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A United Methodist Ministry
Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances.
I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,‘See, the home of God is among mortals.He will dwell with them;they will be his peoples,and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.Death will be no more;mourning and crying and pain will be no more,for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.’
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but the emperor.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews”, but, “This man said, I am King of the Jews.” ’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’ When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.’ And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there
Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’
He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?’ They said, ‘No, not a thing.’ He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless”; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.’ They said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ He replied, ‘It is enough.’
He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’ Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ [[ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.]] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’
While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.
Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ They kept heaping many other insults on him.
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, ‘If you are the Messiah, tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ All of them asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!’
In the 1950s and 60s, as more and more Americans became aware of and interested in Buddhism, it became clear that there was a lot of common ground between the teachings of the Buddha and the teachings of the Christ. People who had at least a nominal Christian upbringing – and some with a deep Christian background – found resonance with many of the philosophical precepts set forth by the Buddha and his followers and could correlate them with the parables and teachings of Jesus. This was, and remains, a good thing, as it provides a common ground for interfaith dialog and cultural understanding. It is hopeful that there are some universal truths that can be shared across religious and cultural differences.
But, and with no disrespect to my Buddhist friends, simply following the teachings of Jesus does not make one a follower of Christ. There is a mystical element at the core of Christianity that is nowhere near the realm of philosophy. That mystical element is bound up inexorably with the actual death of Jesus and his subsequent resurrection. These two, intertwined events are ground zero for Christ followers: they are the quintessential transcendent point of reference, without which the philosophical, practical and even metaphysical natures of Christianity are meaningless.
Of the two, perhaps the death of Christ on the cross is the most mind-blowing. After all, in our trinitarian view and in keeping with the Christ hymn found in Philippians 2, Jesus is God, so the resurrection was, as mystic Bernadette Roberts puts it, “. . . simply the means for infinite consciousness to return to its natural state: infinite consciousness.” But God dying in a sacrificial act to save his own creation has no precedent in any other religions, mythologies or philosophies. It’s extraordinary. The first half of our quintessential transcendent point of reference is the clearest statement possible of God’s love for humanity.
But I don’t believe we should toss off the second half – the resurrection – quite as easily as incarnationalist Bernadette Roberts does. Not only does God return to a state of infinite consciousness, but God also changes the definition of “death.” In our pure and natural state in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, there was no death. God warns Adam, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” In an existence without death, perhaps Adam and Eve had a hard time understanding this warning, though it should have been sufficient and heeded simply because it came from God. Had Adam and Eve resisted the serpent (evil) they’d still be hanging out in the garden today. But their fall from grace brought about a broken world that includes death, in which the hubris of humanity causes us to think that we can perfect it by ourselves. It’s as if God said, “You want to make something perfect on your own? Well, here you go! And good luck!”
But of course, God doesn’t leave us on our own. Our broken world isn’t a punishment for the fall from grace, it is the natural consequence of the Fall. Our job has always been to find our way back to God, to live in harmony with God, in spite of the world’s brokenness. And God has been generous in his guidance – more generous than we have been in our stubbornness and constant insistence that we, not God, reside at the center of the universe. God keeps on calling us with a symphony, and we keep on responding with cacophony.
So, the death of Jesus on the cross, taken alone, would seem like God simply throwing in the towel. God might have said, “I gave you a savior, you killed him, so now I’m done!” But the resurrection of Christ flips that narrative on its head. It is God saying, “I am the God who heals the world’s brokenness, even the brokenness of death. Even the brokenness you bring upon yourselves. I, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and Jesus – reside at the center of the universe. I could have just wiped you out or condemned you to a hopeless existence. Instead, I have chosen to give you a clear path to come live with me.”
The two sides of this transcendent coin – death and resurrection – are inseparable. The redemption from sin that arises from Christ’s death and the steps towards a healed world through the grace of God elevate Christianity above mere philosophy. This mystical two-sided coin shows God’s direct involvement in our physical, spiritual and eternal lives, bundled together rather than parsed into pieces. It convinces us that we live for God’s purposes, not our own, and yet we are nevertheless a central part of God’s purposes. The costly price of redemption results in the free gift of grace for those eager to give up everything in order to gain a life with God.
My Buddhist friends have a very different view of the nature of life and life’s ultimate purpose, and in my interfaith way I hope this is some sort of different enactment of God’s grace. But when called by Christ, one is given a quintessential point of reference in the redemptive death and restorative resurrection of Jesus Christ. There’s no logic to it, just truth. Transcendent truth as it comes directly from the mind of God, not humanity. It is the truth from which all other truths flow. It is truth that transcends teaching and logic while still giving us a way to understand reality and our place in it. This truth is ultimately the salve that can heal the broken soul and extricate us from a hopeless fate. It is the light that stays on when all others go dim. Light and dark, death and resurrection, sin and grace: God has presented us with a seemingly dualistic world. But in the end, there is just one coin, one truth, and one God. It may not be logical, but it is true.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads; ‘Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’
Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God. Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls encircle me,
strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast; my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.My hands and feet have shrivelled; I can count all my bones.They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me. I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live for ever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.
Christians have a long history of going on pilgrimages to holy sites. One of the most challenging of these is the Camino de Santiago which winds through southern France and northern Spain for some 500 miles, ending up at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, in the northwest of Spain. Tradition says that the remains of St. James are buried here, and the Camino pilgrimage attracts thousands of hikers every year.
