1 Samuel 7-9The Message (MSG)
7 And they did. The men of Kiriath Jearim came and got the Chest of God and delivered it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. They ordained his son, Eleazar, to take responsibility for the Chest of God.
2 From the time that the Chest came to rest in Kiriath Jearim, a long time passed—twenty years it was—and throughout Israel there was a widespread, fearful movement toward God.
3 Then Samuel addressed the house of Israel: “If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house. Get rid of the foreign gods and fertility goddesses, ground yourselves firmly in God, worship him and him alone, and he’ll save you from Philistine oppression.”
4 They did it. They got rid of the gods and goddesses, the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and gave their exclusive attention and service to God.
5 Next Samuel said, “Get everybody together at Mizpah and I’ll pray for you.”
6 So everyone assembled at Mizpah. They drew water from the wells and poured it out before God in a ritual of cleansing. They fasted all day and prayed, “We have sinned against God.”
So Samuel prepared the Israelites for holy war there at Mizpah.
The Place Where God Helped Us
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel was meeting at Mizpah, the Philistine leaders went on the offensive. Israel got the report and became frightened—Philistines on the move again!
8 They pleaded with Samuel, “Pray with all your might! And don’t let up! Pray to God, our God, that he’ll save us from the boot of the Philistines.”
9 Samuel took a young lamb not yet weaned and offered it whole as a Whole-Burnt-Offering to God. He prayed fervently to God, interceding for Israel. And God answered.
10-12 While Samuel was offering the sacrifice, the Philistines came within range to fight Israel. Just then God thundered, a huge thunderclap exploding among the Philistines. They panicked—mass confusion!—and ran helter-skelter from Israel. Israel poured out of Mizpah and gave chase, killing Philistines right and left, to a point just beyond Beth Car. Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it “Ebenezer” (Rock of Help), saying, “This marks the place where God helped us.”
13-14 The Philistines learned their lesson and stayed home—no more border crossings. God was hard on the Philistines all through Samuel’s lifetime. All the cities from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored. Israel also freed the surrounding countryside from Philistine control. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
15-17 Samuel gave solid leadership to Israel his entire life. Every year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah. He gave leadership to Israel in each of these places. But always he would return to Ramah, where he lived, and preside from there. That is where he built an altar to God.
Rejecting God as the King
8 1-3 When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel. His firstborn son was named Joel, the name of his second, Abijah. They were assigned duty in Beersheba. But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.
4-5 Fed up, all the elders of Israel got together and confronted Samuel at Ramah. They presented their case: “Look, you’re an old man, and your sons aren’t following in your footsteps. Here’s what we want you to do: Appoint a king to rule us, just like everybody else.”
6 When Samuel heard their demand—“Give us a king to rule us!”—he was crushed. How awful! Samuel prayed to God.
7-9 God answered Samuel, “Go ahead and do what they’re asking. They are not rejecting you. They’ve rejected me as their King. From the day I brought them out of Egypt until this very day they’ve been behaving like this, leaving me for other gods. And now they’re doing it to you. So let them have their own way. But warn them of what they’re in for. Tell them the way kings operate, just what they’re likely to get from a king.”
10-18 So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”
19-20 But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”
21-22 Samuel took in what they said and rehearsed it with God. God told Samuel, “Do what they say. Make them a king.”
Then Samuel dismissed the men of Israel: “Go home, each of you to your own city.”
Saul—Head and Shoulders Above the Crowd
9 1-2 There was a man from the tribe of Benjamin named Kish. He was the son of Abiel, grandson of Zeror, great-grandson of Becorath, great-great-grandson of Aphiah—a Benjaminite of stalwart character. He had a son, Saul, a most handsome young man. There was none finer—he literally stood head and shoulders above the crowd!
3-4 Some of Kish’s donkeys got lost. Kish said to his son, “Saul, take one of the servants with you and go look for the donkeys.” Saul took one of the servants and went to find the donkeys. They went into the hill country of Ephraim around Shalisha, but didn’t find them. Then they went over to Shaalim—no luck. Then to Jabin, and still nothing.
