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2 Kings 18The Message (MSG)

Hezekiah of Judah

18 1-4 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz began his rule over Judah. He was twenty-five years old when he became king and he ruled for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. In God’s opinion he was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David. He got rid of the local fertility shrines, smashed the phallic stone monuments, and cut down the sex-and-religion Asherah groves. As a final stroke he pulverized the ancient bronze serpent that Moses had made; at that time the Israelites had taken up the practice of sacrificing to it—they had even dignified it with a name, Nehushtan (The Old Serpent).

5-6 Hezekiah put his whole trust in the God of Israel. There was no king quite like him, either before or after. He held fast to God—never loosened his grip—and obeyed to the letter everything God had commanded Moses. And God, for his part, held fast to him through all his adventures.

7-8 He revolted against the king of Assyria; he refused to serve him one more day. And he drove back the Philistines, whether in sentry outposts or fortress cities, all the way to Gaza and its borders.

9-11 In the fourth year of Hezekiah and the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria attacked Samaria. He threw a siege around it and after three years captured it. It was in the sixth year of Hezekiah and the ninth year of Hoshea that Samaria fell to Assyria. The king of Assyria took Israel into exile and relocated them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River, and in towns of the Medes.

12 All this happened because they wouldn’t listen to the voice of their God and treated his covenant with careless contempt. They refused either to listen or do a word of what Moses, the servant of God, commanded.

13-14 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the outlying fortress cities of Judah and captured them. King Hezekiah sent a message to the king of Assyria at his headquarters in Lachish: “I’ve done wrong; I admit it. Pull back your army; I’ll pay whatever tribute you set.”

14-16 The king of Assyria demanded tribute from Hezekiah king of Judah—eleven tons of silver and a ton of gold. Hezekiah turned over all the silver he could find in The Temple of God and in the palace treasuries. Hezekiah even took down the doors of The Temple of God and the doorposts that he had overlaid with gold and gave them to the king of Assyria.

17 So the king of Assyria sent his top three military chiefs (the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh) from Lachish with a strong military force to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they stopped at the aqueduct of the Upper Pool on the road to the laundry commons.

18 They called loudly for the king. Eliakim son of Hilkiah who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the royal secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the court historian went out to meet them.

19-22 The third officer, the Rabshakeh, was spokesman. He said, “Tell Hezekiah: A message from The Great King, the king of Assyria: You’re living in a world of make-believe, of pious fantasy. Do you think that mere words are any substitute for military strategy and troops? Now that you’ve revolted against me, who can you expect to help you? You thought Egypt would, but Egypt’s nothing but a paper tiger—one puff of wind and she collapses; Pharaoh king of Egypt is nothing but bluff and bluster. Or are you going to tell me, ‘We rely on God’? But Hezekiah has just eliminated most of the people’s access to God by getting rid of all the local God-shrines, ordering everyone in Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship at the Jerusalem altar only.’

23-24 “So be reasonable. Make a deal with my master, the king of Assyria. I’ll give you two thousand horses if you think you can provide riders for them. You can’t do it? Well, then, how do you think you’re going to turn back even one raw buck private from my master’s troops? How long are you going to hold on to that figment of your imagination, these hoped-for Egyptian chariots and horses?

25 “Do you think I’ve come up here to destroy this country without the express approval of God? The fact is that God expressly ordered me, ‘Attack and destroy this country!’”

26 Eliakim son of Hilkiah and Shebna and Joah said to the Rabshakeh, “Please, speak to us in the Aramaic language. We understand Aramaic. Don’t speak in Hebrew—everyone crowded on the city wall can hear you.”

27 But the Rabshakeh said, “We weren’t sent with a private message to your master and you; this is public—a message to everyone within earshot. After all, they’re involved in this as well as you; if you don’t come to terms, they’ll be eating their own turds and drinking their own pee right along with you.”

