May 8 - Acts 18, Judges 9 and Job 38

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Paul in Corinth

Acts 18 Paul left Athens and went to Corinth, 2where he met Aquila, a Jewish man from Pontus. Not long before this, Aquila had come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Emperor Claudius had ordered the Jewish people to leave Rome. Paul went to see Aquila and Priscilla 3and found out that they were tent makers. Paul was a tent maker too. So he stayed with them, and they worked together.
4Every Sabbath, Paul went to the Jewish meeting place. He spoke to Jews and Gentiles and tried to win them over. 5But after Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, he spent all his time preaching to the Jews about Jesus the Messiah. 6Finally, they turned against him and insulted him. So he shook the dust from his clothes and told them, "Whatever happens to you will be your own fault! I am not to blame. From now on I am going to preach to the Gentiles."
7Paul then moved into the house of a man named Titius Justus, who worshiped God and lived next door to the meeting place. 8Crispus was the leader of the meeting place. He and everyone in his family put their faith in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also heard the message, and all the people who had faith in the Lord were baptized.
9One night, Paul had a vision, and in it the Lord said, ''Don't be afraid to keep on preaching. Don't stop! 10I am with you, and you won't be harmed. Many people in this city belong to me." 11Paul stayed on in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching God's message to the people.
12While Gallio was governor of Achaia, some of the Jewish leaders got together and grabbed Paul. They brought him into court 13and said, "This man is trying to make our people worship God in a way that is against our Law!"
14Even before Paul could speak, Gallio said, "If you were charging this man with a crime or some other wrong, I would have to listen to you. 15But since this concerns only words, names, and your own law, you will have to take care of it. I refuse to judge such matters." 16Then he sent them out of the court. 17The crowd grabbed Sosthenes, the Jewish leader, and beat him up in front of the court. But none of this mattered to Gallio.

Paul Returns to Antioch in Syria

18After Paul had stayed for a while with the Lord's followers in Corinth, he told them good-by and sailed on to Syria with Aquila and Priscilla. But before he left, he had his head shaved at Cenchreae because he had made a promise to God.
19The three of them arrived in Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He then went into the Jewish meeting place to talk with the people there. 20They asked him to stay longer, but he refused. 21He told them good-by and said, "If God lets me, I will come back."
22Paul sailed to Caesarea, where he greeted the church. Then he went on to Antioch. 23After staying there for a while, he left and visited several places in Galatia and Phrygia. He helped the followers there to become stronger in their faith.

Apollos in Ephesus

24A Jewish man named Apollos came to Ephesus. Apollos had been born in the city of Alexandria. He was a very good speaker and knew a lot about the Scriptures. 25He also knew much about the Lord's Way, and he spoke about it with great excitement. What he taught about Jesus was right, but all he knew was John's message about baptism.
26Apollos started speaking bravely in the Jewish meeting place. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him to their home and helped him understand God's Way even better.
27Apollos decided to travel through Achaia. So the Lord's followers wrote letters, encouraging the followers there to welcome him. After Apollos arrived in Achaia, he was a great help to everyone who had put their faith in the Lord Jesus because of God's kindness. 28He got into fierce arguments with the Jewish people, and in public he used the Scriptures to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.

Abimelech Tries To Be King

Judges 9 Abimelech the son of Gideon went to Shechem. While there, he met with his mother's relatives 2and told them to say to the leaders of Shechem, "Do you think it would be good to have all seventy of Gideon's sons ruling us? Wouldn't you rather have just one man be king? Abimelech would make a good king, and he's related to us."
3Abimelech's uncles talked it over with the leaders of Shechem who agreed, "Yes, it would be better for one of our relatives to be king." 4Then they gave Abimelech seventy pieces of silver from the temple of their god Baal Berith.
Abimelech used the silver to hire a gang of rough soldiers who would do anything for money. 5Abimelech and his soldiers went to his father's home in Ophrah and brought out Gideon's other sons to a large rock, where they murdered all seventy. Gideon's youngest son Jotham hid from the soldiers, but he was the only one who escaped.
6The leaders of Shechem, including the priests and the military officers, met at the tree next to the sacred rock in Shechem to crown Abimelech king. 7Jotham heard what they were doing. So he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted down to the people who were there at the meeting:
Leaders of Shechem, listen to me,
and maybe God will listen to you.

