Today our passages are Ezekiel 35:1–36:38; James 1:1-18; Psalm 116:1-19; and Proverbs 27:23-27. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.
Ezekiel 35-36:38 (The Message)
A Pile of Rubble1-4 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, confront Mount Seir. Prophesy against it! Tell them, 'God, the Master, says: "'I'm coming down hard on you, Mount Seir.
I'm stepping in and turning you to a pile of rubble.
I'll reduce your towns to piles of rocks.
There'll be nothing left of you.
Then you'll realize that I am God.
5-9 "'I'm doing this because you've kept this age-old grudge going against Israel: You viciously attacked them when they were already down, looking their final punishment in the face. Therefore, as sure as I am the living God, I'm lining you up for a real bloodbath. Since you loved blood so much, you'll be chased by rivers of blood. I'll reduce Mount Seir to a heap of rubble. No one will either come or go from that place! I'll blanket your mountains with corpses. Massacred bodies will cover your hills and fill up your valleys and ditches. I'll reduce you to ruins and all your towns will be ghost towns—population zero. Then you'll realize that I am God.
10-13 "'Because you said, "These two nations, these two countries, are mine. I'm taking over" (even though God is right there watching, right there listening), I'll turn your hate-bloated anger and rage right back on you. You'll know I mean business when I bring judgment on you. You'll realize then that I, God, have overheard all the vile abuse you've poured out against the mountains of Israel, saying, "They're roadkill and we're going to eat them up." You've strutted around, talking so big, insolently pitting yourselves against me. And I've heard it all.
14-15 "'This is the verdict of God, the Master: With the whole earth applauding, I'll demolish you. Since you danced in the streets, thinking it was so wonderful when Israel's inheritance was demolished, I'll give you the same treatment: demolition. Mount Seir demolished—yes, every square inch of Edom. Then they'll realize that I am God!'"
Back to Your Own Land1-5 "And now, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel. Say, 'Mountains of Israel, listen to God's Message. God, the Master, says, Because the enemy crowed over you, "Good! Those old hills are now ours!" now here is a prophecy in the name of God, the Master: Because nations came at you from all sides, ripping and plundering, hauling pieces of you off every which way, and you've become the butt of cheap gossip and jokes, therefore, Mountains of Israel, listen to the Message of God, the Master. My Message to mountains and hills, to ditches and valleys, to the heaps of rubble and the emptied towns that are looted for plunder and turned into jokes by all the surrounding nations: Therefore, says God, the Master, now I'm speaking in a fiery rage against the rest of the nations, but especially against Edom, who in an orgy of violence and shameless insolence robbed me of my land, grabbed it for themselves.'
6-7 "Therefore prophesy over the land of Israel, preach to the mountains and hills, to every ditch and valley: 'The Message of God, the Master: Look! Listen! I'm angry—and I care. I'm speaking to you because you've been humiliated among the nations. Therefore I, God, the Master, am telling you that I've solemnly sworn that the nations around you are next. It's their turn to be humiliated.
8-12 "'But you, Mountains of Israel, will burst with new growth, putting out branches and bearing fruit for my people Israel. My people are coming home! Do you see? I'm back again. I'm on your side. You'll be plowed and planted as before! I'll see to it that your population grows all over Israel, that the towns fill up with people, that the ruins are rebuilt. I'll make this place teem with life—human and animal. The country will burst into life, life, and more life, your towns and villages full of people just as in the old days. I'll treat you better than I ever have. And you'll realize that I am God. I'll put people over you—my own people Israel! They'll take care of you and you'll be their inheritance. Never again will you be a harsh and unforgiving land to them.
13-15 "'God, the Master, says: Because you have a reputation of being a land that eats people alive and makes women barren, I'm now telling you that you'll never eat people alive again nor make women barren. Decree of God, the Master. And I'll never again let the taunts of outsiders be heard over you nor permit nations to look down on you. You'll no longer be a land that makes women barren. Decree of God, the Master.'"
