December 21 - Colossians 3.18-4.18, Ezekiel 31-32 and Isaiah 56

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Personal Relations in the New Life

Colossians 3 18Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, for that is what you should do as Christians.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents always, for that is what pleases God.
21Parents, do not irritate your children, or they will become discouraged.
22Slaves, obey your human masters in all things, not only when they are watching you because you want to gain their approval; but do it with a sincere heart because of your reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people. 24Remember that the Lord will give you as a reward what he has kept for his people. For Christ is the real Master you serve. 25And all wrongdoers will be repaid for the wrong things they do, because God judges everyone by the same standard.
Colossians 4 Masters, be fair and just in the way you treat your slaves. Remember that you too have a Master in heaven.


2Be persistent in prayer, and keep alert as you pray, giving thanks to God. 3At the same time pray also for us, so that God will give us a good opportunity to preach his message about the secret of Christ. For that is why I am now in prison. 4Pray, then, that I may speak, as I should, in such a way as to make it clear.
5Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. 6Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone.

Final Greetings

7Our dear friend Tychicus, who is a faithful worker and fellow servant in the Lord's work, will give you all the news about me. 8That is why I am sending him to you, in order to cheer you up by telling you how all of us are getting along. 9With him goes Onesimus, that dear and faithful friend, who belongs to your group. They will tell you everything that is happening here.
10Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have already received instructions to welcome Mark if he comes your way.) 11Joshua, also called Justus, sends greetings too. These three are the only Jewish believers who work with me for the Kingdom of God, and they have been a great help to me.
12Greetings from Epaphras, another member of your group and a servant of Christ Jesus. He always prays fervently for you, asking God to make you stand firm, as mature and fully convinced Christians, in complete obedience to God's will. 13I can personally testify to his hard work for you and for the people in Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14Luke, our dear doctor, and Demas send you their greetings.
15Give our best wishes to the believers in Laodicea and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house. 16After you read this letter, make sure that it is read also in the church at Laodicea. At the same time, you are to read the letter that the believers in Laodicea will send you. 17And tell Archippus, "Be sure to finish the task you were given in the Lord's service."
18With my own hand I write this: Greetings from Paul. Do not forget my chains!
May God's grace be with you.

Egypt Is Compared to a Cedar Tree

Ezekiel 31 On the first day of the third month of the eleventh year of our exile, the LORD spoke to me. 2"Mortal man," he said, "say to the king of Egypt and all his people:
How powerful you are!
What can I compare you to?
3You are like a cedar in Lebanon,
With beautiful, shady branches,
A tree so tall it reaches the clouds.
4There was water to make it grow,
And underground rivers to feed it.
They watered the place where the tree was growing
And sent streams to all the trees of the forest.
5Because it was well-watered,
It grew taller than other trees.
Its branches grew thick and long.
6Every kind of bird built nests in its branches;
The wild animals bore their young in its shelter;
The nations of the world rested in its shade.
7How beautiful the tree was--
So tall, with such long branches.
Its roots reached down to the deep-flowing streams.
8No cedar in God's garden could compare with it.
No fir tree ever had such branches,
And no plane tree such limbs.
No tree in God's own garden was so beautiful.
9I made it beautiful, with spreading branches.
It was the envy of every tree in Eden, the garden of God.

10"Now then, I, the Sovereign LORD, will tell you what is going to happen to that tree that grew until it reached the clouds. As it grew taller it grew proud; 11so I have rejected it and will let a foreign ruler have it. He will give that tree what it deserves for its wickedness. 12Ruthless foreigners will cut it down and leave it. Its branches and broken limbs will fall on every mountain and valley in the country. All the nations that have been living in its shade will go away. 13The birds will come and perch on the fallen tree, and the wild animals will walk over its branches. 14And so from now on, no tree, no matter how well-watered it is, will grow that tall again or push its top through the clouds and reach such a height. All of them are doomed to die like mortals, doomed to join those who go down to the world of the dead."
15This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "On the day when the tree goes to the world of the dead, I will make the underground waters cover it as a sign of mourning. I will hold back the rivers and not let the many streams flow out. Because the tree has died, I will bring darkness over the Lebanon Mountains and make all the trees of the forest wither. 16When I send it down to the world of the dead, the noise of its downfall will shake the nations. All the trees of Eden and all the choice, well-watered trees of Lebanon who have gone to the world below will be pleased at its downfall. 17They will go with it to the world of the dead to join those that have already fallen. And all who live under its shadow will be scattered among the nations.
18"The tree is the king of Egypt and all his people. Not even the trees in Eden were so tall and impressive. But now, like the trees of Eden, it will go down to the world of the dead and join the ungodly and those killed in battle. I have spoken," says the Sovereign LORD.

