Isaiah 9; Isaiah 10; Ephesians 3

1 There will be no way for them to escape from this time of trouble. The land of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali was once disgraced, but the future will bring honor to this region, from the Mediterranean eastward to the land on the other side of the Jordan, and even to Galilee itself, where the foreigners live. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them. 3 You have given them great joy, Lord; you have made them happy. They rejoice in what you have done, as people rejoice when they harvest grain or when they divide captured wealth. 4 For you have broken the yoke that burdened them and the rod that beat their shoulders. You have defeated the nation that oppressed and exploited your people, just as you defeated the army of Midian long ago. 5 The boots of the invading army and all their bloodstained clothing will be destroyed by fire. 6 A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, "Wonderful Counselor," "Mighty God," "Eternal Father," "Prince of Peace." 7 His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David's successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time. The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this. 8 The Lord has pronounced judgment on the kingdom of Israel, on the descendants of Jacob. 9 All the people of Israel, everyone who lives in the city of Samaria, will know that he has done this. Now they are proud and arrogant. They say, 10 "The brick buildings have fallen down, but we will replace them with stone buildings. The beams of sycamore wood have been cut down, but we will replace them with the finest cedar." 11 The Lord has stirred up their enemies to attack them. 12 Syria on the east and Philistia on the west have opened their mouths to devour Israel. Yet even so the Lord's anger is not ended; his hand is still stretched out to punish. 13 The people of Israel have not repented; even though the Lord Almighty has punished them, they have not returned to him. 14 In a single day the Lord will punish Israel's leaders and its people; he will cut them off, head and tail. 15 The old and honorable men are the head - and the tail is the prophets whose teachings are lies! 16 Those who lead these people have misled them and totally confused them. 17 And so the Lord will not let any of the young men escape, and he will not show pity on any of the widows and orphans, because all the people are godless and wicked and everything they say is evil. Yet even so the Lord's anger will not be ended, but his hand will still be stretched out to punish. 18 The wickedness of the people burns like a fire that destroys thorn bushes and thistles. It burns like a forest fire that sends up columns of smoke. 19 Because the Lord Almighty is angry, his punishment burns like a fire throughout the land and destroys the people, and it is each of us for ourselves. 20 Everywhere in the country people snatch and eat any bit of food they can find, but their hunger is never satisfied. They even eat their own children! 21 The people of Manasseh and the people of Ephraim attack each other, and together they attack Judah. Yet even so the Lord's anger is not ended; his hand is still stretched out to punish.
1 You are doomed! You make unjust laws that oppress my people. 2 That is how you keep the poor from having their rights and from getting justice. That is how you take the property that belongs to widows and orphans. 3 What will you do when God punishes you? What will you do when he brings disaster on you from a distant country? Where will you run to find help? Where will you hide your wealth? 4 You will be killed in battle or dragged off as prisoners. Yet even so the Lord's anger will not be ended; his hand will still be stretched out to punish. 5 The Lord said, "Assyria! I use Assyria like a club to punish those with whom I am angry. 6 I sent Assyria to attack a godless nation, people who have made me angry. I sent them to loot and steal and trample the people like dirt in the streets." 7 But the Assyrian emperor has his own violent plans in mind. He is determined to destroy many nations. 8 He boasts, "Every one of my commanders is a king! 9 I conquered the cities of Calno and Carchemish, the cities of Hamath and Arpad. I conquered Samaria and Damascus. 10 I reached out to punish those kingdoms that worship idols, idols more numerous than those of Jerusalem and Samaria. 11 I have destroyed Samaria and all its idols, and I will do the same to Jerusalem and the images that are worshiped there." 12 But the Lord says, "When I finish what I am doing on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, I will punish the emperor of Assyria for all his boasting and all his pride." 13 The emperor of Assyria boasts, "I have done it all myself. I am strong and wise and clever. I wiped out the boundaries between nations and took the supplies they had stored. Like a bull I have trampled the people who live there. 14 The nations of the world were like a bird's nest, and I gathered their wealth as easily as gathering eggs. Not a wing fluttered to scare me off; no beak opened to scream at me!" 15 But the Lord says, "Can an ax claim to be greater than the one who uses it? Is a saw more important than the one who saws with it? A club doesn't lift up a person; a person lifts up a club." 16 The Lord Almighty is going to send disease to punish those who are now well-fed. In their bodies there will be a fire that burns and burns. 17 God, the light of Israel, will become a fire. Israel's holy God will become a flame, which in a single day will burn up everything, even the thorns and thistles. 18 The rich forests and farmlands will be totally destroyed, in the same way that a fatal sickness destroys someone. 19 There will be so few trees left that even a child will be able to count them. 20 A time is coming when the people of Israel who have survived will not rely any more on the nation that almost destroyed them. They will truly put their trust in the Lord, Israel's holy God. 21 A few of the people of Israel will come back to their mighty God. 22 Even though now there are as many people of Israel as there are grains of sand by the sea, only a few will come back. Destruction is in store for the people, and it is fully deserved. 23 Yes, throughout the whole country the Sovereign Lord Almighty will bring destruction, as he said he would. 24 The Sovereign Lord Almighty says to his people who live in Zion, "Do not be afraid of the Assyrians, even though they oppress you as the Egyptians used to do. 25 In only a little while I will finish punishing you, and then I will destroy them. 26 I, the Lord Almighty, will beat them with my whip as I did the people of Midian at Oreb Rock. I will punish Assyria as I punished Egypt. 27 When that time comes, I will free you from the power of Assyria, and their yoke will no longer be a burden on your shoulders." 28 The enemy army has captured the city of Ai! They have passed through Migron! They left their supplies at Michmash! 29 They have crossed the pass and are spending the night at Geba! The people in the town of Ramah are terrified, and the people in King Saul's hometown of Gibeah have run away. 30 Shout, people of Gallim! Listen, people of Laishah! Answer, people of Anathoth! 31 The people of Madmenah and Gebim are running for their lives. 32 Today the enemy are in the town of Nob, and there they are shaking their fists at Mount Zion, at the city of Jerusalem. 33 The Lord Almighty will bring them crashing down like branches cut off a tree. The proudest and highest of them will be cut down and humiliated. 34 The Lord will cut them down as trees in the heart of the forest are cut down with an ax, as even the finest trees of Lebanon fall!
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. 2 Surely you have heard that God in his grace has given me this work to do for your good. 3 God revealed his secret plan and made it known to me. (I have written briefly about this, 4 and if you will read what I have written, you can learn about my understanding of the secret of Christ.) 5 In past times human beings were not told this secret, but God has revealed it now by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. 6 The secret is that by means of the gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God's blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus. 7 I was made a servant of the gospel by God's special gift, which he gave me through the working of his power. 8 I am less than the least of all God's people; yet God gave me this privilege of taking to the Gentiles the Good News about the infinite riches of Christ, 9 and of making all people see how God's secret plan is to be put into effect. God, who is the Creator of all things, kept his secret hidden through all the past ages, 10 in order that at the present time, by means of the church, the angelic rulers and powers in the heavenly world might learn of his wisdom in all its different forms. 11 God did this according to his eternal purpose, which he achieved through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God's presence with all confidence. 13 I beg you, then, not to be discouraged because I am suffering for you; it is all for your benefit. 14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ's love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love - although it can never be fully known - and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. 20 To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: 21 to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever! Amen.
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