16-21 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, when the people of Israel lived in their land, they polluted it by the way they lived. I poured out my anger on them because of the polluted blood they poured out on the ground. And so I got thoroughly angry with them polluting the country with their wanton murders and dirty gods. I kicked them out, exiled them to other countries. I sentenced them according to how they had lived. Wherever they went, they gave me a bad name. People said, 'These are God's people, but they got kicked off his land.' I suffered much pain over my holy reputation, which the people of Israel blackened in every country they entered.
22-23 "Therefore, tell Israel, 'Message of God, the Master: I'm not doing this for you, Israel. I'm doing it for me, to save my character, my holy name, which you've blackened in every country where you've gone. I'm going to put my great and holy name on display, the name that has been ruined in so many countries, the name that you blackened wherever you went. Then the nations will realize who I really am, that I am God, when I show my holiness through you so that they can see it with their own eyes.
24-28 "'For here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I'll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I'll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed. I'll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You'll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You'll be my people! I'll be your God!
29-30 "'I'll pull you out of that stinking pollution. I'll give personal orders to the wheat fields, telling them to grow bumper crops. I'll send no more famines. I'll make sure your fruit trees and field crops flourish. Other nations won't be able to hold you in contempt again because of famine.
31 "'And then you'll think back over your terrible lives—the evil, the shame—and be thoroughly disgusted with yourselves, realizing how badly you've lived—all those obscenities you've carried out.
32 "'I'm not doing this for you. Get this through your thick heads! Shame on you. What a mess you made of things, Israel!
33-36 "'Message of God, the Master: On the day I scrub you clean from all your filthy living, I'll also make your cities livable. The ruins will be rebuilt. The neglected land will be worked again, no longer overgrown with weeds and thistles, worthless in the eyes of passersby. People will exclaim, "Why, this weed patch has been turned into a Garden of Eden! And the ruined cities, smashed into oblivion, are now thriving!" The nations around you that are still in existence will realize that I, God, rebuild ruins and replant empty waste places. I, God, said so, and I'll do it.
37-38 "'Message of God, the Master: Yet again I'm going to do what Israel asks. I'll increase their population as with a flock of sheep. Like the milling flocks of sheep brought for sacrifices in Jerusalem during the appointed feasts, the ruined cities will be filled with flocks of people. And they'll realize that I am God.'"
James 1:1-18 (The Message)
James 11I, James, am a slave of God and the Master Jesus, writing to the twelve tribes scattered to Kingdom Come: Hello! Faith Under Pressure 2-4Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
5-8If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
9-11When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don't ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that's a picture of the "prosperous life." At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
12Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
13-15Don't let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, "God is trying to trip me up." God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one's way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
16-18So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
Psalm 116:1-19 (The Message)
He listened so intently
as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn't know which way to turn;
then I called out to God for help:
"Please, God!" I cried out.
"Save my life!"
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.
7-8 I said to myself, "Relax and rest.
God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you've been rescued from death;
Eye, you've been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling."
9-11 I'm striding in the presence of God,
alive in the land of the living!
I stayed faithful, though bedeviled,
and despite a ton of bad luck,
Despite giving up on the human race,
saying, "They're all liars and cheats."
12-19 What can I give back to God
for the blessings he's poured out on me?
I'll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
I'll pray in the name of God;
I'll complete what I promised God I'd do,
and I'll do it together with his people.
When they arrive at the gates of death,
God welcomes those who love him.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant,
your faithful servant: set me free for your service!
I'm ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice
and pray in the name of God.
I'll complete what I promised God I'd do,
and I'll do it in company with his people,
In the place of worship, in God's house,
in Jerusalem, God's city.
Proverbs 27:23-27 (The Message)
23-27 Know your sheep by name;
carefully attend to your flocks;
(Don't take them for granted;
possessions don't last forever, you know.)
And then, when the crops are in
and the harvest is stored in the barns,
You can knit sweaters from lambs' wool,
and sell your goats for a profit;
There will be plenty of milk and meat
to last your family through the winter.
Verse of the Day
Your word is a lamp that gives light wherever I walk.” - Psalm 119:105
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
American journalist, gossip columnist and author, perhaps best known for his nationally syndicated newspaper column, It Happened Last Night, Earl Wilson wrote, “Gossip is when you hear something you like about someone you don't.”