The False Gods and the True God
10 1 Listen to the Message that God is sending your way, House of Israel. 2 Listen most carefully: "Don't take the godless nations as your models. Don't be impressed by their glamour and glitz, no matter how much they're impressed. 3 The religion of these peoples is nothing but smoke. An idol is nothing but a tree chopped down, then shaped by a woodsman's ax. 4 They trim it with tinsel and balls, use hammer and nails to keep it upright. 5 It's like a scarecrow in a cabbage patch - can't talk! Dead wood that has to be carried - can't walk! Don't be impressed by such stuff. It's useless for either good or evil." 6 All this is nothing compared to you, O God. You're wondrously great, famously great. 7 Who can fail to be impressed by you, King of the nations? It's your very nature to be worshiped! Look far and wide among the elite of the nations. The best they can come up with is nothing compared to you. 8 Stupidly, they line them up - a lineup of sticks, good for nothing but making smoke. 9 Gilded with silver foil from Tarshish, covered with gold from Uphaz, Hung with violet and purple fabrics - no matter how fancy the sticks, they're still sticks. 10 But God is the real thing - the living God, the eternal King. When he's angry, Earth shakes. Yes, and the godless nations quake. 11 "Tell them this: 'The stick gods who made nothing, neither sky nor earth, Will come to nothing on the earth and under the sky.'" 12 But it is God whose power made the earth, whose wisdom gave shape to the world, who crafted the cosmos. 13 He thunders, and rain pours down. He sends the clouds soaring. He embellishes the storm with lightnings, launches wind from his warehouse. 14 Stick-god worshipers looking mighty foolish, god-makers embarrassed by their handmade gods! Their gods are frauds - dead sticks, 15 deadwood gods, tasteless jokes. When the fires of judgment come, they'll be ashes. 16 But the Portion-of-Jacob is the real thing. He put the whole universe together And pays special attention to Israel. His name? God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
The Desolation of Judah
17 Grab your bags, all you who are under attack. 18 God has given notice: "Attention! I'm evicting Everyone who lives here, And right now - yes, right now! I'm going to press them to the limit, squeeze the life right out of them." 19 But it's a black day for me! Hopelessly wounded, I said, "Why, oh why did I think I could bear it?" 20 My house is ruined - the roof caved in. Our children are gone - we'll never see them again. No one left to help in rebuilding, no one to make a new start! 21 It's because our leaders are stupid. They never asked God for counsel, And so nothing worked right. The people are scattered all over. 22 But listen! Something's coming! A big commotion from the northern borders! Judah's towns about to be smashed, left to all the stray dogs and cats! 23 I know, God, that mere mortals can't run their own lives, That men and women don't have what it takes to take charge of life. 24 So correct us, God, as you see best. Don't lose your temper. That would be the end of us. 25 Vent your anger on the godless nations, who refuse to acknowledge you, And on the people who won't pray to you - The very ones who've made hash out of Jacob, yes, made hash And devoured him whole, people and pastures alike.
The Broken Covenant
11 1 The Message that came to Jeremiah from God: 2 "Preach to the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem. 3 Tell them this: 'This is God's Message, the Message of Israel's God to you. Anyone who does not keep the terms of this covenant is cursed. 4 The terms are clear. I made them plain to your ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt, out of the iron furnace of suffering. 5 This will provide the conditions in which I will be able to do what I promised your ancestors: to give them a fertile and lush land. And, as you know, that's what I did.'" "Yes, God," I replied. "That's true." 6 God continued: "Preach all this in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. Say, 'Listen to the terms of this covenant and carry them out! 7 I warned your ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt and I've kept up the warnings. I haven't quit warning them for a moment. I warned them from morning to night: "Obey me or else!" 8 But they didn't obey. They paid no attention to me. They did whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do it, until finally I stepped in and ordered the punishments set out in the covenant, which, despite all my warnings, they had ignored.'" 9 Then God said, "There's a conspiracy among the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. 10 They've plotted to reenact the sins of their ancestors - the ones who disobeyed me and decided to go after other gods and worship them. Israel and Judah are in this together, mindlessly breaking the covenant I made with their ancestors."
