Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 103

Isaiah 44–47, Matthew 12–13

Bible text(s)

The LORD is the Only God

1The LORD says,

“Listen now, Israel, my servant,

my chosen people, the descendants of Jacob.

2I am the LORD who created you;

from the time you were born, I have helped you.

Do not be afraid; you are my servant,

my chosen people whom I love.

3“I will give water to the thirsty land

and make streams flow on the dry ground.

I will pour out my spirit on your children

and my blessing on your descendants.

4They will thrive like well-watered grass,

like willows by streams of running water.

5“One by one, people will say, ‘I am the LORD's.’

They will come to join the people of Israel.

They will each mark the name of the LORD on their arms

and call themselves members of God's people.”

6The LORD, who rules and protects Israel,

the LORD Almighty, has this to say:

“I am the first, the last, the only God;

there is no other god but me.

7Could anyone else have done what I did?

Who could have predicted all that would happen

from the very beginning to the end of time?

8Do not be afraid, my people!

You know that from ancient times until now

I have predicted all that would happen,

and you are my witnesses.

Is there any other god?

Is there some powerful god I never heard of?”

Idolatry is Ridiculed

9All those who make idols are worthless, and the gods they prize so highly are useless. Those who worship these gods are blind and ignorant — and they will be disgraced. 10It's no good making a metal image to worship as a god! 11Everyone who worships it will be humiliated. The people who make idols are human beings and nothing more. Let them come and stand trial — they will be terrified and will suffer disgrace.

12The metalworker takes a piece of metal and works with it over a fire. His strong arm swings a hammer to pound the metal into shape. As he works, he gets hungry, thirsty, and tired.

13The carpenter measures the wood. He outlines a figure with chalk, carves it out with his tools, and makes it in the form of a man, a handsome human figure, to be placed in his house. 14He might cut down cedars to use, or choose oak or cypress wood from the forest. Or he might plant a laurel-tree and wait for the rain to make it grow. 15A person uses part of a tree for fuel and part of it for making an idol. With one part he builds a fire to warm himself and bake bread; with the other part he makes a god and worships it. 16With some of the wood he makes a fire; he roasts meat, eats it, and is satisfied. He warms himself and says, “How nice and warm! What a beautiful fire!” 17The rest of the wood he makes into an idol, and then he bows down and worships it. He prays to it and says, “You are my god — save me!”

18Such people are too stupid to know what they are doing. They close their eyes and their minds to the truth. 19The maker of idols hasn't the wit or the sense to say, “Some of the wood I burnt up. I baked some bread on the embers and I roasted meat and ate it. And the rest of the wood I made into an idol. Here I am bowing down to a block of wood!”

20It makes as much sense as eating ashes. His foolish ideas have so misled him that he is beyond help. He won't admit to himself that the idol he holds in his hand is not a god at all.

The LORD, the Creator and Saviour

21The LORD says,

“Israel, remember this;

remember that you are my servant.

I created you to be my servant,

and I will never forget you.

22I have swept your sins away like a cloud.

Come back to me; I am the one who saves you.”

23Shout for joy, you heavens!

Shout, deep places of the earth!

Shout for joy, mountains, and every tree of the forest!

The LORD has shown his greatness

by saving his people Israel.

24“I am the LORD, your saviour;

I am the one who created you.

I am the LORD, the Creator of all things.

I alone stretched out the heavens;

when I made the earth, no one helped me.

25I make fools of fortune tellers

and frustrate the predictions of astrologers.

The words of the wise I refute

and show that their wisdom is foolishness.

26But when my servant makes a prediction,

when I send a messenger to reveal my plans,

I make those plans and predictions come true.

I tell Jerusalem that people will live there again,

and the cities of Judah that they will be rebuilt.

Those cities will rise from the ruins.

27With a word of command I dry up the ocean.

