April 24 - Acts 10.1-33, Joshua 7-8 and Job 24

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Peter and Cornelius

Acts 10 In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, who was the captain of a group of soldiers called "The Italian Unit." 2Cornelius was a very religious man. He worshiped God, and so did everyone else who lived in his house. He had given a lot of money to the poor and was always praying to God.
3One afternoon at about three o'clock, Cornelius had a vision. He saw an angel from God coming to him and calling him by name. 4Cornelius was surprised and stared at the angel. Then he asked, "What is this all about?"
The angel answered, "God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor. 5Now send some men to Joppa for a man named Simon Peter. 6He is visiting with Simon the leather maker, who lives in a house near the sea." 7After saying this, the angel left.
Cornelius called in two of his servants and one of his soldiers who worshiped God. 8He explained everything to them and sent them off to Joppa.
9The next day about noon these men were coming near Joppa. Peter went up on the roof of the house to pray 10and became very hungry. While the food was being prepared, he fell sound asleep and had a vision. 11He saw heaven open, and something came down like a huge sheet held up by its four corners. 12In it were all kinds of animals, snakes, and birds. 13A voice said to him, "Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them."
14But Peter said, "Lord, I can't do that! I've never eaten anything that is unclean and not fit to eat."
15The voice spoke to him again, "When God says that something can be used for food, don't say it isn't fit to eat."
16This happened three times before the sheet was suddenly taken back to heaven.
17Peter was still wondering what all of this meant, when the men sent by Cornelius came and stood at the gate. They had found their way to Simon's house 18and were asking if Simon Peter was staying there.
19While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, "Three men are here looking for you. 20Hurry down and go with them. Don't worry, I sent them."
21Peter went down and said to the men, "I am the one you are looking for. Why have you come?"
22They answered, "Captain Cornelius sent us. He is a good man who worships God and is liked by the Jewish people. One of God's holy angels told Cornelius to send for you, so he could hear what you have to say." 23Peter invited them to spend the night.
The next morning, Peter and some of the Lord's followers in Joppa left with the men who had come from Cornelius. 24The next day they arrived in Caesarea where Cornelius was waiting for them. He had also invited his relatives and close friends.
25When Peter arrived, Cornelius greeted him. Then he knelt at Peter's feet and started worshiping him. 26But Peter took hold of him and said, "Stand up! I am nothing more than a human."
27As Peter entered the house, he was still talking with Cornelius. Many people were there, 28and Peter said to them, "You know that we Jews are not allowed to have anything to do with other people. But God has shown me that he doesn't think anyone is unclean or unfit. 29I agreed to come here, but I want to know why you sent for me."
30Cornelius answered:
Four days ago at about three o'clock in the afternoon I was praying at home. Suddenly a man in bright clothes stood in front of me. 31He said, "Cornelius, God has heard your prayers, and he knows about your gifts to the poor. 32Now send to Joppa for Simon Peter. He is visiting in the home of Simon the leather maker, who lives near the sea."
33I sent for you right away, and you have been good enough to come. All of us are here in the presence of the Lord God, so that we can hear what he has to say.

Achan Is Punished for Stealing from the LORD

Joshua 7 The LORD had said that everything in Jericho belonged to him. But Achan from the Judah tribe took some of the things from Jericho for himself. And so the LORD was angry with the Israelites, because one of them had disobeyed him.
2While Israel was still camped near Jericho, Joshua sent some spies with these instructions: "Go to the town of Ai and find out whatever you can about the region around the town."
The spies left and went to Ai, which is east of Bethel and near Beth-Aven. 3They went back to Joshua and reported, "You don't need to send the whole army to attack Ai--two or three thousand troops will be enough. Why bother the whole army for a town that small?"
4-5Joshua sent about three thousand soldiers to attack Ai. But the men of Ai fought back and chased the Israelite soldiers away from the town gate and down the hill to the stone quarries. Thirty-six Israelite soldiers were killed, and the Israelite army felt discouraged.
6Joshua and the leaders of Israel tore their clothes and put dirt on their heads to show their sorrow. They lay facedown on the ground in front of the sacred chest until sunset. 7Then Joshua said:
Our LORD, did you bring us across the Jordan River just so the Amorites could destroy us? This wouldn't have happened if we had agreed to stay on the other side of the Jordan. 8I don't even know what to say to you, since Israel's army has turned and run from the enemy. 9Everyone will think you weren't strong enough to protect your people. Now the Canaanites and everyone else who lives in the land will surround us and wipe us out.

