Today our passages are Isaiah 43:14–45:10; Ephesians 3:1-21; Psalm 68:1-18; and Proverbs 24:1-2. 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 43:14-45:10 (The Message)
You Didn't Even Do the Minimum14-15God, your Redeemer,
The Holy of Israel, says:
"Just for you, I will march on Babylon.
I'll turn the tables on the Babylonians.
Instead of whooping it up,
they'll be wailing.
I am God, your Holy One,
Creator of Israel, your King." 16-21This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can't get up;
they're snuffed out like so many candles:
"Forget about what's happened;
don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new.
It's bursting out! Don't you see it?
There it is! I'm making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say 'Thank you!'
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself,
a people custom-made to praise me.
22-24"But you didn't pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob.
You so quickly tired of me, Israel.
You wouldn't even bring sheep for offerings in worship.
You couldn't be bothered with sacrifices.
It wasn't that I asked that much from you.
I didn't expect expensive presents.
But you didn't even do the minimum—
so stingy with me, so closefisted.
Yet you haven't been stingy with your sins.
You've been plenty generous with them—and I'm fed up.
25"But I, yes I, am the one
who takes care of your sins—that's what I do.
I don't keep a list of your sins.
26-28"So, make your case against me. Let's have this out.
Make your arguments. Prove you're in the right.
Your original ancestor started the sinning,
and everyone since has joined in.
That's why I had to disqualify the Temple leaders,
repudiate Jacob and discredit Israel."
Proud to Be Called Israel1-5 "But for now, dear servant Jacob, listen—
yes, you, Israel, my personal choice.
God who made you has something to say to you;
the God who formed you in the womb wants to help you.
Don't be afraid, dear servant Jacob,
Jeshurun, the one I chose.
For I will pour water on the thirsty ground
and send streams coursing through the parched earth.
I will pour my Spirit into your descendants
and my blessing on your children.
They shall sprout like grass on the prairie,
like willows alongside creeks.
This one will say, 'I am God's,'
and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand 'God's property'—
and be proud to be called Israel." 6-8God, King of Israel,
your Redeemer, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says:
"I'm first, I'm last, and everything in between.
I'm the only God there is.
Who compares with me?
Speak up. See if you measure up.
From the beginning, who else has always announced what's coming?
So what is coming next? Anybody want to venture a try?
Don't be afraid, and don't worry:
Haven't I always kept you informed, told you what was going on?
You're my eyewitnesses:
Have you ever come across a God, a real God, other than me?
There's no Rock like me that I know of."
Lover of Emptiness9-11All those who make no-god idols don't amount to a thing, and what they work so hard at making is nothing. Their little puppet-gods see nothing and know nothing—they're total embarrassments! Who would bother making gods that can't do anything, that can't "god"? Watch all the no-god worshipers hide their faces in shame. Watch the no-god makers slink off humiliated when their idols fail them. Get them out here in the open. Make them face God-reality. 12The blacksmith makes his no-god, works it over in his forge, hammering it on his anvil—such hard work! He works away, fatigued with hunger and thirst.
13-17The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god, traces it on a block of wood. He shapes it with chisels and planes into human shape—a beautiful woman, a handsome man, ready to be placed in a chapel. He first cuts down a cedar, or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain. Then it can serve a double purpose: Part he uses as firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part he makes a god that he worships—carves it into a god shape and prays before it. With half he makes a fire to warm himself and barbecue his supper. He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: "Ah, this is the life." And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design—a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, "Save me. You're my god."
18-19Pretty stupid, wouldn't you say? Don't they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? Doesn't it occur to them to say, "Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat, and enjoyed a good meal. And now I've used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!"
20This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can't even look at what he's doing, can't even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, "This is crazy."
21-22"Remember these things, O Jacob.
Take it seriously, Israel, that you're my servant.
I made you, shaped you: You're my servant.
O Israel, I'll never forget you.
I've wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings.
There's nothing left of your sins.
Come back to me, come back.
I've redeemed you."
23High heavens, sing!
God has done it.
Deep earth, shout!
And you mountains, sing!
A forest choir of oaks and pines and cedars!
God has redeemed Jacob.
God's glory is on display in Israel.
24God, your Redeemer,
who shaped your life in your mother's womb, says:
"I am God. I made all that is.
