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Isaiah 45; Isaiah 46; 1 Thessalonians 3

1 The LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom I have grasped by the strong hand, to conquer nations before him, disarming kings, and opening doors before him, so no gates will be shut: 2 I myself will go before you, and I will level mountains. I will shatter bronze doors; I will cut through iron bars. 3 I will give you hidden treasures of secret riches, so you will know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob and Israel my chosen, I called you by name. I gave you an honored title, though you didn't know me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no God. I strengthen you— though you don't know me— 6 so all will know, from the rising of the sun to its setting, that there is nothing apart from me. I am the LORD; there's no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, make prosperity and create doom; I am the LORD, who does all these things. 8 Pour down, you heavens above, and let the clouds flow with righteousness. Let the earth open for salvation to bear fruit; let righteousness sprout as well. I, the LORD, have created these things. 9 Doom to the one who argues with the potter, as if he were just another clay pot! Does the clay say to the potter, "What are you making?" or "Your work has no handles"? 10 Doom to one who says to a father, "What have you fathered?" and to a woman, "With what are you in labor?" 11 The LORD, the holy one of Israel and its maker, says: Are you questioning me about my own children? Are you telling me what to do with the work of my hands? 12 I myself made the earth, and created humans upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens. I commanded all their forces. 13 I have a right to awaken Cyrus; I will smooth all his paths. He will build my city and set my exiles free, not for a price and not for a bribe, says the LORD of heavenly forces. 14 The LORD says: Egypt will grow weary, Cush will be sold, and the tall Sabeans will cross over to you. They will be yours, and after you they will go. In chains they will come; to you they will bow down. They will plead with you: "Truly God is with you; there's no other, no other God." 15 Surely you are a god who hides himself, Israel's God and savior. 16 They will all be shamed and disgraced; the makers of idols will end up disgraced together. 17 Israel has been saved by the LORD of everlasting salvation. You won't be shamed, and you won't be disgraced forever and always. 18 For this is what the LORD said, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who didn't create it a wasteland but formed it as a habitation: I, the LORD, and none other! 19 I didn't speak in secret or in some land of darkness; I didn't say to the offspring of Jacob, "Seek me in chaos." I am the LORD, the one who speaks truth, who announces what is correct. 20 Gather and come, draw near together, fugitives of the nations! Those who carry their wooden idols don't know; those who pray to a god who won't save. 21 Announce! Approach! Confer together! Who proclaimed this from the beginning, announced it from long ago? Wasn't it I, the LORD? There's no other God except me, a righteous God and a savior; there's none besides me! 22 Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God, and there's no other. 23 I have sworn a solemn pledge; a word has left my mouth; it is reliable and won't fail. Surely every knee will bow and every tongue will confess; 24 they will say, "Righteousness and strength come only from the LORD. All who are angry with him will come to shame. 25 All the Israelites will be victorious and rejoice."
1 Bel crouches down; Nebo cowers. Their idols sit on animals, on beasts. The objects you once carried about are now borne as burdens by the weary animals. 2 They crouch down and cower together. They aren't able to rescue the burden, but they themselves go into captivity. 3 Listen to me, house of Jacob, all that remains from the house of Israel who have been borne by me since pregnancy, whom I carried from the womb 4 until you grow old. I am the one, and until you turn gray I will support you. I have done it, and I will continue to bear it; I will support and I will rescue. 5 To whom will you liken me and count me equal and compare me so that we are alike? 6 Those who pour out gold from a bag and weigh silver with a balance hire a metalworker; then he makes a god. They bow down; they worship; 7 they carry the idol on their shoulders and support it; they set it down, and it stands still, unable to move from its place. If one cries out to it, it doesn't answer. It can't save people from their distress. 8 Remember this and take courage; take it to heart, you rebels. 9 Remember the prior things—from long ago; I am God, and there's no other. I am God! There's none like me, 10 who tells the end at the beginning, from ancient times things not yet done, saying, "My plan will stand; all that I decide I will do," 11 I call a bird of prey from the east, a man from a distant land for my plan. As surely as I have spoken, I'll make it happen; I have planned, and yes, I'll do it. 12 Listen to me, you bullheaded people who are far from victory: 13 I'm bringing my victory near—it isn't far, and my salvation—it won't delay. I will establish salvation in Zion and grant my splendor to Israel.
1 So when we couldn't stand it any longer, we thought it was a good idea to stay on in Athens by ourselves, 2 and we sent you Timothy, who is our brother and God's coworker in the good news about Christ. We sent him to strengthen and encourage you in your faithfulness. 3 We didn't want any of you to be shaken by these problems. You know very well that we were meant to go through this. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept on predicting that we were going to face problems exactly like what happened, as you know. 5 That's why I sent Timothy to find out about your faithfulness when I couldn't stand it anymore. I was worried that the tempter might have tempted you so that our work would have been a waste of time. 6 Now Timothy has returned to us from you and has given us good news about your faithfulness and love! He says that you always have good memories about us and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. 7 Because of this, brothers and sisters, we were encouraged in all our distress and trouble through your faithfulness. 8 For now we are alive if you are standing your ground in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you, given all the joy we have because of you before our God? 10 Night and day, we pray more than ever to see all of you in person and to complete whatever you still need for your faith. 11 Now may our God and Father himself guide us on our way back to you. 12 May the Lord cause you to increase and enrich your love for each other and for everyone in the same way as we also love you. 13 May the love cause your hearts to be strengthened, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his people. Amen.
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