2 Chronicles 28-29The Message (MSG)
28 1-4 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. He didn’t live right in the eyes of God; he wasn’t at all like his ancestor David. Instead he followed in the track of Israel in the north, even casting metal figurines for worshiping the pagan Baal gods. He participated in the outlawed burning of incense in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and—incredibly!—indulged in the outrageous practice of “passing his sons through the fire,” a truly abominable thing he picked up from the pagans God had earlier thrown out of the country. He also joined in the activities of the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines that flourished all over the place.
5-8 God, fed up, handed him over to the king of Aram, who beat him badly and took many prisoners to Damascus. God also let the king of Israel loose on him and that resulted in a terrible slaughter: Pekah son of Remaliah killed 120,000 in one day, all of them first-class soldiers, and all because they had deserted God, the God of their ancestors. Furthermore, Zicri, an Ephraimite hero, killed the king’s son Maaseiah, Azrikam the palace steward, and Elkanah, second in command to the king. And that wasn’t the end of it—the Israelites captured 200,000 men, women, and children, besides huge cartloads of plunder that they took to Samaria.
9-11 God’s prophet Oded was in the neighborhood. He met the army when it entered Samaria and said, “Stop right where you are and listen! God, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and used you to punish them; but you took things into your own hands and used your anger, uncalled for and irrational, to turn your brothers and sisters from Judah and Jerusalem into slaves. Don’t you see that this is a terrible sin against your God? Careful now; do exactly what I say—return these captives, every last one of them. If you don’t, you’ll find out how real anger, God’s anger, works.”
12-13 Some of their Ephraimite leaders—Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai—stood up against the returning army and said, “Don’t bring the captives here! We’ve already sinned against God; and now you are about to compound our sin and guilt. We’re guilty enough as it is, enough to set off an explosion of divine anger.”
14-15 So the soldiers turned over both the captives and the plunder to the leaders and the people. Personally designated men gathered the captives together, dressed the ones who were naked using clothing from the stores of plunder, put shoes on their feet, gave them all a square meal, provided first aid to the injured, put the weak ones on donkeys, and then escorted them to Jericho, the City of Palms, restoring them to their families. Then they went back to Samaria.
16-21 At about that time King Ahaz sent to the king of Assyria asking for personal help. The Edomites had come back and given Judah a bad beating, taking off a bunch of captives. Adding insult to injury the Philistines raided the cities in the foothills to the west and the southern desert and captured Beth Shemesh, Aijalon, and Gederoth, along with Soco, Timnah, and Gimzo, with their surrounding villages, and moved in, making themselves at home. Arrogant King Ahaz, acting as if he could do without God’s help, had unleashed an epidemic of depravity. Judah, brought to its knees by God, was now reduced to begging for a handout. But the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, wouldn’t help—he came instead and humiliated Ahaz even more by attacking and bullying him. Desperate, Ahaz ransacked The Temple of God, the royal palace, and every other place he could think of, scraping together everything he could, and gave it to the king of Assyria—and got nothing in return, not a bit of help.
22-25 But King Ahaz didn’t learn his lesson—at the very time that everyone was turning against him, he continued to be against God! He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus. He had just been defeated by Damascus; he thought, “If I worship the gods who helped Damascus, those gods just might help me, too.” But things only went from bad to worse: first Ahaz in ruins and then the country. He cleaned out The Temple of God of everything useful and valuable, boarded up the doors of The Temple, and then went out and set up pagan shrines for his own use all over Jerusalem. And not only in Jerusalem, but all over Judah—neighborhood shrines for worshiping any and every god on sale. And was God ever angry!
26-27 The rest of Ahaz’s infamous life, all that he did from start to finish, is written in the Royal Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel. When Ahaz died, they buried him in Jerusalem, but he was not honored with a burial in the cemetery of the kings. His son Hezekiah was the next king.
29 1-2 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old and was king in Jerusalem for twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. In God’s opinion he was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David.
3-9 In the first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah, having first repaired the doors of The Temple of God, threw them open to the public. He assembled the priests and Levites in the court on the east side and said, “Levites, listen! Consecrate yourselves and consecrate The Temple of God—give this much-defiled place a good housecleaning. Our ancestors went wrong and lived badly before God—they discarded him, turned away from this house where we meet with God, and walked off. They boarded up the doors, turned out the lights, and canceled all the acts of worship of the God of Israel in the holy Temple. And because of that, God’s anger flared up and he turned those people into a public exhibit of disaster, a moral history lesson—look and read! This is why our ancestors were killed, and this is why our wives and sons and daughters were taken prisoner and made slaves.
