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Daily Bible Reading – MSG

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Today’s Bible Reading

May 15

Acts 22:30-23:22; Judges 19; Psalm 44 MSG

Acts 22

1 "My dear brothers and fathers, listen carefully to what I have to say before you jump to conclusions about me." 2 When they heard him speaking Hebrew, they grew even quieter. No one wanted to miss a word of this. 3 "I am a good Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but educated here in Jerusalem under the exacting eye of Rabbi Gamaliel, thoroughly instructed in our religious traditions. And I've always been passionately on God's side, just as you are right now. 4 "I went after anyone connected with this 'Way,' went at them hammer and tongs, ready to kill for God. I rounded up men and women right and left and had them thrown in prison. 5 You can ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; they all knew me well. Then I went off to our brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents authorizing me to hunt down the Christians there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing. 6 "As I arrived on the outskirts of Damascus about noon, a blinding light blazed out of the skies 7 and I fell to the ground, dazed. I heard a voice: 'Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?' 8 "'Who are you, Master?' I asked. 9 My companions saw the light, but they didn't hear the conversation. 10 "Then I said, 'What do I do now, Master?' 11 And so we entered Damascus, but nothing like the entrance I had planned – I was blind as a bat and my companions had to lead me in by the hand. 12 "And that's when I met Ananias, a man with a sterling reputation in observing our laws – the Jewish community in Damascus is unanimous on that score. 13 He came and put his arm on my shoulder. 'Look up,' he said. I looked, and found myself looking right into his eyes – I could see again! 14 "Then he said, 'The God of our ancestors has handpicked you to be briefed on his plan of action. You've actually seen the Righteous Innocent and heard him speak. 15 You are to be a key witness to everyone you meet of what you've seen and heard. 16 So what are you waiting for? Get up and get yourself baptized, scrubbed clean of those sins and personally acquainted with God.' 17 "Well, it happened just as Ananias said. After I was back in Jerusalem and praying one day in the Temple, lost in the presence of God, 18 I saw him, saw God's Righteous Innocent, and heard him say to me, 'Hurry up! Get out of here as quickly as you can. None of the Jews here in Jerusalem are going to accept what you say about me.' 19 "At first I objected: 'Who has better credentials? They all know how obsessed I was with hunting out those who believed in you, beating them up in the meeting places and throwing them in jail. 20 And when your witness Stephen was murdered, I was right there, holding the coats of the murderers and cheering them on. And now they see me totally converted. What better qualification could I have?' 21 "But he said, 'Don't argue. Go. I'm sending you on a long journey to outsider Gentiles.'" 22 The people in the crowd had listened attentively up to this point, but now they broke loose, shouting out, "Kill him! He's an insect! Stomp on him!" 23 They shook their fists. They filled the air with curses. 24 That's when the captain intervened and ordered Paul taken into the barracks. By now the captain was thoroughly exasperated. He decided to interrogate Paul under torture in order to get to the bottom of this, to find out what he had done that provoked this outraged violence. 25 As they spread-eagled him with thongs, getting him ready for the whip, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is this legal: torturing a Roman citizen without a fair trial?" 26 When the centurion heard that, he went directly to the captain. "Do you realize what you've done? This man is a Roman citizen!" 27 The captain came back and took charge. "Is what I hear right? You're a Roman citizen?" Paul said, "I certainly am." 28 The captain was impressed. "I paid a huge sum for my citizenship. How much did it cost you?" "Nothing," said Paul. "It cost me nothing. I was free from the day of my birth." 29 That put a stop to the interrogation. And it put the fear of God into the captain. He had put a Roman citizen in chains and come within a whisker of putting him under torture! 30 The next day, determined to get to the root of the trouble and know for sure what was behind the Jewish accusation, the captain released Paul and ordered a meeting of the high priests and the High Council to see what they could make of it. Paul was led in and took his place before them.

Acts 23:1-22

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."