28I say to Cyrus, ‘You are the one who will rule for me;

you will do what I want you to do:

you will order Jerusalem to be rebuilt

and the Temple foundations to be laid.’ ”

The LORD Appoints Cyrus

1The LORD has chosen Cyrus to be king!

He has appointed him to conquer nations;

he sends him to strip kings of their power;

the LORD will open the gates of cities for him.

To Cyrus the LORD says,

2“I myself will prepare your way,

levelling mountains and hills.

I will break down bronze gates

and smash their iron bars.

3I will give you treasures from dark, secret places;

then you will know that I am the LORD,

and that the God of Israel has called you by name.

4I appoint you to help my servant Israel,

the people that I have chosen.

I have given you great honour,

although you do not know me.

5“I am the LORD; there is no other god.

I will give you the strength you need,

although you do not know me.

6I do this so that everyone

from one end of the world to the other

may know that I am the LORD

and that there is no other god.

7I create both light and darkness;

I bring both blessing and disaster.

I, the LORD, do all these things.

8I will send victory from the sky like rain;

the earth will open to receive it

and will blossom with freedom and justice.

I, the LORD, will make this happen.”

The LORD of Creation and History

9Does a clay pot dare to argue with its maker,

a pot that is like all the others?

Does the clay ask the potter what he is doing?

Does the pot complain that its maker has no skill?

10Does anyone dare to say to his parents,

“Why did you make me like this?”

11The LORD, the holy God of Israel,

the one who shapes the future, says:

“You have no right to question me about my children

or to tell me what I ought to do!

12I am the one who made the earth

and created the human race to live there.

By my power I stretched out the heavens;

I control the sun, the moon, and the stars.

13I myself have stirred Cyrus to action

to fulfil my purpose and put things right.

I will straighten every road that he travels.

He will rebuild my city, Jerusalem,

and set my captive people free.

No one has hired him or bribed him to do this.”

The LORD Almighty has spoken.

14The LORD says to Israel,

“The wealth of Egypt and Ethiopia will be yours,

and the tall men of Seba will be your slaves;

they will follow you in chains.

They will bow down to you and confess,

‘God is with you — he alone is God.

15The God of Israel, who saves his people,

is a God who conceals himself.

16Those who make idols will all be ashamed;

all of them will be disgraced.

17But Israel is saved by the LORD,

and her victory lasts for ever;

her people will never be disgraced.’ ”

18The LORD created the heavens —

he is the one who is God!

He formed and made the earth —

he made it firm and lasting.

He did not make it a desolate waste,

but a place for people to live in.

It is he who says, “I am the LORD,

and there is no other god.

19I have not spoken in secret

or kept my purpose hidden.

I did not require the people of Israel

to look for me in a desolate waste.

I am the LORD, and I speak the truth;

I make known what is right.”

The LORD of the World and the Idols of Babylon

20The LORD says,

“Come together, people of the nations,

all who survive the fall of the empire;

present yourselves for the trial!

The people who parade with their idols of wood

and pray to gods that cannot save them —

those people know nothing at all!

21Come and present your case in court;

let the defendants consult one another.

Who predicted long ago what would happen?

Was it not I, the LORD, the God who saves his people?

There is no other god.

22“Turn to me now and be saved,

people all over the world!

I am the only God there is.

23My promise is true,

and it will not be changed.

I solemnly promise by all that I am:

Everyone will come and kneel before me

and vow to be loyal to me.

24“They will say that only through me

are victory and strength to be found;

but all who hate me will suffer disgrace.

25I, the LORD, will rescue all the descendants of Jacob,

and they will give me praise.

1“This is the end for Babylon's gods!

Bel and Nebo once were worshipped,

but now they are loaded on donkeys,

a burden for the backs of tired animals.

2The idols cannot save themselves;

they are captured and carried away.

This is the end for Babylon's gods!

3“Listen to me, descendants of Jacob,

all who are left of my people.

I have cared for you from the time you were born.

