May 5 - Acts 16.16-40, Judges 4-5 and Job 35

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Paul and Silas Are Put in Jail

Acts 16 16One day on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl. She had a spirit in her that gave her the power to tell the future. By doing this she made a lot of money for her owners. 17The girl followed Paul and the rest of us and kept yelling, "These men are servants of the Most High God! They are telling you how to be saved."
18This went on for several days. Finally, Paul got so upset that he turned and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl alone!" At once the evil spirit left her.
19When the girl's owners realized that they had lost all chances for making more money, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them into court. 20They told the officials, "These Jews are upsetting our city! 21They are telling us to do things we Romans are not allowed to do."
22The crowd joined in the attack on Paul and Silas. Then the officials tore the clothes off the two men and ordered them to be beaten with a whip. 23After they had been badly beaten, they were put in jail, and the jailer was told to guard them carefully. 24The jailer did as he was told. He put them deep inside the jail and chained their feet to heavy blocks of wood.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened. 26Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the jail to its foundations. The doors opened, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.
27When the jailer woke up and saw that the doors were open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself. 28But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! No one has escaped."
29The jailer asked for a torch and went into the jail. He was shaking all over as he knelt down in front of Paul and Silas. 30After he had led them out of the jail, he asked, "What must I do to be saved?"
31They replied, "Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone who lives in your home."
32Then Paul and Silas told him and everyone else in his house about the Lord. 33While it was still night, the jailer took them to a place where he could wash their cuts and bruises. Then he and everyone in his home were baptized. 34They were very glad that they had put their faith in God. After this, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his home and gave them something to eat.
35The next morning the officials sent some police with orders for the jailer to let Paul and Silas go. 36The jailer told Paul, "The officials have ordered me to set you free. Now you can leave in peace."
37But Paul told the police, "We are Roman citizens, and the Roman officials had us beaten in public without giving us a trial. They threw us into jail. Now do they think they can secretly send us away? No, they cannot! They will have to come here themselves and let us out."
38When the police told the officials that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, the officials were afraid. 39So they came and apologized. They led them out of the jail and asked them to please leave town. 40But Paul and Silas went straight to the home of Lydia, where they saw the Lord's followers and encouraged them. Then they left.

Deborah and Barak

Judges 4 After the death of Ehud, the Israelites again started disobeying the LORD. 2So the LORD let the Canaanite King Jabin of Hazor conquer Israel. Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, lived in Harosheth-Ha-Goiim. 3Jabin's army had nine hundred iron chariots, and for twenty years he made life miserable for the Israelites, until finally they begged the LORD for help.
4Deborah the wife of Lappidoth was a prophet and a leader of Israel during those days. 5She would sit under Deborah's Palm Tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, where Israelites would come and ask her to settle their legal cases.
6One day, Barak the son of Abinoam was in Kedesh in Naphtali, and Deborah sent word for him to come and talk with her. When he arrived, she said:
I have a message for you from the LORD God of Israel! You are to get together an army of ten thousand men from the Naphtali and Zebulun tribes and lead them to Mount Tabor. 7The LORD will trick Sisera into coming out to fight you at the Kishon River. Sisera will be leading King Jabin's army as usual, and they will have their chariots, but the LORD has promised to help you defeat them.

8"I'm not going unless you go!" Barak told her.
9"All right, I'll go!" she replied. "But I'm warning you that the LORD is going to let a woman defeat Sisera, and no one will honor you for winning the battle."
Deborah and Barak left for Kedesh, 10where Barak called together the troops from Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand soldiers gathered there, and Barak led them out from Kedesh. Deborah went too.
11At this time, Heber of the Kenite clan was living near the village of Oak in Zaanannim, not far from Kedesh. The Kenites were descendants of Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, but Heber had moved and had set up his tents away from the rest of the clan.
12When Sisera learned that Barak had led an army to Mount Tabor, 13he called his troops together and got all nine hundred iron chariots ready. Then he led his army away from Harosheth-Ha-Goiim to the Kishon River.
14Deborah shouted, "Barak, it's time to attack Sisera! Because today the LORD is going to help you defeat him. In fact, the LORD has already gone on ahead to fight for you."
Barak led his ten thousand troops down from Mount Tabor. 15And during the battle, the LORD confused Sisera, his chariot drivers, and his whole army. Everyone was so afraid of Barak and his army, that even Sisera jumped down from his chariot and tried to escape. 16Barak's forces went after Sisera's chariots and army as far as Harosheth-Ha-Goiim.
Sisera's entire army was wiped out. 17Only Sisera escaped. He ran to Heber's camp, because Heber and his family had a peace treaty with the king of Hazor. Sisera went to the tent that belonged to Jael, Heber's wife. 18She came out to greet him and said, "Come in, sir! Please come on in. Don't be afraid."
After they had gone inside, Sisera lay down, and Jael covered him with a blanket. 19"Could I have a little water?" he asked. "I'm thirsty."
Jael opened a leather bottle and poured him some milk, then she covered him back up.
20"Stand at the entrance to the tent," Sisera told her. "If someone comes by and asks if anyone is inside, tell them 'No.' "
21Sisera was exhausted and soon fell fast asleep. Jael took a hammer and drove a tent-peg through his head into the ground, and he died.
22Meanwhile, Barak had been following Sisera, and Jael went out to meet him. "The man you're looking for is inside," she said. "Come in and I'll show him to you."
They went inside, and there was Sisera--dead and stretched out with a tent-peg through his skull.
23That same day the Israelites defeated the Canaanite King Jabin, and his army was no longer powerful enough to attack the Israelites. 24Jabin grew weaker while the Israelites kept growing stronger, and at last the Israelites destroyed him.

