May 1 - Acts 14, Joshua 22 and Job 31

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Paul and Barnabas in Iconium

Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas spoke in the Jewish meeting place in Iconium, just as they had done at Antioch, and many Jews and Gentiles put their faith in the Lord. 2But the Jews who did not have faith in him made the other Gentiles angry and turned them against the Lord's followers.
3Paul and Barnabas stayed there for a while, having faith in the Lord and bravely speaking his message. The Lord gave them the power to work miracles and wonders, and he showed that their message about his great kindness was true.
4The people of Iconium did not know what to think. Some of them believed the Jewish group, and others believed the apostles. 5Finally, some Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, decided to make trouble for Paul and Barnabas and to stone them to death.
6-7But when the two apostles found out what was happening, they escaped to the region of Lycaonia. They preached the good news there in the towns of Lystra and Derbe and in the nearby countryside.

Paul and Barnabas in Lystra

8In Lystra there was a man who had been born with crippled feet and had never been able to walk. 9The man was listening to Paul speak, when Paul saw that he had faith in Jesus and could be healed. So he looked straight at the man 10and shouted, "Stand up!" The man jumped up and started walking around.
11When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they yelled out in the language of Lycaonia, "The gods have turned into humans and have come down to us!" 12The people then gave Barnabas the name Zeus, and they gave Paul the name Hermes, because he did the talking.
13The temple of Zeus was near the entrance to the city. Its priest and the crowds wanted to offer a sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul. So the priest brought some bulls and flowers to the city gates. 14When the two apostles found out about this, they tore their clothes in horror and ran to the crowd, shouting:
15Why are you doing this? We are humans just like you. Please give up all this foolishness. Turn to the living God, who made the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16In times past, God let each nation go its own way. 17But he showed that he was there by the good things he did. God sends rain from heaven and makes your crops grow. He gives food to you and makes your hearts glad.

18Even after Paul and Barnabas had said all this, they could hardly keep the people from offering a sacrifice to them.
19Some Jewish leaders from Antioch and Iconium came and turned the crowds against Paul. They hit him with stones and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. 20But when the Lord's followers gathered around Paul, he stood up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe.

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria

21Paul and Barnabas preached the good news in Derbe and won some people to the Lord. Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, "We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God's kingdom." 23Paul and Barnabas chose some leaders for each of the churches. Then they went without eating and prayed that the Lord would take good care of these leaders.
24Paul and Barnabas went on through Pisidia to Pamphylia, 25where they preached in the town of Perga. Then they went down to Attalia 26and sailed to Antioch in Syria. It was there that they had been placed in God's care for the work they had now completed.
27After arriving in Antioch, they called the church together. They told the people what God had helped them do and how he had made it possible for the Gentiles to believe. 28Then they stayed there with the followers for a long time.

The Two and a Half Tribes Return Home

Joshua 22 Joshua had the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh come for a meeting, and he told them:
2-3You have obeyed every command of the LORD your God and of his servant Moses. And you have done everything I've told you to do. It's taken a long time, but you have stayed and helped your relatives. 4The LORD promised to give peace to your relatives, and that's what he has done. Now it's time for you to go back to your own homes in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan River.
5Moses taught you to love the LORD your God, to be faithful to him, and to worship and obey him with your whole heart and with all your strength. So be very careful to do everything Moses commanded.
6-9You've become rich from what you've taken from your enemies. You have big herds of cattle, lots of silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and plenty of clothes. Take everything home with you and share with the people of your tribe.
I pray that God will be kind to you. You are now free to go home.

The tribes of Reuben and Gad started back to Gilead, their own land. Moses had given the land of Bashan to the East Manasseh tribe, so they started back along with Reuben and Gad. God had told Moses that these two and a half tribes should conquer Gilead and Bashan, and they had done so.
Joshua had given land west of the Jordan River to the other half of the Manasseh tribe, so they stayed at Shiloh in the land of Canaan with the rest of the Israelites.
10-11The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh reached the western side of the Jordan River valley and built a huge altar there beside the river.
When the rest of the Israelites heard what these tribes had done, 12the Israelite men met at Shiloh to get ready to attack the two and a half tribes. 13But first they sent a priest, Phinehas the son of Eleazar, to talk with the two and a half tribes. 14Each of the tribes at Shiloh sent the leader of one of its families along with Phinehas.
15Phinehas and these leaders went to Gilead and met with the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh. They said:
16All of the LORD's people have gathered together and have sent us to find out why you are unfaithful to our God. You have turned your backs on the LORD by building that altar. Why are you rebelling against him? 17Wasn't our people's sin at Peor terrible enough for you? The LORD punished us by sending a horrible sickness that killed many of us, and we still suffer because of that sin. 18Now you are turning your backs on the LORD again.
If you don't stop rebelling against the LORD right now, he will be angry at the whole nation. 19If you don't think your land is a fit place to serve God, then move across the Jordan and live with us in the LORD's own land, where his sacred tent is located. But don't rebel against the LORD our God or against us by building another altar besides the LORD's own altar. 20Don't you remember what happened when Achan was unfaithful and took some of the things that belonged to God? This made God angry with the entire nation. Achan died because he sinned, but he also caused the death of many others.