28-32 Then he stepped forward and spoke in Hebrew loud enough for everyone to hear, “Listen carefully to the words of The Great King, the king of Assyria: Don’t let Hezekiah fool you; he can’t save you. And don’t let Hezekiah give you that line about trusting in God, telling you, ‘God will save us—this city will never be abandoned to the king of Assyria.’ Don’t listen to Hezekiah—he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Listen to the king of Assyria—deal with me and live the good life; I’ll guarantee everyone your own plot of ground—a garden and a well! I’ll take you to a land sweeter by far than this one, a land of grain and wine, bread and vineyards, olive orchards and honey. You only live once—so live, really live!

32-35 “No. Don’t listen to Hezekiah. Don’t listen to his lies, telling you ‘God will save us.’ Has there ever been a god anywhere who delivered anyone from the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? And Samaria—did their gods save them? Can you name a god who saved anyone anywhere from me, the king of Assyria? So what makes you think that God can save Jerusalem from me?”

36 The people were silent. No one spoke a word for the king had ordered, “Don’t anyone say a word—not one word!”

37 Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, and Shebna the royal secretary, and Joah son of Asaph the court historian went back to Hezekiah. They had ripped their robes in despair; they reported to Hezekiah the speech of the Rabshakeh.

The Message (MSG)

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

2 Kings 19The Message (MSG)

19 1-3 When Hezekiah heard it all, he too ripped his robes apart and dressed himself in rough burlap. Then he went into The Temple of God. He sent Eliakim, who was in charge of the palace, Shebna the secretary, and the senior priests, all of them dressed in rough burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They said to him, “A message from Hezekiah: ‘This is a black day, a terrible day—doomsday!

Babies poised to be born,
No strength to birth them.

“‘Maybe God, your God, has been listening to the blasphemous speech of the Rabshakeh who was sent by the king of Assyria, his master, to humiliate the living God; maybe God, your God, won’t let him get by with such talk; and you, maybe you will lift up prayers for what’s left of these people.’”

That’s the message King Hezekiah’s servants delivered to Isaiah.

6-7 Isaiah answered them, “Tell your master, ‘God’s word: Don’t be at all concerned about what you’ve heard from the king of Assyria’s bootlicking errand boys—these outrageous blasphemies. Here’s what I’m going to do: Afflict him with self-doubt. He’s going to hear a rumor and, frightened for his life, retreat to his own country. Once there, I’ll see to it that he gets killed.’”

8-13 The Rabshakeh left and found that the king of Assyria had pulled up stakes from Lachish and was now fighting against Libnah. Then Sennacherib heard that Tirhakah king of Cush was on his way to fight against him. So he sent another envoy with orders to deliver this message to Hezekiah king of Judah: “Don’t let that god that you think so much of keep stringing you along with the line, ‘Jerusalem will never fall to the king of Assyria.’ That’s a barefaced lie. You know the track record of the kings of Assyria—country after country laid waste, devastated. And what makes you think you’ll be an exception? Take a good look at these wasted nations, destroyed by my ancestors; did their gods do them any good? Look at Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, the people of Eden at Tel Assar. Ruins. And what’s left of the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of Sepharvaim, of Hena, of Ivvah? Bones.”

14-15 Hezekiah took the letter from the envoy and read it. He went to The Temple of God and spread it out before God. And Hezekiah prayed—oh, how he prayed!

God, God of Israel, seated
    in majesty on the cherubim-throne.
You are the one and only God,
    sovereign over all kingdoms on earth,
Maker of heaven,
    maker of earth.

16 Open your ears, God, and listen,
        open your eyes and look.
    Look at this letter Sennacherib has sent,
        a brazen insult to the living God!

17 The facts are true, O God: The kings of Assyria
    have laid waste countries and kingdoms.

18 Huge bonfires they made of their gods, their
    no-gods hand-made from wood and stone.

19 But now O God, our God,
        save us from raw Assyrian power;
    Make all the kingdoms on earth know
        that you are God, the one and only God.

