Today our passages are Deuteronomy 18:1–20:20; Luke 9:28-50; Psalm 73:1-28; and Proverbs 12:10. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Deuteronomy 18-20:20 (Contemporary English Version)
Special Privileges for Priests and Levites
(Numbers 18.8-32)1The people of the Levi tribe, including the priests, will not receive any land. Instead, they will receive part of the sacrifices that are offered to the LORD, 2because he has promised to provide for them in this way. 3When you sacrifice a bull or sheep, the priests will be given the shoulder, the jaws, and the stomach. a<="" value="[a]" > 4In addition, they will receive the first part of your grain harvest and part of your first batches of wine and olive oil. [b<="">] You must also give them the first wool that is cut from your sheep each year. 5Give these gifts to the priests, because the LORD has chosen them and their descendants out of all the tribes of Israel to be his special servants at the place of worship. 6Any Levite can leave his hometown, and go to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped, 7and then be a special servant of the LORD [c<="">] there, just like all the other Levites. 8Some Levites may have money from selling family possessions, and others may not. But all Levites serving at the place of worship will receive the same amount of food from the sacrifices and gifts brought by the people.
Don't Do Disgusting Things
Moses said to Israel:9Soon you will go into the land that the LORD your God is giving you. The nations that live there do things that are disgusting to the LORD, and you must not follow their example. 10-11Don't sacrifice your son or daughter. And don't try to use any kind of magic or witchcraft to tell fortunes [d<="">] or to cast spells or to talk with spirits of the dead. 12The LORD is disgusted with anyone who does these things, and that's why he will help you destroy the nations that are in the land. 13Never be guilty of doing any of these disgusting things!
A Prophet like Moses
Moses said to Israel:14You will go in and take the land from nations that practice magic and witchcraft. But the LORD your God won't allow you to do those things. 15Instead, he will choose one of your own people to be a prophet just like me, and you must do what that prophet says. 16You were asking for a prophet the day you were gathered at Mount Sinai [e<="">] and said to the LORD, " Please don't let us hear your voice or see this terrible fire again--if we do, we will die!" 17Then the LORD told me: Moses, they have said the right thing. 18So when I want to speak to them, I will choose one of them to be a prophet like you. I will give my message to that prophet, who will tell the people exactly what I have said. 19Since the message comes from me, anyone who doesn't obey the message will have to answer to me.
20But if I haven't spoken, and a prophet claims to have a message from me, you must kill that prophet, and you must also kill any prophet who claims to have a message from another god.
Moses said to Israel:21You may be asking yourselves, " How can we tell if a prophet's message really comes from the LORD?" 22You will know, because if the LORD says something will happen, it will happen. And if it doesn't, you will know that the prophet was falsely claiming to speak for the LORD. Don't be afraid of any prophet whose message doesn't come from the LORD. Moses said to Israel:
(Numbers 35.9-28; Joshua 20.1-9)1Soon you will go into the land and attack the nations. The LORD your God will destroy them and give you their lands, towns, and homes. Then after you are settled, 2-4you must choose three of your towns to be Safe Towns. Divide the land into three regions with one Safe Town near the middle of each, so that a Safe Town can be easily reached from anywhere in your land. Then, if one of you accidentally kills someone, you can run to a Safe Town and find protection from being put to death. But you must not have been angry with the person you killed.
5For example, suppose you and a friend go into the forest to cut wood. You are chopping down a tree with an ax, when the ax head slips off the handle, hits your friend, and kills him. You can run to one of the Safe Towns and save your life. 6You don't deserve to die, since you did not mean to harm your friend. But he did get killed, and his relatives might be very angry. They might even choose one of the men from their family to track you down and kill you. If it is too far to one of the Safe Towns, the victim's relative might be able to catch you and kill you. 7That's why I said there must be three Safe Towns.
8-9Israel, the LORD your God has promised that if you obey his laws and teachings I'm giving you, and if you always love him, then he will give you the land he promised your ancestors. When that happens, you must name three more Safe Towns in the new territory. 10You will need them, so innocent people won't be killed on your land while they are trying to reach a Safe Town that is too far away. You will be guilty of murder, if innocent people lose their lives because you didn't name enough Safe Towns in the land the LORD your God will give you.
