April 14 - Acts 4.23-37, Deuteronomy 21-22 and Job 14

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Peter and Others Pray for Courage

Acts 4 23As soon as Peter and John had been set free, they went back and told the others everything that the chief priests and the leaders had said to them. 24When the rest of the Lord's followers heard this, they prayed together and said:
Master, you created heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 25And by the Holy Spirit you spoke to our ancestor David. He was your servant, and you told him to say:

"Why are all the Gentiles so furious?
Why do people make foolish plans?
26The kings of earth prepare for war,
and the rulers join together
against the Lord and his Messiah."
27Here in Jerusalem, Herod and Pontius Pilate got together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel. Then they turned against your holy Servant Jesus, your chosen Messiah. 28They did what you in your power and wisdom had already decided would happen.
29Lord, listen to their threats! We are your servants. So make us brave enough to speak your message. 30Show your mighty power, as we heal people and work miracles and wonders in the name of your holy Servant Jesus.

31After they had prayed, the meeting place shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and bravely spoke God's message.

Sharing Possessions

32The group of followers all felt the same way about everything. None of them claimed that their possessions were their own, and they shared everything they had with each other. 33In a powerful way the apostles told everyone that the Lord Jesus was now alive. God greatly blessed his followers, 34and no one went in need of anything. Everyone who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money 35to the apostles. Then they would give the money to anyone who needed it.
36-37Joseph was one of the followers who had sold a piece of property and brought the money to the apostles. He was a Levite from Cyprus, and the apostles called him Barnabas, which means "one who encourages others."

Unsolved Murder

Moses said to Israel:
Deuteronomy 21 Suppose the body of a murder victim is found in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you, and no one knows who the murderer is. 2The judges and other leaders from the towns around there must find out what town is the closest to where the body was found. 3The leaders from that town will go to their cattle herds and choose a young cow that has never been put to work. 4-5They and some of the priests will take this cow to a nearby valley where there is a stream, but no crops. Once they reach the valley, the leaders will break the cow's neck.
The priests must be there, because the LORD your God has chosen them to be his special servants at the place of worship. The LORD has chosen them to bless the people in his name and to be judges in all legal cases, whether property or injury is involved.
6The town leaders will wash their hands over the body of the dead cow 7and say, "We had no part in this murder, and we don't know who did it. 8-9But since an innocent person was murdered, we beg you, our LORD, to accept this sacrifice and forgive Israel. We are your people, and you rescued us. Please don't hold this crime against us."
If you obey the LORD and do these things, he will forgive Israel.

Marrying a Woman Taken Prisoner in War

Moses said to Israel:
10From time to time, you men will serve as soldiers and go off to war. The LORD your God will help you defeat your enemies, and you will take many prisoners. 11-13One of these prisoners may be a beautiful woman, and you may want to marry her. But first you must bring her into your home, and have her shave her head, cut her nails, get rid of her foreign clothes, and start wearing Israelite clothes. She will mourn a month for her father and mother, then you can marry her.
14Later on, if you are not happy with the woman, you can divorce her, and she can go free. But you have slept with her as your wife, so you cannot sell her as a slave or make her into your own slave.

Rights of a First-Born Son

Moses said to Israel:
15-17Suppose a man has two wives and loves one more than the other. The first son of either wife is the man's first-born son, even if the boy's mother is the wife the man doesn't love. Later, when the man is near death and is dividing up his property, he must give a double share to his first-born son, simply because he was the first to be born.

A Son Who Rebels

Moses said to Israel:
18A father and a mother may have a stubborn and rebellious son who refuses to obey them even after he has been punished. 19If a son is like that, his parents must drag him to the town gate, where the leaders of the town hold their meetings. 20The parents will tell the leaders, "This son of ours is stubborn and never obeys. He spends all his time drinking and partying."
21The men of the town will stone that son to death, because they must get rid of the evil he brought into the community. Everyone in Israel will be afraid when they hear how he was punished.

The Body of a Criminal

Moses said to Israel:
22If a criminal is put to death, and you hang the dead body on a tree, 23you must not let it hang there overnight. Bury it the same day, because the dead body of a criminal will bring God's curse on the land. The LORD your God is giving this land to you, so don't make it unclean by leaving the bodies of executed criminals on display.

Helping Others

Moses said to Israel:
Deuteronomy 22 If you see a cow or sheep wandering around lost, take the animal back to its owner. 2If the owner lives too far away, or if you don't know who the owner is, take the animal home with you and take care of it. The owner will come looking for the animal, and then you can give it back. 3That's what you should do if you find anything that belongs to someone else. Do whatever you can to help, whether you find a cow or sheep or donkey or some clothing.
4Oxen and donkeys that carry heavy loads can stumble and fall, and be unable to get up by themselves. So as you walk along the road, help anyone who is trying to get an ox or donkey back on its feet.

