Ezekiel 11-13 The Message (MSG)
A New Heart and a New Spirit
11 Then the Spirit picked me up and took me to the gate of the Temple that faces east. There were twenty-five men standing at the gate. I recognized the leaders, Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah.
2-3 God said, “Son of man, these are the men who draw up blueprints for sin, who think up new programs for evil in this city. They say, ‘We can make anything happen here. We’re the best. We’re the choice pieces of meat in the soup pot.’
4 “Oppose them, son of man. Preach against them.”
5-6 Then the Spirit of God came upon me and told me what to say: “This is what God says: ‘That’s a fine public speech, Israel, but I know what you are thinking. You’ve murdered a lot of people in this city. The streets are piled high with corpses.’
7-12 “Therefore this is what God, the Master, says: ‘The corpses that you’ve piled in the streets are the meat and this city is the soup pot, and you’re not even in the pot! I’m throwing you out! You fear war, but war is what you’re going to get. I’m bringing war against you. I’m throwing you out of this city, giving you over to foreigners, and punishing you good. You’ll be killed in battle. I’ll carry out judgment on you at the borders of Israel. Then you’ll realize that I am God. This city will not be your soup pot and you won’t be the choice pieces of meat in it either. Hardly. I will carry out judgment on you at the borders of Israel and you’ll realize that I am God, for you haven’t followed my statutes and ordinances. Instead of following my ways, you’ve sunk to the level of the laws of the nations around you.’”
13 Even while I was preaching, Pelatiah son of Benaiah died. I fell down, face to the ground, and prayed loudly, “O Master, God! Will you completely wipe out what’s left of Israel?”
14-15 The answer from God came back: “Son of man, your brothers—I mean the whole people of Israel who are in exile with you—are the people of whom the citizens of Jerusalem are saying, ‘They’re in the far country, far from God. This land has been given to us to own.’
16-20 “Well, tell them this, ‘This is your Message from God, the Master. True, I sent you to the far country and scattered you through other lands. All the same, I’ve provided you a temporary sanctuary in the countries where you’ve gone. I will gather you back from those countries and lands where you’ve been scattered and give you back the land of Israel. You’ll come back and clean house, throw out all the rotten images and obscene idols. I’ll give you a new heart. I’ll put a new spirit in you. I’ll cut out your stone heart and replace it with a red-blooded, firm-muscled heart. Then you’ll obey my statutes and be careful to obey my commands. You’ll be my people! I’ll be your God!
21 “‘But not those who are self-willed and addicted to their rotten images and obscene idols! I’ll see that they’re paid in full for what they’ve done.’ Decree of God, the Master.”
22-23 Then the cherubim spread their wings, with the wheels beside them and the Glory of the God of Israel hovering over them. The Glory of God ascended from within the city and rested on the mountain to the east of the city.
24-25 Then, still in the vision given me by the Spirit of God, the Spirit took me and carried me back to the exiles in Babylon. And then the vision left me. I told the exiles everything that God had shown me.
Put the Bundle on Your Shoulder and Walk into the Night
12 1-6 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, you’re living with a bunch of rebellious people. They have eyes but don’t see a thing, they have ears but don’t hear a thing. They’re rebels all. So, son of man, pack up your exile duffel bags. Leave in broad daylight with everyone watching and go off, as if into exile. Maybe then they’ll understand what’s going on, rebels though they are. You’ll take up your baggage while they watch, a bundle of the bare necessities of someone going into exile, and toward evening leave, just like a person going off into exile. As they watch, dig through the wall of the house and carry your bundle through it. In full sight of the people, put the bundle on your shoulder and walk out into the night. Cover your face so you won’t have to look at what you’ll never see again. I’m using you as a sign for the family of Israel.”
7 I did exactly as he commanded me. I got my stuff together and brought it out in the street where everyone could see me, bundled it up the way someone being taken off into exile would, and then, as the sun went down, made a hole in the wall of the house with my hands. As it grew dark and as they watched, I left, throwing my bundle across my shoulders.
8-10 The next morning God spoke to me: “Son of man, when anyone in Israel, that bunch of rebels, asks you, ‘What are you doing?’ Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says that this Message especially concerns the prince in Jerusalem—Zedekiah—but includes all the people of Israel.’
11 “Also tell them, ‘I am drawing a picture for you. As I am now doing, it will be done to all the people of Israel. They will go into exile as captives.’
