Isaiah 47; Isaiah 48; Isaiah 49; 1 Thessalonians 4

1 The 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! 2 Turn the millstone! Grind the flour! Off with your veil! Strip off your fine clothes! Lift up your skirts to cross the streams! 3 People will see you naked; they will see you humbled and shamed. I will take vengeance, and no one will stop me." 4 The holy God of Israel sets us free - his name is the Lord Almighty. 5 The Lord says to Babylon, "Sit in silence and darkness; no more will they call you the queen of nations! 6 I 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. 7 You 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. 9 But 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.' 11 Disaster will come upon you, and none of your magic can stop it. Ruin will come on you suddenly - ruin you never dreamed of! 12 Keep 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. 13 You 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 cozy fire to warm themselves by. 15 That 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."
1 Listen to this, people of Israel, you that are descended from Judah: You swear by the name of the Lord and claim to worship the God of Israel - but you don't mean a word you say. 2 And yet you are proud to say that you are citizens of the holy city and that you depend on Israel's God, whose name is the Lord Almighty. 3 The Lord says to Israel, "Long ago I predicted what would take place; then suddenly I made it happen. 4 I knew that you would prove to be stubborn, as rigid as iron and unyielding as bronze. 5 And so I predicted your future long ago, announcing events before they took place, to keep you from claiming that your idols and images made them happen. 6 "All I foretold has now taken place; you have to admit my predictions were right. Now I will tell you of new things to come, events that I did not reveal before. 7 Only now am I making them happen; nothing like this took place in the past. If it had, you would claim that you knew all about it. 8 I knew that you couldn't be trusted, that you have always been known as a rebel. That is why you never heard of this at all, why no word of it ever came to your ears. 9 "In order that people will praise my name, I am holding my anger in check; I am keeping it back and will not destroy you. 10 I have tested you in the fire of suffering, as silver is refined in a furnace. But I have found that you are worthless. 11 What I do is done for my own sake - I will not let my name be dishonored or let anyone else share the glory that should be mine and mine alone." 12 The Lord says, "Listen to me, Israel, the people I have called! I am God, the first, the last, the only God! 13 My hands made the earth's foundations and spread the heavens out. When I summon earth and sky, they come at once and present themselves. 14 "Assemble and listen, all of you! None of the gods could predict that the man I have chosen would attack Babylon; he will do what I want him to do. 15 I am the one who spoke and called him; I led him out and gave him success. 16 "Now come close to me and hear what I say. From the beginning I have spoken openly and have always made my words come true." (Now the Sovereign Lord has given me his power and sent me.) 17 The holy God of Israel, the Lord who saves you, says: "I am the Lord your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go. 18 "If only you had listened to my commands! Then blessings would have flowed for you like a stream that never goes dry. Victory would have come to you like the waves that roll on the shore. 19 Your descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand, and I would have made sure they were never destroyed." 20 Go out from Babylon, go free! Shout the news gladly; make it known everywhere: "The Lord has saved his servant Israel!" 21 When the Lord led his people through a hot, dry desert, they did not suffer from thirst. He made water come from a rock for them; he split the rock open, and water flowed out. 22 "There is no safety for sinners," says the Lord.