8Once the trees searched for someone to be king;
they asked the olive tree, "Will you be our king?"
9But the olive tree replied,
"My oil brings honor to people and gods.
I won't stop making oil,
just to have my branches wave above the other trees."

10Then they asked the fig tree, "Will you be our king?"
11But the fig tree replied,
"I won't stop growing my delicious fruit,
just to have my branches wave above the other trees."

12Next they asked the grape vine, "Will you be our king?"
13But the grape vine replied,
"My wine brings cheer to people and gods.
I won't stop making wine,
just to have my branches wave above the other trees."

14Finally, they went to the thornbush and asked,
"Will you be our king?"
15The thornbush replied,
"If you really want me to be your king,
then come into my shade and I will protect you.
But if you're deceiving me, I'll start a fire
that will spread out and destroy the cedars of Lebanon."
After Jotham had finished telling this story, he said:
16-18My father Gideon risked his life for you when he fought to rescue you from the Midianites. Did you reward Gideon by being kind to his family? No, you did not! You attacked his family and killed all seventy of his sons on that rock.
And was it right to make Abimelech your king? He's merely the son of my father's slave girl. But just because he's your relative, you made him king of Shechem.
19So, you leaders of Shechem, if you treated Gideon and his family the way you should have, then I hope you and Abimelech will make each other very happy. 20But if it was wrong to treat Gideon and his family the way you did, then I pray that Abimelech will destroy you with fire, and I pray that you will do the same to him.

21Jotham ran off and went to live in the town of Beer, where he could be safe from his brother Abimelech.

Abimelech Destroys Shechem

22Abimelech had been a military commander of Israel for three years, 23-24when God decided to punish him and the leaders of Shechem for killing Gideon's seventy sons.
So God turned the leaders of Shechem against Abimelech. 25Then they sent some men to hide on the hilltops and watch for Abimelech and his troops, while they sent others to rob everyone that went by on the road. But Abimelech found out what they were doing.
26One day, Gaal son of Ebed went to live in Shechem. His brothers moved there too, and soon the leaders of Shechem started trusting him.
27The time came for the grape harvest, and the people of Shechem went into their vineyards and picked the grapes. They put the grapes in their wine-pits and walked on them to squeeze out the juice in order to make wine. Then they went into the temple of their god and threw a big party. There was a lot of eating and drinking, and before long they were cursing Abimelech.
28Gaal said:
Hamor was the founder of Shechem, and one of his descendants should be our ruler. But Abimelech's father was Gideon, so Abimelech isn't really one of us. He shouldn't be our king, and we shouldn't have to obey him or Zebul, who rules Shechem for him. 29If I were the ruler of Shechem, I'd get rid of that Abimelech. I'd tell him, "Get yourself an even bigger army, and we will still defeat you."

30Zebul was angry when he found out what Gaal had said. 31And so he sent some messengers to Abimelech. But they had to pretend to be doing something else, or they would not have been allowed to leave Shechem. Zebul told the messengers to say:
Gaal the son of Ebed has come to Shechem along with his brothers, and they have persuaded the people to let Gaal rule Shechem instead of you. 32This is what I think you should do. Lead your army here during the night and hide in the fields. 33Get up the next morning at sunrise and rush out of your hiding places to attack the town. Gaal and his followers will come out to fight you, but you will easily defeat them.

