May 16 - Acts 23.23-24.9, Judges 20 and Psalm 45
Paul Is Sent to Felix the GovernorActs 23 23The commander called in two of his officers and told them, "By nine o'clock tonight have two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea. Take along seventy men on horseback and two hundred foot soldiers with spears. 24Get a horse ready for Paul and make sure that he gets safely through to Felix the governor."
25The commander wrote a letter that said:
26Greetings from Claudius Lysias to the Honorable Governor Felix:
27Some Jews grabbed this man and were about to kill him. But when I found out that he was a Roman citizen, I took some soldiers and rescued him.
28I wanted to find out what they had against him. So I brought him before their council 29and learned that the charges concern only their religious laws. This man isn't guilty of anything for which he should die or even be put in jail.
30As soon as I learned that there was a plot against him, I sent him to you and told their leaders to bring charges against him in your court.
31The soldiers obeyed the commander's orders, and that same night they took Paul to the city of Antipatris. 32The next day the foot soldiers returned to the fortress and let the soldiers on horseback take him the rest of the way. 33When they came to Caesarea, they gave the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him.
34The governor read the letter. Then he asked Paul and found out that he was from Cilicia. 35The governor said, "I will listen to your case as soon as the people come to bring their charges against you." After saying this, he gave orders for Paul to be kept as a prisoner in Herod's palace.
Paul Is Accused in the Court of FelixActs 24 Five days later Ananias the high priest, together with some of their leaders and a lawyer named Tertullus, went to the governor to present their case against Paul. 2So Paul was called in, and Tertullus stated the case against him:
Honorable Felix, you have brought our people a long period of peace, and because of your concern our nation is much better off. 3All of us are always grateful for what you have done. 4I don't want to bother you, but please be patient with us and listen to me for just a few minutes.
5This man has been found to be a real pest and troublemaker for our people all over the world. He is also a leader of a group called Nazarenes. 6-8When he tried to disgrace the temple, we arrested him. If you question him, you will find out for yourself that our charges are true.
9The Jewish crowd spoke up and agreed with what Tertullus had said.
Israel Gets Ready for WarJudges 20 1-3The Israelites called a meeting of the nation. And since they were God's people, the meeting was held at the place of worship in Mizpah. Men who could serve as soldiers came from everywhere in Israel--from Dan in the north, Beersheba in the south, and Gilead east of the Jordan River. Four hundred thousand of them came to Mizpah, and they each felt the same about what those men from the tribe of Benjamin had done.
News about the meeting at Mizpah reached the tribe of Benjamin.
As soon as the leaders of the tribes of Israel took their places, the Israelites said, "How could such a horrible thing happen?"
4The husband of the murdered woman answered:
My wife and I went into the town of Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5Later that night, the men of Gibeah surrounded the house. They wanted to kill me, but instead they raped and killed my wife. 6It was a terrible thing for Israelites to do! So I cut up her body and sent pieces everywhere in Israel.
7You are the people of Israel, and you must decide today what to do about the men of Gibeah.
8The whole army was in agreement, and they said, "None of us will go home. 9-10We'll send one tenth of the men from each tribe to get food for the army. And we'll ask God who should attack Gibeah, because those men deserve to be punished for committing such a horrible crime in Israel."
11Everyone agreed that Gibeah had to be punished.
12The tribes of Israel sent messengers to every town and village in Benjamin. And wherever the messengers went, they said, "How could those worthless men in Gibeah do such a disgusting thing? 13We can't allow such a terrible crime to go unpunished in Israel! Hand the men over to us, and we will put them to death."
But the people of Benjamin refused to listen to the other Israelites. 14Men from towns all over Benjamin's territory went to Gibeah and got ready to fight Israel. 15The Benjamin tribe had twenty-six thousand soldiers, not counting the seven hundred who were Gibeah's best warriors. 16In this army there were seven hundred left-handed experts who could sling a rock at a target the size of a hair and hit it every time.
17The other Israelite tribes organized their army and found they had four hundred thousand experienced soldiers. 18So they went to the place of worship at Bethel and asked God, "Which tribe should be the first to attack the people of Benjamin?"
"Judah," the LORD answered.
19The next morning the Israelite army moved its camp to a place near Gibeah. 20Then they left their camp and got into position to attack the army of Benjamin.
The War Between Israel and Benjamin21Benjamin's soldiers came out of Gibeah and attacked, and when the day was over, twenty-two thousand Israelite soldiers lay dead on the ground.
22-24The people of Israel went to the place of worship and cried until sunset. Then they asked the LORD, "Should we attack the people of Benjamin again, even though they are our relatives?"
