Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 98

Isaiah 29–32, Matthew 4

Bible text(s)

The Fate of Jerusalem

1God's altar, Jerusalem itself, is doomed! The city where David camped is doomed! Let another year or two come and go, with its feasts and festivals, 2and then God will bring disaster on the city that is called “God's altar”. There will be weeping and wailing, and the whole city will be like an altar covered with blood. 3God will attack the city, surround it, and besiege it. 4Jerusalem will be like a ghost struggling to speak from under the ground, a muffled voice coming from the dust.

5Jerusalem, all the foreigners who attack you will be blown away like dust, and their terrifying armies will fly away like straw. Suddenly and unexpectedly 6the LORD Almighty will rescue you with violent thunderstorms and earthquakes. He will send tempests and raging fire; 7then all the armies of the nations attacking the city of God's altar, all their weapons and equipment — everything — will vanish like a dream, like something imagined in the night. 8All the nations that assemble to attack Jerusalem will be like a starving person who dreams he is eating and wakes up hungry, or like someone dying of thirst who dreams he is drinking and wakes with a dry throat.

Disregarded Warnings

9Go ahead and be stupid! Go ahead and be blind! Get drunk without any wine! Stagger without drinking a drop! 10The LORD has made you drowsy, ready to fall into a deep sleep. The prophets should be the eyes of the people, but God has blindfolded them. 11The meaning of every prophetic vision will be hidden from you; it will be like a sealed scroll. If you take it to someone who knows how to read and ask him to read it to you, he will say he can't because it is sealed. 12If you give it to someone who can't read and ask him to read it to you, he will answer that he doesn't know how.

13The Lord said, “These people claim to worship me, but their words are meaningless, and their hearts are somewhere else. Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorized. 14So I will startle them with one unexpected blow after another. Those who are wise will turn out to be fools, and all their cleverness will be useless.”

Hope for the Future

15Those who try to hide their plans from the LORD are doomed! They carry out their schemes in secret and think no one will see them or know what they are doing. 16They turn everything upside down. Which is more important, the potter or the clay? Can a thing which someone has made say to its maker, “You didn't make me”? Or “You don't know what you are doing”?

17As the saying goes, before long the dense forest will become farmland, and the farmland will go back to forest.

18When that day comes, the deaf will be able to hear a book being read aloud, and the blind, who have been living in darkness, will open their eyes and see. 19Poor and humble people will once again find the happiness which the LORD, the holy God of Israel, gives. 20It will be the end of those who oppress others and show contempt for God. Every sinner will be destroyed. 21God will destroy those who slander others, those who prevent the punishment of criminals, and those who tell lies to keep honest men from getting justice.

22So now the LORD, the God of Israel, who rescued Abraham from trouble, says, “My people, you will not be disgraced any longer, and your faces will no longer be pale with shame. 23When you see the children that I will give you, then you will acknowledge that I am the holy God of Israel. You will honour me and stand in awe of me. 24Foolish people will learn to understand, and those who are always grumbling will be glad to be taught.”

A Useless Treaty with Egypt

1The LORD has spoken: “Those who rule Judah are doomed because they rebel against me. They follow plans that I did not make, and sign treaties against my will, piling one sin on another. 2They go to Egypt for help without asking for my advice. They want Egypt to protect them, so they put their trust in Egypt's king. 3But the king will be powerless to help them, and Egypt's protection will end in disaster. 4Although their ambassadors have already arrived at the Egyptian cities of Zoan and Hanes, 5the people of Judah will regret that they ever trusted that unreliable nation, a nation that fails them when they expect help.”

6This is God's message about the animals of the southern desert: “The ambassadors travel through dangerous country, where lions live and where there are poisonous snakes and flying dragons. They load their donkeys and camels with expensive gifts for a nation that cannot give them any help. 7The help that Egypt gives is useless. So I have nicknamed Egypt, ‘The Harmless Dragon’ ”.

