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Old Testament:  Ezekiel 16-17

Ezekiel 16

Jerusalem—an Unfaithful Wife
 1  Then another message came to me from the LORD:  2  "Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable sins.  3  Give her this message from the Sovereign LORD: You are nothing but a Canaanite! Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  4  On the day you were born, no one cared about you. Your umbilical cord was not cut, and you were never washed, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in cloth.  5  No one had the slightest interest in you; no one pitied you or cared for you. On the day you were born, you were unwanted, dumped in a field and left to die.
   6  "But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, `Live!'  7  And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel. Your breasts became full, and your body hair grew, but you were still naked.  8  And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.
   9  "Then I bathed you and washed off your blood, and I rubbed fragrant oils into your skin.  10  I gave you expensive clothing of fine linen and silk, beautifully embroidered, and sandals made of fine goatskin leather.  11  I gave you lovely jewelry, bracelets, beautiful necklaces,  12  a ring for your nose, earrings for your ears, and a lovely crown for your head.  13  And so you were adorned with gold and silver. Your clothes were made of fine linen and were beautifully embroidered. You ate the finest foods—choice flour, honey, and olive oil—and became more beautiful than ever. You looked like a queen, and so you were!  14  Your fame soon spread throughout the world because of your beauty. I dressed you in my splendor and perfected your beauty, says the Sovereign LORD.
   15  "But you thought your fame and beauty were your own. So you gave yourself as a prostitute to every man who came along. Your beauty was theirs for the asking.  16  You used the lovely things I gave you to make shrines for idols, where you played the prostitute. Unbelievable! How could such a thing ever happen?  17  You took the very jewels and gold and silver ornaments I had given you and made statues of men and worshiped them. This is adultery against me!  18  You used the beautifully embroidered clothes I gave you to dress your idols. Then you used my special oil and my incense to worship them.  19  Imagine it! You set before them as a sacrifice the choice flour, olive oil, and honey I had given you, says the Sovereign LORD.
   20  "Then you took your sons and daughters—the children you had borne to me—and sacrificed them to your gods. Was your prostitution not enough?  21  Must you also slaughter my children by sacrificing them to idols?  22  In all your years of adultery and detestable sin, you have not once remembered the days long ago when you lay naked in a field, kicking about in your own blood.
   23  "What sorrow awaits you, says the Sovereign LORD. In addition to all your other wickedness,  24  you built a pagan shrine and put altars to idols in every town square.  25  On every street corner you defiled your beauty, offering your body to every passerby in an endless stream of prostitution.  26  Then you added lustful Egypt to your lovers, provoking my anger with your increasing promiscuity.  27  That is why I struck you with my fist and reduced your boundaries. I handed you over to your enemies, the Philistines, and even they were shocked by your lewd conduct.  28  You have prostituted yourself with the Assyrians, too. It seems you can never find enough new lovers! And after your prostitution there, you still were not satisfied.  29  You added to your lovers by embracing Babylonia, [29]  the land of merchants, but you still weren't satisfied.
   30  "What a sick heart you have, says the Sovereign LORD, to do such things as these, acting like a shameless prostitute.  31  You build your pagan shrines on every street corner and your altars to idols in every square. In fact, you have been worse than a prostitute, so eager for sin that you have not even demanded payment.  32  Yes, you are an adulterous wife who takes in strangers instead of her own husband.  33  Prostitutes charge for their services—but not you! You give gifts to your lovers, bribing them to come and have sex with you.  34  So you are the opposite of other prostitutes. You pay your lovers instead of their paying you!

Judgment on Jerusalem's Prostitution
 35  "Therefore, you prostitute, listen to this message from the LORD!  36  This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because you have poured out your lust and exposed yourself in prostitution to all your lovers, and because you have worshiped detestable idols, [36]  and because you have slaughtered your children as sacrifices to your gods,  37  this is what I am going to do. I will gather together all your allies—the lovers with whom you have sinned, both those you loved and those you hated—and I will strip you naked in front of them so they can stare at you.  38  I will punish you for your murder and adultery. I will cover you with blood in my jealous fury.  39  Then I will give you to these many nations who are your lovers, and they will destroy you. They will knock down your pagan shrines and the altars to your idols. They will strip you and take your beautiful jewels, leaving you stark naked.  40  They will band together in a mob to stone you and cut you up with swords.  41  They will burn your homes and punish you in front of many women. I will stop your prostitution and end your payments to your many lovers.
   42  "Then at last my fury against you will be spent, and my jealous anger will subside. I will be calm and will not be angry with you anymore.  43  But first, because you have not remembered your youth but have angered me by doing all these evil things, I will fully repay you for all of your sins, says the Sovereign LORD. For you have added lewd acts to all your detestable sins.  44  Everyone who makes up proverbs will say of you, `Like mother, like daughter.'  45  For your mother loathed her husband and her children, and so do you. And you are exactly like your sisters, for they despised their husbands and their children. Truly your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.
   46  "Your older sister was Samaria, who lived with her daughters in the north. Your younger sister was Sodom, who lived with her daughters in the south.  47  But you have not merely sinned as they did. You quickly surpassed them in corruption.  48  As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, Sodom and her daughters were never as wicked as you and your daughters.  49  Sodom's sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.  50  She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen. [50] 
   51  "Even Samaria did not commit half your sins. You have done far more detestable things than your sisters ever did. They seem righteous compared to you.  52  Shame on you! Your sins are so terrible that you make your sisters seem righteous, even virtuous.
   53  "But someday I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and Samaria, and I will restore you, too.  54  Then you will be truly ashamed of everything you have done, for your sins make them feel good in comparison.  55  Yes, your sisters, Sodom and Samaria, and all their people will be restored, and at that time you also will be restored.  56  In your proud days you held Sodom in contempt.  57  But now your greater wickedness has been exposed to all the world, and you are the one who is scorned—by Edom [57]  and all her neighbors and by Philistia.  58  This is your punishment for all your lewdness and detestable sins, says the LORD.
   59  "Now this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant.  60  Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.  61  Then you will remember with shame all the evil you have done. I will make your sisters, Samaria and Sodom, to be your daughters, even though they are not part of our covenant.  62  And I will reaffirm my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD.  63  You will remember your sins and cover your mouth in silent shame when I forgive you of all that you have done. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!"

