May 14 - Acts 21.37-22.29, Judges 17-18 and Psalm 43

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Paul Speaks to the Crowd

Acts 21 37When Paul was about to be taken into the fortress, he asked the commander, "Can I say something to you?"
"How do you know Greek?" the commander asked. 38"Aren't you that Egyptian who started a riot not long ago and led four thousand terrorists into the desert?"
39"No!" Paul replied. "I am a Jew from Tarsus, an important city in Cilicia. Please let me speak to the crowd."
40The commander told him he could speak, so Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people. When they were quiet, he spoke to them in Aramaic:
Acts 22 "My friends and leaders of our nation, listen as I explain what happened!" 2When the crowd heard Paul speak to them in Aramaic, they became even quieter. Then Paul said:
3I am a Jew, born and raised in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia. I was a student of Gamaliel and was taught to follow every single law of our ancestors. In fact, I was just as eager to obey God as any of you are today.
4I made trouble for everyone who followed the Lord's Way, and I even had some of them killed. I had others arrested and put in jail. I didn't care if they were men or women. 5The high priest and all the council members can tell you that this is true. They even gave me letters to the Jewish leaders in Damascus, so that I could arrest people there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished.
6One day about noon I was getting close to Damascus, when a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice asking, "Saul, Saul, why are you so cruel to me?"
8"Who are you?" I answered.
The Lord replied, "I am Jesus from Nazareth! I am the one you are so cruel to." 9The men who were traveling with me saw the light, but did not hear the voice.
10I asked, "Lord, what do you want me to do?"
Then he told me, "Get up and go to Damascus. When you get there, you will be told what to do." 11The light had been so bright that I couldn't see. And the other men had to lead me by the hand to Damascus.
12In that city there was a man named Ananias, who faithfully obeyed the Law of Moses and was well liked by all the Jewish people living there. 13He came to me and said, "Saul, my friend, you can now see again!"
At once I could see. 14Then Ananias told me, "The God that our ancestors worshiped has chosen you to know what he wants done. He has chosen you to see the One Who Obeys God and to hear his voice. 15You must tell everyone what you have seen and heard. 16What are you waiting for? Get up! Be baptized, and wash away your sins by praying to the Lord."
17After this I returned to Jerusalem and went to the temple to pray. There I had a vision 18of the Lord who said to me, "Hurry and leave Jerusalem! The people won't listen to what you say about me."
19I replied, "Lord, they know that in many of our meeting places I arrested and beat people who had faith in you. 20Stephen was killed because he spoke for you, and I stood there and cheered them on. I even guarded the clothes of the men who murdered him."
21But the Lord told me to go, and he promised to send me far away to the Gentiles.

22The crowd listened until Paul said this. Then they started shouting, "Get rid of this man! He doesn't deserve to live." 23They kept shouting. They waved their clothes around and threw dust into the air.

Paul and the Roman Army Commander

24The Roman commander ordered Paul to be taken into the fortress and beaten with a whip. He did this to find out why the people were screaming at Paul.
25While the soldiers were tying Paul up to be beaten, he asked the officer standing there, "Is it legal to beat a Roman citizen before he has been tried in court?"
26When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and said, "What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!"
27The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?"
"Yes," Paul answered.
28The commander then said, "I paid a lot of money to become a Roman citizen."
But Paul replied, "I was born a Roman citizen."
29The men who were about to beat and question Paul quickly backed off. And the commander himself was frightened when he realized that he had put a Roman citizen in chains.

Micah Makes Idols and Hires a Priest

Judges 17 Micah belonged to the Ephraim tribe and lived in the hill country. 2One day he told his mother, "Do you remember those eleven hundred pieces of silver that were stolen from you? I was there when you put a curse on whoever stole them. Well, I'm the one who did it."
His mother answered, "I pray that the LORD will bless you, my son."
3-4Micah returned the silver to his mother, and she said, "I give this silver to the LORD, so my son can use it to make an idol." Turning to her son, she said, "Micah, now the silver belongs to you."
But Micah handed it back to his mother. She took two hundred pieces of the silver and gave them to a silver worker, who made them into an idol. They kept the idol in Micah's house. 5He had a shrine for worshiping God there at his home, and he had made some idols and a sacred priestly vest. Micah chose one of his own sons to be the priest for his shrine.
6This was before kings ruled Israel, so all the Israelites did whatever they thought was right.
7-8One day a young Levite came to Micah's house in the hill country of Ephraim. He had been staying with one of the clans of Judah in Bethlehem, but he had left Bethlehem to find a new place to live where he could be a priest.
9"Where are you from?" Micah asked.
"I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah," the man answered, "and I'm on my way to find a new place to live."
10Micah said, "Why don't you stay here with me? You can be my priest and tell me what God wants me to do. Every year I'll give you ten pieces of silver and one complete set of clothes, and I'll provide all your food."
The young man went for a walk, 11-12then he agreed to stay with Micah and be his priest. He lived in Micah's house, and Micah treated him like one of his own sons. 13Micah said, "I have a Levite as my own priest. Now I know that the LORD will be kind to me."
Judges 18 These things happened before kings ruled Israel.

