February 17 - Hebrews 12, Exodus 16-17 and Proverbs 7.6-27

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A Large Crowd of Witnesses

Hebrews 12 Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won't let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. 2We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God's throne! 3So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won't get discouraged and give up.
4None of you have yet been hurt in your battle against sin. 5But you have forgotten that the Scriptures say to God's children,
"When the Lord punishes you, don't make light of it,
and when he corrects you, don't be discouraged.
6The Lord corrects the people he loves
and disciplines those he calls his own."
7Be patient when you are being corrected! This is how God treats his children. Don't all parents correct their children? 8God corrects all of his children, and if he doesn't correct you, then you don't really belong to him. 9Our earthly fathers correct us, and we still respect them. Isn't it even better to be given true life by letting our spiritual Father correct us?
10Our human fathers correct us for a short time, and they do it as they think best. But God corrects us for our own good, because he wants us to be holy, as he is. 11It is never fun to be corrected. In fact, at the time it is always painful. But if we learn to obey by being corrected, we will do right and live at peace.
12Now stand up straight! Stop your knees from shaking 13and walk a straight path. Then lame people will be healed, instead of getting worse.

Warning against Turning from God

14Try to live at peace with everyone! Live a clean life. If you don't, you will never see the Lord. 15Make sure that no one misses out on God's wonderful kindness. Don't let anyone become bitter and cause trouble for the rest of you. 16Watch out for immoral and ungodly people like Esau, who sold his future blessing for only one meal. 17You know how he later wanted it back. But there was nothing he could do to change things, even though he begged his father and cried.
18You have not come to a place like Mount Sinai that can be seen and touched. There is no flaming fire or dark cloud or storm 19or trumpet sound. The people of Israel heard a voice speak. But they begged it to stop, 20because they could not obey its commands. They were even told to kill any animal that touched the mountain. 21The sight was so frightening that Moses said he shook with fear.
22You have now come to Mount Zion and to the heavenly Jerusalem. This is the city of the living God, where thousands and thousands of angels have come to celebrate. 23Here you will find all of God's dearest children, whose names are written in heaven. And you will find God himself, who judges everyone. Here also are the spirits of those good people who have been made perfect. 24And Jesus is here! He is the one who makes God's new agreement with us, and his sprinkled blood says much better things than the blood of Abel.
25Make sure that you obey the one who speaks to you. The people did not escape, when they refused to obey the one who spoke to them at Mount Sinai. Do you think you can possibly escape, if you refuse to obey the one who speaks to you from heaven? 26When God spoke the first time, his voice shook only the earth. This time he has promised to shake the earth once again, and heaven too.
27The words "once again" mean that these created things will someday be shaken and removed. Then what cannot be shaken will last. 28We should be grateful that we were given a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And in this kingdom we please God by worshiping him and by showing him great honor and respect. 29Our God is like a destructive fire!

The LORD Sends Food from Heaven

Exodus 16 On the fifteenth day of the second month after the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, they left Elim and started through the western edge of the Sinai Desert in the direction of Mount Sinai. 2There in the desert they started complaining to Moses and Aaron, 3"We wish the LORD had killed us in Egypt. When we lived there, we could at least sit down and eat all the bread and meat we wanted. But you have brought us out here into this desert, where we are going to starve."
4The LORD said to Moses, "I will send bread down from heaven like rain. Each day the people can go out and gather only enough for that day. That's how I will see if they obey me. 5But on the sixth day of each week they must gather and cook twice as much."
6Moses and Aaron told the people, "This evening you will know that the LORD was the one who rescued you from Egypt. 7And in the morning you will see his glorious power, because he has heard your complaints against him. Why should you grumble to us? Who are we?"
8Then Moses continued, "You will know it is the LORD when he gives you meat each evening and more than enough bread each morning. He is really the one you are complaining about, not us--we are nobodies--but the LORD has heard your complaints."
9Moses turned to Aaron and said, "Bring the people together, because the LORD has heard their complaints."
10Aaron was speaking to them, when everyone looked out toward the desert and saw the bright glory of the LORD in a cloud. 11The LORD said to Moses, 12"I have heard my people complain. Now tell them that each evening they will have meat and each morning they will have more than enough bread. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God."
13That evening a lot of quails came and landed everywhere in the camp, and the next morning dew covered the ground. 14After the dew had gone, the desert was covered with thin flakes that looked like frost. 15The people had never seen anything like this, and they started asking each other, "What is it?"
Moses answered, "This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16And he orders you to gather about two quarts for each person in your family--that should be more than enough."
17They did as they were told. Some gathered more and some gathered less, 18according to their needs, and none was left over.
19Moses told them not to keep any overnight. 20Some of them disobeyed, but the next morning what they kept was stinking and full of worms, and Moses was angry.
21Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and in the heat of the day the rest melted. 22However, on the sixth day of the week, everyone gathered enough to have four quarts, instead of two. When the leaders reported this to Moses, 23he told them that the LORD had said, "Tomorrow is the Sabbath, a sacred day of rest in honor of me. So gather all you want to bake or boil, and make sure you save enough for tomorrow."
24The people obeyed, and the next morning the food smelled fine and had no worms. 25"You may eat the food," Moses said. "Today is the Sabbath in honor of the LORD, and there won't be any of this food on the ground today. 26You will find it there for the first six days of the week, but not on the Sabbath."
27A few of the Israelites did go out to look for some, but there was none. 28Then the LORD said, "Moses, how long will you people keep disobeying my laws and teachings? 29Remember that I was the one who gave you the Sabbath. That's why on the sixth day I provide enough bread for two days. Everyone is to stay home and rest on the Sabbath." 30And so they rested on the Sabbath.
31The Israelites called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and delicious as wafers made with honey. 32Moses told the people that the LORD had said, "Store up two quarts of this manna, because I want future generations to see the food I gave you during the time you were in the desert after I rescued you from Egypt."
33Then Moses told Aaron, "Put some manna in a jar and store it in the place of worship for future generations to see."
34Aaron followed the LORD's instructions and put the manna in front of the sacred chest for safekeeping. 35-36The Israelites ate manna for forty years, before they came to the border of Canaan that was a settled land.

