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.
161And so it was appropriate that these people were punished by such creatures — tormented by swarms of them.
But you, O Lord, did not punish your people in this way; instead, you showed them kindness. You sent them quails to eat, a rare, delicious food to satisfy their hunger. 3You did all this so that the idolators, when they were hungry, would be unable to eat because of the disgusting creatures sent to them. Your people, however, suffered hunger for only a short while, and then they ate the finest food. 4It was necessary for the oppressors to suffer relentless need, while your people saw how their enemies were being tormented.
When terrible, fierce snakes attacked your people and were killing them with their poison, you did not remain angry long enough to destroy your people. 6This trouble lasted for only a little while, as a warning. Then you gave them a healing symbol, the bronze snake, to remind them of what your Law requires. 7If a person looked at that symbol, he was cured of the snakebite — not by what he saw, but by you, the saviour of all mankind. 8By doing this, you also convinced our enemies that you are the one who rescues people from every evil. 9Our enemies died from the bites of locusts and flies; no way was found to cure them, because they deserved to be punished by such creatures. 10But even poisonous snakes could not overcome your people, because you had mercy, helped them, and cured them. 11They were bitten so that they would remember your commands, but they were quickly rescued, in order to keep them from forgetting you completely and depriving themselves of your kindness. 12No medicine or ointment cured them. They were restored to health by your word, O Lord, the word which heals all humanity. 13You have power over life and death; you can bring a person to the brink of death and back again. 14A wicked person may kill someone, but cannot bring the dead person back to life or rescue a soul imprisoned in the world of the dead.
15No one can possibly escape from you. 16Look at those ungodly people: they refused to recognize you as God, so you punished them with your great power. They were overtaken by terrible storms of rain and hail and were completely destroyed by fire. 17The most amazing thing was that the fire burned all the more fiercely in the water, which usually puts fire out. All the forces of nature fight to defend those who are righteous. 18At one point the flames died down, so that they wouldn't destroy the creatures sent to punish the ungodly. Those people had to learn that they were being overtaken by your judgement. 19But at another point, when surrounded by water, the flames burned more fiercely than fire had ever burned before, and so destroyed the crops on the land where those unrighteous people lived.
But this disaster did not strike your people. Instead, you gave them the food of angels. From heaven you sent down bread that was ready to eat, and they did not have to prepare it. The food you gave delighted everyone, no matter what his taste. 21All this showed how lovingly you care for your children. That food satisfied the desire of everyone who ate it; it was changed to suit each person's taste. 22It was food that under normal circumstances would vanish away like snow or ice, but now it did not melt even in the fire. This was meant to teach your people that the same fire that was destroying their enemies' crops during the heavy downpour of rain and hail 23held back its power, so that your own righteous people might have food.
24You created the universe; it is at your command. All creation uses its power to punish unrighteous people, but it becomes mild and kind to those who put their trust in you. 25Creation assumed all kinds of forms to show how you provide generously for all who pray to you.16.25 pray to you; or are in need. 26This happened so that the people whom you loved, O Lord, might learn that they are not fed by what they can grow. It is your word that maintains those who put their trust in you. 27The food that was not destroyed by the fire melted when the first ray of sunlight warmed it. 28This was to teach us that we must get up before daybreak to give you thanks, and pray as the sun comes up. 29But an ungrateful person's hope will melt away like frost, and drain away like water that is not being used.
171O Lord, your acts of judgement are marvellous and hard to explain; that is why people who had not been taught about them went astray. 2When lawless people imagined that they had your holy nation in their power, they were themselves imprisoned in a long night of darkness. They lay in their own houses, shut off from your eternal care. 3They thought that their sins had been secret and unnoticed, shielded from view by a dark curtain of forgetfulness, but now they were horribly afraid, confused, and terrified by ghostly forms. 4Not even the dark corners where they lay could protect them from fear. They were surrounded by horrible noises; grim ghosts with gloomy faces appeared before their eyes. 5No fire had power to give them light, and the brilliant stars could do nothing to relieve that deathly darkness. 6There was only a dreadful fire, lit by no human hand, that shone on them, and in their terror they believed that the real world was even worse than the things they imagined. 7The illusions produced by their magic tricks were put to shame, and all the wisdom they had boasted of came to nothing. 8They had claimed they could drive away all the fears and illnesses of sick minds, but now they themselves were sick with silly, groundless fears. 9Even though nothing dangerous had actually happened, they were terrified by hissing snakes and animals advancing on them. 10And so they died, shaking with fear, afraid even to open their eyes, yet unable to keep them shut.
11Wickedness is cowardly in itself and stands self-condemned.17.11 Wickedness… self-condemned; Greek unclear. Someone with a guilty conscience will always imagine things to be worse than they really are. 12Fear is nothing but the failure to use the help that reason gives. 13When you lack the confidence to rely on reason, you give in to the fears caused by ignorance.
14All night long those people slept the same restless sleep, even though the night held no power over them, since it came from the powerless depths of the world of the dead. 15They were chased by hideous forms and lay paralysed as they surrendered themselves to the sudden, unexpected fear that came over them. 16People would suddenly collapse and lie locked in the chains of their own fear. 17Farmers, shepherds, and labourers out in the countryside were captured by the same inevitable fate and bound in the darkness by the same invisible chain. 18-19They were panic-stricken by the sighing of the wind or by the singing of birds in the trees or by the roar of rushing water or by the rumble of falling rocks or by the sound of unseen creatures running about or by the savage roaring of wild animals or by the echoes from the mountains. 20In the full light of day, the rest of the world went about its business undisturbed. 21Only those people were covered by this heavy night, a foretaste of the darkness of death that was waiting for them. They were a burden to themselves that was even heavier than the darkness.