Wednesday

July 6, 2022

Section 1 of 4

Joshua 8

About 3.6 Minutes

God said to Joshua, “Don’t be timid and don’t so much as hesitate. Take all your soldiers with you and go back to Ai. I have turned the king of Ai over to you—his people, his city, and his land.

“Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king. Only this time you may plunder its stuff and cattle to your heart’s content. Set an ambush behind the city.”

3-8 Joshua and all his soldiers got ready to march on Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand men, tough, seasoned fighters, and sent them off at night with these orders: “Pay me all of your attention now. Lie in ambush behind the city. Get as close as you can. Stay alert. I and the troops with me will approach the city head-on. When they come out to meet us just as before, we’ll turn and run. They’ll come after us, leaving the city. As we are off and running, they’ll say, ‘They’re running away just like the first time.’ That’s your signal to spring from your ambush and take the city. God, your God, will hand it to you on a platter. Once you have the city, burn it down. God says it, you do it. Go to it. I’ve given you your orders.”

Joshua sent them off. They set their ambush and waited between Bethel and Ai, just west of Ai. Joshua spent the night with the people.

10-13 Joshua was up early in the morning and mustered his army. He and the leaders of Israel led the troops to Ai. The whole army, fighting men all, marched right up within sight of the city and set camp on the north side of Ai. There was a valley between them and Ai. He had taken about five thousand men and put them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, west of the city. They were all deployed, the main army to the north of the city and the ambush to the west. Joshua spent the night in the valley.

14 So it happened that when the king of Ai saw all this, the men of the city lost no time; they were out of there at the crack of dawn to join Israel in battle, the king and his troops, at a field en route to the Arabah. The king didn’t know of the ambush set against him behind the city.

15-17 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be chased; they ran toward the wilderness. Everybody in the city was called to the chase. They pursued Joshua and were led away from the city. There wasn’t a soul left in Ai or Bethel who wasn’t out there chasing after Israel. The city was left empty and undefended as they were chasing Israel down.

18-19 Then God spoke to Joshua: “Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai—I’m giving it to you.” Joshua stretched out the javelin in his hand toward Ai. At the signal the men in ambush sprang to their feet, ran to the city, took it, and quickly had it up in flames.

20-21 The men of Ai looked back and, oh! saw the city going up in smoke. They found themselves trapped with nowhere to run. The army on the run toward the wilderness did an about-face—Joshua and all Israel, seeing that the ambush had taken the city, saw it going up in smoke, turned and attacked the men of Ai.

22-23 Then the men in the ambush poured out of the city. The men of Ai were caught in the middle with Israelites on both sides—a real massacre. And not a single survivor. Except for the king of Ai; they took him alive and brought him to Joshua.

24-25 When it was all over, Israel had killed everyone in Ai, whether in the fields or in the wilderness where they had chased them. When the killing was complete, the Israelites returned to Ai and completed the devastation. The death toll that day came to twelve thousand men and women—everyone in Ai.

26-27 Joshua didn’t lower his outstretched javelin until the sacred destruction of Ai and all its people was completed. Israel did get to take the livestock and loot left in the city; God’s instructions to Joshua allowed for that.

28-29 Joshua burned Ai to the ground. A “heap” of nothing forever, a “no-place”—go see for yourself. He hanged the king of Ai from a tree. At evening, with the sun going down, Joshua ordered the corpse cut down. They dumped it at the entrance to the city and piled it high with stones—you can go see that also.

* * *

30-32 Then Joshua built an altar to the God of Israel on Mount Ebal. He built it following the instructions of Moses the servant of God to the People of Israel and written in the Book of The Revelation of Moses, an altar of whole stones that hadn’t been chiseled or shaped by an iron tool. On it they offered to God Whole-Burnt-Offerings and sacrificed Peace-Offerings. He also wrote out a copy of The Revelation of Moses on the stones. He wrote it with the People of Israel looking on.

33 All Israel was there, foreigners and citizens alike, with their elders, officers, and judges, standing on opposite sides of the Chest, facing the Levitical priests who carry God’s Covenant Chest. Half of the people stood with their backs to Mount Gerizim and half with their backs to Mount Ebal to bless the People of Israel, just as Moses the servant of God had instructed earlier.

