131Anyone who does not know God is simply foolish. Such people look at the good things around them and still fail to see the living God. They have studied the things he made, but they have not recognized the one who made them. 2Instead, they suppose that the gods who rule the world are fire or wind or storm or the circling stars or rushing water or the heavenly bodies. 3People were so delighted with the beauty of these things that they thought they must be gods, but they should have realized that these things have a master and that he is much greater than all of them, for he is the creator of beauty, and he created them. 4Since people are amazed at the power of these things, and how they behave, they ought to learn from them that their maker is far more powerful. 5When we realize how vast and beautiful the creation is, we are learning about the Creator at the same time.
6But maybe we are too harsh with these people. After all, they may have really wanted to find God, but they couldn't. 7Surrounded by God's works, they keep on looking at them, until they are finally convinced that because the things they see are so beautiful, they must be gods. 8But still, these people really have no excuse. 9If they had enough intelligence to speculate about the nature of the universe, why did they never find the Lord of all things?
But the most miserable people of all are those who rest their hopes on lifeless things, who worship things that have been made by human hands — images of animals artistically made from gold and silver, or some useless stone carved by someone long ago. 11A skilled woodworker may saw down some suitable tree, carefully strip off the bark, and then, with skilful craftsmanship, make from it an object that will serve some useful purpose. 12He will take the pieces left over and use them as firewood to cook a meal that he can sit down to and enjoy. 13But out of that scrap wood he may take one piece that isn't good for anything — maybe it's crooked and full of knots — and carefully carve it in his leisure time, using spare moments to shape it into the crude image of a person, 14or perhaps of some worthless animal. He paints it all over with red, covering up every flaw in the work. 15Then he prepares a suitable place in the wall for it and fastens it in place with iron nails. 16He is careful to keep it from falling, because he knows it is only an idol and needs help; it cannot help itself. 17But he is not ashamed to pray to this lifeless thing about his marriage, his children, and his possessions. 18It is weak, but he prays to it for health. It is dead, but he prays to it for life. It has no experience, but he prays to it for help. It cannot walk, but he prays to it for a successful journey. 19Its hands have no power, but he asks it to help him — in business, in making money, and in his work.
141In the same way, a man getting ready to sail on the raging sea will call for help from a piece of wood that is not as strong as the ship he is about to board. 2Someone designed the ship out of a desire for profit, and a craftsman built it with skill. 3But it is your care, O Father, that steers it; you give it a safe path through the waves of the sea. 4People may go to sea even if they have no skill, because you can save them from any danger. 5It is your will that the things you have made by your wisdom should be put to use. And so people can cross the sea in a boat and come safely to land, because they trust their lives to that small piece of wood.
6This is what happened in ancient times, when a proud race of giants was dying away. The hope of the world escaped on such a boat under your guidance and left the world a new generation to carry on the human race. 7A blessing was on Noah's wooden boat that allowed righteousness to survive, 8but a curse is on an idol made by human hands. A curse is also on the one who makes it, because he works on this perishable thing and then calls it a god. 9Ungodly people and these ungodly things they make are equally hated by God, 10who will punish both the things made and the people who made them. 11And so God's judgement will fall on pagan idols, because, even though they are made from something God created, they become horrible things that trap the souls of foolish people.
12Sexual immorality began when idols were invented. They have corrupted human life ever since they were first made. 13Idols have not always existed, nor will they exist for ever. 14It was human pride that brought them into the world, and that is why a quick end has been planned for them.
15Once there was a father who was overwhelmed with grief at the untimely death of his child, so he made an image of that child who had been suddenly taken from him. He then honoured a dead human being as a god, and handed on secret rituals and ceremonies to those who were under his authority. 16As time went on, this ungodly custom became stronger. Finally it became law, and idols were being worshipped at the command of powerful rulers. 17When people lived too far away to honour a ruler in his presence but were eager to pay honour to this absent king, they would imagine what he must look like, and would then make a likeness of him. 18The ambitious artists who made these likenesses caused this worship to spread, even among people who did not know the king. 19An artist might want to please some ruler, and so he would use his skill to make the likeness better looking than the actual person. 20Then people would be so attracted by the work of art, that the one whom they had earlier honoured now became the object of their worship. 21So all this became a deadly trap, because people who were grieving, or under royal authority, would take objects of stone or wood, and give them the honour reserved for the one God.