The Tribe of Dan Takes Micah's Priest and Idols

About this time, the tribe of Dan was looking for a place to live. The other tribes had land, but the people of Dan did not really have any to call their own. 2The tribe chose five warriors to represent their clans and told them, "Go and find some land where we can live."
The warriors left the area of Zorah and Eshtaol and went into the hill country of Ephraim. One night they stayed at Micah's house, 3because they heard the young Levite talking, and they knew from his accent that he was from the south. They asked him, "What are you doing here? Who brought you here?"
4The Levite replied, "Micah hired me as his priest." Then he told them how well Micah had treated him.
5"Please talk to God for us," the men said. "Ask God if we will be successful in what we are trying to do."
6"Don't worry," answered the priest. "The LORD is pleased with what you are doing."
7The five men left and went to the town of Laish, whose people were from Sidon, but Sidon was too far away to protect them. Even though their town had no walls, the people thought they were safe from attack. So they had not asked anyone else for protection, which meant that the tribe of Dan could easily take over Laish.
8The five men went back to Zorah and Eshtaol, where their relatives asked, "Did you find any land?"
9-10"Let's go!" the five men said. "We saw some very good land with enough room for all of us, and it has everything we will ever need. What are you waiting for? Let's attack and take it. You'll find that the people think they're safe, but God is giving the land to us."
11Six hundred men from the tribe of Dan strapped on their weapons and left Zorah and Eshtaol with their families. 12One night they camped near Kiriath-Jearim in the territory of Judah, and that's why the place just west of Kiriath-Jearim is still known as Dan's Camp. 13Then they went into the hill country of Ephraim.
When they came close to Micah's house, 14the five men who had been spies asked the other warriors, "Did you know that someone in this village has several idols and a sacred priestly vest? What do you think we should do about it?"
15-18The six hundred warriors left the road and went to the house on Micah's property where the young Levite priest lived. They stood at the gate and greeted the priest. Meanwhile, the five men who had been there before went into Micah's house and took the sacred priestly vest and the idols.
"Hey!" the priest shouted. "What do you think you're doing?"
19"Quiet!" the men said. "Keep your mouth shut and listen. Why don't you come with us and be our priest, so you can tell us what God wants us to do? You could stay here and be a priest for one man's family, but wouldn't you rather be the priest for a clan or even a whole tribe of Israel?"
20The priest really liked that idea. So he took the vest and the idols and joined the others 21from the tribe of Dan. Then they turned and left, after putting their children, their cattle, and the rest of their other possessions in front.
22They had traveled for some time, before Micah asked his neighbors to help him get his things back. He and his men caught up with the people of Dan 23and shouted for them to stop.
They turned to face him and asked, "What's wrong? Why did you bring all these men?"
24Micah answered, "You know what's wrong. You stole the gods I made, and you took my priest. I don't have anything left."
25"We don't want to hear any more about it," the people of Dan said. "And if you make us angry, you'll only get yourself and your family killed." 26After saying this, they turned and left.
Micah realized there was no way he could win a fight with them, and so he went back home.

The Tribe of Dan Captures Laish

27-28The tribe of Dan took Micah's priest and the things Micah had made, and headed for Laish, which was located in a valley controlled by the town of Beth-Rehob. Laish was defenseless, because it had no walls and was too far from Sidon for the Sidonians to help defend it. The leaders of Laish had not even asked nearby towns to help them in case of an attack.
The warriors from Dan made a surprise attack on Laish, killing everyone and burning it down. Then they rebuilt the town and settled there themselves. 29But they named it Dan, after one of Israel's sons, who was the ancestor of their tribe.
30-31Even though the place of worship was in Shiloh, the people of Dan set up the idol Micah had made. They worshiped the idol, and the Levite was their priest. His name was Jonathan, and he was a descendant of Gershom the son of Moses. His descendants served as priests for the tribe of Dan, until the people of Israel were taken away as prisoners by their enemies.

Psalm 43
A Prayer in Times of Trouble

1Show that I am right, God!
Defend me against everyone who doesn't know you;
rescue me from each of those deceitful liars.
2I run to you for protection.
Why have you turned me away?
Why must enemies mistreat me and make me sad?

3Send your light and your truth to guide me.
Let them lead me to your house
on your sacred mountain.
4Then I will worship at your altar
because you make me joyful.
You are my God, and I will praise you.
Yes, I will praise you as I play my harp.

5Why 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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