Today our passages are Isaiah 3:1–5:30; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15; Psalm 53:1-6; and Proverbs 22:28-29. 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.
Isaiah 3-5:30 (The Message)
Jerusalem on Its Last Legs1-7 The Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, is emptying Jerusalem and Judah
Of all the basic necessities,
plain bread and water to begin with.
He's withdrawing police and protection,
judges and courts,
pastors and teachers,
captains and generals,
doctors and nurses,
and, yes, even the repairmen and jacks-of-all-trades.
He says, "I'll put little kids in charge of the city.
Schoolboys and schoolgirls will order everyone around.
People will be at each other's throats,
stabbing one another in the back:
Neighbor against neighbor, young against old,
the no-account against the well-respected.
One brother will grab another and say,
'You look like you've got a head on your shoulders.
Get us out of this mess.'
And he'll say, 'Me? Not me! I don't have a clue.
Don't put me in charge of anything.' 8-9"Jerusalem's on its last legs.
Judah is soon down for the count.
Everything people say and do
is at cross-purposes with God,
a slap in my face.
Brazen in their depravity,
they flaunt their sins like degenerate Sodom.
Doom to their eternal souls! They've made their bed;
now they'll sleep in it.
10-11"Reassure the righteous
that their good living will pay off.
But doom to the wicked! Disaster!
Everything they did will be done to them.
12"Skinny kids terrorize my people.
Silly girls bully them around.
My dear people! Your leaders are taking you down a blind alley.
They're sending you off on a wild-goose chase."
A City Brought to Her Knees by Her Sorrows13-15God enters the courtroom.
He takes his place at the bench to judge his people.
God calls for order in the court,
hauls the leaders of his people into the dock:
"You've played havoc with this country.
Your houses are stuffed with what you've stolen from the poor.
What is this anyway? Stomping on my people,
grinding the faces of the poor into the dirt?"
That's what the Master,
God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says. 16-17God says, "Zion women are stuck-up,
prancing around in their high heels,
Making eyes at all the men in the street,
swinging their hips,
Tossing their hair,
gaudy and garish in cheap jewelry."
The Master will fix it so those Zion women
will all turn bald—
Scabby, bald-headed women.
The Master will do it.
18-23The time is coming when the Master will strip them of their fancy baubles—the dangling earrings, anklets and bracelets, combs and mirrors and silk scarves, diamond brooches and pearl necklaces, the rings on their fingers and the rings on their toes, the latest fashions in hats, exotic perfumes and aphrodisiacs, gowns and capes, all the world's finest in fabrics and design.
24Instead of wearing seductive scents,
these women are going to smell like rotting cabbages;
Instead of modeling flowing gowns,
they'll be sporting rags;
Instead of their stylish hairdos,
Instead of beauty marks,
scabs and scars.
25-26Your finest fighting men will be killed,
your soldiers left dead on the battlefield.
The entrance gate to Zion will be clotted
with people mourning their dead—
A city stooped under the weight of her loss,
brought to her knees by her sorrows.
Isaiah 41 That will be the day when seven women will gang up on one man, saying, "We'll take care of ourselves,
get our own food and clothes.
Just give us a child. Make us pregnant
so we'll have something to live for!"
God's Branch2-4And that's when God's Branch will sprout green and lush. The produce of the country will give Israel's survivors something to be proud of again. Oh, they'll hold their heads high! Everyone left behind in Zion, all the discards and rejects in Jerusalem, will be reclassified as "holy"—alive and therefore precious. God will give Zion's women a good bath. He'll scrub the bloodstained city of its violence and brutality, purge the place with a firestorm of judgment. 5-6Then God will bring back the ancient pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and mark Mount Zion and everyone in it with his glorious presence, his immense, protective presence, shade from the burning sun and shelter from the driving rain.
Looking for a Crop of Justice1-2 I'll sing a ballad to the one I love, a love ballad about his vineyard: The one I love had a vineyard, a fine, well-placed vineyard.
He hoed the soil and pulled the weeds,
and planted the very best vines.
He built a lookout, built a winepress,
a vineyard to be proud of.
He looked for a vintage yield of grapes,
but for all his pains he got junk grapes. 3-4"Now listen to what I'm telling you,
you who live in Jerusalem and Judah.
What do you think is going on
between me and my vineyard?
Can you think of anything I could have done
to my vineyard that I didn't do?
When I expected good grapes,
why did I get bitter grapes?
5-6"Well now, let me tell you
what I'll do to my vineyard:
I'll tear down its fence
and let it go to ruin.
I'll knock down the gate
and let it be trampled.
I'll turn it into a patch of weeds, untended, uncared for—
thistles and thorns will take over.
I'll give orders to the clouds:
'Don't rain on that vineyard, ever!'"
7Do you get it? The vineyard of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
is the country of Israel.
All the men and women of Judah
are the garden he was so proud of.
He looked for a crop of justice
and saw them murdering each other.
He looked for a harvest of righteousness
and heard only the moans of victims.
You Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil8-10Doom to you who buy up all the houses
and grab all the land for yourselves—
Evicting the old owners,
posting no trespassing signs,
Taking over the country,
leaving everyone homeless and landless.
I overheard God-of-the-Angel-Armies say:
"Those mighty houses will end up empty.
Those extravagant estates will be deserted.
A ten-acre vineyard will produce a pint of wine,
a fifty-pound sack of seed, a quart of grain." 11-17Doom to those who get up early
and start drinking booze before breakfast,
Who stay up all hours of the night
drinking themselves into a stupor.
