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Old Testament:  Isaiah 39-40

Isaiah 39

Envoys from Babylon
 1  Soon after this, Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent Hezekiah his best wishes and a gift. He had heard that Hezekiah had been very sick and that he had recovered.  2  Hezekiah was delighted with the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
   3  Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked him, "What did those men want? Where were they from?"
  Hezekiah replied, "They came from the distant land of Babylon."
   4  "What did they see in your palace?" asked Isaiah.
  "They saw everything," Hezekiah replied. "I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries."
   5  Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Listen to this message from the LORD of Heaven's Armies:  6  `The time is coming when everything in your palace—all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now—will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left,' says the LORD.  7  `Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon's king.'"
   8  Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "This message you have given me from the LORD is good." For the king was thinking, "At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime."

Isaiah 40

Comfort for God's People
 1  "Comfort, comfort my people,"
  says your God.
 2  "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
  and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the LORD has punished her twice over
  for all her sins."

 3  Listen! It's the voice of someone shouting,
"Clear the way through the wilderness
  for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
  for our God!
 4  Fill in the valleys,
  and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
  and smooth out the rough places.
 5  Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
  and all people will see it together.
  The LORD has spoken!" [5] 

 6  A voice said, "Shout!"
  I asked, "What should I shout?"

"Shout that people are like the grass.
  Their beauty fades as quickly
  as the flowers in a field.
 7  The grass withers and the flowers fade
  beneath the breath of the LORD.
  And so it is with people.
 8  The grass withers and the flowers fade,
  but the word of our God stands forever."

 9  O Zion, messenger of good news,
  shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. [9] 
  Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
  "Your God is coming!"
 10  Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power.
  He will rule with a powerful arm.
  See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
 11  He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
  He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
  He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

The LORD Has No Equal
 12  Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
  Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
  or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
 13  Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? [13] 
  Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
 14  Has the LORD ever needed anyone's advice?
  Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
  or show him the path of justice?

 15  No, for all the nations of the world
  are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more
  than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
  as though it were a grain of sand.
 16  All the wood in Lebanon's forests
  and all Lebanon's animals would not be enough
  to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.
 17  The nations of the world are worth nothing to him.
  In his eyes they count for less than nothing—
  mere emptiness and froth.

 18  To whom can you compare God?
  What image can you find to resemble him?
 19  Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
  overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
 20  Or if people are too poor for that,
  they might at least choose wood that won't decay
and a skilled craftsman
  to carve an image that won't fall down!

 21  Haven't you heard? Don't you understand?
  Are you deaf to the words of God—
the words he gave before the world began?
  Are you so ignorant?
 22  God sits above the circle of the earth.
  The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
  and makes his tent from them.
 23  He judges the great people of the world
  and brings them all to nothing.
 24  They hardly get started, barely taking root,
  when he blows on them and they wither.
  The wind carries them off like chaff.

 25  "To whom will you compare me?
  Who is my equal?" asks the Holy One.

 26  Look up into the heavens.
  Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
  calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
  not a single one is missing.
 27  O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles?
  O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
 28  Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.  29  He gives power to the weak
  and strength to the powerless.
 30  Even youths will become weak and tired,
  and young men will fall in exhaustion.
 31  But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
<<  40:3-5 Greek version reads He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, / "Prepare the way for the L<%=ftSC%>ORD's coming! / Clear a road for our God! / Fill in the valleys, / and level the mountains and hills. / And then the glory of the L<%=ftSC%>ORD will be revealed, / and all people will see the salvation sent from God. / The L<%=ftSC%>ORD has spoken!" Compare Matt 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6.
<<  40:9 Or O messenger of good news, shout to Zion from the mountaintops! Shout it louder to Jerusalem.
<<  40:13 Greek version reads Who can know the L<%=ftSC%>ORD's thoughts? Compare Rom 11:34; 1 Cor 2:16.

New Testament:  Colossians 4

Colossians 4

 1  Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master—in heaven.

An Encouragement for Prayer
 2  Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.  3  Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains.  4  Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
   5  Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.  6  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive [6]  so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Paul's Final Instructions and Greetings
 7  Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord's work.  8  I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.  9  I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that's happening here.
   10  Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas's cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way.  11  Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!
   12  Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God.  13  I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
   14  Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas.  15  Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters [15]  at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.
   16  After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.
   17  And say to Archippus, "Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you."
  Remember my chains.
  May God's grace be with you.
<<  4:6 Greek and seasoned with salt.
<<  4:15 Greek brothers.

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