50 1-3 The God of gods—it’s God!—speaks out, shouts, “Earth!”
welcomes the sun in the east,
farewells the disappearing sun in the west.
From the dazzle of Zion,
God blazes into view.
Our God makes his entrance,
he’s not shy in his coming.
Starbursts of fireworks precede him.
4-5 He summons heaven and earth as a jury,
he’s taking his people to court:
“Round up my saints who swore
on the Bible their loyalty to me.”
6 The whole cosmos attests to the fairness of this court,
that here God is judge.
7-15 “Are you listening, dear people? I’m getting ready to speak;
Israel, I’m about ready to bring you to trial.
This is God, your God,
speaking to you.
I don’t find fault with your acts of worship,
the frequent burnt sacrifices you offer.
But why should I want your blue-ribbon bull,
or more and more goats from your herds?
Every creature in the forest is mine,
the wild animals on all the mountains.
I know every mountain bird by name;
the scampering field mice are my friends.
If I get hungry, do you think I’d tell you?
All creation and its bounty are mine.
Do you think I feast on venison?
or drink drafts of goats’ blood?
Spread for me a banquet of praise,
serve High God a feast of kept promises,
And call for help when you’re in trouble—
I’ll help you, and you’ll honor me.”
16-21 Next, God calls up the wicked:
“What are you up to, quoting my laws,
talking like we are good friends?
You never answer the door when I call;
you treat my words like garbage.
If you find a thief, you make him your buddy;
adulterers are your friends of choice.
Your mouth drools filth;
lying is a serious art form with you.
You stab your own brother in the back,
rip off your little sister.
I kept a quiet patience while you did these things;
you thought I went along with your game.
I’m calling you on the carpet, now,
laying your wickedness out in plain sight.
22-23 “Time’s up for playing fast and
loose with me.
I’m ready to pass sentence,
and there’s no help in sight!
It’s the praising life that honors me.
As soon as you set your foot on the Way,
I’ll show you my salvation.”
51 1-3 Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
4-6 You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
7-15 Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
I’ll let loose with your praise.
16-17 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
18-19 Make Zion the place you delight in,
repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.
Then you’ll get real worship from us,
acts of worship small and large,
Including all the bulls
they can heave onto your altar!
52 1-4 Why do you brag of evil, “Big Man”?
God’s mercy carries the day.
You scheme catastrophe;
your tongue cuts razor-sharp,
artisan in lies.
You love evil more than good,
you call black white.
You love malicious gossip,
5 God will tear you limb from limb,
sweep you up and throw you out,
Pull you up by the roots
from the land of life.
6-7 Good people will watch and
worship. They’ll laugh in relief:
“Big Man bet on the wrong horse,
trusted in big money,
made his living from catastrophe.”
8 And I’m an olive tree,
growing green in God’s house.
I trusted in the generous mercy
of God then and now.
9 I thank you always
that you went into action.
And I’ll stay right here,
your good name my hope,
in company with your faithful friends.
53 1-2 Bilious and bloated, they gas,
“God is gone.”
It’s poison gas—
they foul themselves, they poison
Rivers and skies;
thistles are their cash crop.
God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.
3 He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow the one.
4 Don’t they know anything,
all these predators?
Don’t they know
they can’t get away with this,
Treating people like a fast-food meal
over which they’re too busy to pray?
5 Night is coming for them, and nightmare—
a nightmare they’ll never wake up from.
God will make hash of these squatters,
send them packing for good.
6 Is there anyone around to save Israel?
God turns life around.
Turned-around Jacob skips rope,
turned-around Israel sings laughter.
54 1-2 God, for your sake, help me!
Use your influence to clear me.
Listen, God—I’m desperate.
Don’t be too busy to hear me.
3 Outlaws are out to get me,
hit men are trying to kill me.
Nothing will stop them;
God means nothing to them.
4-5 Oh, look! God’s right here helping!
God’s on my side,
Evil is looping back on my enemies.
Don’t let up! Finish them off!
6-7 I’m ready now to worship, so ready.
I thank you, God—you’re so good.
You got me out of every scrape,
and I saw my enemies get it.
55 1-3 Open your ears, God, to my prayer;
don’t pretend you don’t hear me knocking.
Come close and whisper your answer.
I really need you.
I shudder at the mean voice,
quail before the evil eye,
As they pile on the guilt,
stockpile angry slander.
4-8 My insides are turned inside out;
specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
I shudder from head to foot.
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
“wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
from rage and stormy weather.
9-11 Come down hard, Lord—slit their tongues.
I’m appalled how they’ve split the city
Into rival gangs
prowling the alleys
Day and night spoiling for a fight,
trash piled in the streets,
Even shopkeepers gouging and cheating
in broad daylight.
12-14 This isn’t the neighborhood bully
mocking me—I could take that.
This isn’t a foreign devil spitting
invective—I could tune that out.
It’s you! We grew up together!
You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.
15 Haul my betrayers off alive to hell—let them
experience the horror, let them
feel every desolate detail of a damned life.
16-19 I call to God;
God will help me.
At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh
deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.
My life is well and whole, secure
in the middle of danger
Even while thousands
are lined up against me.
God hears it all, and from his judge’s bench
puts them in their place.
But, set in their ways, they won’t change;
they pay him no mind.
20-21 And this, my best friend, betrayed his best friends;
his life betrayed his word.
All my life I’ve been charmed by his speech,
never dreaming he’d turn on me.
His words, which were music to my ears,
turned to daggers in my heart.
22-23 Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
topple into ruin.
But you, God, will throw the others
into a muddy bog,
Cut the lifespan of assassins
and traitors in half.
And I trust in you.