1 Samuel 3The Message (MSG)
“Speak, God. I’m Ready to Listen”
3 1-3 The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli’s direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. One night Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad—he could hardly see). It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.
4-5 Then God called out, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Yes? I’m here.” Then he ran to Eli saying, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Eli said, “I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” And so he did.
6-7 God called again, “Samuel, Samuel!”
Samuel got up and went to Eli, “I heard you call. Here I am.”
Again Eli said, “Son, I didn’t call you. Go back to bed.” (This all happened before Samuel knew God for himself. It was before the revelation of God had been given to him personally.)
8-9 God called again, “Samuel!”—the third time! Yet again Samuel got up and went to Eli, “Yes? I heard you call me. Here I am.”
That’s when it dawned on Eli that God was calling the boy. So Eli directed Samuel, “Go back and lie down. If the voice calls again, say, ‘Speak, God. I’m your servant, ready to listen.’” Samuel returned to his bed.
10 Then God came and stood before him exactly as before, calling out, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel answered, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”
11-14 God said to Samuel, “Listen carefully. I’m getting ready to do something in Israel that is going to shake everyone up and get their attention. The time has come for me to bring down on Eli’s family everything I warned him of, every last word of it. I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them. This is my sentence on the family of Eli: The evil of Eli’s family can never be wiped out by sacrifice or offering.”
15 Samuel stayed in bed until morning, then rose early and went about his duties, opening the doors of the sanctuary, but he dreaded having to tell the vision to Eli.
16 But then Eli summoned Samuel: “Samuel, my son!”
Samuel came running: “Yes? What can I do for you?”
17 “What did he say? Tell it to me, all of it. Don’t suppress or soften one word, as God is your judge! I want it all, word for word as he said it to you.”
18 So Samuel told him, word for word. He held back nothing.
Eli said, “He is God. Let him do whatever he thinks best.”
19-21 Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel’s prophetic record was flawless. Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing—a true prophet of God. God continued to show up at Shiloh, revealed through his word to Samuel at Shiloh.
1 Samuel 4The Message (MSG)
The Chest of God Is Taken
4 1-3 Whatever Samuel said was broadcast all through Israel. Israel went to war against the Philistines. Israel set up camp at Ebenezer, the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines marched out to meet Israel, the fighting spread, and Israel was badly beaten—about four thousand soldiers left dead on the field. When the troops returned to camp, Israel’s elders said, “Why has God given us such a beating today by the Philistines? Let’s go to Shiloh and get the Chest of God’s Covenant. It will accompany us and save us from the grip of our enemies.”
4 So the army sent orders to Shiloh. They brought the Chest of the Covenant of God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the Cherubim-Enthroned-God. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Chest of the Covenant of God.
5-6 When the Chest of the Covenant of God was brought into camp, everyone gave a huge cheer. The shouts were like thunderclaps shaking the very ground. The Philistines heard the shouting and wondered what on earth was going on: “What’s all this shouting among the Hebrews?”
6-9 Then they learned that the Chest of God had entered the Hebrew camp. The Philistines panicked: “Their gods have come to their camp! Nothing like this has ever happened before. We’re done for! Who can save us from the clutches of these supergods? These are the same gods who hit the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues out in the wilderness. On your feet, Philistines! Courage! We’re about to become slaves to the Hebrews, just as they have been slaves to us. Show what you’re made of! Fight for your lives!”
10-11 And did they ever fight! It turned into a rout. They thrashed Israel so mercilessly that the Israelite soldiers ran for their lives, leaving behind an incredible thirty thousand dead. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Chest of God was taken and the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas—were killed.
Glory Is Exiled from Israel
12-16 Immediately, a Benjaminite raced from the front lines back to Shiloh. Shirt torn and face smeared with dirt, he entered the town. Eli was sitting on his stool beside the road keeping vigil, for he was extremely worried about the Chest of God. When the man ran straight into town to tell the bad news, everyone wept. They were appalled. Eli heard the loud wailing and asked, “Why this uproar?” The messenger hurried over and reported. Eli was ninety-eight years old then, and blind. The man said to Eli, “I’ve just come from the front, barely escaping with my life.”