Pilgrimages are an enacted, physical representation of our journey towards Christ. Ideally, the pilgrim is more than a spiritual tourist. The physical demands of the journey translate into a spiritual deepening, as each step becomes a prayer. Arriving at the destination, the pilgrim is cleansed and ready to encounter the holy site and receive its blessings. But the key to the pilgrimage is a trust in the path which has been trod by others before. If the pilgrim just sticks to the path, they will arrive at the destination changed, but not lost.
But being human, often full of hubris and self-delusion, some of us want to try a different path, or take a shortcut. We want to be trailblazers rather than merely path-followers. And, all too often, we look at the difficult portions of the path and start hunting wildly about for easier alternatives. Jesus’ pilgrimage to the cross during Holy Week did not diverge from the hard path set before him. But the pilgrimage of the crowds – the mob – is a different story.
On Palm Sunday the crowds cheered “Hosanna to the Son Of David” as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, but by Friday the same mob was screaming “Crucify him!” How did they get so derailed, so quickly? Within the space of a few days they turned their golden-crowned hero, destined for victory, into a bloodied prisoner destined for execution.
It’s easy, of course, for us to say, “Oh, that was just them.” As if “them” is not us. We can take a cursory glance at history to see how easily mobs can be swayed, and we can see it in our own time as well. Untruth leverages fear and unmet expectations to confuse and rile up the crowd to the point where wrong becomes right, and light becomes darkness. But we are not led astray by abstract concepts. Untruth favors the trailblazers who want to go a different route, one that favors them regardless of the consequences to others.
In the passion story of Holy Week, the Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees fill that role. The religious hierarchy perceives Jesus as a threat to their power, which is based in large part on collaboration with the Roman occupiers. Jesus may offer salvation and eternal life, but he can’t be allowed to disturb the status quo, or bring down the wrath of the Romans. Ironically, the Romans, represented by Pontius Pilate, don’t perceive Jesus to be any kind of a threat at all. It is the fears and fantasies of the religious hierarchy that causes them to inject the mob with the same fears and fantasies, which finally led to the cries of “Crucify him!” Forgotten was the Son of David, the King of Kings, and in their place reigned abject bloodthirstiness, demanding Jesus’ blood in lieu of theirs. Which, of course, Jesus gave them. And we wonder why people say we don’t deserve it. Christ’s pilgrimage was laid out carefully and the path very carefully followed, even in bloodied footsteps. But our pilgrimage journey went awry as we were led away on the easy paths of untruth that took us nowhere.
So, is that it? Once we have fallen off the sure path we are doomed? If the salvation story of Christ ended on the cross, we would indeed be doomed. But there is another story of grace, redemption and resurrection that follows on Easter morning. It is, if you will, the path that leads back to the sure path; the path that sets us back on our pilgrimage towards Christ.
When you complete your pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, you will arrive at the beautiful and historic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which means St James of the Field of Stars. There you can look through the thousand-year-old, Romanesque style cathedral. You might stand in awe of its majesty and the holiness that it surrounds and, if you are there at the right time, you can go through the Porta Santa (Holy Door) which leads straight to the tomb of St. James under the main altar. All of this was attainable by staying on the true path, through the long miles and difficult passages, to arrive at something truly holy. You were not misdirected by fear or untruth; you were not sidetracked by tempting diversions. You did not listen to the mob as they screamed and moaned. You listened to, and followed, the One who kept you from stumbling along the way, and that is what made all the difference.
He began to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’ But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean:“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone”? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.And being found in human form, he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
“Libertè, Égalité, Fraternitè!” the French yelled during their Revolution. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! As Americans, we did much the same when the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness was proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. These were “unalienable rights,” self-evident and endowed by God. This is pretty powerful stuff! Many of the specifics needed to implement this vision were hammered out in the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, allowing us to be safe in our homes, free to say what we think, and with a certain amount of economic freedom to pursue our goals of happiness. The fact that these rights have not always been evenly applied says more about the imperfection of humanity than it does about the nobility of these rights.
But where did this all come from? We know that Thomas Jefferson borrowed and slightly altered a phrase attributed to late 17th century philosopher John Locke, who felt all humans had natural rights and the government should protect these by protecting an individual’s right to life, liberty and property. That’s great, but where did John Locke get his ideas? Sometimes we think that revolutionary ideas like these just spring up spontaneously from great minds, but in fact John Locke was influenced by a culture and history going back thousands of years that valued freedom – liberty – over just about anything else. Although not a theologian and a rather abstract religious thinker, Locke was undoubtedly influenced by the Bible.
The great Biblical account of liberation from slavery in Exodus served as a foundational theme for later encounters with oppression and occupation throughout the Old Testament. Jesus moves the story inward with his emphasis on liberation from sin, rather than political oppression. As Christianity overcame paganism in Europe, Africa and parts of Asia, this song of liberation was sung louder and louder, even if liberation was not actually achieved. Finally, the idea had enough momentum that Enlightenment philosophers like Locke could take ideals and mold them into workable, foundational philosophies, which finally saw their way into implementations such as the American Constitution.
