June 17 - Mark 3.20-35, 2 Samuel 7-8 and Daniel 4

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Jesus and the Ruler of Demons
(Matthew 12.22-32; Luke 11.14-23; 12.10)

Mark 3 20Jesus went back home, and once again such a large crowd gathered that there was no chance even to eat. 21When Jesus' family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.
22Some teachers of the Law of Moses came from Jerusalem and said, "This man is under the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons! He is even forcing out demons with the help of Beelzebul."
23Jesus told the people to gather around him. Then he spoke to them in riddles and said:
How can Satan force himself out? 24A nation whose people fight each other won't last very long. 25And a family that fights won't last long either. 26So if Satan fights against himself, that will be the end of him.
27How can anyone break into the house of a strong man and steal his things, unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can take everything.
28I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. 29But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.

30Jesus said this because the people were saying that he had an evil spirit in him.

Jesus' Mother and Brothers
(Matthew 12.46-50; Luke 8.19-21)

31Jesus' mother and brothers came and stood outside. Then they sent someone with a message for him to come out to them. 32The crowd that was sitting around Jesus told him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside and want to see you."
33Jesus asked, "Who is my mother and who are my brothers?" 34Then he looked at the people sitting around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 35Anyone who obeys God is my brother or sister or mother."

The LORD's Message to David
(1 Chronicles 17.1-15)

2 Samuel 7 King David moved into his new palace, and the LORD let his kingdom be at peace. 2Then one day, as David was talking with Nathan the prophet, David said, "Look around! I live in a palace made of cedar, but the sacred chest has to stay in a tent."
3Nathan replied, "The LORD is with you, so do what you want!"
4That night, the LORD told Nathan 5to go to David and give him this message:
David, you are my servant, so listen to what I say. Why should you build a temple for me? 6I didn't live in a temple when I brought my people out of Egypt, and I don't live in one now. A tent has always been my home wherever I have gone with them. 7I chose leaders and told them to be like shepherds for my people Israel. But did I ever say anything to even one of them about building a cedar temple for me?
8David, this is what I, the LORD All-Powerful, say to you. I brought you in from the fields where you took care of sheep, and I made you the leader of my people. 9Wherever you went, I helped you and destroyed your enemies right in front of your eyes. I have made you one of the most famous people in the world.
10I have given my people Israel a land of their own where they can live in peace, and they won't have to tremble with fear any more. Evil nations won't bother them, as they did 11when I let judges rule my people. And I have kept your enemies from attacking you.
Now I promise that you and your descendants will be kings. 12I'll choose one of your sons to be king when you reach the end of your life and are buried in the tomb of your ancestors. I'll make him a strong ruler, 13and no one will be able to take his kingdom away from him. He will be the one to build a temple for me. 14I will be his father, and he will be my son.
When he does wrong, I'll see that he is corrected, just as children are corrected by their parents. 15But I will never put an end to my agreement with him, as I put an end to my agreement with Saul, who was king before you. 16I will make sure that one of your descendants will always be king.

17Nathan told David exactly what he had heard in the vision.

David Gives Thanks to the LORD
(1 Chronicles 17.16-27)

18David went into the tent he had set up for the sacred chest. Then he sat there and prayed:
LORD All-Powerful, my family and I don't deserve what you have already done for us, 19and yet you have promised to do even more. Is this the way you usually treat people? 20I am your servant, and you know my thoughts, so there is nothing more that I need to say. 21You have done this wonderful thing, and you have let me know about it, because you wanted to keep your promise.
22LORD All-Powerful, you are greater than all others. No one is like you, and you alone are God. Everything we have heard about you is true. 23And there is no other nation on earth like Israel, the nation you rescued from slavery in Egypt to be your own. You became famous by using great and wonderful miracles to force other nations and their gods out of your land, so your people could live here. 24You have chosen Israel to be your people forever, and you have become their God.
25And now, LORD God, please do what you have promised me and my descendants. 26Then you will be famous forever, and everyone will say, "The LORD God All-Powerful rules Israel, and David's descendants are his chosen kings." 27After all, you really are Israel's God, the LORD All-Powerful. You've told me that you will let my descendants be kings. That's why I have the courage to pray to you like this, even though I am only your servant.
28LORD All-Powerful, you are God. You have promised me some very good things, and you can be trusted to do what you promise. 29Please bless my descendants and let them always be your chosen kings. You have already promised, and I'm sure that you will bless my family forever.

A List of David's Victories in War
(1 Chronicles 18.1-13)

2 Samuel 8 Later, David attacked and badly defeated the Philistines. Israel was now free from their control.
2David also defeated the Moabites. Then he made their soldiers lie down on the ground, and he measured them off with a rope. He would measure off two lengths of the rope and have those men killed, then he would measure off one length and let those men live. The people of Moab had to accept David as their ruler and pay taxes to him.
3David set out for the Euphrates River to build a monument there. On his way, he defeated the king of Zobah, whose name was Hadadezer the son of Rehob. 4In the battle, David captured seventeen hundred cavalry and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He also captured war chariots, but he destroyed all but one hundred of them. 5When troops from the Aramean kingdom of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, David killed twenty thousand of them. 6He left some of his soldiers in Damascus, and the Arameans had to accept David as their ruler and pay taxes to him.
Everywhere David went, the LORD helped him win battles.
7Hadadezer's officers had carried their arrows in gold cases hung over their shoulders, but David took these cases and brought them to Jerusalem. 8He also took a lot of bronze from the cities of Betah and Berothai, which had belonged to Hadadezer.
9-10King Toi of Hamath and King Hadadezer had been enemies. So when Toi heard that David had attacked and defeated Hadadezer's whole army, he sent his son Joram to praise and congratulate David. Joram also brought him gifts made of silver, gold, and bronze. 11David gave these to the LORD, just as he had done with the silver and gold that he had captured from 12Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, and from King Hadadezer of Zobah.
13David fought the Edomite army in Salt Valley and killed eighteen thousand of their soldiers. When he returned, he built a monument. 14David left soldiers all through Edom, and the people of Edom had to accept him as their ruler.
Wherever David went, the LORD helped him.

