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2 Samuel 20:14-22:20

14 Sheba marched across all the tribal lands of Israel until he came to Abel in Beth-maacah; and all his kinsmen, the Berites, gathered and followed him inside the fortified city. 15 When Joab’s army arrived, they put Abel Beth-maacah under siege. They built an earthen rampart up onto the wall, while others with Joab tried to break the wall down. 16 Then a wise woman called out from the city.

Woman: Listen to me! Tell Joab that I want to talk to him!

17 Joab came close enough to hear her.

Woman: Are you Joab?

Joab: Yes, I am.

Woman: I, your servant, have something to tell you.

Joab: All right. I am listening.

Woman: 18 In the old days, people used to say, “Let’s ask for guidance at Abel,” and there they would resolve their differences. 19 I am one of the many in Israel who are faithful and peaceful. Why would you destroy a city that has been a mother to Israel? Why would you knock down what the Eternal One has built?

Joab: 20 I’m certainly not here to destroy the city. 21 That’s the last thing I want to do! But we are pursuing a man from the hill country of Ephraim: Sheba, Bichri’s son, who has raised up a rebellion against David the king. If you will hand him over to us, then we will lift the siege and go home.

Woman: Then stay alert—we’ll throw his head over the wall to you.

22 The wise woman talked to all the people about her plan to save the city. They cut off Sheba’s head and threw it over the wall for Joab. Then Joab blew the trumpet to halt his attack. The troops went to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.

23 With Amasa dead, Joab again commanded all the army of Israel. Benaiah, Jehoiada’s son, commanded the mercenary companies of Cherethites and Pelethites. 24 Adoram commanded all the forced laborers. Jehoshaphat, Ahilud’s son, was the recorder, 25 and Sheva was the royal secretary. Zadok and Abiathar were priests, 26 and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest.

21 After the people had suffered from a famine for three successive years, David asked the Eternal One why the famine lingered, and the answer came that the nation was guilty for not making amends for the bloodlust of King Saul, who slaughtered the people of Gibeon. (The Gibeonites were not from Israel—they were related to the Amorites. Saul tried to annihilate them in his zeal for Israel and Judah, although the people of Israel had promised to spare them during the days of Joshua.) So David called for the leaders of Gibeon.

David: What can I do, what can I give you, to lift this guilt from my land so that you will honor the Eternal’s chosen people?

Gibeonite Leaders: Silver and gold won’t make things right for us with Saul’s kingdom. And it is not for us to tell you who should be subject to capital punishment in Israel.

David: I will do whatever you ask.

Gibeonite Leaders: Saul attacked us and tried to destroy us, to wipe us off the map of Israel. Give us seven of his descendants, and we will hang them on a tree in Gibeah before the Eternal, on His mountain.

David: I will give them to you.

Now the king did not give them Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson and Jonathan’s son, because of the sacred oath between David and Jonathan. But he did take Saul’s two sons by Rizpah (daughter of Aiah), Armoni and Mephibosheth, and the five sons of Merab (Saul’s daughter) that she had by Adriel (son of Barzillai the Meholathite). David had them seized and handed them over to the Gibeonites, who executed them before the Eternal One on the mountain. All seven of them died together, in the spring of the year during the first days of the barley harvest.

10 Rizpah, Aiah’s daughter, spread out sackcloth on a rock to make a place to sit; and from the time her sons died until rain fell in late autumn, she refused to let the birds or wild animals desecrate the bodies. 11 When David heard what Saul’s concubine Rizpah had done, 12 he went and gathered the bones of Saul and Jonathan (which the people of Jabesh-gilead had stolen from the place where they were hanged in the Philistine public square in Beth-shan on the day the Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa). 13 He took the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son and gathered the bones of those who had been impaled in Gibeon. 14 He had Saul and Jonathan buried in the tomb of their father Kish, in Zela in the land of Benjamin. All that David commanded was done; and afterward, God answered the prayers of the people of Israel for the land.

15 Philistia and Israel were at war again, and David and his soldiers fought them long and hard until at last he grew weary. 16 Then Ishbi-benob (who was a descendant of Raphah) announced that he had come to kill David. He carried a bronze spear, the head of which weighed nearly 10 pounds, and he carried a new sword. 17 But Abishai, Zeruiah’s son, came to David’s aid. He attacked and killed this Philistine.

