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1 Kings 19-20The Message (MSG)

Revenge from Jezebel

19 1-2 Ahab reported to Jezebel everything that Elijah had done, including the massacre of the prophets. Jezebel immediately sent a messenger to Elijah with her threat: “The gods will get you for this and I’ll get even with you! By this time tomorrow you’ll be as dead as any one of those prophets.”

3-5 When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.

Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!”

He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.

The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”

8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.

Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?”

10 “I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”

11-12 Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.”

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

13-14 When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” Elijah said it again, “I’ve been working my heart out for God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, because the people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed your places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”

15-18 God said, “Go back the way you came through the desert to Damascus. When you get there anoint Hazael; make him king over Aram. Then anoint Jehu son of Nimshi; make him king over Israel. Finally, anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Anyone who escapes death by Hazael will be killed by Jehu; and anyone who escapes death by Jehu will be killed by Elisha. Meanwhile, I’m preserving for myself seven thousand souls: the knees that haven’t bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven’t kissed his image.”

19 Elijah went straight out and found Elisha son of Shaphat in a field where there were twelve pairs of yoked oxen at work plowing; Elisha was in charge of the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak over him.

20 Elisha deserted the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please! Let me kiss my father and mother good-bye—then I’ll follow you.”

“Go ahead,” said Elijah, “but, mind you, don’t forget what I’ve just done to you.”

21 So Elisha left; he took his yoke of oxen and butchered them. He made a fire with the plow and tackle and then boiled the meat—a true farewell meal for the family. Then he left and followed Elijah, becoming his right-hand man.

20 1-3 At about this same time Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his troops. He recruited in addition thirty-two local sheiks, all outfitted with horses and chariots. He set out in force and surrounded Samaria, ready to make war. He sent an envoy into the city to set his terms before Ahab king of Israel: “Ben-Hadad lays claim to your silver and gold, and to the pick of your wives and sons.”

The king of Israel accepted the terms: “As you say, distinguished lord; I and everything I have is yours.”

5-6 But then the envoy returned a second time, saying, “On second thought, I want it all—your silver and gold and all your wives and sons. Hand them over—the whole works. I’ll give you twenty-four hours; then my servants will arrive to search your palace and the houses of your officials and loot them; anything that strikes their fancy, they’ll take.”

The king of Israel called a meeting of all his tribal elders. He said, “Look at this—outrageous! He’s just looking for trouble. He means to clean me out, demanding all my women and children. And after I already agreed to pay him off handsomely!”

The elders, backed by the people, said, “Don’t cave in to him. Don’t give an inch.”

So he sent an envoy to Ben-Hadad, “Tell my distinguished lord, ‘I agreed to the terms you delivered the first time, but this I can’t do—this I won’t do!’”

The envoy went back and delivered the answer.

10 Ben-Hadad shot back his response: “May the gods do their worst to me, and then worse again, if there’ll be anything left of Samaria but rubble.”

11 The king of Israel countered, “Think about it—it’s easier to start a fight than end one.”

12 It happened that when Ben-Hadad heard this retort he was into some heavy drinking, boozing it up with the sheiks in their field shelters. Drunkenly, he ordered his henchmen, “Go after them!” And they attacked the city.

13 Just then a lone prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “God’s word: Have you taken a good look at this mob? Well, look again—I’m turning it over to you this very day. And you’ll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am God.”

14 Ahab said, “Really? And who is going to make this happen?”

God said, “The young commandos of the regional chiefs.”

“And who,” said Ahab, “will strike the first blow?”

God said, “You.”

15 Ahab looked over the commandos of the regional chiefs; he counted 232. Then he assessed the available troops—7,000.

16-17 At noon they set out after Ben-Hadad who, with his allies, the thirty-two sheiks, was busy at serious drinking in the field shelters. The commandos of the regional chiefs made up the vanguard.

A report was brought to Ben-Hadad: “Men are on their way from Samaria.”

18 He said, “If they’ve come in peace, take them alive as hostages; if they’ve come to fight, the same—take them alive as hostages.”

19-20 The commandos poured out of the city with the full army behind them. They hit hard in hand-to-hand combat. The Arameans scattered from the field, with Israel hard on their heels. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram got away on horseback, along with his cavalry.

