May 5 - Acts 16.16-40, Judges 4-5 and Job 35

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In Prison at Philippi

Acts 1616One day as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a young servant woman who had an evil spirit that enabled her to predict the future. She earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. 17She followed Paul and us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God! They announce to you how you can be saved!" 18She did this for many days, until Paul became so upset that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I order you to come out of her!" The spirit went out of her that very moment. 19When her owners realized that their chance of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities in the public square. 20They brought them before the Roman officials and said, "These men are Jews, and they are causing trouble in our city. 21They are teaching customs that are against our law; we are Roman citizens, and we cannot accept these customs or practice them." 22And the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas.
Then the officials tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered them to be whipped. 23After a severe beating, they were thrown into jail, and the jailer was ordered to lock them up tight. 24Upon receiving this order, the jailer threw them into the inner cell and fastened their feet between heavy blocks of wood.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the prison to its foundations. At once all the doors opened, and the chains fell off all the prisoners. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped; so he pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself. 28But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, "Don't harm yourself ! We are all here!"
29The jailer called for a light, rushed in, and fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 30Then he led them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
31They answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your family." 32Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house. 33At that very hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; and he and all his family were baptized at once. 34Then he took Paul and Silas up into his house and gave them some food to eat. He and his family were filled with joy, because they now believed in God.
35The next morning the Roman authorities sent police officers with the order, "Let those men go."
36So the jailer told Paul, "The officials have sent an order for you and Silas to be released. You may leave, then, and go in peace."
37But Paul said to the police officers, "We were not found guilty of any crime, yet they whipped us in public--and we are Roman citizens! Then they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us away secretly? Not at all! The Roman officials themselves must come here and let us out."
38The police officers reported these words to the Roman officials; and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were afraid. 39So they went and apologized to them; then they led them out of the prison and asked them to leave the city. 40Paul and Silas left the prison and went to Lydia's house. There they met the believers, spoke words of encouragement to them, and left.

Deborah and Barak

Judges 4 After Ehud died, the people of Israel sinned against the LORD again. 2So the LORD let them be conquered by Jabin, a Canaanite king who ruled in the city of Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived at Harosheth-of-the-Gentiles. 3Jabin had nine hundred iron chariots, and he ruled the people of Israel with cruelty and violence for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help.
4Now Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet, and she was serving as a judge for the Israelites at that time. 5She would sit under a certain palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel would go there for her decisions. 6One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam from the city of Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, has given you this command: 'Take ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them to Mount Tabor. 7I will bring Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, to fight you at the Kishon River. He will have his chariots and soldiers, but I will give you victory over him.'"
8Then Barak replied, "I will go if you go with me, but if you don't go with me, I won't go either."
9She answered, "All right, I will go with you, but you won't get any credit for the victory, because the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman." So Deborah set off for Kedesh with Barak. 10Barak called the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and ten thousand men followed him. Deborah went with him.
11In the meantime Heber the Kenite had set up his tent close to Kedesh near the oak tree at Zaanannim. He had moved away from the other Kenites, the descendants of Hobab, the brother-in-law of Moses.
12When Sisera learned that Barak had gone up to Mount Tabor, 13he called out his nine hundred iron chariots and all his men, and sent them from Harosheth-of-the-Gentiles to the Kishon River.
14Then Deborah said to Barak, "Go! The LORD is leading you! Today he has given you victory over Sisera." So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with his ten thousand men. 15When Barak attacked with his army, the LORD threw Sisera into confusion together with all his chariots and men. Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot. 16Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-of-the-Gentiles, and Sisera's whole army was killed. Not a man was left.
17Sisera ran away to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because King Jabin of Hazor was at peace with Heber's family. 18Jael went out to meet Sisera and said to him, "Come in, sir; come into my tent. Don't be afraid." So he went in, and she hid him behind a curtain. 19He said to her, "Please give me a drink of water; I'm thirsty." She opened a leather bag of milk, gave him a drink, and hid him again. 20Then he told her, "Stand at the door of the tent, and if anyone comes and asks you if anyone is here, say no."
21Sisera was so tired that he fell sound asleep. Then Jael took a hammer and a tent peg, quietly went up to him, and killed him by driving the peg right through the side of his head and into the ground. 22When Barak came looking for Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, "Come here! I'll show you the man you're looking for." So he went in with her, and there was Sisera on the ground, dead, with the tent peg through his head.
23That day God gave the Israelites victory over Jabin, the Canaanite king. 24They pressed harder and harder against him until they destroyed him.

