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Leviticus 26The Message (MSG)

26 “Don’t make idols for yourselves; don’t set up an image or a sacred pillar for yourselves, and don’t place a carved stone in your land that you can bow down to in worship. I am God, your God.

“Keep my Sabbaths; treat my Sanctuary with reverence. I am God.

“If You Live by My Decrees . . .”

3-5 “If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments, I will send the rains in their seasons, the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. You will thresh until the grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting time; you’ll have more than enough to eat and will live safe and secure in your land.

6-10 “I’ll make the country a place of peace—you’ll be able to go to sleep at night without fear; I’ll get rid of the wild beasts; I’ll eliminate war. You’ll chase out your enemies and defeat them: Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand and do away with them. I’ll give you my full attention: I’ll make sure you prosper, make sure you grow in numbers, and keep my covenant with you in good working order. You’ll still be eating from last year’s harvest when you have to clean out the barns to make room for the new crops.

11-13 “I’ll set up my residence in your neighborhood; I won’t avoid or shun you; I’ll stroll through your streets. I’ll be your God; you’ll be my people. I am God, your personal God who rescued you from Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I ripped off the harness of your slavery so that you can move about freely.

“But If You Refuse to Obey Me . . .”

14-17 “But if you refuse to obey me and won’t observe my commandments, despising my decrees and holding my laws in contempt by your disobedience, making a shambles of my covenant, I’ll step in and pour on the trouble: debilitating disease, high fevers, blindness, your life leaking out bit by bit. You’ll plant seed but your enemies will eat the crops. I’ll turn my back on you and stand by while your enemies defeat you. People who hate you will govern you. You’ll run scared even when there’s no one chasing you.

18-20 “And if none of this works in getting your attention, I’ll discipline you seven times over for your sins. I’ll break your strong pride: I’ll make the skies above you like a sheet of tin and the ground under you like cast iron. No matter how hard you work, nothing will come of it: No crops out of the ground, no fruit off the trees.

21-22 “If you defy me and refuse to listen, your punishment will be seven times more than your sins: I’ll set wild animals on you; they’ll rob you of your children, kill your cattle, and decimate your numbers until you’ll think you are living in a ghost town.

23-26 “And if even this doesn’t work and you refuse my discipline and continue your defiance, then it will be my turn to defy you. I, yes I, will punish you for your sins seven times over: I’ll let war loose on you, avenging your breaking of the covenant; when you huddle in your cities for protection, I’ll send a deadly epidemic on you and you’ll be helpless before your enemies; when I cut off your bread supply, ten women will bake bread in one oven and ration it out. You’ll eat, but barely—no one will get enough.

27-35 “And if this—even this!—doesn’t work and you still won’t listen, still defy me, I’ll have had enough and in hot anger will defy you, punishing you for your sins seven times over: famine will be so severe that you’ll end up cooking and eating your sons in stews and your daughters in barbecues; I’ll smash your sex-and-religion shrines and all the paraphernalia that goes with them, and then stack your corpses and the idol-corpses in the same piles—I’ll abhor you; I’ll turn your cities into rubble; I’ll clean out your sanctuaries; I’ll hold my nose at the “pleasing aroma” of your sacrifices. I’ll turn your land into a lifeless moonscape—your enemies who come in to take over will be shocked at what they see. I’ll scatter you all over the world and keep after you with the point of my sword in your backs. There’ll be nothing left in your land, nothing going on in your cities. With you gone and dispersed in the countries of your enemies, the land, empty of you, will finally get a break and enjoy its Sabbath years. All the time it’s left there empty, the land will get rest, the Sabbaths it never got when you lived there.

36-39 “As for those among you still alive, I’ll give them over to fearful timidity—even the rustle of a leaf will throw them into a panic. They’ll run here and there, back and forth, as if running for their lives even though no one is after them, tripping and falling over one another in total confusion. You won’t stand a chance against an enemy. You’ll perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will eat you up. Any who are left will slowly rot away in the enemy lands. Rot. And all because of their sins, their sins compounded by their ancestors’ sins.

“On the Other Hand, If They Confess . . .”