10The LORD answered:
Stop lying there on the ground! Get up! 11I said everything in Jericho belonged to me and had to be destroyed. But the Israelites have kept some of the things for themselves. They stole from me and hid what they took. Then they lied about it. 12What they stole was supposed to be destroyed, and now Israel itself must be destroyed. I cannot help you anymore until you do exactly what I have said. That's why Israel turns and runs from its enemies instead of standing up to them.
13Tell the people of Israel, "Tomorrow you will meet with the LORD your God, so make yourselves acceptable to worship him. The LORD says that you have taken things that should have been destroyed. You won't be able to stand up to your enemies until you get rid of those things.
14"Tomorrow morning everyone must gather near the place of worship. You will come forward tribe by tribe, and the LORD will show which tribe is guilty. Next, the clans in that tribe must come forward, and the LORD will show which clan is guilty. The families in that clan must come, and the LORD will point out the guilty family. Finally, the men in that family must come, 15and the LORD will show who stole what should have been destroyed. That man must be put to death, his body burned, and his possessions thrown into the fire. He has done a terrible thing by breaking the sacred agreement that the LORD made with Israel."

16Joshua got up early the next morning and brought each tribe to the place of worship, where the LORD showed that the Judah tribe was guilty. 17Then Joshua brought the clans of Judah to the LORD, and the LORD showed that the Zerah clan was guilty. One by one he brought the leader of each family in the Zerah clan to the LORD, and the LORD showed that Zabdi's family was guilty. 18Finally, Joshua brought each man in Zabdi's family to the LORD, and the LORD showed that Achan was the guilty one.
19"Achan," Joshua said, "the LORD God of Israel has decided that you are guilty. Is this true? Tell me what you did, and don't try to hide anything."
20"It's true," Achan answered. "I sinned and disobeyed the LORD God of Israel. 21-22While we were in Jericho, I saw a beautiful Babylonian robe, two hundred pieces of silver, and a gold bar that weighed the same as fifty pieces of gold. I wanted them for myself, so I took them. I dug a hole under my tent and hid the silver, the gold, and the robe."
Joshua had some people run to Achan's tent, where they found the silver, the gold, and the robe. 23They brought them back and put them in front of the sacred chest, so Joshua and the rest of the Israelites could see them. 24Then everyone took Achan and the things he had stolen to Trouble Valley. They also took along his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys, and sheep, his tent, and everything else that belonged to him.
25Joshua said, "Achan, you caused us a lot of trouble. Now the LORD is paying you back with the same kind of trouble."
The people of Israel then stoned to death Achan and his family. They made a fire and burned the bodies, together with what Achan had stolen, and all his possessions. 26They covered the remains with a big pile of rocks, which is still there. Then the LORD stopped being angry with Israel.
That's how the place came to be called Trouble Valley.

Israel Destroys the Town of Ai

Joshua 8 1-2The LORD told Joshua:
Don't be afraid, and don't be discouraged by what happened at the town of Ai. Take the army and attack again. But first, have part of the army set up an ambush on the other side of the town. I will help you defeat the king of Ai and his army, and you will capture the town and the land around it. Destroy Ai and kill its king as you did at Jericho. But you may keep the livestock and everything else you want.

3-4Joshua quickly got the army ready to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best soldiers and gave them these orders:
Tonight, while it is dark, march to Ai and take up a position behind the town. Get as close to the town as you can without being seen, but be ready to attack.
5-6The rest of the army will come with me and attack near the gate. When the people of Ai come out to fight, we'll run away and let them chase us. They will think we are running from them just like the first time. But when we've let them chase us far enough away, 7you come out of hiding. The LORD our God will help you capture the town. 8Then set it on fire, as the LORD has told us to do. Those are your orders, 9now go!

