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2 Samuel 18The Message (MSG)

18 1-2 David organized his forces. He appointed captains of thousands and captains of hundreds. Then David deployed his troops, a third under Joab, a third under Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third under Ittai the Gittite.

The king then announced, “I’m marching with you.”

They said, “No, you mustn’t march with us. If we’re forced to retreat, the enemy won’t give it a second thought. And if half of us die, they won’t do so either. But you are worth ten thousand of us. It will be better for us if you stay in the city and help from there.”

“If you say so,” said the king. “I’ll do what you think is best.” And so he stood beside the city gate as the whole army marched out by hundreds and by thousands.

Then the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” The whole army heard what the king commanded the three captains regarding Absalom.

6-8 The army took the field to meet Israel. It turned out that the battle was joined in the Forest of Ephraim. The army of Israel was beaten badly there that day by David’s men, a terrific slaughter—twenty thousand men! There was fighting helter-skelter all over the place—the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword!

9-10 Absalom ran into David’s men, but was out in front of them riding his mule, when the mule ran under the branches of a huge oak tree. Absalom’s head was caught in the oak and he was left dangling between heaven and earth, the mule running right out from under him. A solitary soldier saw him and reported it to Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree!”

11 Joab said to the man who told him, “If you saw him, why didn’t you kill him then and there? I’d have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a fancy belt.”

12-13 The man told Joab, “Even if I’d had a chance at a thousand pieces of silver, I wouldn’t have laid a hand on the king’s son. We all heard the king command you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, protect the young man Absalom.’ Why, I’d be risking my life, for nothing is hidden from the king. And you would have just stood there!”

14-15 Joab said, “I can’t waste my time with you.” He then grabbed three knives and stabbed Absalom in the heart while he was still alive in the tree; by then Absalom was surrounded by ten of Joab’s armor bearers; they hacked away at him and killed him.

16-17 Joab then blew the ram’s horn trumpet, calling off the army in its pursuit of Israel. They took Absalom, dumped him into a huge pit in the forest, and piled an immense mound of rocks over him.

Meanwhile the whole army of Israel was in flight, each man making his own way home.

18 While alive, Absalom had erected for himself a pillar in the Valley of the King, “because,” he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He inscribed the pillar with his own name. To this day it is called “The Absalom Memorial.”

19-20 Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, said, “Let me run to the king and bring him the good news that God has delivered him from his enemies.” But Joab said, “You’re not the one to deliver the good news today; some other day, maybe, but it’s not ‘good news’ today.” (This was because the king’s son was dead.)

21 Then Joab ordered a Cushite, “You go. Tell the king what you’ve seen.”

“Yes sir,” said the Cushite, and ran off.

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok kept at it, begging Joab, “What does it matter? Let me run, too, following the Cushite.”

Joab said, “Why all this ‘Run, run’? You’ll get no thanks for it, I can tell you.”

23 “I don’t care; let me run.”

“Okay,” said Joab, “run.” So Ahimaaz ran, taking the lower valley road, and passed the Cushite.

24-25 David was sitting between the two gates. The sentry had gone up to the top of the gate on the wall and looked around. He saw a solitary runner. The sentry called down and told the king. The king said, “If he’s alone, it must be good news!”

25-26 As the runner came closer, the sentry saw another runner and called down to the gate, “Another runner all by himself.”

And the king said, “This also must be good news.”

27 Then the sentry said, “I can see the first man now; he runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”

“He’s a good man,” said the king. “He’s bringing good news for sure.”

28 Then Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “Peace!” Then he bowed deeply before the king, his face to the ground. “Blessed be your God; he has handed over the men who rebelled against my master the king.”

29 The king asked, “But is the young man Absalom all right?”

Ahimaaz said, “I saw a huge ruckus just as Joab was sending me off, but I don’t know what it was about.”

30 The king said, “Step aside and stand over there.” So he stepped aside.

31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “Good news, my master and king! God has given victory today over all those who rebelled against you!”

32 “But,” said the king, “is the young man Absalom all right?”

And the Cushite replied, “Would that all of the enemies of my master the king and all who maliciously rose against you end up like that young man.”

33 The king was stunned. Heartbroken, he went up to the room over the gate and wept. As he wept he cried out,

O my son Absalom, my dear, dear son Absalom!
Why not me rather than you, my death and not yours,
O Absalom, my dear, dear son!

The Message (MSG)

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

Psalm 56The Message (MSG)

A David Psalm, When He Was Captured by the Philistines in Gath

56 1-4 Take my side, God—I’m getting kicked around,
    stomped on every day.
Not a day goes by
    but somebody beats me up;
They make it their duty
    to beat me up.
When I get really afraid
    I come to you in trust.
I’m proud to praise God;
    fearless now, I trust in God.
    What can mere mortals do?

5-6 They don’t let up—
    they smear my reputation
    and huddle to plot my collapse.
They gang up,
    sneak together through the alleys
To take me by surprise,
    wait their chance to get me.

Pay them back in evil!
    Get angry, God!
    Down with these people!

