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Job 9The Message (MSG)

Job Continues

How Can Mere Mortals Get Right with God?

1-13 Job continued by saying:

“So what’s new? I know all this.
    The question is, ‘How can mere mortals get right with God?’
If we wanted to bring our case before him,
    what chance would we have? Not one in a thousand!
God’s wisdom is so deep, God’s power so immense,
    who could take him on and come out in one piece?
He moves mountains before they know what’s happened,
    flips them on their heads on a whim.
He gives the earth a good shaking up,
    rocks it down to its very foundations.
He tells the sun, ‘Don’t shine,’ and it doesn’t;
    he pulls the blinds on the stars.
All by himself he stretches out the heavens
    and strides on the waves of the sea.
He designed the Big Dipper and Orion,
    the Pleiades and Alpha Centauri.
We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does;
    his miracle-surprises can’t be counted.
Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don’t see him;
    quietly but surely he’s active, and I miss it.
If he steals you blind, who can stop him?
    Who’s going to say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’
God doesn’t hold back on his anger;
    even dragon-bred monsters cringe before him.

14-20 “So how could I ever argue with him,
    construct a defense that would influence God?
Even though I’m innocent I could never prove it;
    I can only throw myself on the Judge’s mercy.
If I called on God and he himself answered me,
    then, and only then, would I believe that he’d heard me.
As it is, he knocks me about from pillar to post,
    beating me up, black-and-blue, for no good reason.
He won’t even let me catch my breath,
    piles bitterness upon bitterness.
If it’s a question of who’s stronger, he wins, hands down!
    If it’s a question of justice, who’ll serve him the subpoena?
Even though innocent, anything I say incriminates me;
    blameless as I am, my defense just makes me sound worse.

If God’s Not Responsible, Who Is?

21-24 “Believe me, I’m blameless.
    I don’t understand what’s going on.
    I hate my life!
Since either way it ends up the same, I can only conclude
    that God destroys the good right along with the bad.
When calamity hits and brings sudden death,
    he folds his arms, aloof from the despair of the innocent.
He lets the wicked take over running the world,
    he installs judges who can’t tell right from wrong.
    If he’s not responsible, who is?

25-31 “My time is short—what’s left of my life races off
    too fast for me to even glimpse the good.
My life is going fast, like a ship under full sail,
    like an eagle plummeting to its prey.
Even if I say, ‘I’ll put all this behind me,
    I’ll look on the bright side and force a smile,’
All these troubles would still be like grit in my gut
    since it’s clear you’re not going to let up.
The verdict has already been handed down—‘Guilty!’—
    so what’s the use of protests or appeals?
Even if I scrub myself all over
    and wash myself with the strongest soap I can find,
It wouldn’t last—you’d push me into a pigpen, or worse,
    so nobody could stand me for the stink.

32-35 “God and I are not equals; I can’t bring a case against him.
    We’ll never enter a courtroom as peers.
How I wish we had an arbitrator
    to step in and let me get on with life—
To break God’s death grip on me,
    to free me from this terror so I could breathe again.
Then I’d speak up and state my case boldly.
    As things stand, there is no way I can do it.”

The Message (MSG)

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

Job 10The Message (MSG)

To Find Some Skeleton in My Closet

10 “I can’t stand my life—I hate it!
    I’m putting it all out on the table,
    all the bitterness of my life—I’m holding back nothing.”

2-7 Job prayed:

“Here’s what I want to say:
Don’t, God, bring in a verdict of guilty
    without letting me know the charges you’re bringing.
How does this fit into what you once called ‘good’—
    giving me a hard time, spurning me,
    a life you shaped by your very own hands,
    and then blessing the plots of the wicked?
You don’t look at things the way we mortals do.
    You’re not taken in by appearances, are you?
Unlike us, you’re not working against a deadline.
    You have all eternity to work things out.
So what’s this all about, anyway—this compulsion
    to dig up some dirt, to find some skeleton in my closet?
You know good and well I’m not guilty.
    You also know no one can help me.

8-12 “You made me like a handcrafted piece of pottery—
    and now are you going to smash me to pieces?
Don’t you remember how beautifully you worked my clay?
    Will you reduce me now to a mud pie?
Oh, that marvel of conception as you stirred together
    semen and ovum—
What a miracle of skin and bone,
    muscle and brain!
You gave me life itself, and incredible love.
    You watched and guarded every breath I took.

13-17 “But you never told me about this part.
    I should have known that there was more to it—
That if I so much as missed a step, you’d notice and pounce,
    wouldn’t let me get by with a thing.
If I’m truly guilty, I’m doomed.
    But if I’m innocent, it’s no better—I’m still doomed.
My belly is full of bitterness.
    I’m up to my ears in a swamp of affliction.
I try to make the best of it, try to brave it out,
    but you’re too much for me,
    relentless, like a lion on the prowl.
You line up fresh witnesses against me.
    You compound your anger
    and pile on the grief and pain!