20-21 It wasn’t long before Isaiah son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah:

God’s word: You’ve prayed to me regarding Sennacherib king of Assyria; I’ve heard your prayer. This is my response to him:

The Virgin Daughter of Zion
    holds you in utter contempt;
Daughter Jerusalem
    thinks you’re nothing but scum.

22 Who do you think it is you’ve insulted?
        Who do you think you’ve been bad-mouthing?
    Before whom do you suppose you’ve been strutting?
        The Holy One of Israel, that’s who!

23 You dispatched your errand boys
        to humiliate the Master.
    You bragged, “With my army of chariots
        I’ve climbed the highest mountains,
        snow-peaked alpine Lebanon mountains!
    I’ve cut down its giant cedars,
        chopped down its prize pine trees.
    I’ve traveled the world,
        visited the finest forest retreats.

24 I’ve dug wells in faraway places
        and drunk their exotic waters;
    I’ve waded and splashed barefoot
        in the rivers of Egypt.”

25 Did it never occur to you
    that I’m behind all this?
Long, long ago I drew up the plans,
    and now I’ve gone into action,
Using you as a doomsday weapon,
    reducing proud cities to piles of rubble,

26 Leaving their people dispirited,
        slumped shoulders, limp souls.
    Useless as weeds, fragile as grass,
        insubstantial as wind-blown chaff.

27 I know when you sit down, when you come
        and when you go;
    And, yes, I’ve marked every one
        of your temper tantrums against me.

28 It’s because of your temper,
        your blasphemous foul temper,
    That I’m putting my hook in your nose
        and my bit in your mouth
    And turning you back
        to where you came from.

29 And this, Hezekiah, will be for you the confirming sign:

This year you’ll eat the gleanings, next year
    whatever you can beg, borrow, or steal;
But the third year you’ll sow and harvest,
    plant vineyards and eat grapes.

30 A remnant of the family of Judah yet again
    will sink down roots and raise up fruit.

31 The remnant will come from Jerusalem,
        the survivors from Mount Zion.
    The Zeal of God
        will make it happen.

32 To sum up, this is what God says regarding the king of Assyria:

He won’t enter this city,
    nor shoot so much as a single arrow there;
Won’t brandish a shield,
    won’t even begin to set siege;

33 He’ll go home by the same road he came;
    he won’t enter this city. God’s word!

34 I’ll shield this city, I’ll save this city,
    for my sake and for David’s sake.

35 And it so happened that that very night an angel of God came and massacred 185,000 Assyrians. When the people of Jerusalem got up next morning, there it was—a whole camp of corpses!

36-37 Sennacherib king of Assyria got out of there fast, headed straight home for Nineveh, and stayed put. One day when he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer murdered him and then escaped to the land of Ararat. His son Esarhaddon became the next king.

The Message (MSG)

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

2 Chronicles 32The Message (MSG)

32 And then, after this exemplary track record, this: Sennacherib king of Assyria came and attacked Judah. He put the fortified cities under siege, determined to take them.

2-4 When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib’s strategy was to take Jerusalem, he talked to his advisors and military leaders about eliminating all the water supplies outside the city; they thought it was a good idea. There was a great turnout of people to plug the springs and tear down the aqueduct. They said, “Why should the kings of Assyria march in and be furnished with running water?”

5-6 Hezekiah also went to work repairing every part of the city wall that was damaged, built defensive towers on it, built another wall of defense further out, and reinforced the defensive rampart (the Millo) of the old City of David. He also built up a large store of armaments—spears and shields. He then appointed military officers to be responsible for the people and got them all together at the public square in front of the city gate.

6-8 Hezekiah rallied the people, saying, “Be strong! Take courage! Don’t be intimidated by the king of Assyria and his troops—there are more on our side than on their side. He only has a bunch of mere men; we have our God to help us and fight for us!”