34So one night, Abimelech led his soldiers to Shechem. He divided them into four groups, and they all hid near the town.
35The next morning, Gaal went out and stood in the opening of the town gate. Abimelech and his soldiers left their hiding places, 36and Gaal saw them. Zebul was standing there with Gaal, and Gaal remarked, "Zebul, that looks like a crowd of people coming down from the mountaintops."
"No," Zebul answered, "it's just the shadows of the mountains. It only looks like people moving."
37"But Zebul, look over there," Gaal said. "There's a crowd coming down from the sacred mountain, and another group is coming along the road from the tree where people talk with the spirits of the dead."
38Then Zebul replied, "What good is all of your bragging now? You were the one who said Abimelech shouldn't be the ruler of Shechem. Out there is the army that you made fun of. So go out and fight them!"
39Gaal and the leaders of Shechem went out and fought Abimelech. 40Soon the people of Shechem turned and ran back into the town. However, Abimelech and his troops were close behind and killed many of them along the way.
41Abimelech stayed at Arumah, and Zebul forced Gaal and his brothers out of Shechem.
42The next morning, the people of Shechem were getting ready to work in their fields as usual, but someone told Abimelech about it. 43Abimelech divided his army into three groups and set up an ambush in the fields near Shechem. When the people came out of the town, he and his army rushed out from their hiding places and attacked. 44Abimelech and the troops with him ran to the town gate and took control of it, while two other groups attacked and killed the people who were in the fields. 45He and his troops fought in Shechem all day, until they had killed everyone in town. Then he and his men tore down the houses and buildings and scattered salt everywhere.
46Earlier that day, the leaders of the temple of El Berith at Shechem had heard about the attack. So they went into the temple fortress, 47but Abimelech found out where they were. 48He led his troops to Mount Zalmon, where he took an ax and chopped off a tree branch. He lifted the branch onto his shoulder and shouted, "Hurry! Cut off a branch just as I did."
49When they all had branches, they followed Abimelech back to Shechem. They piled the branches against the fortress and set them on fire, burning down the fortress and killing about one thousand men and women.
50After destroying Shechem, Abimelech went to Thebez. He surrounded the town and captured it. 51But there was a tall fortress in the middle of the town, and the town leaders and everyone else went inside. Then they barred the gates and went up to the flat roof.
52Abimelech and his army rushed to the fortress and tried to force their way inside. Abimelech himself was about to set the heavy wooden doors on fire, 53when a woman on the roof dropped a large rock on his head and cracked his skull. 54The soldier who carried his weapons was nearby, and Abimelech told him, "Take out your sword and kill me. I don't want people to say that I was killed by a woman!"
So the soldier ran his sword through Abimelech. 55And when the Israelite soldiers saw that their leader was dead, they went back home.
56That's how God punished Abimelech for killing his brothers and bringing shame on his father's family. 57God also punished the people of Shechem for helping Abimelech. Everything happened just as Jotham's curse said it would.

The LORD Speaks

From Out of a Storm

Job 38 From out of a storm, the LORD said to Job:
2Why do you talk so much when you know so little?
3Now get ready to face me!
Can you answer the questions I ask?
4How did I lay the foundation for the earth?
Were you there?
5Doubtless you know who decided its length and width.
6What supports the foundation? Who placed the cornerstone,
7while morning stars sang, and angels rejoiced?

8When the ocean was born, I set its boundaries
9and wrapped it in blankets of thickest fog.
10Then I built a wall around it, locked the gates, 11and said,
"Your powerful waves stop here! They can go no farther."

Did You Ever Tell the Sun To Rise?

12Did you ever tell the sun to rise?
And did it obey?
13Did it take hold of the earth and shake out the wicked
like dust from a rug?
14Early dawn outlines the hills like stitches on clothing
or sketches on clay.
15But its light is too much for those who are evil,
and their power is broken.

16Job, have you ever walked on the ocean floor?
17Have you seen the gate to the world of the dead?
18And how large is the earth? Tell me, if you know!

19Where is the home of light, and where does darkness live?
20Can you lead them home?
21I'm certain you must be able to, since you were already born
when I created everything.

22Have you been to the places where I keep snow and hail,
23until I use them to punish and conquer nations?
24From where does lightning leap, or the east wind blow?
25Who carves out a path for thunderstorms?
Who sends torrents of rain 26on empty deserts
where no one lives?
27Rain that changes barren land
to meadows green with grass.
28Who is the father of the dew and of the rain?
29Who gives birth to the sleet and the frost
30that fall in winter,
when streams and lakes freeze solid as a rock?

Can You Arrange Stars?

31Can you arrange stars in groups
such as Orion and the Pleiades?
32Do you control the stars or set in place the Big Dipper
and the Little Dipper?
33Do you know the laws that govern the heavens,
and can you make them rule the earth?
34Can you order the clouds to send a downpour,
35or will lightning flash at your command?
36Did you teach birds to know that rain or floods
are on their way?
37Can you count the clouds or pour out their water
38on the dry, lumpy soil?

39When lions are hungry, do you help them hunt?
40Do you send an animal into their den?
41And when starving young ravens cry out to me for food,
do you satisfy their hunger?

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

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