But, going all the way back to the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, what was the freedom that they sought? We might think about freedoms such as freedom of speech, economic freedom and so forth. But for God, speaking in the book of Exodus, the Hebrews desperately needed freedom in order to worship Him. Today we might abbreviate this as a general religious freedom and not take into account what a radical notion this was to Moses and the gang. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob pushed humanity to break away from the ancient idea that religion and the gods were handed down and mitigated through rulers such as Pharoah, and instead establish a direct relationship with the Divine formed through a Law given by God. It’s not that people like Moses did not continue to lead their people, it’s that the foundation of that leadership was based on the authoritative word of God rather than the arbitrary rule of man. That authority was reiterated and expanded through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that removed the legalism of the Mosaic Law and replaced it with more responsibility for humanity to live out God’s authority in full awareness of their direct relationship with the Divine.
This talk of God-given Law ought to sound familiar to most Americans. Not only are our freedoms described as being endowed by God, we have specifically chosen to live by the Rule of Law in order to limit the arbitrariness of a singular ruler such as a King or a dictator. Some like to think of this Rule of Law as being secular, but it is in fact directly tied to Judeo-Christian concepts of individual freedom, individual responsibility and, most importantly, individual ability to pay homage to the God who endowed all of these things. And, in a marvelous sign of God’s grace, even those who do not believe in God benefit from a society organized around precepts endowed by God.
Admittedly, it has taken a while for all of this to take full effect, and our implementation is incomplete and riddled with the sinfulness of humanity. The songs and speeches of African Americans during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s and 70s that speak passionately about freedom are a testament to the often damaging incompleteness of the American dream of freedom. Yet how interesting, and how appropriate is it that the main voice of that era, Martin Luther King Jr., was a minister and man of God. He knew, perhaps better than most, that the rights African Americans were fighting for meant nothing if those rights were not endowed by God. It was the arbitrariness of humanity that was denying these rights, and King knew of the danger of replacing that arbitrariness with a different arbitrariness. Current philosophers and academics who are trying to discredit King and his ideas are typically doing so by attempting to create individual or academic authority, and for that reason alone we should suspect the motives of those who wish to place their own authority over God’s.
The American heritage of freedom can trace its roots back for thousands of years to the early Hebrews who sought freedom of worship, an idea not too unlike our right of religious freedom. Of all of our rights it is the most precious: it is in fact the very first right enshrined in the Bill of Rights, separating the arbitrariness of humanity expressed through government from the authority of God. Because our secular laws have evolved from these divine rights, they are often in accordance with each other: things that are generally “bad” in Judeo-Christian religions are generally bad or illegal in American secular law, and our secular laws allow the peaceful practice of any and every religious tradition. Nevertheless, this emphasis on the right to pursue God in whatever way God calls us still must be defended from those who would place their own authority over God’s. Otherwise, the Hebrews’ cries for freedom will be lost in the tumult of unbridled secular authority, carried out in the style of Pharoah.
For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For this time I will send all my plagues upon you yourself, and upon your officials, and upon your people, so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people, and will not let them go. Tomorrow at this time I will cause the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Send, therefore, and have your livestock and everything that you have in the open field brought to a secure place; every human or animal that is in the open field and is not brought under shelter will die when the hail comes down upon them.” ’ Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried their slaves and livestock off to a secure place. Those who did not regard the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the open field.
We currently are called, in a ceaseless and dreary drumbeat, to consider each other exclusively through the lens of the groups we are a part of. Certainly, some of these groups are voluntary: we might be Republicans, or quilters, or Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts. These group affiliations might be indicative of something, but our really interesting memberships are in groups over whose membership we have no choice, the two most popular today being race and sex.
Throughout history many efforts have been made to subsume the individual self into a larger tribe based on some specific shared attribute, then assume that everyone in the tribe behaves the same. Sometimes that attribute has been physical, like skin color, but at other time it has been religious affiliation, nationality, or language. The end result has inevitably been the same: all <insert group name here> are alike. “They” think alike, hold the same beliefs, have the same tastes in food. And all of the sameness is bad, essentially because it opposes the other group’s sameness.
History certainly bears out this observation. Large slave populations and mass genocides are littered across most of human history and all human cultures. But during the enlightenment (c. 1400 ~ 1600), a shift in thinking began to occur about the value of the individual over the tribe. It certainly didn’t happen overnight, nor did it permeate every mind around the globe, but a rise in literacy and economic freedom began to awaken a concept taught by Jesus: each individual is a beloved child of God without regard to external factors. Because this was a direct connection with God, it was a transcendent connection: each individual possessing a shared image of God. This term might imply a oneness to humanity that obviates any real individual distinctiveness. A geeky analogy might be that of a set of computers linked together by one network. Each computer retains its individuality yet is both linked to and powered by a singular network. We all share in God, yet all contain a unique piece of God that provides the distinctive self.
Certainly, Jesus spoke to crowds of people, notably when giving the Sermon on the Mount or the Feeding of the Five Thousand. But he never implied salvation was available to anyone who was simply sitting in the audience. In fact, when the five thousand come back the next day for more, they end up turning their backs on Jesus when he won’t meet their demands. But more poignant are his interactions with individuals. From the hemorrhaging woman to the blind beggar at the Siloam Pool, Jesus reaches in and touches that image of God, catalyzing and activating it without any regard whatsoever to any external groups they might be affiliated with. By the same token, none of the groups they are affiliated with are in any way influenced by Jesus’ actions.
