6 I have stationed watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem.
Day and night, they never stop calling out.
You, too, must not rest or grow silent;
keep reminding the Eternal to watch over Jerusalem.
7 Tirelessly pester God—give Him no rest—until He reestablishes Jerusalem
and makes it worthy of praise throughout the whole world.
8 The Eternal has promised with all divine power and might:
Eternal One: I will never again turn over your assets to your enemies,
never feed them from your grain stores
Or give them the wine you have labored to produce.
9 Instead, those who harvest the grain will eat its bounty,
and offer praise to the Eternal;
And those who gather the grapes will drink of their richness
in the courtyards outside the temple.
10 So ready yourselves to pass through the gates, from old to new.
Clear the way for the people;
Make it clear, easy, and straight.
Unfurl the banners that proclaim these people are renewed!
11 For none other than the Eternal has announced for all to hear—
A divine drama is played out with the chorus on one side, the soloist on the other. The “people” ask a question, and God rings out a response. Dramatic, to say the least. What trials and tribulations the Israelites have been through! What highs and lows! It is all God’s doing in response to their faithlessness. But this is history, and now they find themselves living and working in a brand new time; a new day is coming—of restoration, peace, and glorious reputation for God’s people such as they’ve never had before. The renewal is international in scope, without peer in the world. And this, too, is God’s doing. His capacity for mercy is great. He loves His people beyond comprehension. This is why He should be recognized and appreciated by all as the one True God. He keeps saving and delivering, restoring and supporting the people, just as God has done since that moment of binding promise made so long ago.
Eternal One: Say to the daughter of Zion
“See, your salvation is coming; your liberation is on the way—
God’s reward is with Him: His work is by His side.”
12 And they will be called “The Holy People, Redeemed by the Eternal”;
Jerusalem’s new name will be “Desirable City, No Longer Forsaken.”
63 Who comes with long, strong strides, marching in strength
from Edom, from Bozrah?
Who is coming, with such grand clothes, steeped in crimson and awesome to see?
Eternal One: It is I, the Eternal, who in righteousness declares victory.
I am coming with great power and I’m ready to save.
2 And why are all your clothes red,
as if you’ve been stomping on the grapes in the winepress?
3 Eternal One: And so I have. I have pressed by Myself.
No one was with Me. In my anger, I trampled them;
In my fury, I alone squashed them till their blood soaked my clothes
and stained everything I wore.
4 For it was time for Me to act, time for Me to pay back My enemies
in response to their actions—My time to set things right again.
5 But I looked and there was no one to help.
I was amazed, but none was ready to offer support.
So I had to do it alone, and I did;
My own power brought salvation; My own wrath energized Me.
6 I stomped and squashed them furiously.
I made them reel and stagger on the wine of My anger,
And I spilled their blood on the ground.
7 So let me remind you of the Eternal’s enduring love, and why we should praise Him.
Let me tell you again how the Eternal gives and gives and gives.
All God’s wonders and goodness are done for Israel’s benefit
according to His great mercy and compassion.
8 Eternal One: Surely, these are My people, and they will be true to Me.
My children will not try to deceive Me.
And indeed, God became their Savior.
9 And when they suffered, God suffered too;
And the messenger of His presence acted to save them.
Out of enduring love, compassion, and concern,
God Himself rescued them. Through all those years long ago,
God picked them up and carried them through.
10 But they rebelled and ran away;
they turned their backs on Him and grieved His Holy Spirit.
And then, God turned against them, became their enemy,
went after them, and took them on.
11 Then they remembered Moses and those days long ago:
Where is the One who brought them safely through the perils of the sea
With the shepherd of His flock leading them?
Where is the One who sent His Holy Spirit among the people?
12 Where is the God who put His power in Moses’ right hand
and divided the waters before the Israelites,
Making an everlasting name for Himself as the true and living God?
13 Where is the One who led them through the sea?
Like a horse in the desert, they never stumbled.
14 Like cattle that move down to find rest in the valley,
the Spirit of the Eternal led them to rest.
You did that for Your people and gained a glorious reputation in the world.
15 People: Look down from heaven—
peer down from that sacred, magnificent place where You live.
