February 18 - Hebrews 13, Exodus 18-19 and Proverbs 8

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Service That Pleases God

Hebrews 13 Keep being concerned about each other as the Lord's followers should.
2Be sure to welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it.
3Remember the Lord's people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don't forget those who are suffering, but imagine that you are there with them.
4Have respect for marriage. Always be faithful to your partner, because God will punish anyone who is immoral or unfaithful in marriage.
5Don't fall in love with money. Be satisfied with what you have. The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us. 6That should make you feel like saying,
"The Lord helps me! Why should I be afraid
of what people can do to me?"
7Don't forget about your leaders who taught you God's message. Remember what kind of lives they lived and try to have faith like theirs.
8Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9Don't be fooled by any kind of strange teachings. It is better to receive strength from God's undeserved kindness than to depend on certain foods. After all, these foods don't really help the people who eat them. 10But we have an altar where even the priests who serve in the place of worship have no right to eat.
11After the high priest offers the blood of animals as a sin offering, the bodies of those animals are burned outside the camp. 12Jesus himself suffered outside the city gate, so that his blood would make people holy. 13That's why we should go outside the camp to Jesus and share in his disgrace. 14On this earth we don't have a city that lasts forever, but we are waiting for such a city.
15Our sacrifice is to keep offering praise to God in the name of Jesus. 16But don't forget to help others and to share your possessions with them. This too is like offering a sacrifice that pleases God.
17Obey your leaders and do what they say. They are watching over you, and they must answer to God. So don't make them sad as they do their work. Make them happy. Otherwise, they won't be able to help you at all.
18Pray for us. Our consciences are clear, and we always try to live right. 19I especially want you to pray that I can visit you again soon.

Final Prayers and Greetings

20God gives peace, and he raised our Lord Jesus Christ from death. Now Jesus is like a Great Shepherd whose blood was used to make God's eternal agreement with his flock. 21I pray that God will make you ready to obey him and that you will always be eager to do right. May Jesus help you do what pleases God. To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever! Amen.
22My friends, I have written only a short letter to encourage you, and I beg you to pay close attention to what I have said.
23By now you surely must know that our friend Timothy is out of jail. If he gets here in time, I will bring him with me when I come to visit you.
24Please give my greetings to your leaders and to the rest of the Lord's people.
His followers from Italy send you their greetings.
25I pray that God will be kind to all of you!

Jethro Visits Moses

Exodus 18 Jethro was the priest of Midian and the father-in-law of Moses. And he heard what the LORD God had done for Moses and his people, after rescuing them from Egypt.
2-4In the meantime, Moses had sent his wife Zipporah and her two sons to stay with Jethro, and he had welcomed them. Moses was still a foreigner in Midian when his first son was born, and so Moses said, "I'll name him Gershom."
When his second son was born, Moses said, "I'll name him Eliezer, because the God my father worshiped has saved me from the king of Egypt."
5-6While Israel was camped in the desert near Mount Sinai, Jethro sent Moses this message: "I am coming to visit you, and I am bringing your wife and two sons."
7When they arrived, Moses went out and bowed down in front of Jethro, then kissed him. After they had greeted each other, they went into the tent, 8where Moses told him everything the LORD had done to protect Israel against the Egyptians and their king. He also told him how the LORD had helped them in all of their troubles.
9Jethro was so pleased to hear this good news about what the LORD had done, 10that he shouted, "Praise the LORD! He rescued you and the Israelites from the Egyptians and their king. 11Now I know that the LORD is the greatest God, because he has rescued Israel from their arrogant enemies." 12Jethro offered sacrifices to God. Then Aaron and Israel's leaders came to eat with Jethro there at the place of worship.

Judges Are Appointed
(Deuteronomy 1.9-18)

13The next morning Moses sat down at the place where he decided legal cases for the people, and everyone crowded around him until evening. 14Jethro saw how much Moses had to do for the people, and he asked, "Why are you the only judge? Why do you let these people crowd around you from morning till evening?"
15Moses answered, "Because they come here to find out what God wants them to do. 16They bring their complaints to me, and I make decisions on the basis of God's laws."
17Jethro replied:
That isn't the best way to do it. 18You and the people who come to you will soon be worn out. The job is too much for one person; you can't do it alone. 19God will help you if you follow my advice. You should be the one to speak to God for the people, 20and you should teach them God's laws and show them what they must do to live right.
21You will need to appoint some competent leaders who respect God and are trustworthy and honest. Then put them over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand. 22These judges can handle the ordinary cases and bring the more difficult ones to you. Having them to share the load will make your work easier. 23This is the way God wants it done. You won't be under nearly as much stress, and everyone else will return home feeling satisfied.

24Moses followed Jethro's advice. 25He chose some competent leaders from every tribe in Israel and put them over groups of ten, fifty, a hundred, and a thousand. 26They served as judges, deciding the easy cases themselves, but bringing the more difficult ones to Moses.
27After Moses and his father-in-law Jethro had said good-by to each other, Jethro returned home.

