Psalm 120 The Voice (VOICE)
A song for those journeying to worship.
The Songs for the Journey to Worship (Psalms 120–134) celebrate the journey to Jerusalem to worship in God’s temple. Centuries before these psalms were composed, the Lord chose to make His earthly home on Mount Zion in Jerusalem and directed David’s son to build His house. King Solomon built the first temple and dedicated it to God in an elaborate ceremony that brought Israel together on the holy mountain (1 Kings 8). Now, clearly, the wise king believed that the one True God was present everywhere in the world, but he knew that Jerusalem was a special place, a sacred space picked by God. Solomon understood what we seem to have forgotten: those created in God’s image long to encounter God in His holiness. And if we try to make every place holy, then no place is holy because holy means “set apart,” “distinct,” “special.” So we need sacredness in our lives: sacred times, places, and people in our search for wholeness, for shalom. For centuries God’s faithful people of the first and second covenants have gone on pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Often these songs have gone with them, for they desire to draw close to God and to walk in the steps of those who have passed the faith along.
1 When I was in deep trouble, I called out to the Eternal,
3 Liars, what will be your prize?
5 Sorrow is mine, for I am a foreigner wandering in Meshech;
Ezra 1 The Voice (VOICE)
1 During the first year of King Cyrus of Persia’s reign in 539 b.c., the Eternal One influenced the spirit of the Persian king to send a proclamation and written letter throughout his empire, fulfilling the Eternal’s earlier message through the prophet Jeremiah.[a]
King Cyrus actually rules the Persian Empire from 559–530 b.c., but it is in 539 b.c. when Persia finishes its conquest of Babylonian territory and Cyrus sends a decree that the Jews might return to Judah.
Cyrus’ Proclamation: 2 The Eternal One, the God of heaven, has decided to give me all the kingdoms of the world to rule as my own. In return for this, He has told me to build Him a new house in Jerusalem of Judah. 3 Any of His people living in my empire may return to Jerusalem of Judah with the help of the Eternal God. There you may rebuild the temple of the Eternal, Israel’s God, with my resources and blessing, because He is the God who lives in Jerusalem. 4 Every Jew who lives here or in any other part of my empire and wishes to return to Jerusalem should be supported by his neighbors. They should give him silver, gold, goods, and cattle for his journey and should send a freewill offering to the True God’s temple in Jerusalem.
5 The tribal leaders of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites, and everyone motivated in his or her spirit by the True God prepared to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Eternal’s temple. 6 All their neighbors gave them silver, gold, goods, cattle, and valuable things for the journey, just as Cyrus had requested, and sent freewill offerings. 7-8 Even King Cyrus commanded his treasurer, Mithredath, to return the vessels from the Eternal’s temple (which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem and stored in his gods’ temple) to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. 9 The vessels included 30 gold basins, 1,000 silver basins, 29 extra dishes, 10 30 gold bowls, 410 silver bowls of a different pattern, and 1,000 other articles. 11 Sheshbazzar and the exiles carried a total of 5,400 gold and silver vessels from Babylon to Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 1:12-19 The Voice (VOICE)
Some believe that prosperity and comfort are the markers of a faithful Christian; in order to believe that, you have to ignore completely the life and writings of Paul, the emissary. It is only when you suffer that you can meet God as your comforter. In these letters, and often in our own lives, it is when we seem to have come to the end of ourselves that we see and experience the fullness of God in entirely new ways. This is not to say that any of us should or would seek out the kind of suffering Paul experienced; we do not long to be imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, or hunted by authorities. But when our dark days come, we should be ready to learn, grow, and experience the fullness of God in the midst of our troubles.
12 We are proud of the fact that we have lived before the world and especially before you with clear consciences, living holy lives mixed with genuine sincerity before God. We have not relied on any human wisdom but on the grace and favor of God. 13 We are not writing to you in anything resembling codes or riddles; we only write those lessons you are ready to read and understand. I hope you will study them, value them, and truly understand them until the end. 14 You have already begun to grasp what we mean in part; but on the day when our Lord Jesus returns, we will be as proud of you as you are of us.
15-16 In this spirit of trust and confidence, I was intending to come your way first on my current journey. So that you might have a double dose of this grace and assurance, my plan was to visit you on my way to Macedonia and return to you again on the journey back so that you could assist me on the trip to Judea. 17 But since this didn’t happen, was I just being indecisive? Were my plans made in the flesh rather than by God’s Spirit? How can I say “yes” and “no” in the same breath? 18 Because our God is always faithful to His promises, our word to you was not both “yes” and “no”—“Yes, I’ll come,” and then, “No, I’ve changed my mind.” 19 For the Son of God—Jesus the Anointed whom we (Silvanus,[a] Timothy, and I) have preached to you—was not both “yes” and then “no.” With Him the answer is always “yes.”
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