1 Samuel 20The Message (MSG)
A Covenant Friendship in God’s Name
20 David got out of Naioth in Ramah alive and went to Jonathan. “What do I do now? What wrong have I inflicted on your father that makes him so determined to kill me?”
2 “Nothing,” said Jonathan. “You’ve done nothing wrong. And you’re not going to die. Really, you’re not! My father tells me everything. He does nothing, whether big or little, without confiding in me. So why would he do this behind my back? It can’t be.”
3 But David said, “Your father knows that we are the best of friends. So he says to himself, ‘Jonathan must know nothing of this. If he does, he’ll side with David.’ But it’s true—as sure as God lives, and as sure as you’re alive before me right now—he’s determined to kill me.”
4 Jonathan said, “Tell me what you have in mind. I’ll do anything for you.”
5-8 David said, “Tomorrow marks the New Moon. I’m scheduled to eat dinner with the king. Instead, I’ll go hide in the field until the evening of the third. If your father misses me, say, ‘David asked if he could run down to Bethlehem, his hometown, for an anniversary reunion, and worship with his family.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ then I’m safe. But if he gets angry, you’ll know for sure that he’s made up his mind to kill me. Oh, stick with me in this. You’ve entered into a covenant of God with me, remember! If I’m in the wrong, go ahead and kill me yourself. Why bother giving me up to your father?”
9 “Never!” exclaimed Jonathan. “I’d never do that! If I get the slightest hint that my father is fixated on killing you, I’ll tell you.”
10 David asked, “And whom will you get to tell me if your father comes back with a harsh answer?”
11-17 “Come outside,” said Jonathan. “Let’s go to the field.” When the two of them were out in the field, Jonathan said, “As God, the God of Israel, is my witness, by this time tomorrow I’ll get it out of my father how he feels about you. Then I’ll let you know what I learn. May God do his worst to me if I let you down! If my father still intends to kill you, I’ll tell you and get you out of here in one piece. And God be with you as he’s been with my father! If I make it through this alive, continue to be my covenant friend. And if I die, keep the covenant friendship with my family—forever. And when God finally rids the earth of David’s enemies, stay loyal to Jonathan!” Jonathan repeated his pledge of love and friendship for David. He loved David more than his own soul!
18-23 Jonathan then laid out his plan: “Tomorrow is the New Moon, and you’ll be missed when you don’t show up for dinner. On the third day, when they’ve quit expecting you, come to the place where you hid before, and wait beside that big boulder. I’ll shoot three arrows in the direction of the boulder. Then I’ll send off my servant, ‘Go find the arrows.’ If I yell after the servant, ‘The arrows are on this side! Retrieve them!’ that’s the signal that you can return safely—as God lives, not a thing to fear! But if I yell, ‘The arrows are farther out!’ then run for it—God wants you out of here! Regarding all the things we’ve discussed, remember that God’s in on this with us to the very end!”
24-26 David hid in the field. On the holiday of the New Moon, the king came to the table to eat. He sat where he always sat, the place against the wall, with Jonathan across the table and Abner at Saul’s side. But David’s seat was empty. Saul didn’t mention it at the time, thinking, “Something’s happened that’s made him unclean. That’s it—he’s probably unclean for the holy meal.”
27 But the day after the New Moon, day two of the holiday, David’s seat was still empty. Saul asked Jonathan his son, “So where’s that son of Jesse? He hasn’t eaten with us either yesterday or today.”
28-29 Jonathan said, “David asked my special permission to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Give me leave to attend a family reunion back home. My brothers have ordered me to be there. If it seems all right to you, let me go and see my brothers.’ That’s why he’s not here at the king’s table.”
30-31 Saul exploded in anger at Jonathan: “You son of a slut! Don’t you think I know that you’re in cahoots with the son of Jesse, disgracing both you and your mother? For as long as the son of Jesse is walking around free on this earth, your future in this kingdom is at risk. Now go get him. Bring him here. From this moment, he’s as good as dead!”
32 Jonathan stood up to his father. “Why dead? What’s he done?”
33 Saul threw his spear at him to kill him. That convinced Jonathan that his father was fixated on killing David.
34 Jonathan stormed from the table, furiously angry, and ate nothing the rest of the day, upset for David and smarting under the humiliation from his father.
