November 21 - 1 Peter 4, Jeremiah 37-38 and Psalm 137

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Being Faithful to God

1 Peter 4 Christ suffered here on earth. Now you must be ready to suffer as he did, because suffering shows that you have stopped sinning. 2It means you have turned from your own desires and want to obey God for the rest of your life. 3You have already lived long enough like people who don't know God. You were immoral and followed your evil desires. You went around drinking and partying and carrying on. In fact, you even worshiped disgusting idols. 4Now your former friends wonder why you have stopped running around with them, and they curse you for it. 5But they will have to answer to God, who judges the living and the dead. 6The good news has even been preached to the dead, so that after they have been judged for what they have done in this life, their spirits will live with God.
7Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray.
8Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins.
9Welcome people into your home and don't grumble about it.
10Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. 11If you have the gift of speaking, preach God's message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ, who is glorious and powerful forever. Amen.

Suffering for Being a Christian

12Dear friends, don't be surprised or shocked that you are going through testing that is like walking through fire. 13Be glad for the chance to suffer as Christ suffered. It will prepare you for even greater happiness when he makes his glorious return.
14Count it a blessing when you suffer for being a Christian. This shows that God's glorious Spirit is with you. 15But you deserve to suffer if you are a murderer, a thief, a crook, or a busybody. 16Don't be ashamed to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God that you belong to him. 17God has already begun judging his own people. And if his judgment begins with us, imagine how terrible it will be for those who refuse to obey his message. The Scriptures say,
18"If good people barely escape,
what will happen to sinners
and to others who don't respect God?"
19If you suffer for obeying God, you must have complete faith in your faithful Creator and keep on doing right.

King Zedekiah Asks Jeremiah To Pray

Jeremiah 37 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia had removed Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim from being the king of Judah and had made Josiah's son Zedekiah king instead. 2But Zedekiah, his officials, and everyone else in Judah ignored everything the LORD had told me.
3-5Later, the Babylonian army attacked Jerusalem, but they left after learning that the Egyptian army was headed in this direction.
One day, Zedekiah sent Jehucal and the priest Zephaniah to talk with me. At that time, I was free to go wherever I wanted, because I had not yet been put in prison. Jehucal and Zephaniah said, "Jeremiah, please pray to the LORD our God for us."
6-7Then the LORD told me to send them back to Zedekiah with this message:
Zedekiah, you wanted Jeremiah to ask me, the LORD God of Israel, what is going to happen. So I will tell you. The king of Egypt and his army came to your rescue, but soon they will go back to Egypt. 8Then the Babylonians will return and attack Jerusalem, and this time they will capture the city and set it on fire. 9Don't fool yourselves into thinking that the Babylonians will leave as they did before. 10Even if you could defeat their entire army, their wounded survivors would still be able to leave their tents and set Jerusalem on fire.

Jeremiah Is Put in Prison

11The Babylonian army had left because the Egyptian army was on its way to help us. 12So I decided to leave Jerusalem and go to the territory of the Benjamin tribe to claim my share of my family's land. 13I was leaving Jerusalem through Benjamin Gate, when I was stopped by Irijah, the officer in charge of the soldiers at the gate. He said, "Jeremiah, you're under arrest for trying to join the Babylonians."
14"I'm not trying to join them!" I answered. But Irijah wouldn't listen, and he took me to the king's officials. 15-16They were angry and ordered the soldiers to beat me. Then I was taken to the house that belonged to Jonathan, one of the king's officials. It had been turned into a prison, and I was kept in a basement room.
After I had spent a long time there, 17King Zedekiah secretly had me brought to his palace, where he asked, "Is there any message for us from the LORD?"
"Yes, there is, Your Majesty," I replied. "The LORD is going to let the king of Babylonia capture you."
18Then I continued, "Your Majesty, why have you put me in prison? Have I committed a crime against you or your officials or the nation? 19Have you locked up the prophets who lied to you and said that the king of Babylonia would never attack Jerusalem? 20Please, don't send me back to that prison at Jonathan's house. If you do, I will die."
21King Zedekiah had me taken to the prison cells in the courtyard of the palace guards. He told the soldiers to give me a loaf of bread from one of the bakeries every day until the city ran out of grain.

