8 The Eternal told me to take a large tablet and write—“Swift the Spoils of War and Speedy Comes the Attacker”— 2 and to get believable witnesses, both the priest Uriah and Zechariah (Jeberechiah’s son), to watch me do it. 3 I approached the prophetess—a woman who, like me, speaks for God—and she became pregnant and had a son, whom the Eternal said I should name Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Swift-the-Spoils-of-War-and-Speedy-Comes-the-Attacker); 4 because before he is old enough to say “My father” or “My mother” the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carted off to become the property of their enemy, the king of Assyria.
Prophets like Isaiah not only speak their messages, but they sometimes act them out. Isaiah is a master of both prophetic speech and prophetic acts. It is common for God to ask prophets to expose important aspects of their families’ lives to demonstrate a message He wants to convey. Perhaps it is because the prophet speaks for God and Israel is God’s family. In this case, God tells Isaiah to embed His message into the name of his child. And what is that message? “Ahaz, the two countries currently threatening you will soon be conquered by a greater power—Assyria. It will attack quickly, defeat soundly, and carry off the spoils of war from Damascus and Samaria. So there is no need to fear them; instead, trust in your God.”
5 The Eternal One explained to me,
6 Eternal One: This disaster will happen because this people have rejected the stream of Shiloah
that flows gently to Zion.
Instead they rejoice over Rezin and Remaliah’s son.
7 Just watch—the Lord will overwhelm them
with great waves of the Euphrates River.
Like a river, Assyrian might and glory will bear down on them;
it will rise over its banks as unstoppable as a raging flood.
8 This Mesopotamian power will pour into Judah, rise and pass through,
wreaking near-fatal havoc.
And its reach will extend over all your land.
God, be with us.
9 Go ahead, make your alliances, you peoples, yet you’ll be crushed.
Listen closely, even if you’re far away:
Get ready for battle—get ready to be battered;
get ready for battle—get ready to be shattered.
10 Go ahead, devise your plans, but they will fail;
your proclamations won’t matter because God is with us.
No one wants to believe that God would use foreign power to wreak destruction on other lands and peoples. Yet, as God is holy, so God’s place must be holy. He simply cannot dwell where holiness is not. He cannot make a larger-than-life Zion out of an earthly Jerusalem, unless that place (and its people, of course) are right. At best, these people seem to think that paying lip service to God is enough; at worst, they don’t even care about God. A simple explanation is the people must be clean and holy. And this condition of rightness, holiness, and cleanliness is a product of how they are—in relation not only to God, but also to each other and the very land itself; these things are inseparable. The consequences of their failure to ensure the holiness of this sacred place by being right with God, land, and others are dire indeed. God must cleanse His people and place because He determines to be represented within and by them. So, better days will come again, and His covenant people will be set right and be happy and prosperous again.
11 See, this is what the Eternal told me. God leaned in close—His strong hand on me—to keep me from following these people.
12 Eternal One: Don’t call for an alliance, like all the rest of this people do.
Don’t fear what they fear, or dread what they dread.
13 After all, only the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, should terrify you.
Only God is holy. Only God should leave you trembling.
14 Look what I’m going to do in Zion:
The Eternal will be for you a sacred place,
But for both houses of Israel I’ll also be a stone that blocks their way
and a rock that trips them up;
For those who live in Jerusalem, I’ll be a trap and a snare.
15 Many will stumble over them. They will trip and be broken;
they’ll succumb to capture and be grabbed up.
God who provides a place of safety and security for those who trust in Him is the same God who puts obstacles in the way of those who disregard Him.
16 Now take care to keep this message as it is.
Seal up this teaching
and hand it over to my disciples.
17 As for me, I will wait for the Eternal, even though He feels absent, even though He has hidden His face from the family of Jacob. I will put all hope in Him. 18 You see, I and my children whom the Eternal One gave to me, we personify the promise. We are signs of what God intends and will do in Israel, what amazing things the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies has in mind, the One who is indeed present in Zion, this heaven on earth.
19 People might tell you to ask the fortune-tellers, consult the babbling astrologers, conjure the dead to tell the living what’s to come, but shouldn’t they ask their God? 20 Go to God’s teaching and His testimony to guide your thoughts and behavior! If any response disagrees with the word of God, then it’s muddling and wrong and not the least bit illuminating. 21 It leaves the people bedraggled and desperate, drifting here and there. In their hunger, the people are bound to be infuriated and curse their king and God. They’ll look up to the heavens 22 and down to the earth, yet see nothing but trouble, gloom, anguish, and darkness. They will be driven out into the darkness.