A List of David's Officials
(1 Chronicles 18.14-17)

15David ruled all Israel with fairness and justice.
16Joab the son of Zeruiah was the commander in chief of the army.
Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud kept the government records.
17Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Abiathar the son of Ahimelech, were the priests.
Seraiah was the secretary.
18Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was the commander of David's bodyguard.
David's sons were priests.

King Nebuchadnezzar's Letter about His Second Dream

Daniel 4 King Nebuchadnezzar sent the following letter to the people of all nations and races on the earth:
Greetings to all of you!
2I am glad to tell about the wonderful miracles
God Most High has done for me.
3His miracles are mighty and marvelous.
He will rule forever, and his kingdom will never end.
4I was enjoying a time of peace and prosperity, 5when suddenly I had some horrifying dreams and visions. 6Then I commanded every wise man in Babylonia to appear in my court, so they could explain the meaning of my dream. 7After they arrived, I told them my dream, but they were not able to say what it meant. 8Finally, a young man named Daniel came in, and I told him the dream. The holy gods had given him special powers, and I had renamed him Belteshazzar after my own god.
9I said, "Belteshazzar, not only are you the wisest of all advisors and counselors, but the holy gods have given you special powers to solve the most difficult mysteries. So listen to what I dreamed and tell me what it means:
10In my sleep I saw a very tall tree
in the center of the world.
11It grew stronger and higher, until it reached to heaven
and could be seen from anywhere on earth.
12It was covered with leaves and heavy with fruit--
enough for all nations.
Wild animals enjoyed its shade,
birds nested in its branches,
and all creatures on earth lived on its fruit.
13"While I was in bed, having this vision, a holy angel came down from heaven 14and shouted:
'Chop down the tree and cut off its branches;
strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit.
Make the animals leave its shade
and send the birds flying from its branches.
15But leave its stump and roots in the ground,
surrounded by grass and held by chains
of iron and bronze.

'Make sure that this ruler lives like the animals
out in the open fields, unprotected from the dew.
16Give him the mind of a wild animal for seven long years.
17This punishment is given at the command
of the holy angels.
It will show to all who live
that God Most High controls all kingdoms
and chooses for their rulers persons of humble birth.'
18"Daniel, that was the dream that none of the wise men in my kingdom were able to understand. But I am sure that you will understand what it means, because the holy gods have given you some special powers."
19For a while, Daniel was terribly confused and worried by what he was thinking. But I said, "Don't be bothered either by the dream or by what it means."
Daniel replied:
Your Majesty, I wish the dream had been against your enemies. 20You saw a tree that grew so big and strong that it reached up to heaven and could be seen from anywhere on earth. 21Its leaves were beautiful, and it produced enough fruit for all living creatures; animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. 22Your Majesty, that tree is you. Your glorious reputation has reached heaven, and your kingdom covers the earth.
23Then you saw a holy angel come down from heaven and say, "Chop down the tree and destroy it! But leave its stump and roots in the ground, fastened there by a chain of iron and bronze. Let it stay for seven years out in the field with the wild animals, unprotected from the dew."
24Your Majesty, God Most High has sent you this message, and it means 25that you will be forced to live with the wild animals, far away from humans. You will eat grass like a wild animal and live outdoors for seven years, until you learn that God Most High controls all earthly kingdoms and chooses their rulers. 26But he gave orders not to disturb the stump and roots. This is to show that you will be king once again, after you learn that the God who rules from heaven is in control. 27Your Majesty, please be willing to do what I say. Turn from your sins and start living right; have mercy on those who are mistreated. Then all will go well with you for a long time.

The Rest of Nebuchadnezzar's Letter about His Second Dream

28-30About twelve months later, I was walking on the flat roof of my royal palace and admiring the beautiful city of Babylon, when these things started happening to me. I was saying to myself, "Just look at this wonderful capital city that I have built by my own power and for my own glory!"
31But before I could finish speaking, a voice from heaven interrupted:
King Nebuchadnezzar, this kingdom is no longer yours. 32You will be forced to live with the wild animals, away from people. For seven years you will eat grass, as though you were an ox, until you learn that God Most High is in control of all earthly kingdoms and that he is the one who chooses their rulers.

33This was no sooner said than done--I was forced to live like a wild animal; I ate grass and was unprotected from the dew. As time went by, my hair grew longer than eagle feathers, and my fingernails looked like the claws of a bird.
34Finally, I prayed to God in heaven, and my mind was healed. Then I said:
"I praise and honor God Most High.
He lives forever,
and his kingdom will never end.
35To him the nations are far less than nothing;
God controls the stars in the sky
and everyone on this earth.
When God does something, we cannot change it
or even ask why."
36At that time my mind was healed, and once again I became the ruler of my glorious kingdom. My advisors and officials returned to me, and I had greater power than ever before. 37That's why I say:
"Praise and honor the King who rules from heaven!
Everything he does is honest and fair,
and he can shatter the power
of those who are proud."

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This reading is from The Holy Bible, Contemporary English Version, copyright © American Bible Society, 1995.

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