Sunday, August 30, 2009

Positive Preachers

Today God rants against positive preachers!


1 -2 God's Message came to me: "Son of man, preach against the prophets of Israel who are making things up out of their own heads and calling it 'prophesying.'
2 -6 "Preach to them the real thing. Tell them, 'Listen to God's Message!' God, the Master, pronounces doom on the empty-headed prophets who do their own thing and know nothing of what's going on! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals scavenging through the ruins. They haven't lifted a finger to repair the defenses of the city and have risked nothing to help Israel stand on God's Day of Judgment. All they do is fantasize comforting illusions and preach lying sermons. They say 'God says...' when God hasn't so much as breathed in their direction. And yet they stand around thinking that something they said is going to happen.
7 -9 "Haven't you fantasized sheer nonsense? Aren't your sermons tissues of lies, saying 'God says...' when I've done nothing of the kind? Therefore—and this is the Message of God, the Master, remember—I'm dead set against prophets who substitute illusions for visions and use sermons to tell lies. I'm going to ban them from the council of my people, remove them from membership in Israel, and outlaw them from the land of Israel. Then you'll realize that I am God, the Master."

The two parts of God. Love for mankind. Hatred for sin.

Both are true, and necessary...

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Everybody in today's story is distressed.

There were righteous people in Jerusalem who were distressed over the immorality and wickedness going on. The man dressed in linen was to mark each of them. Here is what it says: "Go through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of everyone who is in anguish over the outrageous obscenities being done in the city."

Most of the people in Jerusalem were not distressed about that. In fact, they were quite enjoying it and were involved themselves. That enjoyment was going to turn to distress shortly.

God has been talking to Ezekiel. HE has been distressed over the wickedness among His people. Ezekiel reports:

1 "Then I heard him call out loudly, "Executioners, come! And bring your deadly weapons with you."
2 Six men came down the road from the upper gate that faces north, each carrying his lethal weapon. With them was a man dressed in linen with a writing case slung from his shoulder. They entered and stood by the bronze altar. 3 -4 The Glory of the God of Israel ascended from his usual place above the cherubim-angels, moved to the threshold of the Temple, and called to the man with the writing case who was dressed in linen: "Go through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of everyone who is in anguish over the outrageous obscenities being done in the city."

So God was starting His judgement. He separated the righteous. Here are His instructions:

5 -6 I listened as he went on to address the executioners: "Follow him through the city and kill. Feel sorry for no one. Show no compassion. Kill old men and women, young men and women, mothers and children. But don't lay a hand on anyone with the mark. Start at my Temple."
They started with the leaders in front of the Temple.
7 -8 He told the executioners, "Desecrate the Temple. Fill it with corpses. Then go out and continue the killing." So they went out and struck the city.
While the massacre went forward, I was left alone. I fell on my face in prayer: "Oh, oh, God, my Master! Are you going to kill everyone left in Israel in this pouring out of your anger on Jerusalem?"
9 -10 He said, "The guilt of Israel and Judah is enormous. The land is swollen with murder. The city is bloated with injustice. They all say, 'God has forsaken the country. He doesn't see anything we do.' Well, I do see, and I'm not feeling sorry for any of them. They're going to pay for what they've done."
11 Just then, the man dressed in linen and carrying the writing case came back and reported, "I've done what you told me."

EVERYONE in this story is distressed!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hard Message

God is a God of love. But He is also righteous. There have been times in history when His righteous anger has spilled out. Listen to the word God gave to Ezekiel...

1 -4 God's Word came to me, saying, "You, son of man—God, the Master, has this Message for the land of Israel: "'Endtime. The end of business as usual for everyone. It's all over. The end is upon you. I've launched my anger against you. I've issued my verdict on the way you live. I'll make you pay for your disgusting obscenities. I won't look the other way, I won't feel sorry for you. I'll make you pay for the way you've lived: Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you, and you'll realize that I am God.'

5 -9"I, God, the Master, say: 'Disaster after disaster! Look, it comes! Endtime— the end comes. The end is ripe. Watch out, it's coming! This is your fate, you who live in this land. Time's up. It's zero hour. No dragging of feet now, no bargaining for more time. Soon now I'll pour my wrath on you, pay out my anger against you, Render my verdict on the way you've lived, make you pay for your disgusting obscenities. I won't look the other way, I won't feel sorry for you. I'll make you pay for the way you've lived. Your disgusting obscenities will boomerang on you. Then you'll realize that it is I, God, who have hit you.