The King of Egypt Is Compared to a Crocodile

Ezekiel 32 On the first day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of our exile, the LORD spoke to me. 2"Mortal man," he said, "give a solemn warning to the king of Egypt. Give him this message from me: You act like a lion among the nations, but you are more like a crocodile splashing through a river. You muddy the water with your feet and pollute the rivers. 3When many nations gather, I will catch you in my net and let them drag the net ashore. 4I will throw you out on the ground and bring all the birds and animals of the world to feed on you. 5I will cover mountains and valleys with your rotting corpse. 6I will pour out your blood until it spreads over the mountains and fills the streams. 7When I destroy you, I will cover the sky and blot out the stars. The sun will hide behind the clouds, and the moon will give no light. 8I will put out all the lights of heaven and plunge your world into darkness. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken.
9"Many nations will be troubled when I spread the news of your destruction through countries you never heard of. 10What I do to you will shock many nations. When I swing my sword, kings will shudder with fright. On the day you fall, all of them will tremble in fear for their own lives."
11The Sovereign LORD says to the king of Egypt, "You will face the sword of the king of Babylonia. 12I will let soldiers from cruel nations draw their swords and kill all your people. All your people and everything else that you are proud of will be destroyed. 13I will slaughter your cattle at every water hole. There will be no people or cattle to muddy the water any more. 14I will let your waters settle and become clear and let your rivers run calm. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken. 15When I make Egypt a desolate wasteland and destroy all who live there, they will know that I am the LORD. 16This solemn warning will become a funeral song. The women of the nations will sing it to mourn for Egypt and all its people. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken."

The World of the Dead

17On the fifteenth day of the first month of the twelfth year of our exile, the LORD spoke to me. 18"Mortal man," he said, "mourn for all the many people of Egypt. Send them down with the other powerful nations to the world of the dead. 19Say to them:
"Do you think you are more beautiful than anyone else?
You will go down to the world of the dead
and lie there among the ungodly.
20"The people of Egypt will fall with those who are killed in battle. A sword is ready to kill them all. 21The greatest heroes and those who fought on the Egyptian side welcome the Egyptians to the world of the dead. They shout: 'The ungodly who were killed in battle have come down here, and here they lie!'
22"Assyria is there, with the graves of her soldiers all around. They were all killed in battle, 23and their graves are in the deepest parts of the world of the dead. All her soldiers fell in battle, and their graves surround her tomb. Yet once they terrified the land of the living.
24"Elam is there, with the graves of her soldiers all around. They were all killed in battle, and they went down, uncircumcised, to the world of the dead. In life they spread terror, but now they lie dead and disgraced. 25Elam lies down among those killed in battle, and the graves of her soldiers are all around her. They are all uncircumcised, all killed in battle. In life they spread terror, but now they lie dead and disgraced, sharing the fate of those killed in battle.
26"Meshech and Tubal are there, with the graves of their soldiers all around. They are all uncircumcised, all killed in battle. Yet once they terrified the living. 27They were not given honorable burial like the heroes of ancient times, who went fully armed to the world of the dead, their swords placed under their heads and their shields over their bodies. These heroes were once powerful enough to terrify the living.
28"That is how the Egyptians will lie crushed among the uncircumcised who were killed in battle.
29"Edom is there with her kings and rulers. They were powerful soldiers, but now they lie in the world of the dead with the uncircumcised who were killed in battle.
30"All the princes of the north are there, and so are the Sidonians. Their power once spread terror, but now they go down in disgrace with those killed in battle and are laid to rest, uncircumcised. They share the disgrace of those who go down to the world of the dead.
31"The sight of all these who were killed in battle will be a comfort to the king of Egypt and his army," says the Sovereign LORD.
32"I caused the king of Egypt to terrorize the living, but he and all his army will be killed and laid to rest with all the uncircumcised who die in battle." The Sovereign LORD has spoken.

God's People Will Include All Nations

Isaiah 56 The LORD says to his people, "Do what is just and right, for soon I will save you. 2I will bless those who always observe the Sabbath and do not misuse it. I will bless those who do nothing evil."
3A foreigner who has joined the LORD's people should not say, "The LORD will not let me worship with his people."
A man who has been castrated should never think that because he cannot have children, he can never be part of God's people. 4The LORD says to such a man, "If you honor me by observing the Sabbath and if you do what pleases me and faithfully keep my covenant, 5then your name will be remembered in my Temple and among my people longer than if you had sons and daughters. You will never be forgotten."
6And the LORD says to those foreigners who become part of his people, who love him and serve him, who observe the Sabbath and faithfully keep his covenant: 7"I will bring you to Zion, my sacred hill, give you joy in my house of prayer, and accept the sacrifices you offer on my altar. My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations."
8The Sovereign LORD, who has brought his people Israel home from exile, has promised that he will bring still other people to join them.

Israel's Leaders Are Condemned

9The LORD has told the foreign nations to come like wild animals and devour his people. 10He says, "All the leaders, who are supposed to warn my people, are blind! They know nothing. They are like watch dogs that don't bark--they only lie around and dream. How they love to sleep! 11They are like greedy dogs that never get enough. These leaders have no understanding. They each do as they please and seek their own advantage. 12'Let's get some wine,' these drunkards say, 'and drink all we can hold! Tomorrow will be even better than today!'"

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This reading is from The Holy Bible, Today's English Version, Second Edition copyright © American Bible Society, 1992;
Old Testament copyright © American Bible Society, 1976, 1992; New Testament © American Bible Society, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992.

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