Praise

Once upon before time…

The story that began once upon before time… and ends in eternity.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth,  and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Now, the serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?”

The Woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’”

The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.”

When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.

Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on”—saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves.

When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: “Where are you?”

He said, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid.”

God said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?”

The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.”

God said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?”

“The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.”

God told the serpent:

“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed,
cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals,
Cursed to slink on your belly
and eat dirt all your life.
I’m declaring war between you and the Woman,
between your offspring and hers.
He’ll wound your head,
you’ll wound his heel.”

He told the Woman:

“I’ll multiply your pains in childbirth;
you’ll give birth to your babies in pain.
You’ll want to please your husband,
but he’ll lord it over you.”

He told the Man:

“Because you listened to your wife
and ate from the tree
That I commanded you not to eat from,
‘Don’t eat from this tree,’
The very ground is cursed because of you;
getting food from the ground
Will be as painful as having babies is for your wife;
you’ll be working in pain all your life long.
The ground will sprout thorns and weeds,
you’ll get your food the hard way,
Planting and tilling and harvesting,
sweating in the fields from dawn to dusk,
Until you return to that ground yourself, dead and buried;
you started out as dirt, you’ll end up dirt.”

The Man, known as Adam, named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all the living.

God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them.

God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

So God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they’d been made. He threw them out of the garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life.

 

“Friends, fathers, and brothers, the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before the move to Haran, and told him, ‘Leave your country and family and go to the land I’ll show you.’

“So he left the country of the Chaldees and moved to Haran. After the death of his father, he immigrated to this country where you now live, but God gave him nothing, not so much as a foothold. He did promise to give the country to him and his son later on, even though Abraham had no son at the time. God let him know that his offspring would move to an alien country where they would be enslaved and brutalized for four hundred years. ‘But,’ God said, ‘I will step in and take care of those slaveholders and bring my people out so they can worship me in this place.’

“Then he made a covenant with him and signed it in Abraham’s flesh by circumcision. When Abraham had his son Isaac, within eight days he reproduced the sign of circumcision in him. Isaac became father of Jacob, and Jacob father of twelve ‘fathers,’ each faithfully passing on the covenant sign.

“But then those ‘fathers,’ burning up with jealousy, sent Joseph off to Egypt as a slave. God was right there with him, though—he not only rescued him from all his troubles but brought him to the attention of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. He was so impressed with Joseph that he put him in charge of the whole country, including his own personal affairs.

“Later a famine descended on that entire region, stretching from Egypt to Canaan, bringing terrific hardship. Our hungry fathers looked high and low for food, but the cupboard was bare. Jacob heard there was food in Egypt and sent our fathers to scout it out. Having confirmed the report, they went back to Egypt a second time to get food. On that visit, Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers and introduced the Jacob family to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent for his father, Jacob, and everyone else in the family, seventy-five in all. That’s how the Jacob family got to Egypt.

“Jacob died, and our fathers after him. They were taken to Shechem and buried in the tomb for which Abraham paid a good price to the sons of Hamor.

“When the four hundred years were nearly up, the time God promised Abraham for deliverance, the population of our people in Egypt had become very large. And there was now a king over Egypt who had never heard of Joseph. He exploited our race mercilessly. He went so far as forcing us to abandon our newborn infants, exposing them to the elements to die a cruel death.

“In just such a time Moses was born, a most beautiful baby. He was hidden at home for three months. When he could be hidden no longer, he was put outside—and immediately rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, who mothered him as her own son. Moses was educated in the best schools in Egypt. He was equally impressive as a thinker and an athlete.

“When he was forty years old, he wondered how everything was going with his Hebrew kin and went out to look things over. He saw an Egyptian abusing one of them and stepped in, avenging his underdog brother by knocking the Egyptian flat. He thought his brothers would be glad that he was on their side, and even see him as an instrument of God to deliver them. But they didn’t see it that way. The next day two of them were fighting and he tried to break it up, told them to shake hands and get along with each other: ‘Friends, you are brothers, why are you beating up on each other?’

