Amend Your Ways and Your Doings
7 1 The Message from God to Jeremiah: 2 "Stand in the gate of God's Temple and preach this Message. 3 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God, has this to say to you: 4 Don't for a minute believe the lies being spoken here - "This is God's Temple, God's Temple, God's Temple!" 5 Total nonsense! Only if you clean up your act (the way you live, the things you do), only if you do a total spring cleaning on the way you live and treat your neighbors, 6 only if you quit exploiting the street people and orphans and widows, no longer taking advantage of innocent people on this very site and no longer destroying your souls by using this Temple as a front for other gods - 7 only then will I move into your neighborhood. Only then will this country I gave your ancestors be my permanent home, my Temple. 8 "'Get smart! Your leaders are handing you a pack of lies, and you're swallowing them! 9 Use your heads! Do you think you can rob and murder, have sex with the neighborhood wives, tell lies nonstop, worship the local gods, and buy every novel religious commodity on the market 10 - and then march into this Temple, set apart for my worship, and say, "We're safe!" thinking that the place itself gives you a license to go on with all this outrageous sacrilege? 11 A cave full of criminals! Do you think you can turn this Temple, set apart for my worship, into something like that? Well, think again. I've got eyes in my head. I can see what's going on.'" God's Decree! 12 "'Take a trip down to the place that was once in Shiloh, where I met my people in the early days. Take a look at those ruins, what I did to it because of the evil ways of my people Israel. 13 "'So now, because of the way you have lived and failed to listen, even though time and again I took you aside and talked seriously with you, and because you refused to change when I called you to repent, 14 I'm going to do to this Temple, set aside for my worship, this place you think is going to keep you safe no matter what, this place I gave as a gift to your ancestors and you, the same as I did to Shiloh. 15 And as for you, I'm going to get rid of you, the same as I got rid of those old relatives of yours around Shiloh, your fellow Israelites in that former kingdom to the north.'
16 "And you, Jeremiah, don't waste your time praying for this people. Don't offer to make petitions or intercessions. Don't bother me with them. I'm not listening. 17 Can't you see what they're doing in all the villages of Judah and in the Jerusalem streets? 18 Why, they've got the children gathering wood while the fathers build fires and the mothers make bread to be offered to 'the Queen of Heaven'! And as if that weren't bad enough, they go around pouring out libations to any other gods they come across, just to hurt me. 19 "But is it me they're hurting?" God's Decree! "Aren't they just hurting themselves? Exposing themselves shamefully? Making themselves ridiculous? 20 "Here's what the Master God has to say: 'My white-hot anger is about to descend on this country and everything in it - people and animals, trees in the field and vegetables in the garden - a raging wildfire that no one can put out.'
The Punishment for Judah's Rebellion
21 "The Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God: 'Go ahead! Put your burnt offerings with all your other sacrificial offerings and make a good meal for yourselves. I sure don't want them! 22 When I delivered your ancestors out of Egypt, I never said anything to them about wanting burnt offerings and sacrifices as such. 23 But I did say this, commanded this: "Obey me. Do what I say and I will be your God and you will be my people. Live the way I tell you. Do what I command so that your lives will go well." 24 "'But do you think they listened? Not a word of it. They did just what they wanted to do, indulged any and every evil whim and got worse day by day. 25 From the time your ancestors left the land of Egypt until now, I've supplied a steady stream of my servants the prophets, 26 but do you think the people listened? Not once. Stubborn as mules and worse than their ancestors!' 27 "Tell them all this, but don't expect them to listen. Call out to them, but don't expect an answer. 28 Tell them, 'You are the nation that wouldn't obey God, that refused all discipline. Truth has disappeared. There's not a trace of it left in your mouths.
29 "'So shave your heads. Go bald to the hills and lament, For God has rejected and left this generation that has made him so angry.' 30 "The people of Judah have lived evil lives while I've stood by and watched." God's Decree. "In deliberate insult to me, they've set up their obscene god-images in the very Temple that was built to honor me. 31 They've constructed Topheth altars for burning babies in prominent places all through the valley of Ben-hinnom, altars for burning their sons and daughters alive in the fire - a shocking perversion of all that I am and all I command. 32 "But soon, very soon" - God's Decree! - "the names Topheth and Ben-hinnom will no longer be used. They'll call the place what it is: Murder Meadow. Corpses will be stacked up in Topheth because there's no room left to bury them! 33 Corpses abandoned in the open air, fed on by crows and coyotes, who have the run of the place. 34 And I'll empty both smiles and laughter from the villages of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. No wedding songs, no holiday sounds. Dead silence.
8 1 And when the time comes" - God's Decree! - "I'll see to it that they dig up the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of the princes and priests and prophets, and yes, even the bones of the common people. 2 They'll dig them up and spread them out like a congregation at worship before sun, moon, and stars, all those sky gods they've been so infatuated with all these years, following their 'lucky stars' in doglike devotion. The bones will be left scattered and exposed, to reenter the soil as fertilizer, like manure. 3 "Everyone left - all from this evil generation unlucky enough to still be alive in whatever godforsaken place I will have driven them to - will wish they were dead." Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies. To Know Everything but God's Word
4 "Tell them this, God's Message: "'Do people fall down and not get up? Or take the wrong road and then just keep going? 5 So why does this people go backwards, and just keep on going - backwards! They stubbornly hold on to their illusions, refuse to change direction. 6 I listened carefully but heard not so much as a whisper. No one expressed one word of regret. Not a single "I'm sorry" did I hear. They just kept at it, blindly and stupidly banging their heads against a brick wall. 7 Cranes know when it's time to move south for winter. And robins, warblers, and bluebirds know when it's time to come back again. But my people? My people know nothing, not the first thing of God and his rule. 8 "'How can you say, "We know the score. We're the proud owners of God's revelation"? Look where it's gotten you - stuck in illusion. Your religion experts have taken you for a ride! 9 Your know-it-alls will be unmasked, caught and shown up for what they are. Look at them! They know everything but God's Word. Do you call that "knowing"? 10 "'So here's what will happen to the know-it-alls: I'll make them wifeless and homeless. Everyone's after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike. Prophets and priests and everyone in-between twist words and doctor truth. 11 My dear Daughter - my people - broken, shattered, and yet they put on band-aids, Saying, "It's not so bad. You'll be just fine." But things are not "just fine"! 12 Do you suppose they are embarrassed over this outrage? Not really. 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.
