May 16 - Acts 23.23-24.9, Judges 20 and Psalm 45
Paul Is Sent to Governor FelixActs 23 23Then the commander called two of his officers and said, "Get two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea, together with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen, and be ready to leave by nine o'clock tonight. 24Provide some horses for Paul to ride and get him safely through to Governor Felix." 25Then the commander wrote a letter that went like this:
26"Claudius Lysias to His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. 27The Jews seized this man and were about to kill him. I learned that he is a Roman citizen, so I went with my soldiers and rescued him. 28I wanted to know what they were accusing him of, so I took him down to their Council. 29I found out that he had not done a thing for which he deserved to die or be put in prison; the accusation against him had to do with questions about their own law. 30And when I was informed that there was a plot against him, at once I decided to send him to you. I have told his accusers to make their charges against him before you."
31The soldiers carried out their orders. They got Paul and took him that night as far as Antipatris. 32The next day the foot soldiers returned to the fort and left the horsemen to go on with him. 33They took him to Caesarea, delivered the letter to the governor, and turned Paul over to him. 34The governor read the letter and asked Paul what province he was from. When he found out that he was from Cilicia, 35he said, "I will hear you when your accusers arrive." Then he gave orders for Paul to be kept under guard in the governor's headquarters.
The Case Against PaulActs 24 Five days later the High Priest Ananias went to Caesarea with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus. They appeared before Governor Felix and made their charges against Paul. 2Then Paul was called in, and Tertullus began to make his accusation, as follows:
"Your Excellency! Your wise leadership has brought us a long period of peace, and many necessary reforms are being made for the good of our country. 3We welcome this everywhere and at all times, and we are deeply grateful to you. 4I do not want to take up too much of your time, however, so I beg you to be kind and listen to our brief account. 5We found this man to be a dangerous nuisance; he starts riots among Jews all over the world and is a leader of the party of the Nazarenes. 6He also tried to defile the Temple, and we arrested him. 8If you question this man, you yourself will be able to learn from him all the things that we are accusing him of." 9The Jews joined in the accusation and said that all this was true.
Israel Prepares for WarJudges 20 All the people of Israel from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, as well as from the land of Gilead in the east, answered the call. They gathered in one body in the LORD's presence at Mizpah. 2The leaders of all the tribes of Israel were present at this gathering of God's people, and there were 400,000 foot soldiers. 3Meanwhile the people of Benjamin heard that all the other Israelites had gathered at Mizpah.
The Israelites asked, "Tell us, how was this crime committed?" 4The Levite whose concubine had been murdered answered, "My concubine and I went to Gibeah in the territory of Benjamin to spend the night. 5The men of Gibeah came to get me and surrounded the house at night. They intended to kill me; instead they raped my concubine, and she died. 6I took her body, cut it in pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These people have committed an evil and immoral act among us. 7All of you here are Israelites. What are we going to do about this?"
8All the people stood up together and said, "None of us, whether he lives in a tent or in a house, will go home. 9This is what we will do: we will draw lots and choose some men to attack Gibeah. 10One tenth of the men in Israel will provide food for the army, and the others will go and punish Gibeah for this immoral act that they have committed in Israel." 11So all the men in Israel assembled with one purpose--to attack the town.
12The Israelite tribes sent messengers all through the territory of the tribe of Benjamin to say, "What is this crime that you have committed? 13Now hand over those perverts in Gibeah, so that we can kill them and remove this evil from Israel." But the people of Benjamin paid no attention to the other Israelites. 14From all the cities of Benjamin they came to Gibeah to fight the other people of Israel. 15-16They called out twenty-six thousand soldiers from their cities that day. Besides these, the citizens of Gibeah gathered seven hundred specially chosen men who were left-handed. Every one of them could sling a stone at a strand of hair and never miss. 17Not counting the tribe of Benjamin, the Israelites gathered 400,000 trained soldiers.
The War against the Benjaminites18The Israelites went to the place of worship at Bethel, and there they asked God, "Which tribe should attack the Benjaminites first?"
The LORD answered, "The tribe of Judah."
19So the Israelites started out the next morning and camped near the city of Gibeah. 20They went to attack the army of Benjamin, and placed the soldiers in position facing the city. 21The army of Benjamin came out of the city, and before the day was over they had killed twenty-two thousand Israelite soldiers. 22-23Then the Israelites went to the place of worship and mourned in the presence of the LORD until evening. They asked him, "Should we go again into battle against our brothers the Benjaminites?"
The LORD answered, "Yes."
