They make fun and say,
‘Let the Lord show his power!
Let us see him
    make you truly happy.’[d]
But those who say these things
    will be terribly ashamed.”

Do you hear that noise
in the city and those shouts
    coming from the temple?
It is the Lord shouting
    as he punishes his enemies.

Have you ever heard of a woman
who gave birth to a child
    before having labor pains?
Who ever heard of such a thing
    or imagined it could happen?
Can a nation be born in a day
    or come to life in a second?
Jerusalem is like a mother
who gave birth to her children
    as soon as she was in labor.
The Lord is the one
    who makes birth possible.
And he will see that Zion
has many more children.
    The Lord has spoken.

10 If you love Jerusalem,
    celebrate and shout!
If you were in sorrow
because of the city,
    you can now be glad.
11 She will nurse and comfort you,
just like your own mother,
    until you are satisfied.
You will fully enjoy
    her wonderful glory.

12 The Lord has promised:
    “I will flood Jerusalem
with the wealth of nations
    and make the city prosper.
Zion will nurse you at her breast,
carry you in her arms,
    and hold you in her lap.
13 I will comfort you there
like a mother
    comforting her child.”

14 When you see this happen,
    you will celebrate;
your strength will return
    faster than grass can sprout.
Then everyone will know
that the Lord is present
    with his servants,
but he is angry
    with his enemies.
15 The Lord will come down
like a whirlwind
    with his flaming chariots.
He will be terribly furious
and punish his enemies
    with fire.
16 The Lord’s fiery sword
    will bring justice
everywhere on this earth
    and execute many people.

A Threat and a Promise

17 Some of you get yourselves ready and go to a garden to worship a foreign goddess.[e] You eat the meat of pigs, lizards, and mice. But I, the Lord, will destroy you for this.

18 I know everything you do and think! The time has now come[f] to bring together the people of every language and nation and to show them my glory 19 by proving what I can do.[g] I will send the survivors to Tarshish, Pul,[h] Lud, Meshech,[i] Tubal, Javan,[j] and to the distant islands. I will send them to announce my wonderful glory to nations that have never heard about me.

20 They will bring your relatives from the nations as an offering to me, the Lord. They will come on horses, chariots, wagons, mules, and camels[k] to Jerusalem, my holy mountain. It will be like the people of Israel bringing the right offering to my temple. 21 I promise that some of them will be priests and others will be helpers in my temple. I, the Lord, have spoken.

22 I also promise that you will always have descendants and will never be forgotten, just as the new heavens and the new earth that I create will last forever. 23 On the first day of each month and on each Sabbath, everyone will worship me. I, the Lord, have spoken.

24 My people will go out and look at the dead bodies of those who turned against me. The worms there never die, the fire never stops burning, and the sight of those bodies will be disgusting to everyone.

Footnotes:

  1. 66.2 that’s. . . be: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 66.3 You sacrifice oxen. . . idols: Or “Sacrificing oxen to me is the same as murder; sacrificing lambs to me is the same as sacrificing dogs to other gods; offering grain to me is the same as offering pigs' blood to idols; and burning incense to me is the same as praising idols.”
  3. 66.4 punish: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 66.5 Some. . . happy: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  5. 66.17 Some. . . goddess: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  6. 66.18 I. . . come: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  7. 66.19 by. . . do: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  8. 66.19 Pul: Hebrew; one ancient translation “Put,” a country in Africa, but neither the location of Pul or Put is known for certain.
  9. 66.19 Meshech: One ancient translation; Hebrew “those who use bows and arrows.”
  10. 66.19 Tarshish. . . Javan: Tarshish may have been a Phoenician city in Spain; Put (see note on Pul) and Lud were African people; Meshech and Tubal were regions south or southeast of the Black Sea; the Javan were people of Asia Minor and the Greek islands.
  11. 66.20 camels: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.

Philippians 3

Being Acceptable to God

Finally, my dear friends, be glad that you belong to the Lord. It doesn’t bother me to write the same things to you that I have written before. In fact, it is for your own good.

