For the choir director: A psalm of Asaph, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument. Sing praises to God, our strength. Sing to the God of Israel.
Sing! Beat the tambourine. Play the sweet lyre and the harp.
Sound the trumpet for a sacred feast when the moon is new, when the moon is full.
For this is required by the laws of Israel; it is a law of the God of Jacob.
He made it a decree for Israel when he attacked Egypt to set us free. I heard an unknown voice that said,
"Now I will relieve your shoulder of its burden; I will free your hands from their heavy tasks.
You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud. I tested your faith at Meribah, when you complained that there was no water. Interlude
"Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings. O Israel, if you would only listen!
You must never have a foreign god; you must not bow down before a false god.
For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
"But no, my people wouldn't listen. Israel did not want me around.
So I let them follow their blind and stubborn way, living according to their own desires.
But oh, that my people would listen to me! Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths!
How quickly I would then subdue their enemies! How soon my hands would be upon their foes!
Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him; their desolation would last forever.
But I would feed you with the best of foods. I would satisfy you with wild honey from the rock."
A psalm of Asaph. God presides over heaven's court; he pronounces judgment on the judges:
"How long will you judges hand down unjust decisions? How long will you shower special favors on the wicked? Interlude
"Give fair judgment to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
But these oppressors know nothing; they are so ignorant! And because they are in darkness, the whole world is shaken to the core.
I say, 'You are gods and children of the Most High.
But in death you are mere men. You will fall as any prince, for all must die.'"
Rise up, O God, and judge the earth, for all the nations belong to you.
A psalm of Asaph. A song. O God, don't sit idly by, silent and inactive!
Don't you hear the tumult of your enemies? Don't you see what your arrogant enemies are doing?
They devise crafty schemes against your people, laying plans against your precious ones.
"Come," they say, "let us wipe out Israel as a nation. We will destroy the very memory of its existence."
This was their unanimous decision. They signed a treaty as allies against you --
these Edomites and Ishmaelites, Moabites and Hagrites,
Gebalites, Ammonites, and Amalekites, and people from Philistia and Tyre.
Assyria has joined them, too, and is allied with the descendants of Lot. Interlude
Do to them as you did to the Midianites or as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the Kishon River.
They were destroyed at Endor, and their decaying corpses fertilized the soil.
Let their mighty nobles die as Oreb and Zeeb did. Let all their princes die like Zebah and Zalmunna,
for they said, "Let us seize for our own use these pasturelands of God!"
O my God, blow them away like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind!
As a fire roars through a forest and as a flame sets mountains ablaze,
chase them with your fierce storms; terrify them with your tempests.
Utterly disgrace them until they submit to your name, O LORD.
Let them be ashamed and terrified forever. Make them failures in everything they do,
until they learn that you alone are called the LORD, that you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth.
"Well," you may say, "those branches were broken off to make room for me."
Yes, but remember -- those branches, the Jews, were broken off because they didn't believe God, and you are there because you do believe. Don't think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen.
For if God did not spare the branches he put there in the first place, he won't spare you either.
Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe to those who disobeyed, but kind to you as you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off.
And if the Jews turn from their unbelief, God will graft them back into the tree again. He has the power to do it.
For if God was willing to take you who were, by nature, branches from a wild olive tree and graft you into his own good tree -- a very unusual thing to do -- he will be far more eager to graft the Jews back into the tree where they belong.
I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud and start bragging. Some of the Jews have hard hearts, but this will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to Christ.
And so all Israel will be saved. Do you remember what the prophets said about this? "A Deliverer will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel from all ungodliness.
And then I will keep my covenant with them and take away their sins."
Many of the Jews are now enemies of the Good News. But this has been to your benefit, for God has given his gifts to you Gentiles. Yet the Jews are still his chosen people because of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
For God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.
Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the Jews refused his mercy, God was merciful to you instead.
And now, in the same way, the Jews are the rebels, and God's mercy has come to you. But someday they, too, will share in God's mercy.
For God has imprisoned all people in their own disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.
Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!
For who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who knows enough to be his counselor?
And who could ever give him so much that he would have to pay it back?
For everything comes from him; everything exists by his power and is intended for his glory. To him be glory evermore. Amen.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)