“And so, my son,” said Eli, “what happened?”
17 The messenger answered, “Israel scattered before the Philistines. The defeat was catastrophic, with enormous losses. Your sons Hophni and Phinehas died, and the Chest of God was taken.”
18 At the words, “Chest of God,” Eli fell backward off his stool where he sat next to the gate. Eli was an old man, and very fat. When he fell, he broke his neck and died. He had led Israel forty years.
19-20 His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and ready to deliver. When she heard that the Chest of God had been taken and that both her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went to her knees to give birth, going into hard labor. As she was about to die, her midwife said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ve given birth to a son!” But she gave no sign that she had heard.
21-22 The Chest of God gone, father-in-law dead, husband dead, she named the boy Ichabod (Glory’s-Gone), saying, “Glory is exiled from Israel since the Chest of God was taken.”
1 Samuel 5The Message (MSG)
Threatened with Mass Death
5 1-2 Once the Philistines had seized the Chest of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod, brought it into the shrine of Dagon, and placed it alongside the idol of Dagon.
3-5 Next morning when the citizens of Ashdod got up, they were shocked to find Dagon toppled from his place, flat on his face before the Chest of God. They picked him up and put him back where he belonged. First thing the next morning they found him again, toppled and flat on his face before the Chest of God. Dagon’s head and arms were broken off, strewn across the entrance. Only his torso was in one piece. (That’s why even today, the priests of Dagon and visitors to the Dagon shrine in Ashdod avoid stepping on the threshold.)
6 God was hard on the citizens of Ashdod. He devastated them by hitting them with tumors. This happened in both the town and the surrounding neighborhoods. He let loose rats among them. Jumping from ships there, rats swarmed all over the city! And everyone was deathly afraid.
7-8 When the leaders of Ashdod saw what was going on, they decided, “The chest of the god of Israel has got to go. We can’t handle this, and neither can our god Dagon.” They called together all the Philistine leaders and put it to them: “How can we get rid of the chest of the god of Israel?”
The leaders agreed: “Move it to Gath.” So they moved the Chest of the God of Israel to Gath.
9 But as soon as they moved it there, God came down hard on that city, too. It was mass hysteria! He hit them with tumors. Tumors broke out on everyone in town, young and old.
10-12 So they sent the Chest of God on to Ekron, but as the Chest was being brought into town, the people shouted in protest, “You’ll kill us all by bringing in this Chest of the God of Israel!” They called the Philistine leaders together and demanded, “Get it out of here, this Chest of the God of Israel. Send it back where it came from. We’re threatened with mass death!” For everyone was scared to death when the Chest of God showed up. God was already coming down very hard on the place. Those who didn’t die were hit with tumors. All over the city cries of pain and lament filled the air.
Psalm 77The Message (MSG)
An Asaph Psalm
77 I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might,
2-6 I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
7-10 Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
11-12 Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
13-15 O God! Your way is holy!
16-19 Ocean saw you in action, God,
20 Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron,
2 Corinthians 8The Message (MSG)
8 1-4 Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.
5-7 This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives. That’s what prompted us to ask Titus to bring the relief offering to your attention, so that what was so well begun could be finished up. You do so well in so many things—you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us—now, do your best in this, too.
8-9 I’m not trying to order you around against your will. But by bringing in the Macedonians’ enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am hoping to bring the best out of you. You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.
10-20 So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,
Nothing left over to the one with the most,
I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. We’re sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there’s far more to him than popularity. He’s rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God’s gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal.
20-22 We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God. That’s why we’re sending another trusted friend along. He’s proved his dependability many times over, and carries on as energetically as the day he started. He’s heard much about you, and liked what he’s heard—so much so that he can’t wait to get there.
23-24 I don’t need to say anything further about Titus. We’ve been close associates in this work of serving you for a long time. The brothers who travel with him are delegates from churches, a real credit to Christ. Show them what you’re made of, the love I’ve been talking up in the churches. Let them see it for themselves!