November 13 - James 1, Jeremiah 21-22 and Psalm 129

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James 1 From James, a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Greetings to the twelve tribes scattered all over the world.

Faith and Wisdom

2My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. 3You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. 4But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything.
5If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won't correct you for asking. 6But when you ask for something, you must have faith and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm. 7-8If you are that kind of person, you can't make up your mind, and you surely can't be trusted. So don't expect the Lord to give you anything at all.

Poor People and Rich People

9Any of God's people who are poor should be glad that he thinks so highly of them. 10But any who are rich should be glad when God makes them humble. Rich people will disappear like wild flowers 11scorched by the burning heat of the sun. The flowers lose their blossoms, and their beauty is destroyed. That is how the rich will disappear, as they go about their business.

Trials and Temptations

12God will bless you, if you don't give up when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as he rewards everyone who loves him.
13Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't use evil to tempt others. 14We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. 15Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.
16Don't be fooled, my dear friends. 17Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing. 18He wanted us to be his own special people, and so he sent the true message to give us new birth.

Hearing and Obeying

19My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry. 20If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things that God wants done. 21You must stop doing anything immoral or evil. Instead be humble and accept the message that is planted in you to save you.
22Obey God's message! Don't fool yourselves by just listening to it. 23If you hear the message and don't obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror 24and forget what they look like as soon as they leave. 25But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don't just hear and forget.
26If you think you are being religious, but can't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and everything you do is useless. 27Religion that pleases God the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil.

The LORD Will Fight against Jerusalem

Jeremiah 21 King Zedekiah of Judah sent for Pashhur son of Malchiah and for a priest named Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. Then he told them,"Talk with Jeremiah for me."
So they came to me and said, 2"King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia has attacked Judah. Please ask the LORD to work miracles for our people, as he has done in the past, so that Nebuchadnezzar will leave us alone."
3-7I told them that the LORD God of Israel had told me to say to King Zedekiah:
The Babylonians have surrounded Jerusalem and want to kill you and your people. You are asking me to save you, but you have made me furious. So I will stretch out my mighty arm and fight against you myself. Your army is using spears and swords to fight the Babylonians, but I will make your own weapons turn and attack you. I will send a horrible disease to kill many of the people and animals in Jerusalem, and there will be nothing left to eat. Finally, I will let King Nebuchadnezzar and his army fight their way to the center of Jerusalem and capture everyone who is left alive, including you and your officials. But Nebuchadnezzar won't be kind or show any mercy--he will have you killed! I, the LORD, have spoken.

8Then I told them that the LORD had said:
People of Jerusalem, I, the LORD, give you the choice of life or death. 9The Babylonian army has surrounded Jerusalem, so if you want to live, you must go out and surrender to them. But if you want to die because of hunger, disease, or war, then stay here in the city. 10I have decided not to rescue Jerusalem. Instead, I am going to let the king of Babylonia burn it to the ground. I, the LORD, have spoken.

The LORD Warns the King of Judah

*11Pay attention, you that belong to the royal family.
12Each new day, make sure that justice is done,
and rescue those who are being robbed.
Or else my anger will flame up
like a fire that never goes out.

13Jerusalem, from your mountaintop
you look out over the valleys and think you are safe.
But I, the LORD, am angry, 14and I will punish you
as you deserve.
I'll set your palace on fire,
and everything around you will go up in smoke.

The LORD Will Punish the King of Judah

Jeremiah 22 1-3The LORD sent me to the palace of the king of Judah to speak to the king, his officials, and everyone else who was there. The LORD told me to say:
I am the LORD, so pay attention! You have been allowing people to cheat, rob, and take advantage of widows, orphans, and foreigners who live here. Innocent people have become victims of violence, and some of them have even been killed. But now I command you to do what is right and see that justice is done. Rescue everyone who has suffered from injustice.
4If you obey me, the kings from David's family will continue to rule Judah from this palace. They and their officials will ride in and out on their horses or in their chariots. 5But if you ignore me, I promise in my own name that this palace will lie in ruins. 6Listen to what I think about it:
The palace of Judah's king is as glorious as Gilead
or Lebanon's highest peaks.
But it will be as empty as a ghost-town
when I'm through with it.
7I'll send troops to tear it apart,
and its beautiful cedar beams will be used for firewood.
8People from different nations will pass by and ask, "Why did the LORD do this to such a great city as Jerusalem?" 9Others will answer, "It's because the people worshiped foreign gods and broke the agreement that the LORD their God had made with them."

King Jehoahaz

The LORD said:
10King Josiah is dead, so don't cry for him.
Instead, cry for his son King Jehoahaz,
dragged off to another country, never to return.
11-12Jehoahaz became king of Judah after his father King Josiah died. But Jehoahaz was taken as a prisoner to a foreign country. Now I, the LORD, promise that he will die there without ever seeing his own land again.

King Jehoiakim

The LORD told me to say:
*13King Jehoiakim, you are doomed!
You built a palace with large rooms upstairs.
14You put in big windows and used cedar paneling
and red paint.
But you were unfair and forced the builders to work
without pay.

*15More cedar in your palace doesn't make you a better king
than your father Josiah.
He always did right-- he gave justice to the poor
and was honest.
16That's what it means to truly know me.
So he lived a comfortable life
and always had enough to eat and drink.

17But all you think about is how to cheat or abuse or murder
some innocent victim.
18Jehoiakim, no one will cry at your funeral.
They won't turn to each other and ask,
"Why did our great king have to die?"
19You will be given a burial fit for a donkey;
your body will be dragged outside the city gates
and tossed in the dirt.
I, the LORD, have spoken.

King Jehoiachin and the People of Jerusalem

The LORD told me to say:
20People of Jerusalem, the nations you trusted
have been crushed.
Go to Lebanon and weep;
cry in the land of Bashan and in Moab.
21When times were good, I warned you.
But you ignored me, just as you have done
since Israel was young.
22Now you will be disgraced because of your sins.
Your leaders will be swept away by the wind,
and the nations you trusted will be captured
and dragged to a foreign country.
23Those who live in the palace paneled with cedar
will groan with pain like women giving birth.
24King Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, even if you were the ring I wear as the sign of my royal power, I would still pull you from my finger. 25I would hand you over to the enemy you fear, to King Nebuchadnezzar and his army, who want to kill you. 26You and your mother were born in Judah, but I will throw both of you into a foreign country, where you will die, 27longing to return home.
28Jehoiachin, you are unwanted like a broken clay pot.
So you and your children will be thrown
into a country you know nothing about.

29Land of Judah, I am the LORD. Now listen to what I say!
30Erase the names of Jehoiachin's children
from the royal records.
He is a complete failure,
and so none of them will ever be king.
I, the LORD, have spoken.

Psalm 129
[A song for worship.]
A Prayer for Protection

1Since the time I was young, enemies have often attacked!
Let everyone in Israel say: 2"Since the time I was young,
enemies have often attacked!
But they have not defeated me,
3though my back is like a field
that has just been plowed."

4The LORD always does right,
and he has set me free
from the ropes of those cruel people.
5I pray that all who hate the city of Zion
will be made ashamed and forced to turn and run.
6May they be like grass on the flat roof of a house,
grass that dries up as soon as it sprouts.
7Don't let them be like wheat gathered in bundles.
8And don't let anyone who passes by say to them,
"The LORD bless you!
I give you my blessing in the name of the LORD."

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

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