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Ecclesiastes 4The Message (MSG)

Slow Suicide

1-3 Next I turned my attention to all the outrageous violence that takes place on this planet—the tears of the victims, no one to comfort them; the iron grip of oppressors, no one to rescue the victims from them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead instead of the living who are still alive. But luckier than the dead or the living is the person who has never even been, who has never seen the bad business that takes place on this earth.

Then I observed all the work and ambition motivated by envy. What a waste! Smoke. And spitting into the wind.

The fool sits back and takes it easy,
His sloth is slow suicide.

One handful of peaceful repose
Is better than two fistfuls of worried work—
More spitting into the wind.

Why Am I Working Like a Dog?

7-8 I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone—no children, no family, no friends—yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?” More smoke. A bad business.

9-10 It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!

11 Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.

12 By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

13-16 A poor youngster with some wisdom is better off than an old but foolish king who doesn’t know which end is up. I saw a youth just like this start with nothing and go from rags to riches, and I saw everyone rally to the rule of this young successor to the king. Even so, the excitement died quickly, the throngs of people soon lost interest. Can’t you see it’s only smoke? And spitting into the wind?

The Message (MSG)

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

Ecclesiastes 5The Message (MSG)

God’s in Charge, Not You

Watch your step when you enter God’s house.
    Enter to learn. That’s far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice,
        Doing more harm than good.

Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think.
Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear.
God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.

Overwork makes for restless sleep.
Overtalk shows you up as a fool.

4-5 When you tell God you’ll do something, do it—now.
God takes no pleasure in foolish gabble. Vow it, then do it.
Far better not to vow in the first place than to vow and not pay up.

Don’t let your mouth make a total sinner of you.
When called to account, you won’t get by with
    “Sorry, I didn’t mean it.”
Why risk provoking God to angry retaliation?

But against all illusion and fantasy and empty talk
There’s always this rock foundation: Fear God!

A Salary of Smoke

8-9 Don’t be too upset when you see the poor kicked around, and justice and right violated all over the place. Exploitation filters down from one petty official to another. There’s no end to it, and nothing can be done about it. But the good earth doesn’t cheat anyone—even a bad king is honestly served by a field.

10 The one who loves money is never satisfied with money,
Nor the one who loves wealth with big profits. More smoke.

11 The more loot you get, the more looters show up.
And what fun is that—to be robbed in broad daylight?

12 Hard and honest work earns a good night’s sleep,
Whether supper is beans or steak.
But a rich man’s belly gives him insomnia.

13-17 Here’s a piece of bad luck I’ve seen happen:
A man hoards far more wealth than is good for him
And then loses it all in a bad business deal.
He fathered a child but hasn’t a cent left to give him.
He arrived naked from the womb of his mother;
He’ll leave in the same condition—with nothing.
This is bad luck, for sure—naked he came, naked he went.
So what was the point of working for a salary of smoke?
All for a miserable life spent in the dark?

Make the Most of What God Gives

18-20 After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

The Message (MSG)

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

Ecclesiastes 6The Message (MSG)

Things Are Bad

1-2 I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it. There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything—money, property, reputation—all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn’t let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It’s more of what I’m calling smoke. A bad business.

3-5 Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves—even though they end up with a big funeral! I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living.

Even if someone lived a thousand years—make it two thousand!—but didn’t enjoy anything, what’s the point? Doesn’t everyone end up in the same place?

We work to feed our appetites;
Meanwhile our souls go hungry.

8-9 So what advantage has a sage over a fool, or over some poor wretch who barely gets by? Just grab whatever you can while you can; don’t assume something better might turn up by and by. All it amounts to anyway is smoke. And spitting into the wind.

10 Whatever happens, happens. Its destiny is fixed.
You can’t argue with fate.

11-12 The more words that are spoken, the more smoke there is in the air. And who is any better off? And who knows what’s best for us as we live out our meager smoke-and-shadow lives? And who can tell any of us the next chapter of our lives?

The Message (MSG)

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

Psalm 18The Message (MSG)

A David Song, Which He Sang to God After Being Saved from All His Enemies and from Saul

18 1-2 I love you, God
    you make me strong.
God is bedrock under my feet,
    the castle in which I live,
    my rescuing knight.
My God—the high crag
    where I run for dear life,
    hiding behind the boulders,
    safe in the granite hideout.

I sing to God, the Praise-Lofty,
    and find myself safe and saved.

4-5 The hangman’s noose was tight at my throat;
    devil waters rushed over me.
Hell’s ropes cinched me tight;
    death traps barred every exit.

A hostile world! I call to God,
    I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
    my cry brings me right into his presence—
    a private audience!

7-15 Earth wobbles and lurches;
    huge mountains shake like leaves,
Quake like aspen leaves
    because of his rage.
His nostrils flare, bellowing smoke;
    his mouth spits fire.
Tongues of fire dart in and out;
    he lowers the sky.
He steps down;
    under his feet an abyss opens up.
He’s riding a winged creature,
    swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
    in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
    spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then God thundered out of heaven;
    the High God gave a great shout,
    spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
    He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
    the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
    let loose your hurricane anger.

16-19 But me he caught—reached all the way
    from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
    the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
    but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
    I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!

20-24 God made my life complete
    when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
    he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
    I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
    I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
    and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
    when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

25-27 The good people taste your goodness,
The whole people taste your health,
The true people taste your truth,
The bad ones can’t figure you out.
You take the side of the down-and-out,
But the stuck-up you take down a peg.

28-29 Suddenly, God, you floodlight my life;
    I’m blazing with glory, God’s glory!
I smash the bands of marauders,
    I vault the highest fences.

30 What a God! His road
    stretches straight and smooth.
Every God-direction is road-tested.
    Everyone who runs toward him
Makes it.

31-42 Is there any god like God?
    Are we not at bedrock?
Is not this the God who armed me,
    then aimed me in the right direction?
Now I run like a deer;
    I’m king of the mountain.
He shows me how to fight;
    I can bend a bronze bow!
You protect me with salvation-armor;
    you hold me up with a firm hand,
    caress me with your gentle ways.
You cleared the ground under me
    so my footing was firm.
When I chased my enemies I caught them;
    I didn’t let go till they were dead men.
I nailed them; they were down for good;
    then I walked all over them.
You armed me well for this fight,
    you smashed the upstarts.
You made my enemies turn tail,
    and I wiped out the haters.
They cried “uncle”
    but Uncle didn’t come;
They yelled for God
    and got no for an answer.
I ground them to dust; they gusted in the wind.
    I threw them out, like garbage in the gutter.

43-45 You rescued me from a squabbling people;
    you made me a leader of nations.
People I’d never heard of served me;
    the moment they got wind of me they listened.
The foreign devils gave up; they came
    on their bellies, crawling from their hideouts.

46-48 Live, God! Blessings from my Rock,
    my free and freeing God, towering!
This God set things right for me
    and shut up the people who talked back.
He rescued me from enemy anger,
    he pulled me from the grip of upstarts,
He saved me from the bullies.

49-50 That’s why I’m thanking you, God,
    all over the world.
That’s why I’m singing songs
    that rhyme your name.
God’s king takes the trophy;
    God’s chosen is beloved.
I mean David and all his children—
    always.

The Message (MSG)

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

Ephesians 3The Message (MSG)

The Secret Plan of God

1-3 This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. I take it that you’re familiar with the part I was given in God’s plan for including everybody. I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief.

4-6 As you read over what I have written to you, you’ll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God’s Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.

7-8 This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.

8-10 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!

11-13 All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!

14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

The Message (MSG)

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

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