10 -13"'Judgment Day! Fate has caught up with you. The scepter outsized and pretentious, pride bursting all bounds, Violence strutting, brandishing the evil scepter. But there's nothing to them, and nothing will be left of them. Time's up. Countdown: five, four, three, two... Buyer, don't crow; seller, don't worry: Judgment wrath has turned the world topsy-turvy. The bottom has dropped out of buying and selling. It will never be the same again. But don't fantasize an upturn in the market. The country is bankrupt because of its sins, and it's not going to get any better."

I wonder how popular a church today would be, if this message came thundering out from the pulpit?

Happy Missionary!

We were 26. I remember being in the airplane, flying to Bogota Colombia. After 9 years of preparation and training, we were now full time missionaries. Our lives were to be dedicated to spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There was a strong sense of excitement and wonder.

Not so for Ezekiel.

He was called and commissioned by God Himself.

4 -6 "Then he told me, "Son of man, go to the family of Israel and speak my Message. Look, I'm not sending you to a people who speak a hard-to-learn language with words you can hardly pronounce. If I had sent you to such people, their ears would have perked up and they would have listened immediately.
7 -9 "But it won't work that way with the family of Israel. They won't listen to you because they won't listen to me. They are, as I said, a hard case, hardened in their sin. But I'll make you as hard in your way as they are in theirs. I'll make your face as hard as rock, harder than granite. Don't let them intimidate you. Don't be afraid of them, even though they're a bunch of rebels."
10 -11 Then he said, "Son of man, get all these words that I'm giving you inside you. Listen to them obediently. Make them your own. And now go. Go to the exiles, your people, and speak. Tell them, 'This is the Message of God, the Master.' Speak your piece, whether they listen or not."

It was to be a hard message to a hard people, needing a hard prophet to deliver it.

So there was no airplane ride. God HIMSELF picked Ezekiel up and delivered him.

12 -13 "Then the Spirit picked me up. Behind me I heard a great commotion—"Blessed be the Glory of God in his Sanctuary!"—the wings of the living creatures beating against each other, the whirling wheels, the rumble of a great earthquake.
14 -15 The Spirit lifted me and took me away."

What could be a more fantastical, exciting way to arrive at your destination than that! Ezekiel, of course, was thrilled. Excited. Full of eager anticipation!


14 -15 "I went bitterly and angrily. I didn't want to go. But God had me in his grip. I arrived among the exiles who lived near the Kebar River at Tel Aviv. I came to where they were living and sat there for seven days, appalled. "

So for the first week, the newly selected, appointed, called, commissioned prophet sat and - SULKED!

Not the most auspicious commencement of a long and illustrious missionary career!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

All of a sudden!!!

One of my favorite youtube video series is where someone gets scared suddenly. There was one where these poor job applicants were being trained to put makeup on the cadaver for the open casket funeral. Of course the person wasn't dead, and just at the right time, when they are leaning in close to apply the makeup, he opened his eyes, said "boo" and sat up in the casket! It scared the bejeebers out of every single person! I fell off my chair, I was laughing so hard!

Ezekiel had that experience. But it wasn't funny. And it wasn't for the entertainment of bored onlookers.

Here is what he says: 1"When I was thirty years of age, I was living with the exiles on the Kebar River. On the fifth day of the fourth month, the sky opened up and I saw visions of God. "


He has lived for 30 years. He is in exile. He is minding his own business, doing whatever he normally did. Suddenly, the sky opened up, and he saw visions of God! Quite a deal!
First, he SAW this fantastic apparition. "Above the dome there was something that looked like a throne, sky-blue like a sapphire, with a humanlike figure towering above the throne. From what I could see, from the waist up he looked like burnished bronze and from the waist down like a blazing fire. Brightness everywhere! The way a rainbow springs out of the sky on a rainy day—that's what it was like. It turned out to be the Glory of God!

