Today our passages are Deuteronomy 31:1–32:27; Luke 12:8-34; Psalm 78:32-55; and Proverbs 12:21-23. 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 31-32:27 (The Message)
The Charge1-2Moses went on and addressed these words to all Israel. He said, "I'm 120 years old today. I can't get about as I used to. And God told me, 'You're not going to cross this Jordan River.' 3-5 "God, your God, will cross the river ahead of you and destroy the nations in your path so that you may dispossess them. (And Joshua will cross the river before you, as God said he would.) God will give the nations the same treatment he gave the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, and their land; he'll destroy them. God will hand the nations over to you, and you'll treat them exactly as I have commanded you. 6 "Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you."
7-8 Then Moses summoned Joshua. He said to him with all Israel watching, "Be strong. Take courage. You will enter the land with this people, this land that God promised their ancestors that he'd give them. You will make them the proud possessors of it. God is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you. Don't be intimidated. Don't worry."
9-13 Moses wrote out this Revelation and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the Chest of the Covenant of God, and to all the leaders of Israel. And he gave these orders: "At the end of every seven years, the Year-All-Debts-Are-Canceled, during the pilgrim Festival of Booths when everyone in Israel comes to appear in the Presence of God, your God, at the place he designates, read out this Revelation to all Israel, with everyone listening. Gather the people together—men, women, children, and the foreigners living among you—so they can listen well, so they may learn to live in holy awe before God, your God, and diligently keep everything in this Revelation. And do this so that their children, who don't yet know all this, will also listen and learn to live in holy awe before God, your God, for as long as you live on the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess."
14-15 God spoke to Moses: "You are about to die. So call Joshua. Meet me in the Tent of Meeting so that I can commission him."
So Moses and Joshua went and stationed themselves in the Tent of Meeting. God appeared in the Tent in a Pillar of Cloud. The Cloud was near the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.
16-18 God spoke to Moses: "You're about to die and be buried with your ancestors. You'll no sooner be in the grave than this people will be up and whoring after the foreign gods of this country that they are entering. They will abandon me and violate my Covenant that I've made with them. I'll get angry, oh so angry! I'll walk off and leave them on their own, won't so much as look back at them. Then many calamities and disasters will devastate them because they are defenseless. They'll say, 'Isn't it because our God wasn't here that all this evil has come upon us?' But I'll stay out of their lives, keep looking the other way because of all their evil: they took up with other gods!
19-21 "But for right now, copy down this song and teach the People of Israel to sing it by heart. They'll have it then as my witness against them. When I bring them into the land that I promised to their ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey, and they eat and become full and get fat and then begin fooling around with other gods and worshiping them, and then things start falling apart, many terrible things happening, this song will be there with them as a witness to who they are and what went wrong. Their children won't forget this song; they'll be singing it. Don't think I don't know what they are already scheming to do, and they're not even in the land yet, this land I promised them."
22 So Moses wrote down this song that very day and taught it to the People of Israel.
23 Then God commanded Joshua son of Nun saying, "Be strong. Take courage. You will lead the People of Israel into the land I promised to give them. And I'll be right there with you."
24-26 After Moses had finished writing down the words of this Revelation in a book, right down to the last word, he ordered the Levites who were responsible for carrying the Chest of the Covenant of God, saying, "Take this Book of Revelation and place it alongside the Chest of the Covenant of God, your God. Keep it there as a witness.
27-29 "I know what rebels you are, how stubborn and willful you can be. Even today, while I'm still alive and present with you, you're rebellious against God. How much worse when I've died! So gather the leaders of the tribes and the officials here. I have something I need to say directly to them with Heaven and Earth as witnesses. I know that after I die you're going to make a mess of things, abandoning the way I commanded, inviting all kinds of evil consequences in the days ahead. You're determined to do evil in defiance of God—I know you are—deliberately provoking his anger by what you do."
30 So with everyone in Israel gathered and listening, Moses taught them the words of this song, from start to finish.
The Song1-5 Listen, Heavens, I have something to tell you. Attention, Earth, I've got a mouth full of words. My teaching, let it fall like a gentle rain,
my words arrive like morning dew,
Like a sprinkling rain on new grass,
like spring showers on the garden.
For it's God's Name I'm preaching—
respond to the greatness of our God!
The Rock: His works are perfect,
and the way he works is fair and just;
A God you can depend upon, no exceptions,
a straight-arrow God.
His messed-up, mixed-up children, his non-children,
throw mud at him but none of it sticks.
6-7 Don't you realize it is God you are treating like this?
This is crazy; don't you have any sense of reverence?
Isn't this your father who created you,
who made you and gave you a place on Earth?
Read up on what happened before you were born;
dig into the past, understand your roots.
Ask your parents what it was like before you were born;
ask the old-ones, they'll tell you a thing or two.
8-9 When the High God gave the nations their stake,
gave them their place on Earth,
He put each of the peoples within boundaries
under the care of divine guardians.
But God himself took charge of his people,
took Jacob on as his personal concern.
10-14 He found him out in the wilderness,
in an empty, windswept wasteland.
He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him,
guarding him as the apple of his eye.
He was like an eagle hovering over its nest,
overshadowing its young,
Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air,
teaching them to fly.
God alone led him;
there was not a foreign god in sight.
God lifted him onto the hilltops,
so he could feast on the crops in the fields.
