Today our passages are Isaiah 37:1–38:22; Galatians 6:1-18; Psalm 65:1-13; and Proverbs 23:24-25. 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 by using the link below.
Isaiah 37-38:22 (The Message)
The Only God There Is1-2 When King Hezekiah heard the report, he also tore his clothes and dressed in rough, penitential burlap gunnysacks, and went into the sanctuary of God. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, all of them also dressed in penitential burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3-4They said to him, "Hezekiah says, 'This is a black day. We're in crisis. We're like pregnant women without even the strength to have a baby! Do you think your God heard what the Rabshekah said, sent by his master the king of Assyria to mock the living God? And do you think your God will do anything about it? Pray for us, Isaiah. Pray for those of us left here holding the fort!'"
5-7Then King Hezekiah's servants came to Isaiah. Isaiah said, "Tell your master this, 'God's Message: Don't be upset by what you've heard, all those words the servants of the Assyrian king have used to mock me. I personally will take care of him. I'll arrange it so that he'll get a rumor of bad news back home and rush home to take care of it. And he'll die there. Killed—a violent death.'"
8The Rabshekah left and found the king of Assyria fighting against Libnah. (He had gotten word that the king had left Lachish.)
9-13Just then the Assyrian king received an intelligence report on King Tirhakah of Ethiopia: "He is on his way to make war on you."
On hearing that, he sent messengers to Hezekiah with instructions to deliver this message: "Don't let your God, on whom you so naively lean, deceive you, promising that Jerusalem won't fall to the king of Assyria. Use your head! Look around at what the kings of Assyria have done all over the world—one country after another devastated! And do you think you're going to get off? Have any of the gods of any of these countries ever stepped in and saved them, even one of these nations my predecessors destroyed—Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who lived in Telassar? Look around. Do you see anything left of the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, the king of Ivvah?"
14Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God.
15-20Then Hezekiah prayed to God: "God-of-the-Angel-Armies, enthroned over the cherubim-angels, you are God, the only God there is, God of all kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth. Listen, O God, and hear. Look, O God, and see. Mark all these words of Sennacherib that he sent to mock the living God. It's quite true, O God, that the kings of Assyria have devastated all the nations and their lands. They've thrown their gods into the trash and burned them—no great achievement since they were no-gods anyway, gods made in workshops, carved from wood and chiseled from rock. An end to the no-gods! But now step in, O God, our God. Save us from him. Let all the kingdoms of earth know that you and you alone are God."
21-25Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this word to Hezekiah: "God's Message, the God of Israel: Because you brought King Sennacherib of Assyria to me in prayer, here is my answer, God's answer:
"'She has no use for you, Sennacherib, nothing but contempt,
this virgin daughter Zion.
She spits at you and turns on her heel,
this daughter Jerusalem.
"'Who do you think you've been mocking and reviling
all these years?
Who do you think you've been jeering
and treating with such utter contempt
All these years?
The Holy of Israel!
You've used your servants to mock the Master.
You've bragged, "With my fleet of chariots
I've gone to the highest mountain ranges,
penetrated the far reaches of Lebanon,
Chopped down its giant cedars,
its finest cypresses.
I conquered its highest peak,
explored its deepest forest.
I dug wells
and drank my fill.
I emptied the famous rivers of Egypt
with one kick of my foot.
26-27"'Haven't you gotten the news
that I've been behind this all along?
This is a longstanding plan of mine
and I'm just now making it happen,
using you to devastate strong cities,
turning them into piles of rubble
and leaving their citizens helpless,
bewildered, and confused,
drooping like unwatered plants,
stunted like withered seedlings.
28-29"'I know all about your pretentious poses,
your officious comings and goings,
and, yes, the tantrums you throw against me.
Because of all your wild raging against me,
your unbridled arrogance that I keep hearing of,
I'll put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth.
I'll show you who's boss. I'll turn you around
and take you back to where you came from.
30-32"'And this, Hezekiah, will be your confirming sign: This year's crops will be slim pickings, and next year it won't be much better. But in three years, farming will be back to normal, with regular sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting. What's left of the people of Judah will put down roots and make a new start. The people left in Jerusalem will get moving again. Mount Zion survivors will take hold again. The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.'
33-35"Finally, this is God's verdict on the king of Assyria:
"'Don't worry, he won't enter this city,
won't let loose a single arrow,
Won't brandish so much as one shield,
let alone build a siege ramp against it.
