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Psalm 77-78The Message (MSG)

An Asaph Psalm

77 I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might,
    I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.

2-6 I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
    my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.
When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,”
    I didn’t believe a word they said.
I remember God—and shake my head.
    I bow my head—then wring my hands.
I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep;
    I can’t even say what’s bothering me.
I go over the days one by one,
    I ponder the years gone by.
I strum my lute all through the night,
    wondering how to get my life together.

7-10 Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
    Will he never smile again?
Is his love worn threadbare?
    Has his salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten his manners?
    Has he angrily stalked off and left us?
“Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business
    just the moment I need him.”

11-12 Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
    lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished,
    and give a long, loving look at your acts.

13-15 O God! Your way is holy!
    No god is great like God!
You’re the God who makes things happen;
    you showed everyone what you can do—
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble,
    rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.

16-19 Ocean saw you in action, God,
    saw you and trembled with fear;
    Deep Ocean was scared to death.
Clouds belched buckets of rain,
    Sky exploded with thunder,
    your arrows flashing this way and that.
From Whirlwind came your thundering voice,
    Lightning exposed the world,
    Earth reeled and rocked.
You strode right through Ocean,
    walked straight through roaring Ocean,
    but nobody saw you come or go.

20 Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron,
You led your people like a flock of sheep.

An Asaph Psalm

78 1-4 Listen, dear friends, to God’s truth,
    bend your ears to what I tell you.
I’m chewing on the morsel of a proverb;
    I’ll let you in on the sweet old truths,
Stories we heard from our fathers,
    counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
    we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
    the marvelous things he has done.

5-8 He planted a witness in Jacob,
    set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
    to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
    and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
    so their children can trust in God,
Never forget the works of God
    but keep his commands to the letter.
Heaven forbid they should be like their parents,
    bullheaded and bad,
A fickle and faithless bunch
    who never stayed true to God.

9-16 The Ephraimites, armed to the teeth,
    ran off when the battle began.
They were cowards to God’s Covenant,
    refused to walk by his Word.
They forgot what he had done—
    marvels he’d done right before their eyes.
He performed miracles in plain sight of their parents
    in Egypt, out on the fields of Zoan.
He split the Sea and they walked right through it;
    he piled the waters to the right and the left.
He led them by day with a cloud,
    led them all the night long with a fiery torch.
He split rocks in the wilderness,
    gave them all they could drink from underground springs;
He made creeks flow out from sheer rock,
    and water pour out like a river.

17-20 All they did was sin even more,
    rebel in the desert against the High God.
They tried to get their own way with God,
    clamored for favors, for special attention.
They whined like spoiled children,
    “Why can’t God give us a decent meal in this desert?
Sure, he struck the rock and the water flowed,
    creeks cascaded from the rock.
But how about some fresh-baked bread?
    How about a nice cut of meat?”

21-31 When God heard that, he was furious—
    his anger flared against Jacob,
    he lost his temper with Israel.
It was clear they didn’t believe God,
    had no intention of trusting in his help.
But God helped them anyway, commanded the clouds
    and gave orders that opened the gates of heaven.
He rained down showers of manna to eat,
    he gave them the Bread of Heaven.
They ate the bread of the mighty angels;
    he sent them all the food they could eat.
He let East Wind break loose from the skies,
    gave a strong push to South Wind.
This time it was birds that rained down—
    succulent birds, an abundance of birds.
He aimed them right for the center of their camp;
    all round their tents there were birds.
They ate and had their fill;
    he handed them everything they craved on a platter.
But their greed knew no bounds;
    they stuffed their mouths with more and more.
Finally, God was fed up, his anger erupted—
    he cut down their brightest and best,
    he laid low Israel’s finest young men.

32-37 And—can you believe it?—they kept right on sinning;
    all those wonders and they still wouldn’t believe!
So their lives dribbled off to nothing—
    nothing to show for their lives but a ghost town.
When he cut them down, they came running for help;
    they turned and pled for mercy.
They gave witness that God was their rock,
    that High God was their redeemer,
But they didn’t mean a word of it;
    they lied through their teeth the whole time.
They could not have cared less about him,
    wanted nothing to do with his Covenant.