35-39 In the morning, Jonathan went to the field for the appointment with David. He had his young servant with him. He told the servant, “Run and get the arrows I’m about to shoot.” The boy started running and Jonathan shot an arrow way beyond him. As the boy came to the area where the arrow had been shot, Jonathan yelled out, “Isn’t the arrow farther out?” He yelled again, “Hurry! Quickly! Don’t just stand there!” Jonathan’s servant then picked up the arrow and brought it to his master. The boy, of course, knew nothing of what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew.
40-41 Jonathan gave his quiver and bow to the boy and sent him back to town. After the servant was gone, David got up from his hiding place beside the boulder, then fell on his face to the ground—three times prostrating himself! And then they kissed one another and wept, friend over friend, David weeping especially hard.
42 Jonathan said, “Go in peace! The two of us have vowed friendship in God’s name, saying, ‘God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!’”
1 Samuel 21The Message (MSG)
David Pretends to Go Crazy
21 David went on his way and Jonathan returned to town.
David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the Priest. Ahimelech was alarmed as he went out to greet David: “What are you doing here all by yourself—and not a soul with you?”
2-3 David answered Ahimelech the Priest, “The king sent me on a mission and gave strict orders: ‘This is top secret—not a word of this to a soul.’ I’ve arranged to meet up with my men in a certain place. Now, what’s there here to eat? Do you have five loaves of bread? Give me whatever you can scrounge up!”
4 “I don’t have any regular bread on hand,” said the priest. “I only have holy bread. If your men have not slept with women recently, it’s yours.”
5 David said, “None of us has touched a woman. I always do it this way when I’m on a mission: My men abstain from sex. Even when it is an ordinary mission we do that—how much more on this holy mission.”
6 So the priest gave them the holy bread. It was the only bread he had, Bread of the Presence that had been removed from God’s presence and replaced by fresh bread at the same time.
7 One of Saul’s officials was present that day keeping a religious vow. His name was Doeg the Edomite. He was chief of Saul’s shepherds.
8 David asked Ahimelech, “Do you have a spear or sword of any kind around here? I didn’t have a chance to grab my weapons. The king’s mission was urgent and I left in a hurry.”
9 The priest said, “The sword of Goliath, the Philistine you killed at Oak Valley—that’s here! It’s behind the Ephod wrapped in a cloth. If you want it, take it. There’s nothing else here.”
10-11 “Oh,” said David, “there’s no sword like that! Give it to me!”
And at that, David shot out of there, running for his life from Saul. He went to Achish, king of Gath. When the servants of Achish saw him, they said, “Can this be David, the famous David? Is this the one they sing of at their dances?
Saul kills by the thousand,
12-15 When David realized that he had been recognized, he panicked, fearing the worst from Achish, king of Gath. So right there, while they were looking at him, he pretended to go crazy, pounding his head on the city gate and foaming at the mouth, spit dripping from his beard. Achish took one look at him and said to his servants, “Can’t you see he’s crazy? Why did you let him in here? Don’t you think I have enough crazy people to put up with as it is without adding another? Get him out of here!”
Psalm 34The Message (MSG)
A David Psalm, When He Outwitted Abimelech and Got Away
34 I bless God every chance I get;
2 I live and breathe God;
3 Join me in spreading the news;
4 God met me more than halfway,
5 Look at him; give him your warmest smile.
6 When I was desperate, I called out,
7 God’s angel sets up a circle
8 Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—
9 Worship God if you want the best;
10 Young lions on the prowl get hungry,
11 Come, children, listen closely;
12 Who out there has a lust for life?
13 Guard your tongue from profanity,
14 Turn your back on sin; do something good.
15 God keeps an eye on his friends,
16 God won’t put up with rebels;
17 Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
18 If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
19 Disciples so often get into trouble;
20 He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;
21 The wicked commit slow suicide;
22 God pays for each slave’s freedom;
Matthew 5The Message (MSG)
5 1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Salt and Light
13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Completing God’s Law
17-18 “Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures—either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.
19-20 “Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
21-22 “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
23-24 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
25-26 “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.
Adultery and Divorce
27-28 “You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
29-30 “Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
31-32 “Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
33-37 “And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
Love Your Enemies
38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”