When God’s people haven’t seen a hint of light or hope of day, God will do something new.
9 But there will be no more gloom for those who knew such hardship. In times past, God humbled the land of Zebulun and Naphtali; later, He will restore the honor and glory to the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee, home of the nations.
2 The people who had been living in darkness
have seen a great light.
The light of life has shined on those who dwelt
in the shadowy darkness of death.
3 And You, God, will make it happen. You bolstered the nation,
making it great again. You have saturated it with joy.
Everyone in it is full of delight in Your presence,
like the joy they experience at the harvest,
like the thrill of dividing up the spoils of war.
4 For as You did back in the day when Midian oppressed us,
You will shatter the yoke that burdens them,
You will lift the load that weighs them down,
You will break the rod of their oppressor.
5 It’s true. All the fabric of war will go up in flames:
the troops’ heavy boots that stamped us down and their blood-soaked garb
Will all be burned beyond recognition or use.
There will be a new time, a fresh start.
6 Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
The power of leadership, and the weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways—
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present never-failing,
Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.
7 His leadership will bring such prosperity as you’ve never seen before—
sustainable peace for all time.
This child: God’s promise to David—a throne forever, among us,
to restore sound leadership that cannot be perverted or shaken.
He will ensure justice without fail and absolute equity. Always.
The intense passion of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies,
will carry this to completion.
8 The Lord has dispatched a word against Jacob;
it will come down hard on Israel.
9 All the people of Ephraim and the citizens of its capital Samaria will know.
In their pride and arrogance they say:
10 “Hey! The walls have collapsed, but this gives us a chance to rebuild
better than it was before with the best stones instead of brick.
The invaders may have chopped down the sycamores,
but we will plant cedars in their place.”
11 But the Eternal stirs up Rezin’s enemies to move against Israel
and arouses all their foes to join them.
12 They come, these enemies, from both sides (Syrians on the east and Philistines on the west)
and consume Israel, swallowing it whole.
Still, God’s anger smolders.
His hand is raised; there’s more to come.
13 But the people don’t return to God after all His punishment.
They don’t change their ways and right their paths
To seek the Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies.
14 Therefore, He will take them to task.
In a single day He’ll cut off from Israel the head and the tail;
He’ll cut down the noble palm and lowly reed.
15 The head are those charged with leadership—political and religious—
who used their power in the worst possible ways;
And the tail are the prophets who slur their lies.
16 These misguided leaders have misled this people;
and those who follow have become swallowed up in their deceit.
17-18 Even now the Lord takes no joy in a single one, not even the young.
Mercy has run out for even those without power—the widows and orphans.
For every single person is at fault and behaves badly.
No one thinks or acts as God would have them do.
Every mouth utters foolishness like a wildfire, out of control;
wickedness rages, leveling and clearing briars and thorns;
Forests and thickets burn, leaving the whole a smoking heap.
Still, God’s anger smolders. His hand is raised; there’s more to come.
19 The Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies,
sets our world on fire in His fury.
The rotten people become kindling for the fire,
turning against one another until no one is spared.
20 They slice off what’s on the right and are still hungry;
they eat what’s on the left and still aren’t satisfied.
And in their voracity, they consume their own.
Ravenous in their greed, no one is spared—not brothers or sisters, not allies or kin.
21 Manasseh and Ephraim devour each other
and turn their covetous eye south, toward Judah.
Still, God’s anger smolders. His hand is raised; there’s more to come.
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Sincerity is a difficult thing to judge. The commitment that people have to a cause can only be determined over time. One test might be: do they persevere through hardships and challenges? In this regard, Paul is without equal. If the cause of Jesus were a fleeting interest or a halfhearted pursuit, then he would have given up after his first beating. But Paul’s compassion for those who did not know the beauty of the gospel was stubborn and unyielding. This persecutor-turned-emissary always had his critics. But who could call him insincere?
Paul is speaking of himself in verses 2-5 in an odd, third-person way. He writes cryptically for a purpose: to distract from the fact that, at least for the moment, he is boasting of something other than weakness. In heavenly journeys, Paul has seen amazing sights and heard amazing sounds—sights and sounds no human can or should ever speak of.
