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Daily Bible Reading – MSG

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Today’s Bible Reading

May 16

Acts 23:23-24:9; Judges 20; Psalm 45 MSG

Acts 23

1 Paul surveyed the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then said his piece: "Friends, I've lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment." 2 That set the Chief Priest Ananias off. He ordered his aides to slap Paul in the face. 3 Paul shot back, "God will slap you down! What a fake you are! You sit there and judge me by the Law and then break the Law by ordering me slapped around!" 4 The aides were scandalized: "How dare you talk to God's Chief Priest like that! 5 Paul acted surprised. "How was I to know he was Chief Priest? He doesn't act like a Chief Priest. You're right, the Scripture does say, 'Don't speak abusively to a ruler of the people.' Sorry." 6 Paul, knowing some of the council was made up of Sadducees and others of Pharisees and how they hated each other, decided to exploit their antagonism: "Friends, I am a stalwart Pharisee from a long line of Pharisees. It's because of my Pharisee convictions – the hope and resurrection of the dead – that I've been hauled into this court." 7 The moment he said this, the council split right down the middle, Pharisees and Sadducees going at each other in heated argument. 8 Sadducees have nothing to do with a resurrection or angels or even a spirit. If they can't see it, they don't believe it. Pharisees believe it all. 9 And so a huge and noisy quarrel broke out. Then some of the religion scholars on the Pharisee side shouted down the others: "We don't find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him? Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we're fighting against God?" 10 That was fuel on the fire. The quarrel flamed up and became so violent the captain was afraid they would tear Paul apart, limb from limb. He ordered the soldiers to get him out of there and escort him back to the safety of the barracks. 11 That night the Master appeared to Paul: "It's going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You've been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you're going to be my witness in Rome!" 12 Next day the Jews worked up a plot against Paul. They took a solemn oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. 13 Over forty of them ritually bound themselves to this murder pact 14 and presented themselves to the high priests and religious leaders. "We've bound ourselves by a solemn oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul 15 But we need your help. Send a request from the council to the captain to bring Paul back so that you can investigate the charges in more detail. We'll do the rest. Before he gets anywhere near you, we'll have killed him. You won't be involved." 16 Paul's nephew, his sister's son, overheard them plotting the ambush. He went immediately to the barracks and told Paul. 17 Paul called over one of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the captain. He has something important to tell him." 18 The centurion brought him to the captain and said, "The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He said he has something urgent to tell you." 19 The captain took him by the arm and led him aside privately. "What is it? What do you have to tell me? 20 Paul's nephew said, "The Jews have worked up a plot against Paul. They're going to ask you to bring Paul to the council first thing in the morning on the pretext that they want to investigate the charges against him in more detail. 21 But it's a trick to get him out of your safekeeping so they can murder him. Right now there are more than forty men lying in ambush for him. They've all taken a vow to neither eat nor drink until they've killed him. The ambush is set – all they're waiting for is for you to send him over. 22 The captain dismissed the nephew with a warning: "Don't breathe a word of this to a soul." 23 The captain called up two centurions. "Get two hundred soldiers ready to go immediately to Caesarea. Also seventy cavalry and two hundred light infantry. I want them ready to march by nine o'clock tonight. 24 And you'll need a couple of mules for Paul and his gear. We're going to present this man safe and sound to Governor Felix." 25 Then he wrote this letter: 26 From Claudius Lysias, to the Most Honorable Governor Felix: 27 I rescued this man from a Jewish mob. They had seized him and were about to kill him when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. So I sent in my soldiers. 28 Wanting to know what he had done wrong, I had him brought before their council. 29 It turned out to be a squabble turned vicious over some of their religious differences, but nothing remotely criminal. 30 The next thing I knew, they had cooked up a plot to murder him. I decided that for his own safety I'd better get him out of here in a hurry. So I'm sending him to you. I'm informing his accusers that he's now under your jurisdiction. 31 The soldiers, following orders, took Paul that same night to safety in Antipatris. 32 In the morning the soldiers returned to their barracks in Jerusalem, sending Paul on to Caesarea under guard of the cavalry. 33 The cavalry entered Caesarea and handed Paul and the letter over to the governor. 34 After reading the letter, the governor asked Paul what province he came from and was told "Cilicia." 35 Then he said, "I'll take up your case when your accusers show up." He ordered him locked up for the meantime in King Herod's official quarters.

