Today our passages are 2 Kings 8:1–9:13; Acts 16:16-40; Psalm 143:1-12; and Proverbs 17:26. 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 8-9:13 (The Message)
2 Kings 81-3 Years before, Elisha had told the woman whose son he had brought to life, "Leave here and go, you and your family, and live someplace else. God has ordered a famine in the land; it will last for seven years." The woman did what the Holy Man told her and left. She and her family lived as aliens in the country of Philistia for seven years. Then, when the seven years were up, the woman and her family came back. She went directly to the king and asked for her home and farm. 4-5 The king was talking with Gehazi, servant to the Holy Man, saying, "Tell me some stories of the great things Elisha did." It so happened that as he was telling the king the story of the dead person brought back to life, the woman whose son was brought to life showed up asking for her home and farm.
Gehazi said, "My master the king, this is the woman! And this is her son whom Elisha brought back to life!"
6 The king wanted to know all about it, and so she told him the story. The king assigned an officer to take care of her, saying, "Make sure she gets everything back that's hers, plus all profits from the farm from the time she left until now."
7 Elisha traveled to Damascus. Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was sick at the time. He was told, "The Holy Man is in town."
8 The king ordered Hazael, "Take a gift with you and go meet the Holy Man. Ask God through him, 'Am I going to recover from this sickness?'"
9 Hazael went and met with Elisha. He brought with him every choice thing he could think of from Damascus—forty camel-loads of items! When he arrived he stood before Elisha and said, "Your son Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, sent me here to ask you, 'Am I going to recover from this sickness?'"
10-11 Elisha answered, "Go and tell him, 'Don't worry; you'll live.' The fact is, though—God showed me—that he's doomed to die." Elisha then stared hard at Hazael, reading his heart. Hazael felt exposed and dropped his eyes. Then the Holy Man wept.
12 Hazael said, "Why does my master weep?"
"Because," said Elisha, "I know what you're going to do to the children of Israel:
burn down their forts, murder their youth, smash their babies, rip open their pregnant women."
13 Hazael said, "Am I a mongrel dog that I'd do such a horrible thing?"
"God showed me," said Elisha, "that you'll be king of Aram."
14 Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master, who asked, "So, what did Elisha tell you?"
"He told me, 'Don't worry; you'll live.'"
15 But the very next day, someone took a heavy quilt, soaked it in water, covered the king's face, and suffocated him.
Now Hazael was king.
Jehoram of Judah16-19 In the fifth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah became king. He was thirty-two years old when he began his rule, and was king for eight years in Jerusalem. He copied the way of life of the kings of Israel, marrying into the Ahab family and continuing the Ahab line of sin—from God's point of view, an evil man living an evil life. But despite that, because of his servant David, God was not ready to destroy Judah. He had, after all, promised to keep a lamp burning through David's descendants. 20-21 During Jehoram's reign, Edom revolted against Judah's rule and set up their own king. Jehoram responded by taking his army of chariots to Zair.
Edom surrounded him, but in the middle of the night he and his charioteers broke through the lines and hit Edom hard. But his infantry deserted him.
22 Edom continues in revolt against Judah right up to the present. Even little Libnah revolted at that time.
23-24 The rest of the life and times of Jehoram, the record of his rule, is written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. Jehoram died and was buried in the family grave in the City of David. His son Ahaziah succeeded him as king.
Ahaziah of Judah25-27 In the twelfth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah began his reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king; he ruled only a year in Jerusalem. His mother was Athaliah, granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. He lived and ruled just like the Ahab family had done, continuing the same evil-in-God's-sight line of sin, related by both marriage and sin to the Ahab clan. 28-29 He joined Joram son of Ahab king of Israel in a war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The archers wounded Joram. Joram pulled back to Jezreel to convalesce from the injuries he had received in the fight with Hazael. Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah paid a visit to Joram son of Ahab on his sickbed in Jezreel.
2 Kings 9
Jehu of Israel1-3 One day Elisha the prophet ordered a member of the guild of prophets, "Get yourself ready, take a flask of oil, and go to Ramoth Gilead. Look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat son of Nimshi. When you find him, get him away from his companions and take him to a back room. Take your flask of oil and pour it over his head and say, 'God's word: I anoint you king over Israel.' Then open the door and get out of there as fast as you can. Don't wait around." 4-5 The young prophet went to Ramoth Gilead. On arrival he found the army officers all sitting around. He said, "I have a matter of business with you, officer."
Jehu said, "Which one of us?"
"With you, officer."
6-10 He got up and went inside the building. The young prophet poured the oil on his head and said, "God's word, the God of Israel: I've anointed you to be king over the people of God, over Israel. Your assignment is to attack the regime of Ahab your master. I am avenging the massacre of my servants the prophets—yes, the Jezebel-massacre of all the prophets of God. The entire line of Ahab is doomed. I'm wiping out the entire bunch of that sad lot. I'll see to it that the family of Ahab experiences the same fate as the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, the dogs will eat her carcass in the open fields of Jezreel. No burial for her!" Then he opened the door and made a run for it.
11 Jehu went back out to his master's officers. They asked, "Is everything all right? What did that crazy fool want with you?"
He said, "You know that kind of man—all talk."
12 "That's a lie!" they said. "Tell us what's going on."
He said, "He told me this and this and this—in effect, 'God's word: I anoint you king of Israel!'"
13 They sprang into action. Each man grabbed his robe; they piled them at the top of the steps for a makeshift throne. Then they blew the trumpet and declared, "Jehu is king!"
Acts 16:16-40 (The Message)
Beat Up and Thrown in Jail16-18One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone's attention to us by yelling out, "These men are working for the Most High God. They're laying out the road of salvation for you!" She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, "Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!" And it was gone, just like that. 19-22When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, "These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order." By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood.
22-24The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas's clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating. After beating them black-and-blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. He did just that—threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.
25-26Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn't believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.
27-28Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: "Don't do that! We're all still here! Nobody's run away!"
29-31The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, "Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?" They said, "Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you'll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included!"
32-34They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master—the entire family got in on this part. They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then—he couldn't wait till morning!—was baptized, he and everyone in his family. There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.
35-36At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, "Release these men." The jailer gave Paul the message, "The judges sent word that you're free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!"
37But Paul wouldn't budge. He told the officers, "They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight."
38-40When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They hurried over and apologized, personally escorted them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn't please leave the city. Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia's house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way.
Psalm 143:1-12 (The Message)
A David Psalm1-2 Listen to this prayer of mine, God; pay attention to what I'm asking.
Answer me—you're famous for your answers!
Do what's right for me.
But don't, please don't, haul me into court;
not a person alive would be acquitted there.
3-6 The enemy hunted me down;
he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life.
He put me in a black hole,
buried me like a corpse in that dungeon.
I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,
my heart heavy, like lead.
I remembered the old days,
went over all you've done, pondered the ways you've worked,
Stretched out my hands to you,
as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain.
7-10 Hurry with your answer, God!
I'm nearly at the end of my rope.
Don't turn away; don't ignore me!
That would be certain death.
If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
I'll go to sleep each night trusting in you.
Point out the road I must travel;
I'm all ears, all eyes before you.
Save me from my enemies, God—
you're my only hope!
Teach me how to live to please you,
because you're my God.
Lead me by your blessed Spirit
into cleared and level pastureland.
11-12 Keep up your reputation, God—give me life!
In your justice, get me out of this trouble!
In your great love, vanquish my enemies;
make a clean sweep of those who harass me.
And why? Because I'm your servant.
Thought for the Day
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, a renowned polymath, a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Well done is better than well said.”