May 17 - Acts 24.10-27, Judges 21 and Psalm 46

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Paul Defends Himself

Acts 24 10The governor motioned for Paul to speak, and he began:
I know that you have judged the people of our nation for many years, and I am glad to defend myself in your court.
11It was no more than twelve days ago that I went to worship in Jerusalem. You can find this out easily enough. 12Never once did the Jews find me arguing with anyone in the temple. I didn't cause trouble in their meeting places or in the city itself. 13There is no way that they can prove these charges that they are now bringing against me.
14I admit that their leaders think that the Lord's Way which I follow is based on wrong beliefs. But I still worship the same God that my ancestors worshiped. And I believe everything written in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets. 15I am just as sure as these people are that God will raise from death everyone who is good or evil. 16And because I am sure, I try my best to have a clear conscience in whatever I do for God or for people.
17After being away for several years, I returned here to bring gifts for the poor people of my nation and to offer sacrifices. 18This is what I was doing when I was found going through a ceremony in the temple. I wasn't with a crowd, and there was no uproar.
19Some Jews from Asia were there at that time, and if they have anything to say against me, they should be here now. 20Or ask the ones who are here. They can tell you that they didn't find me guilty of anything when I was tried by their own council. 21The only charge they can bring against me is what I shouted out in court, when I said, "I am on trial today because I believe that the dead will be raised to life!"

22Felix knew a lot about the Lord's Way. But he brought the trial to an end and said, "I will make my decision after Lysias the commander arrives." 23He then ordered the army officer to keep Paul under guard, but not to lock him up or to stop his friends from helping him.

Paul Is Kept under Guard

24Several days later Felix and his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, went to the place where Paul was kept under guard. They sent for Paul and listened while he spoke to them about having faith in Christ Jesus. 25But Felix was frightened when Paul started talking to them about doing right, about self-control, and about the coming judgment. So he said to Paul, "That's enough for now. You may go. But when I have time I will send for you." 26After this, Felix often sent for Paul and talked with him, because he hoped that Paul would offer him a bribe.
27Two years later Porcius Festus became governor in place of Felix. But since Felix wanted to do the Jewish leaders a favor, he kept Paul in jail.

Wives for the Men of Benjamin

Judges 21 When the Israelites had met at Mizpah before the war with Benjamin, they had made this sacred promise: "None of us will ever let our daughters marry any man from Benjamin."
2After the war with Benjamin, the Israelites went to the place of worship at Bethel and sat there until sunset. They cried loudly and bitterly 3and prayed, "Our LORD, you are the God of Israel. Why did you let this happen? Now one of our tribes is almost gone."
4Early the next morning, the Israelites built an altar and offered sacrifices to please the LORD and to ask his blessing. 5Then they asked each other, "Did any of the tribes of Israel fail to come to the place of worship? We made a sacred promise that anyone who didn't come to the meeting at Mizpah would be put to death."
6The Israelites were sad about what had happened to the Benjamin tribe, and they said, "One of our tribes was almost wiped out. 7Only a few men of Benjamin weren't killed in the war. We need to get wives for them, so the tribe won't completely disappear. But how can we do that, after promising in the LORD's name that we wouldn't let them marry any of our daughters?"
8-9Again the Israelites asked, "Did any of the tribes stay away from the meeting at Mizpah?"
After asking around, they discovered that no one had come from Jabesh in Gilead. 10-11So they sent twelve thousand warriors with these orders: "Attack Jabesh in Gilead and kill everyone, except the women who have never been married."
12The warriors attacked Jabesh in Gilead, and returned to their camp in Canaan with four hundred young women.
13The Israelites met and sent messengers to the men of Benjamin at Rimmon Rock, telling them that the Israelites were willing to make peace with them. 14So the men of Benjamin came back from Rimmon Rock, and the Israelites let them marry the young women from Jabesh. But there weren't enough women.
15The Israelites were very sad, because the LORD had almost wiped out one of their tribes. 16Then their national leaders said:
All the women of the Benjamin tribe were killed. How can we get wives for the men of Benjamin who are left? 17If they don't have children, one of the Israelite tribes will die out. 18But we can't let the men of Benjamin marry any of our daughters. We made a sacred promise not to do that, and if we break our promise, we will be under our own curse.

19Then someone suggested, "What about the LORD's Festival that takes place each year in Shiloh? It's held north of Bethel, south of Lebonah, and just east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem."
20The leaders told the men of Benjamin who still did not have wives:
Go to Shiloh and hide in the vineyards near the festival. 21Wait there for the young women of Shiloh to come out and perform their dances. Then rush out and grab one of the young women, then take her home as your wife.22If the fathers or brothers of these women complain about this, we'll say, "Be kind enough to let those men keep your daughter. After all, we couldn't get enough wives for all the men of Benjamin in the battle at Jabesh. And because you didn't give them permission to marry your daughters, you won't be under the curse we earlier agreed on.

23The men of Benjamin went to Shiloh and hid in the vineyards. The young women soon started dancing, and each man grabbed one of them and carried her off. Then the men of Benjamin went back to their own land and rebuilt their towns and started living in them again.
24Afterwards, the rest of the Israelites returned to their homes and families.

Israel Was Not Ruled by a King

25In those days Israel wasn't ruled by a king, and everyone did what they thought was right.

Psalm 46
[A special song for the people of Korah and for the music leader.]
God Is Our Mighty Fortress

1God is our mighty fortress,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2And so, we won't be afraid!
Let the earth tremble
and the mountains tumble into the deepest sea.
3Let the ocean roar and foam,
and its raging waves shake the mountains.

4A river and its streams bring joy to the city,
which is the sacred home of God Most High.
5God is in that city, and it won't be shaken.
He will help it at dawn.

6Nations rage! Kingdoms fall!
But at the voice of God the earth itself melts.
7The LORD All-Powerful is with us.
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

8Come! See the fearsome things
the LORD has done on earth.
9God brings wars to an end all over the world.
He breaks the arrows, shatters the spears,
and burns the shields.
10Our God says, "Calm down, and learn that I am God!
All nations on earth will honor me."

11The LORD All-Powerful is with us.
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

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

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