May 13 - Acts 21.1-36, Judges 16 and Psalm 42

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Paul Goes to Jerusalem

Acts 21 After saying good-by, we sailed straight to Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and from there sailed on to Patara. 2We found a ship going to Phoenicia, so we got on board and sailed off.
3We came within sight of Cyprus and then sailed south of it on to the port of Tyre in Syria, where the ship was going to unload its cargo. 4We looked up the Lord's followers and stayed with them for a week. The Holy Spirit had told them to warn Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5But when the week was over, we started on our way again. All the men, together with their wives and children, walked with us from the town to the seashore. We knelt on the beach and prayed. 6Then after saying good-by to each other, we got into the ship, and they went back home.
7We sailed from Tyre to Ptolemais, where we greeted the followers and stayed with them for a day. 8The next day we went to Caesarea and stayed with Philip, the preacher. He was one of the seven men who helped the apostles, 9and he had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
10We had been in Caesarea for several days, when the prophet Agabus came to us from Judea. 11He took Paul's belt, and with it he tied up his own hands and feet. Then he told us, "The Holy Spirit says that some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will tie up the man who owns this belt. They will also hand him over to the Gentiles." 12After Agabus said this, we and the followers living there begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
13But Paul answered, "Why are you crying and breaking my heart? I am not only willing to be put in jail for the Lord Jesus. I am even willing to die for him in Jerusalem!"
14Since we could not get Paul to change his mind, we gave up and prayed, "Lord, please make us willing to do what you want."
15Then we got ready to go to Jerusalem. 16Some of the followers from Caesarea went with us and took us to stay in the home of Mnason. He was from Cyprus and had been a follower from the beginning.

Paul Visits James

17When we arrived in Jerusalem, the Lord's followers gladly welcomed us. 18Paul went with us to see James the next day, and all the church leaders were present. 19Paul greeted them and told how God had used him to help the Gentiles. 20Everyone who heard this praised God and said to Paul:
My friend, you can see how many tens of thousands of our people have become followers! And all of them are eager to obey the Law of Moses. 21But they have been told that you are teaching those who live among the Gentiles to disobey this Law. They claim that you are telling them not to circumcise their sons or to follow our customs.
22What should we do now that our people have heard that you are here? 23Please do what we ask, because four of our men have made special promises to God. 24Join with them and prepare yourself for the ceremony that goes with the promises. Pay the cost for their heads to be shaved. Then everyone will learn that the reports about you are not true. They will know that you do obey the Law of Moses.
25Some while ago we told the Gentile followers what we think they should do. We instructed them not to eat anything offered to idols. They were told not to eat any meat with blood still in it or the meat of an animal that has been strangled. They were also told not to commit any terrible sexual sins.

26The next day Paul took the four men with him and got himself ready at the same time they did. Then he went into the temple and told when the final ceremony would take place and when an offering would be made for each of them.

Paul Is Arrested

27When the period of seven days for the ceremony was almost over, some of the Jewish people from Asia saw Paul in the temple. They got a large crowd together and started attacking him. 28They were shouting, "Friends, help us! This man goes around everywhere, saying bad things about our nation and about the Law of Moses and about this temple. He has even brought shame to this holy temple by bringing in Gentiles." 29Some of them thought that Paul had brought Trophimus from Ephesus into the temple, because they had seen them together in the city.
30The whole city was in an uproar, and the people turned into a mob. They grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the temple. Then suddenly the doors were shut. 31The people were about to kill Paul when the Roman army commander heard that all Jerusalem was starting to riot. 32So he quickly took some soldiers and officers and ran to where the crowd had gathered.
As soon as the mob saw the commander and soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33The army commander went over and arrested him and had him bound with two chains. Then he tried to find out who Paul was and what he had done. 34Part of the crowd shouted one thing, and part of them shouted something else. But they were making so much noise that the commander could not find out a thing. Then he ordered Paul to be taken into the fortress. 35As they reached the steps, the crowd became so wild that the soldiers had to lift Paul up and carry him. 36The crowd followed and kept shouting, "Kill him! Kill him!"

Samson Carries Off the Gates of Gaza

Judges 16 One day while Samson was in Gaza, he saw a prostitute and went to her house to spend the night. 2The people who lived in Gaza found out he was there, and they decided to kill him at sunrise. So they went to the city gate and waited all night in the guardrooms on each side of the gate.
3But Samson got up in the middle of the night and went to the town gate. He pulled the gate doors and doorposts out of the wall and put them on his shoulders. Then he carried them all the way to the top of the hill that overlooks Hebron, where he set the doors down, still closed and locked.

