May 23 - Acts 28.1-15, 1 Samuel 4-5 and Psalm 52
In MaltaActs 28 When we were safely ashore, we learned that the island was called Malta. 2The natives there were very friendly to us. It had started to rain and was cold, so they built a fire and made us all welcome. 3Paul gathered up a bundle of sticks and was putting them on the fire when a snake came out on account of the heat and fastened itself to his hand. 4The natives saw the snake hanging on Paul's hand and said to one another, "This man must be a murderer, but Fate will not let him live, even though he escaped from the sea." 5But Paul shook the snake off into the fire without being harmed at all. 6They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after waiting for a long time and not seeing anything unusual happening to him, they changed their minds and said, "He is a god!"
7Not far from that place were some fields that belonged to Publius, the chief of the island. He welcomed us kindly and for three days we were his guests. 8Publius' father was in bed, sick with fever and dysentery. Paul went into his room, prayed, placed his hands on him, and healed him. 9When this happened, all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. 10They gave us many gifts, and when we sailed, they put on board what we needed for the voyage.
From Malta to Rome11After three months we sailed away on a ship from Alexandria, called "The Twin Gods," which had spent the winter in the island. 12We arrived in the city of Syracuse and stayed there for three days. 13From there we sailed on and arrived in the city of Rhegium. The next day a wind began to blow from the south, and in two days we came to the town of Puteoli. 14We found some believers there who asked us to stay with them a week. And so we came to Rome. 15The believers in Rome heard about us and came as far as the towns of Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was greatly encouraged.
The Capture of the Covenant Box1 Samuel 4 At that time the Philistines gathered to go to war against Israel, so the Israelites set out to fight them. The Israelites set up their camp at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek. 2The Philistines attacked, and after fierce fighting they defeated the Israelites and killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3When the survivors came back to camp, the leaders of Israel said, "Why did the LORD let the Philistines defeat us today? Let's go and bring the LORD's Covenant Box from Shiloh, so that he will go with us and save us from our enemies." 4So they sent messengers to Shiloh and got the Covenant Box of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned above the winged creatures. And Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, came along with the Covenant Box.
5When the Covenant Box arrived, the Israelites gave such a loud shout of joy that the earth shook. 6The Philistines heard the shouting and said, "Listen to all that shouting in the Hebrew camp! What does it mean?" When they found out that the LORD's Covenant Box had arrived in the Hebrew camp, 7they were afraid, and said, "A god has come into their camp! We're lost! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before! 8Who can save us from those powerful gods? They are the gods who slaughtered the Egyptians in the desert! 9Be brave, Philistines! Fight like men, or we will become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they were our slaves. So fight like men!"
10The Philistines fought hard and defeated the Israelites, who went running to their homes. There was a great slaughter: thirty thousand Israelite soldiers were killed. 11God's Covenant Box was captured, and Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were both killed.
The Death of Eli12A man from the tribe of Benjamin ran all the way from the battlefield to Shiloh and arrived there the same day. To show his grief, he had torn his clothes and put dirt on his head. 13Eli, who was very worried about the Covenant Box, was sitting in his seat beside the road, staring. The man spread the news throughout the town, and everyone cried out in fear. 14Eli heard the noise and asked, "What is all this noise about?" The man hurried to Eli to tell him the news. ( 15Eli was now ninety-eight years old and almost completely blind.) 16The man said, "I have escaped from the battle and have run all the way here today."
Eli asked him, "What happened, my son?"
17The messenger answered, "Israel ran away from the Philistines; it was a terrible defeat for us! Besides that, your sons Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and God's Covenant Box was captured!"
18When the man mentioned the Covenant Box, Eli fell backward from his seat beside the gate. He was so old and fat that the fall broke his neck, and he died. He had been a leader in Israel for forty years.
The Death of the Widow of Phinehas19Eli's daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, and it was almost time for her baby to be born. When she heard that God's Covenant Box had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she suddenly went into labor and gave birth. 20As she was dying, the women helping her said to her, "Be brave! You have a son!" But she paid no attention and did not answer. 21She named the boy Ichabod, explaining, "God's glory has left Israel"--referring to the capture of the Covenant Box and the death of her father-in-law and her husband. 22"God's glory has left Israel," she said, "because God's Covenant Box has been captured."
The Covenant Box among the Philistines1 Samuel 5 After the Philistines captured the Covenant Box, they carried it from Ebenezer to their city of Ashdod, 2took it into the temple of their god Dagon, and set it up beside his statue. 3Early the next morning the people of Ashdod saw that the statue of Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground in front of the LORD's Covenant Box. So they lifted it up and put it back in its place. 4Early the following morning they saw that the statue had again fallen down in front of the Covenant Box. This time its head and both its arms were broken off and were lying in the doorway; only the body was left. ( 5That is why even today the priests of Dagon and all his worshipers in Ashdod step over that place and do not walk on it.)
6The LORD punished the people of Ashdod severely and terrified them. He punished them and the people in the surrounding territory by causing them to have tumors. 7When they saw what was happening, they said, "The God of Israel is punishing us and our god Dagon. We can't let the Covenant Box stay here any longer." 8So they sent messengers and called together all five of the Philistine kings and asked them, "What shall we do with the Covenant Box of the God of Israel?"
"Take it over to Gath," they answered; so they took it to Gath, another Philistine city. 9But after it arrived there, the LORD punished that city too and caused a great panic. He punished them with tumors which developed in all the people of the city, young and old alike. 10So they sent the Covenant Box to Ekron, another Philistine city; but when it arrived there, the people cried out, "They have brought the Covenant Box of the God of Israel here, in order to kill us all!" 11So again they sent for all the Philistine kings and said, "Send the Covenant Box of Israel back to its own place, so that it won't kill us and our families." There was panic throughout the city because God was punishing them so severely. 12Even those who did not die developed tumors and the people cried out to their gods for help.
God's Judgment and GracePsalm 52 Why do you boast, great one, of your evil?
God's faithfulness is eternal.
2You make plans to ruin others;
your tongue is like a sharp razor.
You are always inventing lies.
3You love evil more than good
and falsehood more than truth.
4You love to hurt people with your words, you liar!
5So God will ruin you forever;
he will take hold of you and snatch you from your home;
he will remove you from the world of the living.
6Righteous people will see this and be afraid;
then they will laugh at you and say,
7"Look, here is someone who did not depend on God for safety,
but trusted instead in great wealth
and looked for security in being wicked."
8But I am like an olive tree growing in the house of God;
I trust in his constant love forever and ever.
9I will always thank you, God, for what you have done;
in the presence of your people
I will proclaim that you are good.
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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