April 17 - Acts 6, Deuteronomy 28 and Job 17
The Seven HelpersActs 6 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God's word in order to handle finances. 3So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching."
5The whole group was pleased with the apostles' proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
7And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a great number of priests accepted the faith.
The Arrest of Stephen8Stephen, a man richly blessed by God and full of power, performed great miracles and wonders among the people. 9But he was opposed by some men who were members of the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), which had Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria. They and other Jews from the provinces of Cilicia and Asia started arguing with Stephen. 10But the Spirit gave Stephen such wisdom that when he spoke, they could not refute him. 11So they bribed some men to say, "We heard him speaking against Moses and against God!" 12In this way they stirred up the people, the elders, and the teachers of the Law. They seized Stephen and took him before the Council. 13Then they brought in some men to tell lies about him. "This man," they said, "is always talking against our sacred Temple and the Law of Moses. 14We heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will tear down the Temple and change all the customs which have come down to us from Moses!" 15All those sitting in the Council fixed their eyes on Stephen and saw that his face looked like the face of an angel.
The Blessings of Obedience
3"The LORD will bless your towns and your fields.
4"The LORD will bless you with many children, with abundant crops, and with many cattle and sheep.
5"The LORD will bless your grain crops and the food you prepare from them.
6"The LORD will bless everything you do.
7"The LORD will defeat your enemies when they attack you. They will attack from one direction, but they will run from you in all directions.
8"The LORD your God will bless your work and fill your barns with grain. He will bless you in the land that he is giving you.
9"If you obey the LORD your God and do everything he commands, he will make you his own people, as he has promised. 10Then all the peoples on earth will see that the LORD has chosen you to be his own people, and they will be afraid of you. 11The LORD will give you many children, many cattle, and abundant crops in the land that he promised your ancestors to give you. 12He will send rain in season from his rich storehouse in the sky and bless all your work, so that you will lend to many nations, but you will not have to borrow from any. 13The LORD your God will make you the leader among the nations and not a follower; you will always prosper and never fail if you obey faithfully all his commands that I am giving you today. 14But you must never disobey them in any way, or worship and serve other gods.
The Consequences of Disobedience
16"The LORD will curse your towns and your fields.
17"The LORD will curse your grain crops and the food you prepare from them.
18"The LORD will curse you by giving you only a few children, poor crops, and few cattle and sheep.
19"The LORD will curse everything you do.
20"If you do evil and reject the LORD, he will bring on you disaster, confusion, and trouble in everything you do, until you are quickly and completely destroyed. 21He will send disease after disease on you until there is not one of you left in the land that you are about to occupy. 22The LORD will strike you with infectious diseases, with swelling and fever; he will send drought and scorching winds to destroy your crops. These disasters will be with you until you die. 23No rain will fall, and your ground will become as hard as iron. 24Instead of rain, the LORD will send down duststorms and sandstorms until you are destroyed.
25"The LORD will give your enemies victory over you. You will attack them from one direction, but you will run from them in all directions, and all the people on earth will be terrified when they see what happens to you. 26When you die, birds and wild animals will come and eat your bodies, and there will be no one to scare them off. 27The LORD will send boils on you, as he did on the Egyptians. He will make your bodies break out with sores. You will be covered with scabs, and you will itch, but there will be no cure. 28The LORD will make you lose your mind; he will strike you with blindness and confusion. 29You will grope about in broad daylight like someone blind, and you will not be able to find your way. You will not prosper in anything you do. You will be constantly oppressed and robbed, and there will be no one to help you.
30"You will be engaged to a young woman--but someone else will marry her. You will build a house--but never live in it. You will plant a vineyard--but never eat its grapes. 31Your cattle will be butchered before your very eyes, but you will not eat any of the meat. Your donkeys will be dragged away while you look on, and they will not be given back to you. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and there will be no one to help you. 32Your sons and daughters will be given as slaves to foreigners while you look on. Every day you will strain your eyes, looking in vain for your children to return. 33A foreign nation will take all the crops that you have worked so hard to grow, while you receive nothing but constant oppression and harsh treatment. 34Your sufferings will make you lose your mind. 35The LORD will cover your legs with incurable, painful sores; boils will cover you from head to foot.
36"The LORD will take you and your king away to a foreign land, where neither you nor your ancestors ever lived before; there you will serve gods made of wood and stone. 37In the countries to which the LORD will scatter you, the people will be shocked at what has happened to you; they will make fun of you and ridicule you.
