Read the Bible | November 17th
Jerusalem, a Useless Vine
 And the word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest?  Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it?  Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything?  Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything!  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.  And I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly, declares the Lord GOD.” (ESV)
The LORD’s Faithless Bride
 Again the word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations,  and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.  No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.
 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’  I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.
 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.  Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.  I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.  And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck.  And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.  Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.  And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord GOD.
 “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.  You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be.  You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore.  And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them.  Also my bread that I gave you—I fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for a pleasing aroma; and so it was, declares the Lord GOD.  And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter  that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?  And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood.
 “And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord GOD),  you built yourself a vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square.  At the head of every street you built your lofty place and made your beauty an abomination, offering yourself to any passerby and multiplying your whoring.  You also played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger.  Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you and diminished your allotted portion and delivered you to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior.  You played the whore also with the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied.  You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied.
 “How sick is your heart, declares the Lord GOD, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute,  building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment.  Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!  Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings.  So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.
 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD:  Thus says the Lord GOD, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them,  therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.  And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy.  And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare.  They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.  And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more.  So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry.  Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord GOD. Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?
 “Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’  You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.  And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.  Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways.  As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done.  Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.  Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed.  Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
 “I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst,  that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them.  As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state.  Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride,  before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become an object of reproach for the daughters of Syria and all those around her, and for the daughters of the Philistines, those all around who despise you.  You bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the LORD.
The LORD’s Everlasting Covenant
 “For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant,  yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant.  Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you.  I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD,  that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.” (ESV)
Parable of Two Eagles and a Vine
 The word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel;  say, Thus says the Lord GOD: A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar.  He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants.  Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig,  and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs.
 “And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it.  It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine.
 “Say, Thus says the Lord GOD: Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots.  Behold, it is planted; will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it—wither away on the bed where it sprouted?”
 Then the word of the LORD came to me:  “Say now to the rebellious house, Do you not know what these things mean? Tell them, behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and took her king and her princes and brought them to him to Babylon.  And he took one of the royal offspring and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath (the chief men of the land he had taken away),  that the kingdom might be humble and not lift itself up, and keep his covenant that it might stand.  But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?
 “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant with him he broke, in Babylon he shall die.  Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war, when mounds are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives.  He despised the oath in breaking the covenant, and behold, he gave his hand and did all these things; he shall not escape.  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: As I live, surely it is my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. I will return it upon his head.  I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me.  And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken.”
 Thus says the Lord GOD: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.  On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.  And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (ESV)
 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Testing of Your Faith
 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,  and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.  For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Hearing and Doing the Word
 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (ESV)