4 1 "If you want to come back, O Israel, you must really come back to me. You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia and not wander away from me anymore. 2 Then you can say words like, 'As God lives . . . ' and have them mean something true and just and right. And the godless nations will get caught up in the blessing and find something in Israel to write home about."
3 Here's another Message from God to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: "Plow your unplowed fields, but then don't plant weeds in the soil! 4 Yes, circumcise your lives for God's sake. Plow your unplowed hearts, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem. Prevent fire - the fire of my anger - for once it starts it can't be put out. Your wicked ways are fuel for the fire. God's Sledgehammer Anger
Judah Threatened with Invasion
5 "Sound the alarm in Judah, broadcast the news in Jerusalem. Say, 'Blow the ram's horn trumpet through the land!' Shout out - a bullhorn bellow! - 'Close ranks! Run for your lives to the shelters!' 6 Send up a flare warning Zion: 'Not a minute to lose! Don't sit on your hands!' Disaster's descending from the north. I set it off! When it lands, it will shake the foundations. 7 Invaders have pounced like a lion from its cover, ready to rip nations to shreds, Leaving your land in wrack and ruin, your cities in rubble, abandoned. 8 Dress in funereal black. Weep and wail, For God's sledgehammer anger has slammed into us head-on. 9 "When this happens" - God's Decree - "King and princes will lose heart; priests will be baffled and prophets stand dumbfounded." 10 Then I said, "Alas, Master God! You've fed lies to this people, this Jerusalem. You assured them, 'All is well, don't worry,' at the very moment when the sword was at their throats." 11 At that time, this people, yes, this very Jerusalem, will be told in plain words: "The northern hordes are sweeping in from the desert steppes - 12 a gale-force wind. I ordered this wind. I'm pronouncing my hurricane judgment on my people." Your Evil Life Is Piercing Your Heart 13 Look at them! Like banks of storm clouds, racing, tumbling, their chariots a tornado, Their horses faster than eagles! Woe to us! We're done for! 14 Jerusalem! Scrub the evil from your lives so you'll be fit for salvation. How much longer will you harbor devious and malignant designs within you? 15 What's this? A messenger from Dan? Bad news from Ephraim's hills! 16 Make the report public. Broadcast the news to Jerusalem: "Invaders from far off are raising war cries against Judah's towns. 17 They're all over her, like a dog on a bone. And why? Because she rebelled against me." God's Decree. 18 "It's the way you've lived that's brought all this on you. The bitter taste is from your evil life. That's what's piercing your heart."
19 I'm doubled up with cramps in my belly - a poker burns in my gut. My insides are tearing me up, never a moment's peace. The ram's horn trumpet blast rings in my ears, the signal for all-out war. 20 Disaster hard on the heels of disaster, the whole country in ruins! In one stroke my home is destroyed, the walls flattened in the blink of an eye. 21 How long do I have to look at the warning flares, listen to the siren of danger? Experts at Evil 22 "What fools my people are! They have no idea who I am. A company of half-wits, dopes and donkeys all! Experts at evil but klutzes at good." 23 I looked at the earth - it was back to pre-Genesis chaos and emptiness. I looked at the skies, and not a star to be seen. 24 I looked at the mountains - they were trembling like aspen leaves, And all the hills rocking back and forth in the wind. 25 I looked - what's this! Not a man or woman in sight, and not a bird to be seen in the skies. 26 I looked - this can't be! Every garden and orchard shriveled up. All the towns were ghost towns. And all this because of God, because of the blazing anger of God. 27 Yes, this is God's Word on the matter: "The whole country will be laid waste - still it won't be the end of the world. 28 The earth will mourn and the skies lament Because I've given my word and won't take it back. I've decided and won't change my mind." You're Not Going to Seduce Anyone 29 Someone shouts, "Horsemen and archers!" and everybody runs for cover. They hide in ditches, they climb into caves. The cities are emptied, not a person left anywhere. 30 And you, what do you think you're up to? Dressing up in party clothes, Decking yourselves out in jewelry, putting on lipstick and rouge and mascara! Your primping goes for nothing. You're not going to seduce anyone. They're out to kill you! 31 And what's that I hear? The cry of a woman in labor, the screams of a mother giving birth to her firstborn. It's the cry of Daughter Zion, gasping for breath, reaching out for help: "Help, oh help me! I'm dying! The killers are on me!"
