Today our passages are Isaiah 8:1–9:21; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Psalm 55:1-23; and Proverbs 23:4-5. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you missed a day, you can find all the readings at our blog, The Bible in a Year. 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.
Isaiah 8-9:21 (The Message)
Isaiah 81 Then God told me, "Get a big sheet of paper and write in indelible ink, 'This belongs to Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Spoil-Speeds-Plunder-Hurries).'" 2-3I got two honest men, Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah, to witness the document. Then I went home to my wife, the prophetess. She conceived and gave birth to a son.
3-4God told me, "Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Before that baby says 'Daddy' or 'Mamma' the king of Assyria will have plundered the wealth of Damascus and the riches of Samaria."
5-8God spoke to me again, saying:
"Because this people has turned its back
on the gently flowing stream of Shiloah
And gotten all excited over Rezin
and the son of Remaliah,
I'm stepping in and facing them with
the wild floodwaters of the Euphrates,
The king of Assyria and all his fanfare,
a river in flood, bursting its banks,
Pouring into Judah, sweeping everything before it,
water up to your necks,
A huge wingspan of a raging river,
O Immanuel, spreading across your land."
9-10But face the facts, all you oppressors, and then wring your hands.
Listen, all of you, far and near.
Prepare for the worst and wring your hands.
Yes, prepare for the worst and wring your hands!
Plan and plot all you want—nothing will come of it.
All your talk is mere talk, empty words,
Because when all is said and done,
the last word is Immanuel—God-With-Us.
A Boulder Blocking Your Way11-15God spoke strongly to me, grabbed me with both hands and warned me not to go along with this people. He said: "Don't be like this people,
always afraid somebody is plotting against them.
Don't fear what they fear.
Don't take on their worries.
If you're going to worry,
worry about The Holy. Fear God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
The Holy can be either a Hiding Place
or a Boulder blocking your way,
The Rock standing in the willful way
of both houses of Israel,
A barbed-wire Fence preventing trespass
to the citizens of Jerusalem.
Many of them are going to run into that Rock
and get their bones broken,
Get tangled up in that barbed wire
and not get free of it."
16-18Gather up the testimony,
preserve the teaching for my followers,
While I wait for God as long as he remains in hiding,
while I wait and hope for him.
I stand my ground and hope,
I and the children God gave me as signs to Israel,
Warning signs and hope signs from God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
who makes his home in Mount Zion.
19-22When people tell you, "Try out the fortunetellers.
Consult the spiritualists.
Why not tap into the spirit-world,
get in touch with the dead?"
Tell them, "No, we're going to study the Scriptures."
People who try the other ways get nowhere—a dead end!
Frustrated and famished,
they try one thing after another.
When nothing works out they get angry,
cursing first this god and then that one,
Looking this way and that,
up, down, and sideways—and seeing nothing,
A blank wall, an empty hole.
They end up in the dark with nothing.
A Child Has Been Born—for Us!1 But there'll be no darkness for those who were in trouble. Earlier he did bring the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali into disrepute, but the time is coming when he'll make that whole area glorious— the road along the Sea, the country past the Jordan, international Galilee. 2-7The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
you expanded its joy.
Oh, they're so glad in your presence!
The joy of a great celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
as surprising and sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He'll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He'll rule from the historic David throne
over that promised kingdom.
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will do all this.
God Answered Fire with Fire8-10The Master sent a message against Jacob.
It landed right on Israel's doorstep.
All the people soon heard the message,
Ephraim and the citizens of Samaria.
But they were a proud and arrogant bunch.
They dismissed the message, saying,
"Things aren't that bad.
We can handle anything that comes.
If our buildings are knocked down,
we'll rebuild them bigger and finer.
If our forests are cut down,
we'll replant them with finer trees." 11-12So God incited their adversaries against them,
stirred up their enemies to attack:
From the east, Arameans; from the west, Philistines.
They made hash of Israel.
But even after that, he was still angry,
his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.