What happened to Your passion, love, and compassion that sought us out?
Where are Your powerful actions that used to support us?
16 Even though Abraham would not know us and Israel would disown us,
You are our Father!
Nevertheless, from way back,
You, the Eternal, are our Father;
we have called You our Redeemer from long ago.
17 O Eternal One, why do You make us wander off and direct our minds
and harden our hearts, so that we no longer respect You?
Please come back to us, for we are Your servants;
we are the tribes that have been Yours through the generations.
18 For such a short time Your holy people possessed Your holy place in Jerusalem;
then our enemies invaded and trampled all over it.
19 We’ve become like strangers to You,
like people You never ruled,
Like those never associated with Your name.
64 If only You would rip open the heavens
and come down to earth—
Its heights and depths would quake the moment You appear,
2 Like kindling when it just begins to catch fire, or like water that’s about to boil.
If only You would come like that so that all who deny or hate You
Would know who You are and be terrified of Your grandeur.
The prophet is convinced that there is no hope apart from God’s decisive action. It is not enough to address God’s people and the nations and urge them to do better next time. The world cannot be repaired this way; in fact, it can’t be repaired from below at all. It must be made new from above. So the prophet turns to God and utters a prayer, “Rip open the heavens. Come down. Strike your enemies with terror. Do for us what You did for Your people in times past.” This is what it will take to restore God’s people, illumine the nations, and repair a world desperately broken by sin.
3 We remember that long ago You did amazing things for us
that we had never dreamed You’d do.
You came down, and the mountains shook at Your presence.
4 Nothing like that had ever happened before—no eye had ever seen,
and no ear had ever heard such wonders,
But You did them then for the sake of Your people, for those who trusted in You.
5 You meet whoever tries with sincerity of purpose to do what You want—
to do justice and follow in Your ways.
But You became so angry when we rebelled and committed all sorts of wrongs;
we have continued in our sins for a long time. So how can we be saved?
6 We are all messed up like a person compromised with impurity;
even all our right efforts are like soiled rags.
We’re drying up like a leaf in autumn and are blown away by wrongdoing.
7 And it’s so sad because no one calls out to You
or even bothers to approach You anymore.
You’ve been absent from us too long;
You left us to dissolve away in the acrid power of our sins.
8 Still, Eternal One, You are our Father.
We are just clay, and You are the potter.
We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth.
9 Don’t be so angry anymore, O Eternal;
don’t always remember our wrongs.
Please, look around and see that we are all Your people.
10 The places that You sanctified are reduced to nothing.
Zion is a wasteland; Jerusalem sits in eerie desolation.
11 Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors worshiped You,
has been burned to the ground;
Everything we loved is ruined by our enemies,
a smoking pile of ash and debris.
12 Now with all this, Eternal, will You just stand by and watch?
will You keep silent and let us continue to suffer?
65 Eternal One: I was ready and willing to help before anyone even asked.
I was found by people who did not seek Me;
I showed My face and said, “Here I am! I am right here!”
to a nation which did not call on Me.[a]
2 I kept extending Myself to a people who don’t care a whit.
All day long I opened my hands to those who constantly work against Me,
Those busy pursuing their own rotten path, inspired by their own rotten schemes.[b]
3 These people continue to insult Me, right to My face,
pursuing other gods, sacrificing in gardens
And offering incense on altars made of bricks.
4 They sit among the graves and spend their nights in secret rituals;
they eat the flesh of pigs and pollute their pots with unclean meats.
5 They have the gall to say, “Oooh, not so close! I am holier than you!”
These unholy people are smoke in My nostrils,
A fire that burns and burns all day.
6 Look and see what stands written before Me:
“I will not remain silent and watch this disgrace;
But I will pay them back for what they have done.
I will pour their pay directly into their laps.
7 They will pay for their sins and the sins of their parents too.
For they turned to other gods, burned incense on the mountains
And insulted Me on the hillsides.
I will bring everything they deserve back to them, to their very core.”
8 This is what the Eternal has to say:
Eternal One: It’s like noticing the promise of new wine in a cluster of grapes.
One will say, “Don’t destroy them all; some of them are bound to be good.”