The Sins of Jerusalem and Judah
5 1 "Patrol Jerusalem's streets. Look around. Take note. Search the market squares. See if you can find one man, one woman, A single soul who does what is right and tries to live a true life. I want to forgive that person." God's Decree. 2 "But if all they do is say, 'As sure as God lives . . . ' they're nothing but a bunch of liars." 3 But you, God, you have an eye for truth, don't you? You hit them hard, but it didn't faze them. You disciplined them, but they refused correction. Hardheaded, harder than rock, they wouldn't change. 4 Then I said to myself, "Well, these are just poor people. They don't know any better. They were never taught anything about God. They never went to prayer meetings. I'll find some people from the best families. 5 I'll talk to them. They'll know what's going on, the way God works. They'll know the score." But they were no better! Rebels all! Off doing their own thing. 6 The invaders are ready to pounce and kill, like a mountain lion, a wilderness wolf, Panthers on the prowl. The streets aren't safe anymore. And why? Because the people's sins are piled sky-high; their betrayals are past counting. 7 "Why should I even bother with you any longer? Your children wander off, leaving me, Taking up with gods that aren't even gods. I satisfied their deepest needs, and then they went off with the 'sacred' whores, left me for orgies in sex shrines! 8 A bunch of well-groomed, lusty stallions, each one pawing and snorting for his neighbor's wife. 9 Do you think I'm going to stand around and do nothing?" God's Decree. "Don't you think I'll take serious measures against a people like this? Eyes That Don't Really Look, Ears That Don't Really Listen
10 "Go down the rows of vineyards and rip out the vines, but not all of them. Leave a few. Prune back those vines! That growth didn't come from God! 11 They've betrayed me over and over again, Judah and Israel both." God's Decree. 12 "They've spread lies about God. They've said, 'There's nothing to him. Nothing bad will happen to us, neither famine nor war will come our way. 13 The prophets are all windbags. They speak nothing but nonsense.'" 14 Therefore, this is what God said to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies: "Because they have talked this way, they are going to eat those words. Watch now! I'm putting my words as fire in your mouth. And the people are a pile of kindling ready to go up in flames. 15 "Attention! I'm bringing a far-off nation against you, O house of Israel." God's Decree. "A solid nation, an ancient nation, A nation that speaks another language. You won't understand a word they say. 16 When they aim their arrows, you're as good as dead. They're a nation of real fighters! 17 They'll clean you out of house and home, rob you of crops and children alike. They'll feast on your sheep and cattle, strip your vines and fig trees. And the fortresses that made you feel so safe - leveled with a stroke of the sword! 18 "Even then, as bad as it will be" - God's Decree! - "it will not be the end of the world for you. 19 And when people ask, 'Why did our God do all this to us?' you must say to them, 'It's tit for tat. Just as you left me and served foreign gods in your own country, so now you must serve foreigners in their own country.'
20 "Tell the house of Jacob this, put out this bulletin in Judah: 21 Listen to this, you scatterbrains, airheads, With eyes that see but don't really look, and ears that hear but don't really listen. 22 Why don't you honor me? Why aren't you in awe before me? Yes, me, who made the shorelines to contain the ocean waters. I drew a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. Waves roll in but cannot get through; breakers crash but that's the end of them. 23 But this people - what a people! Uncontrollable, untameable runaways. 24 It never occurs to them to say, 'How can we honor our God with our lives, The God who gives rain in both spring and autumn and maintains the rhythm of the seasons, Who sets aside time each year for harvest and keeps everything running smoothly for us?'
25 Of course you don't! Your bad behavior blinds you to all this. Your sins keep my blessings at a distance. To Stand for Nothing and Stand Up for No One 26 "My people are infiltrated by wicked men, unscrupulous men on the hunt. They set traps for the unsuspecting. Their victims are innocent men and women. 27 Their houses are stuffed with ill-gotten gain, like a hunter's bag full of birds. Pretentious and powerful and rich, 28 hugely obese, oily with rolls of fat. Worse, they have no conscience. Right and wrong mean nothing to them. They stand for nothing, stand up for no one, throw orphans to the wolves, exploit the poor. 29 Do you think I'll stand by and do nothing about this?" God's Decree. "Don't you think I'll take serious measures against a people like this? 30 "Unspeakable! Sickening! What's happened in this country? 31 Prophets preach lies and priests hire on as their assistants. And my people love it. They eat it up! But what will you do when it's time to pick up the pieces?
