God Locked Me Up in Deep Darkness

1-3 I’m the man who has seen trouble,
    trouble coming from the lash of God’s anger.
He took me by the hand and walked me
    into pitch-black darkness.
Yes, he’s given me the back of his hand
    over and over and over again.

4-6 He turned me into a skeleton
    of skin and bones, then broke the bones.
He hemmed me in, ganged up on me,
    poured on the trouble and hard times.
He locked me up in deep darkness,
    like a corpse nailed inside a coffin.

7-9 He shuts me in so I’ll never get out,
    handcuffs my wrists, shackles my feet.
Even when I cry out and plead for help,
    he locks up my prayers and throws away the key.
He sets up blockades with quarried limestone.
    He’s got me cornered.

10-12 He’s a prowling bear tracking me down,
    a lion in hiding ready to pounce.
He knocked me from the path and ripped me to pieces.
    When he finished, there was nothing left of me.
He took out his bow and arrows
    and used me for target practice.

13-15 He shot me in the stomach
    with arrows from his quiver.
Everyone took me for a joke,
    made me the butt of their mocking ballads.
He forced rotten, stinking food down my throat,
    bloated me with vile drinks.

16-18 He ground my face into the gravel.
    He pounded me into the mud.
I gave up on life altogether.
    I’ve forgotten what the good life is like.
I said to myself, “This is it. I’m finished.
    God is a lost cause.”

It’s a Good Thing to Hope for Help from God

19-21 I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.

25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.

28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.

31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
    in throwing roadblocks in the way:

34-36 Stomping down hard
    on luckless prisoners,
Refusing justice to victims
    in the court of High God,
Tampering with evidence—
    the Master does not approve of such things.

God Speaks Both Good Things and Hard Things into Being

37-39 Who do you think “spoke and it happened”?
    It’s the Master who gives such orders.
Doesn’t the High God speak everything,
    good things and hard things alike, into being?
And why would anyone gifted with life
    complain when punished for sin?

40-42 Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living
    and reorder our lives under God.
Let’s lift our hearts and hands at one and the same time,
    praying to God in heaven:
“We’ve been contrary and willful,
    and you haven’t forgiven.

43-45 “You lost your temper with us, holding nothing back.
    You chased us and cut us down without mercy.
You wrapped yourself in thick blankets of clouds
    so no prayers could get through.
You treated us like dirty dishwater,
    threw us out in the backyard of the nations.

46-48 “Our enemies shout abuse,
    their mouths full of derision, spitting invective.
We’ve been to hell and back.
    We’ve nowhere to turn, nowhere to go.
Rivers of tears pour from my eyes
    at the smashup of my dear people.

49-51 “The tears stream from my eyes,
    an artesian well of tears,
Until you, God, look down from on high,
    look and see my tears.
When I see what’s happened to the young women in the city,
    the pain breaks my heart.

52-54 “Enemies with no reason to be enemies
    hunted me down like a bird.
They threw me into a pit,
    then pelted me with stones.
Then the rains came and filled the pit.
    The water rose over my head. I said, ‘It’s all over.’

55-57 “I called out your name, O God,
    called from the bottom of the pit.
You listened when I called out, ‘Don’t shut your ears!
    Get me out of here! Save me!’
You came close when I called out.
    You said, ‘It’s going to be all right.’

58-60 “You took my side, Master;
    you brought me back alive!
God, you saw the wrongs heaped on me.
    Give me my day in court!
Yes, you saw their mean-minded schemes,
    their plots to destroy me.

61-63 “You heard, God, their vicious gossip,
    their behind-my-back plots to ruin me.
They never quit, these enemies of mine, dreaming up mischief,
    hatching malice, day after day after day.
Sitting down or standing up—just look at them!—
    they mock me with vulgar doggerel.

64-66 “Make them pay for what they’ve done, God.
    Give them their just deserts.
Break their miserable hearts!
    Damn their eyes!
Get good and angry. Hunt them down.
    Make a total demolition here under your heaven!”

Waking Up with Nothing

Oh, oh, oh . . . 
How gold is treated like dirt,
    the finest gold thrown out with the garbage,
Priceless jewels scattered all over,
    jewels loose in the gutters.

And the people of Zion, once prized,
    far surpassing their weight in gold,
Are now treated like cheap pottery,
    like everyday pots and bowls mass-produced by a potter.

Even wild jackals nurture their babies,
    give them their breasts to suckle.
But my people have turned cruel to their babies,
    like an ostrich in the wilderness.

