Ezekiel 8-10The Message (MSG)
The Spirit Carried Me in Visions
8 1-4 In the sixth year, in the sixth month and the fifth day, while I was sitting at home meeting with the leaders of Judah, it happened that the hand of my Master, God, gripped me. When I looked, I was astonished. What I saw looked like a man—from the waist down like fire and from the waist up like highly burnished bronze. He reached out what looked like a hand and grabbed me by the hair. The Spirit swept me high in the air and carried me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the Temple’s inside court where the image of the sex goddess that makes God so angry had been set up. Right before me was the Glory of the God of Israel, exactly like the vision I had seen out on the plain.
5 He said to me, “Son of man, look north.” I looked north and saw it: Just north of the entrance loomed the altar of the sex goddess, Asherah, that makes God so angry.
6 Then he said, “Son of man, do you see what they’re doing? Outrageous obscenities! And doing them right here! It’s enough to drive me right out of my own Temple. But you’re going to see worse yet.”
7 He brought me to the door of the Temple court. I looked and saw a gaping hole in the wall.
8 He said, “Son of man, dig through the wall.”
I dug through the wall and came upon a door.
9 He said, “Now walk through the door and take a look at the obscenities they’re engaging in.”
10-11 I entered and looked. I couldn’t believe my eyes: Painted all over the walls were pictures of reptiles and animals and monsters—the whole pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses—being worshiped by Israel. In the middle of the room were seventy of the leaders of Israel, with Jaazaniah son of Shaphan standing in the middle. Each held his censer with the incense rising in a fragrant cloud.
12 He said, “Son of man, do you see what the elders are doing here in the dark, each one before his favorite god-picture? They tell themselves, ‘God doesn’t see us. God has forsaken the country.’”
13 Then he said, “You’re going to see worse yet.”
14-15 He took me to the entrance at the north gate of the Temple of God. I saw women sitting there, weeping for Tammuz, the Babylonian fertility god. He said, “Have you gotten an eyeful, son of man? You’re going to see worse yet.”
16 Finally, he took me to the inside court of the Temple of God. There between the porch and the altar were about twenty-five men. Their backs were to God’s Temple. They were facing east, bowing in worship to the sun.
17-18 He said, “Have you seen enough, son of man? Isn’t it bad enough that Judah engages in these outrageous obscenities? They fill the country with violence and now provoke me even further with their obscene gestures. That’s it. They have an angry God on their hands! From now on, no mercy. They can shout all they want, but I’m not listening.”
A Mark on the Forehead
9 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.”
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.”
The Temple, Filled with the Presence of God
10 When I next looked, oh! Above the dome over the heads of the cherubim-angels was what looked like a throne, sky-blue, like a sapphire!
2-5 God said to the man dressed in linen, “Enter the place of the wheels under the cherubim-angels. Fill your hands with burning coals from beneath the cherubim and scatter them over the city.”
I watched as he entered. The cherubim were standing on the south side of the Temple when the man entered. A cloud filled the inside courtyard. Then the Glory of God ascended from the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the Temple. The cloud filled the Temple. Court and Temple were both filled with the blazing presence of the Glory of God. And the sound! The wings of the cherubim were audible all the way to the outer court—the sound of the voice was like The Strong God in thunder.
6-8 When God commanded the man dressed in linen, “Take fire from among the wheels, from between the cherubim,” he went in and stood beside a wheel. One of the cherubim reached into the fire, took some coals, and put them in the hands of the man dressed in linen. He took them and went out. Something that looked like a human hand could be seen under the wings of the cherubim.
9-13 And then I saw four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub. The wheels radiating were sparkling like diamonds in the sun. All four wheels looked alike, each like a wheel within a wheel. When they moved, they went in any of the four directions but in a perfectly straight line. Where the cherubim went, the wheels went straight ahead. The cherubim were full of eyes in their backs, hands, and wings. The wheels likewise were full of eyes. I heard the wheels called “wheels within wheels.”
14 Each of the cherubim had four faces: the first, of an angel; the second, a human; the third, a lion; the fourth, an eagle.
15-17 Then the cherubim ascended. They were the same living creatures I had seen at the Kebar River. When the cherubim moved, the wheels beside them moved. When the cherubim spread their wings to take off from the ground, the wheels stayed right with them. When the cherubim stopped, the wheels stopped. When the cherubim rose, the wheels rose, because the spirit of the living creatures was also in the wheels.
18-19 Then the Glory of God left the Temple entrance and hovered over the cherubim. I watched as the cherubim spread their wings and left the ground, the wheels right with them. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Temple. The Glory of the God of Israel was above them.
20-22 These were the same living creatures I had seen previously beneath the God of Israel at the Kebar River. I recognized them as cherubim. Each had four faces and four wings. Under their wings were what looked like human hands. Their faces looked exactly like those I had seen at the Kebar River. Each went straight ahead.
Hebrews 13The Message (MSG)
Jesus Doesn’t Change
13 1-4 Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.
5-6 Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,
God is there, ready to help;
7-8 Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.
9 Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life. Products named after Christ don’t seem to do much for those who buy them.
10-12 The altar from which God gives us the gift of himself is not for exploitation by insiders who grab and loot. In the old system, the animals are killed and the bodies disposed of outside the camp. The blood is then brought inside to the altar as a sacrifice for sin. It’s the same with Jesus. He was crucified outside the city gates—that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God’s altar to cleanse his people.
13-15 So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.
16 Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.
17 Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?
18-21 Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon.
May God, who puts all things together,
22-23 Friends, please take what I’ve written most seriously. I’ve kept this as brief as possible; I haven’t piled on a lot of extras. You’ll be glad to know that Timothy has been let out of prison. If he leaves soon, I’ll come with him and get to see you myself.
24 Say hello to your pastoral leaders and all the congregations. Everyone here in Italy wants to be remembered to you.
25 Grace be with you, every one.