David’s Men (to David): You can’t go out to fight with us any longer. If you are killed, then the lamp of Israel will go out.

18 Later the Israelites fought the Philistines at Gob; and Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, another Philistine warrior descended from the giant. 19 In another fight at Gob with the Philistines, Elhanan (son of Jaare-oregim of Bethlehem), killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, whose spear shaft was as large as a weaver’s beam. 20 Then in a battle at Gath, they fought against another famous warrior. He was a huge man with 6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot—24 in all—and he was also descended from the giant. 21 When he insulted the people of Israel, Jonathan (the son of David’s brother Shimei) killed him. 22 All four of these great warriors were descended from the giant of Gath, but all of them were defeated by the skill of David and his men.

22 David composed the following song of praise to the Eternal because He delivered him from all of his enemies and especially from Saul.

At last the day comes when David has conquered—at least, temporarily—all his enemies, and he marks this day by rejoicing. In the same way that he composed songs to lament Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths, David composes a psalm of joy to the Lord who is his strong fortress and his security. He gives God the credit, but he also claims—and rightly, of course, in spite of his occasional transgressions—that he has tried to do what God asked him to do, has tried to keep the ways of God.

David: The Eternal is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
        He is my True God, my stronghold in whom I take refuge,
    My strong shield, my horn that calls forth rescue,
        my tall-walled tower and strong refuge,
    My savior from violence.
    I call on the Eternal, who is worthy to be praised,
        and I have been rescued from my enemies.
    The waves of death surrounded me;
        the torrents of terror tugged at me.
    The sorrows of the grave[a] tightly tangled me;
        the snares of death met me.
    In my time of need I called upon the Eternal One;
        I called to my True God for help.
    He heard my voice from His temple,
        and my cry came to His ears.

    Because of His great anger,
        the earth shook and staggered;
        the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked.
    Smoke billowed out from His nostrils
        and devouring fire from His mouth;
        glowing coals flamed from Him.
10     He bent the heavens and descended;
        darkness is beneath His feet.
11     He rode upon a heavenly creature,[b] flying;
        He soared swiftly on the wings of the wind.
12     He placed darkness around Him like a canopy
        and made His home in dark watery clouds of the sky.
13     Out from His brightness,
        hailstones and burning coals flared forth.
14     The Eternal thundered in the heavens,
        the voice of the Most High speaking.
15     He shot forth His arrows and scattered the wicked;
        He flung forth His lightning and struck them.
16     Then the deepest channels of the seas were revealed;
        and the foundations of the world were uncovered
    At Your rebuke, O Eternal One,
        at the blast of wind breathed from Your nostrils.
17     He reached down from above me, He held me;
        He pulled me from the raging waters.
18     He rescued me from my strong enemy
        and from all those who hated me,
        for they would have overwhelmed me.
19     When my enemies came for me on the day of my destruction,
        the Eternal stepped in to support me.
20     He led me out onto a broad plain;
        He delivered me because of His delight in me.

Footnotes:

  1. 22:6 Hebrew, sheol
  2. 22:11 Hebrew, cherub
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Acts 1

Luke, in this his second volume concerning the genesis of the Christian movement, doesn’t preserve Jesus’ teachings during those mysterious meetings with His emissaries after His death. Surely they are filled with joy, curiosity, and amazement as His followers hang on His every word and gaze on the reality of His bodily resurrection as He describes the kingdom of God. His words are undoubtedly intended to prepare each of them for this journey, a journey with a clear destination in sight—the kingdom of God.

An integral part of this kingdom is the activity of the Holy Spirit to empower the people of God as they expand the kingdom beyond the region of Palestine. Luke records surprisingly little about the day-to-day life of these early Christians, about how they integrated their faith into their culture; but he does emphasize the work of the Spirit who empowers miracles and gives believers the means to testify of their faith before Jews and the outsiders.

To a lover of God, Theophilus: In my first book, I recounted the events of Jesus’ life—His actions, His teachings— 2-3 from the beginning of His life until He was taken up into heaven. After His great suffering and vindication, He showed His apostles that He was alive—appearing to them repeatedly over a period of 40 days, giving them many convincing proofs of His resurrection. As before, He spoke constantly of the kingdom of God. During these appearances, He had instructed His chosen messengers through the Holy Spirit, prohibiting them from leaving Jerusalem, but rather requiring them to wait there until they received what He called “the promise of the Father.”