The Disobedient People

8God told me to write down in a book what the people are like, so that there would be a permanent record of how evil they are. 9They are always rebelling against God, always lying, always refusing to listen to the LORD's teachings. 10They tell the prophets to keep quiet. They say, “Don't talk to us about what's right. Tell us what we want to hear. Let us keep our illusions. 11Get out of our way and stop blocking our path. We don't want to hear about your holy God of Israel.”

12But this is what the holy God of Israel says: “You ignore what I tell you and rely on violence and deceit. 13You are guilty. You are like a high wall with a crack running down it; suddenly you will collapse. 14You will be shattered like a clay pot, so badly broken that there is no piece big enough to pick up hot coals with, or to scoop water from a cistern.”

15The Sovereign LORD, the holy God of Israel, says to the people, “Come back and quietly trust in me. Then you will be strong and secure.” But you refuse to do it! 16Instead, you plan to escape from your enemies by riding fast horses. And you are right — escape is what you will have to do! You think your horses are fast enough, but those who pursue you will be faster! 17A thousand of you will run away when you see one enemy soldier, and five soldiers will be enough to make you all run away. Nothing will be left of your army except a lonely flagstaff on the top of a hill! 18And yet the LORD is waiting to be merciful to you. He is ready to take pity on you because he always does what is right. Happy are those who put their trust in the LORD.

God will Bless his People

19You people who live in Jerusalem will not weep any more. The LORD is compassionate, and when you cry to him for help, he will answer you. 20The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him any more. 21If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, “Here is the road. Follow it.” 22You will take your idols plated with silver and your idols covered with gold, and will throw them away like filth, shouting, “Out of my sight!” 23Whenever you sow your seeds, the LORD will send rain to make them grow and will give you a rich harvest, and your livestock will have plenty of pasture. 24The oxen and donkeys that plough your fields will eat the finest and best fodder. 25On the day when the forts of your enemies are captured and their people are killed, streams of water will flow from every mountain and every hill. 26The moon will be as bright as the sun, and the sun will be seven times brighter than usual, like the light of seven days in one. This will all happen when the LORD bandages and heals the wounds he has given his people.

God will Punish Assyria

27The LORD's power and glory can be seen in the distance. Fire and smoke show his anger. He speaks, and his words burn like fire. 28He sends the wind in front of him like a flood that carries everything away. It sweeps nations to destruction and puts an end to their evil plans. 29But you, God's people, will be happy and sing as you do on the night of a sacred festival. You will be as happy as those who walk to the music of flutes on their way to the Temple of the LORD, the defender of Israel.

30The LORD will let everyone hear his majestic voice and feel the force of his anger. There will be flames, cloudbursts, hailstones, and torrents of rain. 31The Assyrians will be terrified when they hear the LORD's voice and feel the force of his punishment. 32As the LORD strikes them again and again, his people will keep time with the music of drums and harps. God himself will fight against the Assyrians. 33Long ago a place was prepared where a huge fire will burn the emperor of Assyria. It is deep and wide, and piled high with wood. The LORD will breathe out a stream of flame to set it on fire.

God will Protect Jerusalem

1Those who go to Egypt for help are doomed! They are relying on Egypt's vast military strength — horses, chariots, and soldiers. But they do not rely on the LORD, the holy God of Israel, or ask him for help. 2He knows what he is doing! He sends disaster. He carries out his threats to punish evil men and those who protect them. 3The Egyptians are not gods — they are only human. Their horses are not supernatural. When the LORD acts, the strong nation will crumble, and the weak nation it helped will fall. Both of them will be destroyed.

4The LORD said to me, “No matter how shepherds yell and shout, they can't scare away a lion from an animal that it has killed; in the same way, there is nothing that can keep me, the LORD Almighty, from protecting Mount Zion. 5Just as a bird hovers over its nest to protect its young, so I, the LORD Almighty, will protect Jerusalem and defend it.”

