Eugene Peterson is a gift to the church. Now an elderly man, not only is he a wise pastor who has helped nourish, nurture, challenge and comfort his flock, he’s also a writer who’s distilled much of his wisdom into books that I’ve found so helpful. But after he’s gone to glory, I’m sure he’ll be most remembered for his paraphrase of the bible – The Message.

The Message will not be everyone’s cup-of-tea all the time, but it is an inspired work. Through it thousands – maybe millions – of people have received and will receive fresh insight into the word of God. Often Peterson finds of way of paraphrasing something so the broader intended meaning, which is sometimes missed in a straight translation, comes through crystal clear. If you’ve never used The Message I thoroughly recommend it. Buy yourself a copy, or use it regularly in your bible app.

Another great thing about The Message – which many miss – is the Introduction to each bible book. They’re really helpful, giving a useful ‘way in’ to the book. Here’s part of the Introduction to Zephaniah that I was reading the other day. See what you think.

Because the root of the solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me – a private thing to be nurtured by prayers and singing, spiritual readings that comfort and inspire, and worship with like-minded friends. If we think this way for vey long, we will assume that the way we treat people we don’t like or who don’t like us has nothing to do with God.

That’s when the prophets step in and interrupt us, insisting, “Everything you do or think or feel has to do with God. Every person you meet has to do with God.” We live is a vast world of interconnectedness, and the consequences have consequences, either in things or in people – and all the consequences come together in God. The biblical phrase for the coming together of the consequences is Judgment Day.

We can’t be reminded too often or too forcefully of this reckoning. Zephaniah’s voice in the choir of prophets sustains the intensity, the urgency.

Brilliant! Makes me want to read on. To read Zephaniah. Which is the whole point. God’s word is meant to be read. Reflected on. And lived.

Thank you, Eugene. Thank you.