4I am your God and will take care of you

until you are old and your hair is grey.

I made you and will care for you;

I will give you help and rescue you.

5“With whom will you compare me?” says the LORD.

“Is there anyone else like me?

6People open their purses and pour out gold;

they weigh out silver on the scales.

They hire a goldsmith to make a god;

then they bow down and worship it!

7They lift it to their shoulders and carry it;

they put it in place, and there it stands,

unable to move from where it is.

If anyone prays to it, it cannot answer

or save him from disaster.

8“Remember this, you sinners;

consider what I have done.

9Remember what happened long ago;

acknowledge that I alone am God

and that there is no one else like me.

10From the beginning I predicted the outcome;

long ago I foretold what would happen.

I said that my plans would never fail,

that I would do everything I intended to do.

11I am calling a man to come from the east;

he will swoop down like a hawk

and accomplish what I have planned.

I have spoken, and it will be done.

12“Listen to me, you stubborn people

who think that victory is far away.

13I am bringing the day of victory near —

it is not far away at all.

My triumph will not be delayed.

I will save Jerusalem

and bring honour to Israel there.”

Judgement on Babylon

1The LORD says,

“Babylon, come down from your throne,

and sit in the dust on the ground.

You were once like a virgin, a city unconquered,

but you are soft and delicate no longer!

You are now a slave!

2Turn the millstone! Grind the flour!

Off with your veil! Strip off your fine clothes!

Lift up your skirts to cross the streams!

3People will see you naked;

they will see you humbled and shamed.

I will take vengeance, and no one will stop me.”

4The holy God of Israel sets us free —

his name is the LORD Almighty.

5The LORD says to Babylon,

“Sit in silence and darkness;

no more will they call you the queen of nations!

6I was angry with my people;

I treated them as no longer mine:

I put them in your power,

and you showed them no mercy;

even the aged you treated harshly.

7You thought you would always be a queen,

and did not take these things to heart

or think how it all would end.

8“Listen to this, you lover of pleasure,

you that think you are safe and secure.

You claim you are as great as God —

that there is no one else like you.

You thought that you would never be a widow

or suffer the loss of your children.

9But in a moment, in a single day,

both of these things will happen.

In spite of all the magic you use,

you will lose your husband and children.

10“You felt sure of yourself in your evil;

you thought that no one could see you.

Your wisdom and knowledge led you astray,

and you said to yourself, ‘I am God —

there is no one else like me.’

11Disaster will come upon you,

and none of your magic can stop it.

Ruin will come on you suddenly —

ruin you never dreamt of!

12Keep all your magic spells and charms;

you have used them since you were young.

Perhaps they will be of some help to you;

perhaps you can frighten your enemies.

13You are powerless in spite of the advice you get.

Let your astrologers come forward and save you —

those people who study the stars,

who map out the zones of the heavens

and tell you from month to month

what is going to happen to you.

14“They will be like bits of straw,

and a fire will burn them up!

They will not even be able to save themselves —

the flames will be too hot for them,

not a cosy fire to warm themselves by.

15That is all the good they will do you —

those astrologers you've consulted all your life.

They all will leave you and go their own way,

and none will be left to save you.”

The Question about the Sabbath

(Mk 2.23–28; Lk 6.1–5)

1Not long afterwards Jesus was walking through some cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began to pick ears of corn and eat the grain. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to Jesus, “Look, it is against our Law for your disciples to do this on the Sabbath!”

3Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did that time when he and his men were hungry? 4He went into the house of God, and he and his men ate the bread offered to God, even though it was against the Law for them to eat it — only the priests were allowed to eat that bread. 5Or have you not read in the Law of Moses that every Sabbath the priests in the Temple actually break the Sabbath law, yet they are not guilty? 6I tell you that there is something here greater than the Temple. 7The scripture says, ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.’ If you really knew what this means, you would not condemn people who are not guilty; 8for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Man with a Paralysed Hand

(Mk 3.1–6; Lk 6.6–11)

9Jesus left that place and went to a synagogue, 10where there was a man who had a paralysed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong, so they asked him, “Is it against our Law to heal on the Sabbath?”

