February 24 - Matthew 5.21-48, Exodus 30-32 and Proverbs 14

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Matthew 5 21You know that our ancestors were told, "Do not murder" and "A murderer must be brought to trial." 22But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell.
23So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God.
25Before you are dragged into court, make friends with the person who has accused you of doing wrong. If you don't, you will be handed over to the judge and then to the officer who will put you in jail. 26I promise you that you will not get out until you have paid the last cent you owe.


27You know the commandment which says, "Be faithful in marriage." 28But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, poke it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to end up in hell. 30If your right hand causes you to sin, chop it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

(Matthew 19.9; Mark 10.11, 12; Luke 16.18)

31You have been taught that a man who divorces his wife must write out divorce papers for her. 32But I tell you not to divorce your wife unless she has committed some terrible sexual sin. If you divorce her, you will cause her to be unfaithful, just as any man who marries her is guilty of taking another man's wife.


33You know that our ancestors were told, "Don't use the Lord's name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it." 34But I tell you not to swear by anything when you make a promise! Heaven is God's throne, so don't swear by heaven. 35The earth is God's footstool, so don't swear by the earth. Jerusalem is the city of the great king, so don't swear by it. 36Don't swear by your own head. You cannot make one hair white or black. 37When you make a promise, say only "Yes" or "No." Anything else comes from the devil.

(Luke 6.29, 30)

38You know that you have been taught, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." 39But I tell you not to try to get even with a person who has done something to you. When someone slaps your right cheek, turn and let that person slap your other cheek. 40If someone sues you for your shirt, give up your coat as well. 41If a soldier forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. 42When people ask you for something, give it to them. When they want to borrow money, lend it to them.

(Luke 6.27, 28, 32-36)

43You have heard people say, "Love your neighbors and hate your enemies." 44But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. 45Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. 46If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. 47If you greet only your friends, what's so great about that? Don't even unbelievers do that? 48But you must always act like your Father in heaven.

The Altar for Burning Incense
(Exodus 37.25-28)

The LORD said to Moses:
Exodus 30 Build an altar of acacia wood where you can burn incense. 2Make it eighteen inches square and thirty-six inches high, and make each of its four corners stick up like the horn of a bull. 3Cover it with pure gold and put a gold edging around it. 4Then below the edging on opposite sides attach two gold rings through which you can put the poles for carrying the altar. 5These poles are also to be made of acacia wood covered with gold.
6Put the altar in front of the inside curtain of the sacred tent. The chest with the place of mercy is kept behind that curtain, and I will talk with you there. 7-8From now on, when Aaron tends the lamp each morning and evening, he must burn sweet-smelling incense to me on the altar. 9Burn only the proper incense on the altar and never use it for grain sacrifices or animal sacrifices or drink offerings. 10Once a year Aaron must purify the altar by smearing on its four corners the blood of an animal sacrificed for sin, and this practice must always be followed. The altar is sacred because it is dedicated to me.

The Money for the Sacred Tent

11The LORD said to Moses:
12Find out how many grown men there are in Israel and require each of them to pay me to keep him safe from danger while you are counting them. 13-15Each man over nineteen, whether rich or poor, must pay me the same amount of money, weighed according to the official standards. 16This money is to be used for the upkeep of the sacred tent, and because of it, I will never forget my people.

The Large Bronze Bowl
(Exodus 38.8)

17The LORD said to Moses:
18-21Make a large bronze bowl and a bronze stand for it. Then put them between the altar for sacrifice and the sacred tent, so the priests can wash their hands and feet before entering the tent or offering a sacrifice on the altar. Each priest in every generation must wash himself in this way, or else he will die right there.

The Oil for Dedication and Ordination
(Exodus 37.29)

22The LORD said to Moses:
23-25Mix a gallon of olive oil with the following costly spices: twelve pounds of myrrh, six pounds of cinnamon, six pounds of cane, and twelve pounds of cassia. Measure these according to the official standards. Then use this sacred mixture 26for dedicating the tent and chest, 27the table with its equipment, the lampstand with its equipment, the incense altar with all its utensils, 28the altar for sacrifices, and the large bowl with its stand. 29By dedicating them in this way, you will make them so holy that anyone who even touches them will become holy.
30When you ordain Aaron and his sons as my priests, sprinkle them with some of this oil, 31and say to the people of Israel: "This oil must always be used in the ordination service of a priest. It is holy because it is dedicated to the LORD. 32So treat it as holy! Don't ever use it for everyday purposes or mix any for yourselves. 33If you do, you will no longer belong to the LORD's people."

