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1 Samuel 28The Message (MSG)

28 During this time the Philistines mustered their troops to make war on Israel. Achish said to David, “You can count on this: You’re marching with my troops, you and your men.”

And David said, “Good! Now you’ll see for yourself what I can do!”

“Great!” said Achish. “I’m making you my personal bodyguard—for life!”

Saul Prayed, but God Didn’t Answer

Samuel was now dead. All Israel had mourned his death and buried him in Ramah, his hometown. Saul had long since cleaned out all those who held séances with the dead.

4-5 The Philistines had mustered their troops and camped at Shunem. Saul had assembled all Israel and camped at Gilboa. But when Saul saw the Philistine troops, he shook in his boots, scared to death.

Saul prayed to God, but God didn’t answer—neither by dream nor by sign nor by prophet.

So Saul ordered his officials, “Find me someone who can call up spirits so I may go and seek counsel from those spirits.”

His servants said, “There’s a witch at Endor.”

Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes. Then, taking two men with him, he went under the cover of night to the woman and said, “I want you to consult a ghost for me. Call up the person I name.”

The woman said, “Just hold on now! You know what Saul did, how he swept the country clean of mediums. Why are you trying to trap me and get me killed?”

10 Saul swore solemnly, “As God lives, you won’t get in any trouble for this.”

11 The woman said, “So whom do you want me to bring up?”

“Samuel. Bring me Samuel.”

12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly to Saul, “Why did you lie to me? You’re Saul!”

13 The king told her, “You have nothing to fear . . . but what do you see?”

“I see a spirit ascending from the underground.”

14 “And what does he look like?” Saul asked.

“An old man ascending, robed like a priest.”

Saul knew it was Samuel. He fell down, face to the ground, and worshiped.

15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by calling me up?”

“Because I’m in deep trouble,” said Saul. “The Philistines are making war against me and God has deserted me—he doesn’t answer me any more, either by prophet or by dream. And so I’m calling on you to tell me what to do.”

16-19 “Why ask me?” said Samuel. “God has turned away from you and is now on the side of your neighbor. God has done exactly what he told you through me—ripped the kingdom right out of your hands and given it to your neighbor. It’s because you did not obey God, refused to carry out his seething judgment on Amalek, that God does to you what he is doing today. Worse yet, God is turning Israel, along with you, over to the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. And, yes, indeed, God is giving Israel’s army up to the Philistines.”

20-22 Saul dropped to the ground, felled like a tree, terrified by Samuel’s words. There wasn’t an ounce of strength left in him—he’d eaten nothing all day and all night. The woman, realizing that he was in deep shock, said to him, “Listen to me. I did what you asked me to do, put my life in your hands in doing it, carried out your instructions to the letter. It’s your turn to do what I tell you: Let me give you some food. Eat it. It will give you strength so you can get on your way.”

23-25 He refused. “I’m not eating anything.”

But when his servants joined the woman in urging him, he gave in to their pleas, picked himself up off the ground, and sat on the bed. The woman moved swiftly. She butchered a grain-fed calf she had, and took some flour, kneaded it, and baked some flat bread. Then she served it all up for Saul and his servants. After dining handsomely, they got up from the table and were on their way that same night.

The Message (MSG)

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

1 Samuel 29The Message (MSG)

29 1-2 The Philistines mustered all their troops at Aphek. Meanwhile Israel had made camp at the spring at Jezreel. As the Philistine warlords marched forward by regiments and divisions, David and his men were bringing up the rear with Achish.

The Philistine officers said, “What business do these Hebrews have being here?”

Achish answered the officers, “Don’t you recognize David, ex-servant of King Saul of Israel? He’s been with me a long time. I’ve found nothing to be suspicious of, nothing to complain about, from the day he defected from Saul until now.”

4-5 Angry with Achish, the Philistine officers said, “Send this man back to where he came from. Let him stick to his normal duties. He’s not going into battle with us. He’d switch sides in the middle of the fight! What better chance to get back in favor with his master than by stabbing us in the back! Isn’t this the same David they celebrate at their parties, singing,

Saul kills by the thousand,
David by the ten thousand!”