11 "Well, your God has something to say about this: Watch out! I'm about to visit doom on you, and no one will get out of it. You're going to cry for help but I won't listen. 12 Then all the people in Judah and Jerusalem will start praying to the gods you've been sacrificing to all these years, but it won't do a bit of good. 13 You've got as many gods as you have villages, Judah! And you've got enough altars for sacrifices to that impotent sex god Baal to put one on every street corner in Jerusalem!" 14 "And as for you, Jeremiah, I don't want you praying for this people. Nothing! Not a word of petition. Indeed, I'm not going to listen to a single syllable of their crisis-prayers." Promises and Pious Programs 15 "What business do the ones I love have figuring out how to get off the hook? And right in the house of worship! Do you think making promises and devising pious programs will save you from doom? Do you think you can get out of this by becoming more religious? 16 A mighty oak tree, majestic and glorious - that's how I once described you. But it will only take a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning to leave you a shattered wreck. 17 "I, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who planted you - yes, I have pronounced doom on you. Why? Because of the disastrous life you've lived, Israel and Judah alike, goading me to anger with your continuous worship and offerings to that sorry god Baal."
The Plot against Jeremiah
18 God told me what was going on. That's how I knew. You, God, opened my eyes to their evil scheming. 19 I had no idea what was going on - naive as a lamb being led to slaughter! I didn't know they had it in for me, didn't know of their behind-the-scenes plots: "Let's get rid of the preacher. That will stop the sermons! Let's get rid of him for good. He won't be remembered for long." 20 Then I said, "God-of-the-Angel-Armies, you're a fair judge. You examine and cross-examine human actions and motives. I want to see these people shown up and put down! I'm an open book before you. Clear my name." 21 That sent a signal to God, who spoke up: "Here's what I'll do to the men of Anathoth who are trying to murder you, the men who say, 'Don't preach to us in God's name or we'll kill you.' 22 Yes, it's God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaking. Indeed! I'll call them to account: Their young people will die in battle, their children will die of starvation, 23 and there will be no one left at all, none. I'm visiting the men of Anathoth with doom. Doomsday!"
Jeremiah's Complaint and God's Answer
12 1 You are right, O God, and you set things right. I can't argue with that. But I do have some questions: Why do bad people have it so good? Why do con artists make it big? 2 You planted them and they put down roots. They flourished and produced fruit. They talk as if they're old friends with you, but they couldn't care less about you. 3 Meanwhile, you know me inside and out. You don't let me get by with a thing! Make them pay for the way they live, pay with their lives, like sheep marked for slaughter. 4 How long do we have to put up with this - the country depressed, the farms in ruin - And all because of wickedness, these wicked lives? Even animals and birds are dying off Because they'll have nothing to do with God and think God has nothing to do with them. 5 "So, Jeremiah, if you're worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? And if you can't keep your wits during times of calm, what's going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood? 6 Those closest to you, your own brothers and cousins, are working against you. They're out to get you. They'll stop at nothing. Don't trust them, especially when they're smiling.
7 "I will abandon the House of Israel, walk away from my beloved people. I will turn over those I most love to those who are her enemies. 8 She's been, this one I held dear, like a snarling lion in the jungle, Growling and baring her teeth at me - and I can't take it anymore. 9 Has this one I hold dear become a preening peacock? But isn't she under attack by vultures? Then invite all the hungry animals at large, invite them in for a free meal! 10 Foreign, scavenging shepherds will loot and trample my fields, Turn my beautiful, well-cared-for fields into vacant lots of tin cans and thistles. 11 They leave them littered with junk - a ruined land, a land in lament. The whole countryside is a wasteland, and no one will really care. 12 "The barbarians will invade, swarm over hills and plains. The judgment sword of God will take its toll from one end of the land to the other. Nothing living will be safe. 13 They will plant wheat and reap weeds. Nothing they do will work out. They will look at their meager crops and wring their hands. All this the result of God's fierce anger!"