Watch out for those people who behave like dogs! They are evil and want to do more than just circumcise you. But we are the ones who are truly circumcised, because we worship by the power of God’s Spirit[a] and take pride in Christ Jesus. We don’t brag about what we have done, although I could. Others may brag about themselves, but I have more reason to brag than anyone else. I was circumcised when I was eight days old,[b] and I am from the nation of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Hebrew. As a Pharisee, I strictly obeyed the Law of Moses. And I was so eager that I even made trouble for the church. I did everything the Law demands in order to please God.

But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. 10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, 11 so that somehow I also may be raised to life.

Running toward the Goal

12 I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. 13 My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. 14 I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. 15 All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. 16 But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.

17 My friends, I want you to follow my example and learn from others who closely follow the example we set for you. 18 I often warned you that many people are living as enemies of the cross of Christ. And now with tears in my eyes, I warn you again 19 that they are headed for hell! They worship their stomachs and brag about the disgusting things they do. All they can think about are the things of this world.

20 But we are citizens of heaven and are eagerly waiting for our Savior to come from there. Our Lord Jesus Christ 21 has power over everything, and he will make these poor bodies of ours like his own glorious body.

Footnotes:

  1. 3.3 by the power of God’s Spirit: Some manuscripts have “sincerely.”
  2. 3.5 when I was eight days old: Jewish boys are circumcised eight days after birth.

Psalm 74

(A special psalm by Asaph.)

A Prayer for the Nation in Times of Trouble

74 Our God, why have you
    completely rejected us?
    Why are you so angry
    with the ones you care for?
Remember the people
    you rescued long ago,
    the tribe you chose
    to be your very own.

Think of Mount Zion,
    your home;
walk over to the temple
left in ruins forever
    by those who hate us.

Your enemies roared like lions
    in your holy temple,
    and they have placed
    their banners there.
It looks like a forest
    chopped to pieces.[a]
They used axes and hatchets
    to smash the carvings.
    They burned down your temple
    and badly disgraced it.
They said to themselves,
    “We’ll crush them!”
Then they burned every one
of your meeting places
    all over the country.
There are no more miracles
    and no more prophets.
    Who knows how long
    it will be like this?

10 Our God, how much longer
    will our enemies sneer?
    Won’t they ever stop
    insulting you?
11 Why don’t you punish them?
    Why are you holding back?

12 Our God and King,
you have ruled
    since ancient times;
    you have won victories
    everywhere on this earth.
13 By your power you made a path
    through the sea,
    and you smashed the heads
    of sea monsters.
14 You crushed the heads
    of the monster Leviathan,[b]
    then fed him to wild creatures
    in the desert.
15 You opened the ground
for streams and springs
    and dried up mighty rivers.
16 You rule the day and the night,
    and you put the moon
    and the sun in place.
17 You made summer and winter
    and gave them to the earth.[c]

18 Remember your enemies, Lord!
    They foolishly sneer
    and won’t respect you.
19 You treat us like pet doves,
    but they mistreat us.
Don’t keep forgetting us
    and letting us be fed
    to those wild animals.
20 Remember the agreement
    you made with us.
Violent enemies are hiding
    in every dark corner
    of the earth.
21 Don’t disappoint those in need
    or make them turn from you,
    but help the poor and homeless
    to shout your praises.
22 Do something, God!
    Defend yourself.
Remember how those fools
    sneer at you all day long.
23     Don’t forget the loud shouts
    of your enemies.

Footnotes:

  1. 74.5 pieces: One meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 5.
  2. 74.14 Leviathan: God’s victory over this monster sometimes stands for his power over all creation and sometimes for his defeat of Egypt.
  3. 74.17 gave. . . earth: Or “made boundaries for the earth.”

Proverbs 24:15-16

-27-

15 Don’t be a cruel person
who attacks good people
    and hurts their families.
16 Even if good people
fall seven times,
    they will get back up.
But when trouble strikes
the wicked,
    that’s the end of them.

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