(First Reading: 2 Chronicles 36:11-23Contemporary English Version (CEV)
A reading from the Second Book of Chronicles:
11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he was appointed king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem for eleven years. 12 He disobeyed the LORD his God and refused to change his ways, even after a warning from Jeremiah, the LORD’s prophet.
13 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia had forced Zedekiah to promise in God’s name that he would be loyal. Zedekiah was stubborn and refused to turn back to the LORD God of Israel, so he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. 14 The people of Judah and even the priests who were their leaders became more unfaithful. They followed the disgusting example of the nations around them and made the LORD’s holy temple unfit for worship. 15 But the LORD God felt sorry for his people, and instead of destroying the temple, he sent prophets who warned the people over and over about their sins. 16 But the people only laughed and insulted these prophets. They ignored what the LORD God was trying to tell them, until he finally became so angry that nothing could stop him from punishing Judah and Jerusalem.
17 The LORD sent King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia to attack Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar killed the young men who were in the temple, and he showed no mercy to anyone, whether man or woman, young or old. God let him kill everyone in the city. 18 Nebuchadnezzar carried off everything that was left in the temple; he robbed the treasury and the personal storerooms of the king and his officials. He took everything back to Babylon.
19 Nebuchadnezzar’s troops burned down the temple and destroyed every important building in the city. Then they broke down the city wall. 20 The survivors were taken to Babylonia as prisoners, where they were slaves of the king and his sons, until Persia became a powerful nation.
21 Judah was an empty desert, and it stayed that way for seventy years, to make up for all the years it was not allowed to rest.[a] These things happened just as Jeremiah the LORD’s prophet had said.[b]
22 In the first year that Cyrus was king of Persia,[c] the LORD had Cyrus send a message to all parts of his kingdom. This happened just as Jeremiah the LORD’s prophet had promised. 23 The message said:
I am King Cyrus of Persia.
The LORD God of heaven has made me the ruler of every nation on earth. He has also chosen me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. The LORD God will watch over any of his people who want to go back to Judah.
The Word of the Lord.
(Second Reading (Nehemiah 8:1-12, Contemporary English Version (CEV)
A Reading from the Book of Nehemiah:
8 1-2 On the first day of the seventh month,[a]the people came together in the open area in front of the Water Gate. Then they asked Ezra, who was a teacher of the Law of Moses, to read to them from this Law that the LORD had given his people. Ezra the priest came with the Law and stood before the crowd of men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. 3 From early morning till noon, he read the Law of Moses to them, and they listened carefully. 4 Ezra stood on a high wooden platform that had been built for this occasion.
5 Ezra was up on the high platform, where he could be seen by everyone, and when he opened the book, they all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the great LORD God, and the people shouted, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed with their faces to the ground and worshiped the LORD.
9 The people started crying when God’s Law was read to them. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher, and the Levites who had been teaching the people all said, “This is a special day for the LORD your God. So don’t be sad and don’t cry!”
10 Nehemiah told the people, “Enjoy your good food and wine and share some with those who didn’t have anything to bring. Don’t be sad! This is a special day for the LORD, and he will make you happy and strong.”
11 The Levites encouraged the people by saying, “This is a sacred day, so don’t worry or mourn!” 12 When the people returned to their homes, they celebrated by eating and drinking and by sharing their food with those in need, because they had understood what had been read to them.
The Word of the Lord.