Day 184 – Judith 11-13; Psalms 3, 4; Proverbs 1:6–10; Acts 11

Judith 11-13

1 Then Holofernes spoke to her, saying, “Woman, take courage; do not be fearful in your heart. I have never hurt anyone who chooses to serve Nebuchadnezzar, king of the whole earth. 2 Even now, if your people inhabiting the hill country had not held me in such low regard, I would not have lifted my spear against them. Rather, they did this to themselves. 3 Now tell me why you have fled from them and come to us, for you have come to a safe place. Take courage! You shall live tonight and from this day forward. 4 No one will harm you, but they will treat you well, as they do all the servants of my lord, King Nebuchadnezzar.”

5 Then Judith said to him, “Receive the words of your servant, and permit your handmaid to speak in your presence. I will say nothing untrue to my lord tonight. 6 And if you carry out all the words of your handmaid, God shall do something great through you, and my lord shall not fail in his pursuits. 7 For Nebuchadnezzar, king of all the earth, lives, and the power of him who sent you to set aright every soul prevails. Not only does all mankind serve him because of you, but because of your strength even the wild animals of the field, the beasts of burden, and the birds of the heaven shall live for Nebuchadnezzar and his whole house. 8 For we heard of your wisdom and the great accomplishments of your life, and it is spoken throughout the whole earth that you alone are noble in all the kingdom, competent in knowledge, and remarkable in military strategy.

9 “Now as for the words Achior spoke in your council, we have heard these things. For the men of Bethulia spared his life, and he told them all the things he had spoken to you. 10 Therefore, master and lord, do not dismiss his words, but bear them in mind, because they are true. Thus our nation is not punished, nor does the sword prevail against them, unless they sin against their God.

11 “And now, so that my lord not be defeated and unsuccessful, death will come upon them, for a sin has overtaken them by which they will provoke their God, when they do that which is not proper. 12 Since their food supply gave out and water is scarce, they have determined to kill their animals and to consume all that God in His laws specifically told them not to eat. 13 They further resolved to consume the firstfruits of the grain and the tithes of wine and oil they sanctified and reserved for the priests in Jerusalem, who serve in the presence of our God—things not lawful for any person to touch with his hands. 14 And they have sent people to Jerusalem to bring permission back from the council of elders, because those living there have done these things. 15 And it will come to pass when the response is reported to them, and they act on it, on that same day they will be delivered over to you to be crushed.

16 “When I, your handmaid, learned of this, I fled from these people. And God sent me to do some things with you, by which all the earth will be astonished when they learn of them. 17 For your servant is God-fearing, serving the God of heaven night and day. Now, my lord, I will stay here with you, but each night your handmaid will go out in the valley, and I will pray to God, and He will tell me when they have committed their sins. 18 At that hour I will come and inform you, and you shall go out with all your army, and none of them will be able to resist you. 19 Then I will bring you through the midst of Judea until you reach Jerusalem. There I will place your chariot in their midst, and you will guide them like sheep who have no shepherd; not even a dog shall growl at you. This was made known to me as a gift of foreknowledge, and I have been sent to report this to you.”

  Holofernes Is Taken by Judith’s Plan

20 What she said pleased Holofernes and all his servants. They admired her wisdom and said, 21 “There is not such a woman of beauty and with the wisdom of words from one end of the earth to the other.” 22 Holofernes spoke to her, saying, “It is good that God sent you here, ahead of your people. You bring strength to our hands and demise to those who disparaged my lord. 23 You not only look beautiful, but you are wise in your words. If you will do as you said, your God will be my God, and you will dwell in the house of King Nebuchadnezzar, and you will be known in all the earth.”

1 He then gave the order to have her brought into where his silver service was kept, and he commanded them to prepare some of his own delicacies for her and his wine to drink. 2 “I will not eat any of this,” Judith said, “lest it cause offense. But I will be supplied by the provisions I brought with me.” 3 Then Holofernes told her, “If your provisions run out, where do we obtain more of the same? For no one from your people is with us.” 4 Then Judith answered him, “My lord, even as you live, your handmaid will not use up what I brought with me until the Lord completes by my hand what He has purposed.”

5 Then Holofernes’ servants led her into the tent, where she slept until midnight. She rose as the morning watch approached, 6 and sent a message to Holofernes, saying, “My lord, let the command be given to allow your handmaid to go out and pray.” 7 So Holofernes ordered his guards not to detain her. So she stayed in the camp for three days, but each night she went out into the valley of Bethulia and washed in the water from the spring of the camp. 8 When she came up out of the water, she prayed to the Lord God of Israel to guide her way for the victory of His people. 9 So, returning cleansed, she remained in the tent until her evening meal was offered to her.

Holofernes’ Feast

10 It came to be on the fourth day that Holofernes hosted a banquet just for his personal staff. None of the officers were invited. 11 He spoke to Bagoas, a eunuch who was in charge of his private affairs, saying, “Now go and persuade the Hebrew woman you care for to join us to eat and drink. 12 It would be disgraceful to us if we allowed such a woman to be neglected, for if we do not seduce her she will laugh at us.”

13 Then Bagoas departed from Holofernes’ presence and came to her and said, “Let not this beautiful handmaiden hesitate to come to my lord in the honor of his presence, and to drink wine with us in merriment. On this day you will be like one of the daughters of the Assyrians who serve in the house of Nebuchadnezzar.” 14 Then Judith answered, “Why would I refuse my lord? For whatever is pleasing to him I will do immediately, and this will be a delight to me until the day I die.” 15 So she arose and dressed herself in all her womanly finery. Her maid went on ahead to spread out the lambskins on the ground for her in front of Holofernes, which she had received from Bagoas for her use to recline on each day when she ate.

