27 April 2017 Bible Reading
I think a lot about things like mercy and justice. On any scale, from the most secret thoughts of my own mind to the grand conflicts of nations on the world stage, it’s an idea that always makes me feel inadequate. In the abstract, I think we are all inclined to see ourselves as merciful. I think we certainly hope for mercy where our own fortunes are concerned. Why is it, then, that we are so quick to impose a merciless justice in actual situations? Is the world designed to educate us in the undesirability of justice without mercy? The thief on the cross did not dispute the justness of his own execution. But he desired mercy nonetheless. As the temporal, physical life of this world faded and flowed out of him, his focus became entirely fixed on his eternal fate. The justice of this world may be harsh, but it is fleeting, lasting for less than a moment. But the justice of the life to come is eternal and inescapable. I doubt any of us wants justice before the throne of God – we will all want mercy rather than the justice we deserve.
7 Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early, and encamped beside the spring of Harod. Midian’s camp was on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. 2 Yahweh said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel brag against me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.
4 Yahweh said to Gideon, “There are still too many people. Bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. It shall be, that those whom I tell you, ‘This shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and whoever I tell you, ‘This shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.” 5 So he brought down the people to the water; and Yahweh said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps of the water with his tongue, like a dog laps, you shall set him by himself; likewise everyone who bows down on his knees to drink.” 6 The number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people bowed down on their knees to drink water. 7 Yahweh said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, each to his own place.”
8 So the people took food in their hand, and their trumpets; and he sent all the men of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the three hundred men; and the camp of Midian was beneath him in the valley. 9 That same night, Yahweh said to him, “Arise, go down into the camp; for I have delivered it into your hand. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp. 11 You will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened to go down into the camp.” Then went he down with Purah his servant to the outermost part of the armed men who were in the camp.
12 The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like locusts for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand which is on the seashore for multitude.
13 When Gideon had come, behold, there was a man telling a dream to his fellow. He said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream; and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell, and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.”
14 His fellow answered, “This is nothing other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel. God has delivered Midian into his hand, with all the army.”
15 It was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and its interpretation, that he worshiped. Then he returned into the camp of Israel, and said, “Arise; for Yahweh has delivered the army of Midian into your hand!”
16 He divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put into the hands of all them trumpets, and empty pitchers, with torches within the pitchers.
17 He said to them, “Watch me, and do likewise. Behold, when I come to the outermost part of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so you shall do. 18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and shout, ‘For Yahweh and for Gideon!’”
19 So Gideon, and the hundred men who were with him, came to the outermost part of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch, when they had but newly set the watch. Then they blew the trumpets, and broke in pieces the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 The three companies blew the trumpets, broke the pitchers, and held the torches in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands with which to blow; and they shouted, “The sword of Yahweh and of Gideon!” 21 They each stood in his place around the camp; and all the army ran; and they shouted, and put them to flight. 22 They blew the three hundred trumpets, and Yahweh set every man’s sword against his fellow, and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth Shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel Meholah, by Tabbath. 23 The men of Israel were gathered together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued Midian. 24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against Midian, and take before them the waters, as far as Beth Barah, even the Jordan!” So all the men of Ephraim were gathered together, and took the waters as far as Beth Barah, even the Jordan. 25 They took the two princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. They killed Oreb at Oreb’s rock, and Zeeb they killed at Zeeb’s wine press; and pursued Midian. Then they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon beyond the Jordan.
8 The men of Ephraim said to him, “Why have you treated us this way, that you didn’t call us when you went to fight with Midian?” They rebuked him sharply. 2 He said to them, “What have I now done in comparison with you? Isn’t the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God has delivered into your hand the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb! What was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
4 Gideon came to the Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men who were with him, faint, yet pursuing. 5 He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me; for they are faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”
6 The princes of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?”
7 Gideon said, “Therefore when Yahweh has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.”
8 He went up there to Penuel, and spoke to them in the same way; and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9 He spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.”
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their armies with them, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the children of the east; for there fell one hundred twenty thousand men who drew sword. 11 Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and struck the army; for the army was secure. 12 Zebah and Zalmunna fled; and he pursued them. He took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and confused all the army. 13 Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle from the ascent of Heres. 14 He caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him: and he described for him the princes of Succoth, and its elders, seventy-seven men. 15 He came to the men of Succoth, and said, “See Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?’” 16 He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth. 17 He broke down the tower of Penuel, and killed the men of the city.
13 Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one that perverts the people, and see, I have examined him before you, and found no basis for a charge against this man concerning those things of which you accuse him. 15 Neither has Herod, for I sent you to him, and see, nothing worthy of death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
17 Now he had to release one prisoner to them at the feast. 18 But they all cried out together, saying, “Away with this man! Release to us Barabbas!”— 19 one who was thrown into prison for a certain revolt in the city, and for murder.
20 Then Pilate spoke to them again, wanting to release Jesus, 21 but they shouted, saying, “Crucify! Crucify him!”
22 He said to them the third time, “Why? What evil has this man done? I have found no capital crime in him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.” 23 But they were urgent with loud voices, asking that he might be crucified. Their voices and the voices of the chief priests prevailed. 24 Pilate decreed that what they asked for should be done. 25 He released him who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus up to their will.
26 When they led him away, they grabbed one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it after Jesus. 27 A great multitude of the people followed him, including women who also mourned and lamented him. 28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ 30 Then they will begin to tell the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and tell the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things in the green tree, what will be done in the dry?”
32 There were also others, two criminals, led with him to be put to death. 33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified him there with the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Dividing his garments among them, they cast lots. 35 The people stood watching. The rulers with them also scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself, if this is the Christ of God, his chosen one!”
36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming to him and offering him vinegar, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
38 An inscription was also written over him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
39 One of the criminals who was hanged insulted him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us!”
40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Don’t you even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 He said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
43 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
97 Yahweh reigns!
Let the earth rejoice!
Let the multitude of islands be glad!
2 Clouds and darkness are around him.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 A fire goes before him,
and burns up his adversaries on every side.
4 His lightning lights up the world.
The earth sees, and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of Yahweh,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare his righteousness.
All the peoples have seen his glory.
7 Let all them be shamed who serve engraved images,
who boast in their idols.
Worship him, all you gods!
8 Zion heard and was glad.
The daughters of Judah rejoiced,
because of your judgments, Yahweh.
9 For you, Yahweh, are most high above all the earth.
You are exalted far above all gods.
10 You who love Yahweh, hate evil.
He preserves the souls of his saints.
He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is sown for the righteous,
and gladness for the upright in heart.
12 Be glad in Yahweh, you righteous people!
Give thanks to his holy Name.
98 Sing to Yahweh a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand, and his holy arm, have worked salvation for him.
2 Yahweh has made known his salvation.
He has openly shown his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his loving kindness and his faithfulness toward the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to Yahweh, all the earth!
Burst out and sing for joy, yes, sing praises!
5 Sing praises to Yahweh with the harp,
with the harp and the voice of melody.
6 With trumpets and sound of the ram’s horn,
make a joyful noise before the King, Yahweh.
7 Let the sea roar with its fullness;
the world, and those who dwell therein.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands.
Let the mountains sing for joy together.
9 Let them sing before Yahweh,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.
7 Stay away from a foolish man,
for you won’t find knowledge on his lips.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to think about his way,
but the folly of fools is deceit.