Deborah and Barak Sing for the LORD

Judges 5 After the battle was over that day, Deborah and Barak sang this song:
2We praise you, LORD! Our soldiers volunteered,
ready to follow you.
3Listen, kings and rulers, while I sing for the LORD,
the God of Israel.

*4Our LORD, God of Israel, when you came from Seir,
where the Edomites live,
5rain poured from the sky, the earth trembled,
and mountains shook.

6In the time of Shamgar son of Anath,
and now again in Jael's time,
roads were too dangerous for caravans.
Travelers had to take the back roads,
7and villagers couldn't work in their fields.
Then Deborah took command, protecting Israel
as a mother protects her children.

8The Israelites worshiped other gods,
and the gates of their towns were then attacked.
But they had no shields or spears to fight with.
9I praise you, LORD, and I am grateful
for those leaders and soldiers who volunteered.
10Listen, everyone!
Whether you ride a donkey with a padded saddle
or have to walk.
11Even those who carry water to the animals
will tell you, "The LORD has won victories,
and so has Israel."

Then the LORD's people marched down to the town gates
12and said, "Deborah, let's go! Let's sing as we march.
Barak, capture our enemies."

13The LORD's people who were left
joined with their leaders and fought at my side.
14Troops came from Ephraim, where Amalekites once lived.
Others came from Benjamin; officers and leaders
came from Machir and Zebulun.
15The rulers of Issachar came along with Deborah,
and Issachar followed Barak into the valley.

But the tribe of Reuben was no help at all!
16Reuben, why did you stay among your sheep pens?
Was it to listen to shepherds whistling for their sheep?
No one could figure out why Reuben wouldn't come.
17The people of Gilead stayed across the Jordan.
Why did the tribe of Dan remain on their ships
and the tribe of Asher stay along the coast
near the harbors?

18But soldiers of Zebulun and Naphtali risked their lives
to attack the enemy.
19Canaanite kings fought us at Taanach
by the stream near Megiddo --
but they couldn't rob us of our silver.
20From their pathways in the sky the stars fought Sisera,
21and his soldiers were swept away
by the ancient Kishon River.

I will march on and be brave.

22Sisera's horses galloped off,
their hoofs thundering in retreat.

23The LORD's angel said, "Put a curse on Meroz Town!
Its people refused to help the LORD fight
his powerful enemies."

24But honor Jael, the wife of Heber from the Kenite clan.
Give more honor to her than to any other woman
who lives in tents.
Yes, give more honor to her than to any other woman.
25Sisera asked for water, but Jael gave him milk--
cream in a fancy cup.
26She reached for a tent-peg and held a hammer
in her right hand.
And with a blow to the head, she crushed his skull.
27Sisera sank to his knees and fell dead at her feet.

28Sisera's mother looked out through her window.
"Why is he taking so long?" she asked.
"Why haven't we heard his chariots coming?"
29She and her wisest women gave the same answer:
30"Sisera and his troops are finding treasures
to bring back--
a woman, or maybe two, for each man,
and beautiful dresses for those women to wear."

31Our LORD, we pray that all your enemies
will die like Sisera.
But let everyone who loves you shine brightly
like the sun at dawn.

Elihu Continues

Are You Really Innocent?

Job 35 Elihu said:
2Job, are you really innocent in the sight of God?
3Don't you honestly believe it pays to obey him?
4I will give the answers to you and your friends.
*5Look up to the heavens 6and think!
Do your sins hurt God?
7Is any good you may have done at all helpful to him?
8The evil or good you do only affects other humans.

9In times of trouble, everyone begs the mighty God
to have mercy.
10But after their Creator helps them through hard times,
they forget about him, 11though he makes us wiser
than animals or birds.
12God won't listen to the prayers of proud and evil people.
13If God All-Powerful refuses
to answer their empty prayers,
14he will surely deny your impatient request
to face him in court.
15Job, you were wrong to say God doesn't punish sin.
16Everything you have said adds up to nonsense.

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

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