14 God's Message: "Regarding all the bad neighbors who abused the land I gave to Israel as their inheritance: I'm going to pluck them out of their lands, and then pluck Judah out from among them. 15 Once I've pulled the bad neighbors out, I will relent and take them tenderly to my heart and put them back where they belong, put each of them back in their home country, on their family farms. 16 Then if they will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to that god Baal, everything will go well for them. 17 But if they won't listen, then I'll pull them out of their land by the roots and cart them off to the dump. Total destruction!" God's Decree.
The Lesson from the Marred Girdle
13 1 God told me, "Go and buy yourself some linen shorts. Put them on and keep them on. Don't even take them off to wash them." 2 So I bought the shorts as God directed and put them on. 3 Then God told me, 4 "Take the shorts that you bought and go straight to Perath and hide them there in a crack in the rock." 5 So I did what God told me and hid them at Perath. 6 Next, after quite a long time, God told me, "Go back to Perath and get the linen shorts I told you to hide there." 7 So I went back to Perath and dug them out of the place where I had hidden them. The shorts by then had rotted and were worthless. 8 God explained, 9 "This is the way I am going to ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem - 10 a wicked bunch of people who won't obey me, who do only what they want to do, who chase after all kinds of no-gods and worship them. They're going to turn out as rotten as these old shorts. 11 Just as shorts clothe and protect, so I kept the whole family of Israel under my care" - God's Decree - "so that everyone could see they were my people, a people I could show off to the world and be proud of. But they refused to do a thing I said.
The Lesson from the Filled Bottles
12 "And then tell them this: 'God's Message, personal from the God of Israel: Every wine jug should be full of wine.' "And they'll say, 'Of course. We know that. Every wine jug should be full of wine!' 13 "Then you'll say, 'This is what God says: Watch closely. I'm going to fill every person who lives in this country - the kings who rule from David's throne, the priests, the prophets, the citizens of Jerusalem - with wine that will make them drunk. 14 And then I'll smash them, smash the wine-filled jugs - old and young alike. Nothing will stop me. Not an ounce of pity or mercy or compassion will slow me down. Every last drunken jug of them will be smashed!'" The Light You Always Took for Granted
Captivity Threatened for Judah's Impenitence
15 Then I said, Listen. Listen carefully: Don't stay stuck in your ways! It's God's Message we're dealing with here. 16 Let your lives glow bright before God before he turns out the lights, Before you trip and fall on the dark mountain paths. The light you always took for granted will go out and the world will turn black. 17 If you people won't listen, I'll go off by myself and weep over you, Weep because of your stubborn arrogance, bitter, bitter tears, Rivers of tears from my eyes, because God's sheep will end up in exile. 18 Tell the king and the queen-mother, "Come down off your high horses. Your dazzling crowns will tumble off your heads." 19 The villages in the Negev will be surrounded, everyone trapped, And Judah dragged off to exile, the whole country dragged to oblivion. 20 Look, look, Jerusalem! Look at the enemies coming out of the north! What will become of your flocks of people, the beautiful flocks in your care? 21 How are you going to feel when the people you've played up to, looked up to all these years Now look down on you? You didn't expect this? Surprise! The pain of a woman having a baby!
22 Do I hear you saying, "What's going on here? Why me?" The answer's simple: You're guilty, hugely guilty. Your guilt has your life endangered, your guilt has you writhing in pain. 23 Can an African change skin? Can a leopard get rid of its spots? So what are the odds on you doing good, you who are so long-practiced in evil? 24 "I'll blow these people away - like wind-blown leaves. 25 You have it coming to you. I've measured it out precisely." God's Decree. "It's because you forgot me and embraced the Big Lie, that so-called god Baal. 26 I'm the one who will rip off your clothes, expose and shame you before the watching world. 27 Your obsessions with gods, gods, and more gods, your goddess affairs, your god-adulteries. Gods on the hills, gods in the fields - every time I look you're off with another god. O Jerusalem, what a sordid life! Is there any hope for you!"