18-22 “So why did you have me born?
    I wish no one had ever laid eyes on me!
I wish I’d never lived—a stillborn,
    buried without ever having breathed.
Isn’t it time to call it quits on my life?
    Can’t you let up, and let me smile just once
Before I die and am buried,
    before I’m nailed into my coffin, sealed in the ground,
And banished for good to the land of the dead,
    blind in the final dark?”

The Message (MSG)

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

Acts 13The Message (MSG)

Barnabas, Saul, and Doctor Know-It-All

13 1-2 The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers:

Barnabas,
Simon, nicknamed Niger,
Lucius the Cyrenian,
Manaen, an advisor to the ruler Herod,
Saul.

One day as they were worshiping God—they were also fasting as they waited for guidance—the Holy Spirit spoke: “Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.”

So they commissioned them. In that circle of intensity and obedience, of fasting and praying, they laid hands on their heads and sent them off.

4-5 Sent off on their new assignment by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Saul went down to Seleucia and caught a ship for Cyprus. The first thing they did when they put in at Salamis was preach God’s Word in the Jewish meeting places. They had John along to help out as needed.

6-7 They traveled the length of the island, and at Paphos came upon a Jewish wizard who had worked himself into the confidence of the governor, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man not easily taken in by charlatans. The wizard’s name was Bar-Jesus. He was as crooked as a corkscrew.

7-11 The governor invited Barnabas and Saul in, wanting to hear God’s Word firsthand from them. But Dr. Know-It-All (that’s the wizard’s name in plain English) stirred up a ruckus, trying to divert the governor from becoming a believer. But Saul (or Paul), full of the Holy Spirit and looking him straight in the eye, said, “You bag of wind, you parody of a devil—why, you stay up nights inventing schemes to cheat people out of God. But now you’ve come up against God himself, and your game is up. You’re about to go blind—no sunlight for you for a good long stretch.” He was plunged immediately into a shadowy mist and stumbled around, begging people to take his hand and show him the way.

12 When the governor saw what happened, he became a believer, full of enthusiasm over what they were saying about the Master.

Don’t Take This Lightly

13-14 From Paphos, Paul and company put out to sea, sailing on to Perga in Pamphylia. That’s where John called it quits and went back to Jerusalem. From Perga the rest of them traveled on to Antioch in Pisidia.

14-15 On the Sabbath they went to the meeting place and took their places. After the reading of the Scriptures—God’s Law and the Prophets—the president of the meeting asked them, “Friends, do you have anything you want to say? A word of encouragement, perhaps?”

16-20 Paul stood up, paused and took a deep breath, then said, “Fellow Israelites and friends of God, listen. God took a special interest in our ancestors, pulled our people who were beaten down in Egyptian exile to their feet, and led them out of there in grand style. He took good care of them for nearly forty years in that godforsaken wilderness and then, having wiped out seven enemies who stood in the way, gave them the land of Canaan for their very own—a span in all of about 450 years.

20-22 “Up to the time of Samuel the prophet, God provided judges to lead them. But then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, out of the tribe of Benjamin. After Saul had ruled forty years, God removed him from office and put King David in his place, with this commendation: ‘I’ve searched the land and found this David, son of Jesse. He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.’

23-25 “From out of David’s descendants God produced a Savior for Israel, Jesus, exactly as he promised—but only after John had thoroughly alerted the people to his arrival by preparing them for a total life-change. As John was finishing up his work, he said, ‘Did you think I was the One? No, I’m not the One. But the One you’ve been waiting for all these years is just around the corner, about to appear. And I’m about to disappear.’

26-29 “Dear brothers and sisters, children of Abraham, and friends of God, this message of salvation has been precisely targeted to you. The citizens and rulers in Jerusalem didn’t recognize who he was and condemned him to death. They couldn’t find a good reason, but demanded that Pilate execute him anyway. They did just what the prophets said they would do, but had no idea they were following to the letter the script of the prophets, even though those same prophets are read every Sabbath in their meeting places.

29-31 “After they had done everything the prophets said they would do, they took him down from the cross and buried him. And then God raised him from death. There is no disputing that—he appeared over and over again many times and places to those who had known him well in the Galilean years, and these same people continue to give witness that he is alive.

32-35 “And we’re here today bringing you good news: the Message that what God promised the fathers has come true for the children—for us! He raised Jesus, exactly as described in the second Psalm:

My Son! My very own Son!
Today I celebrate you!

