My words will be italicized wherever they appear. Should the Bible be italicized near my words, I’ll do something to differentiate them.
Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground
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—
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?
Same. Ima be chill today.
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,
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.’
Sounds like Jesus in Matthew 25:35-45.
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!
So easy but so hard.
We Long for Light but Sink into Darkness
1-8 Look! Listen!
God’s arm is not amputated—he can still save.
God’s ears are not stopped up—he can still hear.
There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.
Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.
Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.
Your hands are drenched in blood,
your fingers dripping with guilt,
Your lips smeared with lies,
your tongue swollen from muttering obscenities.
No one speaks up for the right,
no one deals fairly.
They trust in illusion, they tell lies,
they get pregnant with mischief and have sin-babies.
They hatch snake eggs and weave spider webs.
Eat an egg and die; break an egg and get a snake!
The spider webs are no good for shirts or shawls.
No one can wear these weavings!
They weave wickedness,
they hatch violence.
They compete in the race to do evil
and run to be the first to murder.
They plan and plot evil, think and breathe evil,
and leave a trail of wrecked lives behind them.
They know nothing about peace
and less than nothing about justice.
They make tortuously twisted roads.
No peace for the wretch who walks down those roads!
The first part made me smile. Sin babies. I can’t. He was giving them the business!
9-11 Which means that we’re a far cry from fair dealing,
and we’re not even close to right living.
We long for light but sink into darkness,
long for brightness but stumble through the night.
Like the blind, we inch along a wall,
groping eyeless in the dark.
We shuffle our way in broad daylight,
like the dead, but somehow walking.
We’re no better off than bears, groaning,
and no worse off than doves, moaning.
We look for justice—not a sign of it;
for salvation—not so much as a hint.
12-15 Our wrongdoings pile up before you, God,
our sins stand up and accuse us.
Our wrongdoings stare us down;
we know in detail what we’ve done:
Mocking and denying God,
not following our God,
Spreading false rumors, whipping up revolt,
pregnant with lies, muttering malice.
Justice is beaten back,
Righteousness is banished to the sidelines,
Truth staggers down the street,
Honesty is nowhere to be found,
Good is missing in action.
Anyone renouncing evil is beaten and robbed.
15-19 God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon—
so much evil and no sign of Justice.
He couldn’t believe what he saw:
not a soul around to correct this awful situation.
So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation,
fueled by his own Righteousness.
He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armor,
with Salvation on his head like a helmet,
Put on Judgment like an overcoat,
and threw a cloak of Passion across his shoulders.
He’ll make everyone pay for what they’ve done:
fury for his foes, just deserts for his enemies.
Even the far-off islands will get paid off in full.
In the west they’ll fear the name of God,
in the east they’ll fear the glory of God,
For he’ll arrive like a river in flood stage,
whipped to a torrent by the wind of God.
20 “I’ll arrive in Zion as Redeemer,
to those in Jacob who leave their sins.”
And I thank you Big God.
21 “As for me,” God says, “this is my covenant with them: My Spirit that I’ve placed upon you and the words that I’ve given you to speak, they’re not going to leave your mouths nor the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your grandchildren. You will keep repeating these words and won’t ever stop.” God’s orders.
People Returning for the Reunion
1-7 “Get out of bed, Jerusalem!
Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
God’s bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
his sunrise glory breaks over you.
Nations will come to your light,
kings to your sunburst brightness.
Look up! Look around!
Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you:
Your sons coming from great distances,
your daughters carried by their nannies.
When you see them coming you’ll smile—big smiles!
Your heart will swell and, yes, burst!
All those people returning by sea for the reunion,
a rich harvest of exiles gathered in from the nations!
And then streams of camel caravans as far as the eye can see,
young camels of nomads in Midian and Ephah,
Pouring in from the south from Sheba,
loaded with gold and frankincense,
preaching the praises of God.
And yes, a great roundup
of flocks from the nomads in Kedar and Nebaioth,
Welcome gifts for worship at my altar
as I bathe my glorious Temple in splendor.
Yas! Also. The wise men brought gold and frankincense to meet Jesus…interesting (Matthew 2:11).
What’s That We See in the Distance?
8-22 “What’s that we see in the distance,
a cloud on the horizon, like doves darkening the sky?
It’s ships from the distant islands,
the famous Tarshish ships
Returning your children from faraway places,
loaded with riches, with silver and gold,
And backed by the name of your God, The Holy of Israel,
showering you with splendor.
Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
and their kings assist you in the conduct of worship.
When I was angry I hit you hard.
It’s my desire now to be tender.
Your Jerusalem gates will always be open
—open house day and night!—
Receiving deliveries of wealth from all nations,
and their kings, the delivery boys!
Any nation or kingdom that doesn’t deliver will perish;
those nations will be totally wasted.
The rich woods of Lebanon will be delivered
—all that cypress and oak and pine—
To give a splendid elegance to my Sanctuary,
as I make my footstool glorious.
The descendants of your oppressor
will come bowing and scraping to you.
All who looked down at you in contempt
will lick your boots.
They’ll confer a title on you: City of God,
Zion of The Holy of Israel.
Not long ago you were despised refuse—
out-of-the-way, unvisited, ignored.
But now I’ve put you on your feet,
towering and grand forever, a joy to look at!
When you suck the milk of nations
and the breasts of royalty,
You’ll know that I, God, am your Savior,
your Redeemer, Champion of Jacob.
I’ll give you only the best—no more hand-me-downs!
Gold instead of bronze, silver instead of iron,
bronze instead of wood, iron instead of stones.
I’ll install Peace to run your country,
make Righteousness your boss.
There’ll be no more stories of crime in your land,
no more robberies, no more vandalism.
You’ll name your main street Salvation Way,
and install Praise Park at the center of town.
You’ll have no more need of the sun by day
nor the brightness of the moon at night.
God will be your eternal light,
your God will bathe you in splendor.
Your sun will never go down,
your moon will never fade.
I will be your eternal light.
Your days of grieving are over.
All your people will live right and well,
in permanent possession of the land.
They’re the green shoot that I planted,
planted with my own hands to display my glory.
The runt will become a great tribe,
the weakling become a strong nation.
I am God.
At the right time I’ll make it happen.”