When I saw all this, I fell to my knees, my face to the ground."
Then he HEARD! "Then I heard a voice.
1 It said, "Son of man, stand up. I have something to say to you." 2 The moment I heard the voice, the Spirit entered me and put me on my feet. As he spoke to me, I listened. 3 -7 He said, "Son of man, I'm sending you to the family of Israel, a rebellious nation if there ever was one. They and their ancestors have fomented rebellion right up to the present. They're a hard case, these people to whom I'm sending you—hardened in their sin. Tell them, 'This is the Message of God, the Master.' They are a defiant bunch. Whether or not they listen, at least they'll know that a prophet's been here. But don't be afraid of them, son of man, and don't be afraid of anything they say. Don't be afraid when living among them is like stepping on thorns or finding scorpions in your bed. Don't be afraid of their mean words or their hard looks. They're a bunch of rebels. Your job is to speak to them. Whether they listen is not your concern. They're hardened rebels."
God had chosen a prophet. He was to speak God's words to a people who did not want to hear.
God got his attention.
Gave him a message.
And Ezekiel was faithful to deliver it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

World Views in Collision!

We live in a time where there is a clash of cultures. Competing world views try to define and give meaning to everything that happens through their grid, or their lens.

So earthquakes and tornadoes have NOTHING to do with God! Oh No! They are because of global warming.

This is nothing new. In Jeremiah's time they had been invaded and their land was reduced to rubble. Jeremiah said it was God's punishment because the people had abandoned God and followed idols and an ungodly lifestyle.

Oh No! There was a completely OTHER explanation! Read with me...

15 -18The men who knew that their wives had been burning sacrifices to the no-gods, joined by a large crowd of women, along with virtually everyone living in Pathros of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: "We're having nothing to do with what you tell us is God's Message. We're going to go right on offering sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, keeping up the traditions set by our ancestors, our kings and government leaders in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem in the good old days. We had a good life then—lots of food, rising standard of living, and no bad luck. But the moment we quit sacrificing to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out offerings to her, everything fell apart. We've had nothing but massacres and starvation ever since."

Jeremiah had a word from God about that nonsense...

27 -28"'All the Judeans in Egypt will die off by massacre or starvation until they're wiped out. The few who get out of Egypt alive and back to Judah will be very few, hardly worth counting. Then that ragtag bunch that left Judah to live in Egypt will know who had the last word.

20 -23Then Jeremiah spoke up, confronting the men and the women, all the people who had answered so insolently. He said, "The sacrifices that you and your parents, your kings, your government officials, and the common people of the land offered up in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem—don't you think God noticed? He noticed, all right. And he got fed up. Finally, he couldn't take your evil behavior and your disgusting acts any longer. Your land became a wasteland, a death valley, a horror story, a ghost town. And it continues to be just that. This doom has come upon you because you kept offering all those sacrifices, and you sinned against God! You refused to listen to him, wouldn't live the way he directed, ignored the covenant conditions."

We are no further ahead today. The loudest and most persistent voice in our culture says we will do it our way. Go away, God. Leave us alone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

But Why?

Our grandkids are in town. 8 and 6. Precocious, energetic, beautiful, inquisitive. They have joined the two adorable ones we have close by for a few days.

Our oldest likes to play the "But why?" game.

Come to think of it, so do we.

Habakkuk was full of questions about God's dealings. Read with me...

Habakkuk 21 What's God going to say to my questions? I'm braced for the worst. I'll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I'll wait to see what God says, how he'll answer my complaint.
Full of Self, but Soul-Empty

