May 20 - Acts 26.19-32, 1 Samuel 1.1-2.11 and Psalm 49

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Acts 26 19King Agrippa, I obeyed this vision from heaven. 20First I preached to the people in Damascus, and then I went to Jerusalem and all over Judea. Finally, I went to the Gentiles and said, "Stop sinning and turn to God! Then prove what you have done by the way you live."
21That is why some men grabbed me in the temple and tried to kill me. 22But all this time God has helped me, and I have preached both to the rich and to the poor. I have told them only what the prophets and Moses said would happen. 23I told them how the Messiah would suffer and be the first to be raised from death, so that he could bring light to his own people and to the Gentiles.

24Before Paul finished defending himself, Festus shouted, "Paul, you're crazy! Too much learning has driven you out of your mind."
25But Paul replied, "Honorable Festus, I am not crazy. What I am saying is true, and it makes sense. 26None of these things happened off in a corner somewhere. I am sure that King Agrippa knows what I am talking about. That's why I can speak so plainly to him."
27Then Paul said to Agrippa, "Do you believe what the prophets said? I know you do."
28Agrippa asked Paul, "In such a short time do you think you can talk me into being a Christian?"
29Paul answered, "Whether it takes a short time or a long time, I wish you and everyone else who hears me today would become just like me! Except, of course, for these chains."
30Then King Agrippa, Governor Festus, Bernice, and everyone who was with them got up. 31But before they left, they said, "This man isn't guilty of anything. He doesn't deserve to die or to be put in jail."
32Agrippa told Festus, "Paul could have been set free, if he had not asked to be tried by the Roman Emperor."

Hannah Asks the LORD for a Child

1 Samuel 1 Elkanah lived in Ramah, a town in the hill country of Ephraim. His great-great-grandfather was Zuph, so Elkanah was a member of the Zuph clan of the Ephraim tribe. Elkanah's father was Jeroham, his grandfather was Elihu, and his great-grandfather was Tohu.
2Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Although Peninnah had children, Hannah did not have any.
3Once a year Elkanah traveled from his hometown to Shiloh, where he worshiped the LORD All-Powerful and offered sacrifices. Eli was the LORD's priest there, and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas served with him as priests.
4Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he gave some of the meat to Peninnah and some to each of her sons and daughters. 5But he gave Hannah even more, because he loved Hannah very much, even though the LORD had kept her from having children of her own.
6Peninnah liked to make Hannah feel miserable about not having any children, 7especially when the family went to the house of the LORD each year.
One day, Elkanah was there offering a sacrifice, when Hannah began crying and refused to eat. 8So Elkanah asked, "Hannah, why are you crying? Why won't you eat? Why do you feel so bad? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"
9When the sacrifice had been offered, and they had eaten the meal, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli was sitting in his chair near the door to the place of worship. 10Hannah was brokenhearted and was crying as she prayed, 11"LORD All-Powerful, I am your servant, but I am so miserable! Please let me have a son. I will give him to you for as long as he lives, and his hair will never be cut."
12-13Hannah prayed silently to the LORD for a long time. But her lips were moving, and Eli thought she was drunk. 14"How long are you going to stay drunk?" he asked. "Sober up!"
15-16"Sir, please don't think I'm no good!" Hannah answered. "I'm not drunk, and I haven't been drinking. But I do feel miserable and terribly upset. I've been praying all this time, telling the LORD about my problems."
17Eli replied, "You may go home now and stop worrying. I'm sure the God of Israel will answer your prayer."
18"Sir, thank you for being so kind to me," Hannah said. Then she left, and after eating something, she felt much better.

Samuel Is Born

19Elkanah and his family got up early the next morning and worshiped the LORD. Then they went back home to Ramah. Later the LORD blessed Elkanah and Hannah 20with a son. She named him Samuel because she had asked the LORD for him.

Hannah Gives Samuel to the LORD

21The next time Elkanah and his family went to offer their yearly sacrifice, he took along a gift that he had promised to give to the LORD. 22But Hannah stayed home, because she had told Elkanah, "Samuel and I won't go until he's old enough for me to stop nursing him. Then I'll give him to the LORD, and he can stay there at Shiloh for the rest of his life."
23"You know what's best," Elkanah said. "Stay here until it's time to stop nursing him. I'm sure the LORD will help you do what you have promised." Hannah did not go to Shiloh until she stopped nursing Samuel.
24-25When it was the time of year to go to Shiloh again, Hannah and Elkanah took Samuel to the LORD's house. They brought along a three-year-old bull, a twenty-pound sack of flour, and a clay jar full of wine. Hannah and Elkanah offered the bull as a sacrifice, then brought the little boy to Eli.
26"Sir," Hannah said, "a few years ago I stood here beside you and asked the LORD 27to give me a child. Here he is! The LORD gave me just what I asked for. 28Now I am giving him to the LORD, and he will be the LORD's servant for as long as he lives."

Hannah Prays

Elkanah worshiped the LORD there at Shiloh, and
1 Samuel 2 1Hannah prayed:
You make me strong and happy, LORD.
You rescued me. Now I can be glad
and laugh at my enemies.

2No other god is like you. We're safer with you
than on a high mountain.
3I can tell those proud people, "Stop your boasting!
Nothing is hidden from the LORD,
and he judges what we do."

4Our LORD, you break the bows of warriors,
but you give strength to everyone who stumbles.
5People who once had plenty to eat
must now hire themselves out for only a piece of bread.
But you give the hungry more than enough to eat.
A woman did not have a child, and you gave her seven,
but a woman who had many was left with none.
6You take away life, and you give life.
You send people down to the world of the dead
and bring them back again.

7Our LORD, you are the one who makes us rich or poor.
You put some in high positions
and bring disgrace on others.
8You lift the poor and homeless out of the garbage dump
and give them places of honor in royal palaces.

You set the world on foundations, and they belong to you.
9You protect your loyal people,
but everyone who is evil will die in darkness.

We cannot win a victory by our own strength.
10Our LORD, those who attack you will be broken in pieces
when you fight back with thunder from heaven.
You will judge the whole earth
and give power and strength to your chosen king.

Samuel Stays with Eli

11Elkanah and Hannah went back home to Ramah, but the boy Samuel stayed to help Eli serve the LORD.

Psalm 49
[A psalm for the people of Korah and for the music leader.]
Don't Depend on Wealth

1Everyone on this earth, now listen to what I say!
2Listen, no matter who you are, rich or poor.
3I speak words of wisdom, and my thoughts make sense.
4I have in mind a mystery
that I will explain while playing my harp.

5Why should I be afraid in times of trouble,
when I am surrounded by vicious enemies?
6They trust in their riches
and brag about all of their wealth.
7You cannot buy back your life or pay off God!
8It costs far too much to buy back your life.
You can never pay God enough
9to stay alive forever and safe from death.

10We see that wise people die, and so do stupid fools.
Then their money is left for someone else.
11The grave will be their home forever and ever,
although they once had land of their own.
12Our human glory disappears, and, like animals, we die.

13Here is what happens to fools
and to those who trust the words of fools:
14They are like sheep with death as their shepherd,
leading them to the grave.
In the morning God's people will walk all over them,
as their bodies lie rotting in their home, the grave.
15But God will rescue me from the power of death.

16Don't let it bother you
when others get rich and live in luxury.
17Soon they will die
and all of their wealth will be left behind.

18We humans are praised when we do well,
and all of us are glad to be alive.
19But we each will go down to our ancestors,
never again to see the light of day.
20Our human glory disappears,
and, like animals, we die.

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

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