April 17 - Acts 6, Deuteronomy 28 and Job 17

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Seven Leaders for the Church

Acts 6 A lot of people were now becoming followers of the Lord. But some of the ones who spoke Greek started complaining about the ones who spoke Aramaic. They complained that the Greek-speaking widows were not given their share when the food supplies were handed out each day.
2The twelve apostles called the whole group of followers together and said, "We should not give up preaching God's message in order to serve at tables. 3My friends, choose seven men who are respected and wise and filled with God's Spirit. We will put them in charge of these things. 4We can spend our time praying and serving God by preaching."
5This suggestion pleased everyone, and they began by choosing Stephen. He had great faith and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they chose Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and also Nicolaus, who worshiped with the Jewish people in Antioch. 6These men were brought to the apostles. Then the apostles prayed and placed their hands on the men to show that they had been chosen to do this work. 7God's message spread, and many more people in Jerusalem became followers. Even a large number of priests put their faith in the Lord.

Stephen Is Arrested

8God gave Stephen the power to work great miracles and wonders among the people. 9But some men from Cyrene and Alexandria were members of a group who called themselves "Free Men." They started arguing with Stephen. Some others from Cilicia and Asia also argued with him. 10But they were no match for Stephen, who spoke with the great wisdom that the Spirit gave him. 11So they talked some men into saying, "We heard Stephen say terrible things against Moses and God!"
12They turned the people and their leaders and the teachers of the Law of Moses against Stephen. Then they all grabbed Stephen and dragged him in front of the council.
13Some men agreed to tell lies about Stephen, and they said, "This man keeps on saying terrible things about this holy temple and the Law of Moses. 14We have heard him claim that Jesus from Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses gave us." 15Then all the council members stared at Stephen. They saw that his face looked like the face of an angel.

The LORD Will Bless You if You Obey

Moses said to Israel:
Deuteronomy 28 1-2Today I am giving you the laws and teachings of the LORD your God. Always obey them, and the LORD will make Israel the most famous and important nation on earth, and he will bless you in many ways.
3The LORD will make your businesses and your farms successful.
4You will have many children. You will harvest large crops, and your herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats will produce many young.
5You will have plenty of bread to eat.
6The LORD will make you successful in your daily work.
7The LORD will help you defeat your enemies and make them scatter in all directions.
8The LORD your God is giving you the land, and he will make sure you are successful in everything you do. Your harvests will be so large that your storehouses will be full.
9If you follow and obey the LORD, he will make you his own special people, just as he promised. 10Then everyone on earth will know that you belong to the LORD, and they will be afraid of you.
11The LORD will give you a lot of children and make sure that your animals give birth to many young. The LORD promised your ancestors that this land would be yours, and he will make it produce large crops for you.
12The LORD will open the storehouses of the skies where he keeps the rain, and he will send rain on your land at just the right times. He will make you successful in everything you do. You will have plenty of money to lend to other nations, but you won't need to borrow any yourself.
13Obey the laws and teachings that I'm giving you today, and the LORD your God will make Israel a leader among the nations, and not a follower. Israel will be wealthy and powerful, not poor and weak. 14But you must not reject any of his laws and teachings or worship other gods.

The LORD Will Put Curses on You if You Disobey
(Leviticus 26.14-46)

Moses said:
15Israel, today I am giving you the laws and teachings of the LORD your God. And if you don't obey them all, he will put many curses on you.
16Your businesses and farms will fail.
17You won't have enough bread to eat.
18You'll have only a few children, your crops will be small, and your herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats won't produce many young.
19The LORD will make you fail in everything you do.
20No matter what you try to accomplish, the LORD will confuse you, and you will feel his anger. You won't last long, and you may even meet with disaster, all because you rejected the LORD.
21-23The LORD will send terrible diseases to attack you, and you will never be well again. You will suffer with burning fever and swelling and pain until you die somewhere in the land that you captured.
The LORD will make the sky overhead seem like a bronze roof that keeps out the rain, and the ground under your feet will become as hard as iron. Your crops will be scorched by the hot east wind or ruined by mildew. 24He will send dust and sandstorms instead of rain, and you will be wiped out.
25The LORD will let you be defeated by your enemies, and you will scatter in all directions. You will be a horrible sight for the other nations to see, 26and no one will disturb the birds and wild animals while they eat your dead bodies.
27The LORD will make you suffer with diseases that will cause oozing sores or crusty itchy patches on your skin or boils like the ones that are common in Egypt. And there will be no cure for you! 28You will become insane and go blind. The LORD will make you so confused, 29that even in bright sunshine you will have to feel your way around like a blind person, who cannot tell day from night. For the rest of your life, people will beat and rob you, and no one will be able to stop them.
30A man will be engaged to a woman, but before they can get married, she will be raped by enemy soldiers. Some of you will build houses, but never get to live in them. If you plant a vineyard, you won't be around long enough to enjoy the first harvest. 31Your cattle will be killed while you watch, but you won't get to eat any of the meat. Your donkeys and sheep will be stolen from you, and no one will be around to force your enemies to give them back. 32Your sons and daughters will be dragged off to a foreign country, while you stand there helpless. And even if you watch for them until you go blind, you will never see them again.
33You will work hard on your farms, but everything you harvest will be eaten by foreigners, who will mistreat you and abuse you for the rest of your life.
34What you see will be so horrible that you will go insane, 35and the LORD will punish you from head to toe with boils that never heal.
36The LORD will let you and your king be taken captive to a country that you and your ancestors have never even heard of, and there you will have to worship idols made of wood and stone. 37People of nearby countries will shudder when they see your terrible troubles, but they will still make fun of you.
38You will plant a lot of seed, but gather a small harvest, because locusts will eat your crops. 39You will plant vineyards and work hard at taking care of them, but you won't gather any grapes, much less get any wine, and the vines themselves will be eaten by worms. 40Even if your olive trees grow everywhere in your country, the olives will fall off before they are ready, and there won't be enough olive oil for combing your hair.
41Even your infant sons and daughters will be taken as prisoners of war.
42Locusts will eat your crops and strip your trees of leaves and fruit.
43Foreigners in your towns will become wealthy and powerful, while you become poor and powerless. 44You will be so short of money that you will have to borrow from those foreigners. They will be the leaders in the community, and you will be the followers.

