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Deuteronomy 19The Message (MSG)

19 1-3 When God, your God, throws the nations out of the country that God, your God, is giving you and you settle down in their cities and houses, you are to set aside three easily accessible cities in the land that God, your God, is giving you as your very own. Divide your land into thirds, this land that God, your God, is giving you to possess, and build roads to the towns so that anyone who accidentally kills another can flee there.

4-7 This is the guideline for the murderer who flees there to take refuge: He has to have killed his neighbor without premeditation and with no history of bad blood between them. For instance, a man goes with his neighbor into the woods to cut a tree; he swings the ax, the head slips off the handle and hits his neighbor, killing him. He may then flee to one of these cities and save his life. If the city is too far away, the avenger of blood racing in hot-blooded pursuit might catch him since it’s such a long distance, and kill him even though he didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t his fault. There was no history of hatred between them. Therefore I command you: Set aside the three cities for yourselves.

8-10 When God, your God, enlarges your land, extending its borders as he solemnly promised your ancestors, by giving you the whole land he promised them because you are diligently living the way I’m commanding you today, namely, to love God, your God, and do what he tells you all your life; and when that happens, then add three more to these three cities so that there is no chance of innocent blood being spilled in your land. God, your God, is giving you this land as an inheritance—you don’t want to pollute it with innocent blood and bring bloodguilt upon yourselves.

11-13 On the other hand, if a man with a history of hatred toward his neighbor waits in ambush, then jumps him, mauls and kills him, and then runs to one of these cities, that’s a different story. The elders of his own city are to send for him and have him brought back. They are to hand him over to the avenger of blood for execution. Don’t feel sorry for him. Clean out the pollution of wrongful murder from Israel so that you’ll be able to live well and breathe clean air.

14 Don’t move your neighbor’s boundary markers, the longstanding landmarks set up by your pioneer ancestors defining their property.

15 You cannot convict anyone of a crime or sin on the word of one witness. You need two or three witnesses to make a case.

16-21 If a hostile witness stands to accuse someone of a wrong, then both parties involved in the quarrel must stand in the Presence of God before the priests and judges who are in office at that time. The judges must conduct a careful investigation; if the witness turns out to be a false witness and has lied against his fellow Israelite, give him the same medicine he intended for the other party. Clean the polluting evil from your company. People will hear of what you’ve done and be impressed; that will put a stop to this kind of evil among you. Don’t feel sorry for the person: It’s life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

The Message (MSG)

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

Deuteronomy 20The Message (MSG)

20 1-4 When you go to war against your enemy and see horses and chariots and soldiers far outnumbering you, do not recoil in fear of them; God, your God, who brought you up out of Egypt is with you. When the battle is about to begin, let the priest come forward and speak to the troops. He’ll say, “Attention, Israel. In a few minutes you’re going to do battle with your enemies. Don’t waver in resolve. Don’t fear. Don’t hesitate. Don’t panic. God, your God, is right there with you, fighting with you against your enemies, fighting to win.”

5-7 Then let the officers step up and speak to the troops: “Is there a man here who has built a new house but hasn’t yet dedicated it? Let him go home right now lest he die in battle and another man dedicate it. And is there a man here who has planted a vineyard but hasn’t yet enjoyed the grapes? Let him go home right now lest he die in battle and another man enjoy the grapes. Is there a man here engaged to marry who hasn’t yet taken his wife? Let him go home right now lest he die in battle and another man take her.”

The officers will then continue, “And is there a man here who is wavering in resolve and afraid? Let him go home right now so that he doesn’t infect his fellows with his timidity and cowardly spirit.”

When the officers have finished speaking to the troops, let them appoint commanders of the troops who shall muster them by units.

10-15 When you come up against a city to attack it, call out, “Peace?” If they answer, “Yes, peace!” and open the city to you, then everyone found there will be conscripted as forced laborers and work for you. But if they don’t settle for peace and insist on war, then go ahead and attack. God, your God, will give them to you. Kill all the men with your swords. But don’t kill the women and children and animals. Everything inside the town you can take as plunder for you to use and eat—God, your God, gives it to you. This is the way you deal with the distant towns, the towns that don’t belong to the nations at hand.

16-18 But with the towns of the people that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, it’s different: don’t leave anyone alive. Consign them to holy destruction: the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, obeying the command of God, your God. This is so there won’t be any of them left to teach you to practice the abominations that they engage in with their gods and you end up sinning against God, your God.

19-20 When you mount an attack on a town and the siege goes on a long time, don’t start cutting down the trees, swinging your axes against them. Those trees are your future food; don’t cut them down. Are trees soldiers who come against you with weapons? The exception can be those trees which don’t produce food; you can chop them down and use the timbers to build siege engines against the town that is resisting you until it falls.