2 -3And then God answered: "Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn't lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time.
4"Look at that man, bloated by self-importance— full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.
5 -6"Note well: Money deceives. The arrogant rich don't last. They are more hungry for wealth than the grave is for cadavers. Like death, they always want more, but the 'more' they get is dead bodies. They are cemeteries filled with dead nations, graveyards filled with corpses. Don't give people like this a second thought. Soon the whole world will be taunting them:
6 -8"'Who do you think you are— getting rich by stealing and extortion? How long do you think you can get away with this?' Indeed, how long before your victims wake up, stand up and make you the victim? You've plundered nation after nation. Now you'll get a taste of your own medicine. All the survivors are out to plunder you, a payback for all your murders and massacres.
9 -11"Who do you think you are— recklessly grabbing and looting, Living it up, acting like king of the mountain, acting above it all, above trials and troubles? You've engineered the ruin of your own house. In ruining others you've ruined yourself. You've undermined your foundations, rotted out your own soul. The bricks of your house will speak up and accuse you. The woodwork will step forward with evidence.
12 -14"Who do you think you are— building a town by murder, a city with crime? Don't you know that God-of-the-Angel-Armies makes sure nothing comes of that but ashes, Makes sure the harder you work at that kind of thing, the less you are? Meanwhile the earth fills up with awareness of God's glory as the waters cover the sea.
15 -17"Who do you think you are— inviting your neighbors to your drunken parties, Giving them too much to drink, roping them into your sexual orgies? You thought you were having the time of your life. Wrong! It's a time of disgrace. All the time you were drinking, you were drinking from the cup of God's wrath. You'll wake up holding your throbbing head, hung over— hung over from Lebanon violence, Hung over from animal massacres, hung over from murder and mayhem, From multiple violations of place and people.
18 -19"What's the use of a carved god so skillfully carved by its sculptor? What good is a fancy cast god when all it tells is lies? What sense does it make to be a pious god-maker who makes gods that can't even talk? Who do you think you are— saying to a stick of wood, 'Wake up,' Or to a dumb stone, 'Get up'? Can they teach you anything about anything? There's nothing to them but surface. There's nothing on the inside.
20"But oh! God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Peasants are Revolting! No - Its the King Who's Revolting

It was during his reign that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the country. Jehoiakim became his puppet. But after three years he had had enough and revolted.

Babylon ruled the known world at the time. So what was the response to this little kingdom

Sunday, August 16, 2009

You can't lose buying Real Estate - Right?

We are toward the end of the biggest recession since the Great Depression. All the equity (in our area) that has built up since 2005 has evaporated. Prices of property have slid 22% in the last 26 months.

It used to be that you couldn't lose buying Real Estate. The last two years you pretty much couldn't win buying real estate. Our biggest local developer, Mike Mastro, owes $500,000,000 and has multiple banks suing him for unpaid payments, and the attorneys are probably going to take him into forced bankruptcy.

In the Bible story today is a real estate deal much worse than any of these. There wasn't a 22% loss. There was a 100% loss. And the buyer knew the end result before he bought the property! Where was his agent? Where were his attorneys?

6 -7Jeremiah said, "God's Message came to me like this: Prepare yourself! Hanamel, your uncle Shallum's son, is on his way to see you. He is going to say, 'Buy my field in Anathoth. You have the legal right to buy it.'
8"And sure enough, just as God had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me while I was in jail and said, 'Buy my field in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin, for you have the legal right to keep it in the family. Buy it. Take it over.' "That did it. I knew it was God's Message.
9 -12"So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I paid him seventeen silver shekels. I followed all the proper procedures: In the presence of witnesses I wrote out the bill of sale, sealed it, and weighed out the money on the scales. Then I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy that contained the contract and its conditions and also the open copy—and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. All this took place in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and the witnesses who had signed the deed, as the Jews who were at the jail that day looked on.
13 -15"Then, in front of all of them, I told Baruch, 'These are orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: Take these documents—both the sealed and the open deeds—and put them for safekeeping in a pottery jar. For God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, "Life is going to return to normal. Homes and fields and vineyards are again going to be bought in this country."'

Hope in the future. That is what gives appreciated value to real estate. Jerusalem was under seige. Jeremiah was telling the people they were going to be overrun. Their economy crushed. Their property taken over by the Babylonians.

But some day. Some day God was going to bring them back to the land and as they followed and worshipped Him and Him alone, God was going to bless the land and the people again.

The real estate deal? Cousin Hanamel got full price. All cash at closing.

And Jeremiah? He paid market price - in cash for the property. Within a few months the Babylonians took over and his property was worth ZERO!

Think about that next time you complain about the value of your house going down 22%!