5 When they got to Zuph, Saul said to the young man with him, “Enough of this. Let’s go back. Soon my father is going to forget about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”
6 He replied, “Not so fast. There’s a holy man in this town. He carries a lot of weight around here. What he says is always right on the mark. Maybe he can tell us where to go.”
7 Saul said, “If we go, what do we have to give him? There’s no more bread in our sacks. We’ve nothing to bring as a gift to the holy man. Do we have anything else?”
8-9 The servant spoke up, “Look, I just happen to have this silver coin! I’ll give it to the holy man and he’ll tell us how to proceed!” (In former times in Israel, a person who wanted to seek God’s word on a matter would say, “Let’s visit the Seer,” because the one we now call “the Prophet” used to be called “the Seer.”)
10 “Good,” said Saul, “let’s go.” And they set off for the town where the holy man lived.
11 As they were climbing up the hill into the town, they met some girls who were coming out to draw water. They said to them, “Is this where the Seer lives?”
12-13 They answered, “It sure is—just ahead. Hurry up. He’s come today because the people have prepared a sacrifice at the shrine. As soon as you enter the town, you can catch him before he goes up to the shrine to eat. The people won’t eat until he arrives, for he has to bless the sacrifice. Only then can everyone eat. So get going. You’re sure to find him!”
14 They continued their climb and entered the city. And then there he was—Samuel!—coming straight toward them on his way to the shrine!
15-16 The very day before, God had confided in Samuel, “This time tomorrow, I’m sending a man from the land of Benjamin to meet you. You’re to anoint him as prince over my people Israel. He will free my people from Philistine oppression. Yes, I know all about their hard circumstances. I’ve heard their cries for help.”
17 The moment Samuel laid eyes on Saul, God said, “He’s the one, the man I told you about. This is the one who will keep my people in check.”
18 Saul came up to Samuel in the street and said, “Pardon me, but can you tell me where the Seer lives?”
19-20 “I’m the Seer,” said Samuel. “Accompany me to the shrine and eat with me. In the morning I’ll tell you all about what’s on your mind, and send you on your way. And by the way, your lost donkeys—the ones you’ve been hunting for the last three days—have been found, so don’t worry about them. At this moment, Israel’s future is in your hands.”
21 Saul answered, “But I’m only a Benjaminite, from the smallest of Israel’s tribes, and from the most insignificant clan in the tribe at that. Why are you talking to me like this?”
22-23 Samuel took Saul and his servant and led them into the dining hall at the shrine and seated them at the head of the table. There were about thirty guests. Then Samuel directed the chef, “Bring the choice cut I pointed out to you, the one I told you to reserve.”
24 The chef brought it and placed it before Saul with a flourish, saying, “This meal was kept aside just for you. Eat! It was especially prepared for this time and occasion with these guests.”
Saul ate with Samuel—a memorable day!
25 Afterward they went down from the shrine into the city. A bed was prepared for Saul on the breeze-cooled roof of Samuel’s house.
26 They woke at the break of day. Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get up and I’ll send you off.” Saul got up and the two of them went out in the street.
27 As they approached the outskirts of town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell your servant to go on ahead of us. You stay with me for a bit. I have a word of God to give you.”
Luke 9:18-36The Message (MSG)
Don’t Run from Suffering
18 One time when Jesus was off praying by himself, his disciples nearby, he asked them, “What are the crowds saying about me, about who I am?”
19 They said, “John the Baptizer. Others say Elijah. Still others say that one of the prophets from long ago has come back.”
20-21 He then asked, “And you—what are you saying about me? Who am I?”
Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Jesus then warned them to keep it quiet. They were to tell no one what Peter had said.
22 He went on, “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the religious leaders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and on the third day be raised up alive.”
23-27 Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”
Jesus in His Glory
28-31 About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.
32-33 Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking.
34-35 While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.”
36 When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.