Today, our passages are Hosea 10:1–14:9; Jude 1-25; Psalm 127:1-5; and Proverbs 29:15-17. 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.
Hosea 10-14:9 (The Message)
You Thought You Could Do It All on Your Own1-2 Israel was once a lush vine, bountiful in grapes.
The more lavish the harvest,
the more promiscuous the worship.
The more money they got,
the more they squandered on gods-in-their-own-image.
Their sweet smiles are sheer lies.
They're guilty as sin.
God will smash their worship shrines,
pulverize their god-images. 3-4They go around saying,
"Who needs a king?
We couldn't care less about God,
so why bother with a king?
What difference would he make?"
They talk big,
lie through their teeth,
But their high-sounding words
turn out to be empty words, litter in the gutters.
5-6The people of Samaria travel over to Crime City
to worship the golden calf-god.
They go all out, prancing and hollering,
taken in by their showmen priests.
They act so important around the calf-god,
but are oblivious to the sham, the shame.
They have plans to take it to Assyria,
present it as a gift to the great king.
And so Ephraim makes a fool of himself,
disgraces Israel with his stupid idols.
7-8Samaria is history. Its king
is a dead branch floating down the river.
Israel's favorite sin centers
will all be torn down.
Thistles and crabgrass
will decorate their ruined altars.
Then they'll say to the mountains, "Bury us!"
and to the hills, "Fall on us!"
9-10You got your start in sin at Gibeah—
that ancient, unspeakable, shocking sin—
And you've been at it ever since.
And Gibeah will mark the end of it
in a war to end all the sinning.
I'll come to teach them a lesson.
Nations will gang up on them,
Making them learn the hard way
the sum of Gibeah plus Gibeah.
11-15Ephraim was a trained heifer
that loved to thresh.
Passing by and seeing her strong, sleek neck,
I wanted to harness Ephraim,
Put Ephraim to work in the fields—
Judah plowing, Jacob harrowing:
It's time to till the ready earth,
it's time to dig in with God,
Until he arrives
with righteousness ripe for harvest.
But instead you plowed wicked ways,
reaped a crop of evil and ate a salad of lies.
You thought you could do it all on your own,
flush with weapons and manpower.
But the volcano of war will erupt among your people.
All your defense posts will be leveled
As viciously as king Shalman
leveled the town of Beth-arba,
When mothers and their babies
were smashed on the rocks.
That's what's ahead for you, you so-called people of God,
because of your off-the-charts evil.
Some morning you're going to wake up
and find Israel, king and kingdom, a blank—nothing.
Israel Played at Religion with Toy Gods1-9 "When Israel was only a child, I loved him. I called out, 'My son!'—called him out of Egypt.
But when others called him,
he ran off and left me.
He worshiped the popular sex gods,
he played at religion with toy gods.
Still, I stuck with him. I led Ephraim.
I rescued him from human bondage,
But he never acknowledged my help,
never admitted that I was the one pulling his wagon,
That I lifted him, like a baby, to my cheek,
that I bent down to feed him.
Now he wants to go back to Egypt or go over to Assyria—
anything but return to me!
That's why his cities are unsafe—the murder rate skyrockets
and every plan to improve things falls to pieces.
My people are hell-bent on leaving me.
They pray to god Baal for help.
He doesn't lift a finger to help them.
But how can I give up on you, Ephraim?
How can I turn you loose, Israel?
How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah,
devastated like luckless Zeboim?
I can't bear to even think such thoughts.
My insides churn in protest.
And so I'm not going to act on my anger.
I'm not going to destroy Ephraim.
And why? Because I am God and not a human.
I'm The Holy One and I'm here—in your very midst. 10-12"The people will end up following God.
I will roar like a lion—
Oh, how I'll roar!
My frightened children will come running from the west.
Like frightened birds they'll come from Egypt,
from Assyria like scared doves.
I'll move them back into their homes."
Soul-Destroying LiesEphraim tells lies right and left.
Not a word of Israel can be trusted.
Judah, meanwhile, is no better,
addicted to cheap gods.