21The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh answered:
22The LORD is the greatest God! We ask him to be our witness, because he knows whether or not we were rebellious or unfaithful when we built that altar. If we were unfaithful, then we pray that God won't rescue us today. Let us tell you why we built that altar, 23and we ask the LORD to punish us if we are lying. We didn't build it so we could turn our backs on the LORD. We didn't even build it so we could offer animal or grain sacrifices to please the LORD or ask his blessing.
24-25We built that altar because we were worried. Someday your descendants might tell our descendants, "The LORD made the Jordan River the boundary between us Israelites and you people of Reuben and Gad. The LORD is Israel's God, but you're not part of Israel, so you can't take part in worshiping the LORD."
Your descendants might say that and try to make our descendants stop worshiping and obeying the LORD. 26That's why we decided to build the altar. It isn't for offering sacrifices, not even sacrifices to please the LORD. 27-29To build another altar for offering sacrifices would be the same as turning our backs on the LORD and rebelling against him. We could never do that! No, we built the altar to remind us and you and the generations to come that we will worship the LORD. And so we will keep bringing our sacrifices to the LORD's altar, there in front of his sacred tent. Now your descendants will never be able to say to our descendants, "You can't worship the LORD."
But if they do say this, our descendants can answer back, "Look at this altar our ancestors built! It's like the LORD's altar, but it isn't for offering sacrifices. It's here to remind us and you that we belong to the LORD, just as much as you do."

30-31Phinehas and the clan leaders were pleased when they heard the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh explain why they had built the altar. Then Phinehas told them, "Today we know that the LORD is helping us. You have not been unfaithful to him, and this means that the LORD will not be angry with us."
32Phinehas and the clan leaders left Gilead and went back to Canaan to tell the Israelites about their meeting with the Reuben and Gad tribes. 33The Israelites were happy and praised God. There was no more talk about going to war and wiping out the tribes of Reuben and Gad.
34The people of Reuben and Gad named the altar "A Reminder to Us All That the LORD Is Our God."

Job Continues

I Promised Myself

Job 31 I promised myself never to stare with desire
at a young woman.
2God All-Powerful punishes men who do that.
3In fact, God sends disaster on all who sin,
4and he keeps a close watch on everything I do.

5I am not dishonest or deceitful,
6and I beg God to prove my innocence.
7If I have disobeyed him or even wanted to,
8then others can eat my harvest and uproot my crops.
9If I have desired someone's wife and chased after her,
10then let some stranger steal my wife from me.
11If I took someone's wife, it would be a horrible crime,
12sending me to destruction and my crops to the flames.

13When my servants complained against me,
I was fair to them.
14Otherwise, what answer would I give to God
when he judges me?
15After all, God is the one who gave life to each of us
before we were born.

I Have Never Cheated Anyone

16I have never cheated widows or others in need,
17and I have always shared my food with orphans.
18Since the time I was young,
I have cared for orphans and helped widows.
19I provided clothes for the poor, 20and I was praised
for supplying woolen garments to keep them warm.
21If I have ever raised my arm to threaten an orphan
when the power was mine,
22I hope that arm will fall from its socket.
23I could not have been abusive; I was terrified at the thought
that God might punish me.
24I have never trusted the power of wealth,
25or taken pride in owning many possessions.
*26I have never openly or secretly 27worshiped the sun or moon.
28Such horrible sins would have deserved
punishment from God.

29I have never laughed
when my enemies were struck by disaster.
30Neither have I sinned by asking God to send down on them
the curse of death.
31No one ever went hungry at my house,
32and travelers were always welcome.
33Many have attempted to hide their sins from others--
but I refused.
34And the fear of public disgrace never forced me
to keep silent about what I had done.

Why Doesn't God Listen?

35Why doesn't God All-Powerful listen and answer?
If God has something against me,
let him speak up or put it in writing!
36Then I would wear his charges on my clothes and forehead.
37And with my head held high, I would tell him everything
I have ever done.

38I have never mistreated the land I farmed
and made it mourn.
39Nor have I cheated my workers and caused them pain.
40If I had, I would pray for weeds instead of wheat
to grow in my fields.
After saying these things,
Job was silent.

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

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