May 13 - Acts 21.1-36, Judges 16 and Psalm 42
Paul Goes to JerusalemActs 21 We said good-bye to them and left. After sailing straight across, we came to Cos; the next day we reached Rhodes, and from there we went on to Patara. 2There we found a ship that was going to Phoenicia, so we went aboard and sailed away. 3We came to where we could see Cyprus, and then sailed south of it on to Syria. We went ashore at Tyre, where the ship was going to unload its cargo. 4There we found some believers and stayed with them a week. By the power of the Spirit they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem. 5But when our time with them was over, we left and went on our way. All of them, together with their wives and children, went with us out of the city to the beach, where we all knelt and prayed. 6Then we said good-bye to one another, and we went on board the ship while they went back home.
7We continued our voyage, sailing from Tyre to Ptolemais, where we greeted the believers and stayed with them for a day. 8On the following day we left and arrived in Caesarea. There we stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen as helpers in Jerusalem. 9He had four unmarried daughters who proclaimed God's message. 10We had been there for several days when a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea. 11He came to us, took Paul's belt, tied up his own feet and hands with it, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: The owner of this belt will be tied up in this way by the Jews in Jerusalem, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles."
12When we heard this, we and the others there begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. 13But he answered, "What are you doing, crying like this and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be tied up in Jerusalem but even to die there for the sake of the Lord Jesus."
14We could not convince him, so we gave up and said, "May the Lord's will be done."
15After spending some time there, we got our things ready and left for Jerusalem. 16Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us and took us to the house of the man we were going to stay with--Mnason, from Cyprus, who had been a believer since the early days.
Paul Visits James17When we arrived in Jerusalem, the believers welcomed us warmly. 18The next day Paul went with us to see James; and all the church elders were present. 19Paul greeted them and gave a complete report of everything that God had done among the Gentiles through his work. 20After hearing him, they all praised God. Then they said, "Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers, and how devoted they all are to the Law. 21They have been told that you have been teaching all the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow the Jewish customs. 22They are sure to hear that you have arrived. What should be done, then? 23This is what we want you to do. There are four men here who have taken a vow. 24Go along with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses; then they will be able to shave their heads. In this way everyone will know that there is no truth in any of the things that they have been told about you, but that you yourself live in accordance with the Law of Moses. 25But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent them a letter telling them we decided that they must not eat any food that has been offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and that they must keep themselves from sexual immorality."
26So Paul took the men and the next day performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the period of purification, when a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them.
Paul Is Arrested in the Temple27But just when the seven days were about to come to an end, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and grabbed Paul. 28"People of Israel!" they shouted. "Help! This is the man who goes everywhere teaching everyone against the people of Israel, the Law of Moses, and this Temple. And now he has even brought some Gentiles into the Temple and defiled this holy place!" ( 29They said this because they had seen Trophimus from Ephesus with Paul in the city, and they thought that Paul had taken him into the Temple.)
30Confusion spread through the whole city, and the people all ran together, grabbed Paul, and dragged him out of the Temple. At once the Temple doors were closed. 31The mob was trying to kill Paul, when a report was sent up to the commander of the Roman troops that all of Jerusalem was rioting. 32At once the commander took some officers and soldiers and rushed down to the crowd. When the people saw him with the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33The commander went over to Paul, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked, "Who is this man, and what has he done?" 34Some in the crowd shouted one thing, others something else. There was such confusion that the commander could not find out exactly what had happened, so he ordered his men to take Paul up into the fort. 35They got as far as the steps with him, and then the soldiers had to carry him because the mob was so wild. 36They were all coming after him and screaming, "Kill him!"
Samson at GazaJudges 16 One day Samson went to the Philistine city of Gaza, where he met a prostitute and went to bed with her. 2The people of Gaza found out that Samson was there, so they surrounded the place and waited for him all night long at the city gate. They were quiet all night, thinking to themselves, "We'll wait until daybreak, and then we'll kill him." 3But Samson stayed in bed only until midnight. Then he got up and took hold of the city gate and pulled it up--doors, posts, lock, and all. He put them on his shoulders and carried them far off to the top of the hill overlooking Hebron.
Samson and Delilah4After this, Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in Sorek Valley. 5The five Philistine kings went to her and said, "Trick Samson into telling you why he is so strong and how we can overpower him, tie him up, and make him helpless. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver."
6So Delilah said to Samson, "Please tell me what makes you so strong. If someone wanted to tie you up and make you helpless, how could he do it?"
