May 3 - Acts 15.22-41, Judges 1 and Job 33

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A Letter to Gentiles Who Had Faith in the Lord

Acts 15 22The apostles, the leaders, and all the church members decided to send some men to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Silas and Judas Barsabbas, who were two leaders of the Lord's followers. 23They wrote a letter that said:
We apostles and leaders send friendly greetings to all of you Gentiles who are followers of the Lord in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia.
24We have heard that some people from here have terribly upset you by what they said. But we did not send them! 25So we met together and decided to choose some men and to send them to you along with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. 26These men have risked their lives for our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We are also sending Judas and Silas, who will tell you in person the same things that we are writing.
28The Holy Spirit has shown us that we should not place any extra burden on you. 29But you should not eat anything offered to idols. You should not eat any meat that still has the blood in it or any meat of any animal that has been strangled. You must also not commit any terrible sexual sins. If you follow these instructions, you will do well.
We send our best wishes.

30The four men left Jerusalem and went to Antioch. Then they called the church members together and gave them the letter. 31When the letter was read, everyone was pleased and greatly encouraged. 32Judas and Silas were prophets, and they spoke a long time, encouraging and helping the Lord's followers.
33The men from Jerusalem stayed on in Antioch for a while. And when they left to return to the ones who had sent them, the followers wished them well. 34-35But Paul and Barnabas stayed on in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached about the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas Go Their Separate Ways

36Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let's go back and visit the Lord's followers in the cities where we preached his message. Then we will know how they are doing." 37Barnabas wanted to take along John, whose other name was Mark. 38But Paul did not want to, because Mark had left them in Pamphylia and had stopped working with them.
39Paul and Barnabas argued, then each of them went his own way. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, 40but Paul took Silas and left after the followers had placed them in God's care. 41They traveled through Syria and Cilicia, encouraging the churches.

The Tribes of Judah and Simeon Fight the Canaanites

Judges 1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, "Which of our tribes should attack the Canaanites first?"
2"Judah!" the LORD answered. "I'll help them take the land."
3The people of Judah went to their relatives, the Simeon tribe, and said, "Canaanites live in the land God gave us. Help us fight them, and we will help you."
Troops from Simeon came to help Judah. 4-5Together they attacked an army of ten thousand Canaanites and Perizzites at Bezek, and the LORD helped Judah defeat them. During the battle, Judah's army found out where the king of Bezek was, and they attacked there. 6Bezek tried to escape, but soldiers from Judah caught him. They cut off his thumbs and big toes, 7and he said, "I've cut off the thumbs and big toes of seventy kings and made those kings crawl around under my table for scraps of food. Now God is paying me back."
The army of Judah took the king of Bezek along with them to Jerusalem, where he died. 8They attacked Jerusalem, captured it, killed everyone who lived there, and then burned it to the ground.
9Judah's army fought the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, the Southern Desert, and the foothills to the west. 10After that, they attacked the Canaanites who lived at Hebron, defeating the three clans called Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. At that time, Hebron was called Kiriath-Arba.
11From Hebron, Judah's army went to attack Debir, which at that time was called Kiriath-Sepher. 12Caleb told his troops, "The man who captures Kiriath-Sepher can marry my daughter Achsah."
13Caleb's nephew Othniel captured Kiriath-Sepher, so Caleb let him marry Achsah. Othniel was the son of Caleb's younger brother Kenaz. 14Right after the wedding, Achsah started telling Othniel that he ought to ask her father for a field. She went to see her father, and while she was getting down from her donkey, Caleb asked, "What's bothering you?"
15She answered, "I need your help. The land you gave me is in the Southern Desert, so please give me some spring-fed ponds for a water supply."
Caleb gave her a couple of small ponds named Higher Pond and Lower Pond.
16The people who belonged to the Kenite clan were the descendants of the father-in-law of Moses. They left Jericho with the people of Judah and settled near Arad in the Southern Desert of Judah not far from the Amalekites.
17Judah's army helped Simeon's army attack the Canaanites who lived at Zephath. They completely destroyed the town and renamed it Hormah.
18-19The LORD helped the army of Judah capture Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, and the land near those towns. They also took the hill country. But the people who lived in the valleys had iron chariots, so Judah was not able to make them leave or to take their land.
20The tribe of Judah gave the town of Hebron to Caleb, as Moses had told them to do. Caleb defeated the three Anakim clans and took over the town.

