Today's Reading

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Isaiah 54:1-57:13; Ephesians 6:1-24; Psalms 70:1-5; Proverbs 24:8 (Contemporary English Version)

Isaiah 54-57:13

A Promise of the Lord’s Protection

54 Sing and shout,
even though you have never
    had children!
The Lord has promised that you
    will have more children
than someone married
    for a long time.
Make your tents larger!
Spread out the tent pegs;
    fasten them firmly.
You and your descendants
will take over the land
    of other nations.
You will settle in towns
    that are now in ruins.

Don’t be afraid or ashamed
and don’t be discouraged.
    You won’t be disappointed.
Forget how sinful you were
    when you were young;
stop feeling ashamed
    for being left a widow.
The Lord All-Powerful,
the Holy God of Israel,
    rules all the earth.
He is your Creator and husband,
    and he will rescue you.

You were like a young wife,
    brokenhearted and crying
because her husband
    had divorced her.
But the Lord your God says,
    “I am taking you back!
I rejected you for a while,
but with love and tenderness
    I will embrace you again.
For a while, I turned away
    in furious anger.
Now I will have mercy
    and love you forever!
I, your protector and Lord,
    make this promise.”

The Lord Promises Lasting Peace

I once promised Noah that I
would never again
destroy
    the earth by a flood.
Now I have promised that I
will never again
get angry
    and punish you.
10 Every mountain and hill
    may disappear.
But I will always be kind
    and merciful to you;
I won’t break my agreement
    to give your nation peace.

The New Jerusalem

11 Jerusalem, you are sad
and discouraged,
    tossed around in a storm.
But I, the Lord,
will rebuild your city
    with precious stones;[a]
for your foundation
    I will use blue sapphires.
12 Your fortresses[b]
    will be built of rubies,
your gates of jewels,
    and your walls of gems.
13 I will teach your children
    and make them successful.

14 You will be built on fairness
    with no fears of injustice;
every one of your worries
    will be taken far from you.
15 I will never send anyone
    to attack your city,
and you will make prisoners
    of those who do attack.
16 Don’t forget that I created
metalworkers
who make weapons
    over burning coals.
I also created armies
    that can bring destruction.
17 Weapons made to attack you
    won’t be successful;
words spoken against you
    won’t hurt at all.

My servants, Jerusalem is yours!
I, the Lord, promise
    to bless you with victory.

The Lord’s Invitation

55 If you are thirsty,
    come and drink water!
If you don’t have any money,
    come, eat what you want!
Drink wine and milk
    without paying a cent.
Why waste your money
    on what really isn’t food?
Why work hard for something
    that doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me,
and you will enjoy
    the very best foods.

Pay close attention!
    Come to me and live.
I will promise you
the eternal love and loyalty
    that I promised David.
I made him the leader and ruler
of the nations;
    he was my witness to them.
You will call out to nations
    you have never known.
And they have never known you,
but they will come running
    because I am the Lord,
the holy God of Israel,
    and I have honored you.

God’s Words Are Powerful

Turn to the Lord!
He can still be found.
    Call out to God! He is near.
Give up your crooked ways
    and your evil thoughts.
Return to the Lord our God.
He will be merciful
    and forgive your sins.

The Lord says:
“My thoughts and my ways
    are not like yours.
Just as the heavens
    are higher than the earth,
my thoughts and my ways
    are higher than yours.

10 “Rain and snow fall from the sky.
But they don’t return
    without watering the earth
that produces seeds to plant
    and grain to eat.
11 That’s how it is with my words.
    They don’t return to me
without doing everything
    I send them to do.”

God’s People Will Celebrate

12 When you are set free,
you will celebrate
    and travel home in peace.
Mountains and hills will sing
as you pass by,
    and trees will clap.
13 Cypress and myrtle trees
will grow in fields
    once covered by thorns.
And then those trees will stand
as a lasting witness
    to the glory of the Lord.

All Nations Will Be Part of God’s People

56 The Lord said:

    Be honest and fair!
Soon I will come to save you;
my saving power will be seen
    everywhere on earth.

I will bless everyone
who respects the Sabbath
    and refuses to do wrong.

Foreigners who worship me
    must not say,
“The Lord won’t let us
    be part of his people.”
Men who are unable
    to become fathers
must no longer say,
    “We are dried-up trees.”

To them, I, the Lord, say:
    Respect the Sabbath,
    obey me completely,
    and keep our agreement.
Then I will set up monuments
in my temple
with your names
    written on them.
This will be much better
    than having children,
because these monuments
    will stand there forever.

Foreigners will follow me.
They will love me
and worship
    in my name;
they will respect the Sabbath
    and keep our agreement.
I will bring them
    to my holy mountain,
where they will celebrate
    in my house of worship.
Their sacrifices and offerings
will always be welcome
    on my altar.
Then my house will be known
as a house of worship
    for all nations.
I, the Lord, promise
to bring together my people
    who were taken away,
and let them join the others.