Delilah Tricks Samson

4Some time later, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in Sorek Valley. 5The Philistine rulers went to Delilah and said, "Trick Samson into telling you what makes him so strong and what can make him weak. Then we can tie him up so he can't get away. If you find out his secret, we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."
6The next time Samson was at Delilah's house, she asked, "Samson, what makes you so strong? How can I tie you up so you can't get away? Come on, you can tell me."
7Samson answered, "If someone ties me up with seven new bowstrings that have never been dried, it will make me just as weak as anyone else."
8-9The Philistine rulers gave seven new bowstrings to Delilah. They also told some of their soldiers to go to Delilah's house and hide in the room where Samson and Delilah were. If the bowstrings made Samson weak, they would be able to capture him.
Delilah tied up Samson with the bowstrings and shouted, "Samson, the Philistines are attacking!"
Samson snapped the bowstrings, as though they were pieces of scorched string. The Philistines had not found out why Samson was so strong.
10"You lied and made me look like a fool," Delilah said. "Now tell me. How can I really tie you up?"
11Samson answered, "Use some new ropes. If I'm tied up with ropes that have never been used, I'll be just as weak as anyone else."
12Delilah got new ropes and again had some Philistines hide in the room. Then she tied up Samson's arms and shouted, "Samson, the Philistines are attacking!"
Samson snapped the ropes as if they were threads.
13"You're still lying and making a fool of me," Delilah said. "Tell me how I can tie you up!"
"My hair is in seven braids," Samson replied. "If you weave my braids into the threads on a loom and nail the loom to a wall, then I will be as weak as anyone else."
14While Samson was asleep, Delilah wove his braids into the threads on a loom and nailed the loom to a wall. Then she shouted, "Samson, the Philistines are attacking !"
Samson woke up and pulled the loom free from its posts in the ground and from the nails in the wall. Then he pulled his hair free from the woven cloth.
15"Samson," Delilah said, "you claim to love me, but you don't mean it! You've made me look like a fool three times now, and you still haven't told me why you are so strong." 16Delilah started nagging and pestering him day after day, until he couldn't stand it any longer.
17Finally, Samson told her the truth. "I have belonged to God ever since I was born, so my hair has never been cut. If it were ever cut off, my strength would leave me, and I would be as weak as anyone else."
18Delilah realized that he was telling the truth. So she sent someone to tell the Philistine rulers, "Come to my house one more time. Samson has finally told me the truth."
The Philistine rulers went to Delilah's house, and they brought along the silver they had promised her. 19Delilah had lulled Samson to sleep with his head resting in her lap. She signaled to one of the Philistine men as she began cutting off Samson's seven braids. And by the time she was finished, Samson's strength was gone. Delilah tied him up 20and shouted, "Samson, the Philistines are attacking!"
Samson woke up and thought, "I'll break loose and escape, just as I always do." He did not realize that the LORD had stopped helping him.
21The Philistines grabbed Samson and poked out his eyes. They took him to the prison in Gaza and chained him up. Then they put him to work, turning a millstone to grind grain. 22But they didn't cut his hair any more, so it started growing back.
23The Philistine rulers threw a big party and sacrificed a lot of animals to their god Dagon. The rulers said:
Samson was our enemy, but our god Dagon
helped us capture him!
24-25Everyone there was having a good time, and they shouted, "Bring out Samson--he's still good for a few more laughs!"
The rulers had Samson brought from the prison, and when the people saw him, this is how they praised their god:
Samson ruined our crops and killed our people.
He was our enemy, but our god
helped us capture him.
They made fun of Samson for a while, then they told him to stand near the columns that supported the roof. 26A young man was leading Samson by the hand, and Samson said to him, "I need to lean against something. Take me over to the columns that hold up the roof."
27The Philistine rulers were celebrating in a temple packed with people and with three thousand more on the flat roof. They had all been watching Samson and making fun of him.
28Samson prayed, "Please remember me, LORD God. The Philistines poked out my eyes, but make me strong one last time, so I can take revenge for at least one of my eyes!"
29Samson was standing between the two middle columns that held up the roof. He felt around and found one column with his right hand, and the other with his left hand. 30Then he shouted, "Let me die with the Philistines!" He pushed against the columns as hard as he could, and the temple collapsed with the Philistine rulers and everyone else still inside. Samson killed more Philistines when he died than he had killed during his entire life.
31His brothers and the rest of his family went to Gaza and took his body back home. They buried him in his father's tomb, which was located between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Samson was a leader of Israel for twenty years.


(Psalms 42--72)

Psalm 42
[A special psalm for the people of Korah and for the music leader.]
Longing for God

1As a deer gets thirsty for streams of water,
I truly am thirsty for you, my God.
2In my heart, I am thirsty for you, the living God.
When will I see your face?
3Day and night my tears are my only food,
as everyone keeps asking, "Where is your God?"

4Sorrow floods my heart, when I remember
leading the worshipers to your house.
I can still hear them shout their joyful praises.
5Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless?
I trust you! And I will praise you again
because you help me, 6and you are my God.

I am deeply discouraged as I think about you
from where the Jordan begins at Mount Hermon
and from Mount Mizar.
7Your vicious waves have swept over me
like an angry ocean or a roaring waterfall.

8Every day, you are kind,
and at night you give me a song
as my prayer to you, the living LORD God.
9You are my mighty rock. Why have you forgotten me?
Why must enemies mistreat me and make me sad?
10Even my bones are in pain,
while all day long my enemies sneer and ask,
"Where is your God?"

11Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless?
I trust you! And I will praise you again
because you help me, and you are my God.

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

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