May 23 - Acts 28.1-15, 1 Samuel 4-5 and Psalm 52

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On the Island of Malta

Acts 28 When we came ashore, we learned that the island was called Malta. 2The local people were very friendly, and they welcomed us by building a fire, because it was rainy and cold.
3After Paul had gathered some wood and had put it on the fire, the heat caused a snake to crawl out, and it bit him on the hand. 4When the local people saw the snake hanging from Paul's hand, they said to each other, "This man must be a murderer! He didn't drown in the sea, but the goddess of justice will kill him anyway."
5Paul shook the snake off into the fire and wasn't harmed. 6The people kept thinking that Paul would either swell up or suddenly drop dead. They watched him for a long time, and when nothing happened to him, they changed their minds and said, "This man is a god."
7The governor of the island was named Publius, and he owned some of the land around there. Publius was very friendly and welcomed us into his home for three days. 8His father was in bed, sick with fever and stomach trouble, and Paul went to visit him. Paul healed the man by praying and placing his hands on him.
9After this happened, everyone on the island brought their sick people to Paul, and they were all healed. 10The people were very respectful to us, and when we sailed, they gave us everything we needed.

From Malta to Rome

11Three months later we sailed in a ship that had been docked at Malta for the winter. The ship was from Alexandria in Egypt and was known as "The Twin Gods." 12We arrived in Syracuse and stayed for three days. 13From there we sailed to Rhegium. The next day a south wind began to blow, and two days later we arrived in Puteoli. 14There we found some of the Lord's followers, who begged us to stay with them. A week later we left for the city of Rome.
15Some of the followers in Rome heard about us and came to meet us at the Market of Appius and at the Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was encouraged.

1 Samuel 4 1Then Samuel would speak to the whole nation of Israel.

The Philistines Capture the Sacred Chest

One day the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines. They set up camp near Ebenezer, and the Philistines camped at Aphek. 2The Philistines made a fierce attack. They defeated the Israelites and killed about four thousand of them.
3The Israelite army returned to their camp, and the leaders said, "Why did the LORD let us lose to the Philistines today? Let's get the sacred chest where the LORD's agreement with Israel is kept. Then the LORD will help us and rescue us from our enemies."
4The army sent some soldiers to bring back the sacred chest from Shiloh, because the LORD All-Powerful has his throne on the winged creatures on top of the chest.
As Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, 5brought the chest into camp, the army cheered so loudly that the ground shook. 6The Philistines heard the noise and said, "What are those Hebrews shouting about?"
When the Philistines learned that the sacred chest had been brought into the camp, 7they were scared to death and said:
The gods have come into their camp. Now we're in real trouble! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before. 8We're in big trouble! Who can save us from these powerful gods? They're the same gods who made all those horrible things happen to the Egyptians in the desert.
9Philistines, be brave and fight hard! If you don't, those Hebrews will rule us, just as we've been ruling them. Fight and don't be afraid.

10The Philistines did fight. They killed thirty thousand Israelite soldiers, and all the rest ran off to their homes. 11Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and the sacred chest was captured.

Eli Dies

12That same day a soldier from the tribe of Benjamin ran from the battlefront to Shiloh. He had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head to show his sorrow. 13He went into town and told the news about the battle, and everyone started crying.
Eli was afraid that something might happen to the sacred chest. So he was sitting on his chair beside the road, just waiting. 14-15He was ninety-eight years old and blind, but he could hear everyone crying, and he asked, "What's all that noise?"
The soldier hurried over and told Eli, 16"I escaped from the fighting today and ran here."
"Young man, what happened?" Eli asked.
17"Israel ran away from the Philistines," the soldier answered. "Many of our people were killed, including your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. But worst of all, the sacred chest was captured."
18Eli was still sitting on a chair beside the wall of the town gate. And when the man said that the Philistines had taken the sacred chest, Eli fell backwards. He was a very heavy old man, and the fall broke his neck and killed him. He had been a leader of Israel for forty years.
19The wife of Phinehas was about to give birth. And soon after she heard that the sacred chest had been captured and that her husband and his father had died, her baby came. The birth was very hard, 20and she was dying. But the women taking care of her said, "Don't be afraid--it's a boy!"
She didn't pay any attention to them. 21-22Instead she kept thinking about losing her husband and her father-in-law. So she said, "My son will be named Ichabod, because the glory of Israel left our country when the sacred chest was captured."

God Causes Trouble for the Philistines

1 Samuel 5 The Philistines took the sacred chest from near Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod. 2They brought it into the temple of their god Dagon and put it next to the statue of Dagon, which they worshiped.
3When the people of Ashdod got up early the next morning, they found the statue lying facedown on the floor in front of the sacred chest. They put the statue back where it belonged. 4But early the next morning, it had fallen over again and was lying facedown on the floor in front of the chest. The body of the statue was still in one piece, but its head and both hands had broken off and were lying on the stone floor in the doorway. 5This is the reason the priests and everyone else step over that part of the doorway when they enter the temple of Dagon in Ashdod.
6The LORD caused a lot of trouble for the people of Ashdod and their neighbors. He made sores break out all over their bodies, and everyone was in a panic. 7Finally, they said, "The God of Israel did this. He is the one who caused all this trouble for us and our god Dagon. We've got to get rid of this chest."
8The people of Ashdod had all the Philistine rulers come to Ashdod, and they asked them, "What can we do with the sacred chest that belongs to the God of Israel?"
"Send it to Gath," the rulers answered. But after they took it there, 9the LORD made sores break out on everyone in town. The people of Gath were frightened, 10so they sent the sacred chest to Ekron. But before they could take it through the town gates, the people of Ekron started screaming, "They've brought the sacred chest that belongs to the God of Israel! It will kill us and our families too!"

The Philistines Send Back the Sacred Chest

11The people of Ekron called for another meeting of the Philistine rulers and told them, "Send this chest back where it belongs. Then it won't kill us."
Everyone was in a panic, because God was causing a lot of people to die, 12and those who had survived were suffering from the sores. They all cried to their gods for help.

Psalm 52
[A special psalm by David for the music leader. He wrote this when Doeg from Edom went to Saul and said, "David has gone to Ahimelech's house."]
God Is in Control

1You people may be strong and brag about your sins,
but God can be trusted day after day.
2You plan brutal crimes,
and your lying words cut like a sharp razor.
3You would rather do evil than good,
and tell lies than speak the truth.
4You love to say cruel things,
and your words are a trap.

5God will destroy you forever!
He will grab you and drag you from your homes.
You will be uprooted and left to die.
6When good people see this fearsome sight,
they will laugh and say,
7"Just look at them now! Instead of trusting God,
they trusted their wealth and their cruelty."

8But I am like an olive tree growing in God's house,
and I can count on his love forever and ever.
9I will always thank God for what he has done;
I will praise his good name when his people meet.

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

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