16 -19"And then, having handed over the legal documents to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to God, 'Dear God, my Master, you created earth and sky by your great power—by merely stretching out your arm! There is nothing you can't do. You're loyal in your steadfast love to thousands upon thousands—but you also make children live with the fallout from their parents' sins. Great and powerful God, named God-of-the-Angel-Armies, determined in purpose and relentless in following through, you see everything that men and women do and respond appropriately to the way they live, to the things they do.
20 -23"'You performed signs and wonders in the country of Egypt and continue to do so right into the present, right here in Israel and everywhere else, too. You've made a reputation for yourself that doesn't diminish. You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders—a powerful deliverance!—by merely stretching out your arm. You gave them this land and solemnly promised to their ancestors a bountiful and fertile land. But when they entered the land and took it over, they didn't listen to you. They didn't do what you commanded. They wouldn't listen to a thing you told them. And so you brought this disaster on them.
24 -25"'Oh, look at the siege ramps already set in place to take the city. Killing and starvation and disease are on our doorstep. The Babylonians are attacking! The Word you spoke is coming to pass—it's daily news! And yet you, God, the Master, even though it is certain that the city will be turned over to the Babylonians, also told me, Buy the field. Pay for it in cash. And make sure there are witnesses.'"
26 -30Then God's Message came again to Jeremiah: "Stay alert! I am God, the God of everything living. Is there anything I can't do? So listen to God's Message: No doubt about it, I'm handing this city over to the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He'll take it. The attacking Chaldeans will break through and burn the city down: All those houses whose roofs were used as altars for offerings to Baal and the worship of who knows how many other gods provoked me. It isn't as if this were the first time they had provoked me. The people of Israel and Judah have been doing this for a long time—doing what I hate, making me angry by the way they live." God's Decree.

Friday, August 7, 2009


He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to either left or right.


As in, "Strait as an arrow". Today, it's known as "straight" instead of "gay." Also connotes "true" and in "right on" or "not devious".

There is a little boy in II Kings 22 called Josiah. He became king when he was 8 years old.

The good book says he lived the way God wanted, all his days.

He decides to rebuild the temple. So he organizes the workers and the money. Here is an interesting tid bit. He said, "Also, authorize them to buy the lumber and dressed stone for The Temple repairs. You don't need to get a receipt for the money you give them—they're all honest men."

Straight. What a wonderful experience when the leader, the people, the workers, are all true to God, and honest, and trustworthy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tough Talk!

We call it "trash talkin'" nowadays.
The tough talk whether on the playground, in the "hood" or on the professional ball field.
In the play ground it goes like this,
"Yeah? Well my brother's bigger than you and he will beat you up?"
"Oh yeah? Well - MY brother's bigger than YOUR brother, and he will beat up YOUR brother!"

The prophet Nahum wasn't doin' trash talkin'
It's the real deal...

Nahum 1
God Is Serious Business
1 A report on the problem of Nineveh, the way God gave Nahum of Elkosh to see it:
2 -6God is serious business.
He won't be trifled with. He avenges his foes.
He stands up against his enemies, fierce and raging.
But God doesn't lose his temper.
He's powerful, but it's a patient power.
Still, no one gets by with anything.
Sooner or later, everyone pays.
Tornadoes and hurricanes
are the wake of his passage,
Storm clouds are the dust
he shakes off his feet.
He yells at the sea:
It dries up.
All the rivers run dry.
The Bashan and Carmel mountains shrivel,
the Lebanon orchards shrivel.
Mountains quake in their roots,
hills dissolve into mud flats.
Earth shakes in fear of God.
The whole world's in a panic.
Who can face such towering anger?
Who can stand up to this fierce rage?
His anger spills out like a river of lava,
his fury shatters boulders.
7 -10God is good,
a hiding place in tough times.
He recognizes and welcomes
anyone looking for help,
No matter how desperate the trouble.
But cozy islands of escape
He wipes right off the map.
No one gets away from God.
Why waste time conniving against God?
He's putting an end to all such scheming.
For troublemakers, no second chances.
Like a pile of dry brush,
Soaked in oil,
they'll go up in flames."

Strong stuff!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Amon's Song

Amon's Song

Ballad to the short wicked life of Amon the king.

Amon king of Judah when he was just twenty two
The son of ole Manasseh who was evil through and through
The old man was a bad man, putting idols in the temple
And he killed innocent people - on no what a bad example.