This rise in individual value based on the only shared membership that matters – the shared, embedded image of God – found its first full-throated expression in the American Constitution. In fact, it was the one glaring flaw in the Constitution – the denial of this shared Image of God to Negro slaves and American Indians – that led to grotesque conflicts and bloodshed. In spite of a bloody history, it was the growing knowledge of this shared image of God – paradoxically a singularity that leads to individual distinctiveness – that led to significant efforts at freedom in America and Europe. Abolitionist groups were often led by religious groups, chief among them the Methodists.
Why, then, have we become so eager to imply behaviors and infer motivations across the board based on nothing more than superficial commonalities? A lot of ink has been poured out on this question, but for people of faith, the glaring reason for this is the loss of belief in the shared image of God. Collectives are attractive to shallow thinkers, but they are positively addictive to those seeking power. If <insert group name here> are all alike, they can be controlled as a single entity. Since in this paradigm individuality is unpredictable and therefore uncontrollable, individuality must be erased. But that pesky image of God asserts God’s authority through the individual, not the group, and attaches the faithful holder to the transcendent purposes of God rather than the earthly desires of those seeking power over others.
The Enlightenment has sometimes been referred to as the period in which the nobility and dignity of humanity, embodied in each individual, was brought to the fore. Perhaps there were other cultures or other time periods that did the same, but the rise in humanism in Europe was not initially accompanied by a rise in secularism. By recognizing the linkage between the image of God and the nobility of humanity, the great artistic, scientific and philosophical works of the enlightenment were accompanied by an explosion of religious activity that has only just recently been slowed by the onslaught of materialism that seeks to erase that image of God.
Inevitably, the eroding of our belief in the embedded, shared image of God has been accompanied by a retreat in our respect for the dignity of each human being. Under the new paradigm, a person’s worth can only be measured by their group membership, particularly in groups over which they have no control. The old paradigm, where a person is judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin or any other immutable attribute, is a paradigm that may have been articulated by Martin Luther King Jr., but was established by God as a means for us to focus on God’s image shining from within each and every one of us.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infantsyou have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’
The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’
‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them! For among them are those who make their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desires, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and ‘he was not found, because God had taken him.’ For it was attested before he was taken away that ‘he had pleased God.’ And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ‘as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.’
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, ‘bowing in worship over the top of his staff.’ By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.
After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’ So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’ For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
To the leader: Do Not Destroy. Of David. A Miktam, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
until the destroying storms pass by. I cry to God Most High,
to God who fulfils his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me,
he will put to shame those who trample on me.
SelahGod will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.
I lie down among lions
that greedily devour human prey;their teeth are spears and arrows,
their tongues sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
Let your glory be over all the earth.
They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.They dug a pit in my path,
but they have fallen into it themselves.
Selah My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast.I will sing and make melody. Awake, my soul!Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn. I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the lake saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.
I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone. But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions, since you know that such a person is perverted and sinful, being self-condemned.
When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Make every effort to send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way, and see that they lack nothing. And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive.
All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.
Grace be with all of you.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword,
they shall be prey for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity.
The wicked plot against the righteous,
and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly; their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
Better is a little that the righteous person has
than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will abide for ever; they are not put to shame in evil times,
in the days of famine they have abundance.
But the wicked perish,
and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,
but the righteous are generous and keep giving; for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand.
I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread. They are ever giving liberally and lending,
and their children become a blessing.
Depart from evil, and do good;
so you shall abide for ever. For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his faithful ones.
The righteous shall be kept safe for ever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land,
and live in it for ever.
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak justice. The law of their God is in their hearts;
their steps do not slip.
The wicked watch for the righteous,
and seek to kill them. The Lord will not abandon them to their power,
or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial.
Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on the destruction of the wicked.
I have seen the wicked oppressing,
and towering like a cedar of Lebanon. Again I passed by, and they were no more;
though I sought them, they could not be found.
Mark the blameless, and behold the upright,
for there is posterity for the peaceable. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.
On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
he sets up victory
like walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
so that the righteous nation that keeps faith
may enter in.
Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
for in the Lord God
you have an everlasting rock.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me. O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment;
his favour is for a lifetime.Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
‘I shall never be moved.’ By your favour, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication: ‘What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!’
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.
A Miktam of David.
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.’
As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
in whom is all my delight.
Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink-offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names upon my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.
But as for you, teach what is consistent with sound doctrine. Tell the older men to be temperate, serious, prudent, and sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.
Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behaviour, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us.
Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to answer back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Saviour.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.
A Psalm of David.
I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me;
give ear to my voice when I call to you. Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not turn my heart to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deedsin company with those who work iniquity;
do not let me eat of their delicacies.
Let the righteous strike me;
let the faithful correct me.Never let the oil of the wicked anoint my head,
for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds. When they are given over to those who shall condemn them,
then they shall learn that my words were pleasant. Like a rock that one breaks apart and shatters on the land,
so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.
But my eyes are turned towards you, O God, my Lord;
in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenceless. Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me,
and from the snares of evildoers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I alone escape.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
And Mary said,‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.
To the leader: on Lilies, a Covenant. Of Asaph. A Psalm.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers? You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure. You make us the scorn of our neighbours;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches; it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River. Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
Turn again, O God of hosts;
look down from heaven, and see;have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’
And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgements against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the Lord.
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show your splendour everywhere under heaven. For God will give you evermore the name,
‘Righteous Peace, Godly Glory’.
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look towards the east,and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne. For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.
‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt-offerings, to make grain-offerings, and to make sacrifices for all time.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Thus says the Lord: If any of you could break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their appointed time, only then could my covenant with my servant David be broken, so that he would not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with my ministers the Levites. Just as the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will increase the offspring of my servant David, and the Levites who minister to me.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Have you not observed how these people say, ‘The two families that the Lord chose have been rejected by him’, and how they hold my people in such contempt that they no longer regard them as a nation? Thus says the Lord: Only if I had not established my covenant with day and night and the ordinances of heaven and earth, would I reject the offspring of Jacob and of my servant David and not choose any of his descendants as rulers over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes, and will have mercy upon them.
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be put to shame;
do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;
let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who are they that fear the Lord?
He will teach them the way that they should choose.
They will abide in prosperity,
and their children shall possess the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes his covenant known to them. My eyes are ever towards the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart,
and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me. O guard my life, and deliver me;
do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all its troubles.
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off
Praise the Lord!Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways. You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently. O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances. I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
How can young people keep their way pure?
By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments. I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes. With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth. I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Deal bountifully with your servant,
so that I may live and observe your word. Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law. I live as an alien in the land;
do not hide your commandments from me. My soul is consumed with longing
for your ordinances at all times. You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
who wander from your commandments; take away from me their scorn and contempt,
for I have kept your decrees. Even though princes sit plotting against me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your decrees are my delight,
they are my counsellors.
My soul clings to the dust;
revive me according to your word. When I told of my ways, you answered me;
teach me your statutes. Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous works. My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word. Put false ways far from me;
and graciously teach me your law. I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your ordinances before me. I cling to your decrees, O Lord;
let me not be put to shame. I run the way of your commandments,
for you enlarge my understanding.
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
and I will observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it. Turn my heart to your decrees,
and not to selfish gain. Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise,
which is for those who fear you. Turn away the disgrace that I dread,
for your ordinances are good. See, I have longed for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life.
Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
your salvation according to your promise. Then I shall have an answer for those who taunt me,
for I trust in your word. Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your ordinances. I will keep your law continually,
for ever and ever. I shall walk at liberty,
for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your decrees before kings,
and shall not be put to shame; I find my delight in your commandments,
because I love them. I revere your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.
Remember your word to your servant,
in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my distress,
that your promise gives me life. The arrogant utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law. When I think of your ordinances from of old,
I take comfort, O Lord. Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked,
those who forsake your law. Your statutes have been my songs
wherever I make my home. I remember your name in the night, O Lord,
and keep your law. This blessing has fallen to me,
for I have kept your precepts.
The Lord is my portion;
I promise to keep your words. I implore your favour with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise. When I think of your ways,
I turn my feet to your decrees; I hurry and do not delay
to keep your commandments. Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law. At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous ordinances. I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts. The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes.
You have dealt well with your servant,
O Lord, according to your word. Teach me good judgement and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments. Before I was humbled I went astray,
but now I keep your word. You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes. The arrogant smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts. Their hearts are fat and gross,
but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was humbled,
so that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word. I know, O Lord, that your judgements are right,
and that in faithfulness you have humbled me. Let your steadfast love become my comfort
according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight. Let the arrogant be put to shame,
because they have subverted me with guile;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts. Let those who fear you turn to me,
so that they may know your decrees. May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
so that I may not be put to shame.
My soul languishes for your salvation;
I hope in your word. My eyes fail with watching for your promise;
I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’ For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes. How long must your servant endure?
When will you judge those who persecute me? The arrogant have dug pitfalls for me;
they flout your law. All your commandments are enduring;
I am persecuted without cause; help me! They have almost made an end of me on earth;
but I have not forsaken your precepts. In your steadfast love spare my life,
so that I may keep the decrees of your mouth.
The Lord exists for ever;
your word is firmly fixed in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand today,
for all things are your servants. If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my misery. I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts. The wicked lie in wait to destroy me,
but I consider your decrees. I have seen a limit to all perfection,
but your commandment is exceedingly broad.
Oh, how I love your law!
It is my meditation all day long. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is always with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your decrees are my meditation. I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word. I do not turn away from your ordinances,
for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to observe your righteous ordinances. I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O Lord, according to your word. Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
and teach me your ordinances. I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts. Your decrees are my heritage for ever;
they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes
for ever, to the end.
I hate the double-minded,
but I love your law. You are my hiding-place and my shield;
I hope in your word. Go away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God. Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
and let me not be put to shame in my hope. Hold me up, that I may be safe
and have regard for your statutes continually. You spurn all who go astray from your statutes;
for their cunning is in vain. All the wicked of the earth you count as dross;
therefore I love your decrees. My flesh trembles for fear of you,
and I am afraid of your judgements.
I have done what is just and right;
do not leave me to my oppressors. Guarantee your servant’s well-being;
do not let the godless oppress me. My eyes fail from watching for your salvation,
and for the fulfilment of your righteous promise. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; give me understanding,
so that I may know your decrees. It is time for the Lord to act,
for your law has been broken. Truly I love your commandments
more than gold, more than fine gold. Truly I direct my steps by all your precepts;
I hate every false way.
Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple. With open mouth I pant,
because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your custom towards those who love your name. Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
and never let iniquity have dominion over me. Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears
because your law is not kept.
You are righteous, O Lord,
and your judgements are right. You have appointed your decrees in righteousness
and in all faithfulness. My zeal consumes me
because my foes forget your words. Your promise is well tried,
and your servant loves it. I am small and despised,
yet I do not forget your precepts. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
and your law is the truth. Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
but your commandments are my delight. Your decrees are righteous for ever;
give me understanding that I may live.