34-35 After that, he read out everything written in The Revelation, the Blessing and the Curse, everything in the Book of The Revelation. There wasn’t a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua didn’t read to the entire congregation—men, women, children, and foreigners who had been with them on the journey.

Section 2 of 4

Psalms 139

About 3.8 Minutes

139 1-6 God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!

7-12 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

17-22 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
    God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
    any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
    And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
    all the men and women who belittle you, God,
    infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, God,
    see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
    Your enemies are my enemies!

23-24 Investigate my life, O God,
    find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
    get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
    then guide me on the road to eternal life.

Section 3 of 4

Jeremiah 2

About 10.4 Minutes

1-3 God’s Message came to me. It went like this:

“Get out in the streets and call to Jerusalem,
    God’s Message!
I remember your youthful loyalty,
    our love as newlyweds.
You stayed with me through the wilderness years,
    stuck with me through all the hard places.
Israel was God’s holy choice,
    the pick of the crop.
Anyone who laid a hand on her
    would soon wish he hadn’t!’”
        God’s Decree.

* * *

4-6 Hear God’s Message, House of Jacob!
    Yes, you—House of Israel!
God’s Message: “What did your ancestors find fault with in me
    that they drifted so far from me,
Took up with Sir Windbag
    and turned into windbags themselves?
It never occurred to them to say, ‘Where’s God,
    the God who got us out of Egypt,
Who took care of us through thick and thin, those rough-and-tumble
    wilderness years of parched deserts and death valleys,
A land that no one who enters comes out of,
    a cruel, inhospitable land?’

7-8 “I brought you to a garden land
    where you could eat lush fruit.
But you barged in and polluted my land,
    trashed and defiled my dear land.
The priests never thought to ask, ‘Where’s God?’
    The religion experts knew nothing of me.
The rulers defied me.
    The prophets preached god Baal
And chased empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.

9-11 “Because of all this, I’m bringing charges against you”
        God’s Decree—
    “charging you and your children and your grandchildren.
Look around. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?
    Sail to the western islands and look.
Travel to the Kedar wilderness and look.
    Look closely. Has this ever happened before,
That a nation has traded in its gods
    for gods that aren’t even close to gods?
But my people have traded my Glory
    for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.

12-13 “Stand in shock, heavens, at what you see!
    Throw up your hands in disbelief—this can’t be!”
        God’s Decree.
“My people have committed a compound sin:
    they’ve walked out on me, the fountain
Of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns—
    cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves.

14-17 “Isn’t Israel a valued servant,
    born into a family with place and position?
So how did she end up a piece of meat
    fought over by snarling and roaring lions?
There’s nothing left of her but a few old bones,
    her towns trashed and deserted.
Egyptians from the cities of Memphis and Tahpanhes
    have broken your skulls.
And why do you think all this has happened?
    Isn’t it because you walked out on your God
    just as he was beginning to lead you in the right way?

18-19 “And now, what do you think you’ll get by going off to Egypt?
    Maybe a cool drink of Nile River water?
Or what do you think you’ll get by going off to Assyria?
    Maybe a long drink of Euphrates River water?
Your evil ways will get you a sound thrashing, that’s what you’ll get.
    You’ll pay dearly for your disloyal ways.
Take a long, hard look at what you’ve done and its bitter results.
    Was it worth it to have walked out on your God?”
        God’s Decree, Master God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

20-22 “A long time ago you broke out of the harness.
    You shook off all restraints.
You said, ‘I will not serve!’
    and off you went,
Visiting every sex-and-religion shrine on the way,
    like a common whore.
You were a select vine when I planted you
    from completely reliable stock.
And look how you’ve turned out—
    a tangle of rancid growth, a poor excuse for a vine.
Scrub, using the strongest soaps.
    Scour your skin raw.
The sin-grease won’t come out. I can’t stand to even look at you!”
    God’s Decree, the Master’s Decree.