11Jesus answered, “What if one of you has a sheep and it falls into a deep hole on the Sabbath? Will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12And a human being is worth much more than a sheep! So then, our Law does allow us to help someone on the Sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out, and it became well again, just like the other one. 14Then the Pharisees left and made plans to kill Jesus.

God's Chosen Servant

15When Jesus heard about the plot against him, he went away from that place; and large crowds followed him. He healed all those who were ill 16and gave them orders not to tell others about him. 17He did this so as to make what God had said through the prophet Isaiah come true:

18“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,

the one I love, and with whom I am pleased.

I will send my Spirit upon him,

and he will announce my judgement to the nations.

19He will not argue or shout,

or make loud speeches in the streets.

20He will not break off a bent reed,

or put out a flickering lamp.

He will persist until he causes justice to triumph,

21and in him all peoples will put their hope.”

Jesus and Beelzebul

(Mk 3.20–30; Lk 11.14–23)

22Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talk because he had a demon. Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see. 23The crowds were all amazed at what Jesus had done. “Could he be the Son of David?” they asked.

24When the Pharisees heard this, they replied, “He drives out demons only because their ruler Beelzebul gives him power to do so.”

25Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart. 26So if one group is fighting another in Satan's kingdom, this means that it is already divided into groups and will soon fall apart! 27You say that I drive out demons because Beelzebul gives me the power to do so. Well, then, who gives your followers the power to drive them out? What your own followers do proves that you are wrong! 28No, it is not Beelzebul, but God's Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God has already come upon you.

29“No one can break into a strong man's house and take away his belongings unless he first ties up the strong man; then he can plunder his house.

30“Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering. 31And so I tell you that people can be forgiven any sin and any evil thing they say; but whoever says evil things against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who says something against the Son of Man can be forgiven; but whoever says something against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven — now or ever.

A Tree and its Fruit

(Lk 6.43–45)

33“To have good fruit you must have a healthy tree; if you have a poor tree, you will have bad fruit. A tree is known by the kind of fruit it bears. 34You snakes — how can you say good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35A good person brings good things out of a treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of a treasure of bad things.

36“You can be sure that on Judgement Day everyone will have to give account of every useless word he has ever spoken. 37Your words will be used to judge you — to declare you either innocent or guilty.”

The Demand for a Miracle

(Mk 8.11–12; Lk 11.29–32)

38Then some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up. “Teacher,” they said, “we want to see you perform a miracle.”

39“How evil and godless are the people of this day!” Jesus exclaimed. “You ask me for a miracle? No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah. 40In the same way that Jonah spent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth. 41On Judgement Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I tell you that there is something here greater than Jonah! 42On Judgement Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she travelled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon's wise teaching; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Solomon!

The Return of the Evil Spirit

(Lk 11.24–26)

43“When an evil spirit goes out of a person, it travels over dry country looking for a place to rest. If it can't find one, 44it says to itself, ‘I will go back to my house.’ So it goes back and finds the house empty, clean, and all tidy. 45Then it goes out and brings along seven other spirits even worse than itself, and they come and live there. So when it is all over, that person is in a worse state than he was at the beginning. This is what will happen to the evil people of this day.”

Jesus' Mother and Brothers

(Mk 3.31–35; Lk 8.19–21)

46Jesus was still talking to the people when his mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside, asking to speak with him. 47So one of the people there said to him, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak with you.”

48Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 49Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! 50Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother, my sister, and my mother.”

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The Parable of the Sower

(Mk 4.1–9; Lk 8.4–8)

1That same day Jesus left the house and went to the lakeside, where he sat down to teach. 2The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it, while the crowd stood on the shore. 3He used parables to tell them many things.