Babies have nothing to drink.
    Their tongues stick to the roofs of their mouths.
Little children ask for bread
    but no one gives them so much as a crust.

People used to the finest cuisine
    forage for food in the streets.
People used to the latest in fashions
    pick through the trash for something to wear.

The evil guilt of my dear people
    was worse than the sin of Sodom—
The city was destroyed in a flash,
    and no one around to help.

The splendid and sacred nobles
    once glowed with health.
Their bodies were robust and ruddy,
    their beards like carved stone.

But now they are smeared with soot,
    unrecognizable in the street,
Their bones sticking out,
    their skin dried out like old leather.

Better to have been killed in battle
    than killed by starvation.
Better to have died of battle wounds
    than to slowly starve to death.

10 Nice and kindly women
    boiled their own children for supper.
This was the only food in town
    when my dear people were broken.

11 God let all his anger loose, held nothing back.
    He poured out his raging wrath.
He set a fire in Zion
    that burned it to the ground.

12 The kings of the earth couldn’t believe it.
    World rulers were in shock,
Watching old enemies march in big as you please,
    right through Jerusalem’s gates.

13 Because of the sins of her prophets
    and the evil of her priests,
Who exploited good and trusting people,
    robbing them of their lives,

14 These prophets and priests blindly grope their way through the streets,
    grimy and stained from their dirty lives,
Wasted by their wasted lives,
    shuffling from fatigue, dressed in rags.

15 People yell at them, “Get out of here, dirty old men!
    Get lost, don’t touch us, don’t infect us!”
They have to leave town. They wander off.
    Nobody wants them to stay here.
Everyone knows, wherever they wander,
    that they’ve been kicked out of their own hometown.

16 God himself scattered them.
    No longer does he look out for them.
He has nothing to do with the priests;
    he cares nothing for the elders.

17 We watched and watched,
    wore our eyes out looking for help. And nothing.
We mounted our lookouts and looked
    for the help that never showed up.

18 They tracked us down, those hunters.
    It wasn’t safe to go out in the street.
Our end was near, our days numbered.
    We were doomed.

19 They came after us faster than eagles in flight,
    pressed us hard in the mountains, ambushed us in the desert.

20 Our king, our life’s breath, the anointed of God,
    was caught in their traps—
Our king under whose protection
    we always said we’d live.

21 Celebrate while you can, O Edom!
    Live it up in Uz!
For it won’t be long before you drink this cup, too.
    You’ll find out what it’s like to drink God’s wrath,
Get drunk on God’s wrath
    and wake up with nothing, stripped naked.

22 And that’s it for you, Zion. The punishment’s complete.
    You won’t have to go through this exile again.
But Edom, your time is coming:
    He’ll punish your evil life, put all your sins on display.

Give Us a Fresh Start

1-22 “Remember, God, all we’ve been through.
    Study our plight, the black mark we’ve made in history.
Our precious land has been given to outsiders,
    our homes to strangers.
Orphans we are, not a father in sight,
    and our mothers no better than widows.
We have to pay to drink our own water.
    Even our firewood comes at a price.
We’re nothing but slaves, bullied and bowed,
    worn out and without any rest.
We sold ourselves to Assyria and Egypt
    just to get something to eat.
Our parents sinned and are no more,
    and now we’re paying for the wrongs they did.
Slaves rule over us;
    there’s no escape from their grip.
We risk our lives to gather food
    in the bandit-infested desert.
Our skin has turned black as an oven,
    dried out like old leather from the famine.
Our wives were raped in the streets in Zion,
    and our virgins in the cities of Judah.
They hanged our princes by their hands,
    dishonored our elders.
Strapping young men were put to women’s work,
    mere boys forced to do men’s work.
The city gate is empty of wise elders.
    Music from the young is heard no more.
All the joy is gone from our hearts.
    Our dances have turned into dirges.
The crown of glory has toppled from our head.
    Woe! Woe! Would that we’d never sinned!
Because of all this we’re heartsick;
    we can’t see through the tears.
On Mount Zion, wrecked and ruined,
    jackals pace and prowl.
And yet, God, you’re sovereign still,
    your throne intact and eternal.
So why do you keep forgetting us?
    Why dump us and leave us like this?
Bring us back to you, God—we’re ready to come back.
    Give us a fresh start.
As it is, you’ve cruelly disowned us.
    You’ve been so very angry with us.”

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