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord.
I will keep your statutes. I cry to you; save me,
that I may observe your decrees. I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I put my hope in your words. My eyes are awake before each watch of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise. In your steadfast love hear my voice;
O Lord, in your justice preserve my life. Those who persecute me with evil purpose draw near;
they are far from your law. Yet you are near, O Lord,
and all your commandments are true. Long ago I learned from your decrees
that you have established them for ever.
Look on my misery and rescue me,
for I do not forget your law. Plead my cause and redeem me;
give me life according to your promise. Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek your statutes. Great is your mercy, O Lord;
give me life according to your justice. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries,
yet I do not swerve from your decrees. I look at the faithless with disgust,
because they do not keep your commands. Consider how I love your precepts;
preserve my life according to your steadfast love. The sum of your word is truth;
and every one of your righteous ordinances endures for ever.
Princes persecute me without cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your word
like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor falsehood,
but I love your law. Seven times a day I praise you
for your righteous ordinances. Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble. I hope for your salvation, O Lord,
and I fulfil your commandments. My soul keeps your decrees;
I love them exceedingly. I keep your precepts and decrees,
for all my ways are before you.
Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word. Let my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise. My lips will pour forth praise,
because you teach me your statutes. My tongue will sing of your promise,
for all your commandments are right. Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts. I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise you,
and let your ordinances help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’, and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, “I repent”, you must forgive.’
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.
‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’
Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or “Look here!” Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them —it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’ Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on earth or sea or against any tree. I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to damage earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have marked the servants of our God with a seal on their foreheads.’
And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel:
From the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand,
from the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdomand thanksgiving and honourand power and mightbe to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God,
and worship him day and night within his temple,
and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them,
nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’ Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favour in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate.
Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, she caught hold of his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called out to the members of her household and said to them, ‘See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.’ Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, ‘The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.’
When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, ‘This is the way your servant treated me’, he became enraged. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favour in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
“Aw, c’mon Mom. All the other kids are doing it. Why can’t I?”
Does this sound familiar? I’m certain I’ve heard this more than once, and I’m equally certain I tried this a few times it on my own mother. Her response was one used by many mothers:
“So, if all the kids jumped off a cliff, you’d jump too?”
It seems obvious that just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good or right, yet popularity is a significant influencer. We might not be swayed by the really bad stuff (“but Mom, everybody is a serial killer!”) but it seems we can be more easily swayed by the little stuff. It’s only as we get older that we realize how easily the little sins can morph into big sins.
Joseph Hollcraft has an interesting article on how sins behave like viruses (which you can read by clicking here.) Among other things he points out that a single virus is very tiny, and they only get dangerous when they are apparent in large numbers. He likens the virus to venial (minor) sins:
Venial sin is subtle: an attachment to a worldly pleasure, the welcoming of a bit of anger, a dash of ego—these are all microbes that can easily grow and fester into mortal sin—the grave matter that leads to spiritual death.
So, when a sin becomes popular, it is easy to see how it spreads like a virus. It replicates and invades, at first in minor ways, then becoming more aggressive and dangerous as the numbers grow. And, just as with a virus, the more infected we get, the easier it is for us to get more infected. And what better way to increase infections than by making a sin socially acceptable?
We don’t let a child get away with shoplifting a candy bar from the store for fear he or she might work their way up to more serious crimes. Yet in some major American cities, shoplifting has become normalized to where thefts of less than $1,000 are not prosecuted, and guess what? Given permission to sin, people are walking into stores and taking $999 worth of stuff openly. To put it bluntly, if you open the door to sin, people will walk through it.
So, is there a vaccine for sin? What prevents people from taking items from a store even if they know they can get away with it? What tells us that “getting away with it” is not a good determiner of right and wrong? What tells us there is a right and wrong? You might say you were trained to it because your parents did not let you take the candy bar. But what taught them to train you?
For most, the training stems from a religious affiliation, which itself has described a moral law based on the authority of God. In the Judeo-Christian heritage, this moral law was at first similar to the parent punishing the child: we obey God because we fear God and the consequences of our actions. But through Christ we received an element of grace and responsibility: we obey God because we want to obey God and receive the benefits of his grace.
In an article by Dr. Paul Adams (which you can read by clicking here) the author uses Jesus’ parable of yeast to describe the infectiousness of grace. He also points out that in other places of the Bible, yeast is not really very popular. It’s a fungus and a symbol of impurity. But Jesus points out that it spreads easily, survives everything, and makes things grow. And therein lies the important difference: the virus destroys, the yeast creates. Sin is popular but corrosive to the human soul. Grace is plain, unspectacular and even difficult at times, but it expands the soul as yeast expands bread.
Another analogy for the spreading of sin is a rusty piece of metal corroding all the metal around it. Another analogy for grace is yeast replicating and being used in multiple loaves of bread. So, perhaps as parents we might ask that child who wants to do something just because it’s popular, “Do you want to be a purveyor of rust, or a purveyor of bread?” Okay, the child might not understand, but we do. We might begin by teaching our children about consequences, but we must end up by teaching them about grace.
He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’
And again he said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground. He said, ‘Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No; we will spend the night in the square.’ But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’ Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ But they replied, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down. But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.
Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
If our sin is original, isn't also our grace?
