May 18 - Acts 25, Ruth 1-2 and Psalm 47

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Paul Asks To Be Tried by the Roman Emperor

Acts 25 Three days after Festus had become governor, he went from Caesarea to Jerusalem. 2There the chief priests and some Jewish leaders told him about their charges against Paul. They also asked Festus 3if he would be willing to bring Paul to Jerusalem. They begged him to do this because they were planning to attack and kill Paul on the way. 4But Festus told them, "Paul will be kept in Caesarea, and I am soon going there myself. 5If he has done anything wrong, let your leaders go with me and bring charges against him there."
6Festus stayed in Jerusalem for eight or ten more days before going to Caesarea. Then the next day he took his place as judge and had Paul brought into court. 7As soon as Paul came in, the leaders from Jerusalem crowded around him and said he was guilty of many serious crimes. But they could not prove anything. 8Then Paul spoke in his own defense, "I have not broken the Law of my people. And I have not done anything against either the temple or the Emperor."
9Festus wanted to please the leaders. So he asked Paul, "Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried by me on these charges?"
10Paul replied, "I am on trial in the Emperor's court, and that's where I should be tried. You know very well that I have not done anything to harm the Jewish nation. 11If I had done something deserving death, I would not ask to escape the death penalty. But I am not guilty of any of these crimes, and no one has the right to hand me over to these people. I now ask to be tried by the Emperor himself."
12After Festus had talked this over with members of his council, he told Paul, "You have asked to be tried by the Emperor, and to the Emperor you will go!"

Paul Speaks to Agrippa and Bernice

13A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to visit Festus. 14They had been there for several days, when Festus told the king about the charges against Paul. He said:
Felix left a man here in jail, 15and when I went to Jerusalem, the chief priests and the Jewish leaders came and asked me to find him guilty. 16I told them that it isn't the Roman custom to hand a man over to people who are bringing charges against him. He must first have the chance to meet them face to face and to defend himself against their charges.
17So when they came here with me, I wasted no time. On the very next day I took my place on the judge's bench and ordered him to be brought in. 18But when the men stood up to make their charges against him, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I thought they would. 19Instead, they argued with him about some of their beliefs and about a dead man named Jesus, who Paul said was alive.
20Since I did not know how to find out the truth about all this, I asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and be put on trial there. 21But Paul asked to be kept in jail until the Emperor could decide his case. So I ordered him to be kept here until I could send him to the Emperor.

22Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I would also like to hear what this man has to say."
Festus answered, "You can hear him tomorrow."
23The next day Agrippa and Bernice made a big show as they came into the meeting room. High ranking army officers and leading citizens of the town were also there. Festus then ordered Paul to be brought in 24and said:
King Agrippa and other guests, look at this man! Every Jew from Jerusalem and Caesarea has come to me, demanding for him to be put to death. 25I have not found him guilty of any crime deserving death. But because he has asked to be judged by the Emperor, I have decided to send him to Rome.
26I have to write some facts about this man to the Emperor. So I have brought him before all of you, but especially before you, King Agrippa. After we have talked about his case, I will then have something to write. 27It makes no sense to send a prisoner to the Emperor without stating the charges against him.

Ruth Is Loyal to Naomi

Ruth 1 1-2Before Israel was ruled by kings, Elimelech from the tribe of Ephrath lived in the town of Bethlehem. His wife was named Naomi, and their two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. But when their crops failed, they moved to the country of Moab. And while they were there, 3Elimelech died, leaving Naomi with only her two sons.
4Later, Naomi's sons married Moabite women. One was named Orpah and the other Ruth. About ten years later, 5Mahlon and Chilion also died. Now Naomi had no husband or sons.
6-7When Naomi heard that the LORD had given his people a good harvest, she and her two daughters-in-law got ready to leave Moab and go to Judah. As they were on their way there, 8Naomi said to them, "Don't you want to go back home to your own mothers? You were kind to my husband and sons, and you have always been kind to me. I pray that the LORD will be just as kind to you. 9May he give each of you another husband and a home of your own."
Naomi kissed them. They cried 10and said, "We want to go with you and live among your people."
11But she replied, "My daughters, why don't you return home? What good will it do you to go with me? Do you think I could have more sons for you to marry? 12You must go back home, because I am too old to marry again. Even if I got married tonight and later had more sons, 13would you wait for them to become old enough to marry? No, my daughters! Life is harder for me than it is for you, because the LORD has turned against me."
14They cried again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth held on to her. 15Naomi then said to Ruth, "Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and to her gods! Why don't you go with her?"
16Ruth answered,
"Please don't tell me to leave you and return home!
I will go where you go, I will live where you live;
your people will be my people,
your God will be my God.
17I will die where you die and be buried beside you.
May the LORD punish me if we are ever separated,
even by death!"
18When Naomi saw that Ruth had made up her mind to go with her, she stopped urging her to go back.
19They reached Bethlehem, and the whole town was excited to see them. The women who lived there asked, "Can this really be Naomi?"
20Then she told them, "Don't call me Naomi any longer! Call me Mara, because God has made my life bitter. 21I had everything when I left, but the LORD has brought me back with nothing. How can you still call me Naomi, when God has turned against me and made my life so hard?"
22The barley harvest was just beginning when Naomi and Ruth, her Moabite daughter-in-law, arrived in Bethlehem.

