2 Kings 6The Message (MSG)
6 1-2 One day the guild of prophets came to Elisha and said, “You can see that this place where we’re living under your leadership is getting cramped—we have no elbow room. Give us permission to go down to the Jordan where each of us will get a log. We’ll build a roomier place.”
Elisha said, “Go ahead.”
3 One of them then said, “Please! Come along with us!”
He said, “Certainly.”
4-5 He went with them. They came to the Jordan and started chopping down trees. As one of them was felling a timber, his axhead flew off and sank in the river.
“Oh no, master!” he cried out. “And it was borrowed!”
6 The Holy Man said, “Where did it sink?”
The man showed him the place.
He cut off a branch and tossed it at the spot. The axhead floated up.
7 “Grab it,” he said. The man reached out and took it.
8 One time when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, after consulting with his officers, he said, “At such and such a place I want an ambush set.”
9 The Holy Man sent a message to the king of Israel: “Watch out when you’re passing this place, because Aram has set an ambush there.”
10 So the king of Israel sent word concerning the place of which the Holy Man had warned him.
This kind of thing happened all the time.
11 The king of Aram was furious over all this. He called his officers together and said, “Tell me, who is leaking information to the king of Israel? Who is the spy in our ranks?”
12 But one of his men said, “No, my master, dear king. It’s not any of us. It’s Elisha the prophet in Israel. He tells the king of Israel everything you say, even what you whisper in your bedroom.”
13 The king said, “Go and find out where he is. I’ll send someone and capture him.”
The report came back, “He’s in Dothan.”
14 Then he dispatched horses and chariots, an impressive fighting force. They came by night and surrounded the city.
15 Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”
16 He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.”
17 Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.”
The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!
18 When the Arameans attacked, Elisha prayed to God, “Strike these people blind!” And God struck them blind, just as Elisha said.
19 Then Elisha called out to them, “Not that way! Not this city! Follow me and I’ll lead you to the man you’re looking for.” And he led them into Samaria.
20 As they entered the city, Elisha prayed, “O God, open their eyes so they can see where they are.” God opened their eyes. They looked around—they were trapped in Samaria!
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “Father, shall I massacre the lot?”
22 “Not on your life!” said Elisha. “You didn’t lift a hand to capture them, and now you’re going to kill them? No sir, make a feast for them and send them back to their master.”
23 So he prepared a huge feast for them. After they ate and drank their fill he dismissed them. Then they returned home to their master. The raiding bands of Aram didn’t bother Israel anymore.
24-25 At a later time, this: Ben-Hadad king of Aram pulled together his troops and launched a siege on Samaria. This brought on a terrible famine, so bad that food prices soared astronomically. Eighty shekels for a donkey’s head! Five shekels for a bowl of field greens!
26 One day the king of Israel was walking along the city wall. A woman cried out, “Help! Your majesty!”
27 He answered, “If God won’t help you, where on earth can I go for help? To the granary? To the dairy?”
28-29 The king continued, “Tell me your story.”
She said, “This woman came to me and said, ‘Give up your son and we’ll have him for today’s supper; tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I told her, ‘Your turn—bring your son so we can have him for supper.’ But she had hidden her son away.”
30-31 When the king heard the woman’s story he ripped apart his robe. Since he was walking on the city wall, everyone saw that next to his skin he was wearing coarse burlap. And he called out, “God do his worst to me—and more—if Elisha son of Shaphat still has a head on his shoulders at this day’s end.”
32 Elisha was sitting at home, the elders sitting with him. The king had already dispatched an executioner, but before the man arrived Elisha spoke to the elders: “Do you know that this murderer has just now sent a man to take off my head? Look, when the executioner arrives, shut the door and lock it. Don’t I even now hear the footsteps of his master behind him?”
33 While he was giving his instructions, the king showed up, accusing, “This trouble is directly from God! And what’s next? I’m fed up with God!”
2 Kings 7The Message (MSG)
7 Elisha said, “Listen! God’s word! The famine’s over. This time tomorrow food will be plentiful—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel. The market at the city gate will be buzzing.”
2 The attendant on whom the king leaned for support said to the Holy Man, “You expect us to believe that? Trapdoors opening in the sky and food tumbling out?”
“You’ll watch it with your own eyes,” he said, “but you will not eat so much as a mouthful!”
3-4 It happened that four lepers were sitting just outside the city gate. They said to one another, “What are we doing sitting here at death’s door? If we enter the famine-struck city we’ll die; if we stay here we’ll die. So let’s take our chances in the camp of Aram and throw ourselves on their mercy. If they receive us we’ll live, if they kill us we’ll die. We’ve got nothing to lose.”
5-8 So after the sun went down they got up and went to the camp of Aram. When they got to the edge of the camp, surprise! Not a man in the camp! The Master had made the army of Aram hear the sound of horses and a mighty army on the march. They told one another, “The king of Israel hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to attack us!” Panicked, they ran for their lives through the darkness, abandoning tents, horses, donkeys—the whole camp just as it was—running for dear life. These four lepers entered the camp and went into a tent. First they ate and drank. Then they grabbed silver, gold, and clothing, and went off and hid it. They came back, entered another tent, and looted it, again hiding their plunder.
9 Finally they said to one another, “We shouldn’t be doing this! This is a day of good news and we’re making it into a private party! If we wait around until morning we’ll get caught and punished. Come on! Let’s go tell the news to the king’s palace!”
