May 29 - Romans 4, 1 Samuel 13 and Psalm 58

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The Example of Abraham

Romans 4 Well then, what can we say about our ancestor Abraham? 2If he became acceptable to God because of what he did, then he would have something to brag about. But he would never be able to brag about it to God. 3The Scriptures say, "God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith in him."
4Money paid to workers isn't a gift. It is something they earn by working. 5But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him. 6In the Scriptures David talks about the blessings that come to people who are acceptable to God, even though they don't do anything to deserve these blessings. David says,
7"God blesses people whose sins are forgiven
and whose evil deeds are forgotten.
8The Lord blesses people
whose sins are erased from his book."
9Are these blessings meant for circumcised people or for those who are not circumcised? Well, the Scriptures say that God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith in him. 10But when did this happen? Was it before or after Abraham was circumcised? Of course, it was before.
11Abraham let himself be circumcised to show that he had been accepted because of his faith even before he was circumcised. This makes Abraham the father of all who are acceptable to God because of their faith, even though they are not circumcised. 12This also makes Abraham the father of everyone who is circumcised and has faith in God, as Abraham did before he was circumcised.

The Promise Is for All Who Have Faith

13God promised Abraham and his descendants that he would give them the world. This promise wasn't made because Abraham had obeyed a law, but because his faith in God made him acceptable. 14If Abraham and his descendants were given this promise because they had obeyed a law, then faith would mean nothing, and the promise would be worthless.
15God becomes angry when his Law is broken. But where there isn't a law, it cannot be broken. 16Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God's promise is assured by his great kindness. This promise isn't only for Abraham's descendants who have the Law. It is for all who are Abraham's descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham is the ancestor of us all. 17The Scriptures say that Abraham would become the ancestor of many nations. This promise was made to Abraham because he had faith in God, who raises the dead to life and creates new things.
18God promised Abraham a lot of descendants. And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations. 19Abraham's faith never became weak, not even when he was nearly a hundred years old. He knew that he was almost dead and that his wife Sarah could not have children. 20But Abraham never doubted or questioned God's promise. His faith made him strong, and he gave all the credit to God.
21Abraham was certain that God could do what he had promised. 22So God accepted him, 23just as we read in the Scriptures. But these words were not written only for Abraham. 24They were written for us, since we will also be accepted because of our faith in God, who raised our Lord Jesus to life. 25God gave Jesus to die for our sins, and he raised him to life, so that we would be made acceptable to God.

Saul Disobeys the LORD

1 Samuel 13 Saul was a young man when he became king, and he ruled Israel for two years. 2Then he chose three thousand men from Israel to be full-time soldiers and sent everyone else home. Two thousand of these troops stayed with him in the hills around Michmash and Bethel. The other thousand were stationed with Jonathan at Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin.
3Jonathan led an attack on the Philistine army camp at Geba. The Philistine camp was destroyed, but the other Philistines heard what had happened. Then Saul told his messengers, "Go to every village in the country. Give a signal with the trumpet, and when the people come together, tell them what has happened."
4The messengers then said to the people of Israel, "Saul has destroyed the Philistine army camp at Geba. Now the Philistines really hate Israel, so every town and village must send men to join Saul's army at Gilgal."
5The Philistines called their army together to fight Israel. They had three thousand chariots, six thousand cavalry, and as many foot soldiers as there are grains of sand on the beach. They went to Michmash and set up camp there east of Beth-Aven.
6The Israelite army realized that they were outnumbered and were going to lose the battle. Some of the Israelite men hid in caves or in clumps of bushes, and some ran to places where they could hide among large rocks. Others hid in tombs or in deep dry pits. 7Still others went to Gad and Gilead on the other side of the Jordan River.
Saul stayed at Gilgal. His soldiers were shaking with fear, 8and they were starting to run off and leave him. Saul waited there seven days, just as Samuel had ordered him to do, but Samuel did not come. 9Finally, Saul commanded, "Bring me some animals, so we can offer sacrifices to please the LORD and ask for his help."
Saul killed one of the animals, 10and just as he was placing it on the altar, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to welcome him.
11"What have you done?" Samuel asked.
Saul answered, "My soldiers were leaving in all directions, and you didn't come when you were supposed to. The Philistines were gathering at Michmash, 12and I was worried that they would attack me here at Gilgal. I hadn't offered a sacrifice to ask for the LORD's help, so I forced myself to offer a sacrifice on the altar fire."
13"That was stupid!" Samuel said. "You didn't obey the LORD your God. If you had obeyed him, someone from your family would always have been king of Israel. 14But no, you disobeyed, and so the LORD won't choose anyone else from your family to be king. In fact, he has already chosen the one he wants to be the next leader of his people." 15Then Samuel left Gilgal.
Part of Saul's army had not deserted him, and he led them to Gibeah in Benjamin to join his other troops. Then he counted them and found that he still had six hundred men. 16Saul, Jonathan, and their army set up camp at Geba in Benjamin.

Jonathan Attacks the Philistines

The Philistine army was camped at Michmash. 17Each day they sent out patrols to attack and rob villages and then destroy them. One patrol would go north along the road to Ophrah in the region of Shual. 18Another patrol would go west along the road to Beth-Horon. A third patrol would go east toward the desert on the road to the ridge that overlooks Zeboim Valley.
19The Philistines would not allow any Israelites to learn how to make iron tools. "If we allowed that," they said, "those worthless Israelites would make swords and spears."
20-21Whenever the Israelites wanted to get an iron point put on a cattle prod, they had to go to the Philistines. Even if they wanted to sharpen plow-blades, picks, axes, sickles, and pitchforks they still had to go to them. And the Philistines charged high prices. 22So, whenever the Israelite soldiers had to go into battle, none of them had a sword or a spear except Saul and his son Jonathan. 23The Philistines moved their camp to the pass at Michmash,

Psalm 58
[A special psalm by David for the music leader. To the tune "Don't Destroy." ]
A Prayer When All Goes Wrong

1Do you mighty people talk only to oppose justice?
Don't you ever judge fairly?
2You are always planning evil, and you are brutal.
3You have done wrong and lied
from the day you were born.
4Your words spread poison like the bite of a cobra
5that refuses to listen to the snake charmer.

6My enemies are fierce as lions, LORD God!
Shatter their teeth. Snatch out their fangs.
7Make them disappear like leaking water,
and make their arrows miss.
8Let them dry up like snails
or be like a child that dies before seeing the sun.
9Wipe them out quicker than a pot can be heated
by setting thorns on fire.

10Good people will be glad
when they see the wicked getting what they deserve,
and they will wash their feet in their enemies' blood.
11Everyone will say, "It's true!
Good people are rewarded.
God does rule the earth with justice."

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

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