Ruth Meets Boaz

Ruth 2 1-3One day, Ruth said to Naomi, "Let me see if I can find someone who will let me pick up the grain left in the fields by the harvest workers."
Naomi answered, "Go ahead, my daughter." So right away, Ruth went out to pick up grain in a field owned by Boaz. He was a relative of Naomi's husband Elimelech, as well as a rich and important man.
4When Boaz left Bethlehem and went out to his field, he said to the harvest workers, "The LORD bless you!"
They replied, "And may the LORD bless you!"
5Then Boaz asked the man in charge of the harvest workers, "Who is that young woman?"
6The man answered, "She is the one who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7She asked if she could pick up grain left by the harvest workers, and she has been working all morning without a moment's rest."
8Boaz went over to Ruth and said, "I think it would be best for you not to pick up grain in anyone else's field. Stay here with the women 9and follow along behind them, as they gather up what the men have cut. I have warned the men not to bother you, and whenever you are thirsty, you can drink from the water jars they have filled."
10Ruth bowed down to the ground and said, "You know I come from another country. Why are you so good to me?"
11Boaz answered, "I've heard how you've helped your mother-in-law ever since your husband died. You even left your own father and mother to come and live in a foreign land among people you don't know. 12I pray that the LORD God of Israel will reward you for what you have done. And now that you have come to him for protection, I pray that he will bless you."
13Ruth replied, "Sir, it's good of you to speak kindly to me and make me feel so welcome. I'm not even one of your servants."
14At mealtime Boaz said to Ruth, "Come, eat with us. Have some bread and dip it in the sauce." Right away she sat down with the workers, and Boaz handed her some roasted grain. Ruth ate all she wanted and had some left over.
15When Ruth got up to start picking up grain, Boaz told his men, "Don't stop her, even if she picks up grain from where it is stacked. 16Be sure to pull out some stalks of grain from the bundles and leave them on the ground for her. And don't speak harshly to her!"
17Ruth worked in the field until evening. Then after she had pounded the grain off the stalks, she had a large basket full of grain. 18She took the grain to town and showed Naomi how much she had picked up. Ruth also gave her the food left over from her lunch.
19Naomi said, "Where did you work today? Whose field was it? God bless the man who treated you so well!" Then Ruth told her that she had worked in the field of a man named Boaz.
20"The LORD bless Boaz!" Naomi replied. "He has shown that he is still loyal to the living and to the dead. Boaz is a close relative, one of those who is supposed to look after us."
21Ruth told her, "Boaz even said I could stay in the field with his workers until they had finished gathering all his grain."
22Naomi replied, "My daughter, it's good that you can pick up grain alongside the women who work in his field. Who knows what might happen to you in someone else's field!" 23And so, Ruth stayed close to the women, while picking up grain in his field.
Ruth worked in the fields until the barley and wheat were harvested. And all this time she lived with Naomi.

Psalm 47
[A psalm for the people of Korah and for the music leader.]
God Rules the Nations

1All of you nations, clap your hands
and shout joyful praises to God.
2The LORD Most High is fearsome,
the ruler of all the earth.
3God has put every nation under our power,
4and he chose for us the land
that was the pride of Jacob, his favorite.

5God goes up to his throne,
as people shout and trumpets blast.
6Sing praises to God our King,
7the ruler of all the earth!
Praise God with songs.

8God rules the nations from his sacred throne.
9Their leaders come together
and are now the people of Abraham's God.
All rulers on earth surrender their weapons,
and God is greatly praised!

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

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