The Sweet-Smelling Incense

34-35Mix equal amounts of the costly spices stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, then add salt to make the mixture pure and holy. 36Pound some of it into powder and sprinkle it in front of the sacred chest, where I meet with you. Be sure to treat this incense as something very holy. 37It is truly holy because it is dedicated to me, so don't ever make any for yourselves. 38If you ever make any of it to use as perfume, you will no longer belong to my people.

The LORD Chooses Bezalel and Oholiab
(Exodus 35.30--36.1)

Exodus 31 The LORD said to Moses:
2I have chosen Bezalel from the Judah tribe to make the sacred tent and its furnishings. 3-5Not only have I filled him with my Spirit, but I have given him wisdom and made him a skilled craftsman who can create objects of art with gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood. 6I have appointed Oholiab from the tribe of Dan to work with him, and I have also given skills to those who will help them make everything exactly as I have commanded you: 7-11the sacred tent with its furnishings, the sacred chest with its place of mercy, the table with all that is on it, the lamp with its equipment, the incense altar, the altar for sacrifices with its equipment, the bronze bowl with its stand, the beautiful priestly clothes for Aaron and his sons, the oil for dedication and ordination services, and the sweet-smelling incense for the holy place.

Laws for the Sabbath

12-13Moses told the Israelites that the LORD had said:
The Sabbath belongs to me. Now I command you and your descendants to always obey the laws of the Sabbath. By doing this, you will know that I have chosen you as my own. 14-15Keep the Sabbath holy. You have six days to do your work, but the Sabbath is mine, and it must remain a day of rest. If you work on the Sabbath, you will no longer be part of my people, and you will be put to death.
16Every generation of Israelites must respect the Sabbath. 17This day will always serve as a reminder, both to me and to the Israelites, that I made the heavens and the earth in six days, then on the seventh day I rested and relaxed.

18When God had finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two flat stones on which he had written all of his laws with his own hand.

The People Make an Idol To Worship
(Deuteronomy 9.6-29)

Exodus 32 After the people saw that Moses had been on the mountain for a long time, they went to Aaron and said, "Make us an image of a god who will lead and protect us. Moses brought us out of Egypt, but nobody knows what has happened to him."
2Aaron told them, "Bring me the gold earrings that your wives and sons and daughters are wearing." 3Everybody took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron, 4then he melted them and made an idol in the shape of a young bull.
All the people said to one another, "This is the god who brought us out of Egypt!"
5When Aaron saw what was happening, he built an altar in front of the idol and said, "Tomorrow we will celebrate in honor of the LORD." 6The people got up early the next morning and killed some animals to be used for sacrifices and others to be eaten. Then everyone ate and drank so much that they began to carry on like wild people.
7The LORD said to Moses:
Hurry back down! Those people you led out of Egypt are acting like fools. 8They have already stopped obeying me and have made themselves an idol in the shape of a young bull. They have bowed down to it, offered sacrifices, and said that it is the god who brought them out of Egypt. 9Moses, I have seen how stubborn these people are, 10and I'm angry enough to destroy them, so don't try to stop me. But I will make your descendants into a great nation.

11Moses tried to get the LORD God to change his mind:
Our LORD, you used your mighty power to bring these people out of Egypt. Now don't become angry and destroy them. 12If you do, the Egyptians will say that you brought your people out here into the mountains just to get rid of them. Please don't be angry with your people. Don't destroy them!
13Remember the solemn promise you made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You promised that someday they would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky and that you would give them land.