40-42 “On the other hand, if they confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors, their treacherous betrayal, the defiance that set off my defiance that sent them off into enemy lands; if by some chance they soften their hard hearts and make amends for their sin, I’ll remember my covenant with Jacob, I’ll remember my covenant with Isaac, and, yes, I’ll remember my covenant with Abraham. And I’ll remember the land.

43-45 “The land will be empty of them and enjoy its Sabbaths while they’re gone. They’ll pay for their sins because they refused my laws and treated my decrees with contempt. But in spite of their behavior, while they are among their enemies I won’t reject or abhor or destroy them completely. I won’t break my covenant with them: I am God, their God. For their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I, with all the nations watching, brought out of Egypt in order to be their God. I am God.”

46 These are the decrees, laws, and instructions that God established between himself and the People of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai.

The Message (MSG)

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

Leviticus 27The Message (MSG)

Vows, Dedications, and Redemptions

27 1-8 God spoke to Moses: He said, “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, If anyone wants to vow the value of a person to the service of God, set the value of a man between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the Sanctuary shekel. For a woman the valuation is thirty shekels. If the person is between the ages of five and twenty, set the value at twenty shekels for a male and ten shekels for a female. If the person is between one month and five years, set the value at five shekels of silver for a boy and three shekels of silver for a girl. If the person is over sixty, set the value at fifteen shekels for a man and ten shekels for a woman. If anyone is too poor to pay the stated amount, he is to present the person to the priest, who will then set the value for him according to what the person making the vow can afford.

9-13 “If he vowed an animal that is acceptable as an offering to God, the animal is given to God and becomes the property of the Sanctuary. He must not exchange or substitute a good one for a bad one, or a bad one for a good one; if he should dishonestly substitute one animal for another, both the original and the substitute become property of the Sanctuary. If what he vowed is a ritually unclean animal, one that is not acceptable as an offering to God, the animal must be shown to the priest, who will set its value, either high or low. Whatever the priest sets will be its value. If the owner changes his mind and wants to redeem it, he must add twenty percent to its value.

14-15 “If a man dedicates his house to God, into the possession of the Sanctuary, the priest assesses its value, setting it either high or low. Whatever value the priest sets, that’s what it is. If the man wants to buy it back, he must add twenty percent to its price and then it’s his again.

16-21 “If a man dedicates to God part of his family land, its value is to be set according to the amount of seed that is needed for it at the rate of fifty shekels of silver to six bushels of barley seed. If he dedicates his field during the year of Jubilee, the set value stays. But if he dedicates it after the Jubilee, the priest will compute the value according to the years left until the next Jubilee, reducing the value proportionately. If the one dedicating it wants to buy it back, he must add twenty percent to its valuation, and then it’s his again. But if he doesn’t redeem it or sells the field to someone else, it can never be bought back. When the field is released in the Jubilee, it becomes holy to God, the possession of the Sanctuary, God’s field. It goes into the hands of the priests.

22-25 “If a man dedicates to God a field he has bought, a field which is not part of the family land, the priest will compute its proportionate value in relation to the next year of Jubilee. The man must pay its value on the spot as something that is now holy to God, belonging to the Sanctuary. In the year of Jubilee it goes back to its original owner, the man from whom he bought it. The valuations will be reckoned by the Sanctuary shekel, at twenty gerahs to the shekel.

26-27 “No one is allowed to dedicate the firstborn of an animal; the firstborn, as firstborn, already belongs to God. No matter if it’s cattle or sheep, it already belongs to God. If it’s one of the ritually unclean animals, he can buy it back at its assessed value by adding twenty percent to it. If he doesn’t redeem it, it is to be sold at its assessed value.

28 “But nothing that a man irrevocably devotes to God from what belongs to him, whether human or animal or family land, may be either sold or bought back. Everything devoted is holy to the highest degree; it’s God’s inalienable property.

29 “No human who has been devoted to destruction can be redeemed. He must be put to death.

30-33 “A tenth of the land’s produce, whether grain from the ground or fruit from the trees, is God’s. It is holy to God. If a man buys back any of the tenth he has given, he must add twenty percent to it. A tenth of the entire herd and flock, every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod, is holy to God. He is not permitted to pick out the good from the bad or make a substitution. If he dishonestly makes a substitution, both animals, the original and the substitute, become the possession of the Sanctuary and cannot be redeemed.”