“When he raised him from the dead, he did it for good—no going back to that rot and decay for him. That’s why Isaiah said, ‘I’ll give to all of you David’s guaranteed blessings.’ So also the psalmist’s prayer: ‘You’ll never let your Holy One see death’s rot and decay.’

36-39 “David, of course, having completed the work God set out for him, has been in the grave, dust and ashes, a long time now. But the One God raised up—no dust and ashes for him! I want you to know, my very dear friends, that it is on account of this resurrected Jesus that the forgiveness of your sins can be promised. He accomplishes, in those who believe, everything that the Law of Moses could never make good on. But everyone who believes in this raised-up Jesus is declared good and right and whole before God.

40-41 “Don’t take this lightly. You don’t want the prophet’s sermon to describe you:

Watch out, cynics;
Look hard—watch your world fall to pieces.
I’m doing something right before your eyes
That you won’t believe, though it’s staring you in the face.”

42-43 When the service was over, Paul and Barnabas were invited back to preach again the next Sabbath. As the meeting broke up, a good many Jews and converts to Judaism went along with Paul and Barnabas, who urged them in long conversations to stick with what they’d started, this living in and by God’s grace.

44-45 When the next Sabbath came around, practically the whole city showed up to hear the Word of God. Some of the Jews, seeing the crowds, went wild with jealousy and tore into Paul, contradicting everything he was saying, making an ugly scene.

46-47 But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they said, “It was required that God’s Word be spoken first of all to you, the Jews. But seeing that you want no part of it—you’ve made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life—the door is open to all the outsiders. And we’re on our way through it, following orders, doing what God commanded when he said,

I’ve set you up
    as light to all nations.
You’ll proclaim salvation
    to the four winds and seven seas!”

48-49 When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.

50-52 Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave. Paul and Barnabas shrugged their shoulders and went on to the next town, Iconium, brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.

The Message (MSG)

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

Acts 14The Message (MSG)

14 1-3 When they got to Iconium they went, as they always did, to the meeting place of the Jews and gave their message. The Message convinced both Jews and non-Jews—and not just a few, either. But the unbelieving Jews worked up a whispering campaign against Paul and Barnabas, sowing mistrust and suspicion in the minds of the people in the street. The two apostles were there a long time, speaking freely, openly, and confidently as they presented the clear evidence of God’s gifts, God corroborating their work with miracles and wonders.

4-7 But then there was a split in public opinion, some siding with the Jews, some with the apostles. One day, learning that both the Jews and non-Jews had been organized by their leaders to beat them up, they escaped as best they could to the next towns—Lyconia, Lystra, Derbe, and that neighborhood—but then were right back at it again, getting out the Message.

Gods or Men?

8-10 There was a man in Lystra who couldn’t walk. He sat there, crippled since the day of his birth. He heard Paul talking, and Paul, looking him in the eye, saw that he was ripe for God’s work, ready to believe. So he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Up on your feet!” The man was up in a flash—jumped up and walked around as if he’d been walking all his life.

11-13 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they went wild, calling out in their Lyconian dialect, “The gods have come down! These men are gods!” They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes” (since Paul did most of the speaking). The priest of the local Zeus shrine got up a parade—bulls and banners and people lined right up to the gates, ready for the ritual of sacrifice.

14-15 When Barnabas and Paul finally realized what was going on, they stopped them. Waving their arms, they interrupted the parade, calling out, “What do you think you’re doing! We’re not gods! We are men just like you, and we’re here to bring you the Message, to persuade you to abandon these silly god-superstitions and embrace God himself, the living God. We don’t make God; he makes us, and all of this—sky, earth, sea, and everything in them.

16-18 “In the generations before us, God let all the different nations go their own way. But even then he didn’t leave them without a clue, for he made a good creation, poured down rain and gave bumper crops. When your bellies were full and your hearts happy, there was evidence of good beyond your doing.” Talking fast and hard like this, they prevented them from carrying out the sacrifice that would have honored them as gods—but just barely.

19-20 Then some Jews from Antioch and Iconium caught up with them and turned the fickle crowd against them. They beat Paul unconscious, dragged him outside the town and left him for dead. But as the disciples gathered around him, he came to and got up. He went back into town and the next day left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Plenty of Hard Times

21-22 After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.”

23-26 Paul and Barnabas handpicked leaders in each church. After praying—their prayers intensified by fasting—they presented these new leaders to the Master to whom they had entrusted their lives. Working their way back through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia and preached in Perga. Finally, they made it to Attalia and caught a ship back to Antioch, where it had all started—launched by God’s grace and now safely home by God’s grace. A good piece of work.

27-28 On arrival, they got the church together and reported on their trip, telling in detail how God had used them to throw the door of faith wide open so people of all nations could come streaming in. Then they settled down for a long, leisurely visit with the disciples.

The Message (MSG)

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

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