God Promises To Punish Israel’s Leaders

Come from the forest,
    you wild animals!
Attack and gobble down
    your victims.
10 You leaders of Israel
should be watchdogs,
    protecting my people.
But you can’t see a thing,
    and you never warn them.
Dozing and daydreaming
    are all you ever do.
11 You stupid leaders are a pack
of hungry and greedy dogs
    that never get enough.
You are shepherds
who mistreat your own sheep
    for selfish gain.
12 You say to each other,
“Let’s drink till we’re drunk!
    Tomorrow we’ll do it again.
We’ll really enjoy ourselves.”

God’s Faithful People Suffer

57 God’s faithful people
are dragged off and killed,
    and no one even cares.
Evil sweeps them away,
but in death they find peace
    for obeying God.[c]

The Lord Condemns Idolatry

You people are unfaithful!
You go to fortunetellers,
    and you worship idols.
Now pay close attention!
Who are you making fun of?
    Who are you sneering at?
Look how your sins
    have made fools of you.

All you think about is sex
under those green trees
    where idols are worshiped.
You sacrifice your children
on altars built in valleys
    under rocky slopes.
You have chosen to worship
    idols made of stone;[d]
you have given them offerings
of wine and grain.
    Should I be pleased?

You have spread out your beds
on the tops of high mountains,
    where you sacrifice to idols.
Even in your homes
you have placed pagan symbols
    all around your huge beds.
Yes, you have rejected me,
sold yourselves to your lovers,
    and gone to bed with them.[e]

You smear on olive oil
and all kinds of perfume
    to worship the god Molech.[f]
You even seek advice
    from spirits of the dead.
10 Though you tired yourself out
by running after idols,
    you refused to stop.
Your desires were so strong
    that they kept you going.

11 Did you forget about me
    and become unfaithful
because you were more afraid
    of someone else?
Have I been silent so long[g]
    that you no longer fear me?
12 You think you’re so good,
    but I’ll point out the truth.
13 Ask your idols to save you
    when you are in trouble.
Be careful though—
it takes only a faint breath
    to blow them over.
But if you come to me
    for protection,
this land and my holy mountain
    will always belong to you.

Footnotes:

  1. 54.11 with precious stones: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 54.12 fortresses: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  3. 57.1,2 Evil. . . God: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 57.6 You have. . . stone: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  5. 57.8 them: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 8.
  6. 57.9 the god Molech: Or “the king.” In Hebrew “Molech” and “king” sound alike.
  7. 57.11 so long: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.

Ephesians 6

Children and Parents

Children, you belong to the Lord, and you do the right thing when you obey your parents. The first commandment with a promise says, “Obey your father and your mother, and you will have a long and happy life.”

Parents, don’t be hard on your children. Raise them properly. Teach them and instruct them about the Lord.

Slaves and Masters

Slaves, you must obey your earthly masters. Show them great respect and be as loyal to them as you are to Christ. Try to please them at all times, and not just when you think they are watching. You are slaves of Christ, so with your whole heart you must do what God wants you to do. Gladly serve your masters, as though they were the Lord himself, and not simply people. You know that you will be rewarded for any good things you do, whether you are slaves or free.

Slave owners, you must treat your slaves with this same respect. Don’t threaten them. They have the same Master in heaven that you do, and he doesn’t have any favorites.

The Fight against Evil

10 Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. 11 Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. 12 We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. 13 So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day[a] comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.

14 Be ready! Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God’s justice protect you like armor. 15 Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet. 16 Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Let God’s saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God’s message that comes from the Spirit.

18 Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God’s people. 19 Pray that I will be given the message to speak and that I may fearlessly explain the mystery about the good news. 20 I was sent to do this work, and that’s the reason I am in jail. So pray that I will be brave and will speak as I should.

Final Greetings

21-22 I want you to know how I am getting along and what I am doing. That’s why I am sending Tychicus to you. He is a dear friend, as well as a faithful servant of the Lord. He will tell you how I am doing, and he will cheer you up.

23 I pray that God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will give peace, love, and faith to every follower! 24 May God be kind to everyone who keeps on loving our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes:

  1. 6.13 that evil day: Either the present (see 5.16) or <<the day of death>> or <<the day of judgment.’>

Psalm 70

(By David for the music leader. To be used when an offering is made.)

God Is Wonderful

70 Save me, Lord God!
    Hurry and help.
    Disappoint and confuse
    all who want to kill me.
Turn away and disgrace
    all who want to hurt me.
    Embarrass and shame those
    who say, “We told you so!”

Let your worshipers celebrate
    and be glad because of you.
They love your saving power,
so let them always say,
    “God is wonderful!”
I am poor and needy,
    but you, the Lord God,
    care about me.

You are the one who saves me.
    Please hurry and help!

Proverbs 24:8

-23-

No one but troublemakers
    think up trouble.

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