73 Then the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, many common folk, and the rest of Israel returned to live in their towns. This was finished by the beginning of the seventh month.
8 When everyone had settled, they re-gathered in Jerusalem. Everyone met in the square that is in front of the water gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the book of the law, the word the Eternal sent through Moses to Israel. 2 Ezra the priest did as they asked, bringing God’s law to Israel. The community included both men and women—anyone who was able to understand was welcomed. This gathering took place on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Facing the people in the square, next to the water gate, he began to read excerpts. The document was massive, and just reading parts took him six or seven hours, from daybreak until noon. Everyone who was there heard him: men, women—anyone with the ability to understand. As he read, they were focused and listened carefully to the book of the law.
4 And as he read, Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform made for this very occasion. To his right were Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. To his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5 Standing above the people so they could see and hear him, Ezra opened the book of the law. As he opened the book, everyone stood. 6 Then Ezra called out and blessed the Eternal, worshiping God’s greatness. With their hands raised to the heavens, the people called out loudly in response, crying, “Amen! So may it be!” Then they fell to their knees and bowed. With their faces to the ground, they worshiped the Eternal. 7-8 Ezra read the law, the people listened, and the Levites explained it to them. Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah—these are the Levites[a] who interpreted what Ezra read for the people.
9 Now, as God’s law was read, the people began to weep. But Nehemiah (the Persians’ appointed governor),[b] Ezra the priest and scribe, and all the ministering Levites said to the people,
Leaders: This day is sacred to the Eternal One, your God. It is not a day for mourning and weeping.
Ezra: 10 Go back to your homes, and prepare a feast. Bring out the best food and drink you have, and welcome all to your table, especially those who have nothing. This day is special. It is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve over your past mistakes. Let the Eternal’s own joy be your protection!
Levites: 11 Be still. This is sacred time and space. Do not mourn.
12 Then the celebration really began. The people had heard God’s words and understood them. When the people went away to eat and to drink in their homes, no one was left out of the feasting, not even the poor.
13 The next day, the heads of every family, along with the priests and the Levites, regathered around Ezra the scribe to further study God’s law. 14 As they studied the law, they discovered that through Moses, the Eternal had commanded Israel to live in temporary shelters during the Feast of Booths of the seventh month. 15 So they issued a proclamation, and it went out to everyone in Jerusalem and in every town that people should go into the hills to gather branches from olive trees, wild olive trees, myrtle trees, palm trees—any kind of leafy tree they could find. With these branches they were told to build temporary shelters to house them during the festival, as God’s law declared. 16 So the people went out and gathered branches. They built temporary shelters anywhere they could—on the roofs of their houses, in their courtyards, in the temple courts, in the squares by the water gate and the gate of Ephraim. 17 Everyone who had returned from exile—all 42,360 people—made the temporary shelters and lived in them. From the time of Joshua (Nun’s son) until that very day, no one in Israel had observed the festival in this way, remembering those from the Egyptian exile too. So they celebrated, and their joy was great. 18 Throughout everything, Ezra continued to read from the book of God’s law, day by day. The celebration of the feast continued for seven days. On the eighth day, in keeping with the directions given, Israel gathered for a solemn assembly.
9 Later, on the 24th day of that same month, the Israelites came back together. Everyone fasted and wore sackcloth to show their repentance. They covered their heads with dust to show their mourning. 2 They also separated themselves from the foreigners who were living among them. Then the Israelites stood up and confessed their sins and the sins of their dead ancestors. 3 For three hours[c] they stood in their designated places and read from the book of the Eternal’s law. Following that they confessed and worshiped the Eternal One, their True God, for another three hours. 4 On the stairs above them stood the Levites: Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani. With loud cries they called out to the Eternal, their True God.
5 The same Levites (Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah) instructed the people.
Levites: Stand up! Worship the Eternal who is your God who exists from everlasting to everlasting.
May Your glorious name be praised—
even lifted up beyond all blessing and praise.
6 You are the Eternal, the only One.
The skies are Your work alone—
You made the heavens above those skies
and the stars that fill them.
You made the earth and everything upon it,
the seas and all that lives within their depths.
Your creation lives and is sustained by You,
and those who dwell in the heavens
Fall down before You and worship.
7 You are the Eternal God.
You chose Abram and drew him out from Ur of the Chaldees.
You changed his name to Abraham.
8 In him You found a true heart,
a heart devoted to You.
With him You made a covenant that
the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites,
The Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites
would belong to him and to his descendants.
And what You have promised, You have done
because You are righteous.
9 When our ancestors suffered in Egypt,
You saw their misery.
When they were trapped at the edge of the Red Sea,
You heard their cries for help.
10-11 Pharaoh and all who served him
and all his subjects were completely overwhelmed
by the signs and wonders You performed.
In their arrogance, they opposed Your people, our ancestors.
So You opened the sea, and Your people walked through the water on dry ground,
and no one has forgotten the name of the One who did it to this day.
But the Egyptians pursued our ancestors into the sea,
You threw those running after our ancestors into the depths of the sea,
like a heavy rock hurled into water.
12 During the day, You led them by a cloud shaped like a pillar.
During the night, a pillar of fire lit the way, showing them where to go.
13 You led them to Mount Sinai;
and when they arrived, You came down from heaven and spoke to them.
You gave them right decrees and good laws,
beneficial statutes and commands revealing Your will for them.
14 You revealed to Your people Your sacred Sabbath
and how to keep it holy.
Through Your servant Moses You taught them how to live,
giving commands and decrees.
15 When Your people were hungry,
You gave them food from heaven.
When they were thirsty, You made water flow out of a rock.
You told them to enter the land You promised them.