11But what if you really do commit murder? Suppose one of you hates a neighbor. So you wait in a deserted place, kill the neighbor, and run to a Safe Town. 12If that happens, the leaders of your town must send messengers to bring you back from the Safe Town. They will hand you over to one of the victim's relatives, who will put you to death.
13Israel, for the good of the whole country, you must kill anyone who murders an innocent person. Never show mercy to a murderer!
Moses said to Israel:14In the land the LORD is giving you, there are already stones set up to mark the property lines between fields. So don't move those stones.
Witnesses Must Tell the Truth
Moses said to Israel:15Before you are convicted of a crime, at least two witnesses must be able to testify that you did it. 16If you accuse someone of a crime, but seem to be lying, 17-18then both you and the accused must be taken to the court at the place where the LORD is worshiped. There the priests and judges will find out if you are lying or telling the truth.
If you are lying and the accused is innocent, 19-21then you will be punished without mercy. You will receive the same punishment the accused would have received if found guilty, whether it means losing an eye, a tooth, a hand, a foot, or even your life.
Israel, the crime of telling lies in court must be punished. And when people hear what happens to witnesses that lie, everyone else who testifies in court will tell the truth.
Laws for Going to War
Moses said to Israel:1If you have to go to war, you may find yourselves facing an enemy army that is bigger than yours and that has horses and chariots. But don't be afraid! The LORD your God rescued you from Egypt, and he will help you fight. 2Before you march into battle, a priest will go to the front of the army 3and say, " Soldiers of Israel, listen to me! Today when you go into battle, don't be afraid of the enemy, and when you see them, don't panic. 4The LORD your God will fight alongside you and help you win the battle." 5Then the tribal officials will say to the troops:
If any of you have built a new house, but haven't yet moved in, you may go home. It isn't right for you to die in battle and for somebody else to live in your new house.
6If any of you have planted a vineyard but haven't had your first grape harvest, you may go home. It isn't right for you to die in battle and for somebody else to enjoy your grapes.
7If any of you are engaged to be married, you may go back home and get married. It isn't right for you to die in battle and for somebody else to marry the woman you are engaged to.
8Finally, if any of you are afraid, you may go home. We don't want you to discourage the other soldiers.
9When the officials are finished giving these orders, they will appoint officers to be in command of the army.
10-15Before you attack a town that is far from your land, offer peace to the people who live there. If they surrender and open their town gates, they will become your slaves. But if they reject your offer of peace and try to fight, surround their town and attack. Then, after the LORD helps you capture it, kill all the men. Take the women and children as slaves and keep the livestock and everything else of value.
16Whenever you capture towns in the land the LORD your God is giving you, be sure to kill all the people and animals. 17He has commanded you to completely wipe out the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 18If you allow them to live, they will persuade you to worship their disgusting gods, and you will be unfaithful to the LORD.
19When you are attacking a town, don't chop down its fruit trees, not even if you have had the town surrounded for a long time. Fruit trees aren't your enemies, and they produce food that you can eat, so don't cut them down. 20You may need wood to make ladders and towers to help you get over the walls and capture the town. But use only trees that you know are not fruit trees.
- Deuteronomy 18:3 stomach: Certain portions of the stomach were considered a delicacy.
- Deuteronomy 18:4 grain. . . olive oil: An Israelite was supposed to offer the first part of the harvest as a gift to the LORD (see Leviticus 23.10,11).
- Deuteronomy 18:7 a special servant of the LORD: Or " one of the LORD's priests."
- Deuteronomy 18:10 tell fortunes: Fortunetellers thought they could learn secrets or learn about the future by watching the flight of birds or looking at the livers of animals or in many other ways.
- Deuteronomy 18:16 Mount Sinai: See the note at 1.1-5.
Luke 9:28-50 (Contemporary English Version)
The True Glory of Jesus
(Matthew 17.1-8; Mark 9.2-8)28About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up on a mountain to pray. 29While he was praying, his face changed, and his clothes became shining white. 30Suddenly Moses and Elijah were there speaking with him. 31They appeared in heavenly glory and talked about all that Jesus' death a<="" value="[a]" > in Jerusalem would mean. 32Peter and the other two disciples had been sound asleep. All at once they woke up and saw how glorious Jesus was. They also saw the two men who were with him. 33Moses and Elijah were about to leave, when Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But Peter did not know what he was talking about.