10 So they went and called out at the city gate, telling what had happened: “We went to the camp of Aram and, surprise!—the place was deserted. Not a soul, not a sound! Horses and donkeys left tethered and tents abandoned just as they were.”
11-12 The gatekeepers got the word to the royal palace, giving them the whole story. Roused in the middle of the night, the king told his servants, “Let me tell you what Aram has done. They knew that we were starving, so they left camp and have hid in the field, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we’ll capture them alive and take the city.’”
13 One of his advisors answered, “Let some men go and take five of the horses left behind. The worst that can happen is no worse than what could happen to the whole city. Let’s send them and find out what’s happened.”
14 They took two chariots with horses. The king sent them after the army of Aram with the orders, “Scout them out; find out what happened.”
15 They went after them all the way to the Jordan. The whole way was strewn with clothes and equipment that Aram had dumped in their panicked flight. The scouts came back and reported to the king.
16 The people then looted the camp of Aram. Food prices dropped overnight—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel—God’s word to the letter!
17 The king ordered his attendant, the one he leaned on for support, to be in charge of the city gate. The people, turned into a mob, poured through the gate, trampling him to death. It was exactly what the Holy Man had said when the king had come to see him.
18-20 Every word of the Holy Man to the king—“A handful of meal for a shekel, two handfuls of grain for a shekel this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” with the attendant’s sarcastic reply to the Holy Man, “You expect us to believe that? Trapdoors opening in the sky and food tumbling out?” followed by the response, “You’ll watch it with your own eyes, but you won’t eat so much as a mouthful”—proved true. The final stroke came when the people trampled the man to death at the city gate.
2 Chronicles 20The Message (MSG)
20 1-2 Some time later the Moabites and Ammonites, accompanied by Meunites, joined forces to make war on Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat received this intelligence report: “A huge force is on its way from beyond the Dead Sea to fight you. There’s no time to waste—they’re already at Hazazon Tamar, the oasis of En Gedi.”
3-4 Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed. He went to God for help and ordered a nationwide fast. The country of Judah united in seeking God’s help—they came from all the cities of Judah to pray to God.
5-9 Then Jehoshaphat took a position before the assembled people of Judah and Jerusalem at The Temple of God in front of the new courtyard and said, “O God, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven above and ruler of all kingdoms below? You hold all power and might in your fist—no one stands a chance against you! And didn’t you make the natives of this land leave as you brought your people Israel in, turning it over permanently to your people Israel, the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived here and built a holy house of worship to honor you, saying, ‘When the worst happens—whether war or flood or disease or famine—and we take our place before this Temple (we know you are personally present in this place!) and pray out our pain and trouble, we know that you will listen and give victory.’
10-12 “And now it’s happened: men from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir have shown up. You didn’t let Israel touch them when we got here at first—we detoured around them and didn’t lay a hand on them. And now they’ve come to kick us out of the country you gave us. O dear God, won’t you take care of them? We’re helpless before this vandal horde ready to attack us. We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to you.”
13 Everyone in Judah was there—little children, wives, sons—all present and attentive to God.
14-17 Then Jahaziel was moved by the Spirit of God to speak from the midst of the congregation. (Jahaziel was the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah the Levite of the Asaph clan.) He said, “Attention everyone—all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat—God’s word: Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you.”
18-19 Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!
20 They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!”
21 After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,
Give thanks to God,
22-23 As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead. The Ammonites and Moabites mistakenly attacked those from Mount Seir and massacred them. Then, further confused, they went at each other, and all ended up killed.
24 As Judah came up over the rise, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies—not a living soul among them.
25-26 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder they found more loot than they could carry off—equipment, clothing, valuables. It took three days to cart it away! On the fourth day they came together at the Valley of Blessing (Beracah) and blessed God (that’s how it got the name, Valley of Blessing).
27-28 Jehoshaphat then led all the men of Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem—an exuberant parade. God had given them joyful relief from their enemies! They entered Jerusalem and came to The Temple of God with all the instruments of the band playing.
29-30 When the surrounding kingdoms got word that God had fought Israel’s enemies, the fear of God descended on them. Jehoshaphat heard no more from them; as long as Jehoshaphat reigned, peace reigned.
31-33 That about sums up Jehoshaphat’s reign over Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he became king and ruled as king in Jerusalem for twenty-five years. His mother was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. He continued the kind of life characteristic of his father Asa—no detours, no dead-ends—pleasing God with his life. But he failed to get rid of the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines—people continued to pray and worship at these idolatrous god shops.
34 The rest of Jehoshaphat’s life, from start to finish, is written in the memoirs of Jehu son of Hanani, which are included in the Royal Annals of Israel’s Kings.
35-37 Late in life Jehoshaphat formed a trading syndicate with Ahaziah king of Israel—which was very wrong of him to do. He went in as partner with him to build ocean-going ships at Ezion Geber to trade with Tarshish. Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah preached against Jehoshaphat’s venture: “Because you joined forces with Ahaziah, God has shipwrecked your work.” The ships were smashed and nothing ever came of the trade partnership.
1 Timothy 3The Message (MSG)
Leadership in the Church
3 1-7 If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap.
8-13 The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women—same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.
14-16 I hope to visit you soon, but just in case I’m delayed, I’m writing this letter so you’ll know how things ought to go in God’s household, this God-alive church, bastion of truth. This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough:
He appeared in a human body,