"Yes," the LORD replied, "attack them again!"
The Israelite soldiers encouraged each other to be brave and to fight hard. Then the next day they went back to Gibeah and took up the same positions as they had before.
25That same day, Benjamin's soldiers came out of Gibeah and attacked, leaving another eighteen thousand Israelite soldiers dead on the battlefield.
26-28The people of Israel went to the place of worship at Bethel, where the sacred chest was being kept. They sat on the ground, crying and not eating for the rest of the day. Then about sunset, they offered sacrifices to please the LORD and to ask his blessing. Phinehas the priest then prayed, "Our LORD, the people of Benjamin are our relatives. Should we stop fighting or attack them again?"
"Attack!" the LORD answered. "Tomorrow I will let you defeat them."
29The Israelites surrounded Gibeah, but stayed where they could not be seen. 30Then the next day, they took the same positions as twice before, 31-41but this time they had a different plan. They said, "When the men of Benjamin attack, we will run off and let them chase us away from the town and into the country roads."
The soldiers of Benjamin attacked the Israelite army and started pushing it back from the town. They killed about thirty Israelites in the fields and along the road between Gibeah and Bethel. The men of Benjamin were thinking, "We're mowing them down like we did before."
The Israelites were running away, but they headed for Baal-Tamar, where they regrouped. They had set an ambush, and they were sure it would work. Ten thousand of Israel's best soldiers had been hiding west of Gibeah, and as soon as the men of Benjamin chased the Israelites into the countryside, these ten thousand soldiers made a surprise attack on the town gates. They dashed in and captured Gibeah, killing everyone there. Then they set the town on fire, because the smoke would be the signal for the other Israelite soldiers to turn and attack the soldiers of Benjamin.
The fighting had been so heavy around the soldiers of Benjamin, that they did not know the trouble they were in. But then they looked back and saw clouds of smoke rising from the town. They looked in front and saw the soldiers of Israel turning to attack. This terrified them, because they realized that something horrible was happening. And it was horrible--over twenty-five thousand soldiers of Benjamin died that day, and those who were left alive knew that the LORD had given Israel the victory.
42The men of Benjamin headed down the road toward the desert, trying to escape from the Israelites. But the Israelites stayed right behind them, keeping up their attack. Men even came out of the nearby towns to help kill the men of Benjamin, 43who were having to fight on all sides. The Israelite soldiers never let up their attack. They chased and killed the warriors of Benjamin as far as a place directly east of Gibeah, 44until eighteen thousand of these warriors lay dead.
45Some other warriors of Benjamin turned and ran down the road toward Rimmon Rock in the desert. The Israelites killed five thousand of them on the road, then chased the rest until they had killed two thousand more. 46Twenty-five thousand soldiers of Benjamin died that day, all of them experienced warriors. 47Only six hundred of them finally made it into the desert to Rimmon Rock, where they stayed for four months.
48The Israelites turned back and went to every town in Benjamin's territory, killing all the people and animals, and setting the towns on fire.
1My thoughts are filled with beautiful words
for the king,
and I will use my voice
as a writer would use pen and ink.
2No one is as handsome as you!
Your words are always kind.
That is why God will always bless you.
3Mighty king, glorious ruler, strap on your sword
4and ride out in splendor!
Win victories for truth and mercy and justice.
Do fearsome things with your powerful arm.
5Send your sharp arrows through enemy hearts
and make all nations fall at your feet.
6You are God, and you will rule forever as king.
Your royal power brings about justice.
7You love justice and hate evil.
And so, your God chose you
and made you happier than any of your friends.
8The sweet aroma of the spices myrrh, aloes, and cassia,
covers your royal robes.
You enjoy the music of harps
in palaces decorated with ivory.
9Daughters of kings are here,
and your bride stands at your right side,
wearing a wedding gown trimmed with pure gold.
10Bride of the king, listen carefully to me.
Forget your own people and your father's family.
11The king is your husband, so do what he desires.
12All of the richest people from the city of Tyre
will try to influence you 13with precious treasures.
Your bride, my king, has inward beauty,
and her wedding gown is woven with threads of gold.
14Wearing the finest garments, she is brought to you,
followed by her young friends, the bridesmaids.
15Everyone is excited,
as they follow you to the royal palace.
16Your sons and your grandsons will also be kings
as your ancestors were.
You will make them the rulers everywhere on earth.
17I will make your name famous from now on,
and you will be praised forever and ever.
This reading is from The
Holy Bible, Contemporary English Version, copyright © American
Bible Society, 1995.
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