Can We Be Saved?
64 1-7 Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend,
make the mountains shudder at your presence—
As when a forest catches fire,
as when fire makes a pot to boil—
To shock your enemies into facing you,
make the nations shake in their boots!
You did terrible things we never expected,
descended and made the mountains shudder at your presence.
Since before time began
no one has ever imagined,
No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who happily do what is right,
who keep a good memory of the way you work.
But how angry you’ve been with us!
We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!
Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?
We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
We dry up like autumn leaves—
sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.
No one prays to you
or makes the effort to reach out to you
Because you’ve turned away from us,
left us to stew in our sins.
8-12 Still, God, you are our Father.
We’re the clay and you’re our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
Don’t be too angry with us, O God.
Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
Zion’s a ghost town,
Jerusalem’s a field of weeds.
Our holy and beautiful Temple,
which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
In the face of all this,
are you going to sit there unmoved, God?
Aren’t you going to say something?
Haven’t you made us miserable long enough?
The People Who Bothered to Reach Out to God
65 1-7 “I’ve made myself available
to those who haven’t bothered to ask.
I’m here, ready to be found
by those who haven’t bothered to look.
I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’
to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me,
People who make wrong turns,
who insist on doing things their own way.
They get on my nerves,
are rude to my face day after day,
Make up their own kitchen religion,
a potluck religious stew.
They spend the night in tombs
to get messages from the dead,
Eat forbidden foods
and drink a witch’s brew of potions and charms.
They say, ‘Keep your distance.
Don’t touch me. I’m holier than thou.’
These people gag me.
I can’t stand their stench.
Look at this! Their sins are all written out—
I have the list before me.
I’m not putting up with this any longer.
I’ll pay them the wages
They have coming for their sins.
And for the sins of their parents lumped in,
a bonus.” God says so.
“Because they’ve practiced their blasphemous worship,
mocking me at their hillside shrines,
I’ll let loose the consequences
and pay them in full for their actions.”
* * *
8-10 God’s Message:
“But just as one bad apple doesn’t ruin the whole bushel,
there are still plenty of good apples left.
So I’ll preserve those in Israel who obey me.
I won’t destroy the whole nation.
I’ll bring out my true children from Jacob
and the heirs of my mountains from Judah.
My chosen will inherit the land,
my servants will move in.
The lush valley of Sharon in the west
will be a pasture for flocks,
And in the east, the valley of Achor,
a place for herds to graze.
These will be for the people
who bothered to reach out to me, who wanted me in their lives,
who actually bothered to look for me.
* * *
11-12 “But you who abandon me, your God,
who forget the holy mountains,
Who hold dinners for Lady Luck
and throw cocktail parties for Sir Fate,
Well, you asked for it. Fate it will be:
your destiny, Death.
For when I invited you, you ignored me;
when I spoke to you, you brushed me off.
You did the very things I exposed as evil;
you chose what I hate.”
13-16 Therefore, this is the Message from the Master, God:
“My servants will eat,
and you’ll go hungry;
My servants will drink,
and you’ll go thirsty;
My servants will rejoice,
and you’ll hang your heads.
My servants will laugh from full hearts,
and you’ll cry out heartbroken,
yes, wail from crushed spirits.
Your legacy to my chosen
will be your name reduced to a cussword.
I, God, will put you to death
and give a new name to my servants.
Then whoever prays a blessing in the land
will use my faithful name for the blessing,
And whoever takes an oath in the land
will use my faithful name for the oath,
Because the earlier troubles are gone and forgotten,
banished far from my sight.
New Heavens and a New Earth
17-25 “Pay close attention now:
I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.
All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain
are things of the past, to be forgotten.
Look ahead with joy.
Anticipate what I’m creating:
I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy,
create my people as pure delight.
I’ll take joy in Jerusalem,
take delight in my people:
No more sounds of weeping in the city,
no cries of anguish;
No more babies dying in the cradle,
or old people who don’t enjoy a full lifetime;
One-hundredth birthdays will be considered normal—
anything less will seem like a cheat.
They’ll build houses
and move in.
They’ll plant fields
and eat what they grow.
No more building a house
that some outsider takes over,
No more planting fields
that some enemy confiscates,
For my people will be as long-lived as trees,
my chosen ones will have satisfaction in their work.