13 "'I went out to see if I could salvage anything'" - God's Decree - "'but found nothing: Not a grape, not a fig, just a few withered leaves. I'm taking back everything I gave them.'" 14 So why are we sitting here, doing nothing? Let's get organized. Let's go to the big city and at least die fighting. We've gotten God's ultimatum: We're damned if we do and damned if we don't - damned because of our sin against him. 15 We hoped things would turn out for the best, but it didn't happen that way. We were waiting around for healing - and terror showed up! 16 From Dan at the northern borders we hear the hooves of horses, Horses galloping, horses neighing. The ground shudders and quakes. They're going to swallow up the whole country. Towns and people alike - fodder for war. 17 "'What's more, I'm dispatching poisonous snakes among you, Snakes that can't be charmed, snakes that will bite you and kill you.'" God's Decree! Advancing from One Evil to the Next
A Lament for Judah and Jerusalem
18 I drown in grief. I'm heartsick. 19 Oh, listen! Please listen! It's the cry of my dear people reverberating through the country. Is God no longer in Zion? Has the King gone away? Can you tell me why they flaunt their plaything-gods, their silly, imported no-gods before me? 20 The crops are in, the summer is over, but for us nothing's changed. We're still waiting to be rescued. 21 For my dear broken people, I'm heartbroken. I weep, seized by grief. 22 Are there no healing ointments in Gilead? Isn't there a doctor in the house? So why can't something be done to heal and save my dear, dear people?
9 1 I wish my head were a well of water and my eyes fountains of tears So I could weep day and night for casualties among my dear, dear people. 2 At times I wish I had a wilderness hut, a backwoods cabin, Where I could get away from my people and never see them again. They're a faithless, feckless bunch, a congregation of degenerates. 3 "Their tongues shoot out lies like a bow shoots arrows - A mighty army of liars, the sworn enemies of truth. They advance from one evil to the next, ignorant of me." God's Decree. 4 "Be wary of even longtime neighbors. Don't even trust your grandmother! Brother schemes against brother, like old cheating Jacob. Friend against friend spreads malicious gossip. 5 Neighbors gyp neighbors, never telling the truth. They've trained their tongues to tell lies, and now they can't tell the truth. 6 They pile wrong upon wrong, stack lie upon lie, and refuse to know me." God's Decree. 7 Therefore, God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: "Watch this! I'll melt them down and see what they're made of. What else can I do with a people this wicked? 8 Their tongues are poison arrows! Deadly lies stream from their mouths. Neighbor greets neighbor with a smile, 'Good morning! How're things?' while scheming to do away with him. 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? 10 "I'm lamenting the loss of the mountain pastures. I'm chanting dirges for the old grazing grounds. They've become deserted wastelands too dangerous for travelers. No sounds of sheep bleating or cattle mooing. Birds and wild animals, all gone. Nothing stirring, no sounds of life. 11 I'm going to make Jerusalem a pile of rubble, fit for nothing but stray cats and dogs. I'm going to reduce Judah's towns to piles of ruins where no one lives!"
Ruin and Exile Threatened
12 I asked, "Is there anyone around bright enough to tell us what's going on here? Anyone who has the inside story from God and can let us in on it? "Why is the country wasted? "Why no travelers in this desert?" 13 God's answer: "Because they abandoned my plain teaching. They wouldn't listen to anything I said, refused to live the way I told them to. 14 Instead they lived any way they wanted and took up with the Baal gods, who they thought would give them what they wanted - following the example of their parents." 15 And this is the consequence. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so: "I'll feed them with pig slop. "I'll give them poison to drink. 16 "Then I'll scatter them far and wide among godless peoples that neither they nor their parents have ever heard of, and I'll send Death in pursuit until there's nothing left of them." A Life That Is All Outside but No Inside 17 A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: "Look over the trouble we're in and call for help. Send for some singers who can help us mourn our loss. 18 Tell them to hurry - to help us express our loss and lament, Help us get our tears flowing, make tearful music of our crying. 19 Listen to it! Listen to that torrent of tears out of Zion: 'We're a ruined people, we're a shamed people! We've been driven from our homes and must leave our land!'" 20 Mourning women! Oh, listen to God's Message! Open your ears. Take in what he says. Teach your daughters songs for the dead and your friends the songs of heartbreak. 21 Death has climbed in through the window, broken into our bedrooms. Children on the playgrounds drop dead, and young men and women collapse at their games. 22 Speak up! "God's Message: "'Dead bodies everywhere, scattered at random like sheep and goat dung in the fields, Like wheat cut down by reapers and left to rot where it falls.'"
The Knowledge of God Is Man's Glory
23 God's Message: "Don't let the wise brag of their wisdom. Don't let heroes brag of their exploits. Don't let the rich brag of their riches. 24 If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me. I'm God, and I act in loyal love. I do what's right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things. These are my trademarks." God's Decree. 25 "Stay alert! It won't be long now" - God's Decree! - "when I will personally deal with everyone whose life is all outside but no inside: 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab. All these nations are big on performance religion - including Israel, who is no better." The Stick Gods