“Once there was a man who went out to sow corn. 4As he scattered the seed in the field, some of it fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some of it fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds soon sprouted, because the soil wasn't deep. 6But when the sun came up, it burnt the young plants; and because the roots had not grown deep enough, the plants soon dried up. 7Some of the seed fell among thorn bushes, which grew up and choked the plants. 8But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants produced corn; some produced 100 grains, others sixty, and others thirty.”

9And Jesus concluded, “Listen, then, if you have ears!”

The Purpose of the Parables

(Mk 4.10–12; Lk 8.9–10)

10Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

11Jesus answered, “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has. 13The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand. 14So the prophecy of Isaiah applies to them:

‘This people will listen and listen, but not understand;

they will look and look, but not see,

15because their minds are dull,

and they have stopped up their ears

and have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, their eyes would see,

their ears would hear,

their minds would understand,

and they would turn to me, says God,

and I would heal them.’

16“As for you, how fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear. 17I assure you that many prophets and many of God's people wanted very much to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower

(Mk 4.13–20; Lk 8.11–15)

18“Listen, then, and learn what the parable of the sower means. 19Those who hear the message about the Kingdom but do not understand it are like the seeds that fell along the path. The Evil One comes and snatches away what was sown in them. 20The seeds that fell on rocky ground stand for those who receive the message gladly as soon as they hear it. 21But it does not sink deep into them, and they don't last long. So when trouble or persecution comes because of the message, they give up at once. 22The seeds that fell among thorn bushes stand for those who hear the message; but the worries about this life and the love for riches choke the message, and they don't bear fruit. 23And the seeds sown in the good soil stand for those who hear the message and understand it: they bear fruit, some as much as 100, others sixty, and others thirty.”

The Parable of the Weeds

24Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man sowed good seed in his field. 25One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26When the plants grew and the ears of corn began to form, then the weeds showed up. 27The man's servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?’ 28‘It was some enemy who did this,’ he answered. ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ they asked him. 29‘No,’ he answered, ‘because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. 30Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn.’ ”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

(Mk 4.30–32; Lk 13.18–19)

31Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field. 32It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.”

The Parable of the Yeast

(Lk 13.20–21)

33Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with forty litres of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.”

Jesus' Use of Parables

(Mk 4.33–34)

34Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; he would not say a thing to them without using a parable. 35He did this to make what the prophet had said come true:

“I will use parables when I speak to them;

I will tell them things unknown since the creation of the world.”

Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds

36When Jesus had left the crowd and gone indoors, his disciples came to him and said, “Tell us what the parable about the weeds in the field means.”

37Jesus answered, “The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the Kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One; 39and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are gathered up and burnt in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of the age: 41the Son of Man will send out his angels to gather up out of his Kingdom all those who cause people to sin and all others who do evil things, 42and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth. 43Then God's people will shine like the sun in their Father's Kingdom. Listen, then, if you have ears!

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure

44“The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.

The Parable of the Pearl

45“Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, 46and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.

The Parable of the Net

47“Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Some fishermen throw their net out in the lake and catch all kinds of fish. 48When the net is full, they pull it to shore and sit down to divide the fish: the good ones go into their buckets, the worthless ones are thrown away. 49It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good 50and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and grind their teeth.

New Truths and Old

51“Do you understand these things?” Jesus asked them.

“Yes,” they answered.

52So he replied, “This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who takes new and old things out of his storeroom.”

Jesus is Rejected at Nazareth

(Mk 6.1–6; Lk 4.16–30)

53When Jesus finished telling these parables, he left that place 54and went back to his home town. He taught in the synagogue, and those who heard him were amazed. “Where did he get such wisdom?” they asked. “And what about his miracles? 55Isn't he the carpenter's son? Isn't Mary his mother, and aren't James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? 56Aren't all his sisters living here? Where did he get all this?” 57And so they rejected him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his home town and by his own family.” 58Because they did not have faith, he did not perform many miracles there.

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