The Song of Deborah and Barak

Judges 5 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

2Praise the LORD!
The Israelites were determined to fight;
the people gladly volunteered.
3Listen, you kings!
Pay attention, you rulers!
I will sing and play music
to Israel's God, the LORD.
4LORD, when you left the mountains of Seir,
when you came out of the region of Edom,
the earth shook, and rain fell from the sky.
Yes, water poured down from the clouds.
5The mountains quaked before the LORD of Sinai,
before the LORD, the God of Israel.

6In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael,
caravans no longer went through the land,
and travelers used the back roads.
7The towns of Israel stood abandoned, Deborah;
they stood empty until you came,
came like a mother for Israel.
8Then there was war in the land
when the Israelites chose new gods.
Of the forty thousand men in Israel,
did anyone carry shield or spear?
9My heart is with the commanders of Israel,
with the people who gladly volunteered.
Praise the LORD!
10Tell of it, you that ride on white donkeys,
sitting on saddles,
and you that must walk wherever you go.
11Listen! The noisy crowds around the wells
are telling of the LORD's victories,
the victories of Israel's people!

Then the LORD's people marched down from their cities.
12Lead on, Deborah, lead on!
Lead on! Sing a song! Lead on!
Forward, Barak son of Abinoam,
lead your captives away!
13Then the faithful ones came down to their leaders;
the LORD's people came to him ready to fight.
14They came from Ephraim into the valley,
behind the tribe of Benjamin and its people.
The commanders came down from Machir,
the officers down from Zebulun.
15The leaders of Issachar came with Deborah;
yes, Issachar came and Barak too,
and they followed him into the valley.
But the tribe of Reuben was divided;
they could not decide to come.
16Why did they stay behind with the sheep?
To listen to shepherds calling the flocks?
Yes, the tribe of Reuben was divided;
they could not decide to come.
17The tribe of Gad stayed east of the Jordan,
and the tribe of Dan remained by the ships.
The tribe of Asher stayed by the seacoast;
they remained along the shore.
18But the people of Zebulun and Naphtali
risked their lives on the battlefield.

19At Taanach, by the stream of Megiddo,
the kings came and fought;
the kings of Canaan fought,
but they took no silver away.
20The stars fought from the sky;
as they moved across the sky,
they fought against Sisera.
21A flood in the Kishon swept them away--
the onrushing Kishon River.
I shall march, march on, with strength!
22Then the horses came galloping on,
stamping the ground with their hoofs.

23"Put a curse on Meroz," says the angel of the LORD,
"a curse, a curse on those who live there.
They did not come to help the LORD,
come as soldiers to fight for him."

24The most fortunate of women is Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite--
the most fortunate of women who live in tents.
25Sisera asked for water, but she gave him milk;
she brought him cream in a beautiful bowl.
26She took a tent peg in one hand,
a worker's hammer in the other;
she struck Sisera and crushed his skull;
she pierced him through the head.
27He sank to his knees,
fell down and lay still at her feet.
At her feet he sank to his knees and fell;
he fell to the ground, dead.

28Sisera's mother looked out of the window;
she gazed from behind the lattice.
"Why is his chariot so late in coming?" she asked.
"Why are his horses so slow to return?"
29Her wisest friends answered her,
and she told herself over and over,
30"They are only finding things to capture and divide,
a woman or two for every soldier,
rich cloth for Sisera,
embroidered pieces for the neck of the queen."

31So may all your enemies die like that, O LORD,
but may your friends shine like the rising sun!

And there was peace in the land for forty years.

Job 35 1-2It is not right, Job, for you to say
that you are innocent in God's sight,
3or to ask God, "How does my sin affect you?
What have I gained by not sinning?"
4I am going to answer you and your friends too.

5Look at the sky! See how high the clouds are!
6If you sin, that does no harm to God.
If you do wrong many times, does that affect him?
7Do you help God by being so righteous?
There is nothing God needs from you.
8Others suffer from your sins,
and the good you do helps them.

9When people are oppressed, they groan;
they cry for someone to save them.
10But they don't turn to God, their Creator,
who gives them hope in their darkest hours.
11They don't turn to God, who makes us wise,
wiser than any animal or bird.
12They cry for help, but God doesn't answer,
for they are proud and evil.
13It is useless for them to cry out;
Almighty God does not see or hear them.

14Job, you say you can't see God;
but wait patiently--your case is before him.
15You think that God does not punish,
that he pays little attention to sin.
16It is useless for you to go on talking;
it is clear you don't know what you are saying.

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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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