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First Reading: Isaiah Chapter 29 and 30
Woe to you, Ariel, Ariel,the city where David settled!Add year to year and let your cycle of festivals go on. 2 Yet I will besiege Ariel;she will mourn and lament,she will be to me like an altar hearth. 3 I will encamp against you all around;I will encircle you with towers and set up my siege works against you. 4 Brought low, you will speak from the ground;your speech will mumble out of the dust.Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth;out of the dust your speech will whisper.
5 But your many enemies will become like fine dust,the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.Suddenly, in an instant, 6 the LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise,with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire. 7 Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel,that attack her and her fortress and besiege her,will be as it is with a dream,with a vision in the night 8 as when a hungry man dreams that he is eating,but he awakens, and his hunger remains;as when a thirsty man dreams that he is drinking,but he awakens faint, with his thirst unquenched.So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion.
9 Be stunned and amazed,blind yourselves and be sightless;be drunk, but not from wine,stagger, but not from beer. 10 The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep:He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);he has covered your heads (the seers).
11 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I can't; it is sealed." 12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I don't know how to read."
13 The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me.Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. 14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder;the wisdom of the wise will perish,the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish." 15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD,who do their work in darkness and think,"Who sees us? Who will know?" 16 You turn things upside down,as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,"He did not make me"?Can the pot say of the potter,"He knows nothing"?
17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest? 18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. 19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD;the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. 20 The ruthless will vanish,the mockers will disappear,and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down 21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty,who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
22 Therefore this is what the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, says to the house of Jacob:
"No longer will Jacob be ashamed;no longer will their faces grow pale. 23 When they see among them their children,the work of my hands,they will keep my name holy;they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. 24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;those who complain will accept instruction."
"Woe to the obstinate children,"declares the LORD,"to those who carry out plans that are not mine,forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,heaping sin upon sin; 2 who go down to Egypt without consulting me;who look for help to Pharaoh's protection,to Egypt's shade for refuge. 3 But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame,Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace. 4 Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, 5 everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them,who bring neither help nor advantage,but only shame and disgrace."
6 An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev:
Through a land of hardship and distress,of lions and lionesses,of adders and darting snakes,the envoys carry their riches on donkeys' backs,their treasures on the humps of camels,to that unprofitable nation, 7 to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.
8 Go now, write it on a tablet for them,inscribe it on a scroll,that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. 9 These are rebellious people, deceitful children,children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction. 10 They say to the seers,"See no more visions!"and to the prophets,"Give us no more visions of what is right!Tell us pleasant things,prophesy illusions. 11 Leave this way,get off this path,and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!"
12 Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says:
"Because you have rejected this message,relied on oppression and depended on deceit, 13 this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging,that collapses suddenly, in an instant. 14 It will break in pieces like pottery,shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern."
15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,in quietness and trust is your strength,but you would have none of it. 16 You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.'Therefore you will flee!You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.'Therefore your pursuers will be swift! 17 A thousand will flee at the threat of one;at the threat of five you will all flee away,till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,like a banner on a hill."
18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;he rises to show you compassion.For the LORD is a God of justice.Blessed are all who wait for him!
19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. 20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." 22 Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, "Away with you!"
23 He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. 25 In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. 26 The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.
27 See, the Name of the LORD comes from afar,with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;his lips are full of wrath,and his tongue is a consuming fire. 28 His breath is like a rushing torrent,rising up to the neck.He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction;he places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray. 29 And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival;your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the LORD,to the Rock of Israel. 30 The LORD will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire,with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail. 31 The voice of the LORD will shatter Assyria;with his scepter he will strike them down. 32 Every stroke the LORD lays on them with his punishing rod will be to the music of tambourines and harps,as he fights them in battle with the blows of his arm. 33 Topheth has long been prepared;it has been made ready for the king.Its fire pit has been made deep and wide,with an abundance of fire and wood;the breath of the LORD,like a stream of burning sulfur,sets it ablaze.
Second Reading: Philippians Chapter 3
3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write
the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh- 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
THE ROLE OF PROPHECY
Part 4 of 6
Some prophecy in the Bible is recorded with symbols instead of literal or common language. One principle of understanding prophecy is to assume that it is literal unless that is not possible. For example: Revelations 12 described a women clothed with the sun and with moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. We know that this is not literally possible so it must be symbolic. It is important also that consistency is used when symbology is found. Parts should not be interpreted as literal while others as symbolic.
Another clue that symbols are being used is found in Daniel 2. The King of Babylon had a dream and Daniel interpreted it for him and for us. The dream consisted of an image with a head of gold, chest & arms of silver, belly & thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. Verse 36 starts the interpretation:
"This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
The prophecy goes on to identify several subsequent kingdoms and now by looking at history we know what those kingdoms were. The book of Daniel has several other prophecies that use symbols.
The book of Revelations is also full of symbols. We're given some hint of that in these verses from chapter 4:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.
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