November 12 - Philemon, Jeremiah 19-20 and Psalm 128

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1From Paul, who is in jail for serving Christ Jesus, and from Timothy, who is like a brother because of our faith.
Philemon, you work with us and are very dear to us. This letter is to you 2and to the church that meets in your home. It is also to our dear friend Apphia and to Archippus, who serves the Lord as we do.
3I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!

Philemon's Love and Faith

4Philemon, each time I mention you in my prayers, I thank God. 5I hear about your faith in our Lord Jesus and about your love for all of God's people. 6As you share your faith with others, I pray that they may come to know all the blessings Christ has given us. 7My friend, your love has made me happy and has greatly encouraged me. It has also cheered the hearts of God's people.

Paul Speaks to Philemon about Onesimus

8Christ gives me the courage to tell you what to do. 9But I would rather ask you to do it simply because of love. Yes, as someone in jail for Christ, 10I beg you to help Onesimus! He is like a son to me because I led him to Christ here in jail. 11Before this, he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me.
12Sending Onesimus back to you makes me very sad. 13I would like to keep him here with me, where he could take your place in helping me while I am here in prison for preaching the good news. 14But I won't do anything unless you agree to it first. I want your act of kindness to come from your heart, and not be something you feel forced to do.
15Perhaps Onesimus was taken from you for a little while so that you could have him back for good, 16but not as a slave. Onesimus is much more than a slave. To me he is a dear friend, but to you he is even more, both as a person and as a follower of the Lord.
17If you consider me a friend because of Christ, then welcome Onesimus as you would welcome me. 18If he has cheated you or owes you anything, charge it to my account. 19With my own hand I write: I, PAUL, WILL PAY YOU BACK. But don't forget that you owe me your life. 20My dear friend and follower of Christ our Lord, please cheer me up by doing this for me.
21I am sure you will do all I have asked, and even more. 22Please get a room ready for me. I hope your prayers will be answered, and I can visit you.
23Epaphras is also here in jail for being a follower of Christ Jesus. He sends his greetings, 24and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, who work together with me.
25I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you!

Jeremiah and the Clay Jar

Jeremiah 19 The LORD said:
Jeremiah, go to the pottery shop and buy a clay jar. Then take along some of the city officials and leading priests 2and go to Hinnom Valley, just outside Potsherd Gate. Tell the people that I have said:
3I am the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, and you kings of Judah and you people of Jerusalem had better pay attention. I am going to bring so much trouble on this valley that everyone who hears about it will be shocked. 4-5The people of Judah stopped worshiping me and made this valley into a place of worship for Baal and other gods that have never helped them or their ancestors or their kings. And they have committed murder here, burning their young, innocent children as sacrifices to Baal. I have never even thought of telling you to do that. 6So watch out! Someday this place will no longer be called Topheth or Hinnom Valley. It will be called Slaughter Valley!
7You people of Judah and Jerusalem may have big plans, but here in this valley I'll ruin those plans. I'll let your enemies kill you, and I'll tell the birds and wild animals to eat your dead bodies. 8I will turn Jerusalem into a pile of rubble, and every passerby will be shocked and horrified and will make insulting remarks. 9And while your enemies are trying to break through your city walls to kill you, the food supply will run out. You will become so hungry that you will eat the flesh of your friends and even of your own children.

10Jeremiah, as soon as you have said this, smash the jar while the people are watching. 11Then tell them that I have also said:
I am the LORD All-Powerful, and I warn you that I will shatter Judah and Jerusalem just like this jar that is broken beyond repair. You will bury your dead here in Topheth, but so many of you will die that there won't be enough room.
12-13I will make Jerusalem as unclean as Topheth, by filling the city with your dead bodies. I will do this because you and your kings have gone up to the roofs of your houses and burned incense to the stars in the sky, as though they were gods. And you have given sacrifices of wine to foreign gods.

Jeremiah Speaks in the Temple Courtyard

14I went to Topheth, where I told the people what the LORD had said. Then I went to the temple courtyard and shouted to the people, 15"Listen, everyone! Some time ago, the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, warned you that he would bring disaster on Jerusalem and all nearby villages. But you were stubborn and refused to listen. Now the LORD is going to bring the disaster he promised."

Pashhur Arrests Jeremiah

Jeremiah 20 Pashhur son of Immer was a priest and the chief of temple security. He heard what I had said, 2and so he hit me. Then he had me arrested and put in chains at the Benjamin Gate in the LORD's temple. 3The next day, when Pashhur let me go free, I told him that the LORD had said:
No longer will I call you Pashhur. Instead, I will call you Afraid-of-Everything. 4You will be afraid, and you will bring fear to your friends as well. You will see enemies kill them in battle. Then I will have the king of Babylonia take everyone in Judah prisoner, killing some and dragging the rest away to Babylonia. 5He will clean out the royal treasury and take everything else of value from Jerusalem.
6Pashhur, you are guilty of telling lies and claiming they were messages from me. That's why I will have the Babylonians take you, your family, and your friends as prisoners to Babylonia, where you will all die and be buried.

Jeremiah Complains to the LORD

7You tricked me, LORD, and I was really fooled.
You are stronger than I am, and you have defeated me.
People never stop sneering and insulting me.
8You have let me announce only destruction and death.
Your message has brought me nothing but insults
and trouble.
9Sometimes I tell myself not to think about you, LORD,
or even mention your name.
But your message burns in my heart and bones,
and I cannot keep silent.

10I heard the crowds whisper, "Everyone is afraid.
Now's our chance to accuse Jeremiah!"
All of my so-called friends
are just waiting for me to make a mistake.
They say, "Maybe Jeremiah can be tricked.
Then we can overpower him and get even at last."

11But you, LORD, are a mighty soldier, standing at my side.
Those troublemakers will fall down and fail--
terribly embarrassed, forever ashamed.

12LORD All-Powerful, you test those who do right,
and you know every heart and mind.
I have told you my complaints,
so let me watch you take revenge on my enemies.
13I sing praises to you, LORD.
You rescue the oppressed from the wicked.

14Put a curse on the day I was born!
Don't bless my mother.
15Put a curse on the man who told my father,
"Good news! You have a son."
16May that man be like the towns you destroyed without pity.
Let him hear shouts of alarm in the morning
and battle cries at noon.
17He deserves to die for not killing me before I was born.
Then my mother's body would have been my grave.
18Why did I have to be born?
Was it just to suffer and die in shame?

Psalm 128
[A song for worship.]
The LORD Rewards His Faithful People

1The LORD will bless you
if you respect him and obey his laws.
2Your fields will produce,
and you will be happy and all will go well.
3Your wife will be as fruitful as a grapevine,
and just as an olive tree is rich with olives,
your home will be rich with healthy children.
4That is how the LORD will bless everyone
who respects him.

5I pray that the LORD will bless you from Zion
and let Jerusalem prosper as long as you live.
6May you live long enough to see your grandchildren.
Let's pray for peace in Israel!

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

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