Never Tired of Trying New Religions

57 1-2 Meanwhile, right-living people die
    and no one gives them a thought.
God-fearing people are carted off
    and no one even notices.
The right-living people are out of their misery,
    they’re finally at rest.
They lived well and with dignity
    and now they’re finally at peace.

3-10 “But you, children of a witch, come here!
    Sons of a slut, daughters of a whore.
What business do you have taunting,
    sneering, and sticking out your tongue?
Do you have any idea what wretches you’ve turned out to be?
    A race of rebels, a generation of liars.
You satisfy your lust any place you find some shade
    and fornicate at whim.
You kill your children at any convenient spot—
    any cave or crevasse will do.
You take stones from the creek
    and set up your sex-and-religion shrines.
You’ve chosen your fate.
    Your worship will be your doom.
You’ve climbed a high mountain
    to practice your foul sex-and-death religion.
Behind closed doors
    you assemble your precious gods and goddesses.
Deserting me, you’ve gone all out, stripped down
    and made your bed your place of worship.
You’ve climbed into bed with the ‘sacred’ whores
    and loved every minute of it,
    adoring every curve of their naked bodies.
You anoint your king-god with ointments
    and lavish perfumes on yourselves.
You send scouts to search out the latest in religion,
    send them all the way to hell and back.
You wear yourselves out trying the new and the different,
    and never see what a waste it all is.
You’ve always found strength for the latest fad,
    never got tired of trying new religions.

11-13 “Who talked you into the pursuit of this nonsense,
    leaving me high and dry,
    forgetting you ever knew me?
Because I don’t yell and make a scene
    do you think I don’t exist?
I’ll go over, detail by detail, all your ‘righteous’ attempts at religion,
    and expose the absurdity of it all.
Go ahead, cry for help to your collection of no-gods:
    A good wind will blow them away.
    They’re smoke, nothing but smoke.

“But anyone who runs to me for help
    will inherit the land,
    will end up owning my holy mountain!”

14 Someone says: “Build, build! Make a road!
    Clear the way, remove the rocks
    from the road my people will travel.”

15-21 A Message from the high and towering God,
    who lives in Eternity,
    whose name is Holy:
“I live in the high and holy places,
    but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
    get them up and on their feet again.
For I’m not going to haul people into court endlessly,
    I’m not going to be angry forever.
Otherwise, people would lose heart.
    These souls I created would tire out and give up.
I was angry, good and angry, because of Israel’s sins.
    I struck him hard and turned away in anger,
    while he kept at his stubborn, willful ways.
When I looked again and saw what he was doing,
    I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him,
    creating a new language of praise for the mourners.
Peace to the far-off, peace to the near-at-hand,” says God
    “and yes, I will heal them.
But the wicked are storm-battered seas
    that can’t quiet down.
    The waves stir up garbage and mud.
There’s no peace,” God says, “for the wicked.”

Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
    face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
    quit blaming victims,
    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
    firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
    Yes! God says so!

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