“The one who had started the fight said, ‘Who put you in charge of us? Are you going to kill me like you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ When Moses heard that, realizing that the word was out, he ran for his life and lived in exile over in Midian. During the years of exile, two sons were born to him.

“Forty years later, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to him in the guise of flames of a burning bush. Moses, not believing his eyes, went up to take a closer look. He heard God’s voice: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Frightened nearly out of his skin, Moses shut his eyes and turned away.

“God said, ‘Kneel and pray. You are in a holy place, on holy ground. I’ve seen the agony of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their groans. I’ve come to help them. So get yourself ready; I’m sending you back to Egypt.’

“This is the same Moses whom they earlier rejected, saying, ‘Who put you in charge of us?’ This is the Moses that God, using the angel flaming in the burning bush, sent back as ruler and redeemer. He led them out of their slavery. He did wonderful things, setting up God-signs all through Egypt, down at the Red Sea, and out in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to his congregation, ‘God will raise up a prophet just like me from your descendants.’ This is the Moses who stood between the angel speaking at Sinai and your fathers assembled in the wilderness and took the life-giving words given to him and handed them over to us, words our fathers would have nothing to do with.

“They craved the old Egyptian ways, whining to Aaron, ‘Make us gods we can see and follow. This Moses who got us out here miles from nowhere—who knows what’s happened to him!’ That was the time when they made a calf-idol, brought sacrifices to it, and congratulated each other on the wonderful religious program they had put together.

“God wasn’t at all pleased; but he let them do it their way, worship every new god that came down the pike—and live with the consequences, consequences described by the prophet Amos:

Did you bring me offerings of animals and grains
those forty wilderness years, O Israel?
Hardly. You were too busy building shrines
to war gods, to sex goddesses,
Worshiping them with all your might.
That’s why I put you in exile in Babylon.

“And all this time our ancestors had a tent shrine for true worship, made to the exact specifications God provided Moses. They had it with them as they followed Joshua, when God cleared the land of pagans, and still had it right down to the time of David. David asked God for a permanent place for worship. But Solomon built it.

“Yet that doesn’t mean that Most High God lives in a building made by carpenters and masons. The prophet Isaiah put it well when he wrote,

“Heaven is my throne room;
I rest my feet on earth.
So what kind of house
will you build me?” says God.
“Where I can get away and relax?
It’s already built, and I built it.”

“And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!”

God said, 

‘Turn back, fickle Israel.
I’m not just hanging back to punish you.
I’m committed in love to you.
My anger doesn’t seethe nonstop.
Just admit your guilt.
Admit your God-defiance.
Admit to your promiscuous life with casual partners,
pulling strangers into the sex-and-religion groves
While turning a deaf ear to me.’”
God’s Decree.
“Come back, wandering children!”
God’s Decree.
“I, yes I, am your true husband.
I’ll pick you out one by one—
This one from the city, these two from the country—
and bring you to Zion.
I’ll give you good shepherd-rulers who rule my way,
who rule you with intelligence and wisdom.”

“I planned what I’d say if you returned to me:
‘Good! I’ll bring you back into the family.
I’ll give you choice land,
land that the godless nations would die for.’
And I imagined that you would say, ‘Dear father!’
and would never again go off and leave me.
But no luck. Like a false-hearted woman walking out on her husband,
you, the whole family of Israel, have proven false to me.”
God’s Decree.

The sound of voices comes drifting out of the hills,
the unhappy sound of Israel’s crying,
Israel lamenting the wasted years,
never once giving her God a thought.
“Come back, wandering children!
I can heal your wanderlust!”

“We’re here! We’ve come back to you.
You’re our own true God!
All that popular religion was a cheap lie,
duped crowds buying up the latest in gods.
We’re back! Back to our true God,
the salvation of Israel.
The Fraud picked us clean, swindled us
of what our ancestors bequeathed us,
Gypped us out of our inheritance—
God-blessed flocks and God-given children.
We made our bed and now lie in it,
all tangled up in the dirty sheets of dishonor.
All because we sinned against our God,
we and our fathers and mothers.
From the time we took our first steps, said our first words,
we’ve been rebels, disobeying the voice of our God.”