10-11 “I have decided to make a covenant with the God of Israel and turn history around so that God will no longer be angry with us. Children, don’t drag your feet in this! God has chosen you to take your place before him to serve in conducting and leading worship—this is your life work; make sure you do it and do it well.”
12-17 The Levites stood at attention: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah from the Kohathites; Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel from the Merarites; Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah from the Gershonites; Shimri and Jeiel sons of Elizaphan; Zechariah and Mattaniah sons of Asaph; Jehiel and Shimei of the family of Heman; Shemaiah and Uzziel of the family of Jeduthun. They presented themselves and their brothers, consecrated themselves, and set to work cleaning up The Temple of God as the king had directed—as God directed! The priests started from the inside and worked out; they emptied the place of the accumulation of defiling junk—pagan rubbish that had no business in that holy place—and the Levites hauled it off to the Kidron Valley. They began the Temple cleaning on the first day of the first month and by the eighth day they had worked their way out to the porch—eight days it took them to clean and consecrate The Temple itself, and in eight more days they had finished with the entire Temple complex.
18-19 Then they reported to Hezekiah the king, “We have cleaned up the entire Temple of God, including the Altar of Whole-Burnt-Offering and the Table of the Bread of the Presence with their furnishings. We have also cleaned up and consecrated all the vessels which King Ahaz had gotten rid of during his misrule. Take a look; we have repaired them. They’re all there in front of the Altar of God.”
20-24 Then Hezekiah the king went to work: He got all the leaders of the city together and marched to The Temple of God. They brought with them seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven he-goats to sacrifice as an Absolution-Offering for the royal family, for the Sanctuary, and for Judah as a whole; he directed the Aaronite priests to sacrifice them on the Altar of God. The priests butchered the bulls and then took the blood and sprinkled it on the Altar, and then the same with the rams and lambs. Finally they brought the goats up; the king and congregation laid their hands upon them. The priests butchered them and made an Absolution-Offering with their blood at the Altar to atone for the sin of all Israel—the king had ordered that the Whole-Burnt-Offering and the Absolution-Offering be for all Israel.
25-26 The king ordered the Levites to take their places in The Temple of God with their musical instruments—cymbals, harps, zithers—following the original instructions of David, Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; this was God’s command conveyed by his prophets. The Levites formed the orchestra of David, while the priests took up the trumpets.
27-30 Then Hezekiah gave the signal to begin: The Whole-Burnt-Offering was offered on the Altar; at the same time the sacred choir began singing, backed up by the trumpets and the David orchestra while the entire congregation worshiped. The singers sang and the trumpeters played all during the sacrifice of the Whole-Burnt-Offering. When the offering of the sacrifice was completed, the king and everyone there knelt to the ground and worshiped. Then Hezekiah the king and the leaders told the Levites to finish things off with anthems of praise to God using lyrics by David and Asaph the seer. They sang their praises with joy and reverence, kneeling in worship.
31-35 Hezekiah then made this response: “The dedication is complete—you’re consecrated to God. Now you’re ready: Come forward and bring your sacrifices and Thank-Offerings to The Temple of God.”
And come they did. Everyone in the congregation brought sacrifices and Thank-Offerings and some, overflowing with generosity, even brought Whole-Burnt-Offerings, a generosity expressed in seventy bulls, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs—all for Whole-Burnt-Offerings for God! The total number of animals consecrated for sacrifice that day amounted to six hundred bulls and three thousand sheep. They ran out of priests qualified to slaughter all the Whole-Burnt-Offerings so their brother Levites stepped in and helped out while other priests consecrated themselves for the work. It turned out that the Levites had been more responsible in making sure they were properly consecrated than the priests had been. Besides the overflow of Whole-Burnt-Offerings there were also choice pieces for the Peace-Offerings and lavish libations that went with the Whole-Burnt-Offerings. The worship in The Temple of God was on a firm footing again!
36 Hezekiah and the congregation celebrated: God had established a firm foundation for the lives of the people—and so quickly!
John 17The Message (MSG)
Jesus’ Prayer for His Followers
17 1-5 Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it’s time.
6-12 I spelled out your character in detail
13-19 Now I’m returning to you.
20-23 I’m praying not only for them
24-26 Father, I want those you gave me