December 10 - Ephesians 5.21-33, Ezekiel 16 and Isaiah 45

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Wives and Husbands

Ephesians 5 21Honor Christ and put others first. 22A wife should put her husband first, as she does the Lord. 23A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. 24Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first.
25A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. 26He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. 27Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws.
28In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. 29None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, 30because we are each part of his body. 31As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife." 32This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church. 33So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.

Jerusalem Is Unfaithful

Ezekiel 16 The LORD said:
2Ezekiel, son of man, remind the people of Jerusalem of their disgusting sins 3and tell them that I, the LORD God, am saying:
Jerusalem, you were born in the country where Canaanites lived. Your father was an Amorite, and your mother was a Hittite. 4When you were born, no one cut you loose from your mother or washed your body. No one rubbed your skin with salt and olive oil, and wrapped you in warm blankets. 5Not one person loved you enough to do any of these things, and no one even felt sorry for you. You were despised, thrown into a field, and forgotten.
6I saw you lying there, rolling around in your own blood, and I couldn't let you die. 7I took care of you, like someone caring for a tender, young plant. You grew up to be a beautiful young woman with perfect breasts and long hair, but you were still naked.
8When I saw you again, you were old enough to have sex. So I covered your naked body with my own robe. Then I solemnly promised that you would belong to me and that I, the LORD God, would take care of you.
9I washed the blood off you and rubbed your skin with olive oil. 10I gave you the finest clothes and the most expensive robes, as well as sandals made from the best leather. 11I gave you bracelets, a necklace, 12a ring for your nose, some earrings, and a beautiful crown. 13Your jewelry was gold and silver, and your clothes were made of only the finest material and embroidered linen. Your bread was baked from fine flour, and you ate honey and olive oil. You were as beautiful as a queen, 14and everyone on earth knew it. I, the LORD God, had helped you become a lovely young woman.
15You learned that you were attractive enough to have any man you wanted, so you offered yourself to every passerby. 16You made shrines for yourself and decorated them with some of your clothes. That's where you took your visitors to have sex with them. These things should never have happened! 17You made idols out of the gold and silver jewelry I gave you, then you sinned by worshiping those idols. 18You dressed them in the clothes you got from me, and you offered them the olive oil and incense I gave you. 19I supplied you with fine flour, olive oil, and honey, but you sacrificed it all as offerings to please those idols. I, the LORD God, watched this happen.
20But you did something even worse than that--you sacrificed your own children to those idols! 21You slaughtered my children, so you could offer them as sacrifices. 22You were so busy sinning and being a prostitute that you refused to think about the days when you were young and were rolling around naked in your own blood.
23Now I, the LORD God, say you are doomed! Not only did you do these evil things, 24but you also built places on every street corner 25where you disgraced yourself by having sex with anyone who walked by. And you did that more and more every day! 26To make me angry, you even offered yourself to Egyptians, who were always ready to sleep with you.
27So I punished you by letting those greedy Philistine enemies take over some of your territory. But even they were offended by your disgusting behavior.
28You couldn't get enough sex, so you chased after Assyrians and slept with them. You still weren't satisfied, 29so you went after Babylonians. But those merchants could not satisfy you either.
30I, the LORD God, say that you were so disgusting that you would have done anything to get what you wanted. 31You had sex on every street corner, and when you finished, you refused to accept money. That's worse than being a prostitute! 32You are nothing but an unfaithful wife who would rather have sex with strangers than with your own husband. 33Prostitutes accept money for having sex, but you bribe men from everywhere to have sex with you. 34You're not like other prostitutes. Men don't ask you for sex--you offer to pay them!

Jerusalem Must Be Punished

The LORD said:
35Jerusalem, you prostitute, listen to me. 36You chased after lovers, then took off your clothes and had sex. You even worshiped disgusting idols and sacrificed your own children as offerings to them. 37So I, the LORD God, will gather every one of your lovers, those you liked and those you hated. They will stand around you, and I will rip off your clothes and let all of those lovers stare at your nakedness. 38I will find you guilty of being an unfaithful wife and a murderer, and in my fierce anger I will sentence you to death! 39Then I will hand you over to your lovers, who will tear down the places where you had sex. They will take your clothes and jewelry, leaving you naked and empty-handed.
40Your lovers and an angry mob will stone you to death; they will cut your dead body into pieces 41and burn down your houses. Other women will watch these terrible things happen to you. I promise to stop you from being a prostitute and paying your lovers for sex.
42Only then will I calm down and stop being angry and jealous. 43You made me furious by doing all these disgusting things and by forgetting how I took care of you when you were young. Then you made things worse by acting like a prostitute. You must be punished! I, the LORD God, have spoken.