God says:

“Can you produce your mother’s divorce papers
proving I got rid of her?
Can you produce a receipt
proving I sold you?
Of course you can’t.
It’s your sins that put you here,
your wrongs that got you shipped out.
So why didn’t anyone come when I knocked?
Why didn’t anyone answer when I called?
Do you think I’ve forgotten how to help?
Am I so decrepit that I can’t deliver?
I’m as powerful as ever,
and can reverse what I once did:
I can dry up the sea with a word,
turn river water into desert sand,
And leave the fish stinking in the sun,
stranded on dry land . . .
Turn all the lights out in the sky
and pull down the curtain.”

The first time God spoke to Hosea he said:

“Find a whore and marry her.
Make this whore the mother of your children.
And here’s why: This whole country
has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”

Hosea did it. He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim. She got pregnant and gave him a son.

Then God told him:

“Name him Jezreel. It won’t be long now before
I’ll make the people of Israel pay for the massacre at Jezreel.
I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel.
Payday is coming! I’m going to chop Israel’s bows and arrows
into kindling in the valley of Jezreel.”

Gomer got pregnant again. This time she had a daughter. God told Hosea:

“Name this one No-Mercy. I’m fed up with Israel.
I’ve run out of mercy. There’s no more forgiveness.
Judah’s another story. I’ll continue having mercy on them.
I’ll save them. It will be their God who saves them,
Not their armaments and armies,
not their horsepower and manpower.”

After Gomer had weaned No-Mercy, she got pregnant yet again and had a son. God said:

“Name him Nobody. You’ve become nobodies to me,
and I, God, am a nobody to you.

“But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader. There’ll be no stopping them—a great day in Jezreel!”

Look, Your Savior Comes!

Regarding Zion, I can’t keep my mouth shut,
regarding Jerusalem, I can’t hold my tongue,
Until her righteousness blazes down like the sun
and her salvation flames up like a torch.
Foreign countries will see your righteousness,
and world leaders your glory.
You’ll get a brand-new name
straight from the mouth of God.
You’ll be a stunning crown in the palm of God’s hand,
a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God.
No more will anyone call you Rejected,
and your country will no more be called Ruined.
You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight),
and your land Beulah (Married),
Because God delights in you
and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
For as a young man marries his virgin bride,
so your builder marries you,
And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride,
so your God is happy with you.

I’ve posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem.
Day and night they keep at it, praying, calling out,
reminding God to remember.
They are to give him no peace until he does what he said,
until he makes Jerusalem famous as the City of Praise.

God has taken a solemn oath,
an oath he means to keep:
“Never again will I open your grain-filled barns
to your enemies to loot and eat.
Never again will foreigners drink the wine
that you worked so hard to produce.
No. The farmers who grow the food will eat the food
and praise God for it.
And those who make the wine will drink the wine
in my holy courtyards.”

Walk out of the gates. Get going!
Get the road ready for the people.
Build the highway. Get at it!
Clear the debris,
hoist high a flag, a signal to all peoples!
Yes! God has broadcast to all the world:
“Tell daughter Zion, ‘Look! Your Savior comes,
Ready to do what he said he’d do,
prepared to complete what he promised.’”
Zion will be called new names: Holy People, God-Redeemed,
Sought-Out, City-Not-Forsaken.

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

“No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

“This is the crisis we’re in: God’s light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God’s light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God’s light so the work can be seen for the work of God it is.”

Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom’s friend, his ‘best man’ in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?

“Come here. I’ll show you the Bride, the Wife of the Lamb.” He took me away in the Spirit to an enormous, high mountain and showed me Holy Jerusalem descending out of Heaven from God, resplendent in the bright glory of God.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age.

Prologue

The Master, God, has given me
a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
and I didn’t go back to sleep,
didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
stood there and took it while they beat me,
held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
confident that I’ll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
socks and shirts, fodder for moths!

Who out there fears God,
actually listens to the voice of his servant?
For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going,
anyone groping in the dark,
Here’s what: Trust in God.
Lean on your God!
But if all you’re after is making trouble,
playing with fire,

Go ahead and see where it gets you.
Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames,
But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch.
I’ll hold your feet to those flames.