16 Now when Judith came in and reclined, the very heart of Holofernes was ravished by her, and his deepest feelings were aroused. He was exceedingly desirous of her, and had been waiting for the moment to seduce her since the first time he saw her. 17 Then Holofernes said to her, “Drink and be merry with us.” 18 Judith replied, “Indeed, my lord, I will happily drink now, for this is the best day of my entire life.” 19 Then taking what her maid prepared, she ate and drank before him. 20 Holofernes was delighted because of her, and he drank more wine than in any one day since birth.

  Judith Beheads Holofernes

1 When evening came, his servants quickly departed, and Bagoas shut the tent from the outside and dismissed the waiters from the presence of his lord. They all went to bed, being very tired, for the banquet had lasted a long time. 2 Judith was left alone in the tent as Holofernes was sprawled out on his bed, for he had become unconscious from the wine. 3 Now Judith had instructed her faithful maid to remain outside the bedchamber and wait for her to emerge, just like she did on other days, for she said she would go out to pray, and she had told Bagoas the same thing.

4 So everyone left, with no one great or small remaining in his bedchamber. Then Judith stood next to his bed and said in her heart, “O Lord, God of all strength, look down at this hour on the works of my hands for the glory of Jerusalem. 5 For now is the time to aid Your inheritance, and to help carry out my plan for the destruction of the enemies who have risen against us.” 6 Then she approached the bedpost, near the head of Holofernes. She took out his sword which hung there. 7 She then came closer to the bed, and taking hold of the hair on his head, she said, “O Lord God of Israel, at this moment strengthen me.” 8 Then she struck his neck twice with all her might and cut off his head. 9 She then rolled his body off the bed and tore down the canopy from the posts. Next she stepped outside and gave the head of Holofernes to her maid, 10 who put it into her food bag.

Judith Returns to Bethulia

Then the two of them together went out to pray, as was their custom. Passing through the camp, they went down around the valley, and up the mountain of Bethulia until they reached its gates. 11 And from a distance Judith cried out to the guards at the gates and said, “Open! Open the gate! God, our God, is with us! He yet shows His strength in Israel and His might against our adversaries, just as He has done this day!” 12 When the men of her city heard her voice, they ran with haste down to the gate of the city and called the elders of the city together. 13 From the least to the greatest they quickly gathered, for they considered it incredible that she had come back, and they thrust open the gate and welcomed the women. They then built a fire for light, and everyone crowded around them.

14 Then with a loud voice Judith said to them, “Praise God! Praise Him! Praise God! For He has not taken away His mercy from the house of Israel, but by my hand He has shattered our enemies this very night!” 15 Then she took the head out of the bag, displaying it to them, and said, “Behold the head of Holofernes, commander of the Assyrian army. And this is the canopy under which he lay in his drunkenness. The Lord struck him dead by the hand of a woman. 16 As the Lord lives, who guarded me in the path I have walked, my face deceived him to his demise. Yet he committed no sin toward me, either to defile me or shame me.”

17 All the people were completely astounded, and they bowed down to worship God, saying with one voice, “Blessed are You, our God, who this very day brought the enemies of Your people to nothing.”

18 Uzziah said to her, “You are blessed by the Most High God, O daughter, above all other women on the earth. Blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth, who led you to sever the head of the chief of our adversaries. 19 Your hope in Him will never depart from the hearts of men as they call to mind the power of God. 20 May God grant this to you as an everlasting honor and reward you with blessings. For you did not spare your life on account of the humble state of our nation. Rather, you avenged our calamity, walking a straight path in the presence of our God.” And all the people responded, “Amen! Amen!”

Psalm 3

1 A psalm by David, when he fled from the face of his son, Absalom. 

2 O Lord, why do those who afflict me multiply? Many are those who rise up against me. 

3 Many are those who say to my soul, “There is no salvation for him in his God.” (Pause) 

4 But You, O Lord, are my protector, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. 

5 I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. (Pause) 

6 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord will help me. 

7 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who set themselves against me all around. 

8 Arise, O Lord, and save me, O my God, For You struck all those who were foolishly at enmity with me; You broke the teeth of sinners. 

9 Salvation is of the Lord, And Your blessing is upon Your people.

Psalm 4

1 For the End; in psalms; an ode by David. 

2 You heard me when I called, O God of my righteousness. You strengthened my heart when I was in distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. 

3 How long, O you sons of men, Will you be slow of heart? Why do you love vain things And seek after lies? 

4 Know that the Lord made His Holy One wondrous; The Lord will hear me when I cry to Him. 

5 Be angry, and do not sin; Have remorse upon your beds For what you say in your hearts. (Pause) 

6 Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, And hope in the Lord. 

7 There are many who say, “Who will show us good things?” O Lord, the light of Your face was stamped upon us. 

8 You put gladness in my heart; From their season of wheat, wine, and oil they were multiplied. 

9 I will both sleep and rest in peace, For You alone, O Lord, cause me to dwell in hope.

Proverbs of Solomon 1

Wisdom Begets the Fear of God

6 He will understand both a parable and a hidden saying, Both wise words and riddles. 

7 The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, And there is good understanding in all who practice it; 

8 And godliness toward God is the beginning of perception, But the ungodly despise wisdom and instruction. 

9 Hear, my son, the instruction of your father, And do not reject the laws of your mother. 

10 For you will receive a crown of grace on your head And a gold chain around your neck.

Acts 11

The Apostles in Jerusalem

1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.

2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him,

3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying:

5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me.

6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.

7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’

8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’

9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’

10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven.

11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea.

12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.

13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter,

14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’

15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.

16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

The Gentile Church: Antioch

19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only.

20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus.

21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.

22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.

23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.

24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.

26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Aid to Jewish Christians

27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.

28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

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