The Message (MSG)

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

Deuteronomy 21The Message (MSG)

21 1-8 If a dead body is found on the ground, this ground that God, your God, has given you, lying out in the open, and no one knows who killed him, your leaders and judges are to go out and measure the distance from the body to the nearest cities. The leaders and judges of the city that is nearest the corpse will then take a heifer that has never been used for work, never had a yoke on it. The leaders will take the heifer to a valley with a stream, a valley that has never been plowed or planted, and there break the neck of the heifer. The Levitical priests will then step up. God has chosen them to serve him in these matters by settling legal disputes and violent crimes and by pronouncing blessings in God’s name. Finally, all the leaders of that town that is nearest the body will wash their hands over the heifer that had its neck broken at the stream and say, “We didn’t kill this man and we didn’t see who did it. Purify your people Israel whom you redeemed, O God. Clear your people Israel from any guilt in this murder.”

8-9 That will clear them from any responsibility in the murder. By following these procedures you will have absolved yourselves of any part in the murder because you will have done what is right in God’s sight.

10-14 When you go to war against your enemies and God, your God, gives you victory and you take prisoners, and then you notice among the prisoners of war a good-looking woman whom you find attractive and would like to marry, this is what you do: Take her home; have her trim her hair, cut her nails, and discard the clothes she was wearing when captured. She is then to stay in your home for a full month, mourning her father and mother. Then you may go to bed with her as husband and wife. If it turns out you don’t like her, you must let her go and live wherever she wishes. But you can’t sell her or use her as a slave since you’ve humiliated her.

15-17 When a man has two wives, one loved and the other hated, and they both give him sons, but the firstborn is from the hated wife, at the time he divides the inheritance with his sons he must not treat the son of the loved wife as the firstborn, cutting out the son of the hated wife, who is the actual firstborn. No, he must acknowledge the inheritance rights of the real firstborn, the son of the hated wife, by giving him a double share of the inheritance: that son is the first proof of his virility; the rights of the firstborn belong to him.

18-20 When a man has a stubborn son, a real rebel who won’t do a thing his mother and father tell him, and even though they discipline him he still won’t obey, his father and mother shall forcibly bring him before the leaders at the city gate and say to the city fathers, “This son of ours is a stubborn rebel; he won’t listen to a thing we say. He’s a glutton and a drunk.”

21 Then all the men of the town are to throw rocks at him until he’s dead. You will have purged the evil pollution from among you. All Israel will hear what’s happened and be in awe.

22-23 When a man has committed a capital crime, been given the death sentence, executed and hung from a tree, don’t leave his dead body hanging overnight from the tree. Give him a decent burial that same day so that you don’t desecrate your God-given land—a hanged man is an insult to God.

The Message (MSG)

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

Galatians 3The Message (MSG)

Trust in Christ, Not the Law

You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

5-6 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.

7-8 Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith? It was all laid out beforehand in Scripture that God would set things right with non-Jews by faith. Scripture anticipated this in the promise to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed in you.”

9-10 So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.”

11-12 The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: “The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that’s the real life.” Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.”

13-14 Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.

15-18 Friends, let me give you an example from everyday affairs of the free life I am talking about. Once a person’s will has been ratified, no one else can annul it or add to it. Now, the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. You will observe that Scripture, in the careful language of a legal document, does not say “to descendants,” referring to everybody in general, but “to your descendant” (the noun, note, is singular), referring to Christ. This is the way I interpret this: A will, earlier ratified by God, is not annulled by an addendum attached 430 years later, thereby negating the promise of the will. No, this addendum, with its instructions and regulations, has nothing to do with the promised inheritance in the will.

18-20 What is the point, then, of the law, the attached addendum? It was a thoughtful addition to the original covenant promises made to Abraham. The purpose of the law was to keep a sinful people in the way of salvation until Christ (the descendant) came, inheriting the promises and distributing them to us. Obviously this law was not a firsthand encounter with God. It was arranged by angelic messengers through a middleman, Moses. But if there is a middleman as there was at Sinai, then the people are not dealing directly with God, are they? But the original promise is the direct blessing of God, received by faith.

21-22 If such is the case, is the law, then, an anti-promise, a negation of God’s will for us? Not at all. Its purpose was to make obvious to everyone that we are, in ourselves, out of right relationship with God, and therefore to show us the futility of devising some religious system for getting by our own efforts what we can only get by waiting in faith for God to complete his promise. For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.

23-24 Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.

In Christ’s Family

28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

The Message (MSG)

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

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