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First Reading: Isaiah Chapter 21 and 22
21:1 An oracle concerning the Desert by the Sea:
Like whirlwinds sweeping through the southland,an invader comes from the desert,from a land of terror.
2 A dire vision has been shown to me:The traitor betrays, the looter takes loot.Elam, attack! Media, lay siege!I will bring to an end all the groaning she caused.
3 At this my body is racked with pain,pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor;I am staggered by what I hear,I am bewildered by what I see. 4 My heart falters,fear makes me tremble;the twilight I longed for has become a horror to me.
5 They set the tables,they spread the rugs,they eat, they drink!Get up, you officers,oil the shields!
6 This is what the Lord says to me:
"Go, post a lookout and have him report what he sees. 7 When he sees chariots with teams of horses,riders on donkeys or riders on camels,let him be alert,fully alert."
8 And the lookout shouted,
"Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower;every night I stay at my post. 9 Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses.And he gives back the answer:'Babylon has fallen, has fallen!All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!'"
10 O my people, crushed on the threshing floor,I tell you what I have heard from the LORD Almighty,from the God of Israel.
11 An oracle concerning Dumah:
Someone calls to me from Seir,"Watchman, what is left of the night?Watchman, what is left of the night?" 12 The watchman replies,"Morning is coming, but also the night.If you would ask, then ask;and come back yet again."
13 An oracle concerning Arabia:
You caravans of Dedanites,who camp in the thickets of Arabia, 14 bring water for the thirsty;you who live in Tema,bring food for the fugitives. 15 They flee from the sword,from the drawn sword,from the bent bow and from the heat of battle.
16 This is what the Lord says to me: "Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the pomp of Kedar will come to an end. 17 The survivors of the bowmen, the warriors of Kedar, will be few." The LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.
22:1 An oracle concerning the Valley of Vision:
What troubles you now,that you have all gone up on the roofs, 2 O town full of commotion,O city of tumult and revelry?Your slain were not killed by the sword,nor did they die in battle. 3 All your leaders have fled together;they have been captured without using the bow.All you who were caught were taken prisoner together,having fled while the enemy was still far away. 4 Therefore I said, "Turn away from me;let me weep bitterly.Do not try to console me over the destruction of my people."
5 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, has a day of tumult and trampling and terror in the Valley of Vision,a day of battering down walls and of crying out to the mountains. 6 Elam takes up the quiver,with her charioteers and horses;Kir uncovers the shield. 7 Your choicest valleys are full of chariots,and horsemen are posted at the city gates; 8 the defenses of Judah are stripped away.
And you looked in that day to the weapons in the Palace of the Forest; 9 you saw that the City of David had many breaches in its defenses;you stored up water in the Lower Pool. 10 You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. 11 You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool,but you did not look to the One who made it,or have regard for the One who planned it long ago.
12 The Lord, the LORD Almighty,called you on that day to weep and to wail,to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry,slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep,eating of meat and drinking of wine!"Let us eat and drink," you say,"for tomorrow we die!"
14 The LORD Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: "Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for," says the Lord, the LORD Almighty.
15 This is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says:
"Go, say to this steward,to Shebna, who is in charge of the palace: 16 What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here,hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?
17 "Beware, the LORD is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, O you mighty man. 18 He will roll you up tightly like a ball and throw you into a large country.There you will die and there your splendid chariots will remain you disgrace to your master's house! 19 I will depose you from your office,and you will be ousted from your position.
20 "In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father. 24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.
25 "In that day," declares the LORD Almighty, "the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down." The LORD has spoken.
Second Reading: Psalms Chapter 78
78:1 A maskil of Asaph.