7Samson answered, "If they tie me up with seven new bowstrings that are not dried out, I'll be as weak as anybody else."
8So the Philistine kings brought Delilah seven new bowstrings that were not dried out, and she tied Samson up. 9She had some men waiting in another room, so she shouted, "Samson! The Philistines are coming!" But he snapped the bowstrings just as thread breaks when fire touches it. So they still did not know the secret of his strength.
10Delilah told Samson, "Look, you've been making a fool of me and not telling me the truth. Please tell me how someone could tie you up."
11He told her, "If they tie me with new ropes that have never been used, I'll be as weak as anybody else."
12So Delilah got some new ropes and tied him up. Then she shouted, "Samson! The Philistines are coming!" The men were waiting in another room. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like thread.
13Delilah said to Samson, "You're still making a fool of me and not telling me the truth. Tell me how someone could tie you up."
He told her, "If you weave my seven locks of hair into a loom, and make it tight with a peg, I'll be as weak as anybody else."
14Delilah then lulled him to sleep, took his seven locks of hair, and wove them into the loom. She made it tight with a peg and shouted, "Samson! The Philistines are coming!" But he woke up and pulled his hair loose from the loom.
15So she said to him, "How can you say you love me, when you don't mean it? You've made a fool of me three times, and you still haven't told me what makes you so strong." 16She kept on asking him, day after day. He got so sick and tired of her bothering him about it 17that he finally told her the truth. "My hair has never been cut," he said. "I have been dedicated to God as a nazirite from the time I was born. If my hair were cut, I would lose my strength and be as weak as anybody else."
18When Delilah realized that he had told her the truth, she sent a message to the Philistine kings and said, "Come back one more time. He has told me the truth." Then they came and brought the money with them. 19Delilah lulled Samson to sleep in her lap and then called a man, who cut off Samson's seven locks of hair. Then she began to torment him, for he had lost his strength. 20Then she shouted, "Samson! The Philistines are coming!" He woke up and thought, "I'll get loose and go free, as always." He did not know that the LORD had left him. 21The Philistines captured him and put his eyes out. They took him to Gaza, chained him with bronze chains, and put him to work grinding at the mill in the prison. 22But his hair started growing back.
The Death of Samson23The Philistine kings met together to celebrate and offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They sang, "Our god has given us victory over our enemy Samson!" 24-25They were enjoying themselves, and so they said, "Call Samson, and let's make him entertain us!" When they brought Samson out of the prison, they made him entertain them and made him stand between the columns. When the people saw him, they sang praise to their god: "Our god has given us victory over our enemy, who devastated our land and killed so many of us!" 26Samson said to the boy who was leading him by the hand, "Let me touch the columns that hold up the building. I want to lean on them." 27The building was crowded with men and women. All five Philistine kings were there, and there were about three thousand men and women on the roof, watching Samson entertain them.
28Then Samson prayed, "Sovereign LORD, please remember me; please, God, give me my strength just this one time more, so that with this one blow I can get even with the Philistines for putting out my two eyes." 29So Samson took hold of the two middle columns holding up the building. Putting one hand on each column, he pushed against them 30and shouted, "Let me die with the Philistines!" He pushed with all his might, and the building fell down on the five kings and everyone else. Samson killed more people at his death than he had killed during his life.
31His brothers and the rest of his family came down to get his body. They took him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had been Israel's leader for twenty years.
The Prayer of Someone in ExilePsalm 42 As a deer longs for a stream of cool water,
so I long for you, O God.
2I thirst for you, the living God.
When can I go and worship in your presence?
3Day and night I cry,
and tears are my only food;
all the time my enemies ask me,
"Where is your God?"
4My heart breaks when I remember the past,
when I went with the crowds to the house of God
and led them as they walked along,
a happy crowd, singing and shouting praise to God.
5Why am I so sad?
Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God,
and once again I will praise him,
my savior and my God.
6-7Here in exile my heart is breaking,
and so I turn my thoughts to him.
He has sent waves of sorrow over my soul;
chaos roars at me like a flood,
like waterfalls thundering down to the Jordan
from Mount Hermon and Mount Mizar.
8May the LORD show his constant love during the day,
so that I may have a song at night,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9To God, my defender, I say,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go on suffering
from the cruelty of my enemies?"
10I am crushed by their insults,
as they keep on asking me,
"Where is your God?"
11Why am I so sad?
Why am I so troubled?
I will put my hope in God,
and once again I will praise him,
my savior and my God.
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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