A Seed, a Serpent, and a Shepherd

A maskil  of Asaph. My people, hear my teaching;

listen to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth with a parable;

I will utter hidden things, things from of old—

things we have heard and known,

things our ancestors have told us.

We will not hide them from their descendants;

we will tell the next generation

the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,

his power, and the wonders he has done.

He decreed statutes for Jacob

and established the law in Israel,

which he commanded our ancestors

to teach their children,

so the next generation would know them,

even the children yet to be born,

and they in turn would tell their children.

Then they would put their trust in God

and would not forget his deeds

but would keep his commands.

They would not be like their ancestors—

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

whose hearts were not loyal to God,

whose spirits were not faithful to him.

The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,

turned back on the day of battle;

they did not keep God’s covenant

and refused to live by his law.

They forgot what he had done,

the wonders he had shown them.

He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors

in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.

He divided the sea and led them through;

he made the water stand up like a wall.

He guided them with the cloud by day

and with light from the fire all night.

He split the rocks in the wilderness

and gave them water as abundant as the seas;

he brought streams out of a rocky crag

and made water flow down like rivers.

But they continued to sin against him,

rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.

They willfully put God to the test

by demanding the food they craved.

They spoke against God;

they said, “Can God really

spread a table in the wilderness?

True, he struck the rock,

and water gushed out,

streams flowed abundantly,

but can he also give us bread?

Can he supply meat for his people?”

When the Lord heard them, he was furious;

his fire broke out against Jacob,

and his wrath rose against Israel,

for they did not believe in God

or trust in his deliverance.

Yet he gave a command to the skies above

and opened the doors of the heavens;

he rained down manna for the people to eat,

he gave them the grain of heaven.

Human beings ate the bread of angels;

he sent them all the food they could eat.

He let loose the east wind from the heavens

and by his power made the south wind blow.

He rained meat down on them like dust,

birds like sand on the seashore.

He made them come down inside their camp,

all around their tents.

They ate till they were gorged—

he had given them what they craved.

But before they turned from what they craved,

even while the food was still in their mouths,

God’s anger rose against them;

he put to death the sturdiest among them,

cutting down the young men of Israel.

In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;

in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.

So he ended their days in futility

and their years in terror.

Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;

they eagerly turned to him again.

They remembered that God was their Rock,

that God Most High was their Redeemer.

But then they would flatter him with their mouths,

lying to him with their tongues;

their hearts were not loyal to him,

they were not faithful to his covenant.

Yet he was merciful;

he forgave their iniquities

and did not destroy them.

Time after time he restrained his anger

and did not stir up his full wrath.

He remembered that they were but flesh,

a passing breeze that does not return.

How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness

and grieved him in the wasteland!

Again and again they put God to the test;

they vexed the Holy One of Israel.

They did not remember his power—

the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,

the day he displayed his signs in Egypt,

his wonders in the region of Zoan.

He turned their river into blood;

they could not drink from their streams.

He sent swarms of flies that devoured them,

and frogs that devastated them.

He gave their crops to the grasshopper,

their produce to the locust.

He destroyed their vines with hail

and their sycamore-figs with sleet.

He gave over their cattle to the hail,

their livestock to bolts of lightning.

He unleashed against them his hot anger,

his wrath, indignation and hostility—

a band of destroying angels.

He prepared a path for his anger;

he did not spare them from death

but gave them over to the plague.

He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,

the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.

But he brought his people out like a flock;

he led them like sheep through the wilderness.

He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;

but the sea engulfed their enemies.

And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,

to the hill country his right hand had taken.

He drove out nations before them

and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;

he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

But they put God to the test

and rebelled against the Most High;

they did not keep his statutes.

Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,

as unreliable as a faulty bow.

They angered him with their high places;

they aroused his jealousy with their idols.

When God heard them, he was furious;

he rejected Israel completely.

He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,

the tent he had set up among humans.

He sent the ark of his might into captivity,

his splendor into the hands of the enemy.

He gave his people over to the sword;

he was furious with his inheritance.

Fire consumed their young men,

and their young women had no wedding songs;

their priests were put to the sword,

and their widows could not weep.

Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,

as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.

He beat back his enemies;

he put them to everlasting shame.

Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,

he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;

but he chose the tribe of Judah,

Mount Zion, which he loved.

He built his sanctuary like the heights,

like the earth that he established forever.

He chose David his servant

and took him from the sheep pens;

from tending the sheep he brought him

to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,

of Israel his inheritance.

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;

with skillful hands he led them.

When Opposites Detract

The elder,

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

The Best Chapter in the Bible

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.