Jerusalem's Two Sisters

The LORD said:
44People will use this saying about you, Jerusalem: "If the mother is bad, so is her daughter." 45You are just like your mother, who hated her husband and her own children. You are also like your sisters, who hated their husbands and children. Your father was an Amorite, and your mother was a Hittite. 46Your older sister was Samaria, that city to your north with her nearby villages. Your younger sister was Sodom, that city to your south with her nearby villages. 47You followed their way of life and their wicked customs, and soon you were more disgusting than they were.
48As surely as I am the living LORD God, the people of Sodom and its nearby villages were never as sinful as you. 49They were arrogant and spoiled; they had everything they needed and still refused to help the poor and needy. 50They thought they were better than everyone else, and they did things I hate. And so I destroyed them.
51You people of Jerusalem have sinned twice as much as the people of Samaria. In fact, your evil ways have made both Sodom and Samaria look innocent. 52So their punishment will seem light compared to yours. You will be disgraced and put to shame because of your disgusting sins.

Jerusalem Will Be Ashamed

The LORD said to Jerusalem:
53Someday I will bless Sodom and Samaria and their nearby villages. I will also bless you, Jerusalem. 54Then you will be ashamed of how you've acted, and Sodom and Samaria will be relieved that they weren't as sinful as you. 55When that day comes, you and Sodom and Samaria will once again be well-off, and all nearby villages will be restored.
56Jerusalem, you were so arrogant that you sneered at Sodom. 57But now everyone has learned how wicked you really are. The countries of Syria and Philistia, as well as your other neighbors, hate you and make insulting remarks. 58You must pay for all the vulgar and disgusting things you have done. I, the LORD, have spoken.

The LORD Makes a Promise to Jerusalem

The LORD said:
59Jerusalem, you deserve to be punished, because you broke your promises and ignored our agreement. 60But I remember the agreement I made with you when you were young, and so I will make you a promise that will last forever. 61When you think about how you acted, you will be ashamed, especially when I return your sisters to you as daughters, even though this was not part of our agreement. 62I will keep this solemn promise, and you will know that I am the LORD. 63I will forgive you, but you will think about your sins and be too ashamed to say a word. I, the LORD God, have spoken.

Cyrus Obeys the LORD's Commands

Isaiah 45 The LORD said to Cyrus, his chosen one:
I have taken hold of your right hand
to help you capture nations
and remove kings from power.
City gates will open for you; not one will stay closed.
2As I lead you, I will level mountains
and break the iron bars on bronze gates of cities.

3I will give you treasures hidden in dark
and secret places.
Then you will know that I, the LORD God of Israel,
have called you by name.
4Cyrus, you don't even know me!
But I have called you by name and highly honored you
because of Israel, my chosen servant.

5Only I am the LORD! There are no other gods.
I have made you strong, though you don't know me.
6Now everyone from east to west
will learn that I am the LORD.
No other gods are real.
7I create light and darkness, happiness and sorrow.
I, the LORD, do all of this.

8Tell the heavens to send down justice
like showers of rain.
Prepare the earth for my saving power to sprout
and produce justice that I, the LORD, create.

The LORD's Mighty Power

The LORD said:
9Israel, you have no right to argue with your Creator.
You are merely a clay pot shaped by a potter.
The clay doesn't ask, "Why did you make me this way?
Where are the handles?"
10Children don't have the right to demand of their parents,
"What have you done to make us what we are?"

11I am the LORD, the Creator, the holy God of Israel.
Do you dare question me about my own nation
or about what I have done?
12I created the world and covered it with people;
I stretched out the sky and filled it with stars.
13I have done the right thing by placing Cyrus in power,
and I will make the roads easy for him to follow.
I am the LORD All-Powerful! Cyrus will rebuild my city
and set my people free without being paid a thing.
I, the LORD, have spoken.

The LORD Alone Can Save

14My people, I, the LORD, promise
that the riches of Egypt and the treasures of Ethiopia
will belong to you.
You will force into slavery those tall people of Seba.

They will bow down and say,
"The only true God is with you;
there are no other gods."
15People of Israel, your God is a mystery,
though he alone can save.
16Anyone who makes idols will be confused
and terribly disgraced.
17But Israel, I, the LORD, will always keep you safe
and free from shame.

Everyone Is Invited

18The LORD alone is God! He created the heavens
and made a world where people can live,
instead of creating an empty desert.
The LORD alone is God; there are no others.
19The LORD did not speak in a dark secret place
or command Jacob's descendants
to search for him in vain.

The LORD speaks the truth, and this is what he says
20to every survivor from every nation:
"Gather around me! Learn how senseless it is
to worship wooden idols or pray to helpless gods.

21"Why don't you get together and meet me in court?
Didn't I tell you long ago what would happen?
I am the only God! There are no others.
I bring about justice, and have the power to save.

22"I invite the whole world to turn to me and be saved.
I alone am God! No others are real.
23I have made a solemn promise, one that won't be broken:
Everyone will bow down and worship me.
24They will admit that I alone can bring about justice.
Everyone who is angry with me will be terribly ashamed
and will turn to me.
25I, the LORD, will give victory and great honor
to the people of Israel."

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

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