May 2 - Acts 15.1-21, Joshua 23-24 and Job 32

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Acts 15 Some people came from Judea and started teaching the Lord's followers that they could not be saved, unless they were circumcised as Moses had taught. 2This caused trouble, and Paul and Barnabas argued with them about this teaching. So it was decided to send Paul and Barnabas and a few others to Jerusalem to discuss this problem with the apostles and the church leaders.

The Church Leaders Meet in Jerusalem

3The men who were sent by the church went through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling how the Gentiles had turned to God. This news made the Lord's followers very happy. 4When the men arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, including the apostles and the leaders. They told them everything God had helped them do. 5But some Pharisees had become followers of the Lord. They stood up and said, "Gentiles who have faith in the Lord must be circumcised and told to obey the Law of Moses."
6The apostles and church leaders met to discuss this problem about Gentiles. 7They had talked it over for a long time, when Peter got up and said:
My friends, you know that God decided long ago to let me be the one from your group to preach the good news to the Gentiles. God did this so that they would hear and obey him. 8He knows what is in everyone's heart. And he showed that he had chosen the Gentiles, when he gave them the Holy Spirit, just as he had given his Spirit to us. 9God treated them in the same way that he treated us. They put their faith in him, and he made their hearts pure.
10Now why are you trying to make God angry by placing a heavy burden on these followers? This burden was too heavy for us or our ancestors. 11But our Lord Jesus was kind to us, and we are saved by faith in him, just as the Gentiles are.

12Everyone kept quiet and listened as Barnabas and Paul told how God had given them the power to work a lot of miracles and wonders for the Gentiles.
13After they had finished speaking, James said:
My friends, listen to me! 14Simon Peter has told how God first came to the Gentiles and made some of them his own people. 15This agrees with what the prophets wrote,

16"I, the Lord, will return
and rebuild David's fallen house.
I will build it from its ruins and set it up again.
17Then other nations will turn to me
and be my chosen ones.
I, the Lord, say this. 18I promised it long ago."
19And so, my friends, I don't think we should place burdens on the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20We should simply write and tell them not to eat anything that has been offered to idols. They should be told not to eat the meat of any animal that has been strangled or that still has blood in it. They must also not commit any terrible sexual sins.
21We must remember that the Law of Moses has been preached in city after city for many years, and every Sabbath it is read at our meeting.

Joshua's Farewell Speech

Joshua 23 The LORD let Israel live in peace with its neighbors for a long time, and Joshua lived to a ripe old age. 2One day he called a meeting of the leaders of the tribes of Israel, including the old men, the judges, and the officials. Then he told them:
I am now very old. 3You have seen how the LORD your God fought for you and helped you defeat the nations who lived in this land. 4-5There are still some nations left, but the LORD has promised you their land. So when you attack them, he will make them run away. I have already divided their land among your tribes, as I did with the land of the nations I defeated between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
6Be sure that you carefully obey everything written in The Book of the Law of Moses and do exactly what it says.
7Don't have anything to do with the nations that live around you. Don't worship their gods or pray to their idols or make promises in the names of their gods. 8Be as faithful to the LORD as you have always been.
9When you attacked powerful nations, the LORD made them run away, and no one has ever been able to stand up to you. 10Any one of you can defeat a thousand enemy soldiers, because the LORD God fights for you, just as he promised. 11Be sure to always love the LORD your God. 12-13Don't ever turn your backs on him by marrying people from the nations that are left in the land. Don't even make friends with them. I tell you that if you are friendly with those nations, the LORD won't chase them away when you attack. Instead, they'll be like a trap for your feet, a whip on your back, and thorns in your eyes. And finally, none of you will be left in this good land that the LORD has given you.
14I will soon die, as everyone must. But deep in your hearts you know that the LORD has kept every promise he ever made to you. Not one of them has been broken. 15-16Yes, when the LORD makes a promise, he does what he has promised. But when he makes a threat, he will also do what he has threatened. The LORD is our God. He gave us this wonderful land and made an agreement with us that we would worship only him. But if you worship other gods, it will make the LORD furious. He will start getting rid of you, and soon not one of you will be left in this good land that he has given you.