Jesus: This is what you heard Me teach— that just as John ritually cleansed people with water through baptism,[a] so you will be washed with the Holy Spirit very soon.

When they had gathered just outside Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives, they asked Jesus,

Disciples: Is now the time, Lord—the time when You will reestablish Your kingdom in our land of Israel?

Jesus: The Father, on His own authority, has determined the ages and epochs of history, but you have not been given this knowledge. Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be My witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.

As He finished this commission, He began to rise from the ground before their eyes until the clouds obscured Him from their vision. 10 As they strained to get one last glimpse of Him going into heaven, the Lord’s emissaries[b] realized two men in white robes were standing among them.

Two Men: 11 You Galileans, why are you standing here staring up into the sky? This Jesus who is leaving you and ascending to heaven will return in the same way you see Him departing.

12 Then the disciples returned to Jerusalem—their short journey from the Mount of Olives was an acceptable Sabbath Day’s walk.

13-14 Back in the city, they went to the room where they were staying—a second-floor room. This whole group devoted themselves to constant prayer with one accord: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), Judas (son of James), a number of women including Mary (Jesus’ mother), and some of Jesus’ brothers.

15 As the disciples prayed, Peter stood among the group of about 120 people and made this proposal:

The Creator of heaven and earth is orchestrating a redemptive story that will radically change the course of history. The most significant supernatural event in the history of this newly formed church will be the filling of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, God will direct the church’s growth. But how does the early church make important decisions before the Holy Spirit descends on them?

The company of disciples turns to the practice of “drawing lots,” a practice used by saints for centuries to discover God’s providential leading. After much prayer, Joseph and Matthias most likely write their names on scraps; then someone draws the replacement’s name out of a bag. What seems like a 50/50 chance is, in fact, God’s way of imparting His will. The disciples aren’t putting their faith in “chance”; they are putting their faith in a God who lives. This living God isn’t distant; He is a player in their lives, active when His people seek Him and His will. They know God directs the process, start to finish, and determines whose name is drawn to join the eleven.

Peter: 16-17 My friends, everything in the Hebrew Scriptures had to be fulfilled, including what the Holy Spirit foretold through David about Judas. As you know, Judas was one of us and participated in our ministry until he guided the authorities to arrest Jesus. 18 (He was paid handsomely for his betrayal, and he bought a field with the blood money. But he died on that land—falling so that his abdomen burst and his internal organs gushed out. 19 News of this death spread to everyone in Jerusalem, so Judas’s property is known as Hakeldama, which means “field of blood.”) 20 In this way, one of David’s psalms was fulfilled: “May their camps be bleak, with not one left in any tent.”[c] But the psalms also include these words: “Let his position of oversight be given to another.”[d] 21 So we need to determine his replacement from among the men who have been with us during all of the Lord Jesus’ travels among us— 22 from His baptism[e] by John until His ascension. We need someone to join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.

23 The group put forward two men: Joseph (who was also known as Barsabbas or Justus) and Matthias.

Disciples: 24 Lord, You know everyone’s heart. Make it clear to us which of these two is Your choice 25 to take on this ministry as Your apostle, replacing Judas who went his own way to his own destination.

26 Then they drew lots, and the lot fell to Matthias, so he was added to the eleven apostles to reconstitute the twelve.

Footnotes:

  1. 1:5 Literally, immersed, to show repentance
  2. 1:10 Literally, apostles
  3. 1:20 Psalm 69:25–26
  4. 1:20 Psalm 109:8
  5. 1:22 Literally, immersion, an act to show repentance
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Psalm 121

Psalm 121

A song for those journeying to worship.

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—
    from where will my help come in times of trouble?
The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains
    will send the help I need.

He holds you firmly in place;
He will not let you fall.
    He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep.
What a relief! The One who watches over Israel
    never leaves for rest or sleep.

The Eternal keeps you safe,
    so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you.
Neither bright light of sun
    nor dim light of moon will harm you.

The Eternal will keep you safe
    from all of life’s evils,
From your first breath to the last breath you breathe,
    from this day and forever.

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Proverbs 16:18

18 Pride precedes destruction;
    an arrogant spirit gives way to a nasty fall.

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The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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