At Mount Sinai

Exodus 19 1-2The Israelites left Rephidim. Then two months after leaving Egypt, they arrived at the desert near Mount Sinai, where they set up camp at the foot of the mountain.
3Moses went up the mountain to meet with the LORD God, who told him to say to the people:
4You saw what I did in Egypt, and you know how I brought you here to me, just as a mighty eagle carries its young. 5Now if you will faithfully obey me, you will be my very own people. The whole world is mine, 6but you will be my holy nation and serve me as priests.
Moses, that is what you must tell the Israelites.

7After Moses went back, he reported to the leaders what the LORD had said, 8and they promised, "We will do everything the LORD has commanded." So Moses told the LORD about this.
9The LORD said to Moses, "I will come to you in a thick cloud and let the people hear me speak to you. Then they will always trust you." Again Moses reported to the people what the LORD had told him.
10Once more the LORD spoke to Moses:
Go back and tell the people that today and tomorrow they must get themselves ready to meet me. They must wash their clothes 11and be ready by the day after tomorrow, when I will come down to Mount Sinai, where all of them can see me.
12Warn the people that they are forbidden to touch any part of the mountain. Anyone who does will be put to death, 13either with stones or arrows, and no one must touch the body of a person killed in this way. Even an animal that touches this mountain must be put to death. You may go up the mountain only after a signal is given on the trumpet.

14After Moses went down the mountain, he gave orders for the people to wash their clothes and make themselves acceptable to worship God. 15He told them to be ready in three days and not to have sex in the meantime.

The LORD Comes to Mount Sinai

16On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning. A thick cloud covered the mountain, a loud trumpet blast was heard, and everyone in camp trembled with fear. 17Moses led them out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
18Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had come down in a flaming fire. Smoke poured out of the mountain just like a furnace, and the whole mountain shook. 19The trumpet blew louder and louder. Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder.
20The LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai and told Moses to meet him there. 21Then he said, "Moses, go and warn the people not to cross the boundary that you set at the foot of the mountain. They must not cross it to come and look at me, because if they do, many of them will die. 22Only the priests may come near me, and they must obey strict rules before I let them. If they don't, they will be punished."
23Moses replied, "The people cannot come up the mountain. You warned us to stay away because it is holy."
24Then the LORD told Moses, "Go down and bring Aaron back here with you. But the priests and people must not try to push their way through, or I will rush at them like a flood!"
25After Moses had gone back down, he told the people what the LORD had said.

In Praise of Wisdom

Proverbs 8 With great understanding, Wisdom is calling out
2as she stands at the crossroads and on every hill.
3She stands by the city gate
where everyone enters the city, and she shouts:
4"I am calling out to each one of you!
5Good sense and sound judgment can be yours.
6Listen, because what I say is worthwhile and right.
7I always speak the truth and refuse to tell a lie.
8Every word I speak is honest,
not one is misleading or deceptive.

9"If you have understanding,
you will see that my words are just what you need.
10Let instruction and knowledge mean more to you
than silver or the finest gold.
11Wisdom is worth much more than precious jewels
or anything else you desire."

Wisdom Speaks

12I am Wisdom --Common Sense is my closest friend;
I possess knowledge and sound judgment.
13If you respect the LORD, you will hate evil.
I hate pride and conceit and deceitful lies.
14I am strong,
and I offer sensible advice and sound judgment.
15By my power kings govern,
and rulers make laws that are fair.
16Every honest leader rules with help from me.

17I love everyone who loves me,
and I will be found by all who honestly search.
18I can make you rich and famous,
important and successful.
19What you receive from me is more valuable
than even the finest gold or the purest silver.
20I always do what is right,
21and I give great riches to everyone who loves me.

22From the beginning, I was with the LORD.
I was there before he began 23to create the earth.
At the very first, the LORD gave life to me.
24When I was born,
there were no oceans or springs of water.
25My birth was before mountains were formed
or hills were put in place.
26It happened long before God had made the earth
or any of its fields or even the dust.

27I was there when the LORD put the heavens in place
and stretched the sky over the surface of the sea.
28I was with him when he placed the clouds in the sky
and created the springs that fill the ocean.
29I was there when he set boundaries for the sea
to make it obey him,
and when he laid foundations to support the earth.

30I was right beside the LORD,
helping him plan and build.
I made him happy each day, and I was happy at his side.
31I was pleased with his world and pleased with its people.

32Pay attention, my children!
Follow my advice, and you will be happy.
33Listen carefully to my instructions, and you will be wise.

34Come to my home each day and listen to me.
You will find happiness.
35By finding me, you find life,
and the LORD will be pleased with you.
36But if you don't find me, you hurt only yourself,
and if you hate me, you are in love with death.

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

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