The LORD Gives Water from a Rock
(Numbers 20.1-13)

Exodus 17 The Israelites left the desert and moved from one place to another each time the LORD ordered them to. Once they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for them to drink.
2The people started complaining to Moses, "Give us some water!"
Moses replied, "Why are you complaining to me and trying to put the LORD to the test?"
3But the people were thirsty and kept on complaining, "Moses, did you bring us out of Egypt just to let us and our families and our animals die of thirst?"
4Then Moses prayed to the LORD, "What am I going to do with these people? They are about to stone me to death!"
5The LORD answered, "Take some of the leaders with you and go ahead of the rest of the people. Also take along the walking stick you used to strike the Nile River, 6and when you get to the rock at Mount Sinai, I will be there with you. Strike the rock with the stick, and water will pour out for the people to drink." Moses did this while the leaders watched.
7The people had complained and tested the LORD by asking, "Is the LORD really with us?" So Moses named that place Massah, which means "testing" and Meribah, which means "complaining."

Israel Defeats the Amalekites

8When the Israelites were at Rephidim, they were attacked by the Amalekites. 9So Moses told Joshua, "Have some men ready to attack the Amalekites tomorrow. I will stand on a hilltop, holding this walking stick that has the power of God."
10Joshua led the attack as Moses had commanded, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur stood on the hilltop. 11The Israelites out-fought the Amalekites as long as Moses held up his arms, but they started losing whenever he had to lower them. 12Finally, Moses was so tired that Aaron and Hur got a rock for him to sit on. Then they stood beside him and supported his arms in the same position until sunset. 13That's how Joshua defeated the Amalekites.
14Afterwards, the LORD said to Moses, "Write an account of this victory and read it to Joshua. I want the Amalekites to be forgotten forever."
15Moses built an altar and named it "The LORD Gives Me Victory." 16Then Moses explained, "This is because I depended on the LORD. But in future generations, the LORD will have to fight the Amalekites again."

Proverbs 7 6From the window of my house,
I once happened to see 7some foolish young men.
8It was late in the evening, sometime after dark.
9One of these young men turned the corner
and was walking by the house of an unfaithful wife.
10She was dressed fancy like a woman of the street
with only one thing in mind.
11She was one of those women who are loud and restless
and never stay at home,
12who walk street after street, waiting to trap a man.

13She grabbed him and kissed him,
and with no sense of shame, she said:
14"I had to offer a sacrifice,
and there is enough meat left over for a feast.
15So I came looking for you, and here you are!
16The sheets on my bed
are bright-colored cloth from Egypt.
17And I have covered it with perfume
made of myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.

18"Let's go there and make love all night.
19My husband is traveling, and he's far away.
20He took a lot of money along, and he won't be back home
before the middle of the month."

21And so, she tricked him
with all of her sweet talk and her flattery.
22Right away he followed her
like an ox on the way to be slaughtered,
or like a fool on the way to be punished
23and killed with arrows.
He was no more than a bird rushing into a trap,
without knowing it would cost him his life.

24My son, pay close attention to what I have said.
25Don't even think about that kind of woman
or let yourself be misled by someone like her.
26Such a woman has caused the downfall
and destruction of a lot of men.
27Her house is a one-way street leading straight down
to the world of the dead.

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

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