April 18 - Acts 7.1-22, Deuteronomy 29-30 and Job 18

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Stephen's Speech

Acts 7 The high priest asked Stephen, "Are they telling the truth about you?"
2Stephen answered:
Friends, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he had moved to Haran. 3God told him, "Leave your country and your relatives and go to a land that I will show you." 4Then Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran.
After his father died, Abraham came and settled in this land where you now live. 5God didn't give him any part of it, not even a square foot. But God did promise to give it to him and his family forever, even though Abraham didn't have any children. 6God said that Abraham's descendants would live for a while in a foreign land. There they would be slaves and would be mistreated four hundred years. 7But he also said, "I will punish the nation that makes them slaves. Then later they will come and worship me in this place."
8God said to Abraham, "Every son in each family must be circumcised to show that you have kept your agreement with me." So when Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him. Later, Isaac circumcised his son Jacob, and Jacob circumcised his twelve sons. 9These men were our ancestors.
Joseph was also one of our famous ancestors. His brothers were jealous of him and sold him as a slave to be taken to Egypt. But God was with him 10and rescued him from all his troubles. God made him so wise that the Egyptian king thought highly of him. The king even made Joseph governor over Egypt and put him in charge of everything he owned.
11Everywhere in Egypt and Canaan the grain crops failed. There was terrible suffering, and our ancestors could not find enough to eat. 12But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there for the first time. 13It was on their second trip that Joseph told his brothers who he was, and the king learned about Joseph's family.
14Joseph sent for his father and his relatives. In all, there were seventy-five of them. 15His father went to Egypt and died there, just as our ancestors did. 16Later their bodies were taken back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor.
17Finally, the time came for God to do what he had promised Abraham. By then the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18Another king was ruling Egypt, and he didn't know anything about Joseph. 19He tricked our ancestors and was cruel to them. He even made them leave their babies outside, so they would die.
20During this time Moses was born. He was a very beautiful child, and for three months his parents took care of him in their home. 21Then when they were forced to leave him outside, the king's daughter found him and raised him as her own son. 22Moses was given the best education in Egypt. He was a strong man and a powerful speaker.

The Agreement in Moab

Deuteronomy 29 So Moses finished telling the Israelites what they had to do in order to keep the agreement the LORD was making with them in Moab, which was in addition to the one the LORD had made with them at Mount Sinai.


The LORD Is Your God

2-3Moses called the nation of Israel together and told them:
When you were in Egypt, you saw the LORD perform great miracles that caused trouble for the king, his officials, and everyone else in the country. 4-6He has even told you, "For forty years I, the LORD, led you through the desert, but your clothes and your sandals didn't wear out, and I gave you special food. I did these things so you would realize that I am your God."
But the LORD must give you a change of heart before you truly understand what you have seen and heard.
7When we first camped here, King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan attacked, but we defeated them. 8Then we captured their land and divided it among the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh.

Keep the Agreement

Moses said:
9Israel, the LORD has made an agreement with you, and if you keep your part, you will be successful in everything you do. 10-12Today everyone in our nation is standing here in the LORD's presence, including leaders and officials, parents and children, and even those foreigners who cut wood and carry water for us. We are at this place of worship to promise that we will keep our part of the agreement with the LORD our God.
13-15In this agreement, the LORD promised that you would be his people and that he would be your God. He first made this promise to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and today the LORD is making this same promise to you. But it isn't just for you; it is also for your descendants.
16-17When we lived in Egypt, you saw the Egyptians worship disgusting idols of wood, stone, silver, and gold. Then as we traveled through other nations, you saw those people worship other disgusting idols. 18So make sure that everyone in your tribe remains faithful to the LORD and never starts worshiping gods of other nations.
If even one of you worships idols, you will be like the root of a plant that produces bitter, poisonous fruit. 19You may be an Israelite and know all about the LORD's agreement with us, but he won't bless you if you rebel against him. You may think you can get away with it, but you will cause the rest of Israel to be punished along with you. 20-21The LORD will be furious, and instead of forgiving you, he will separate you from the other tribes. Then he will destroy you, by piling on you all the curses in The Book of God's Law, and you will be forgotten forever.
22The LORD will strike your country with diseases and disasters. Your descendants and foreigners from distant countries will see that your land 23has become a scorching desert of salt and sulfur, where nothing is planted, nothing sprouts, and nothing grows. It will be as lifeless as the land around the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, after the LORD became angry and destroyed them.
24People from other nations will ask, "Why did the LORD destroy this country? Why was he so furious?"
25And they will be given this answer:
Our ancestors worshiped the LORD, but after he brought them out of Egypt and made an agreement with them, they rejected the agreement 26and decided to worship gods that had never helped them. The LORD had forbidden Israel to worship these gods, 27-28and so he became furious and punished the land with all the curses in The Book of God's Law. Then he pulled up Israel by the roots and tossed them into a foreign country, where they still are today.