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
    through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
    each ache written in your book.

If my enemies run away,
    turn tail when I yell at them,
Then I’ll know
    that God is on my side.

10-11 I’m proud to praise God,
    proud to praise God.
Fearless now, I trust in God;
    what can mere mortals do to me?

12-13 God, you did everything you promised,
    and I’m thanking you with all my heart.
You pulled me from the brink of death,
    my feet from the cliff-edge of doom.
Now I stroll at leisure with God
    in the sunlit fields of life.

The Message (MSG)

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

Matthew 27The Message (MSG)

Thirty Silver Coins

27 1-2 In the first light of dawn, all the high priests and religious leaders met and put the finishing touches on their plot to kill Jesus. Then they tied him up and paraded him to Pilate, the governor.

3-4 Judas, the one who betrayed him, realized that Jesus was doomed. Overcome with remorse, he gave back the thirty silver coins to the high priests, saying, “I’ve sinned. I’ve betrayed an innocent man.”

They said, “What do we care? That’s your problem!”

Judas threw the silver coins into the Temple and left. Then he went out and hung himself.

6-10 The high priests picked up the silver pieces, but then didn’t know what to do with them. “It wouldn’t be right to give this—a payment for murder!—as an offering in the Temple.” They decided to get rid of it by buying the “Potter’s Field” and use it as a burial place for the homeless. That’s how the field got called “Murder Meadow,” a name that has stuck to this day. Then Jeremiah’s words became history:

They took the thirty silver pieces,
The price of the one priced by some sons of Israel,
And they purchased the potter’s field.

And so they unwittingly followed the divine instructions to the letter.

Pilate

11 Jesus was placed before the governor, who questioned him: “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”

Jesus said, “If you say so.”

12-14 But when the accusations rained down hot and heavy from the high priests and religious leaders, he said nothing. Pilate asked him, “Do you hear that long list of accusations? Aren’t you going to say something?” Jesus kept silence—not a word from his mouth. The governor was impressed, really impressed.

15-18 It was an old custom during the Feast for the governor to pardon a single prisoner named by the crowd. At the time, they had the infamous Jesus Barabbas in prison. With the crowd before him, Pilate said, “Which prisoner do you want me to pardon: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus the so-called Christ?” He knew it was through sheer spite that they had turned Jesus over to him.

19 While court was still in session, Pilate’s wife sent him a message: “Don’t get mixed up in judging this noble man. I’ve just been through a long and troubled night because of a dream about him.”

20 Meanwhile, the high priests and religious leaders had talked the crowd into asking for the pardon of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.

21 The governor asked, “Which of the two do you want me to pardon?”

They said, “Barabbas!”

22 “Then what do I do with Jesus, the so-called Christ?”

They all shouted, “Nail him to a cross!”

23 He objected, “But for what crime?”

But they yelled all the louder, “Nail him to a cross!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was imminent, he took a basin of water and washed his hands in full sight of the crowd, saying, “I’m washing my hands of responsibility for this man’s death. From now on, it’s in your hands. You’re judge and jury.”

25 The crowd answered, “We’ll take the blame, we and our children after us.”

26 Then he pardoned Barabbas. But he had Jesus whipped, and then handed over for crucifixion.

The Crucifixion

27-31 The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor’s palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun. They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. They plaited a crown from branches of a thornbush and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” they said. “Bravo!” Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.

32-34 Along the way they came on a man from Cyrene named Simon and made him carry Jesus’ cross. Arriving at Golgotha, the place they call “Skull Hill,” they offered him a mild painkiller (a mixture of wine and myrrh), but when he tasted it he wouldn’t drink it.

35-40 After they had finished nailing him to the cross and were waiting for him to die, they whiled away the time by throwing dice for his clothes. Above his head they had posted the criminal charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews. Along with him, they also crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!”

41-44 The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—he can’t save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then! He was so sure of God—well, let him rescue his ‘Son’ now—if he wants him! He did claim to be God’s Son, didn’t he?” Even the two criminals crucified next to him joined in the mockery.

45-46 From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

47-49 Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”

50 But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.

51-53 At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

54 The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!”

55-56 There were also quite a few women watching from a distance, women who had followed Jesus from Galilee in order to serve him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the Zebedee brothers.

The Tomb

57-61 Late in the afternoon a wealthy man from Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, arrived. His name was Joseph. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate granted his request. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in clean linens, put it in his own tomb, a new tomb only recently cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the entrance. Then he went off. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stayed, sitting in plain view of the tomb.

62-64 After sundown, the high priests and Pharisees arranged a meeting with Pilate. They said, “Sir, we just remembered that that liar announced while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will be raised.’ We’ve got to get that tomb sealed until the third day. There’s a good chance his disciples will come and steal the corpse and then go around saying, ‘He’s risen from the dead.’ Then we’ll be worse off than before, the final deceit surpassing the first.”

65-66 Pilate told them, “You will have a guard. Go ahead and secure it the best you can.” So they went out and secured the tomb, sealing the stone and posting guards.

The Message (MSG)

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

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