Acts 24:1-9

1 Within five days, the Chief Priest Ananias arrived with a contingent of leaders, along with Tertullus, a trial lawyer. They presented the governor with their case against Paul. 2 When Paul was called before the court, Tertullus spoke for the prosecution: "Most Honorable Felix, we are most grateful in all times and places for your wise and gentle rule. 3 We are much aware that it is because of you and you alone that we enjoy all this peace and gain daily profit from your reforms. 4 I'm not going to tire you out with a long speech. I beg your kind indulgence in listening to me. I'll be quite brief. 5 "We've found this man time and again disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over the world, the ringleader of a seditious sect called Nazarenes. 6 He's a real bad apple, I must say. We caught him trying to defile our holy Temple and arrested him. 8 You'll be able to verify all these accusations when you examine him yourself." 9 The Jews joined in: "Hear, hear! That's right!" 10 The governor motioned to Paul that it was now his turn. Paul said, "I count myself fortunate to be defending myself before you, Governor, knowing how fair-minded you've been in judging us all these years.

Judges 20

1 Then all the People of Israel came out. The congregation met in the presence of God at Mizpah. They were all there, from Dan to Beersheba, as one person! 2 The leaders of all the people, representing all the tribes of Israel, took their places in the gathering of God's people. There were 400 divisions of sword-wielding infantry. 3 Meanwhile the Benjaminites got wind that the Israelites were meeting at Mizpah. The People of Israel said, "Now tell us. How did this outrageous evil happen?" 4 The Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, spoke: "My concubine and I came to spend the night at Gibeah, a Benjaminite town. 5 That night the men of Gibeah came after me. They surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They gang-raped my concubine and she died. 6 So I took my concubine, cut up her body, and sent her piece by piece – twelve pieces! – to every part of Israel's inheritance. This vile and outrageous crime was committed in Israel! 7 So, Israelites, make up your minds. Decide on some action!" 8 All the people were at once and as one person on their feet. "None of us will go home; not a single one of us will go to his own house. 9 Here's our plan for dealing with Gibeah: We'll march against it by drawing lots. 10 We'll take ten of every hundred men from all the tribes of Israel (a hundred of every thousand, and a thousand of every ten thousand) to carry food for the army. When the troops arrive at Gibeah they will settle accounts for this outrageous and vile evil that was done in Israel." 11 So all the men in Israel were gathered against the city, totally united. 12 The Israelite tribes sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin saying, "What's the meaning of this outrage that took place among you? 13 Surrender the men right here and now, these hell-raisers of Gibeah. We'll put them to death and burn the evil out of Israel." 14 Instead they raised an army from all their cities and rallied at Gibeah to go to war against the People of Israel. 15 In no time at all they had recruited from their cities twenty-six divisions of sword-wielding infantry. From Gibeah they got 700 hand-picked fighters, the best. 16 There were another 700 super marksmen who were ambidextrous – they could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. 17 The men of Israel, excluding Benjamin, mobilized 400 divisions of sword-wielding fighting men. 18 They set out and went to Bethel to inquire of God. The People of Israel said, "Who of us shall be first to go into battle with the Benjaminites?" God said, "Judah goes first." 19 The People of Israel got up the next morning and camped before Gibeah. 20 The army of Israel marched out against Benjamin and took up their positions, ready to attack Gibeah. 21 But the Benjaminites poured out of Gibeah and devastated twenty-two Israelite divisions on the ground. 22 The army took heart. The men of Israel took up the positions they had deployed on the first day. 23 The Israelites went back to the sanctuary and wept before God until evening. They again inquired of God, "Shall we again go into battle against the Benjaminites, our brothers?" God said, "Yes. Attack." 24 On the second day, the Israelites again advanced against Benjamin. 25 This time as the Benjaminites came out of the city, on this second day, they devastated another eighteen Israelite divisions, all swordsmen. 26 All the People of Israel, the whole army, were back at Bethel, weeping, sitting there in the presence of God. That day they fasted until evening. They sacrificed Whole-Burnt-Offerings and Peace-Offerings before God. 27 And they again inquired of God. The Chest of God's Covenant was there at that time with 28 Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, as the ministering priest. They asked, "Shall we again march into battle against the Benjaminites, our brothers? Or should we call it quits?" And God said, "Attack. Tomorrow I'll give you victory." 29 This time Israel placed men in ambush all around Gibeah. 30 On the third day when Israel set out, they took up the same positions before the Benjaminites as before. 31 When the Benjaminites came out to meet the army, they moved out from the city. Benjaminites began to cut down some of the troops just as they had before. About thirty men fell in the field and on the roads to Bethel and Gibeah. 32 The Benjaminites started bragging, "We're dropping them like flies, just as before!" 33 But the Israelites strategized: "Now let's retreat and pull them out of the city onto the main roads." So every Israelite moved farther out to Baal Tamar; at the same time the Israelite ambush rushed from its place west of Gibeah. 34 Ten crack divisions from all over Israel now arrived at Gibeah – intense, bloody fighting! The Benjaminites had no idea that they were about to go down in defeat – 35 God routed them before Israel. The Israelites decimated twenty-five divisions of Benjamin that day – 25,100 killed. They were all swordsmen. 36 The Benjaminites saw that they were beaten. The men of Israel acted like they were retreating before Benjamin, knowing that they could depend on the ambush they had prepared for Gibeah. 37 The ambush erupted and made quick work of Gibeah. The ambush spread out and massacred the city. 38 The strategy for the main body of the ambush was that they send up a smoke signal from the city. 39 Then the men of Israel would turn in battle. When that happened, Benjamin had killed about thirty Israelites and thought they were on their way to victory, yelling out, "They're on the run, just as in the first battle!" 40 But then the signal went up from the city – a huge column of smoke. When the Benjaminites looked back, there it was, the whole city going up in smoke. 41 By the time the men of Israel had turned back on them, the men of Benjamin fell apart – they could see that they were trapped. 42 Confronted by the Israelites, they tried to get away down the wilderness road, but by now the battle was everywhere. The men of Israel poured out of the towns, killing them right and left, 43 hot on their trail, picking them off east of Gibeah. 44 Eighteen divisions of Benjaminites were wiped out, all their best fighters. 45 Five divisions turned to escape to the wilderness, to Rimmon Rock, but the Israelites caught and slaughtered them on roads. Keeping the pressure on, the Israelites brought down two more divisions. 46 The total of the Benjaminites killed that day came to twenty-five divisions of infantry, their best swordsmen. 47 Six hundred men got away. They made it to Rimmon Rock in the wilderness and held out there for four months. 48 The men of Israel came back and killed all the Benjaminites who were left, all the men and animals they found in every town, and then torched the towns, sending them up in flames.