29The LORD our God hasn't explained the present or the future, but he has commanded us to obey the laws he gave to us and our descendants.

The LORD Will Bring You Back

Moses said to Israel:
Deuteronomy 30 I have told you everything the LORD your God will do for you, and I've also told you the curses he will put on you if you reject him. He will scatter you in faraway countries, but when you realize that he is punishing you, 2return to him with all your heart and soul and start obeying the commands I have given to you today. 3-4Then he will stop punishing you and treat you with kindness. He may have scattered you to the farthest countries on earth, but he will bring you back 5to the land that had belonged to your ancestors and make you even more successful and powerful than they ever were.
6You and your descendants are stubborn, but the LORD will make you willing to obey him and love him with all your heart and soul, and you will enjoy a long life.
7Then the LORD your God will remove the curses from you and put them on those enemies who hate and attack you.
8You will again obey the laws and teachings of the LORD, 9and he will bless you with many children, large herds and flocks, and abundant crops. The LORD will be happy to do good things for you, just as he did for your ancestors. 10But you must decide once and for all to worship him with all your heart and soul and to obey everything in The Book of God's Law.

Choose Life, Not Death

Moses said to Israel:
11You know God's laws, and it isn't impossible to obey them. 12His commands aren't in heaven, so you can't excuse yourselves by saying, "How can we obey the LORD's commands? They are in heaven, and no one can go up to get them, then bring them down and explain them to us." 13And you can't say, "How can we obey the LORD's commands? They are across the sea, and someone must go across, then bring them back and explain them to us." 14No, these commands are nearby and you know them by heart. All you have to do is obey!
15Today I am giving you a choice. You can choose life and success or death and disaster. 16-18I am commanding you to be loyal to the LORD, to live the way he has told you, and to obey his laws and teachings. You are about to cross the Jordan River and take the land that he is giving you. If you obey him, you will live and become successful and powerful.
On the other hand, you might choose to disobey the LORD and reject him. So I'm warning you that if you bow down and worship other gods, you won't have long to live.
19Right now I call the sky and the earth to be witnesses that I am offering you this choice. Will you choose for the LORD to make you prosperous and give you a long life? Or will he put you under a curse and kill you? Choose life! 20Be completely faithful to the LORD your God, love him, and do whatever he tells you. The LORD is the only one who can give life, and he will let you live a long time in the land that he promised to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Bildad's Second Speech

How Long Will You Talk?

Job 18 Bildad from Shuah said:
2How long will you talk? Be sensible! Let us speak.
3Or do you think that we are dumb animals?
4You cut yourself in anger. Will that shake the earth
or even move the rocks?

*5The lamps of sinful people soon are snuffed out,
6leaving their tents dark.
7Their powerful legs become weak,
and they stumble on schemes of their own doing.
*8Before they know it, 9they are trapped
in a net, 10hidden along the path.
11Terror strikes and pursues from every side.
12Starving, they run, only to meet disaster,
13then afterwards to be eaten alive by death itself.

14Those sinners are dragged from the safety of their tents
to die a gruesome death.
15Then their tents and possessions are burned to ashes,
16and they are left like trees, dried up from the roots.
17They are gone and forgotten,
18thrown far from the light into a world of darkness,
19without any children to carry on their name.
20Everyone, from east to west, is overwhelmed with horror.
21Such is the fate of sinners and their families
who don't know God.

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

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