34 These are the commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the People of Israel.

The Message (MSG)

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

Acts 23The Message (MSG)

Before the High Council

23 1-3 Paul surveyed the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then said his piece: “Friends, I’ve lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment.” That set the Chief Priest Ananias off. He ordered his aides to slap Paul in the face. Paul shot back, “God will slap you down! What a fake you are! You sit there and judge me by the Law and then break the Law by ordering me slapped around!”

The aides were scandalized: “How dare you talk to God’s Chief Priest like that!”

Paul acted surprised. “How was I to know he was Chief Priest? He doesn’t act like a Chief Priest. You’re right, the Scripture does say, ‘Don’t speak abusively to a ruler of the people.’ Sorry.”

Paul, knowing some of the council was made up of Sadducees and others of Pharisees and how they hated each other, decided to exploit their antagonism: “Friends, I am a stalwart Pharisee from a long line of Pharisees. It’s because of my Pharisee convictions—the hope and resurrection of the dead—that I’ve been hauled into this court.”

7-9 The moment he said this, the council split right down the middle, Pharisees and Sadducees going at each other in heated argument. Sadducees have nothing to do with a resurrection or angels or even a spirit. If they can’t see it, they don’t believe it. Pharisees believe it all. And so a huge and noisy quarrel broke out. Then some of the religion scholars on the Pharisee side shouted down the others: “We don’t find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him? Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we’re fighting against God?”

10 That was fuel on the fire. The quarrel flamed up and became so violent the captain was afraid they would tear Paul apart, limb from limb. He ordered the soldiers to get him out of there and escort him back to the safety of the barracks.

A Plot Against Paul

11 That night the Master appeared to Paul: “It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome!”

12-15 Next day the Jews worked up a plot against Paul. They took a solemn oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. Over forty of them ritually bound themselves to this murder pact and presented themselves to the high priests and religious leaders. “We’ve bound ourselves by a solemn oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. But we need your help. Send a request from the council to the captain to bring Paul back so that you can investigate the charges in more detail. We’ll do the rest. Before he gets anywhere near you, we’ll have killed him. You won’t be involved.”

16-17 Paul’s nephew, his sister’s son, overheard them plotting the ambush. He went immediately to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called over one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the captain. He has something important to tell him.”

18 The centurion brought him to the captain and said, “The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He said he has something urgent to tell you.”

19 The captain took him by the arm and led him aside privately. “What is it? What do you have to tell me?”

20-21 Paul’s nephew said, “The Jews have worked up a plot against Paul. They’re going to ask you to bring Paul to the council first thing in the morning on the pretext that they want to investigate the charges against him in more detail. But it’s a trick to get him out of your safekeeping so they can murder him. Right now there are more than forty men lying in ambush for him. They’ve all taken a vow to neither eat nor drink until they’ve killed him. The ambush is set—all they’re waiting for is for you to send him over.”

22 The captain dismissed the nephew with a warning: “Don’t breathe a word of this to a soul.”

23-24 The captain called up two centurions. “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go immediately to Caesarea. Also seventy cavalry and two hundred light infantry. I want them ready to march by nine o’clock tonight. And you’ll need a couple of mules for Paul and his gear. We’re going to present this man safe and sound to Governor Felix.”

25-30 Then he wrote this letter:

From Claudius Lysias, to the Most Honorable Governor Felix:

Greetings!

I rescued this man from a Jewish mob. They had seized him and were about to kill him when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. So I sent in my soldiers. Wanting to know what he had done wrong, I had him brought before their council. It turned out to be a squabble turned vicious over some of their religious differences, but nothing remotely criminal.

The next thing I knew, they had cooked up a plot to murder him. I decided that for his own safety I’d better get him out of here in a hurry. So I’m sending him to you. I’m informing his accusers that he’s now under your jurisdiction.

31-33 The soldiers, following orders, took Paul that same night to safety in Antipatris. In the morning the soldiers returned to their barracks in Jerusalem, sending Paul on to Caesarea under guard of the cavalry. The cavalry entered Caesarea and handed Paul and the letter over to the governor.

34-35 After reading the letter, the governor asked Paul what province he came from and was told “Cilicia.” Then he said, “I’ll take up your case when your accusers show up.” He ordered him locked up for the meantime in King Herod’s official quarters.

The Message (MSG)

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

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