They won’t work and have nothing come of it,
they won’t have children snatched out from under them.
For they themselves are plantings blessed by God,
with their children and grandchildren likewise God-blessed.
Before they call out, I’ll answer.
Before they’ve finished speaking, I’ll have heard.
Wolf and lamb will graze the same meadow,
lion and ox eat straw from the same trough,
but snakes—they’ll get a diet of dirt!
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
anywhere on my Holy Mountain,” says God.
Living Worship to God
66 1-2 God’s Message:
“Heaven’s my throne,
earth is my footstool.
What sort of house could you build for me?
What holiday spot reserve for me?
I made all this! I own all this!”
“But there is something I’m looking for:
a person simple and plain,
reverently responsive to what I say.
3-4 “Your acts of worship
are acts of sin:
Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox
is no different from murdering the neighbor;
Your offerings for worship,
no different from dumping pig’s blood on the altar;
Your presentation of memorial gifts,
no different from honoring a no-god idol.
You choose self-serving worship,
you delight in self-centered worship—disgusting!
Well, I choose to expose your nonsense
and let you realize your worst fears,
Because when I invited you, you ignored me;
when I spoke to you, you brushed me off.
You did the very things I exposed as evil,
you chose what I hate.”
5 But listen to what God has to say
to you who reverently respond to his Word:
“Your own families hate you
and turn you out because of me.
They taunt you, ‘Let us see God’s glory!
If God’s so great, why aren’t you happy?’
But they’re the ones
who are going to end up shamed.”
* * *
6 Rumbles of thunder from the city!
A voice out of the Temple!
handing out judgment to his enemies:
7-9 “Before she went into labor,
she had the baby.
Before the birth pangs hit,
she delivered a son.
Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?
Has anyone seen anything like this?
A country born in a day?
A nation born in a flash?
But Zion was barely in labor
when she had her babies!
Do I open the womb
and not deliver the baby?
Do I, the One who delivers babies,
shut the womb?
10-11 “Rejoice, Jerusalem,
and all who love her, celebrate!
And all you who have shed tears over her,
join in the happy singing.
You newborns can satisfy yourselves
at her nurturing breasts.
Yes, delight yourselves and drink your fill
at her ample bosom.”
12-13 God’s Message:
“I’ll pour robust well-being into her like a river,
the glory of nations like a river in flood.
You’ll nurse at her breasts,
nestle in her bosom,
and be bounced on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so I’ll comfort you.
You will be comforted in Jerusalem.”
14-16 You’ll see all this and burst with joy
—you’ll feel ten feet tall—
As it becomes apparent that God is on your side
and against his enemies.
For God arrives like wildfire
and his chariots like a tornado,
A furious outburst of anger,
a rebuke fierce and fiery.
For it’s by fire that God brings judgment,
a death sentence on the human race.
Many, oh so many,
are under God’s sentence of death:
17 “All who enter the sacred groves for initiation in those unholy rituals that climaxed in that foul and obscene meal of pigs and mice will eat together and then die together.” God’s Decree.
18-21 “I know everything they’ve ever done or thought. I’m going to come and then gather everyone—all nations, all languages. They’ll come and see my glory. I’ll set up a station at the center. I’ll send the survivors of judgment all over the world: Spain and Africa, Turkey and Greece, and the far-off islands that have never heard of me, who know nothing of what I’ve done nor who I am. I’ll send them out as missionaries to preach my glory among the nations. They’ll return with all your long-lost brothers and sisters from all over the world. They’ll bring them back and offer them in living worship to God. They’ll bring them on horses and wagons and carts, on mules and camels, straight to my holy mountain Jerusalem,” says God. “They’ll present them just as Israelites present their offerings in a ceremonial vessel in the Temple of God. I’ll even take some of them and make them priests and Levites,” says God.
22-23 “For just as the new heavens and new earth
that I am making will stand firm before me”
“So will your children
and your reputation stand firm.
Month after month and week by week,
everyone will come to worship me,” God says.
24 “And then they’ll go out and look at what happened
to those who rebelled against me. Corpses!
Maggots endlessly eating away on them,
an endless supply of fuel for fires.
Everyone who sees what’s happened
and smells the stench retches.”