Today our passages are Judges 6:1-40; Luke 22:54–23:12; Psalm 95:1– 96:13; and Proverbs 14:5-6. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Judges 6:1-40 (The Message)
Gideon1-6 Yet again the People of Israel went back to doing evil in God's sight. God put them under the domination of Midian for seven years. Midian overpowered Israel. Because of Midian, the People of Israel made for themselves hideouts in the mountains—caves and forts. When Israel planted its crops, Midian and Amalek, the easterners, would invade them, camp in their fields, and destroy their crops all the way down to Gaza. They left nothing for them to live on, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. Bringing their cattle and tents, they came in and took over, like an invasion of locusts. And their camels—past counting! They marched in and devastated the country. The People of Israel, reduced to grinding poverty by Midian, cried out to God for help. 7-10 One time when the People of Israel had cried out to God because of Midian, God sent them a prophet with this message: "God, the God of Israel, says,
I delivered you from Egypt,
I freed you from a life of slavery;
I rescued you from Egypt's brutality
and then from every oppressor;
I pushed them out of your way
and gave you their land.
"And I said to you, 'I am God, your God. Don't for a minute be afraid of the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living.' But you didn't listen to me."
11-12 One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, "God is with you, O mighty warrior!"
13 Gideon replied, "With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, 'Didn't God deliver us from Egypt?' The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian."
14 But God faced him directly: "Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven't I just sent you?"
15 Gideon said to him, "Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan's the weakest in Manasseh and I'm the runt of the litter."
16 God said to him, "I'll be with you. Believe me, you'll defeat Midian as one man."
17-18 Gideon said, "If you're serious about this, do me a favor: Give me a sign to back up what you're telling me. Don't leave until I come back and bring you my gift."
He said, "I'll wait till you get back."
19 Gideon went and prepared a young goat and a huge amount of unraised bread (he used over half a bushel of flour!). He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot and took them back under the shade of the oak tree for a sacred meal.
20 The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and unraised bread, place them on that rock, and pour the broth on them." Gideon did it.
21-22 The angel of God stretched out the tip of the stick he was holding and touched the meat and the bread. Fire broke out of the rock and burned up the meat and bread while the angel of God slipped away out of sight. And Gideon knew it was the angel of God!
Gideon said, "Oh no! Master, God! I have seen the angel of God face-to-face!"
23 But God reassured him, "Easy now. Don't panic. You won't die."
24 Then Gideon built an altar there to God and named it "God's Peace." It's still called that at Ophrah of Abiezer.
25-26 That night this happened. God said to him, "Take your father's best seven-year-old bull, the prime one. Tear down your father's Baal altar and chop down the Asherah fertility pole beside it. Then build an altar to God, your God, on the top of this hill. Take the prime bull and present it as a Whole-Burnt-Offering, using firewood from the Asherah pole that you cut down."
27 Gideon selected ten men from his servants and did exactly what God had told him. But because of his family and the people in the neighborhood, he was afraid to do it openly, so he did it that night.
28 Early in the morning, the people in town were shocked to find Baal's altar torn down, the Asherah pole beside it chopped down, and the prime bull burning away on the altar that had been built.
29 They kept asking, "Who did this?"
Questions and more questions, and then the answer: "Gideon son of Joash did it."
30 The men of the town demanded of Joash: "Bring out your son! He must die! Why, he tore down the Baal altar and chopped down the Asherah tree!"
31 But Joash stood up to the crowd pressing in on him, "Are you going to fight Baal's battles for him? Are you going to save him? Anyone who takes Baal's side will be dead by morning. If Baal is a god in fact, let him fight his own battles and defend his own altar."
32 They nicknamed Gideon that day Jerub-Baal because after he had torn down the Baal altar, he had said, "Let Baal fight his own battles."
33-35 All the Midianites and Amalekites (the easterners) got together, crossed the river, and made camp in the Valley of Jezreel. God's Spirit came over Gideon. He blew his ram's horn trumpet and the Abiezrites came out, ready to follow him. He dispatched messengers all through Manasseh, calling them to the battle; also to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. They all came.
36-37 Gideon said to God, "If this is right, if you are using me to save Israel as you've said, then look: I'm placing a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If dew is on the fleece only, but the floor is dry, then I know that you will use me to save Israel, as you said."
38 That's what happened. When he got up early the next morning, he wrung out the fleece—enough dew to fill a bowl with water!
39 Then Gideon said to God, "Don't be impatient with me, but let me say one more thing. I want to try another time with the fleece. But this time let the fleece stay dry, while the dew drenches the ground."