Morale surged. Hezekiah’s words put steel in their spines.

9-15 Later on, Sennacherib, who had set up camp a few miles away at Lachish, sent messengers to Jerusalem, addressing Judah through Hezekiah: “A proclamation of Sennacherib king of Assyria: You poor people—do you think you’re safe in that so-called fortress of Jerusalem? You’re sitting ducks. Do you think Hezekiah will save you? Don’t be stupid—Hezekiah has fed you a pack of lies. When he says, ‘God will save us from the power of the king of Assyria,’ he’s lying—you’re all going to end up dead. Wasn’t it Hezekiah who cleared out all the neighborhood worship shrines and told you, ‘There is only one legitimate place to worship’? Do you have any idea what I and my ancestors have done to all the countries around here? Has there been a single god anywhere strong enough to stand up against me? Can you name one god among all the nations that either I or my ancestors have ravaged that so much as lifted a finger against me? So what makes you think you’ll make out any better with your god? Don’t let Hezekiah fool you; don’t let him get by with his barefaced lies; don’t trust him. No god of any country or kingdom ever has been one bit of help against me or my ancestors—what kind of odds does that give your god?”

16 The messengers felt free to throw in their personal comments, putting down both God and God’s servant Hezekiah.

17 Sennacherib continued to send letters insulting the God of Israel: “The gods of the nations were powerless to help their people; the god of Hezekiah is no better, probably worse.”

18-19 The messengers would come up to the wall of Jerusalem and shout up to the people standing on the wall, shouting their propaganda in Hebrew, trying to scare them into demoralized submission. They contemptuously lumped the God of Jerusalem in with the handmade gods of other peoples.

20-21 King Hezekiah, joined by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz, responded by praying, calling up to heaven. God answered by sending an angel who wiped out everyone in the Assyrian camp, both warriors and officers. Sennacherib was forced to return home in disgrace, tail between his legs. When he went into the temple of his god, his own sons killed him.

22-23 God saved Hezekiah and the citizens of Jerusalem from Sennacherib king of Assyria and everyone else. And he continued to take good care of them. People streamed into Jerusalem bringing offerings for the worship of God and expensive presents to Hezekiah king of Judah. All the surrounding nations were impressed—Hezekiah’s stock soared.

24 Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. He prayed to God and was given a reassuring sign.

25-26 But the sign, instead of making Hezekiah grateful, made him arrogant. This made God angry, and his anger spilled over on Judah and Jerusalem. But then Hezekiah, and Jerusalem with him, repented of his arrogance, and God withdrew his anger while Hezekiah lived.

27-31 Hezekiah ended up very wealthy and much honored. He built treasuries for all his silver, gold, precious stones, spices, shields, and valuables, barns for the grain, new wine, and olive oil, stalls for his various breeds of cattle, and pens for his flocks. He founded royal cities for himself and built up huge stocks of sheep and cattle. God saw to it that he was extravagantly rich. Hezekiah was also responsible for diverting the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and rerouting the water to the west side of the City of David. Hezekiah succeeded in everything he did. But when the rulers of Babylon sent emissaries to find out about the sign from God that had taken place earlier, God left him on his own to see what he would do; he wanted to test his heart.

32-33 The rest of the history of Hezekiah and his life of loyal service, you can read for yourself—it’s written in the vision of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz in the Royal Annals of the Kings of Judah and Israel. When Hezekiah died, they buried him in the upper part of the King David cemetery. Everyone in Judah and Jerusalem came to the funeral. He was buried in great honor.

Manasseh his son was the next king.

The Message (MSG)

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

James 5The Message (MSG)

Destroying Your Life from Within

1-3 And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.

4-6 All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.

7-8 Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.

10-11 Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

12 And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.

Prayer to Be Reckoned With

13-15 Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

16-18 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.

19-20 My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

The Message (MSG)

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

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