The Benjamin Tribe Does Not Capture Jerusalem

21The Jebusites were living in Jerusalem, and the Benjamin tribe did not defeat them or capture the town. That's why Jebusites still live in Jerusalem along with the people of Benjamin.

The Ephraim and Manasseh Tribes Capture Bethel

22-23The Ephraim and Manasseh tribes were getting ready to attack Bethel, which at that time was called Luz. And the LORD helped them when they sent spies to find out as much as they could about Bethel. 24While the spies were watching the town, a man came out, and they told him, "If you show us how our army can get into the town, we will make sure that you aren't harmed." 25The man showed them, and the two Israelite tribes attacked Bethel, killing everyone except the man and his family. The two tribes made the man and his family leave, 26so they went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a town. He named the town Luz, and that is still its name.

Israel Does Not Get Rid of All the Canaanites

27-28Canaanites lived in the towns of Beth-Shan, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, and all the villages nearby. The Canaanites were determined to stay, and the Manasseh tribe never did get rid of them. But later on, when the Israelites grew more powerful, they made slaves of the Canaanites.
29The Ephraim tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived there with Israelites all around them.
30The Zebulun tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Kitron and Nahalol, and the Canaanites stayed there with Israelites around them. But the people of Zebulun did force the Canaanites into slave labor.
31-32The Asher tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob, and the Asher tribe lived with Canaanites all around them.
33The Naphtali tribe did not get rid of the Canaanites who lived in Beth-Shemesh and Beth-Anath, but they did force the Canaanites into slave labor. The Naphtali tribe lived with Canaanites around them.
34The Amorites were strong enough to keep the tribe of Dan from settling in the valleys, so Dan had to stay in the hill country.
35The Amorites on Mount Heres and in Aijalon and Shaalbim were also determined to stay. Later on, as Ephraim and Manasseh grew more powerful, they forced those Amorites into slave labor.

The Amorite-Edomite Border

36The old Amorite-Edomite border used to go from Sela through Scorpion Pass into the hill country.

Elihu Speaks

Job, Listen to Me!

Job 33 Job, listen to me! Pay close attention.
*2Everything I will say 3is true and sincere,
4just as surely as the Spirit of God All-Powerful
gave me the breath of life.
5Now line up your arguments and prepare to face me.
6We each were made from clay, and God has no favorites,
7so don't be afraid of me or what I might do.

I Have Heard You Argue

8I have heard you argue 9that you are innocent,
guilty of nothing.
10You claim that God has made you his enemy,
11that he has bound your feet and blocked your path.
12But, Job, you're wrong--
God is greater than any human.
13So why do you challenge God to answer you?
14God speaks in different ways,
and we don't always recognize his voice.
*15Sometimes in the night, he uses terrifying dreams
16to give us warnings.
17God does this to make us turn from sin and pride
18and to protect us from being swept away
to the world of the dead.

19Sometimes we are punished with a serious illness
and aching joints.
20Merely the thought of our favorite food
makes our stomachs sick,
21and we become so skinny
that our bones stick out.
22We feel death and the grave taking us in their grip.

23One of a thousand angels then comes to our rescue
by saying we are innocent.
24The angel shows kindness, commanding death to release us,
because the price was paid.
25Our health is restored, we feel young again,
26and we ask God to accept us.
Then we joyfully worship God,
and we are rewarded because we are innocent.
27When that happens, we tell everyone,
"I sinned and did wrong, but God forgave me
28and rescued me from death! Now I will see the light."

29God gives each of us chance after chance
30to be saved from death and brought into the light
that gives life.
31So, Job, pay attention and don't interrupt,
32though I would gladly listen
to anything you say that proves you are right.
33Otherwise, listen in silence to my wisdom.

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

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