14So even though the LORD had threatened to destroy the people, he changed his mind and let them live.
15-16Moses went back down the mountain with the two flat stones on which God had written all of his laws with his own hand, and he had used both sides of the stones.
17When Joshua heard the noisy shouts of the people, he said to Moses, "A battle must be going on down in the camp."
18But Moses replied, "It doesn't sound like they are shouting because they have won or lost a battle. They are singing wildly!"
19As Moses got closer to the camp, he saw the idol, and he also saw the people dancing around. This made him so angry that he threw down the stones and broke them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20He melted the idol the people had made, and he ground it into powder. He scattered it in their water and made them drink it. 21Moses asked Aaron, "What did these people do to harm you? Why did you make them sin in this terrible way?"
22Aaron answered:
Don't be angry with me. You know as well as I do that they are determined to do evil. 23They even told me, "That man Moses led us out of Egypt, but now we don't know what has happened to him. Make us a god to lead us." 24Then I asked them to bring me their gold earrings. They took them off and gave them to me. I threw the gold into a fire, and out came this bull.

25Moses knew that the people were out of control and that it was Aaron's fault. And now they had made fools of themselves in front of their enemies. 26So Moses stood at the gate of the camp and shouted, "Everyone who is on the LORD's side come over here!"
Then the men of the Levi tribe gathered around Moses, 27and he said to them, "The LORD God of Israel commands you to strap on your swords and go through the camp, killing your relatives, your friends, and your neighbors."
28The men of the Levi tribe followed his orders, and that day they killed about three thousand men. 29Moses said to them, "You obeyed the LORD and did what was right, and so you will serve as his priests for the people of Israel. It was hard for you to kill your own sons and brothers, but the LORD has blessed you and made you his priests today."
30The next day Moses told the people, "This is a terrible thing you have done. But I will go back to the LORD to see if I can do something to keep this sin from being held against you."
31Moses returned to the LORD and said, "The people have committed a terrible sin. They have made a gold idol to be their god. 32But I beg you to forgive them. If you don't, please wipe my name out of your book."
33The LORD replied, "I will wipe out of my book the name of everyone who has sinned against me. 34Now take my people to the place I told you about, and my angel will lead you. But when the time comes, I will punish them for this sin."
35So the LORD punished the people of Israel with a terrible disease for talking Aaron into making the gold idol.

Wisdom Makes Good Sense

Proverbs 14 A woman's family is held together by her wisdom,
but it can be destroyed by her foolishness.
2By living right, you show that you respect the LORD;
by being deceitful, you show that you despise him.
3Proud fools are punished for their stupid talk,
but sensible talk can save your life.
4Without the help of an ox there can be no crop,
but with a strong ox a big crop is possible.
5An honest witness tells the truth;
a dishonest witness tells nothing but lies.

6Make fun of wisdom, and you will never find it.
But if you have understanding, knowledge comes easily.
7Stay away from fools, or you won't learn a thing.
8Wise people have enough sense to find their way,
but stupid fools get lost.
9Fools don't care if they are wrong,
but God is pleased when people do right.

10No one else can really know how sad or happy you are.
11The tent of a good person stands longer
than the house of someone evil.
12You may think you are on the right road
and still end up dead.
13Sorrow may hide behind laughter,
and happiness may end in sorrow.
14You harvest what you plant, whether good or bad.

15Don't be stupid and believe all you hear;
be smart and know where you are headed.
16Only a stupid fool is never cautious--
so be extra careful and stay out of trouble.
17Fools have quick tempers,
and no one likes you if you can't be trusted.
18Stupidity leads to foolishness; be smart and learn.

19The wicked will come crawling to those who obey God.
20You have no friends if you are poor,
but you have lots of friends if you are rich.
21It's wrong to hate others,
but God blesses everyone who is kind to the poor.
22It's a mistake to make evil plans,
but you will have loyal friends if you want to do right.
23Hard work is worthwhile,
but empty talk will make you poor.
24Wisdom can make you rich,
but foolishness leads to more foolishness.
25An honest witness can save your life,
but liars can't be trusted.

26If you respect the LORD, you and your children have
a strong fortress 27and a life-giving fountain
that keeps you safe from deadly traps.

28Rulers of powerful nations are held in honor;
rulers of weak nations are nothing at all.
29It's smart to be patient,
but it's stupid to lose your temper.
30It's healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up.
31If you mistreat the poor, you insult your Creator;
if you are kind to them, you show him respect.
32In times of trouble the wicked are destroyed,
but even at death the innocent have faith.

33Wisdom is found in the minds of people with good sense,
but fools don't know it.
34Doing right brings honor to a nation,
but sin brings disgrace.
35Kings reward servants who act wisely,
but they punish those who act foolishly.

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

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