The doctrine of Original Sin has permeated Christian thinking for over 1500 years. As expounded by St. Augustine in the 5th century, all humans are descendants of Adam, and therefore all humans have inherited Adam’s sin. In Augustine’s doctrine, this is an inescapable biological inheritance that we cannot escape from on our own. Only God can pull us away from sin. If God chooses not to pull us away from sin, we are stuck: no exit.
So, whatever happened to free will? Apparently, we have none. Because Adam defied God by disobeying God’s command, all of us are defiers of God from birth. And we cannot choose God – only God can choose us – so we are devoid of any real free will. Augustine believed we only had free will to sin.
It’s interesting to note that there seems to be very little Biblical support for this doctrine. Paul writes in many places, but particularly in Romans, of evil being an external force – Satan – to which we might succumb, rather than an internal attribute over which we have no control. Evil is not a part of our DNA. Each one of us may freely choose the “free gift” of Christ’s redemption, or the forces of evil.
In this day and age, particularly amongst Protestants, this subject may seem a little arcane or dated. But the doctrine of Original Sin was used, most notably by Calvinists, to divide humanity into the “elect,” those chosen by God for salvation, and the “damned.” In other words, there is an elite, and then there’s the rest of us. Societies have used, and continue to use, this kind of elitist philosophy to consolidate power into the hands of the chosen few, just as the church has attempted to do the same at various points in its history.
How can Christians justify this? In Christ’s universe, there are no elites. Each one of us will ultimately stand before God stripped of everything but our faith, just as Christ did not differentiate the pharisee from the leper. And God is not so cruel and thoughtless as to consign billions of souls to eternal darkness, without any hope of redemption. Doesn’t that whole concept nullify Christ? Why then does humanity continue to pursue elitist ideas? To say that some people are inherently sinful based on some immutable characteristic is nothing more than reviving Augustine’s doctrines in different clothing. If we have no possibility of overcoming our sins, original or not, then we truly are damned. There is a real and tangible power in the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ. Paul knew this, as did many others. Christ calls us to lead our lives according to the original grace of God, even as we struggle to return to the Garden we left so long ago.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’ The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’ The Lord God said to the serpent,‘Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.’ To the woman he said,‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.’ And to the man he said,‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the treeabout which I commanded you,
“You shall not eat of it”,cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face
you shall eat breaduntil you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.’
The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all who live. And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.
Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’— therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, one hundred and forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth cornelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.
I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practises abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Wisdom and Knowledge aren't really the same thing, but when it comes to the Divine, we need both.
We’ve become very good at knowing about God. Over thousands of years, people have read and written about God, analyzed God’s motivations and tried to unearth God’s plan. But there is a large gap between knowing about God and knowing God. We usually call this gap “the mystery.”
The mystery is resistant to analysis. Like good mysteries of any kind, you can experience them, know them and stand in awe, but attempts at analysis don’t seem to illicit much more in the way of understanding. When the writers of the Bible tell us to seek knowledge and wisdom, they really do mean two distinct, though interrelated, things. There are numerous examples of things that we enjoy without particularly understanding their inner workings. One example would be enjoying and deriving benefit from your computer, without knowing much about hardware and software.
This is not to say that knowing about God is a bad thing. Imagine that you have fallen in love with someone. They are beautiful or handsome, and you connect right away. But at first, you don’t really know very much about them. As the years go by, you discover many facts and details that help you move closer and develop a rich relationship, but hopefully that initial mystery never quite disappears; love that is very real but not easily quantified. Our relationship with God works in the exact same way. Our initial “falling in love” with God, sometimes referred to as “justification”, is our ticket into a relationship with the Divine. If that relationship immediately came to end because of death, it would be sufficient for a continuation of that relationship on the other side. However, should we be granted time in this life beyond the point of justification, in order to form a richer relationship with God, we seek more knowledge about and wisdom of God. This is often called “sanctification”: the lifelong growth in faith, love and grace that exemplifies the life God wants us to lead. This sanctification not only leads to a more meaningful life, it also places us in harmony with God and God’s plans for humanity.
In the beginning, God created the material world and physical “stuff,” including humanity in a physical sense. Through the Great Flood and several covenants, God molded the ethical and moral structures that help us stay on a path towards God. Through Christ and the New Covenant, the locus of God moves from the temple and its legalistic structures to the heart and soul within each of us. The New Covenant is actually a weaving together of God’s creations. Now, instead of simply admiring God, we are called into an active, interactive, relationship with the Divine. We live in a state of sanctification – learning, growing and relationship building – with God. Accompanying this knowledge is the sense of falling even deeper in love – deeper into this un-analyzable state – until we finally arrive at the new heaven and the new earth. It’s a place where all of God’s creations are woven together into the perfect fabric God envisioned, and brought to life, on the first day. And it was good, it is good, and it will be good.
The Great Flood wiped out everybody except Noah, his sons and their wives. It was their righteousness that saved them, but this catastrophe was not something God wanted to repeat.
There is little doubt that moral strictures change over time. When I was young, a teenager having sex was immoral. Now, it’s deemed normal, and celebrated on television. Drug use used to be immoral, now it’s recreational. The specifics of what constitutes moral behavior differs from culture to culture and religion to religion, and in some cultures and religions the definition hasn’t been as malleable as it has in the west. Nevertheless, this confusion and variety begs the question: is there an absolute morality given by God, or are we just making it up for our own convenience?