Committed to Seeking God

51 1-3 “Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living
and committed to seeking God.
Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
the quarry from which you were dug.
Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
but once I blessed him, he multiplied.
Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion,
comfort all her mounds of ruins.
I’ll transform her dead ground into Eden,
her moonscape into the garden of God,
A place filled with exuberance and laughter,
thankful voices and melodic songs.

4-6 “Pay attention, my people.
Listen to me, nations.
Revelation flows from me.
My decisions light up the world.
My deliverance arrives on the run,
my salvation right on time.
I’ll bring justice to the peoples.
Even faraway islands will look to me
and take hope in my saving power.
Look up at the skies,
ponder the earth under your feet.
The skies will fade out like smoke,
the earth will wear out like work pants,
and the people will die off like flies.
But my salvation will last forever,
my setting-things-right will never be obsolete.

7-8 “Listen now, you who know right from wrong,
you who hold my teaching inside you:
Pay no attention to insults, and when mocked
don’t let it get you down.
Those insults and mockeries are moth-eaten,
from brains that are termite-ridden,
But my setting-things-right lasts,
my salvation goes on and on and on.”

9-11 Wake up, wake up, flex your muscles, God!
Wake up as in the old days, in the long ago.
Didn’t you once make mincemeat of Rahab,
dispatch the old chaos-dragon?
And didn’t you once dry up the sea,
the powerful waters of the deep,
And then made the bottom of the ocean a road
for the redeemed to walk across?
In the same way God’s ransomed will come back,
come back to Zion cheering, shouting,
Joy eternal wreathing their heads,
exuberant ecstasies transporting them—
and not a sign of moans or groans.

What Are You Afraid of—or Who?

“I, I’m the One comforting you.
What are you afraid of—or who?
Some man or woman who’ll soon be dead?
Some poor wretch destined for dust?
You’ve forgotten me, God, who made you,
who unfurled the skies, who founded the earth.
And here you are, quaking like an aspen
before the tantrums of a tyrant
who thinks he can kick down the world.
But what will come of the tantrums?
The victims will be released before you know it.
They’re not going to die.
They’re not even going to go hungry.
For I am God, your very own God,
who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves,
named God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
I teach you how to talk, word by word,
and personally watch over you,
Even while I’m unfurling the skies,
setting earth on solid foundations,
and greeting Zion: ‘Welcome, my people!’”

So wake up! Rub the sleep from your eyes!
Up on your feet, Jerusalem!
You’ve drunk the cup God handed you,
the strong drink of his anger.
You drank it down to the last drop,
staggered and collapsed, dead-drunk.
And nobody to help you home,
no one among your friends or children
to take you by the hand and put you in bed.
You’ve been hit with a double dose of trouble
—does anyone care?
Assault and battery, hunger and death
—will anyone comfort?
Your sons and daughters have passed out,
strewn in the streets like stunned rabbits,
Sleeping off the strong drink of God’s anger,
the rage of your God.

Therefore listen, please,
you with your splitting headaches,
You who are nursing the hangovers
that didn’t come from drinking wine.
Your Master, your God, has something to say,
your God has taken up his people’s case:
“Look, I’ve taken back the drink that sent you reeling.
No more drinking from that jug of my anger!
I’ve passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you,
‘Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!’
And you had to do it. Flat on the ground,
you were the dirt under their feet.”

God Is Leading You Out of Here

Wake up, wake up! Pull on your boots, Zion!
Dress up in your Sunday best, Jerusalem, holy city!
Those who want no part of God have been culled out.
They won’t be coming along.
Brush off the dust and get to your feet, captive Jerusalem!

Throw off your chains, captive daughter of Zion!

God says, “You were sold for nothing. You’re being bought back for nothing.”

Again, the Master, God, says, “Early on, my people went to Egypt and lived, strangers in the land. At the other end, Assyria oppressed them. And now, what have I here?” God’s Decree. “My people are hauled off again for no reason at all. Tyrants on the warpath, whooping it up, and day after day, incessantly, my reputation blackened. Now it’s time that my people know who I am, what I’m made of—yes, that I have something to say. Here I am!”