22One thing led to another. It was not enough to be wrong about the knowledge of God. They lived in a state of evil warfare, but they were so ignorant that they called it peace. 23They murdered children in their initiation rituals, celebrated secret mysteries, and held wild ceremonial orgies with unnatural practices. 24They no longer kept their lives or their marriages pure. A man might kill another by an act of treachery or cause him grief by committing adultery with his wife. 25Everything was a complete riot of bloody murder, robbery, deceit, corruption, faithlessness, disorder, falsehood, 26harassment of innocent people, ingratitude, moral decay, sexual perversion, broken marriages, adultery, and immorality. 27The worship of idols, whose names should never be spoken, is the beginning and the end, the cause and the result of every evil. 28People who worship them lose control of themselves in ecstasy, or pass off lies as prophecies, or live wickedly, or break their word without hesitation. 29They tell lies under oath and expect no punishment, because the idols they put their trust in are lifeless. 30But punishment will finally catch up with them, for two reasons: first, they were in error about God when they worshipped idols, and secondly, they had so little regard for holiness that they made false statements to deceive people. 31When unrighteous people commit sin, they will be hunted down, not by the power of whatever thing they swear by, but by the punishment that sinners deserve.
151But you, our God, are kind and true and patient. You rule the universe with mercy. 2Even if we sin, we know your power and are still yours. But because we know that we belong to you, we will not sin. 3Knowing you is perfect righteousness. Recognizing your power is where immortality begins. 4We have not been misled by any evil product of human skill, by any useless object painted by some artist, or by any idol smeared with different colours. 5The sight of such things arouses the passions of foolish people and makes them desire a dead, lifeless image. 6Anyone who makes such a thing or desires it or worships it is in love with something evil, and gets what he deserves when he places his hopes in it.
7A potter works the soft clay and carefully shapes each object for our use. Some things he makes are put to good use, and some are not, but he makes them all from the same clay, and shapes them in the same manner. The potter himself decides which objects shall be used for what purposes. 8He is a human being who was himself formed from earth only a short while earlier, and after a little while, when he must return the soul that was lent to him, he will go back to the same earth. He is a human being, but he wastes his labour shaping a useless god out of the same clay that he uses to make pots. 9His life will be short, and he will soon have to die, but he is not concerned about that. He wants to compete with those who work in gold, silver, and bronze, and make the same things as they do. He takes great pride in the things he makes, but they are counterfeit. 10His heart is made of ashes. His hope is cheaper than dirt. His life is not worth as much as his clay, 11because he never came to know the God who shaped him, who breathed into him an active soul and a living spirit. 12He thinks of human life as just a game, a market where he can make a profit. He believes that he must make money however he can, even by evil ways. 13This man, who makes idols and fragile pots from the same clay, knows better than anyone else that he is sinning.
14But the most foolish of all people, showing less sense than babies, were the enemies who oppressed your people, O Lord. 15They thought that all their pagan idols were gods, even though idols cannot see with their eyes, cannot breathe through their nose, cannot hear with their ears, cannot feel with their fingers, and cannot walk on their legs. 16Someone whose spirit is only borrowed made them. No one can ever make a god that is equal to a human being. 17Every person will die sooner or later, but anything he makes with his wicked hands is dead from the start. He himself is better than what he worships. He at least is alive, but what he worships is not, and never has been. 18Such people worship the most disgusting animals, including even the least intelligent ones. 19Even as animals they are not attractive enough to make anyone want them. God himself passed them by when he put his approval and blessing on the rest of creation.