He fed him honey from the rock,
oil from granite crags,
Curds of cattle and the milk of sheep,
the choice cuts of lambs and goats,
Fine Bashan rams, high-quality wheat,
and the blood of grapes: you drank good wine!
15-18 Jeshurun put on weight and bucked;
you got fat, became obese, a tub of lard.
He abandoned the God who made him,
he mocked the Rock of his salvation.
They made him jealous with their foreign newfangled gods,
and with obscenities they vexed him no end.
They sacrificed to no-god demons,
gods they knew nothing about,
The latest in gods, fresh from the market,
gods your ancestors would never call "gods."
You walked out on the Rock who gave you your life,
forgot the birth-God who brought you into the world.
19-25 God saw it and turned on his heel,
angered and hurt by his sons and daughters.
He said, "From now on I'm looking the other way.
Wait and see what happens to them.
Oh, they're a turned-around, upside-down generation!
Who knows what they'll do from one moment to the next?
They've goaded me with their no-gods,
infuriated me with their hot-air gods;
I'm going to goad them with a no-people,
with a hollow nation incense them.
My anger started a fire,
a wildfire burning deep down in Sheol,
Then shooting up and devouring the Earth and its crops,
setting all the mountains, from bottom to top, on fire.
I'll pile catastrophes on them,
I'll shoot my arrows at them:
Starvation, blistering heat, killing disease;
I'll send snarling wild animals to attack from the forest
and venomous creatures to strike from the dust.
Killing in the streets,
terror in the houses,
Young men and virgins alike struck down,
and yes, breast-feeding babies and gray-haired old men."
26-27 I could have said, "I'll hack them to pieces,
wipe out all trace of them from the Earth,"
Except that I feared the enemy would grab the chance
to take credit for all of it,
Crowing, "Look what we did!
God had nothing to do with this."
Luke 12:8-34 (The Message)
8-9"Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all God's angels. But if you pretend you don't know me, do you think I'll defend you before God's angels?
10"If you bad-mouth the Son of Man out of misunderstanding or ignorance, that can be overlooked. But if you're knowingly attacking God himself, taking aim at the Holy Spirit, that won't be overlooked.
11-12"When they drag you into their meeting places, or into police courts and before judges, don't worry about defending yourselves—what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes."
The Story of the Greedy Farmer
13Someone out of the crowd said, "Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance."
14He replied, "Mister, what makes you think it's any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?"
15Speaking to the people, he went on, "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot."
16-19Then he told them this story: "The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grain and goods, and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well! You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!'
20"Just then God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?'
21"That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God."
Steep Yourself in God-Reality
22-24He continued this subject with his disciples. "Don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or if the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your inner life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.
25-28"Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can't even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don't fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
29-32"What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.
33-34"Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can't go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.
Psalm 78:32-55 (The Message)
32-37 And—can you believe it?—they kept right on sinning;
all those wonders and they still wouldn't believe!
So their lives dribbled off to nothing—
nothing to show for their lives but a ghost town.
When he cut them down, they came running for help;
they turned and pled for mercy.
They gave witness that God was their rock,
that High God was their redeemer,
But they didn't mean a word of it;
they lied through their teeth the whole time.
They could not have cared less about him,
wanted nothing to do with his Covenant.
38-55 And God? Compassionate!
Forgave the sin! Didn't destroy!
Over and over he reined in his anger,
restrained his considerable wrath.
He knew what they were made of;
he knew there wasn't much to them,
How often in the desert they had spurned him,
tried his patience in those wilderness years.
Time and again they pushed him to the limit,
provoked Israel's Holy God.
How quickly they forgot what he'd done,
forgot their day of rescue from the enemy,
When he did miracles in Egypt,
wonders on the plain of Zoan.
He turned the River and its streams to blood—
not a drop of water fit to drink.
He sent flies, which ate them alive,
and frogs, which bedeviled them.
He turned their harvest over to caterpillars,
everything they had worked for to the locusts.
He flattened their grapevines with hail;
a killing frost ruined their orchards.
He pounded their cattle with hail,
let thunderbolts loose on their herds.
His anger flared,
a wild firestorm of havoc,
An advance guard of disease-carrying angels
to clear the ground, preparing the way before him.
He didn't spare those people,
he let the plague rage through their lives.
He killed all the Egyptian firstborns,
lusty infants, offspring of Ham's virility.
Then he led his people out like sheep,
took his flock safely through the wilderness.
He took good care of them; they had nothing to fear.
The Sea took care of their enemies for good.
He brought them into his holy land,
this mountain he claimed for his own.
He scattered everyone who got in their way;
he staked out an inheritance for them—
the tribes of Israel all had their own places.
Proverbs 12:21-23 (The Message)
21 No evil can overwhelm a good person,
but the wicked have their hands full of it.
22 God can't stomach liars;
he loves the company of those who keep their word.
23 Prudent people don't flaunt their knowledge;
talkative fools broadcast their silliness.
Verse of the Day
“I have died, but Christ lives in me. And I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.” - Galatians 2:20
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
The foremost Unitarian preacher in the United States in the early nineteenth century, William Ellery Channing wrote, “War is to be ranked among the most dreadful calamities which fall on a guilty world; and, what deserves consideration, it tends to multiply and perpetuate itself without end. It feeds and grows on the blood which it sheds. The passions, from which it springs, gain strength and fury from indulgence.”