The boy did not improve, doing the same old evil things
Bowing down to wood and stone, falling down upon his shins
So God said "bye bye Amon", your days as king are done
There aren't a hundred gods in Judah, in fact there's only One.

His servants were revolting, they killed him in his crib
(no not the one for babies) - his palace where he lived!
So just two years had come and gone, since Amon became king
And just like that his time was done, his wicked life of sin.

Is the story done, is it all over, is there no more to tell?
Well the people got together and before they said farewell,
They killed the king's assassins, put them in an early grave
Installed his son Josiah, a good king, kind and brave.

Amon's reign was short, his life was short, this story is short too,
The lesson is so simple, remember God in all you do,
And pick your servants carefully, you want them wise and true,
And if you get the wrong ones - they could be the end of you!
- Phil Leng
The inspiration for this little poem is found in 2 Kings 21

Saturday, August 1, 2009

God's Mighty Missionary Movement

Isaih did not know what he was talking about when he uttered these amazing words...

I'm going to come and then gather everyone—all nations, all languages. They'll come and see my glory. I'll set up a station at the center. I'll send the survivors of judgment all over the world: Spain and Africa, Turkey and Greece, and the far-off islands that have never heard of me, who know nothing of what I've done nor who I am.

I'll send them out as missionaries to preach my glory among the nations. They'll return with all your long-lost brothers and sisters from all over the world. They'll bring them back and offer them in living worship to God. They'll bring them on horses and wagons and carts, on mules and camels, straight to my holy mountain Jerusalem," says God. "They'll present them just as Israelites present their offerings in a ceremonial vessel in the Temple of God. I'll even take some of them and make them priests and Levites," says God.

22 -23"For just as the new heavens and new earth that I am making will stand firm before me" —God's Decree— "So will your children and your reputation stand firm.

Month after month and week by week, everyone will come to worship me," God says.

These last two centuries have seen the mightiest missionary movement of all time.

It will not die down.

It will not stop.

It will build into a mighty crescendo as God builds His People - His Church.

And THEN will the end come.


Piteous Plea - to Powerful Promise

Isaiah cries out to God in a prayer and a reminder

8 -12Still, God, you are our Father.
We're the clay and you're our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
Don't be too angry with us, O God.
Don't keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
Zion's a ghost town,
Jerusalem's a field of weeds.
Our holy and beautiful Temple,
which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
In the face of all this,
are you going to sit there unmoved, God?
Aren't you going to say something?
Haven't you made us miserable long enough?

God answers with His reasons for punishment to His people

1 -7 "I've made myself available to those who haven't bothered to ask.
I'm here, ready to be found
by those who haven't bothered to look.
I kept saying 'I'm here, I'm right here'
to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
a potluck religious stew.

And ends up with a Powerful Promise:
for now, and for ever

17 -25"Pay close attention now:
I'm creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
Anticipate what I'm creating:
I'll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
create my people as pure delight.
I'll take joy in Jerusalem,
take delight in my people:
No more sounds of weeping in the city,
no cries of anguish;
No more babies dying in the cradle,
or old people who don't enjoy a full lifetime;
One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal—
anything less will seem like a cheat.
They'll build houses
and move in.
They'll plant fields
and eat what they grow.
No more building a house
that some outsider takes over,
No more planting fields
that some enemy confiscates,
For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.

Freedom to the Captives!

This passage has a historical context.
But the words are just as powerful and true today
as they were when the prophet Isaiah first uttered them...

Isaiah 61
Announce Freedom to All Captives
1 -7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness"
planted by God to display his glory. They'll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They'll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You'll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you'll have the title "Priests of God,"
honored as ministers of our God.
You'll feast on the bounty of nations,
you'll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.
8 -9"Because I, God, love fair dealing
and hate thievery and crime, I'll pay your wages on time and in full,
and establish my eternal covenant with you.
Your descendants will become well-known all over.
Your children in foreign countries
Will be recognized at once
as the people I have blessed."
10 -11I will sing for joy in God,
explode in praise from deep in my soul!
He dressed me up in a suit of salvation,
he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo
and a bride a jeweled tiara.
For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers,
and as a garden cascades with blossoms,
So the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom
and puts praise on display before the nations.