Acts 28:17-31; 1 Samuel 6; 1 Samuel 7; Psalm 53

Acts 28:17-31

Paul's First Interview with Roman Jews

17 After three days he called together the leaders of the Jews. And when they had gathered he said to them: "Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our forefathers, I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans 18 who, after examining me, wanted to release me, since I had not committed a capital offense. 19 Because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar; it was not as though I had any accusation against my nation. 20 So, for this reason I've asked to see you and speak to you. In fact, it is for the hope of Israel that I'm wearing this chain." 21 And they said to him, "We haven't received any letters about you from Judea; none of the brothers has come and reported or spoken anything evil about you. 22 But we consider it suitable to hear from you what you think. For concerning this sect, we are aware that it is spoken against everywhere."

The Response to Paul's Message

23 After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and witnessed about the kingdom of God. He persuaded them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets. 24 Some were persuaded by what he said, but others did not believe. 25 Disagreeing among themselves, they began to leave after Paul made one statement: "The Holy Spirit correctly spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your forefathers 26 when He said, Go to this people and say: 'You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive. 27 For this people's heart has grown callous, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted-and I would heal them.' 28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this saving work of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen!" [ 29 After he said these things, the Jews departed, while engaging in a prolonged debate among themselves.]

Paul's Ministry Unhindered

30 Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.

1 Samuel 6

The Return of the Ark

1 When the ark of the Lord had been in the land of the Philistines for seven months, 2 the Philistines summoned the priests and the diviners and pleaded, "What should we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we can send it back to its place." 3 They replied, "If you send the ark of Israel's God away, you must not send it without [an offering]. You must return it with a guilt offering, and you will be healed. Then the reason His hand hasn't been removed from you will be revealed." 4 They asked, "What guilt offering should we send back to Him?" And they answered, "Five gold tumors and five gold mice [corresponding to] the number of Philistine rulers, since there was one plague for both you and your rulers. 5 Make images of your tumors and of your mice that are destroying the land. Give glory to Israel's God, and perhaps He will stop oppressing you, your gods, and your land. 6 Why harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened theirs? When He afflicted them, didn't they send Israel away, and Israel left? 7 "Now then, prepare one new cart and two milk cows that have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the Lord, place it on the cart, and put the gold objects in a box beside it, which you're sending Him as a guilt offering. Send it off and let it go its way. 9 Then watch: If it goes up the road to its homeland toward Beth-shemesh, it is the Lord who has made this terrible trouble for us. However, if it doesn't, we will know that it was not His hand that punished us-it was just something that happened to us by chance." 10 The men did this: They took two milk cows, hitched them to the cart, and confined their calves in the pen. 11 Then they put the ark of the Lord on the cart, along with the box [containing] the gold mice and the images of the tumors. 12 The cows went straight up the road to Beth-shemesh. They stayed on that one highway, lowing as they went; they never strayed to the right or to the left. The Philistine rulers were walking behind them to the territory of Beth-shemesh. 13 The people of Beth-shemesh were harvesting wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they were overjoyed to see it. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh and stopped there near a large rock. The people of the city chopped up the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites removed the ark of the Lord, along with the box containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. That day the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the Lord. 16 When the five Philistine rulers observed [this], they returned to Ekron that same day. 17 As a guilt offering to the Lord, the Philistines had sent back one gold tumor for each city: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. 18 The number of gold mice also [corresponded] to the number of Philistine cities of the five rulers, the fortified cities and the outlying villages. The large rock on which the ark of the Lord was placed is in the field of Joshua of Beth-shemesh to this day. 19 God struck down the men of Beth-shemesh because they looked inside the ark of the Lord.He struck down 70 men [out of] 50,000 men. The people wept because the Lord struck them with a great slaughter. 20 The men of Beth-shemesh asked, "Who is able to stand in the presence of this holy Lord God? Who should the ark go to from here?" 21 They sent messengers to the residents of Kiriath-jearim, saying, "The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and get it."

1 Samuel 7

1 So the men of Kiriath-jearim came for the ark of the Lord and took it to Abinadab's house on the hill. They consecrated his son Eleazar to take care of it.

Victory at Mizpah

2 Time went by until 20 years had passed since the ark had been taken to Kiriath-jearim. Then the whole house of Israel began to seek the Lord. 3 Samuel told them, "If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you, dedicate yourselves to the Lord, and worship only Him. Then He will rescue you from the hand of the Philistines." 4 So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtoreths and only worshiped the Lord. 5 Samuel said, "Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord on your behalf." 6 When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the Lord's presence. They fasted that day, and there they confessed, "We have sinned against the Lord." And Samuel [began to lead] the Israelites at Mizpah as [their] judge. 7 When the Philistines heard that the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, their rulers marched up toward Israel. When the Israelites heard [about it], they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 The Israelites said to Samuel, "Don't stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, so that He will save us from the hand of the Philistines." 9 Then Samuel took a young lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on behalf of Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 Samuel was offering the burnt offering as the Philistines drew near to fight against Israel. The Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they fled before Israel. 11 Then the men of Israel charged out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines striking them down all the way to a place below Beth-car. 12 Afterwards, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, "The Lord has helped us to this point." 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israel's territory again. The Lord's hand was against the Philistines all of Samuel's life. 14 The cities from Ekron to Gath, which they had taken from Israel, were restored; Israel even rescued their surrounding territories from Philistine control. There was also peace between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel throughout his life. 16 Every year he would go on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah and would judge Israel at all these locations. 17 Then he would return to Ramah because his home was there, he judged Israel there, and he had built an altar to the Lord there.

Psalm 53

A Portrait of Sinners

For the choir director: on Mahalath. A Davidic Maskil.

1 The fool says in his heart, "God does not exist." They are corrupt, and they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise and who seeks God. 3 Everyone has turned aside; they have all become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one. 4 Will evildoers never understand? They consume My people as they consume bread; they do not call on God. 5 Then they will be filled with terror- terror like no other- because God will scatter the bones of those who besiege you. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them. 6 Oh, that Israel's deliverance would come from Zion! When God restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
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