They make sure their banquets are well-furnished
with harps and flutes and plenty of wine,
But they'll have nothing to do with the work of God,
pay no mind to what he is doing.
Therefore my people will end up in exile
because they don't know the score.
Their "big men" will starve to death
and the common people die of thirst.
Sheol developed a huge appetite,
swallowing people nonstop!
Big people and little people alike
down that gullet, to say nothing of all the drunks.
The down-and-out on a par
with the high-and-mighty,
Windbag boasters crumpled,
flaccid as a punctured bladder.
But by working justice,
God-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
By working righteousness,
Holy God will show what "holy" is.
And lambs will graze
as if they owned the place,
Kids and calves
right at home in the ruins.
18-19Doom to you who use lies to sell evil,
who haul sin to market by the truckload,
Who say, "What's God waiting for?
Let him get a move on so we can see it.
Whatever The Holy of Israel has cooked up,
we'd like to check it out."
20Doom to you who call evil good
and good evil,
Who put darkness in place of light
and light in place of darkness,
Who substitute bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
21-23Doom to you who think you're so smart,
who hold such a high opinion of yourselves!
All you're good at is drinking—champion boozers
who collect trophies from drinking bouts
And then line your pockets with bribes from the guilty
while you violate the rights of the innocent.
24But they won't get by with it. As fire eats stubble
and dry grass goes up in smoke,
Their souls will atrophy,
their achievements crumble into dust,
Because they said no to the revelation
Would have nothing to do
with The Holy of Israel.
25-30That's why God flamed out in anger against his people,
reached out and knocked them down.
The mountains trembled
as their dead bodies piled up in the streets.
But even after that, he was still angry,
his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.
He raises a flag, signaling a distant nation,
whistles for people at the ends of the earth.
And here they come—
on the run!
None drag their feet, no one stumbles,
no one sleeps or dawdles.
Shirts are on and pants buckled,
every boot is spit-polished and tied.
Their arrows are sharp,
The hooves of their horses shod,
chariot wheels greased.
Roaring like a pride of lions,
the full-throated roars of young lions,
They growl and seize their prey,
dragging it off—no rescue for that one!
They'll roar and roar and roar on that Day,
like the roar of ocean billows.
Look as long and hard as you like at that land,
you'll see nothing but darkness and trouble.
Every light in the sky
will be blacked out by the clouds.
2 Corinthians 11:1-15 (The Message)
2 Corinthians 11
Pseudo-Servants of God1-3Will you put up with a little foolish aside from me? Please, just for a moment. The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much—this is the passion of God burning inside me! I promised your hand in marriage to Christ, presented you as a pure virgin to her husband. And now I'm afraid that exactly as the Snake seduced Eve with his smooth patter, you are being lured away from the simple purity of your love for Christ. 4-6It seems that if someone shows up preaching quite another Jesus than we preached—different spirit, different message—you put up with him quite nicely. But if you put up with these big-shot "apostles," why can't you put up with simple me? I'm as good as they are. It's true that I don't have their voice, haven't mastered that smooth eloquence that impresses you so much. But when I do open my mouth, I at least know what I'm talking about. We haven't kept anything back. We let you in on everything.
7-12I wonder, did I make a bad mistake in proclaiming God's Message to you without asking for something in return, serving you free of charge so that you wouldn't be inconvenienced by me? It turns out that the other churches paid my way so that you could have a free ride. Not once during the time I lived among you did anyone have to lift a finger to help me out. My needs were always supplied by the believers from Macedonia province. I was careful never to be a burden to you, and I never will be, you can count on it. With Christ as my witness, it's a point of honor with me, and I'm not going to keep it quiet just to protect you from what the neighbors will think. It's not that I don't love you; God knows I do. I'm just trying to keep things open and honest between us.
12-15And I'm not changing my position on this. I'd die before taking your money. I'm giving nobody grounds for lumping me in with those money-grubbing "preachers," vaunting themselves as something special. They're a sorry bunch—pseudo-apostles, lying preachers, crooked workers—posing as Christ's agents but sham to the core. And no wonder! Satan does it all the time, dressing up as a beautiful angel of light. So it shouldn't surprise us when his servants masquerade as servants of God. But they're not getting by with anything. They'll pay for it in the end.
Psalm 53:1-6 (The Message)
A David Psalm1-2 Bilious and bloated, they gas, "God is gone."
It's poison gas—
they foul themselves, they poison
Rivers and skies;
thistles are their cash crop.
God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He's looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.
3 He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow the one.
4 Don't they know anything,
all these impostors?
Don't they know
they can't get away with this,
Treating people like a fast-food meal
over which they're too busy to pray?
5 Night is coming for them, and nightmare—
a nightmare they'll never wake up from.
God will make hash of these squatters,
send them packing for good.
6 Is there anyone around to save Israel?
God turns life around.
Turned-around Jacob skips rope,
turned-around Israel sings laughter.
A David Psalm, When the Ziphites Reported to Saul,"David Is Hiding Out with Us"
Proverbs 22:28-29 (The Message)
428 Don't stealthily move back the boundary lines
staked out long ago by your ancestors.
529 Observe people who are good at their work—
skilled workers are always in demand and admired;
they don't take a backseat to anyone.
Verse of the Day
“Tell the older men to have self-control and to be serious and sensible. Their faith, love, and patience must never fail.” - Titus 2:2
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
American industrialist, Henry Ford wrote, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”