Tonight there were just two of us who met together for our weekly laity prayer group. We spend about a half hour each Tuesday praying for the ministries of the church and for the staff. Normally there are about 10 to 12 of us, but this week Cliff and I met alone.
He had been drawn to Isaiah 64 and shared it with me. His Bible was a version I had not seen before, one called The Message. This is a paraphrase version by Eugene Peterson. The language is considerably less formal and stiff than other versions which are translations rather than paraphrases.
Regardless of its pedigree, I found it speaking to me during our time together tonight. I especially liked "Since before time began no one has ever imagined, No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you;" and "We dry up like autumn leaves -- sin-dried, we're blown off by the wind."
Now, I'm not saying I believe that all the natural disasters the world is suffering are necessarily due to God's anger with mankind. Sometimes, the world just has earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other phenomena. But I do think it's good for us to remember that instead of bringing His wrath to bear on us, He's given us the gift of forgiveness if we will but accept it. And while He doesn't promise that everything will go just right for us, He does promise He will never forsake us or leave us alone.
So take a look at this, then compare it to your usual Bible, and see what you think of the language found in The Message.
Isaiah 64 (from The Message)
Can We Be Saved?
1 Oh, that you would rip open the heavens and descend,
make the mountains shudder at your presence--
2 As when a forest catches fire,
as when fire makes a pot to boil--
3 To shock your enemies into facing you,
make the nations shake in their boots!
You did terrible things we never expected,
descended and made the mountains shudder at your presence.
4 Since before time began
no one has ever imagined,
No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you
who works for those who wait for him.
5 You meet those who happily do what is right,
who keep a good memory of the way you work.
But how angry you've been with us!
We've sinned and kept at it so long!
Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?
6 We're all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
We dry up like autumn leaves--
sin-dried, we're blown off by the wind.
7 No one prays to you
or makes the effort to reach out to you
Because you've turned away from us,
left us to stew in our sins.
8 Still, GOD, you are our Father.
We're the clay and you're our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
9 Don't be too angry with us, O GOD.
Don't keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people--all of us.
10 Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
Zion's a ghost town,
Jerusalem's a field of weeds.
11 Our holy and beautiful Temple,
which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
12 In the face of all this,
are you going to sit there unmoved, GOD?
Aren't you going to say something?
Haven't you made us miserable long enough?