1 The vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw regarding Judah and Jerusalem during the times of the kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
2-4 Heaven and earth, you’re the jury.
Listen to God’s case:
“I had children and raised them well,
and they turned on me.
The ox knows who’s boss,
the mule knows the hand that feeds him,
But not Israel.
My people don’t know up from down.
Shame! Misguided God-dropouts,
staggering under their guilt-baggage,
Gang of miscreants,
band of vandals—
My people have walked out on me, their God,
turned their backs on The Holy of Israel,
walked off and never looked back.
5-9 “Why bother even trying to do anything with you
when you just keep to your bullheaded ways?
You keep beating your heads against brick walls.
Everything within you protests against you.
From the bottom of your feet to the top of your head,
nothing’s working right.
Wounds and bruises and running sores—
untended, unwashed, unbandaged.
Your country is laid waste,
your cities burned down.
Your land is destroyed by outsiders while you watch,
reduced to rubble by barbarians.
Daughter Zion is deserted—
like a tumbledown shack on a dead-end street,
Like a tarpaper shanty on the wrong side of the tracks,
like a sinking ship abandoned by the rats.
If God-of-the-Angel-Armies hadn’t left us a few survivors,
we’d be as desolate as Sodom, doomed just like Gomorrah.
10 “Listen to my Message,
you Sodom-schooled leaders.
Receive God’s revelation,
you Gomorrah-schooled people.
11-12 “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?”
“Don’t you think I’ve had my fill of burnt sacrifices,
rams and plump grain-fed calves?
Don’t you think I’ve had my fill
of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats?
When you come before me,
whoever gave you the idea of acting like this,
Running here and there, doing this and that—
all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
13-17 “Quit your worship charades.
I can’t stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—
meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
You’ve worn me out!
I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,
while you go right on sinning.
When you put on your next prayer-performance,
I’ll be looking the other way.
No matter how long or loud or often you pray,
I’ll not be listening.
And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing
people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.
18-20 “Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.”
This is God’s Message:
“If your sins are blood-red,
they’ll be snow-white.
If they’re red like crimson,
they’ll be like wool.
If you’ll willingly obey,
you’ll feast like kings.
But if you’re willful and stubborn,
you’ll die like dogs.”
That’s right. God says so.
21-23 Oh! Can you believe it? The chaste city
has become a whore!
She was once all justice,
everyone living as good neighbors,
And now they’re all
at one another’s throats.
Your coins are all counterfeits.
Your wine is watered down.
Your leaders are turncoats
who keep company with crooks.
They sell themselves to the highest bidder
and grab anything not nailed down.
They never stand up for the homeless,
never stick up for the defenseless.
24-31 This Decree, therefore, of the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
the Strong One of Israel:
“This is it! I’ll get my oppressors off my back.
I’ll get back at my enemies.
I’ll give you the back of my hand,
purge the junk from your life, clean you up.
I’ll set honest judges and wise counselors among you
just like it was back in the beginning.
Then you’ll be renamed
City-That-Treats-People-Right, the True-Blue City.”
God’s right ways will put Zion right again.
God’s right actions will restore her penitents.
But it’s curtains for rebels and God-traitors,
a dead end for those who walk out on God.
“Your dalliances in those oak grove shrines
will leave you looking mighty foolish,
All that fooling around in god and goddess gardens
that you thought was the latest thing.
You’ll end up like an oak tree
with all its leaves falling off,
Like an unwatered garden,
withered and brown.
‘The Big Man’ will turn out to be dead bark and twigs,
and his ‘work,’ the spark that starts the fire
That exposes man and work both
as nothing but cinders and smoke.”
2 1-5 The Message Isaiah got regarding Judah and Jerusalem:
There’s a day coming
when the mountain of God’s House
Will be The Mountain—
solid, towering over all mountains.
All nations will river toward it,
people from all over set out for it.
They’ll say, “Come,
let’s climb God’s Mountain,
go to the House of the God of Jacob.
He’ll show us the way he works
so we can live the way we’re made.”
Zion’s the source of the revelation.
God’s Message comes from Jerusalem.
He’ll settle things fairly between nations.
He’ll make things right between many peoples.
They’ll turn their swords into shovels,
their spears into hoes.
No more will nation fight nation;
they won’t play war anymore.
Come, family of Jacob,
let’s live in the light of God.
6-9 God, you’ve walked out on your family Jacob
because their world is full of hokey religion,
Philistine witchcraft, and pagan hocus-pocus,
a world rolling in wealth,
Stuffed with things,
no end to its machines and gadgets,
And gods—gods of all sorts and sizes.
These people make their own gods and worship what they make.
A degenerate race, facedown in the gutter.
Don’t bother with them! They’re not worth forgiving!
10 Head for the hills,
hide in the caves
From the terror of God,
from his dazzling presence.
11-17 People with a big head are headed for a fall,
pretentious egos brought down a peg.
It’s God alone at front-and-center
on the Day we’re talking about,
The Day that God-of-the-Angel-Armies
is matched against all big-talking rivals,
against all swaggering big names;
Against all giant sequoias
and against the expansive chestnut;
Against Kilimanjaro and Annapurna,
against the ranges of Alps and Andes;
Against every soaring skyscraper,
against all proud obelisks and statues;
Against ocean-going luxury liners,
against elegant three-masted schooners.
The swelled big heads will be punctured bladders,
the pretentious egos brought down to earth,
Leaving God alone at front-and-center
on the Day we’re talking about.
18 And all those sticks and stones
dressed up to look like gods
will be gone for good.
19 Clamber into caves in the cliffs,
duck into any hole you can find.
Hide from the terror of God,
from his dazzling presence,
When he assumes his full stature on earth,
towering and terrifying.
20-21 On that Day men and women will take
the sticks and stones
They’ve decked out in gold and silver
to look like gods and then worshiped,
And they will dump them
in any ditch or gully,
Then run for rock caves
and cliff hideouts
To hide from the terror of God,
from his dazzling presence,
When he assumes his full stature on earth,
towering and terrifying.
22 Quit scraping and fawning over mere humans,
so full of themselves, so full of hot air!
Can’t you see there’s nothing to them?
5 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.
2-3 I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.
4-6 I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
7-10 You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread. Deep down, the Master has given me confidence that you will not defect. But the one who is upsetting you, whoever he is, will bear the divine judgment.
11-12 As for the rumor that I continue to preach the ways of circumcision (as I did in those pre-Damascus Road days), that is absurd. Why would I still be persecuted, then? If I were preaching that old message, no one would be offended if I mentioned the Cross now and then—it would be so watered-down it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!
13-15 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
16-18 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.