With no help from you I spread out the skies
and laid out the earth."
25-28He makes the magicians look ridiculous
and turns fortunetellers into jokes.
He makes the experts look trivial
and their latest knowledge look silly.
But he backs the word of his servant
and confirms the counsel of his messengers.
He says to Jerusalem, "Be inhabited,"
and to the cities of Judah, "Be rebuilt,"
and to the ruins, "I raise you up."
He says to Ocean, "Dry up.
I'm drying up your rivers."
He says to Cyrus, "My shepherd—
everything I want, you'll do it."
He says to Jerusalem, "Be built,"
and to the Temple, "Be established."
The God Who Forms Light and Darkness1-7 God's Message to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom he took by the hand
To give the task of taming the nations,
of terrifying their kings—
He gave him free rein,
"I'll go ahead of you,
clearing and paving the road.
I'll break down bronze city gates,
smash padlocks, kick down barred entrances.
I'll lead you to buried treasures,
secret caches of valuables—
Confirmations that it is, in fact, I, God,
the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
It's because of my dear servant Jacob,
Israel my chosen,
That I've singled you out, called you by name,
and given you this privileged work.
And you don't even know me!
I am God, the only God there is.
Besides me there are no real gods.
I'm the one who armed you for this work,
though you don't even know me,
So that everyone, from east to west, will know
that I have no god-rivals.
I am God, the only God there is.
I form light and create darkness,
I make harmonies and create discords.
I, God, do all these things. 8-10"Open up, heavens, and rain.
Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness!
Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation;
sprout right living.
I, God, generate all this.
But doom to you who fight your Maker—
you're a pot at odds with the potter!
Does clay talk back to the potter:
'What are you doing? What clumsy fingers!'
Would a sperm say to a father,
'Who gave you permission to use me to make a baby?'
Or a fetus to a mother,
'Why have you cooped me up in this belly?'"
Ephesians 3:1-21 (The Message)
The Secret Plan of God1-3This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. I take it that you're familiar with the part I was given in God's plan for including everybody. I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief. 4-6As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.
7-8This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.
8-10And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
11-13All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don't let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!
14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
20-21God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
Psalm 68:1-18 (The Message)
A David Psalm1-4 Up with God! Down with his enemies!
Adversaries, run for the hills!
Gone like a puff of smoke,
like a blob of wax in the fire—
one look at God and the wicked vanish.
When the righteous see God in action
they'll laugh, they'll sing,
they'll laugh and sing for joy.
Sing hymns to God;
all heaven, sing out;
clear the way for the coming of Cloud-Rider.
cheer when you see him!
5-6 Father of orphans,
champion of widows,
is God in his holy house.
God makes homes for the homeless,
leads prisoners to freedom,
but leaves rebels to rot in hell.
7-10 God, when you took the lead with your people,
when you marched out into the wild,
Earth shook, sky broke out in a sweat;
God was on the march.
Even Sinai trembled at the sight of God on the move,
at the sight of Israel's God.
You pour out rain in buckets, O God;
thorn and cactus become an oasis
For your people to camp in and enjoy.
You set them up in business;
they went from rags to riches.
11-14 The Lord gave the word;
thousands called out the good news:
"Kings of the armies
are on the run, on the run!"
While housewives, safe and sound back home,
divide up the plunder,
the plunder of Canaanite silver and gold.
On that day that Shaddai scattered the kings,
snow fell on Black Mountain.
15-16 You huge mountains, Bashan mountains,
mighty mountains, dragon mountains.
All you mountains not chosen,
sulk now, and feel sorry for yourselves,
For this is the mountain God has chosen to live on;
he'll rule from this mountain forever.
17-18 The chariots of God, twice ten thousand,
and thousands more besides,
The Lord in the lead, riding down Sinai—
straight to the Holy Place!
You climbed to the High Place, captives in tow,
your arms full of booty from rebels,
And now you sit there in state,
God, sovereign God!
Proverbs 24:1-2 (The Message)
Intelligence Outranks Muscle
191-2 Don't envy bad people; don't even want to be around them.
All they think about is causing a disturbance;
all they talk about is making trouble.
Verse of the Day
Thought for the Day
French poet, journalist, and novelist, Anatole France wrote, “It is by acts and not by ideas that people live.”