So for the sake of My servants,
I won’t destroy absolutely everyone.
9 But I will bring up children from Jacob’s line to inherit this land.
To Jacob’s son Judah I will give My mountains.
These, My chosen ones, will inherit it;
these, My servants, will live there and call it home.
10 From the plains of Sharon to the valley of Achor,
My people—who look to Me and no other—
Will have pasture for their sheep
and safe places for their herds.
11 But those of you who ignore Me, the Eternal One—
who turn away from My sanctuaries
And reject My holy mountain
to chase Lady Luck and cater to Destiny—
12 Will find yourselves a bit unlucky and your destiny an early death.
You’ll bow down and be killed like sheep brought to the slaughter
Because when I called you, you did not answer;
when I spoke, you refused to listen.
Instead you did all the wrong things and made terrible choices—
what I expressly said that I hate.
13 So this is what the Lord, the Eternal, has to say:
Eternal One: My servants will eat and eat well, while you go hungry;
My servants will drink and be satisfied, while you are parched with thirst;
My servants will celebrate with joy, while you are put to shame.
14 My servants will sing with gladness in their hearts,
While you cry out in anguish and despair and bemoan your brokenness.
15 And when you are gone, your name will become a curse—
a repugnant byword—to My chosen people;
The Eternal God will put you to death
and call His servants by a new name altogether.
16 Whoever speaks a blessing in this special land
will invoke the God of truth;
Whoever takes a vow in the land of promise
will make his pledge by the God of truth.
For the bitterness and pain of earlier times will nevermore come to mind;
they’ll be hidden even from My eyes, God says.
17 Eternal One: Now look here!
I am creating new heavens and a new earth.
The weary and painful past will be as if it never happened.
No one will talk or even think about it anymore.
18 So take joy and celebrate with unending gladness
on account of what I am creating.
Look carefully! I am making this place I’ve chosen, this Jerusalem, a city of joy.
I’m making her citizens, My people, a people of gladness.
19 This Jerusalem, My pride and joy, and her people will be a delight to Me.
Though you listen at every corner,
You will never hear crying, never hear despair or grief.
20 Never again will a person not live a full life,
for the young will live to be a hundred
And any who die earlier will be considered cursed.
21 People will confidently build houses and make them their homes;
they will plant vineyards and enjoy their fruit for years to come.
22 They won’t worry that someone else will come along, drive them out,
and take it all away.
For My people will live as long as these age-old trees;
My chosen will use up and wear out whatever they make.
23 They will not work hard for what others take away;
they will not lose children to sudden terror and death.
For they are the offspring of those blessed by the Eternal;
they and their descendants will enjoy God’s blessings.
24 I’ll anticipate their prayers and respond before they know it;
even as they speak, I will hear.
25 But they’ll all eat together like friends—wolf and lamb, lion and ox,
and the biting snake will feed on dust.
When that day arrives, there will be no evil, no violence, no hurt or wrong
in all My sacred mountain.
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy your way. He will visit soon so that he may report to me how you are doing. To hear all that is going on with you will truly encourage my heart. 20 There is no one like Timothy. What sets him apart from others is his deep concern for you and your spiritual journey. This is rare, my friends, 21 for most people only care about themselves, not about what is dear to the heart of Jesus the Anointed. 22 You know Timothy is genuine in the Lord’s ways. He has been a faithful partner to me as we express the good news, as much as my own flesh and blood would have been. 23 I expect to send him soon, and I will as soon as I see how things turn out here. 24 I trust in the Lord that it won’t be very long before I can come and be with you in person.
25 But for now, I think it is best to send Epaphroditus home to you. He has become my dear brother in the Lord. We have worked well together and fought great battles together, and he was an encouraging minister to me in my time of need. 26 He could not wait to see you all. He was concerned for you when he found out you knew how sick he really was. 27 In fact, he nearly died. But once again, God was exceedingly kind and covered him with His mercy. And I, too, by His mercy, have been spared sorrow on top of sorrow.