Hosea 121-5 Ephraim, obsessed with god-fantasies, chases ghosts and phantoms.
He tells lies nonstop,
Both Ephraim and Judah made deals with Assyria
and tried to get an inside track with Egypt.
God is bringing charges against Israel.
Jacob's children are hauled into court to be punished.
In the womb, that heel, Jacob, got the best of his brother.
When he grew up, he tried to get the best of God.
But God would not be bested.
God bested him.
Brought to his knees,
Jacob wept and prayed.
God found him at Bethel.
That's where he spoke with him.
God is God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
God-Revealed, God-Known. 6 What are you waiting for? Return to your God!
Commit yourself in love, in justice!
Wait for your God,
and don't give up on him—ever!
7-8The businessmen engage in wholesale fraud.
They love to rip people off!
Ephraim boasted, "Look, I'm rich!
I've made it big!
And look how well I've covered my tracks:
not a hint of fraud, not a sign of sin!"
9-11"But not so fast! I'm God, your God!
Your God from the days in Egypt!
I'm going to put you back to living in tents,
as in the old days when you worshiped in the wilderness.
I speak through the prophets
to give clear pictures of the way things are.
Using prophets, I tell revealing stories.
I show Gilead rampant with religious scandal
and Gilgal teeming with empty-headed religion.
I expose their worship centers as
stinking piles of garbage in their gardens."
12-14Are you going to repeat the life of your ancestor Jacob?
He ran off guilty to Aram,
Then sold his soul to get ahead,
and made it big through treachery and deceit.
Your real identity is formed through God-sent prophets,
who led you out of Egypt and served as faithful pastors.
As it is, Ephraim has continually
and inexcusably insulted God.
Now he has to pay for his life-destroying ways.
His Master will do to him what he has done.
Religion Customized to Taste1-3 God once let loose against Ephraim a terrifying sentence against Israel:
Caught and convicted
in the lewd sex-worship of Baal—they died!
And now they're back in the sin business again,
manufacturing god-images they can use,
Religion customized to taste. Professionals see to it:
Anything you want in a god you can get.
Can you believe it? They sacrifice live babies to these dead gods—
kill living babies and kiss golden calves!
And now there's nothing left to these people:
hollow men, desiccated women,
Like scraps of paper blown down the street,
like smoke in a gusty wind. 4-6"I'm still your God,
the God who saved you out of Egypt.
I'm the only real God you've ever known.
I'm the one and only God who delivers.
I took care of you during the wilderness hard times,
those years when you had nothing.
I took care of you, took care of all your needs,
gave you everything you needed.
You were spoiled. You thought you didn't need me.
You forgot me.
7-12"I'll charge them like a lion,
like a leopard stalking in the brush.
I'll jump them like a sow grizzly robbed of her cubs.
I'll rip out their guts.
Coyotes will make a meal of them.
Crows will clean their bones.
I'm going to destroy you, Israel.
Who is going to stop me?
Where is your trusty king you thought would save you?
Where are all the local leaders you wanted so badly?
All these rulers you insisted on having,
demanding, 'Give me a king! Give me leaders!'?
Well, long ago I gave you a king, but I wasn't happy about it.
Now, fed up, I've gotten rid of him.
I have a detailed record of your infidelities—
Ephraim's sin documented and stored in a safe-deposit box.
13-15"When birth pangs signaled it was time to be born,
Ephraim was too stupid to come out of the womb.
When the passage into life opened up,
he didn't show.
Shall I intervene and pull them into life?
Shall I snatch them from a certain death?
Who is afraid of you, Death?
Who cares about your threats, Tomb?
In the end I'm abolishing regret,
Even though Ephraim ran wild,
the black sheep of the family.
15-16"God's tornado is on its way,
roaring out of the desert.
It will devastate the country,
leaving a trail of ruin and wreckage.
The cities will be gutted,
dear possessions gone for good.
Now Samaria has to face the charges
because she has rebelled against her God:
Her people will be killed, babies smashed on the rocks,
pregnant women ripped open."
Come Back! Return to Your God!1-3 O Israel, come back! Return to your God! You're down but you're not out.