The thirty thousand soldiers went to a place on the west side of Ai, between Ai and Bethel, where they could hide and wait to attack.
That night, Joshua stayed in camp with the rest of the army. 10Early the next morning he got his troops ready to move out, and he and the other leaders of Israel led them to Ai. 11They set up camp in full view of the town, across the valley to the north. 12Joshua had already sent five thousand soldiers to the west side of the town to hide and wait to attack. 13Now all his troops were in place. Part of the army was in the camp to the north of Ai, and the others were hiding to the west, ready to make a surprise attack. That night, Joshua went into the valley.
14-15The king of Ai saw Joshua's army, so the king and his troops hurried out early the next morning to fight them. Joshua and his army pretended to be beaten, and they let the men of Ai chase them toward the desert. The king and his army were facing the Jordan valley as Joshua had planned.
The king did not realize that some Israelite soldiers were hiding behind the town. 16-17So he called out every man in Ai to go after Joshua's troops. They all rushed out to chase the Israelite army, and they left the town gates wide open. Not one man was left in Ai or in Bethel.
Joshua let the men of Ai chase him and his army farther and farther away from Ai. 18Finally, the LORD told Joshua, "Point your sword at the town of Ai, because now I am going to help you defeat it!"
As soon as Joshua pointed his sword at the town, 19the soldiers who had been hiding got up and ran into the town. They captured it and set it on fire.
20-21When Joshua and his troops saw smoke rising from the town, they knew that the other part of their army had captured it. So they turned and attacked.
The men of Ai looked back and saw smoke rising from their town. But they could not escape, because the soldiers they had been chasing had suddenly turned and started fighting. 22-24Meanwhile, the other Israelite soldiers had come from the town and attacked the men of Ai from the rear. The Israelites captured the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua. They also chased the rest of the men of Ai into the desert and killed them.
The Israelite army went back to Ai and killed everyone there. 25-26Joshua kept his sword pointed at the town of Ai until every last one of Ai's twelve thousand people was dead. 27But the Israelites took the animals and the other possessions of the people of Ai, because this was what the LORD had told Joshua to do.
28-29Joshua made sure every building in Ai was burned to the ground. He told his men to kill the king of Ai and hang his body on a tree. Then at sunset he told the Israelites to take down the body, throw it in the gateway of the town, and cover it with a big pile of rocks. Those rocks are still there, and the town itself has never been rebuilt.

Joshua Reads the Blessings and Curses
(Deuteronomy 27.1-26)

30-32One day, Joshua led the people of Israel to Mount Ebal, where he told some of his men, "Build an altar for offering sacrifices to the LORD. And use stones that have never been cut with iron tools, because that is what Moses taught in The Book of the Law."
Joshua offered sacrifices to please the LORD and to ask his blessing. Then with the Israelites still watching, he copied parts of The Book of the Law of Moses onto stones.
33-35Moses had said that everyone in Israel was to go to the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, where they were to be blessed. So everyone went there, including the foreigners, the leaders, officials, and judges. Half of the people stood on one side of the valley, and half on the other side, with the priests from the Levi tribe standing in the middle with the sacred chest. Then in a loud voice, Joshua read the blessings and curses from The Book of the Law of Moses.

Job Continues

Why Doesn't God Set a Time?

Job 24 Why doesn't God set a time for court?
Why don't his people know where he can be found?
2Sinners remove boundary markers
and take care of sheep they have stolen.
3They cheat orphans and widows
by taking their donkeys and oxen.
4The poor are trampled and forced to hide 5in the desert,
where they and their children must live like wild donkeys
and search for food.
6If they want grain or grapes, they must go to the property
of these sinners.
7They sleep naked in the cold, because they have no cover,
8and during a storm their only shelters are caves
among the rocky cliffs.

9Children whose fathers have died
are taken from their mothers as payment for a debt.
10Then they are forced to work naked in the grain fields
because they have no clothes,
and they go hungry.
11They crush olives to make oil and grapes to make wine--
but still they go thirsty.
12And along the city streets, the wounded and dying cry out,
yet God does nothing.

Some Reject the Light

13Some rebel and refuse to follow the light.
14Soon after sunset they murder the poor and the needy,
and at night they steal.

15Others wait for the dark, thinking they won't be seen
if they sleep with the wife or husband of someone else.
16Robbers hide during the day, then break in after dark
because they reject the light.
17They prefer night to day, since the terrors of the night
are their friends.

Sinners Are Filthy Foam

18Those sinners are filthy foam on the surface of the water.
And so, their fields and vineyards will fall under a curse
and won't produce.
19Just as the heat of summer swallows the snow,
the world of the dead swallows those who sin.
20Forgotten here on earth, and with their power broken,
they taste sweet to worms.

21Sinners take advantage of widows
and other helpless women.
22But God's mighty strength destroys those in power.
Even if they seem successful, they are doomed to fail.
23God may let them feel secure,
but they are never out of his sight.
24Great for a while; gone forever!
Sinners are mowed down
like weeds,
then they wither and die.
25If I haven't spoken the truth, then prove me wrong.

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

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