Judges 19

1 It was an era when there was no king in Israel. A Levite, living as a stranger in the backwoods hill country of Ephraim, got himself a concubine, a woman from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But she quarreled with him and left, returning to her father's house in Bethlehem in Judah. She was there four months. 3 Then her husband decided to go after her and try to win her back. He had a servant and a pair of donkeys with him. When he arrived at her father's house, the girl's father saw him, welcomed him, and made him feel at home. 4 His father-in-law, the girl's father, pressed him to stay. He stayed with him three days; they feasted and drank and slept. 5 On the fourth day, they got up at the crack of dawn and got ready to go. But the girl's father said to his son-in-law, "Strengthen yourself with a hearty breakfast and then you can go." 6 So they sat down and ate breakfast together. 7 The man got up to go, but his father-in-law kept after him, so he ended up spending another night. 8 On the fifth day, he was again up early, ready to go. The girl's father said, "You need some breakfast." They went back and forth, and the day slipped on as they ate and drank together. 9 But the man and his concubine were finally ready to go. Then his father-in-law, the girl's father, said, "Look, the day's almost gone – why not stay the night? There's very little daylight left; stay another night and enjoy yourself. Tomorrow you can get an early start and set off for your own place." 10 But this time the man wasn't willing to spend another night. He got things ready, left, and went as far as Jebus (Jerusalem) with his pair of saddled donkeys, his concubine, and his servant. 11 At Jebus, though, the day was nearly gone. The servant said to his master, "It's late; let's go into this Jebusite city and spend the night." 12 But his master said, "We're not going into any city of foreigners. We'll go on to Gibeah." 13 He directed his servant, "Keep going. Let's go on ahead. We'll spend the night either at Gibeah or Ramah." 14 So they kept going. As they pressed on, the sun finally left them in the vicinity of Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin. 15 They left the road there to spend the night at Gibeah. 16 Then, late in the evening, an old man came in from his day's work in the fields. He was from the hill country of Ephraim and lived temporarily in Gibeah where all the local citizens were Benjaminites. 17 When the old man looked up and saw the traveler in the town square, he said, "Where are you going? And where are you from?" 18 The Levite said, "We're just passing through. We're coming from Bethlehem on our way to a remote spot in the hills of Ephraim. I come from there. I've just made a trip to Bethlehem in Judah and I'm on my way back home, but no one has invited us in for the night. 19 We wouldn't be any trouble: We have food and straw for the donkeys, and bread and wine for the woman, the young man, and me – we don't need anything." 20 The old man said, "It's going to be all right; I'll take care of you. You aren't going to spend the night in the town square." 21 He took them home and fed the donkeys. They washed up and sat down to a good meal. 22 They were relaxed and enjoying themselves when the men of the city, a gang of local hell-raisers all, surrounded the house and started pounding on the door. They yelled for the owner of the house, the old man, "Bring out the man who came to your house. We want to have sex with him." 23 He went out and told them, "No, brothers! Don't be obscene – this man is my guest. Don't commit this outrage. 24 Look, my virgin daughter and his concubine are here. I'll bring them out for you. Abuse them if you must, but don't do anything so senselessly vile to this man." 25 But the men wouldn't listen to him. Finally, the Levite pushed his concubine out the door to them. They raped her repeatedly all night long. Just before dawn they let her go. 26 The woman came back and fell at the door of the house where her master was sleeping. When the sun rose, there she was. 27 It was morning. Her master got up and opened the door to continue his journey. There she was, his concubine, crumpled in a heap at the door, her hands on the threshold. 28 "Get up," he said. "Let's get going." There was no answer. 29 He lifted her onto his donkey and set out for home. When he got home he took a knife and dismembered his concubine – cut her into twelve pieces. He sent her, piece by piece, throughout the country of Israel. 30 And he ordered the men he sent out, "Say to every man in Israel: 'Has such a thing as this ever happened from the time the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until now? Think about it! Talk it over. Do something!'"

Psalm 44:1-27

1 We've been hearing about this, God, all our lives. Our fathers told us the stories their fathers told them, 2 How single-handedly you weeded out the godless from the fields and planted us, How you sent those people packing but gave us a fresh start. 3 We didn't fight for this land; we didn't work for it – it was a gift! You gave it, smiling as you gave it, delighting as you gave it. 4 You're my King, O God – command victories for Jacob! 5 With your help we'll wipe out our enemies, in your name we'll stomp them to dust. 6 I don't trust in weapons; my sword won't save me – 7 But it's you, you who saved us from the enemy; you made those who hate us lose face. 8 All day we parade God's praise – we thank you by name over and over. 9 But now you've walked off and left us, you've disgraced us and won't fight for us. 10 You made us turn tail and run; those who hate us have cleaned us out. 11 You delivered us as sheep to the butcher, you scattered us to the four winds. 12 You sold your people at a discount – you made nothing on the sale. 13 You made people on the street, urchins, poke fun and call us names. 14 You made us a joke among the godless, a cheap joke among the rabble. 15 Every day I'm up against it, my nose rubbed in my shame – 16 Gossip and ridicule fill the air, people out to get me crowd the street. 17 All this came down on us, and we've done nothing to deserve it. 18 our hearts were never false, our feet never left your path. 19 Do we deserve torture in a den of jackals? or lockup in a black hole? 20 If we had forgotten to pray to our God or made fools of ourselves with store-bought gods, 21 Wouldn't God have figured this out? We can't hide things from him. 22 No, you decided to make us martyrs, lambs assigned for sacrifice each day. 23 Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day? Wake up! Don't you care what happens to us? 24 Why do you bury your face in the pillow? Why pretend things are just fine with us? 25 And here we are – flat on our faces in the dirt, held down with a boot on our necks. 26 Get up and come to our rescue. If you love us so much, Help us!

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