Ezekiel 17

A Story of Two Eagles
 1  Then this message came to me from the LORD:  2  "Son of man, give this riddle, and tell this story to the people of Israel.  3  Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD:

"A great eagle with broad wings and long feathers,
  covered with many-colored plumage,
  came to Lebanon.
He seized the top of a cedar tree
 4    and plucked off its highest branch.
He carried it away to a city filled with merchants.
  He planted it in a city of traders.
 5  He also took a seedling from the land
  and planted it in fertile soil.
He placed it beside a broad river,
  where it could grow like a willow tree.
 6  It took root there and
  grew into a low, spreading vine.
Its branches turned up toward the eagle,
  and its roots grew down into the ground.
It produced strong branches
  and put out shoots.
 7  But then another great eagle came
  with broad wings and full plumage.
So the vine now sent its roots and branches
  toward him for water,
 8  even though it was already planted in good soil
  and had plenty of water
so it could grow into a splendid vine
  and produce rich leaves and luscious fruit.

 9  "So now the Sovereign LORD asks:
Will this vine grow and prosper?
  No! I will pull it up, roots and all!
I will cut off its fruit
  and let its leaves wither and die.
I will pull it up easily
  without a strong arm or a large army.
 10  But when the vine is transplanted,
  will it thrive?
No, it will wither away
  when the east wind blows against it.
It will die in the same good soil
  where it had grown so well."

The Riddle Explained
 11  Then this message came to me from the LORD:  12  "Say to these rebels of Israel: Don't you understand the meaning of this riddle of the eagles? The king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, took away her king and princes, and brought them to Babylon.  13  He made a treaty with a member of the royal family and forced him to take an oath of loyalty. He also exiled Israel's most influential leaders,  14  so Israel would not become strong again and revolt. Only by keeping her treaty with Babylon could Israel survive.
   15  "Nevertheless, this man of Israel's royal family rebelled against Babylon, sending ambassadors to Egypt to request a great army and many horses. Can Israel break her sworn treaties like that and get away with it?  16  No! For as surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, the king of Israel will die in Babylon, the land of the king who put him in power and whose treaty he disregarded and broke.  17  Pharaoh and all his mighty army will fail to help Israel when the king of Babylon lays siege to Jerusalem again and destroys many lives.  18  For the king of Israel disregarded his treaty and broke it after swearing to obey; therefore, he will not escape.
   19  "So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as I live, I will punish him for breaking my covenant and disregarding the solemn oath he made in my name.  20  I will throw my net over him and capture him in my snare. I will bring him to Babylon and put him on trial for this treason against me.  21  And all his best warriors [21]  will be killed in battle, and those who survive will be scattered to the four winds. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken.
   22  "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take a branch from the top of a tall cedar, and I will plant it on the top of Israel's highest mountain.  23  It will become a majestic cedar, sending forth its branches and producing seed. Birds of every sort will nest in it, finding shelter in the shade of its branches.  24  And all the trees will know that it is I, the LORD, who cuts the tall tree down and makes the short tree grow tall. It is I who makes the green tree wither and gives the dead tree new life. I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do what I said!"
<<  16:29 Or Chaldea.
<<  16:36 The Hebrew term (literally round things) probably alludes to dung.
<<  16:50 As in a few Hebrew manuscripts and Greek version; Masoretic Text reads as I have seen.
<<  16:57 As in many Hebrew manuscripts and Syriac version; Masoretic Text reads Aram.
<<  17:21 Or his fleeing warriors. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.

New Testament:  James 3

James 3

Controlling the Tongue
 1  Dear brothers and sisters, [1]  not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.  2  Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.    3  We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth.  4  And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong.  5  In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  6  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. [6] 
   7  People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,  8  but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.  9  Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  10  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!  11  Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?  12  Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can't draw fresh water from a salty spring. [12] 

True Wisdom Comes from God
 13  If you are wise and understand God's ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.  14  But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don't cover up the truth with boasting and lying.  15  For jealousy and selfishness are not God's kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.  16  For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
   17  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.  18  And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. [18] 
<<  3:1 Greek brothers; also in 3:10.
<<  3:6 Or for it will burn in hell (Greek Gehenna).
<<  3:12 Greek from salt.
<<  3:18 Or of good things, or of justice.

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