13-17But the people paid no mind to him who hit them,
didn't seek God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
So God hacked off Israel's head and tail,
palm branch and reed, both on the same day.
The big-head elders were the head,
the lying prophets were the tail.
Those who were supposed to lead this people
led them down blind alleys,
And those who followed the leaders
ended up lost and confused.
That's why the Master lost interest in the young men,
had no feeling for their orphans and widows.
All of them were godless and evil,
talking filth and folly.
And even after that, he was still angry,
his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.
18-21Their wicked lives raged like an out-of-control fire,
the kind that burns everything in its path—
Trees and bushes, weeds and grasses—
filling the skies with smoke.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies answered fire with fire,
set the whole country on fire,
Turned the people into consuming fires,
consuming one another in their lusts—
Appetites insatiable, stuffing and gorging
themselves left and right with people and things.
But still they starved. Not even their children
were safe from their rapacious hunger.
Manasseh ate Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh,
and then the two ganged up against Judah.
And after that, he was still angry,
his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (The Message)
2 Corinthians 12
Strength from Weakness1-5You've forced me to talk this way, and I do it against my better judgment. But now that we're at it, I may as well bring up the matter of visions and revelations that God gave me. For instance, I know a man who, fourteen years ago, was seized by Christ and swept in ecstasy to the heights of heaven. I really don't know if this took place in the body or out of it; only God knows. I also know that this man was hijacked into paradise—again, whether in or out of the body, I don't know; God knows. There he heard the unspeakable spoken, but was forbidden to tell what he heard. This is the man I want to talk about. But about myself, I'm not saying another word apart from the humiliations. 6If I had a mind to brag a little, I could probably do it without looking ridiculous, and I'd still be speaking plain truth all the way. But I'll spare you. I don't want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you'd encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk.
7-10Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it's all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
Psalm 55:1-23 (The Message)
A David Psalm1-3 Open your ears, God, to my prayer; don't pretend you don't hear me knocking.
Come close and whisper your answer.
I really need you.
I shudder at the mean voice,
quail before the evil eye,
As they pile on the guilt,
stockpile angry slander.
4-8 My insides are turned inside out;
specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
I shudder from head to foot.
"Who will give me wings," I ask—
"wings like a dove?"
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I'm desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.
9-11 Come down hard, Lord—slit their tongues.
I'm appalled how they've split the city
Into rival gangs
prowling the alleys
Day and night spoiling for a fight,
trash piled in the streets,
Even shopkeepers gouging and cheating
in broad daylight.
12-14 This isn't the neighborhood bully
mocking me—I could take that.
This isn't a foreign devil spitting
invective—I could tune that out.
It's you! We grew up together!
You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.
15 Haul my betrayers off alive to hell—let them
experience the horror, let them
feel every desolate detail of a damned life.
16-19 I call to God;
God will help me.
At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh
deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.
My life is well and whole, secure
in the middle of danger
Even while thousands
are lined up against me.
God hears it all, and from his judge's bench
puts them in their place.
But, set in their ways, they won't change;
they pay him no mind.
20-21 And this, my best friend, betrayed his best friends;
his life betrayed his word.
All my life I've been charmed by his speech,
never dreaming he'd turn on me.
His words, which were music to my ears,
turned to daggers in my heart.
22-23 Pile your troubles on God's shoulders—
he'll carry your load, he'll help you out.
He'll never let good people
topple into ruin.
But you, God, will throw the others
into a muddy bog,
Cut the lifespan of assassins
and traitors in half. And I trust in you.
A David Psalm, When He Was Capturedby the Philistines in Gath
Proverbs 23:4-5 (The Message)
74-5 Don't wear yourself out trying to get rich;
Riches disappear in the blink of an eye;
wealth sprouts wings
and flies off into the wild blue yonder.
Verse for the Day
Thought for the Day
Latin writer of sententiae, Publilius Syrus wrote, “No one knows what he can do until he tries.”