But God adds something to keep Paul from being carried away by such ecstasies: He gives His emissary “a thorn in the flesh.” Perhaps it is a chronic physical or emotional illness he suffers. Perhaps it is the steady stream of opponents who follow Paul wherever he goes. In God’s wisdom, Paul doesn’t say because his listeners would likely fixate on whatever problem he has in unhealthy ways. That’s what humans do. Still Paul believes that God sent this unwelcome messenger, so he pleads with God three times to remove it. Why just three times? Why doesn’t he bombard heaven daily with his pleas? Well, it may be because he knows Jesus prayed three times in the garden for the cup of suffering to be removed. Ultimately Jesus surrendered to the will of the Father, and Paul does too: “Grace is enough, Paul. Grace is enough.”
12 Boasting like this is necessary, but it’s unbecoming and probably unavailing. Since you won’t hear me any other way, let me tell you about visions and revelations I received of the Lord.
2 Fourteen years ago, there was this man I knew—a believer in the Anointed who was caught up to the third heaven. (Whether this was an in- or out-of-body experience I don’t know; only God knows.) 3-4 This man was caught up into paradise (let me say it again, whether this was an in- or out-of-body experience I don’t know; only God knows), and he heard inexpressible words—words a mortal man is forbidden to utter. 5 I could brag about such a man; but as for me, I have nothing to brag about outside my own shortcomings. 6 So if I want to boast, I won’t do so as a fool because I will be speaking the truth. But I will stop there, since I don’t want to be credited with anything except exactly what people see and hear from me. 7 To keep me grounded and stop me from becoming too high and mighty due to the extraordinary character of these revelations, I was given a thorn in the flesh—a nagging nuisance of Satan, a messenger to plague me! 8 I begged the Lord three times to liberate me from its anguish; 9 and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me. 10 I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.
For the worship leader. A contemplative song[a] of David accompanied by strings.
1 Hear me, O God.
Tune Your ear to my plea,
and do not turn Your face from my prayer.
2 Give me Your attention.
Answer these sighs of sorrow;
my troubles have made me restless—I groan from anxiety
3 All because of my enemy! Because his voice speaks against me,
his wickedness torments me!
He casts down misfortune upon me;
his anger flares; his grudges grow against me.
4 My heart seizes within my chest; I am in anguish!
I am terrified my life could end on any breath.
5 I shiver and shudder in fear;
I can’t stop because this horror is just too much.
6 I said, “If only my arms were wings like the dove’s!
I would fly away from here and find rest—
7 Yes, I would venture far
and weave a nest in the wilderness.
8 “I would rush to take refuge
away from the violent storm and pounding winds.”
9 Throw them off, O Lord. Confuse their speech, and frustrate their plans,
for violence and contention are building within the city.
I can see it with my own eyes.
10 They plot day and night, scurrying the city walls like rats,
trouble and evil lurking everywhere.
11 In the heart of the city, destruction awaits.
Oppression and lies swarm the streets,
and they will not take leave; no, they will not go.
12 If it were just an enemy sneering at me,
I could take it.
If it were just someone who has always hated me, treating me like dirt,
I’d simply hide away.
13 But it is you! A man like me,
my old friend, my companion.
14 We enjoyed sweet conversation,
walking together in the house of God among the pressing crowds.
15 Let death sneak up on them,
swallow them alive into the pit of death.
Why? Because evil stirs in their homes; evil is all around them.
16 But I, I shall call upon God,
and by His word, the Eternal shall save me.
17 Evening, morning, and noon I will plead;
I will grumble and moan before Him
until He hears my voice.
18 And He will rescue my soul, untouched,
plucked safely from the battle,
despite the many who are warring against me.
19 God, enthroned from ancient times through eternity,
will hear my prayers and strike them down.
For they have refused change;
they supply their every need and have no fear of God.
20 My friend has become a foe, breaking faith, tearing down peace.
He’s betrayed our covenant.
21 Oh, how his pleasant voice is smoother than butter,
while his heart is enchanted by war.
Oh, how his words are smoother than oil,
and yet each is a sword drawn in his hand.
22 Cast your troubles upon the Eternal;
His care is unceasing!
He will not allow
His righteous to be shaken.
23 But You, O God, You will drive them
into the lowest[c] pit—
Violent, lying people
won’t live beyond their middle years.
But I place my trust in You.
4 Do not overwork yourself just to become wealthy;
have enough sense to know when to quit.
5 As soon as you become fixed on riches, they vanish.
For suddenly they sprout wings
and become like a soaring eagle flying high in the sky.