The Doom of Jerusalem and Judah
6 1 "Run for your lives, children of Benjamin! Get out of Jerusalem, and now! Give a blast on the ram's horn in Blastville. Send up smoke signals from Smoketown. Doom pours out of the north - massive terror! 2 I have likened my dear daughter Zion to a lovely meadow. 3 Well, now 'shepherds' from the north have discovered her and brought in their flocks of soldiers. They've pitched camp all around her, and plan where they'll 'graze.' 4 And then, 'Prepare to attack! The fight is on! To arms! We'll strike at noon! Oh, it's too late? Day is dying? Evening shadows are upon us? 5 Well, up anyway! We'll attack by night and tear apart her defenses stone by stone.'" 6 God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave the orders: "Chop down her trees. Build a siege ramp against Jerusalem, A city full of brutality, bursting with violence. 7 Just as a well holds a good supply of water, she supplies wickedness nonstop. The streets echo the cries: 'Violence! Rape!' Victims, bleeding and moaning, lie all over the place. 8 You're in deep trouble, Jerusalem. You've pushed me to the limit. You're on the brink of being wiped out, being turned into a ghost town."
9 More orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: "Time's up! Harvest the grapes for judgment. Salvage what's left of Israel. Go back over the vines. Pick them clean, every last grape. Is Anybody Listening? 10 "I've got something to say. Is anybody listening? I've a warning to post. Will anyone notice? It's hopeless! Their ears are stuffed with wax - deaf as a post, blind as a bat. It's hopeless! They've tuned out God. They don't want to hear from me. 11 But I'm bursting with the wrath of God. I can't hold it in much longer. "So dump it on the children in the streets. Let it loose on the gangs of youth. For no one's exempt: Husbands and wives will be taken, the old and those ready to die; 12 Their homes will be given away - all they own, even their loved ones - When I give the signal against all who live in this country." God's Decree. 13 "Everyone's after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike. Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth. 14 My people are broken - shattered! - and they put on band-aids, Saying, 'It's not so bad. You'll be just fine.' But things are not 'just fine'! 15 Do you suppose they are embarrassed over this outrage? No, they have no shame. They don't even know how to blush. There's no hope for them. They've hit bottom and there's no getting up. As far as I'm concerned, they're finished." God has spoken. Death Is on the Prowl 16 God's Message yet again: "Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, The tried and true road. Then take it. Discover the right route for your souls. But they said, 'Nothing doing. We aren't going that way.' 17 I even provided watchmen for them to warn them, to set off the alarm. But the people said, 'It's a false alarm. It doesn't concern us.'
18 And so I'm calling in the nations as witnesses: 'Watch, witnesses, what happens to them!' 19 And, 'Pay attention, earth! Don't miss these bulletins.' I'm visiting catastrophe on this people, the end result of the games they've been playing with me. They've ignored everything I've said, had nothing but contempt for my teaching. 20 What would I want with incense brought in from Sheba, rare spices from exotic places? Your burnt sacrifices in worship give me no pleasure. Your religious rituals mean nothing to me." 21 So listen to this. Here's God's verdict on your way of life: "Watch out! I'm putting roadblocks and barriers on the road you're taking. They'll send you sprawling, parents and children, neighbors and friends - and that will be the end of the lot of you." 22 And listen to this verdict from God: "Look out! An invasion from the north, a mighty power on the move from a faraway place: 23 Armed to the teeth, vicious and pitiless, Booming like sea storm and thunder - tramp, tramp, tramp - riding hard on war horses, In battle formation against you, dear Daughter Zion!" 24 We've heard the news, and we're as limp as wet dishrags. We're paralyzed with fear. Terror has a death grip on our throats. 25 Don't dare go outdoors! Don't leave the house! Death is on the prowl. Danger everywhere! 26 "Dear Daughter Zion: Dress in black. Blacken your face with ashes. Weep most bitterly, as for an only child. The countdown has begun . . . six, five, four, three . . . The Terror is on us!" 27 God gave me this task: "I have made you the examiner of my people, to examine and weigh their lives. 28 They're a thickheaded, hard-nosed bunch, rotten to the core, the lot of them. 29 Refining fires are cranked up to white heat, but the ore stays a lump, unchanged. It's useless to keep trying any longer. Nothing can refine evil out of them. 30 Men will give up and call them 'slag,' thrown on the slag heap by me, their God."