You told them to enter and take possession of it.
16-17 But our ancestors resisted following You.
They were arrogant. They were proud.
They refused to obey Your commands, plugging their ears.
Knowing what You had done for them in the past,
They willfully forgot it in the present. Stubborn. Rebellious.
Instead of following You,
They appointed their own leader
to take them back to the land of their oppression—to Egypt!
But You are not like us, God.
You are filled with love, compassion, and forgiveness.
You endure much with your anger and display Your loyal love;
You did not abandon them,
18 Even when they molded a cow out of gold for themselves, saying,
“This is the god who rescued us from Egypt.”
They committed horrible atrocities.
19 In Your incomprehensible compassion,
You did not abandon them in the wilderness.
The pillar of cloud didn’t evaporate;
day by day it guided them.
The pillar of fire was not extinguished;
night by night it led them along the right paths.
20 In Your generosity, You gave them Your good Spirit to teach them.
Not once did You hold back manna for their mouths
or drink for their thirst.
21 In 40 years of living in the wilderness,
You provided for every need they had:
Their clothing did not wear out,
nor did their feet swell from endless walking.
1 Corinthians 9:1-18
Meat left over from pagan temple sacrifices was sold daily in the market. It was about the only option available for those who didn’t raise their own livestock. Paul knows that idols are nothing really because there is only one God, but another brother thinks he is engaging in a heinous act and supporting a pagan temple by eating food that comes from a pagan sacrifice. So what is a believer to do? Well, it is not a matter of knowledge: Who’s right? Who’s wrong? It’s a matter of love. Paul says that he has the right to eat the meat, but that he gladly gives up that right for the sake of the other brother. Paul limits his freedom out of love for the Corinthians.
9 Am I not truly free? Am I not an emissary[a] of the Liberating King? Have I not personally encountered Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work, my mission in the Lord? 2 Even if others don’t recognize that I am His emissary,[b] at least you do because you are the seal, the living proof that the Lord commissioned me to be His representative.
3 Let me speak in my own defense against those keeping themselves busy picking me apart. 4 Have we lost the right to eat and drink? 5 Have we lost the right to bring along our wives, our sisters in Jesus? Other emissaries travel with their wives, and so do the brothers of our Lord, not to mention Cephas. 6 Is it just Barnabas and I who have lost the right to earn a living? 7 Is a soldier in combat required to pay his own salary? Who would plant a vineyard and not enjoy one grape from it? Who would care for and nurture a flock but never taste the fresh milk?
8 These ideas aren’t based on merely human notions; the law says these same things. 9 In Moses’ law, it is written: “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out your grain.”[c] Is God’s concern here limited to oxen, 10 or does He speak here ultimately for our benefit? These things were written for us, so as the plowman plows and the worker gathers, they can labor with the hopeful expectation that they, too, will share in the good harvest. 11 The same principle applies here: Is it too much to ask that we would be compensated materially for planting life- and world-changing spiritual realities? 12 If you have rightfully supported others, shouldn’t we deserve your support even more?
But we have never insisted on this right; instead, we would rather put up with anything than to put some obstacle in the way that prevents even one person from experiencing the good news of the Anointed One. 13 Perhaps it has escaped your notice that leaders and priests of the temple make their livings off the temple and that those who tend the altar eat their dinners from part of the sacrifices. 14 So it shouldn’t be a stretch that the Lord has arranged for preachers of the gospel to make a living by those who have embraced and been liberated by the gospel.
Paul works hard. He travels the known world starting new churches and writes letters instructing other churches. Simultaneously, he makes and sells tents to fund his basic needs and missionary travels. Would Paul’s time be better spent training young pastors or preaching to a group of church leaders rather than making tents? By giving his churches his service for free, is he doing a disservice to those who will serve these churches in the future and have families to care for?
15 Despite what I’ve said here, I have never staked a claim for such things, and I have no intention to start now; that’s not why I’m writing. I would rather die than have anyone (including me) invalidate my right to boast. 16 You see, if I preach the good news, it’s nothing to brag about. This urgency, this necessity has been laid on me. In fact, if I were to stop sharing this good news, I’d be in big trouble. 17 You see, my story is different. I didn’t volunteer for this. Had I volunteered to preach the good news, then I would deserve a wage, a reward, or something. But I didn’t choose this. God chose me and entrusted me with this mission. 18 You’re looking for the catch. I know you’re wondering, “What reward is he talking about?” My reward, besides being with you and knowing you, is sharing the good news of the Anointed One with you free and clear. That means I don’t insist on all my rights for support in the good news;
12 The nation whose True God is the Eternal is truly blessed;
fortunate are all whom He chooses to inherit His legacy.
13 The Eternal peers down from heaven
and watches all of humanity;
14 He observes every soul
from His divine residence.
15 He has formed every human heart, breathing life into every human spirit;
He knows the deeds of each person, inside and out.
16 A king is not delivered by the might of his army.
Even the strongest warrior is not saved by his own strength.
17 A horse is not the way to victory;
its great strength cannot rescue.
18 Listen, the eye of the Eternal is upon those who live in awe of Him,
those who hope in His steadfast love,
19 That He may save them from the darkness of the grave
and be kept alive during the lean seasons.
20 We live with hope in the Eternal. We wait for Him,
for He is our Divine Help and Impenetrable Shield.
21 Our hearts erupt with joy in Him
because we trust His holy name.
22 O Eternal, drench us with Your endless love,
even now as we wait for You.
11 A naive person wises up when he sees a mocker punished.
A wise person becomes even wiser just by being instructed.
12 The right-living understands how evildoers operate;
he subverts them and ruins their plans.