12-15 “The prince will put his bundle on his shoulders in the dark and leave. He’ll dig through the wall of the house, covering his face so he won’t have to look at the land he’ll never see again. But I’ll make sure he gets caught and is taken to Babylon. Blinded, he’ll never see that land in which he’ll die. I’ll scatter to the four winds those who helped him escape, along with his troops, and many will die in battle. They’ll realize that I am God when I scatter them among foreign countries.
16 “I’ll permit a few of them to escape the killing, starvation, and deadly sickness so that they can confess among the foreign countries all the disgusting obscenities they’ve been involved in. They will realize that I am God.”
17-20 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, eat your meals shaking in your boots, drink your water trembling with fear. Tell the people of this land, everyone living in Jerusalem and Israel, God’s Message: ‘You’ll eat your meals shaking in your boots and drink your water in terror because your land is going to be stripped bare as punishment for the brutality rampant in it. All the cities and villages will be emptied out and the fields destroyed. Then you’ll realize that I am God.’”
21-22 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, what’s this proverb making the rounds in the land of Israel that says, ‘Everything goes on the same as ever; all the prophetic warnings are false alarms’?
23-25 “Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says, This proverb’s going to have a short life!’
“Tell them, ‘Time’s about up. Every warning is about to come true. False alarms and easygoing preaching are a thing of the past in the life of Israel. I, God, am doing the speaking. What I say happens. None of what I say is on hold. What I say, I’ll do—and soon, you rebels!’ Decree of God the Master.”
26-28 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, do you hear what Israel is saying: that the alarm the prophet raises is for a long time off, that he’s preaching about the far-off future? Well, tell them, ‘God, the Master, says, “Nothing of what I say is on hold. What I say happens.”’ Decree of God, the Master.”
People Who Love Listening to Lies
13 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.
10-12 “The fact is that they’ve lied to my people. They’ve said, ‘No problem; everything’s just fine,’ when things are not at all fine. When people build a wall, they’re right behind them slapping on whitewash. Tell those who are slapping on the whitewash, ‘When a torrent of rain comes and the hailstones crash down and the hurricane sweeps in and the wall collapses, what’s the good of the whitewash that you slapped on so liberally, making it look so good?’
13-14 “And that’s exactly what will happen. I, God, the Master, say so: ‘I’ll let the hurricane of my wrath loose, a torrent of my hailstone-anger. I’ll make that wall you’ve slapped with whitewash collapse. I’ll level it to the ground so that only the foundation stones will be left. And in the ruin you’ll all die. You’ll realize then that I am God.
15-16 “‘I’ll dump my wrath on that wall, all of it, and on those who plastered it with whitewash. I will say to them, There is no wall, and those who did such a good job of whitewashing it wasted their time, those prophets of Israel who preached to Jerusalem and announced all their visions telling us things were just fine when they weren’t at all fine. Decree of God, the Master.’
17-19 “And the women prophets—son of man, take your stand against the women prophets who make up stuff out of their own minds. Oppose them. Say ‘Doom’ to the women who sew magic bracelets and head scarves to suit every taste, devices to trap souls. Say, ‘Will you kill the souls of my people, use living souls to make yourselves rich and popular? You have profaned me among my people just to get ahead yourselves, used me to make yourselves look good—killing souls who should never have died and coddling souls who shouldn’t live. You’ve lied to people who love listening to lies.’
20-21 “Therefore God says, ‘I am against all the devices and techniques you use to hunt down souls. I’ll rip them out of your hands. I’ll free the souls you’re trying to catch. I’ll rip your magic bracelets and scarves to shreds and deliver my people from your influence so they’ll no longer be victimized by you. That’s how you’ll come to realize that I am God.
22-23 “‘Because you’ve confounded and confused good people, unsuspecting and innocent people, with your lies, and because you’ve made it easy for others to persist in evil so that it wouldn’t even dawn on them to turn to me so I could save them, as of now you’re finished. No more delusion-mongering from you, no more sermonic lies. I’m going to rescue my people from your clutches. And you’ll realize that I am God.’”
James 1 The Message (MSG)
1 I, James, am a slave of God and the Master Jesus, writing to the twelve tribes scattered to Kingdom Come: Hello!
Faith Under Pressure
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
9-11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
13-15 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
Act on What You Hear
19-21 Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.
25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.