In the Biblical story of the Great Flood (Genesis 6 – 9) God decides to destroy all of creation because of the immorality of humanity. Everybody, everywhere, is doing bad things, and God can’t stand it anymore. The question is: did humanity know they were doing bad things? After all, there were no 10 commandments, no Levitical laws. There were no contractual agreements between humanity and God. How was “good” differentiated from “bad”? But, somehow, people knew the difference anyway, since God finally decides to spare Noah and his sons and their wives because they are righteous – they have lived in accordance with God’s as yet undefined law.
The simplest answer to this conundrum is that when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they absorbed this knowledge and passed it on to their heirs. So, all of the behavior that God objected to in the time of Noah was knowingly bad – the people knew the difference and were ignoring the good in favor of the bad. In other words, humanity had an intrinsic knowledge of good and evil long before they had codified rules defining good and evil.
This makes God’s covenant after the flood all the more remarkable. God is going to recreate the world through Noah’s sons and their wives, and he is going to let things play out. Immorality clearly continues: it makes up the grist for most of the subsequent Biblical stories. But there is an unspoken yet clear component at the heart of God’s promise to Noah: God is saying, “When I say I will not abandon humanity, it means I will provide help along the way.” God promises not to be an absentee landlord; God promises to stay involved in history; God promises to provide concrete parameters, like the Law. Ultimately, God is promising humanity a savior (Christ) who will not only make clear the essence of moral behavior (Christ’s teachings), but will also provide the means for us to choose righteousness over sin (redemptive salvation) by his efforts, not ours.
We love the folksy tales of the animals going two-by-two aboard the Ark, and the beauty of God’s rainbow promise. But there is a deep seriousness embedded in this, God’s first covenant with humanity. It sets the stage for all that is to follow. It places humanity in a covenantal relationship with the Divine, where even our own infidelity can not shake God’s commitment to his creation. Our moral behavior, based on intrinsic knowledge illuminated by Christ, is the marker along the pathway that keeps us pointed towards the New Jerusalem.
Was all the "stuff" of the universe here before God? Certainly, matter matters, but how much does it matter when it got here? Did God create something from nothing, or was something here first?
In the beginning there was already a bunch of stuff around. Where did it come from? In the beginning the universe was nothing more than a super-compressed blob of quarks and leptons. Then, some turbulence hit, and everything changed. Where did the turbulence come from? Did something come from outside the universe? How can that be? Was that other universe around before the beginning. How can there be a before the beginning?
While I applaud the scientific efforts to understand the mechanics of the universe and how they may have functioned to create matter and energy, there is a very large part of me that doesn’t really care. I find I am far less concerned with how the universe was created and for more fascinated with why the universe was created. Because if there is no why, there is no meaning.
Oddly enough, the Biblical account of creation is fairly consistent, in broad strokes, with what we know scientifically. Light was the first thing, followed by the formation of planets and eventually life. I have no real problems reconciling the Genesis story of creation with what is known scientifically. But like me, the ancient peoples who heard God’s word and wrote down Genesis were for more interested in the meaning of creation – and therefore the meaning of their own lives. If it all just fell together like a big accident, then what, really is the point?
God didn’t just create stuff: He created reality. Much of reality is physical, and our very existence relies on things that we pay almost no attention to, like the atomic force and gravity. But humanity has this rather bizarre gift: an ability to interpret reality and believe that things that are not so actually are so. We sometimes say, “your reality is not my reality.” Of course, we do not share all experiences in common, but we all share the same reality. So really, the only way to uncover the meaning of God’s creation is to embrace this shared reality. And before you get too impressed by my philosophical prowess, keep in mind that I am just stealing from the best, who said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord:The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away.I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!Again you shall take your tambourines,
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’
For thus says the Lord:Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel.’ See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labour, together;
a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’ For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again. Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more. Thus says the Lord:Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country.
Indeed I heard Ephraim pleading:‘You disciplined me, and I took the discipline;
I was like a calf untrained.Bring me back, let me come back,
for you are the Lord my God. For after I had turned away I repented;
and after I was discovered, I struck my thigh;I was ashamed, and I was dismayed
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ Is Ephraim my dear son?
Is he the child I delight in?As often as I speak against him,
I still remember him.Therefore I am deeply moved for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,
Set up road markers for yourself,
make yourself signposts;consider well the highway,
the road by which you went.Return, O virgin Israel,
return to these your cities. How long will you waver,
O faithless daughter?For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth:
a woman encompasses a man.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its towns when I restore their fortunes:‘The Lord bless you, O abode of righteousness,
O holy hill!’ And Judah and all its towns shall live there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. I will satisfy the weary,
and all who are faint I will replenish.
Thereupon I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say:‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Thus says the Lord,who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name: If this fixed order were ever to cease
from my presence, says the Lord,then also the offspring of Israel would cease
to be a nation before me for ever.
Thus says the Lord:If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,then I will reject all the offspring of Israel
because of all they have done,
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate towards the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.
Read other translations at Bible Gateway
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide[a] in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.
9 These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of cypress[b] wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 Make a roof[c] for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5 And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.
6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth. 7 And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark, 14 they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind—every bird, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.
17 The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; 20 the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; 22 everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; 2 the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred fifty days the waters had abated; 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; 9 but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; 11 and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.
13 In the six hundred first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
22 As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.”
God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.
6 Whoever sheds the blood of a human,
by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;
for in his own image
God made humankind.
7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.”
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.[a] 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.