Don't Pretend To Be the Opposite Sex

Moses said to Israel:
5Women must not pretend to be men, and men must not pretend to be women. The LORD your God is disgusted with people who do that.

Don't Take a Mother Bird

Moses said to Israel:
6-7As you walk along the road, you might see a bird's nest in a tree or on the ground. If the mother bird is in the nest with either her eggs or her baby birds, you are allowed to take the baby birds or the eggs, but not the mother bird. Let her go free, and the LORD will bless you with a long and successful life.

Put a Wall around Your Flat Roof

8If you build a house, make sure to put a low wall around the edge of the flat roof. Then if someone falls off the roof and is killed, it won't be your fault.

Laws against Mixing Different Things

Moses said to Israel:
9If you plant a vineyard, don't plant any other fruit tree or crop in it. If you do plant something else there, you must bring to the place of worship everything you harvest from the vineyard.
10Don't hitch an ox and a donkey to your plow at the same time.
11When you weave cloth for clothing, you can use thread made of flax or wool, but not both together. 12And when you make a coat, sew a tassel on each of the four corners.

When a Husband Accuses His Wife

Moses said to Israel:
13Suppose a man starts hating his wife soon after they are married. 14He might tell ugly lies about her, and say, "I married this woman, but when we slept together, I found out she wasn't a virgin."
15If this happens, the bride's father and mother must go to the town gate to show the town leaders the proof that the woman was a virgin. 16Her father will say, "I let my daughter marry this man, but he started hating her 17and accusing her of not being a virgin. But he is wrong, because here is proof that she was a virgin!" Then the bride's parents will show them the bed sheet from the woman's wedding night.
18The town leaders will beat the man with a whip 19because he accused his bride of not being a virgin. He will have to pay her father one hundred pieces of silver and will never be allowed to divorce her.
20But if the man was right and there is no proof that his bride was a virgin, 21the men of the town will take the woman to the door of her father's house and stone her to death.
This woman brought evil into your community by sleeping with someone before she got married, and you must get rid of that evil by killing her.

Laws about Illegal Sex

Moses said:
22People of Israel, if a man is caught having sex with someone else's wife, you must put them both to death. That way, you will get rid of the evil they have done in Israel.
23-24If a man is caught in town having sex with an engaged woman who isn't screaming for help, they both must be put to death. The man is guilty of having sex with a married woman. And the woman is guilty because she didn't call for help, even though she was inside a town and people were nearby. Take them both to the town gate and stone them to death. You must get rid of the evil they brought into your community.
25If an engaged woman is raped out in the country, only the man will be put to death. 26Do not punish the woman at all; she has done nothing wrong, and certainly nothing deserving death. This crime is like murder, 27because the woman was alone out in the country when the man attacked her. She screamed, but there was no one to help her.
28Suppose a woman isn't engaged to be married, and a man talks her into sleeping with him. If they are caught, 29they will be forced to get married. He must give her father fifty pieces of silver as a bride-price and can never divorce her.
30A man must not marry a woman who was married to his father. This would be a disgrace to his father.

Job Continues his Prayer

Life Is Short and Sorrowful

Job 14 Life is short and sorrowful for every living soul.
2We are flowers that fade and shadows that vanish.
3And so, I ask you, God, why pick on me?
4There's no way a human can be completely pure.
5Our time on earth is brief;
the number of our days is already decided by you.
6Why don't you leave us alone
and let us find some happiness while we toil and labor?

When a Tree Is Chopped Down

7When a tree is chopped down, there is always the hope
that it will sprout again.
8Its roots and stump may rot, 9but at the touch of water,
fresh twigs shoot up.
10Humans are different-- we die, and that's the end.
11We are like streams and lakes after the water has gone;
12we fall into the sleep of death, never to rise again,
until the sky disappears.
13Please hide me, God, deep in the ground--
and when you are angry no more,
remember to rescue me.

Will We Humans Live Again?

14Will we humans live again?
I would gladly suffer and wait for my time.
15My Creator, you would want me;
you would call out, and I would answer.
16You would take care of me, but not count my sins--
17you would put them in a bag, tie it tight,
and toss them away.
18But in the real world, mountains tumble, and rocks crumble;
19streams wear away stones and wash away soil.
And you destroy our hopes!
20You change the way we look, then send us away,
wiped out forever.
21We never live to know if our children are praised
or disgraced.
22We feel no pain but our own, and when we mourn,
it's only for ourselves.

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This reading is from The Holy Bible, Contemporary English Version, copyright © American Bible Society, 1995.

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