28 I am so excited to be sending him back to you! I can picture the joy on your faces when he arrives; I can feel my worries falling away. 29 Welcome him joyfully in the Lord. Esteem all spiritual leaders like Epaphroditus 30 because he placed his life in grave danger for the work of the Anointed; he risked his life to serve me when you couldn’t.
Many of the psalms in Book Three (Psalms 73–89) are attributed to Asaph. He was a Levite musician appointed by David to lead the worship that surrounded the covenant chest in the congregation tent (1 Chronicles 16:4–6). Asaph and his descendants continued this work through much of Israel’s history, specifically when Solomon dedicated the temple (2 Chronicles 5:12), when Josiah revived the worship of the Eternal One in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 35:15), and when Ezra and Nehemiah dedicated the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 12:35).
The psalms attributed to Asaph were liturgical, that is, they were chanted or sung as a part of the regular worship of God in the temple by the priests, Levites, and perhaps other worshipers too. Whether songs of lament, requests for guidance, or pleas for mercy, these psalms were sung in the one place God would hear them best—at His temple—the nexus between heaven and earth.
A song of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to His people, Israel,
to those with pure hearts.
2 Though I know this is true, I almost lost my footing;
yes, my steps were on slippery ground.
3 You see, there was a time when I envied arrogant men
and thought, “The wicked look pretty happy to me.”
4 For they seem to live carefree lives, free of suffering;
their bodies are strong and healthy.
5 They don’t know trouble as we do;
they are not plagued with problems as the rest of us are.
6 They’ve got pearls of pride strung around their necks;
they clothe their bodies with violence.
7 They have so much more than enough.
Their eyes bulge because they are so fat with possessions.
They have more than their hearts could have ever imagined.
8 There is nothing sacred, and no one is safe.
Vicious sarcasm drips from their lips;
they bully and threaten to crush their enemies.
9 They even mock God as if He were not above;
their arrogant tongues boast throughout the earth; they feel invincible.
10 Even God’s people turn and are carried away by them;
they watch and listen, yet find no fault in them.
11 You will hear them say, “How can the True God possibly know anyway? He’s not even here.
So how can the Most High have any knowledge of what happens here?”
12 Let me tell you what I know about the wicked:
they are comfortably at rest while their wealth is growing and growing.
13 Oh, let this not be me! It seems I have scrubbed my heart to keep it clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
And for what? Nothing.
14 For all day long, I am being punished,
each day awakening to stern chastisement.
15 If I had said to others these kinds of things about the plight of God’s good people,
then I know I would have betrayed the next generation.
16 Trying to solve this mystery on my own exhausted me;
I couldn’t bear to look at it any further.
17 So I took my questions to the True God,
and in His sanctuary I realized something so chilling and final: their lives have a deadly end.
18 Because You have certainly set the wicked upon a slippery slope,
You’ve set them up to slide to their destruction.
19 And they won’t see it coming. It will happen so fast:
first, a flash of terror, and then desolation.
20 It is like a dream from which someone awakes.
You will wake up, Lord, and loathe what has become of them.
21 You see, my heart overflowed with bitterness and cynicism;
I felt as if someone stabbed me in the back.
22 But I didn’t know the truth;
I have been acting like a stupid animal toward You.
23 But look at this: You are still holding my right hand;
You have been all along.
24 Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice;
when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory.
25 For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven.
There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You.
26 I admit how broken I am in body and spirit,
but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever.
27 It will happen: whoever shuns You will be silenced forever;
You will bring an end to all who refuse to be true to You.
28 But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good.
O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe—
I will tell everyone what You have done.
Our world is all too familiar with violence and its victims. It’s easy to look the other way, pretend we didn’t see it, hope it goes away, or live in denial. Perhaps we are numbed to real violence because we are so entertained by the onslaught of it in modern media. But the violence in our homes, across our cities, and throughout the world is very real. Every day someone is beaten, captured, raped, enslaved, shot, robbed, stabbed, or run over. Wisdom calls us to step into those places and help those marching off to their deaths. God knows what we know. He knows what is in our hearts.
13 My son, eat honey—it’s good for you;
the honey that drips from the comb is sweet in your mouth.
14 Know, too, that wisdom is good for your soul:
if you find it, your reward will be a bright future
and an enduring hope!