Prepare your confession
and come back to God.
Pray to him, "Take away our sin,
accept our confession.
Receive as restitution
our repentant prayers.
Assyria won't save us;
horses won't get us where we want to go.
We'll never again say 'our god'
to something we've made or made up.
You're our last hope. Is it not true
that in you the orphan finds mercy?" 4-8 "I will heal their waywardness.
I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out.
I will make a fresh start with Israel.
He'll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring.
He'll put down deep oak tree roots,
he'll become a forest of oaks!
He'll become splendid—like a giant sequoia,
his fragrance like a grove of cedars!
Those who live near him will be blessed by him,
be blessed and prosper like golden grain.
Everyone will be talking about them,
spreading their fame as the vintage children of God.
Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods.
From now on I'm the one who answers and satisfies him.
I am like a luxuriant fruit tree.
Everything you need is to be found in me."
9 If you want to live well,
make sure you understand all of this.
If you know what's good for you,
you'll learn this inside and out.
God's paths get you where you want to go.
Right-living people walk them easily;
wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling.
Jude 1-25 (The Message)
Jude 11-2I, Jude, am a slave to Jesus Christ and brother to James, writing to those loved by God the Father, called and kept safe by Jesus Christ. Relax, everything's going to be all right; rest, everything's coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!
Fight with All You Have in You3-4Dear friends, I've dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.
Lost Stars in Outer Space5-7I'm laying this out as clearly as I can, even though you once knew all this well enough and shouldn't need reminding. Here it is in brief: The Master saved a people out of the land of Egypt. Later he destroyed those who defected. And you know the story of the angels who didn't stick to their post, abandoning it for other, darker missions. But they are now chained and jailed in a black hole until the great Judgment Day. Sodom and Gomorrah, which went to sexual rack and ruin along with the surrounding cities that acted just like them, are another example. Burning and burning and never burning up, they serve still as a stock warning. 8This is exactly the same program of these latest infiltrators: dirty sex, rule and rulers thrown out, glory dragged in the mud.
9-11The Archangel Michael, who went to the mat with the Devil as they fought over the body of Moses, wouldn't have dared level him with a blasphemous curse, but said simply, "No you don't. God will take care of you!" But these people sneer at anything they can't understand, and by doing whatever they feel like doing—living by animal instinct only—they participate in their own destruction. I'm fed up with them! They've gone down Cain's road; they've been sucked into Balaam's error by greed; they're canceled out in Korah's rebellion.
12-13These people are warts on your love feasts as you worship and eat together. They're giving you a black eye—carousing shamelessly, grabbing anything that isn't nailed down. They're—
Puffs of smoke pushed by gusts of wind;
late autumn trees stripped clean of leaf and fruit,
Doubly dead, pulled up by the roots;
wild ocean waves leaving nothing on the beach
but the foam of their shame;
Lost stars in outer space
on their way to the black hole.
14-16Enoch, the seventh after Adam, prophesied of them: "Look! The Master comes with thousands of holy angels to bring judgment against them all, convicting each person of every defiling act of shameless sacrilege, of every dirty word they have spewed of their pious filth." These are the "grumpers," the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead.
17-19But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: "In the last days there will be people who don't take these things seriously anymore. They'll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts." These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There's nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!
20-21But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God's love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!
22-23Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.
24-25And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.
Psalm 127:1-5 (The Message)
A Pilgrim Song of Solomon1-2 If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn't guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It's useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don't you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?
3-5 Don't you see that children are God's best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior's fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don't stand a chance against you;
you'll sweep them right off your doorstep.
Proverbs 29:15-17 (The Message)
15 Wise discipline imparts wisdom;
spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents.
16 When degenerates take charge, crime runs wild,
but the righteous will eventually observe their collapse.
17 Discipline your children; you'll be glad you did—
they'll turn out delightful to live with.
Verse of the Day
“I am the way, the truth, and the life!" Jesus answered. "Without me, no one can go to the Father.” - John 14:6
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus, Horace wrote, “Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.”