Today our passages are Isaiah 51:1–53:12; Ephesians 5:1-33; Psalm 69:19-36; and Proverbs 24:7. 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 51-53:12 (The Message)
Committed to Seeking God1-3 "Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God.
Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
the quarry from which you were dug.
Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
but once I blessed him, he multiplied.
Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion,
comfort all her mounds of ruins.
I'll transform her dead ground into Eden,
her moonscape into the garden of God,
A place filled with exuberance and laughter,
thankful voices and melodic songs. 4-6"Pay attention, my people.
Listen to me, nations.
Revelation flows from me.
My decisions light up the world.
My deliverance arrives on the run,
my salvation right on time.
I'll bring justice to the peoples.
Even faraway islands will look to me
and take hope in my saving power.
Look up at the skies,
ponder the earth under your feet.
The skies will fade out like smoke,
the earth will wear out like work pants,
and the people will die off like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my setting-things-right will never be obsolete.
7-8"Listen now, you who know right from wrong,
you who hold my teaching inside you:
Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked
don't let it get you down.
Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten,
from brains that are termite-ridden,
But my setting-things-right lasts,
my salvation goes on and on and on."
9-11Wake up, wake up, flex your muscles, God!
Wake up as in the old days, in the long ago.
Didn't you once make mincemeat of Rahab,
dispatch the old chaos-dragon?
And didn't you once dry up the sea,
the powerful waters of the deep,
And then made the bottom of the ocean a road
for the redeemed to walk across?
In the same way God's ransomed will come back,
come back to Zion cheering, shouting,
Joy eternal wreathing their heads,
exuberant ecstasies transporting them—
and not a sign of moans or groans.
What Are You Afraid of—or Who?12-16"I, I'm the One comforting you.
What are you afraid of—or who?
Some man or woman who'll soon be dead?
Some poor wretch destined for dust?
You've forgotten me, God, who made you,
who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth.
And here you are, quaking like an aspen
before the tantrums of a tyrant
who thinks he can kick down the world.
But what will come of the tantrums?
The victims will be released before you know it.
They're not going to die.
They're not even going to go hungry.
For I am God, your very own God,
who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves,
I teach you how to talk, word by word,
and personally watch over you,
Even while I'm unfurling the skies,
setting earth on solid foundations,
and greeting Zion: 'Welcome, my people!'" 17-20So wake up! Rub the sleep from your eyes!
Up on your feet, Jerusalem!
You've drunk the cup God handed you,
the strong drink of his anger.
You drank it down to the last drop,
staggered and collapsed, dead-drunk.
And nobody to help you home,
no one among your friends or children
to take you by the hand and put you in bed.
You've been hit with a double dose of trouble
—does anyone care?
Assault and battery, hunger and death
—will anyone comfort?
Your sons and daughters have passed out,
strewn in the streets like stunned rabbits,
Sleeping off the strong drink of God's anger,
the rage of your God.
21-23Therefore listen, please,
you with your splitting headaches,
You who are nursing the hangovers
that didn't come from drinking wine.
Your Master, your God, has something to say,
your God has taken up his people's case:
"Look, I've taken back the drink that sent you reeling.
No more drinking from that jug of my anger!
I've passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you,
'Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!'
And you had to do it. Flat on the ground,
you were the dirt under their feet."
God Is Leading You Out of Here1-2 Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, Zion! Dress up in your Sunday best, Jerusalem, holy city!
Those who want no part of God have been culled out.
They won't be coming along.
Brush off the dust and get to your feet, captive Jerusalem! Throw off your chains, captive daughter of Zion!
3God says, "You were sold for nothing. You're being bought back for nothing."
4-6Again, the Master, God, says, "Early on, my people went to Egypt and lived, strangers in the land. At the other end, Assyria oppressed them. And now, what have I here?" God's Decree. "My people are hauled off again for no reason at all. Tyrants on the warpath, whooping it up, and day after day, incessantly, my reputation blackened. Now it's time that my people know who I am, what I'm made of—yes, that I have something to say. Here I am!"
7-10How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger bringing good news,
Breaking the news that all's well,
proclaiming good times, announcing salvation,
telling Zion, "Your God reigns!"
Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts,
shouting in joyful unison.
They see with their own eyes
God coming back to Zion.
Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:
"God has comforted his people!
He's redeemed Jerusalem!"
God has rolled up his sleeves.
All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.
Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,
sees him at work, doing his salvation work.
11-12Out of here! Out of here! Leave this place!
Don't look back. Don't contaminate yourselves with plunder.
Just leave, but leave clean. Purify yourselves
in the process of worship, carrying the holy vessels of God.
But you don't have to be in a hurry.
You're not running from anybody!
God is leading you out of here,
and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.
It Was Our Pains He Carried13-15"Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn't begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn't even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they'll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they'll have right before them."
Isaiah 531 Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this? 2-6The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
on him, on him.
7-9He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn't true.
10Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.
11-12Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many "righteous ones,"
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.
Ephesians 5:1-33 (The Message)
Wake Up from Your Sleep1-2Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. 3-4Don't allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don't talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn't fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.
5You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.
6-7Don't let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don't even hang around people like that.
8-10You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You're out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.
11-16Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It's a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
17Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
18-20Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.
Relationships21Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. 22-24Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
25-28Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage.
29-33No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That's how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become "one flesh." This is a huge mystery, and I don't pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.
Psalm 69:19-36 (The Message)
19 You know how they kick me around—
Pin on me the donkey's ears, the dunce's cap.
20 I'm broken by their taunts,
Flat on my face, reduced to a nothing.
I looked in vain for one friendly face. Not one.
I couldn't find one shoulder to cry on.
21 They put poison in my soup,
Vinegar in my drink.
22 Let their supper be bait in a trap that snaps shut;
May their best friends be trappers who'll skin them alive.
23 Make them become blind as bats,
Give them the shakes from morning to night.
24 Let them know what you think of them,
Blast them with your red-hot anger.
25 Burn down their houses,
Leave them desolate with nobody at home.
26 They gossiped about the one you disciplined,
Made up stories about anyone wounded by God.
27 Pile on the guilt,
Don't let them off the hook.
28 Strike their names from the list of the living;
No rock-carved honor for them among the righteous.
29 I'm hurt and in pain;
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.
30 Let me shout God's name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
31 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.
32 The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!
33 For God listens to the poor,
He doesn't walk out on the wretched.
34 You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.
35 For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.
Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?
36 No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.
Proverbs 24:7 (The Message)
227 Wise conversation is way over the head of fools;
in a serious discussion they haven't a clue.
Verse of the Day
Thought for the Day
French poet, Arthur Rimbaud wrote, “Only divine love bestows the keys of knowledge.”