Jeremiah Is Held Prisoner in a Dry Well

Jeremiah 38 One day, Shephatiah, Gedaliah, Jehucal, and Pashhur heard me tell the people of Judah 2-3that the LORD had said, "If you stay here in Jerusalem, you will die in battle or from disease or hunger, and the Babylonian army will capture the city anyway. But if you surrender to the Babylonians, they will let you live."
4So the four of them went to the king and said, "You should put Jeremiah to death, because he is making the soldiers and everyone else lose hope. He isn't trying to help our people; he's trying to harm them."
5Zedekiah replied, "Do what you want with him. I can't stop you."
6Then they took me back to the courtyard of the palace guards and let me down with ropes into the well that belonged to Malchiah, the king's son. There was no water in the well, and I sank down in the mud.
7-8Ebedmelech from Ethiopia was an official at the palace, and he heard what they had done to me. So he went to speak with King Zedekiah, who was holding court at Benjamin Gate. 9Ebedmelech said, "Your Majesty, Jeremiah is a prophet, and those men were wrong to throw him into a well. And when Jerusalem runs out of food, Jeremiah will starve to death down there."
10Zedekiah answered, "Take thirty of my soldiers and pull Jeremiah out before he dies."
11Ebedmelech and the soldiers went to the palace and got some rags from the room under the treasury. He used ropes to lower them into the well. 12Then he said, "Put these rags under your arms so the ropes won't hurt you." After I did, 13the men pulled me out. And from then on, I was kept in the courtyard of the palace guards.

King Zedekiah Questions Jeremiah

14King Zedekiah had me brought to his private entrance to the temple, and he said, "I'm going to ask you something, and I want to know the truth."
15"Why?" I replied. "You won't listen, and you might even have me killed!"
16He said, "I swear in the name of the living LORD our Creator that I won't have you killed. No one else can hear what we say, and I won't let anyone kill you."
17Then I told him that the LORD had said: "Zedekiah, I am the LORD God All-Powerful, the God of Israel. I promise that if you surrender to King Nebuchadnezzar's officers, you and your family won't be killed, and Jerusalem won't be burned down. 18But if you don't surrender, I will let the Babylonian army capture Jerusalem and burn it down, and you will be taken prisoner."
19Zedekiah answered, "I can't surrender to the Babylonians. I'm too afraid of the Jews that have already joined them. The Babylonians might hand me over to those Jews, and they would torture me."
20I said, "If you will just obey the LORD, the Babylonians won't hand you over to those Jews. You will be allowed to live, and all will go well for you. 21But the LORD has shown me that if you refuse to obey, 22then the women of your palace will be taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar's officials. And those women will say to you:
Friends you trusted led you astray.
Now you're trapped in mud,
and those friends you trusted have all turned away.
23The Babylonian army will take your wives and children captive, you will be taken as a prisoner to the King of Babylonia, and Jerusalem will be burned down."
24Zedekiah said, "Jeremiah, if you tell anyone what we have talked about, you might lose your life. 25And I'm sure that if my officials hear about our meeting, they will ask you what we said to each other. They might even threaten to kill you if you don't tell them. 26So if they question you, tell them you were begging me not to send you back to the prison at Jonathan's house, because going back there would kill you."
27The officials did come and question me about my meeting with the king, and I told them exactly what he had ordered me to say. They never spoke to me about the meeting again, since no one had heard us talking.
28I was held in the courtyard of the palace guards until the day Jerusalem was captured.

Psalm 137
A Prayer for Revenge

1Beside the rivers of Babylon we thought about Jerusalem,
and we sat down and cried.
2We hung our small harps on the willow trees.
3Our enemies had brought us here as their prisoners,
and now they wanted us to sing and entertain them.
They insulted us and shouted, "Sing about Zion!"

4Here in a foreign land,
how can we sing about the LORD?
5Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand go limp.
6Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I don't think about you above all else.

7Our LORD, punish the Edomites!
Because the day Jerusalem fell, they shouted,
"Completely destroy the city!
Tear down every building!"

8Babylon, you are doomed! I pray the Lord's blessings
on anyone who punishes you for what you did to us.
9May the Lord bless everyone
who beats your children against the rocks!

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

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