Today our passages are Judges 7:1–8:17; Luke 23:13-43; Psalm 97:1–98:9; and Proverbs 14:7-8. 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 7-8:17 (The Message)
Judges 71 Jerub-Baal (Gideon) got up early the next morning, all his troops right there with him. They set up camp at Harod's Spring. The camp of Midian was in the plain, north of them near the Hill of Moreh. 2-3 God said to Gideon, "You have too large an army with you. I can't turn Midian over to them like this—they'll take all the credit, saying, 'I did it all myself,' and forget about me. Make a public announcement: 'Anyone afraid, anyone who has any qualms at all, may leave Mount Gilead now and go home.'" Twenty-two companies headed for home. Ten companies were left.
4-5 God said to Gideon: "There are still too many. Take them down to the stream and I'll make a final cut. When I say, 'This one goes with you,' he'll go. When I say, 'This one doesn't go,' he won't go." So Gideon took the troops down to the stream.
5-6 God said to Gideon: "Everyone who laps with his tongue, the way a dog laps, set on one side. And everyone who kneels to drink, drinking with his face to the water, set to the other side." Three hundred lapped with their tongues from their cupped hands. All the rest knelt to drink.
7 God said to Gideon: "I'll use the three hundred men who lapped at the stream to save you and give Midian into your hands. All the rest may go home."
8 After Gideon took all their provisions and trumpets, he sent all the Israelites home. He took up his position with the three hundred. The camp of Midian stretched out below him in the valley.
9-12 That night, God told Gideon: "Get up and go down to the camp. I've given it to you. If you have any doubts about going down, go down with Purah your armor bearer; when you hear what they're saying, you'll be bold and confident." He and his armor bearer Purah went down near the place where sentries were posted. Midian and Amalek, all the easterners, were spread out on the plain like a swarm of locusts. And their camels! Past counting, like grains of sand on the seashore!
13 Gideon arrived just in time to hear a man tell his friend a dream. He said, "I had this dream: A loaf of barley bread tumbled into the Midianite camp. It came to the tent and hit it so hard it collapsed. The tent fell!"
14 His friend said, "This has to be the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite! God has turned Midian—the whole camp!—over to him."
15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he went to his knees before God in prayer. Then he went back to the Israelite camp and said, "Get up and get going! God has just given us the Midianite army!"
16-18 He divided the three hundred men into three companies. He gave each man a trumpet and an empty jar, with a torch in the jar. He said, "Watch me and do what I do. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly what I do. When I and those with me blow the trumpets, you also, all around the camp, blow your trumpets and shout, 'For God and for Gideon!'"
19-22 Gideon and his hundred men got to the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after the sentries had been posted. They blew the trumpets, at the same time smashing the jars they carried. All three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands, ready to blow, and shouted, "A sword for God and for Gideon!" They were stationed all around the camp, each man at his post. The whole Midianite camp jumped to its feet. They yelled and fled. When the three hundred blew the trumpets, God aimed each Midianite's sword against his companion, all over the camp. They ran for their lives—to Beth Shittah, toward Zererah, to the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.
23 Israelites rallied from Naphtali, from Asher, and from all over Manasseh. They had Midian on the run.
24 Gideon then sent messengers through all the hill country of Ephraim, urging them, "Come down against Midian! Capture the fords of the Jordan at Beth Barah."
25 So all the men of Ephraim rallied and captured the fords of the Jordan at Beth Barah. They also captured the two Midianite commanders Oreb (Raven) and Zeeb (Wolf). They killed Oreb at Raven Rock; Zeeb they killed at Wolf Winepress. And they pressed the pursuit of Midian. They brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon across the Jordan.
Judges 81 Then the Ephraimites said to Gideon, "Why did you leave us out of this, not calling us when you went to fight Midian?" They were indignant and let him know it. 2-3 But Gideon replied, "What have I done compared to you? Why, even the gleanings of Ephraim are superior to the vintage of Abiezer. God gave you Midian's commanders, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I done compared with you?"
When they heard this, they calmed down and cooled off.