1 Listen to me, distant nations, you people who live far away! Before I was born, the Lord chose me and appointed me to be his servant. 2 He made my words as sharp as a sword. With his own hand he protected me. He made me like an arrow, sharp and ready for use. 3 He said to me, "Israel, you are my servant; because of you, people will praise me." 4 I said, "I have worked, but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing." Yet I can trust the Lord to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do. 5 Before I was born, the Lord appointed me; he made me his servant to bring back his people, to bring back the scattered people of Israel. The Lord gives me honor; he is the source of my strength. 6 The Lord said to me, "I have a greater task for you, my servant. Not only will you restore to greatness the people of Israel who have survived, but I will also make you a light to the nations - so that all the world may be saved." 7 Israel's holy God and savior says to the one who is deeply despised, who is hated by the nations and is the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you released and will rise to show their respect; princes also will see it, and they will bow low to honor you." This will happen because the Lord has chosen his servant; the holy God of Israel keeps his promises. 8 The Lord says to his people, "When the time comes to save you, I will show you favor and answer your cries for help. I will guard and protect you and through you make a covenant with all peoples. I will let you settle once again in your land that is now laid waste. 9 I will say to the prisoners, "Go free!' and to those who are in darkness, "Come out to the light!' They will be like sheep that graze on the hills; 10 they will never be hungry or thirsty. Sun and desert heat will not hurt them, for they will be led by one who loves them. He will lead them to springs of water. 11 "I will make a highway across the mountains and prepare a road for my people to travel. 12 My people will come from far away, from the north and the west, and from Aswan in the south." 13 Sing, heavens! Shout for joy, earth! Let the mountains burst into song! The Lord will comfort his people; he will have pity on his suffering people. 14 But the people of Jerusalem said, "The Lord has abandoned us! He has forgotten us." 15 So the Lord answers, "Can a woman forget her own baby and not love the child she bore? Even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you. 16 Jerusalem, I can never forget you! I have written your name on the palms of my hands. 17 "Those who will rebuild you are coming soon, and those who destroyed you will leave. 18 Look around and see what is happening! Your people are assembling - they are coming home! As surely as I am the living God, you will be proud of your people, as proud as a bride is of her jewels. 19 "Your country was ruined and desolate - but now it will be too small for those who are coming to live there. And those who left you in ruins will be far removed from you. 20 Your people who were born in exile will one day say to you, "This land is too small - we need more room to live in!' 21 Then you will say to yourself, "Who bore all these children for me? I lost my children and could have no more. I was exiled and driven away - who brought these children up? I was left all alone - where did these children come from?' " 22 The Sovereign Lord says to his people: "I will signal to the nations, and they will bring your children home. 23 Kings will be like fathers to you; queens will be like mothers. They will bow low before you and honor you; they will humbly show their respect for you. Then you will know that I am the Lord; no one who waits for my help will be disappointed." 24 Can you take away a soldier's loot? Can you rescue the prisoners of a tyrant? 25 The Lord replies, "That is just what is going to happen. The soldier's prisoners will be taken away, and the tyrant's loot will be seized. I will fight against whoever fights you, and I will rescue your children. 26 I will make your oppressors kill each other; they will be drunk with murder and rage. Then all people will know that I am the Lord, the one who saves you and sets you free. They will know that I am Israel's powerful God."
1 Finally, our friends, you learned from us how you should live in order to please God. This is, of course, the way you have been living. And now we beg and urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to do even more. 2 For you know the instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 God wants you to be holy and completely free from sexual immorality. 4 Each of you should know how to live with your wife in a holy and honorable way, 5 not with a lustful desire, like the heathen who do not know God. 6 In this matter, then, none of you should do wrong to other Christians or take advantage of them. We have told you this before, and we strongly warned you that the Lord will punish those who do that. 7 God did not call us to live in immorality, but in holiness. 8 So then, whoever rejects this teaching is not rejecting a human being, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. 9 There is no need to write you about love for each other. You yourselves have been taught by God how you should love one another. 10 And you have, in fact, behaved like this toward all the believers in all of Macedonia. So we beg you, our friends, to do even more. 11 Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living, just as we told you before. 12 In this way you will win the respect of those who are not believers, and you will not have to depend on anyone for what you need. 13 Our friends, we want you to know the truth about those who have died, so that you will not be sad, as are those who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will take back with Jesus those who have died believing in him. 15 W_ hat we are teaching you now is the Lord's teaching: we who are alive on the day the Lord comes will not go ahead of those who have died. 16 There will be the shout of command, the archangel's voice, the sound of God's trumpet, and the Lord himself will come down from heaven. Those who have died believing in Christ will rise to life first; 17 then we who are living at that time will be gathered up along with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. 18 So then, encourage one another with these words.
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