38"You will plant plenty of seed, but reap only a small harvest, because the locusts will eat your crops. 39You will plant vineyards and take care of them, but you will not gather their grapes or drink wine from them, because worms will eat the vines. 40Olive trees will grow everywhere in your land, but you will not have any olive oil, because the olives will drop off. 41You will have sons and daughters, but you will lose them, because they will be taken away as prisoners of war. 42All your trees and crops will be devoured by insects.
43"Foreigners who live in your land will gain more and more power, while you gradually lose yours. 44They will have money to lend you, but you will have none to lend them. In the end they will be your rulers.
45"All these disasters will come on you, and they will be with you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and keep all the laws that he gave you. 46They will be the evidence of God's judgment on you and your descendants forever. 47The LORD blessed you in every way, but you would not serve him with glad and joyful hearts. 48So then, you will serve the enemies that the LORD is going to send against you. You will be hungry, thirsty, and naked--in need of everything. The LORD will oppress you harshly until you are destroyed. 49The LORD will bring against you a nation from the ends of the earth, a nation whose language you do not know. They will swoop down on you like an eagle. 50They will be ruthless and show no mercy to anyone, young or old. 51They will eat your livestock and your crops, and you will starve to death. They will not leave you any grain, wine, olive oil, cattle, or sheep; and you will die. 52They will attack every town in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and the high, fortified walls in which you trust will fall.
53"When your enemies are besieging your towns, you will become so desperate for food that you will even eat the children that the LORD your God has given you. 54-55Even the most refined man of noble birth will become so desperate during the siege that he will eat some of his own children because he has no other food. He will not even give any to his brother or to the wife he loves or to any of his children who are left. 56-57Even the most refined woman of noble birth, so rich that she has never had to walk anywhere, will behave in the same way. When the enemy besieges her town, she will become so desperate for food that she will secretly eat her newborn child and the afterbirth as well. She will not share them with the husband she loves or with any of her children.
58"If you do not obey faithfully all of God's teachings that are written in this book and if you do not honor the wonderful and awesome name of the LORD your God, 59he will send on you and on your descendants incurable diseases and horrible epidemics that can never be stopped. 60He will bring on you once again all the dreadful diseases you experienced in Egypt, and you will never recover. 61He will also send all kinds of diseases and epidemics that are not mentioned in this book of God's laws and teachings, and you will be destroyed. 62Although you become as numerous as the stars in the sky, only a few of you will survive, because you did not obey the LORD your God. 63Just as the LORD took delight in making you prosper and in making you increase in number, so he will take delight in destroying you and in bringing ruin on you. You will be uprooted from the land that you are about to occupy.
64"The LORD will scatter you among all the nations, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will serve gods made of wood and stone, gods that neither you nor your ancestors have ever worshiped before. 65You will find no peace anywhere, no place to call your own; the LORD will overwhelm you with anxiety, hopelessness, and despair. 66Your life will always be in danger. Day and night you will be filled with terror, and you will live in constant fear of death. 67Your hearts will pound with fear at everything you see. Every morning you will wish for evening; every evening you will wish for morning. 68The LORD will send you back to Egypt in ships, even though he said that you would never have to go there again. There you will try to sell yourselves to your enemies as slaves, but no one will want to buy you."
Job 17 1The end of my life is near. I can hardly breathe;
there is nothing left for me but the grave.
2I watch how bitterly everyone mocks me.
3I am being honest, God. Accept my word.
There is no one else to support what I say.
4You have closed their minds to reason;
don't let them triumph over me now.
5In the old proverb someone betrays his friends for money,
and his children suffer for it.
6And now people use this proverb against me;
they come and spit in my face.
7My grief has almost made me blind;
my arms and legs are as thin as shadows.
8Those who claim to be honest are shocked,
and they all condemn me as godless.
9Those who claim to be respectable
are more and more convinced they are right.
10But if all of them came and stood before me,
I would not find even one of them wise.
11My days have passed; my plans have failed;
my hope is gone.
12But my friends say night is daylight;
they say that light is near,
but I know I remain in darkness.
13My only hope is the world of the dead,
where I will lie down to sleep in the dark.
14I will call the grave my father,
and the worms that eat me
I will call my mother and my sisters.
15Where is there any hope for me?
Who sees any?
16Hope will not go with me
when I go down to the world of the dead.
This reading is from The Holy
Bible, Today's English Version, Second Edition copyright © American
Bible Society, 1992;
Old Testament copyright © American Bible Society, 1976, 1992; New Testament © American Bible Society, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992.
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