Today our passages are 2 Kings 3:1–4:17; Acts 14:8-28; Psalm 140:1-13; and Proverbs 17:22. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
2 Kings 3-4:17 (The Message)
2 Kings 3
Joram of Israel1-3 Joram son of Ahab began his rule over Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. He was king for twelve years. In God's sight he was a bad king. But he wasn't as bad as his father and mother—to his credit he destroyed the obscene Baal stone that his father had made. But he hung on to the sinful practices of Jeroboam son of Nebat, the ones that had corrupted Israel for so long. He wasn't about to give them up. 4-7 King Mesha of Moab raised sheep. He was forced to give the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and another 100,000 rams. When Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. So King Joram set out from Samaria and prepared Israel for war. His first move was to send a message to Jehoshaphat king of Judah: "The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Would you join me and fight him?"
7-8 "I'm with you all the way," said Jehoshaphat. "My troops are your troops, my horses are your horses. Which route shall we take?"
"Through the badlands of Edom."
9 The king of Israel, the king of Judah, and the king of Edom started out on what proved to be a looping detour. After seven days they had run out of water for both army and animals.
10 The king of Israel said, "Bad news! God has gotten us three kings out here to dump us into the hand of Moab."
11 But Jehoshaphat said, "Isn't there a prophet of God anywhere around through whom we can consult God?"
One of the servants of the king of Israel said, "Elisha son of Shaphat is around somewhere—the one who was Elijah's right-hand man."
12 Jehoshaphat said, "Good! A man we can trust!" So the three of them— the king of Israel, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom—went to meet him.
13 Elisha addressed the king of Israel, "What do you and I have in common? Go consult the puppet-prophets of your father and mother."
"Never!" said the king of Israel. "It's God who has gotten us into this fix, dumping all three of us kings into the hand of Moab."
14-15 Elisha said, "As God-of-the-Angel-Armies lives, and before whom I stand ready to serve, if it weren't for the respect I have for Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I wouldn't give you the time of day. But considering—bring me a minstrel." (When a minstrel played, the power of God came on Elisha.)
16-19 He then said, "God's word: Dig ditches all over this valley. Here's what will happen—you won't hear the wind, you won't see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water and your army and your animals will drink their fill. This is easy for God to do; he will also hand over Moab to you. You will ravage the country: Knock out its fortifications, level the key villages, clear-cut the orchards, clog the springs, and litter the cultivated fields with stones."
20 In the morning—it was at the hour of morning sacrifice—the water had arrived, water pouring in from the west, from Edom, a flash flood filling the valley with water.
21-22 By this time everyone in Moab had heard that the kings had come up to make war against them. Everyone who was able to handle a sword was called into service and took a stand at the border. They were up and ready early in the morning when the sun rose over the water. From where the Moabites stood, the water reflecting the sun looked red, like blood.
23 "Blood! Look at the blood!" they said. "The kings must have fought each other—a bloody massacre! Go for the loot, Moab!"
24-25 When Moab entered the camp of Israel, the Israelites were up on their feet killing Moabites right and left, the Moabites running for their lives, Israelites relentless in pursuit—a slaughter. They leveled the towns, littered the cultivated fields with rocks, clogged the springs, and clear-cut the orchards. Only the capital, Kir Hareseth, was left intact, and that not for long; it too was surrounded and attacked with thrown and flung rocks.
26-27 When the king of Moab realized that he was fighting a losing battle, he took seven hundred swordsmen to hack a corridor past the king of Edom, but they didn't make it. Then he took his son, his firstborn who would succeed him as king, and sacrificed him on the city wall. That set off furious anger against Israel. Israel pulled back and returned home.
2 Kings 41 One day the wife of a man from the guild of prophets called out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead. You well know what a good man he was, devoted to God. And now the man to whom he was in debt is on his way to collect by taking my two children as slaves." 2 Elisha said, "I wonder how I can be of help. Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
"Nothing," she said. "Well, I do have a little oil."
3-4 "Here's what you do," said Elisha. "Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside."
5-6 She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, "Another jug, please."
He said, "That's it. There are no more jugs."
Then the oil stopped.
7 She went and told the story to the man of God. He said, "Go sell the oil and make good on your debts. Live, both you and your sons, on what's left."
8 One day Elisha passed through Shunem. A leading lady of the town talked him into stopping for a meal. And then it became his custom: Whenever he passed through, he stopped by for a meal.
9-10 "I'm certain," said the woman to her husband, "that this man who stops by with us all the time is a holy man of God. Why don't we add on a small room upstairs and furnish it with a bed and desk, chair and lamp, so that when he comes by he can stay with us?"
11 And so it happened that the next time Elisha came by he went to the room and lay down for a nap.
12 Then he said to his servant Gehazi, "Tell the Shunammite woman I want to see her." He called her and she came to him.
13 Through Gehazi Elisha said, "You've gone far beyond the call of duty in taking care of us; what can we do for you? Do you have a request we can bring to the king or to the commander of the army?"
She replied, "Nothing. I'm secure and satisfied in my family."
14 Elisha conferred with Gehazi: "There's got to be something we can do for her. But what?"
Gehazi said, "Well, she has no son, and her husband is an old man."
15 "Call her in," said Elisha. He called her and she stood at the open door.
16 Elisha said to her, "This time next year you're going to be nursing an infant son."
"O my master, O Holy Man," she said, "don't play games with me, teasing me with such fantasies!"
17 The woman conceived. A year later, just as Elisha had said, she had a son.
Acts 14:8-28 (The Message)
Gods or Men?8-10There 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. 11-13When 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.
14-15When 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.
19-20Then 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 Times21-22After 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." 23-26Paul 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.
27-28On 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.
Psalm 140:1-13 (The Message)
A David Psalm1-5 God, get me out of here, away from this evil; protect me from these vicious people.
All they do is think up new ways to be bad;
they spend their days plotting war games.
They practice the sharp rhetoric of hate and hurt,
speak venomous words that maim and kill.
God, keep me out of the clutch of these wicked ones,
protect me from these vicious people;
Stuffed with self-importance, they plot ways to trip me up,
determined to bring me down.
These crooks invent traps to catch me
and do their best to incriminate me.
6-8 I prayed, "God, you're my God!
Listen, God! Mercy!
God, my Lord, Strong Savior,
protect me when the fighting breaks out!
Don't let the wicked have their way, God,
don't give them an inch!"
9-11 These troublemakers all around me—
let them drown in their own verbal poison.
Let God pile hellfire on them,
let him bury them alive in crevasses!
don't let them be taken seriously;
let the Devil hunt them down!
12-13 I know that you, God, are on the side of victims,
that you care for the rights of the poor.
And I know that the righteous personally thank you,
that good people are secure in your presence.
Proverbs 17:22 (The Message)
22 A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.
Verse of the Day
“The LORD will protect you and keep you safe from all dangers. The LORD will protect you now and always wherever you go.” - Psalm 121:7-8
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
Player, coach, owner, and pioneer in professional American football, George Halas wrote, “Nothing is work unless you'd rather be doing something else.”