6-7 So Achish had to send for David and tell him, “As God lives, you’ve been a trusty ally—excellent in all the ways you have worked with me, beyond reproach in the ways you have conducted yourself. But the warlords don’t see it that way. So it’s best that you leave peacefully, now. It’s not worth it, displeasing the Philistine warlords.”

“But what have I done?” said David. “Have you had a single cause for complaint from the day I joined up with you until now? Why can’t I fight against the enemies of my master the king?”

9-10 “I agree,” said Achish. “You’re a good man—as far as I’m concerned, God’s angel! But the Philistine officers were emphatic: ‘He’s not to go with us into battle.’ So get an early start, you and the men who came with you. As soon as you have light enough to travel, go.”

11 David rose early, he and his men, and by daybreak they were on their way back to Philistine country. The Philistines went on to Jezreel.

The Message (MSG)

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

Psalm 109The Message (MSG)

A David Prayer

109 1-5 My God, don’t turn a deaf ear to my hallelujah prayer.
    Liars are pouring out invective on me;
Their lying tongues are like a pack of dogs out to get me,
    barking their hate, nipping my heels—and for no reason!
I loved them and now they slander me—yes, me!—
    and treat my prayer like a crime;
They return my good with evil,
    they return my love with hate.

6-20 Send the Evil One to accuse my accusing judge;
    dispatch Satan to prosecute him.
When he’s judged, let the verdict be “Guilty,”
    and when he prays, let his prayer turn to sin.
Give him a short life,
    and give his job to somebody else.
Make orphans of his children,
    dress his wife in widow’s weeds;
Turn his children into begging street urchins,
    evicted from their homes—homeless.
May the bank foreclose and wipe him out,
    and strangers, like vultures, pick him clean.
May there be no one around to help him out,
    no one willing to give his orphans a break.
Chop down his family tree
    so that nobody even remembers his name.
But erect a memorial to the sin of his father,
    and make sure his mother’s name is there, too—
Their sins recorded forever before God,
    but they themselves sunk in oblivion.
That’s all he deserves since he was never once kind,
    hounded the afflicted and heartbroken to their graves.
Since he loved cursing so much,
    let curses rain down;
Since he had no taste for blessing,
    let blessings flee far from him.
He dressed up in curses like a fine suit of clothes;
    he drank curses, took his baths in curses.
So give him a gift—a costume of curses;
    he can wear curses every day of the week!
That’s what they’ll get, those out to get me—
    an avalanche of just deserts from God.

21-25 Oh, God, my Lord, step in;
    work a miracle for me—you can do it!
Get me out of here—your love is so great!—
    I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins.
I’m fading away to nothing, passing away,
    my youth gone, old before my time.
I’m weak from hunger and can hardly stand up,
    my body a rack of skin and bones.
I’m a joke in poor taste to those who see me;
    they take one look and shake their heads.

26-29 Help me, oh help me, God, my God,
    save me through your wonderful love;
Then they’ll know that your hand is in this,
    that you, God, have been at work.
Let them curse all they want;
    you do the blessing.
Let them be jeered by the crowd when they stand up,
    followed by cheers for me, your servant.
Dress my accusers in clothes dirty with shame,
    discarded and humiliating old ragbag clothes.

30-31 My mouth’s full of great praise for God,
    I’m singing his hallelujahs surrounded by crowds,
For he’s always at hand to take the side of the needy,
    to rescue a life from the unjust judge.

The Message (MSG)

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

Matthew 11The Message (MSG)

John the Baptizer

11 When Jesus finished placing this charge before his twelve disciples, he went on to teach and preach in their villages.

2-3 John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”

4-6 Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on:

The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side.

“Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”

7-10 When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’

11-14 “Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God’s kingdom. But if you read the books of the Prophets and God’s Law closely, you will see them culminate in John, teaming up with him in preparing the way for the Messiah of the kingdom. Looked at in this way, John is the ‘Elijah’ you’ve all been expecting to arrive and introduce the Messiah.

15 “Are you listening to me? Really listening?

16-19 “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

20 Next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way.

21-24 “Doom to you, Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half of the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you. And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss. If the people of Sodom had had your chances, the city would still be around. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you.”

25-26 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.”

27 Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The Message (MSG)

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

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