This is the one we made fun of. We thought he was a joke. What fools we were! We thought he was crazy to live the way he did, and when he died, we didn’t honor him. 5 And now here he is, one of God’s own children, with a place of his own among God’s people. 6 We were the ones who wandered off the right road. We never lived in the light of righteousness; we never caught the first glimmer of its light. 7 All our lives we wandered across unmarked deserts, instead of following the road which the Lord wanted us to travel. And this lawlessness led us to ruin. 8 We were so proud of ourselves—we bragged about how rich we were—and now, what good has it done us? 9 All those things are gone now; they have disappeared like a shadow, like something you hear and then forget.
10 A ship sails across the waves of the ocean, but when it is gone, it leaves no trace. You cannot tell it was ever there. 11 A bird flies through the air, but leaves no sign that it has been there. It speeds along, riding through the thin air by the force of its wings, leaving behind no trace of its passing. 12 An arrow splits the air when it is shot at a target, but at once the air closes up behind it, and no one can tell where it passed. 13 It is the same with us—we were born, and then we ceased to be. We left no sign of virtue behind us; we were destroyed by our wickedness.
14 What hope do wicked people have? Only the hope of straw blown about in the wind, the hope of ocean foam[a] that disappears in the storm, the hope of smoke in the breeze. Their hope lasts no longer than our memory of a guest who stays one day and leaves the next.
15 BUT THE RIGHTEOUS LIVE ON FOREVER. THE LORD WILL REWARD THEM; THE MOST HIGH WILL PROTECT THEM. 16 HE WILL GIVE THEM ROYAL SPLENDOR AND A MAGNIFICENT CROWN. HE WILL SHIELD THEM WITH HIS POWERFUL ARM. 17 HE WILL GO OUT INTO BATTLE DETERMINED TO DEFEAT HIS ENEMIES, AND USE THE CREATION ITSELF AS A WEAPON. 18 RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE HIS ARMOR, GENUINE JUSTICE WILL BE HIS HELMET, 19 HOLINESS WILL BE HIS INVINCIBLE SHIELD.20 HE WILL SHARPEN HIS STERN ANGER INTO A SWORD, AND THE FORCES OF NATURE WILL JOIN HIM IN BATTLE AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE FOOLISH ENOUGH TO OPPOSE HIM. 21 BOLTS OF LIGHTNING WILL STRIKE RIGHT ON TARGET, AS IF THE LORD HAD MADE A BOW OUT OF THE CLOUDS AND WAS SHOOTING ARROWS. 22 HAILSTONES WILL BEAT DOWN ON HIS ENEMIES WITH TERRIBLE FORCE. THE OCEANS AND RIVERS WILL COME RUSHING OVER THEM IN A DEVASTATING FLOOD. 23 GREAT WINDSTORMS WILL BLOW THEM AWAY LIKE STRAW. LAWLESSNESS WILL BE RUIN OF THE WHOLE WORLD. EVIL ACTIONS WILL CAUSE GOVERNMENTS TO FALL.