More Curses for Disobedience

Moses said:
45Israel, if you don't obey the laws and teachings that the LORD your God is giving you, he will send these curses to chase, attack, and destroy you. 46Then everyone will look at you and your descendants and realize that the LORD has placed you under a curse.
47If the LORD makes you wealthy, but you don't joyfully worship and honor him, 48he will send enemies to attack you and make you their slaves. Then you will live in poverty with nothing to eat, drink, or wear, and your owners will work you to death.
49Foreigners who speak a strange language will be sent to attack you without warning, just like an eagle swooping down. 50They won't show any mercy, and they will have no respect for old people or pity for children. 51They will take your cattle, sheep, goats, grain, wine, and olive oil, then leave you to starve.
52All over the land that the LORD your God gave you, the enemy army will surround your towns. You may feel safe inside your town walls, but the enemy will tear them down, 53while you wait in horror. Finally, you will get so hungry that you will eat the sons and daughters that the LORD gave you. 54-55Because of hunger, a man who had been gentle and kind will eat his own children and refuse to share the meal with his brother or wife or with his other children. 56-57A woman may have grown up in such luxury that she never had to put a foot on the ground. But times will be so bad that she will secretly eat both her newborn baby and the afterbirth, without sharing any with her husband or her other children.

Disobedience Brings Destruction

Moses said to Israel:
58You must obey everything in The Book of God's Law. Because if you don't respect the LORD, 59he will punish you and your descendants with incurable diseases, 60like those you were so afraid of in Egypt. 61Remember! If the LORD decides to destroy your nation, he can use any disease or disaster, not just the ones written in The Book of God's Law.
62There are as many of you now as the stars in the sky, but if you disobey the LORD your God, only a few of you will be left. 63The LORD is happy to make you successful and to help your nation grow while you conquer the land. But if you disobey him, he will be just as happy to pull you up by your roots.
64Those of you that survive will be scattered to every nation on earth, and you will have to worship stone and wood idols that never helped you or your ancestors. 65You will be restless--always longing for home, but never able to return. 66You will live in constant fear of death. 67Each morning you will wake up to such terrible sights that you will say, "I wish it were night!" But at night you will be terrified and say, "I wish it were day!"
68I told you never to go back to Egypt. But now the LORD himself will load you on ships and send you back. Then you will even try to sell yourselves as slaves, but no one will be interested.

Job Complains to God

My Hopes Have Died

Job 17 My hopes have died, my time is up,
and the grave is ready.
2All I can see are angry crowds, making fun of me.
3If you, LORD, don't help,
who will pay the price for my release?
4My friends won't really listen, all because of you,
and so you must be the one to prove them wrong.
5They have condemned me, just to benefit themselves;
now blind their children.

6You, God, are the reason I am insulted and spit on.
7I am almost blind with grief;
my body is a mere shadow.

8People who are truly good would feel so alarmed,
that they would become angry at my worthless friends.
9They would do the right thing and because they did,
they would grow stronger.
10But none of my friends show any sense.

11My life is drawing to an end; hope has disappeared.
12But all my friends can do is offer empty hopes.
13I could tell the world below to prepare me a bed.
14Then I could greet the grave as my father
and say to the worms, "Hello, mother and sisters!"

15But what kind of hope is that?
16Will it keep me company in the world of the dead?

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

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