4-5 Gideon and his three hundred arrived at the Jordan and crossed over. They were bone-tired but still pressing the pursuit. He asked the men of Succoth, "Please, give me some loaves of bread for my troops I have with me. They're worn out, and I'm hot on the trail of Zebah and Zalmunna, the Midianite kings."
6 But the leaders in Succoth said, "You're on a wild goose chase; why should we help you on a fool's errand?"
7 Gideon said, "If you say so. But when God gives me Zebah and Zalmunna, I'll give you a thrashing, whip your bare flesh with desert thorns and thistles!"
8-9 He went from there to Peniel and made the same request. The men of Peniel, like the men of Succoth, also refused. Gideon told them, "When I return safe and sound, I'll demolish this tower."
10 Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with an army of about fifteen companies, all that was left of the fighting force of the easterners—they had lost 120 companies of soldiers.
11-12 Gideon went up the caravan trail east of Nobah and Jogbehah, found and attacked the undefended camp. Zebah and Zalmunna fled, but he chased and captured the two kings of Midian. The whole camp had panicked.
13-15 Gideon son of Joash returned from the battle by way of the Heres Pass. He captured a young man from Succoth and asked some questions. The young man wrote down the names of the officials and leaders of Succoth, seventy-seven men. Then Gideon went to the men of Succoth and said, "Here are the wild geese, Zebah and Zalmunna, you said I'd never catch. You wouldn't give so much as a scrap of bread to my worn-out men; you taunted us, saying that we were on a fool's errand."
16-17 Then he took the seventy-seven leaders of Succoth and thrashed them with desert thorns and thistles. And he demolished the tower of Peniel and killed the men of the city.
Luke 23:13-43 (The Message)
13-16Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, "You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It's clear that he's done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."
18-20At that, the crowd went wild: "Kill him! Give us Barabbas!" (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.
21But they kept shouting back, "Crucify! Crucify him!"
22He tried a third time. "But for what crime? I've found nothing in him deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."
23-25But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.
26-31As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they'll say, 'Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, 'Fall down on us!' calling to the hills, 'Cover us up!' If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they'll do with deadwood?"
32Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.
33When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.
34-35Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."
Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, "He saved others. Let's see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!"
36-37The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: "So you're King of the Jews! Save yourself!"
38Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the jews.
39One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: "Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!"
40-41But the other one made him shut up: "Have you no fear of God? You're getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this."
42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom."
43He said, "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise."
Psalm 97-98:9 (The Message)
2 Bright clouds and storm clouds circle 'round him;
Right and justice anchor his rule.
3 Fire blazes out before him,
Flaming high up the craggy mountains.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
Earth, wide-eyed, trembles in fear.
5 The mountains take one look at God
And melt, melt like wax before earth's Lord.
6 The heavens announce that he'll set everything right,
And everyone will see it happen—glorious!
7-8 All who serve handcrafted gods will be sorry—
And they were so proud of their ragamuffin gods! On your knees, all you gods—worship him!
And Zion, you listen and take heart!
Daughters of Zion, sing your hearts out:
God has done it all, has set everything right.
9 You, God, are High God of the cosmos,
Far, far higher than any of the gods.
10 God loves all who hate evil,
And those who love him he keeps safe,
Snatches them from the grip of the wicked.
11 Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God's people,
Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.
12 So, God's people, shout praise to God,
Give thanks to our Holy God!
He set things right.
2 God made history with salvation,
He showed the world what he could do.
3 He remembered to love us, a bonus
To his dear family, Israel—indefatigable love.
The whole earth comes to attention.
Look—God's work of salvation!
4 Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
5 Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.
6 Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King God.
7 Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.
8 Let ocean breakers call out, "Encore!"
And mountains harmonize the finale—
9 A tribute to God when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.
He'll straighten out the whole world,
He'll put the world right, and everyone in it.
Proverbs 14:7-8 (The Message)
7 Escape quickly from the company of fools;
they're a waste of your time, a waste of your words.
8 The wisdom of the wise keeps life on track;
the foolishness of fools lands them in the ditch.
Verse of the Day
“The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost.” - Luke 19:10
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
American basketball player and coach, John Wooden wrote, “Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts.”