He'll go back the same way he came.
He won't set a foot in this city.
I've got my hand on this city
to save it,
Save it for my very own sake,
but also for the sake of my David dynasty.'"
36-38Then the Angel of God arrived and struck the Assyrian camp— 185,000 Assyrians died. By the time the sun came up, they were all dead—an army of corpses! Sennacherib, king of Assyria, got out of there fast, back home to Nineveh. As he was worshiping in the sanctuary of his god Nisroch, he was murdered by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer. They escaped to the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon became the next king.
Time Spent in Death's Waiting Room1 At that time, Hezekiah got sick. He was about to die. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz visited him and said, "God says, 'Prepare your affairs and your family. This is it: You're going to die. You're not going to get well.'" 2-3Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah and, facing the wall, prayed to God: "God, please, I beg you: Remember how I've lived my life. I've lived faithfully in your presence, lived out of a heart that was totally yours. You've seen how I've lived, the good that I have done." And Hezekiah wept as he prayed—painful tears. 4-6Then God told Isaiah, "Go and speak with Hezekiah. Give him this Message from me, God, the God of your ancestor David: 'I've heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here's what I'll do: I'll add fifteen years to your life. And I'll save both you and this city from the king of Assyria. I have my hand on this city.
7-8"'And this is your confirming sign, confirming that I, God, will do exactly what I have promised. Watch for this: As the sun goes down and the shadow lengthens on the sundial of Ahaz, I'm going to reverse the shadow ten notches on the dial.'" And that's what happened: The declining sun's shadow reversed ten notches on the dial.
9-15This is what Hezekiah king of Judah wrote after he'd been sick and then recovered from his sickness:
In the very prime of life
I have to leave.
Whatever time I have left
is spent in death's waiting room.
No more glimpses of God
in the land of the living,
No more meetings with my neighbors,
no more rubbing shoulders with friends.
This body I inhabit is taken down
and packed away like a camper's tent.
Like a weaver, I've rolled up the carpet of my life
as God cuts me free of the loom
And at day's end sweeps up the scraps and pieces.
I cry for help until morning.
Like a lion, God pummels and pounds me,
relentlessly finishing me off.
I squawk like a doomed hen,
moan like a dove.
My eyes ache from looking up for help:
"Master, I'm in trouble! Get me out of this!"
But what's the use? God himself gave me the word.
He's done it to me.
I can't sleep—
I'm that upset, that troubled.
16-19O Master, these are the conditions in which people live,
and yes, in these very conditions my spirit is still alive—
fully recovered with a fresh infusion of life!
It seems it was good for me
to go through all those troubles.
Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline.
You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing.
But my sins you let go of,
threw them over your shoulder—good riddance!
The dead don't thank you,
and choirs don't sing praises from the morgue.
Those buried six feet under
don't witness to your faithful ways.
It's the living—live men, live women—who thank you,
just as I'm doing right now.
Parents give their children
full reports on your faithful ways.
20God saves and will save me.
As fiddles and mandolins strike up the tunes,
We'll sing, oh we'll sing, sing,
for the rest of our lives in the Sanctuary of God.
21-22Isaiah had said, "Prepare a poultice of figs and put it on the boil so he may recover."
Hezekiah had said, "What is my cue that it's all right to enter again the Sanctuary of God?"
Galatians 6:1-18 (The Message)
Nothing but the Cross1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. 4-5Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
6Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
7-8Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
9-10So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
11-13Now, in these last sentences, I want to emphasize in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you. These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ's suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don't keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!
14-16For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!
17Quite frankly, I don't want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.
18May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends. Oh, yes!
Psalm 65:1-13 (The Message)
A David Psalm1-2 Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.
2-8 We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they'll come to a stop,
they'll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, "Come and worship."
9-13 Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!
Proverbs 23:24-25 (The Message)
Buy Wisdom, Education, Insight
1622-25 Listen with respect to the father who raised you,
and when your mother grows old, don't neglect her.
Buy truth—don't sell it for love or money;
buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight.
Parents rejoice when their children turn out well;
wise children become proud parents.
So make your father happy!
Make your mother proud!
Verse of the Day
Thought for the Day
Eccentric U.S. saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace in Val Verde County, Texas, who called himself "The Law West of the Pecos", Roy Bean wrote, “And Fall, with her yeller harvest moon and the hills growin' brown and golden under a sinkin' sun.”