We Will Worship and Obey the LORD

Joshua 24 Joshua called the tribes of Israel together for a meeting at Shechem. He had the leaders, including the old men, the judges, and the officials, come up and stand near the sacred tent. 2Then Joshua told everyone to listen to this message from the LORD, the God of Israel:
Long ago your ancestors lived on the other side of the Euphrates River, and they worshiped other gods. This continued until the time of your ancestor Terah and his two sons, Abraham and Nahor. 3But I brought Abraham across the Euphrates River and led him through the land of Canaan. I blessed him by giving him Isaac, the first in a line of many descendants. 4Then I gave Isaac two sons, Jacob and Esau. I had Esau live in the hill country of Mount Seir, but your ancestor Jacob and his children went to live in Egypt.
5-6Later I sent Moses and his brother Aaron to help your people, and I made all those horrible things happen to the Egyptians. I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, but the Egyptians got in their chariots and on their horses and chased your ancestors, catching up with them at the Red Sea. 7Your people cried to me for help, so I put a dark cloud between them and the Egyptians. Then I opened up the sea and let your people walk across on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, I commanded the sea to swallow them, and they drowned while you watched.
You lived in the desert for a long time, 8then I brought you into the land east of the Jordan River. The Amorites were living there, and they fought you. But with my help, you defeated them, wiped them out, and took their land. 9King Balak decided that his nation Moab would go to war against you, so he asked Balaam to come and put a curse on you. 10But I wouldn't listen to Balaam, and I rescued you by making him bless you instead of curse you.
11You crossed the Jordan River and came to Jericho. The rulers of Jericho fought you, and so did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. I helped you defeat them all. 12Your enemies ran from you, but not because you had swords and bows and arrows. I made your enemies panic and run away, as I had done with the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River.
13You didn't have to work for this land--I gave it to you. Now you live in towns you didn't build, and you eat grapes and olives from vineyards and trees you didn't plant.

14Then Joshua told the people:
Worship the LORD, obey him, and always be faithful. Get rid of the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River and in Egypt. 15But if you don't want to worship the LORD, then choose right now! Will you worship the same idols your ancestors did? Or since you're living on land that once belonged to the Amorites, maybe you'll worship their gods. I won't. My family and I are going to worship and obey the LORD!

16The people answered:
We could never worship other gods or stop worshiping the LORD. 17The LORD is our God. We were slaves in Egypt as our ancestors had been, but we saw the LORD work miracles to set our people free and to bring us out of Egypt. Even though other nations were all around us, the LORD protected us wherever we went. 18And when we fought the Amorites and the other nations that lived in this land, the LORD made them run away. Yes, we will worship and obey the LORD, because the LORD is our God.

19Joshua said:
The LORD is fearsome; he is the one true God, and I don't think you are able to worship and obey him in the ways he demands. You would have to be completely faithful, and if you sin or rebel, he won't let you get away with it. 20If you turn your backs on the LORD and worship the gods of other nations, the LORD will turn against you. He will make terrible things happen to you and wipe you out, even though he had been good to you before.

21But the people shouted, "We won't worship any other gods. We will worship and obey only the LORD!"
22Joshua said, "You have heard yourselves say that you will worship and obey the LORD. Isn't that true?"
"Yes, it's true," they answered.
23Joshua said, "But you still have some idols, like those the other nations worship. Get rid of your idols! You must decide once and for all that you really want to obey the LORD God of Israel."
24The people said, "The LORD is our God, and we will worship and obey only him."
25Joshua helped Israel make an agreement with the LORD that day at Shechem. Joshua made laws for Israel 26and wrote them down in The Book of the Law of God. Then he set up a large stone under the oak tree at the place of worship in Shechem 27and told the people, "Look at this stone. It has heard everything that the LORD has said to us. Our God can call this stone as a witness if we ever reject him."
28Joshua sent everyone back to their homes.

Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazar Are Buried

29Not long afterwards, the LORD's servant Joshua died at the age of one hundred ten. 30The Israelites buried him in his own land at Timnath-Serah, north of Mount Gaash in the hill country of Ephraim.
31As long as Joshua lived, Israel worshiped and obeyed the LORD. There were other leaders old enough to remember everything that the LORD had done for Israel. And for as long as these men lived, Israel continued to worship and obey the LORD.
32When the people of Israel left Egypt, they brought the bones of Joseph along with them. They took the bones to the town of Shechem and buried them in the field that Jacob had bought for one hundred pieces of silver from Hamor, the founder of Shechem. The town and the field both became part of the land belonging to the descendants of Joseph.
33When Eleazar the priest died, he was buried in the hill country of Ephraim on a hill that belonged to his son Phinehas.

Elihu Is Upset with Job's Friends

Job 32 Finally, these three men stopped arguing with Job, because he refused to admit that he was guilty.
2Elihu from Buz was there, and he had become upset with Job for blaming God instead of himself. 3He was also angry with Job's three friends for not being able to prove that Job was wrong. 4Elihu was younger than these three, and he let them speak first. 5But he became irritated when they could not answer Job, 6and he said to them:
I am much younger than you,
so I have shown respect by keeping silent.
7I once believed age was the source of wisdom;
8now I truly realize wisdom comes from God.
9Age is no guarantee of wisdom and understanding.
10That's why I ask you to listen to me.

I Eagerly Listened

*11I eagerly listened to each of your arguments,
12but not one of you proved Job to be wrong.
13You shouldn't say, "We know what's right!
Let God punish him."
14Job hasn't spoken against me,
and so I won't answer him with your arguments.

15All of you are shocked; you don't know what to say.
16But am I to remain silent,
just because you have stopped speaking?
17No! I will give my opinion,
18because I have so much to say,
that I can't keep quiet.
19I am like a swollen wineskin,
and I will burst 20if I don't speak.
*21I don't know how to be unfair or to flatter anyone--
22if I did, my Creator would quickly destroy me!

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

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