Psalm 45:1-18

1 My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out in a poem to the king, shaping the river into words: 2 "You're the handsomest of men; every word from your lips is sheer grace, and God has blessed you, blessed you so much. 3 Strap your sword to your side, warrior! Accept praise! Accept due honor! Ride majestically! Ride triumphantly! 4 Ride on the side of truth! Ride for the righteous meek! "Your instructions are glow-in-the-dark; 5 you shoot sharp arrows Into enemy hearts; the king's foes lie down in the dust, beaten. 6 "Your throne is God's throne, ever and always; The scepter of your royal rule measures right living. 7 You love the right and hate the wrong. And that is why God, your very own God, poured fragrant oil on your head, Marking you out as king from among your dear companions. 8 "Your ozone-drenched garments are fragrant with mountain breeze. Chamber music – from the throne room – makes you want to dance. 9 Kings' daughters are maids in your court, the Bride glittering with golden jewelry. 10 "Now listen, daughter, don't miss a word: forget your country, put your home behind you. 11 Be here – the king is wild for you. Since he's your lord, adore him. 12 Wedding gifts pour in from Tyre; rich guests shower you with presents." 13 (Her wedding dress is dazzling, lined with gold by the weavers; 14 All her dresses and robes are woven with gold. She is led to the king, followed by her virgin companions. 15 A procession of joy and laughter! a grand entrance to the king's palace!) 16 "Set your mind now on sons – don't dote on father and grandfather. You'll set your sons up as princes all over the earth. 17 I'll make you famous for generations; you'll be the talk of the town for a long, long time."

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