21 The king of Israel cut down both horses and chariots—an enormous defeat for Aram.

22 Sometime later the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, “On the alert now—build up your army, assess your capabilities, and see what has to be done. Before the year is out, the king of Aram will be back in force.”

23-25 Meanwhile the advisors to the king of Aram said, “Their god is a god of the mountains—we don’t stand a chance against them there. So let’s engage them on the plain where we’ll have the advantage. Here’s the strategy: Remove each sheik from his place of leadership and replace him with a seasoned officer. Then recruit a fighting force equivalent in size to the army that deserted earlier—horse for horse, chariot for chariot. And we’ll fight them on the plain—we’re sure to prove stronger than they are.”

It sounded good to the king; he did what they advised.

26-27 As the new year approached, Ben-Hadad rallied Aram and they went up to Aphek to make war on Israel. The Israelite army prepared to fight and took the field to meet Aram. They moved into battle formation before Aram in two camps, like two flocks of goats. The plain was seething with Arameans.

28 Just then a holy man approached the king of Israel saying, “This is God’s word: Because Aram said, ‘God is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,’ I’ll hand over this huge mob of an army to you. Then you’ll know that I am God.”

29-30 The two armies were poised in a standoff for seven days. On the seventh day fighting broke out. The Israelites killed 100,000 of the Aramean infantry in one day. The rest of the army ran for their lives back to the city, Aphek, only to have the city wall fall on 27,000 of the survivors.

30-31 Ben-Hadad escaped into the city and hid in a closet. Then his advisors told him, “Look, we’ve heard that the kings of Israel play by the rules; let’s dress in old gunnysacks, carry a white flag of truce, and present ourselves to the king of Israel on the chance that he’ll let you live.”

32 So that’s what they did. They dressed in old gunnysacks and carried a white flag, and came to the king of Israel saying, “Your servant Ben-Hadad said, ‘Please let me live.’”

Ahab said, “You mean to tell me that he’s still alive? If he’s alive, he’s my brother.”

33 The men took this as a good sign and concluded that everything was going to be all right: “Ben-Hadad is most certainly your brother!”

The king said, “Go and get him.” They went and brought him back by chariot.

34 Ahab said, “I am prepared to return the cities that my father took from your father. And you can set up your headquarters in Damascus just as my father did in Samaria; I’ll send you home under safe conduct.” Then he made a covenant with him and sent him off.

35 A man who was one of the prophets said to a bystander, “Hit me; wound me. Do it for God’s sake—it’s his command. Hit me; wound me.” But the man wouldn’t do it.

36 So he told him, “Because you wouldn’t obey God’s orders, as soon as you leave me a lion will attack you.” No sooner had the man left his side than a lion met him and attacked.

37 He then found another man and said, “Hit me; wound me.” That man did it—hit him hard in the face, drawing blood.

38-40 Then the prophet went and took a position along the road, with a bandage over his eyes, waiting for the king. It wasn’t long before the king happened by. The man cried out to the king, “Your servant was in the thick of the battle when a man showed up and turned over a prisoner to me, saying, ‘Guard this man with your life; if he turns up missing you’ll pay dearly.’ But I got busy doing one thing after another and the next time I looked he was gone.”

The king of Israel said, “You’ve just pronounced your own verdict.”

41 At that, the man ripped the bandage off his eyes and the king recognized who he was—one of the prophets!

42 The man said to the king, “God’s word: Because you let a man go who was under sentence by God, it’s now your life for his, your people for his.”

43 The king of Israel went home in a sulk. He arrived in Samaria in a very bad mood.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Luke 23:1-25The Message (MSG)

Pilate

23 1-2 Then 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.”

Pilate asked him, “Is this true that you’re ‘King of the Jews’?”

“Those are your words, not mine,” Jesus replied.

Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, “I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me.”

But 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.”

6-7 When 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.

8-10 Herod 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.

11-12 Mightily 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.

13-16 Then 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.”

18-20 At 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.

21 But they kept shouting back, “Crucify! Crucify him!”

22 He 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.”

23-25 But 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.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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