6The LORD said, “People of Israel, you have sinned against me and opposed me. But now, come back to me! 7A time is coming when all of you will throw away the sinful idols you made out of silver and gold. 8Assyria will be destroyed in war, but not by human power. The Assyrians will run from battle, and their young men will be made slaves. 9Their emperor will run away in terror, and the officers will be so frightened that they will abandon their battle flags.” The LORD has spoken — the LORD who is worshipped in Jerusalem and whose fire burns there for sacrifices.

A King with Integrity

1Some day there will be a king who rules with integrity, and national leaders who govern with justice. 2Each of them will be like a shelter from the wind and a place to hide from storms. They will be like streams flowing in a desert, like the shadow of a giant rock in a barren land. 3Their eyes and ears will be open to the needs of the people. 4They will not be impatient any longer, but they will act with understanding and will say what they mean. 5No one will think that a fool is honourable or say that a scoundrel is honest. 6A fool speaks foolishly and thinks up evil things to do. What he does and what he says are an insult to the LORD, and he never feeds the hungry or gives thirsty people anything to drink. 7A stupid person is evil and does evil things; he plots to ruin the poor with lies and to prevent them getting their rights. 8But an honourable person acts honestly and stands firm for what is right.

Judgement and Restoration

9You women who live an easy life, free from worries, listen to what I am saying. 10You may be satisfied now, but this time next year you will be in despair because there will be no grapes for you to gather. 11You have been living an easy life, free from worries; but now, tremble with fear! Strip off your clothes and tie rags round your waist. 12Beat your breasts in grief because the fertile fields and the vineyards have been destroyed, 13and thorn bushes and briars are growing on my people's land. Weep for all the houses where people were happy and for the city that was full of life. 14Even the palace will be abandoned and the capital city totally deserted. Homes and the forts that guarded them will be in ruins for ever. Wild donkeys will roam there, and sheep will find pasture there.

15But once more God will send us his Spirit. The waste land will become fertile, and fields will produce rich crops. 16Everywhere in the land righteousness and justice will be done. 17Because everyone will do what is right, there will be peace and security for ever. 18God's people will be free from worries, and their homes peaceful and safe. 19(But hail will fall on the forests, and the city will be torn down.) 20How happy everyone will be with plenty of water for the crops and safe pasture everywhere for the donkeys and cattle.

The Temptation of Jesus

(Mk 1.12–13; Lk 4.1–13)

1Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. 2After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. 3Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

4But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’ ”

5Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, 6and said to him, “If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says:

‘God will give orders to his angels about you;

they will hold you up with their hands,

so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’ ”

7Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

8Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. 9“All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

10Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’ ”

11Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.

Jesus Begins his Work in Galilee

(Mk 1.14–15; Lk 4.14–15)

12When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he went away to Galilee. 13He did not stay in Nazareth, but went to live in Capernaum, a town by Lake Galilee, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14This was done to make what the prophet Isaiah had said come true:

15“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

on the road to the sea, on the other side of the Jordan,

Galilee, land of the Gentiles!

16The people who live in darkness

will see a great light.

On those who live in the dark land of death

the light will shine.”

17From that time Jesus began to preach his message: “Turn away from your sins, because the Kingdom of heaven is near!”

Jesus Calls Four Fishermen

(Mk 1.16–20; Lk 5.1–11)

18As Jesus walked along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw two brothers who were fishermen, Simon (called Peter) and his brother Andrew, catching fish in the lake with a net. 19Jesus said to them, “Come with me, and I will teach you to catch people.” 20At once they left their nets and went with him.

21He went on and saw two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were in their boat with their father Zebedee, getting their nets ready. Jesus called them, 22and at once they left the boat and their father, and went with him.

Jesus Teaches, Preaches, and Heals

(Lk 6.17–19)

23Jesus went all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom, and healing people who had all kinds of disease and sickness. 24The news about him spread through the whole country of Syria, so that people brought to him all those who were sick, suffering from all kinds of diseases and disorders: people with demons, and epileptics, and paralytics — and Jesus healed them all. 25Large crowds followed him from Galilee and the Ten Towns, from Jerusalem, Judea, and the land on the other side of the Jordan.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.20.14
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