O my people, hear my teaching;listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open
my mouth in parables,I will utter hidden things, things from of old 3
what we have heard and known,what our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide
them from their children;we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds
of the LORD,his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for
Jacob and established the law in Israel,which he commanded our forefathers to
teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them,even the children
yet to be born,and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would
put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their forefathers a stubborn and rebellious
generation,whose hearts were not loyal to God,whose spirits were not faithful
9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,turned back on the day of battle; 10 they did not keep God's covenant and refused to live by his law. 11 They forgot what he had done,the wonders he had shown them. 12 He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan. 13 He divided the sea and led them through;he made the water stand firm like a wall. 14 He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night. 15 He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; 16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.
17 But they continued to sin against him,rebelling in the desert against the Most High. 18 They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. 19 They spoke against God, saying,"Can God spread a table in the desert? 20 When he struck the rock, water gushed out,and streams flowed abundantly.But can he also give us food?Can he supply meat for his people?" 21 When the LORD heard them, he was very angry;his fire broke out against Jacob,and his wrath rose against Israel, 22 for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance. 23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; 24 he rained down manna for the people to eat,he gave them the grain of heaven. 25 Men ate the bread of angels;he sent them all the food they could eat. 26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens and led forth the south wind by his power. 27 He rained meat down on them like dust,flying birds like sand on the seashore. 28 He made them come down inside their camp,all around their tents. 29 They ate till they had more than enough,for he had given them what they craved. 30 But before they turned from the food they craved,even while it was still in their mouths, 31 God's anger rose against them;he put to death the sturdiest among them,cutting down the young men of Israel.
32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;in spite of his wonders, they did not believe. 33 So he ended their days in futility and their years in terror. 34 Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;they eagerly turned to him again. 35 They remembered that God was their Rock,that God Most High was their Redeemer. 36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths,lying to him with their tongues; 37 their hearts were not loyal to him,they were not faithful to his covenant. 38 Yet he was merciful;he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh,a passing breeze that does not return.
40 How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland! 41 Again and again they put God to the test;they vexed the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember his power the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, 43 the day he displayed his miraculous signs in Egypt,his wonders in the region of Zoan. 44 He turned their rivers to blood;they could not drink from their streams. 45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them,and frogs that devastated them. 46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper,their produce to the locust. 47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore-figs with sleet. 48 He gave over their cattle to the hail,their livestock to bolts of lightning. 49 He unleashed against them his hot anger,his wrath, indignation and hostility a band of destroying angels. 50 He prepared a path for his anger;he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague. 51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham. 52 But he brought his people out like a flock;he led them like sheep through the desert. 53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;but the sea engulfed their enemies. 54 Thus he brought them to the border of his holy land,to the hill country his right hand had taken. 55 He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.
56 But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High;they did not keep his statutes. 57 Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless,as unreliable as a faulty bow. 58 They angered him with their high places;they aroused his jealousy with their idols. 59 When God heard them, he was very angry;he rejected Israel completely. 60 He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,the tent he had set up among men. 61 He sent [the ark of] his might into captivity,his splendor into the hands of the enemy. 62 He gave his people over to the sword;he was very angry with his inheritance. 63 Fire consumed their young men,and their maidens had no wedding songs; 64 their priests were put to the sword,and their widows could not weep.
65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,as a man wakes from the stupor of wine. 66 He beat back his enemies;he put them to everlasting shame. 67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; 68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,Mount Zion, which he loved. 69 He built his sanctuary like the heights,like the earth that he established forever. 70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; 71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,of Israel his inheritance. 72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;with skillful hands he led them.
THE ROLE OF PROPHECY
Part 2 of 6
Because God warns us of the result of our faith or faithlessness, much of the prophecy in the Bible is fore-telling. That is, it tells beforehand what God is going to do:
Acts 17:30-31" In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
Deuteronomy 28:15, 64-66 However, if you (Israel) do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.......Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods--gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.
Ezekiel 37:21-23 " and say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God."
Acts 1:10-11 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Prophecy serves to warn people regarding sin and the need of repentance and salvation provided by God, while at the same time confirming the certainty of God's plan. The question is: Do we believe what God says? Prophecy is not for the purpose of satisfying idle curiosity about future events, but to assist believers in developing faith.
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