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the messenger bringing good news,
Breaking the news that all’s well,
proclaiming good times, announcing salvation,
telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts,
shouting in joyful unison.
They see with their own eyes
God coming back to Zion.
Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:
“God has comforted his people!
He’s redeemed Jerusalem!”
God has rolled up his sleeves.
All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm.
Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,
sees him at work, doing his salvation work.

Out of here! Out of here! Leave this place!
Don’t look back. Don’t contaminate yourselves with plunder.
Just leave, but leave clean. Purify yourselves
in the process of worship, carrying the holy vessels of God.
But you don’t have to be in a hurry.
You’re not running from anybody!
God is leading you out of here,
and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.

It Was Our Pains He Carried

“Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn’t begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn’t even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.

He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

“Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
You’re ending up with far more children
than all those childbearing women.” God says so!
“Clear lots of ground for your tents!
Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
Use plenty of rope,
drive the tent pegs deep.
You’re going to need lots of elbow room
for your growing family.
You’re going to take over whole nations;
you’re going to resettle abandoned cities.
Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed.
Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.
You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth,
and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.
For your Maker is your bridegroom,
his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel,
known as God of the whole earth.
You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief,
and God welcomed you back,
Like a woman married young
and then left,” says your God.

Your Redeemer God says:

“I left you, but only for a moment.
Now, with enormous compassion, I’m bringing you back.
In an outburst of anger I turned my back on you—
but only for a moment.
It’s with lasting love
that I’m tenderly caring for you.

“This exile is just like the days of Noah for me:
I promised then that the waters of Noah
would never again flood the earth.
I’m promising now no more anger,
no more dressing you down.
For even if the mountains walk away
and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won’t walk away from you,
my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.”
The God who has compassion on you says so.

“Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied:
I’m about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
Lay your foundations with sapphires,
construct your towers with rubies,
Your gates with jewels,
and all your walls with precious stones.
All your children will have God for their teacher—
what a mentor for your children!
You’ll be built solid, grounded in righteousness,
far from any trouble—nothing to fear!
far from terror—it won’t even come close!
If anyone attacks you,
don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them,
And if any should attack,
nothing will come of it.

I saw an Angel descending out of Heaven. He carried the key to the Abyss and a chain—a huge chain. He grabbed the Dragon, that old Snake—the very Devil, Satan himself!—chained him up for a thousand years, dumped him into the Abyss, slammed it shut and sealed it tight. No more trouble out of him, deceiving the nations—until the thousand years are up. After that he has to be let loose briefly.

I saw thrones. Those put in charge of judgment sat on the thrones. I also saw the souls of those beheaded because of their witness to Jesus and the Word of God, who refused to worship either the Beast or his image, refused to take his mark on forehead or hand—they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years! The rest of the dead did not live until the thousand years were up. This is the first resurrection—and those involved most blessed, most holy. No second death for them! They’re priests of God and Christ; they’ll reign with him a thousand years.

When the thousand years are up, Satan will be let loose from his cell, and will launch again his old work of deceiving the nations, searching out victims in every nook and cranny of earth, even Gog and Magog! He’ll talk them into going to war and will gather a huge army, millions strong. They’ll stream across the earth, surround and lay siege to the camp of God’s holy people, the Beloved City. They’ll no sooner get there than fire will pour out of Heaven and burn them up. The Devil who deceived them will be hurled into Lake Fire and Brimstone, joining the Beast and False Prophet, the three in torment around the clock for ages without end.

Judgment

I saw a Great White Throne and the One Enthroned. Nothing could stand before or against the Presence, nothing in Heaven, nothing on earth. And then I saw all the dead, great and small, standing there—before the Throne! And books were opened. Then another book was opened: the Book of Life. The dead were judged by what was written in the books, by the way they had lived. Sea released its dead, Death and Hell turned in their dead. Each man and woman was judged by the way he or she had lived. Then Death and Hell were hurled into Lake Fire. This is the second death—Lake Fire. Anyone whose name was not found inscribed in the Book of Life was hurled into Lake Fire.

Standard