So the Israelite army was encouraged, and they placed their soldiers in position again, where they had been the day before. 24They marched against the army of Benjamin a second time. 25And for the second time the Benjaminites came out of Gibeah, and this time they killed eighteen thousand trained Israelite soldiers. 26Then all the people of Israel went up to Bethel and mourned. They sat there in the LORD's presence and did not eat until evening. They offered fellowship sacrifices and burned some sacrifices whole--all in the presence of the LORD. 27-28God's Covenant Box was there at Bethel in those days, and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron, was in charge of it. The people asked the LORD, "Should we go out to fight our brothers the Benjaminites again, or should we give up?"
The LORD answered, "Fight. Tomorrow I will give you victory over them."
29So the Israelites put some soldiers in hiding around Gibeah. 30Then for the third straight day they marched against the army of Benjamin and placed their soldiers in battle position facing Gibeah, as they had done before. 31The Benjaminites came out to fight and were led away from the city. As they had before, they began killing some Israelites in the open country, on the road to Bethel and on the road to Gibeah. They killed about thirty Israelites. 32The Benjaminites said, "We've beaten them just as before."
But the Israelites had planned to retreat and lead them away from the city onto the roads. 33So when the main army of the Israelites pulled back and regrouped at Baaltamar, the men surrounding Gibeah suddenly rushed out of their hiding places in the rocky country around the city. 34Ten thousand men, specially chosen out of all Israel, attacked Gibeah, and the fighting was hard. The Benjaminites had not realized that they were about to be destroyed. 35The LORD gave Israel victory over the army of Benjamin. The Israelites killed 25,100 of the enemy that day, 36and the Benjaminites realized they were defeated.
How the Israelites WonThe main body of the Israelite army had retreated from the Benjaminites because they were relying on the men that they had put in hiding around Gibeah. 37These men ran quickly toward Gibeah; they spread out in the city and killed everyone there. 38The main Israelite army and the men in hiding had arranged a signal. When they saw a big cloud of smoke going up from the town, 39the Israelites out on the battlefield were to turn around. By this time the Benjaminites had already killed the thirty Israelites. They told themselves, "Yes, we've beaten them just as before." 40Then the signal appeared; a cloud of smoke began to go up from the town. The Benjaminites looked behind them and were amazed to see the whole city going up in flames. 41Then the Israelites turned around, and the Benjaminites were thrown into panic because they realized that they were about to be destroyed. 42They retreated from the Israelites and ran toward the open country, but they could not escape. They were caught between the main army and the men who were now coming out of the city, and they were destroyed. 43The Israelites had the enemy trapped, and without stopping they pursued them as far as a point east of Gibeah, killing them as they went. 44Eighteen thousand of the best Benjaminite soldiers were killed. 45The others turned and ran toward the open country to Rimmon Rock. Five thousand of them were killed on the roads. The Israelites continued to pursue the rest to Gidom, killing two thousand. 46In all, twenty-five thousand Benjaminites were killed that day--all of them brave soldiers.
47But six hundred men were able to escape to the open country to Rimmon Rock, and they stayed there four months. 48The Israelites turned back against the rest of the Benjaminites and killed them all--men, women, and children, and animals as well. They burned every town in the area.
A Royal Wedding SongPsalm 45 Beautiful words fill my mind,
as I compose this song for the king.
Like the pen of a good writer
my tongue is ready with a poem.
2You are the most handsome of men;
you are an eloquent speaker.
God has always blessed you.
3Buckle on your sword, mighty king;
you are glorious and majestic.
4Ride on in majesty to victory
for the defense of truth and justice!
Your strength will win you great victories!
5Your arrows are sharp,
they pierce the hearts of your enemies;
nations fall down at your feet.
6The kingdom that God has given you
will last forever and ever.
You rule over your people with justice;
7you love what is right and hate what is evil.
That is why God, your God, has chosen you
and has poured out more happiness on you
than on any other king.
8The perfume of myrrh and aloes is on your clothes;
musicians entertain you in palaces decorated with ivory.
9Among the women of your court are daughters of kings,
and at the right of your throne stands the queen,
wearing ornaments of finest gold.
10Bride of the king, listen to what I say--
forget your people and your relatives.
11Your beauty will make the king desire you;
he is your master, so you must obey him.
12The people of Tyre will bring you gifts;
rich people will try to win your favor.
13The princess is in the palace--how beautiful she is!
Her gown is made of gold thread.
14In her colorful gown she is led to the king,
followed by her bridesmaids,
and they also are brought to him.
15With joy and gladness they come
and enter the king's palace.
16You, my king, will have many sons
to succeed your ancestors as kings,
and you will make them rulers over the whole earth.
17My song will keep your fame alive forever,
and everyone will praise you for all time to come.
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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