23-24 “How dare you tell me, ‘I’m not stained by sin.
    I’ve never chased after the Baal sex gods’!
Well, look at the tracks you’ve left behind in the valley.
    How do you account for what is written in the desert dust—
Tracks of a camel in heat, running this way and that,
    tracks of a wild donkey in rut,
Sniffing the wind for the slightest scent of sex.
    Who could possibly corral her!
On the hunt for sex, sex, and more sex—
    insatiable, indiscriminate, promiscuous.

25 “Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry?
    Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?
But you say, ‘I can’t help it.
    I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.’

* * *

26-28 “Just as a thief is chagrined, but only when caught,
    so the people of Israel are chagrined,
Caught along with their kings and princes,
    their priests and prophets.
They walk up to a tree and say, ‘My father!’
    They pick up a stone and say, ‘My mother! You bore me!’
All I ever see of them is their backsides.
    They never look me in the face.
But when things go badly, they don’t hesitate to come running,
    calling out, ‘Get a move on! Save us!’
Why not go to your handcrafted gods you’re so fond of?
    Rouse them. Let them save you from your bad times.
You’ve got more gods, Judah,
    than you know what to do with.

29-30 “What do you have against me,
    running off to assert your ‘independence’?”
        God’s Decree.
“I’ve wasted my time trying to train your children.
    They’ve paid no attention to me, ignored my discipline.
And you’ve gotten rid of your God-messengers,
    treating them like dirt and sweeping them away.

31-32 “What a generation you turned out to be!
    Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I warn you?
Have I let you down, Israel?
    Am I nothing but a dead-end street?
Why do my people say, ‘Good riddance!
    From now on we’re on our own’?
Young women don’t forget their jewelry, do they?
    Brides don’t show up without their veils, do they?
But my people forget me.
    Day after day after day they never give me a thought.

* * *

33-35 “What an impressive start you made
    to get the most out of life.
You founded schools of sin,
    taught graduate courses in evil!
And now you’re sending out graduates, resplendent in cap and gown—
    except the gowns are stained with the blood of your victims!
All that blood convicts you.
    You cut and hurt a lot of people to get where you are.
And yet you have the nerve to say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.
    God doesn’t mind. He hasn’t punished me, has he?’
Don’t look now, but judgment’s on the way,
    aimed at you who say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’

36-37 “You think it’s just a small thing, don’t you,
    to try out another sin-project when the first one fails?
But Egypt will leave you in the lurch
    the same way that Assyria did.
You’re going to walk away from there
    wringing your hands.
I, God, have blacklisted those you trusted.
    You’ll get not a lick of help from them.”

Section 4 of 4

Matthew 16

About 2.5 Minutes

16 1-4 Some Pharisees and Sadducees badgered him again, pressing him to prove himself to them. He told them, “You have a saying that goes, ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.’ You find it easy enough to forecast the weather—why can’t you read the signs of the times? An evil and wanton generation is always wanting signs and wonders. The only sign you’ll get is the Jonah sign.” Then he spun around and walked away.

5-6 On their way to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring along bread. In the meantime, Jesus said to them, “Keep a sharp eye out for Pharisee-Sadducee yeast.”

7-12 Thinking he was scolding them for forgetting bread, they discussed in whispers what to do. Jesus knew what they were doing and said, “Why all these worried whispers about forgetting the bread? Baby believers! Haven’t you caught on yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves of bread and the five thousand people, and how many baskets of fragments you picked up? Or the seven loaves that fed four thousand, and how many baskets of leftovers you collected? Haven’t you realized yet that bread isn’t the problem? The problem is yeast, Pharisee-Sadducee yeast.” Then they got it: that he wasn’t concerned about eating, but teaching—the Pharisee-Sadducee kind of teaching.

13 When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

15 He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17-18 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

19 “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

20 He swore the disciples to secrecy. He made them promise they would tell no one that he was the Messiah.

21-22 Then Jesus made it clear to his disciples that it was now necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, submit to an ordeal of suffering at the hands of the religious leaders, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up alive. Peter took him in hand, protesting, “Impossible, Master! That can never be!”

23 But Jesus didn’t swerve. “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.”

24-26 Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

27-28 “Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.”


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