34While Peter was still speaking, a shadow from a cloud passed over them, and they were frightened as the cloud covered them. 35From the cloud a voice spoke, "This is my chosen Son. Listen to what he says!"
36After the voice had spoken, Peter, John, and James saw only Jesus. For some time they kept quiet and did not say anything about what they had seen.
Jesus Heals a Boy
(Matthew 17.14-18; Mark 9.14-27)37The next day Jesus and his three disciples came down from the mountain and were met by a large crowd. 38Just then someone in the crowd shouted, "Teacher, please do something for my son! He is my only child! 39A demon often attacks him and makes him scream. It shakes him until he foams at the mouth, and it won't leave him until it has completely worn the boy out. 40I begged your disciples to force out the demon, but they couldn't do it." 41Jesus said to them, "You people are stubborn and don't have any faith! How much longer must I be with you? Why do I have to put up with you?"
Then Jesus said to the man, "Bring your son to me." 42While the boy was being brought, the demon attacked him and made him shake all over. Jesus ordered the demon to stop. Then he healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43Everyone was amazed at God's great power.
While everyone was still amazed at what Jesus was doing, he said to his disciples,
Jesus Again Speaks about His Death
(Matthew 17.22,23; Mark 9.30-32)44"Pay close attention to what I am telling you! The Son of Man will be handed over to his enemies." 45But the disciples did not know what he meant. The meaning was hidden from them. They could not understand it, and they were afraid to ask.
Who Is the Greatest?
(Matthew 18.1-5; Mark 9.33-37)46Jesus' disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. 47Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he had a child stand there beside him. 48Then he said to his disciples, "When you welcome even a child because of me, you welcome me. And when you welcome me, you welcome the one who sent me. Whichever one of you is the most humble is the greatest."
For or against Jesus
(Mark 9.38-40)49John said, "Master, we saw a man using your name to force demons out of people. But we told him to stop, because he isn't one of us." 50"Don't stop him!" Jesus said. "Anyone who isn't against you is for you."
- Luke 9:31 Jesus' death: In Greek this is " his departure," which probably includes his rising to life and his return to heaven.
Psalm 73:1-28 (Contemporary English Version)
(A psalm by Asaph.)
God Is Good1God is truly good to Israel, a<="" value="[a]" > especially to everyone with a pure heart.
2But I almost stumbled and fell,
3because it made me jealous
to see proud and evil people
and to watch them prosper.
4They never have to suffer, [b<="">] they stay healthy,
5and they don't have troubles
like everyone else.
6Their pride is like a necklace,
and they commit sin
than they dress themselves.
7Their eyes poke out with fat,
and their minds are flooded
with foolish thoughts.
8They sneer and say cruel things,
and because of their pride,
they make violent threats.
9They dare to speak against God
and to order others around.
10God will bring his people back,
and they will drink the water
he so freely gives. [c<="">] 11Only evil people would say,
"God Most High cannot
12Yet all goes well for them,
and they live in peace.
13What good did it do me
to keep my thoughts pure
and refuse to do wrong?
14I am sick all day,
and I am punished
15If I had said evil things,
I would not have been loyal
to your people.
16It was hard for me
to understand all this!
17Then I went to your temple,
and there I understood
what will happen
to my enemies.
18You will make them stumble,
never to get up again.
19They will be terrified,
suddenly swept away
and no longer there.
20They will disappear, Lord,
despised like a bad dream
the morning after.
21Once I was bitter
22I was stupid and ignorant,
and I treated you
as a wild animal would.
23But I never really left you,
and you hold my right hand.
24Your advice has been my guide,
and later you will welcome me
in glory. [d<="">] 25In heaven I have only you,
and on this earth
you are all I want.
26My body and mind may fail,
but you are my strength
and my choice forever.
27Powerful LORD God,
all who stay far from you
will be lost,
and you will destroy those
who are unfaithful.
28It is good for me
to be near you.
I choose you as my protector,
and I will tell about
your wonderful deeds.
Proverbs 12:10 (Contemporary English Version)
10Good people are kind
to their animals,
but a mean person is cruel.
Verse of the Day
“[(A psalm by David for the music leader.)][No One Can Ignore the LORD]Only a fool would say, "There is no God!" People like that are worthless; they are heartless and cruel and never do right.” - Psalm 14:1
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
English writer, humorist, and dramatist, Douglas Adams wrote, “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”