40 God made it happen that very night. Only the fleece was dry while the ground was wet with dew.
Luke 22:54-23:12 (The Message)
A Rooster Crowed
54-56Arresting Jesus, they marched him off and took him into the house of the Chief Priest. Peter followed, but at a safe distance. In the middle of the courtyard some people had started a fire and were sitting around it, trying to keep warm. One of the serving maids sitting at the fire noticed him, then took a second look and said, "This man was with him!"
57He denied it, "Woman, I don't even know him."
58A short time later, someone else noticed him and said, "You're one of them."
But Peter denied it: "Man, I am not."
59About an hour later, someone else spoke up, really adamant: "He's got to have been with him! He's got 'Galilean' written all over him."
60-62Peter said, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about." At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just then, the Master turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered what the Master had said to him: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." He went out and cried and cried and cried.
Slapping Him Around
63-65The men in charge of Jesus began poking fun at him, slapping him around. They put a blindfold on him and taunted, "Who hit you that time?" They were having a grand time with him.
66-67When it was morning, the religious leaders of the people and the high priests and scholars all got together and brought him before their High Council. They said, "Are you the Messiah?"
67-69He answered, "If I said yes, you wouldn't believe me. If I asked what you meant by your question, you wouldn't answer me. So here's what I have to say: From here on the Son of Man takes his place at God's right hand, the place of power."
70They all said, "So you admit your claim to be the Son of God?"
"You're the ones who keep saying it," he said.
71But they had made up their minds, "Why do we need any more evidence? We've all heard him as good as say it himself."
1-2Then they all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him. They said, "We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King."
3Pilate asked him, "Is this true that you're 'King of the Jews'?"
"Those are your words, not mine," Jesus replied.
4Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, "I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me."
5But they were vehement. "He's stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea. He's a dangerous man, endangering the peace."
6-7When Pilate heard that, he asked, "So, he's a Galilean?" Realizing that he properly came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.
8-10Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he'd heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions. Jesus didn't answer—not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.
11-12Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.
Psalm 95-96:13 (The Message)
Let's march into his presence singing praises,
lifting the rafters with our hymns!
3-5 And why? Because God is the best,
High King over all the gods.
In one hand he holds deep caves and caverns,
in the other hand grasps the high mountains.
He made Ocean—he owns it!
His hands sculpted Earth!
6-7 So come, let us worship: bow before him,
on your knees before God, who made us!
Oh yes, he's our God,
and we're the people he pastures, the flock he feeds.
7-11 Drop everything and listen, listen as he speaks:
"Don't turn a deaf ear as in the Bitter Uprising,
As on the day of the Wilderness Test,
when your ancestors turned and put me to the test.
For forty years they watched me at work among them,
as over and over they tried my patience.
And I was provoked—oh, was I provoked!
'Can't they keep their minds on God for five minutes?
Do they simply refuse to walk down my road?'
Exasperated, I exploded,
'They'll never get where they're headed,
never be able to sit down and rest.'"
Sing to God—worship God!
2-3 Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea,
Take the news of his glory to the lost,
News of his wonders to one and all!
4-5 For God is great, and worth a thousand Hallelujahs.
His terrible beauty makes the gods look cheap;
Pagan gods are mere tatters and rags.
5-6 God made the heavens—
Royal splendor radiates from him,
A powerful beauty sets him apart.
7 Bravo, God, Bravo!
Everyone join in the great shout: Encore!
In awe before the beauty, in awe before the might.
8-9 Bring gifts and celebrate,
Bow before the beauty of God,
Then to your knees—everyone worship!
10 Get out the message—God Rules!
He put the world on a firm foundation;
He treats everyone fair and square.
11 Let's hear it from Sky,
With Earth joining in,
And a huge round of applause from Sea.
12 Let Wilderness turn cartwheels,
Animals, come dance,
Put every tree of the forest in the choir—
13 An extravaganza before God as he comes,
As he comes to set everything right on earth,
Set everything right, treat everyone fair.
Proverbs 14:5-6 (The Message)
5 A true witness never lies;
a false witness makes a business of it.
6 Cynics look high and low for wisdom—and never find it;
the open-minded find it right on their doorstep!
Verse of the Day
“He is forever able to save the people he leads to God, because he always lives to speak to God for them.” - Hebrews 7:25
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
Australian novelist and playwright, Morris West wrote, “If God be God and man a creature made in image of the divine intelligence, his noblest function is the search for truth.”