38-55 And God? Compassionate!
    Forgave the sin! Didn’t destroy!
Over and over he reined in his anger,
    restrained his considerable wrath.
He knew what they were made of;
    he knew there wasn’t much to them,
How often in the desert they had spurned him,
    tried his patience in those wilderness years.
Time and again they pushed him to the limit,
    provoked Israel’s Holy God.
How quickly they forgot what he’d done,
    forgot their day of rescue from the enemy,
When he did miracles in Egypt,
    wonders on the plain of Zoan.
He turned the River and its streams to blood—
    not a drop of water fit to drink.
He sent flies, which ate them alive,
    and frogs, which bedeviled them.
He turned their harvest over to caterpillars,
    everything they had worked for to the locusts.
He flattened their grapevines with hail;
    a killing frost ruined their orchards.
He pounded their cattle with hail,
    let thunderbolts loose on their herds.
His anger flared,
    a wild firestorm of havoc,
An advance guard of disease-carrying angels
    to clear the ground, preparing the way before him.
He didn’t spare those people,
    he let the plague rage through their lives.
He killed all the Egyptian firstborns,
    lusty infants, offspring of Ham’s virility.
Then he led his people out like sheep,
    took his flock safely through the wilderness.
He took good care of them; they had nothing to fear.
    The Sea took care of their enemies for good.
He brought them into his holy land,
    this mountain he claimed for his own.
He scattered everyone who got in their way;
    he staked out an inheritance for them—
    the tribes of Israel all had their own places.

56-64 But they kept on giving him a hard time,
    rebelled against God, the High God,
    refused to do anything he told them.
They were worse, if that’s possible, than their parents:
    traitors—crooked as a corkscrew.
Their pagan orgies provoked God’s anger,
    their obscene idolatries broke his heart.
When God heard their carryings-on, he was furious;
    he posted a huge No over Israel.
He walked off and left Shiloh empty,
    abandoned the shrine where he had met with Israel.
He let his pride and joy go to the dogs,
    turned his back on the pride of his life.
He turned them loose on fields of battle;
    angry, he let them fend for themselves.
Their young men went to war and never came back;
    their young women waited in vain.
Their priests were massacred,
    and their widows never shed a tear.

65-72 Suddenly the Lord was up on his feet
    like someone roused from deep sleep,
    shouting like a drunken warrior.
He hit his enemies hard, sent them running,
    yelping, not daring to look back.
He disqualified Joseph as leader,
    told Ephraim he didn’t have what it takes,
And chose the Tribe of Judah instead,
    Mount Zion, which he loves so much.
He built his sanctuary there, resplendent,
    solid and lasting as the earth itself.
Then he chose David, his servant,
    handpicked him from his work in the sheep pens.
One day he was caring for the ewes and their lambs,
    the next day God had him shepherding Jacob,
    his people Israel, his prize possession.
His good heart made him a good shepherd;
    he guided the people wisely and well.

The Message (MSG)

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

Romans 10The Message (MSG)

Israel Reduced to Religion

10 1-3 Believe me, friends, all I want for Israel is what’s best for Israel: salvation, nothing less. I want it with all my heart and pray to God for it all the time. I readily admit that the Jews are impressively energetic regarding God—but they are doing everything exactly backward. They don’t seem to realize that this comprehensive setting-things-right that is salvation is God’s business, and a most flourishing business it is. Right across the street they set up their own salvation shops and noisily hawk their wares. After all these years of refusing to really deal with God on his terms, insisting instead on making their own deals, they have nothing to show for it.

4-10 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?

The word that saves is right here,
    as near as the tongue in your mouth,
    as close as the heart in your chest.

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

11-13 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”

14-17 But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,

A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
    telling all the good things of God!

But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?” The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

18-21 But haven’t there been plenty of opportunities for Israel to listen and understand what’s going on? Plenty, I’d say.

Preachers’ voices have gone ’round the world,
Their message to earth’s seven seas.

So the big question is, Why didn’t Israel understand that she had no corner on this message? Moses had it right when he predicted,

When you see God reach out to those
    you consider your inferiors—outsiders!—
    you’ll become insanely jealous.
When you see God reach out to people
    you think are religiously stupid,
    you’ll throw temper tantrums.

Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God:

People found and welcomed me
    who never so much as looked for me.
And I found and welcomed people
    who had never even asked about me.

Then he capped it with a damning indictment:

Day after day after day,
    I beckoned Israel with open arms,
And got nothing for my trouble
    but cold shoulders and icy stares.

The Message (MSG)

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

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