Lamentations 3:37-5:22 The Message Bible

37  Who do you think "spoke and it happened"? It's the Master who gives such orders. 38  Doesn't the High God speak everything, good things and hard things alike, into being? 39  And why would anyone gifted with life complain when punished for sin? 40  Let's take a good look at the way we're living and reorder our lives under God. 41  Let's lift our hearts and hands at one and the same time, praying to God in heaven:

42  "We've been contrary and willful, and you haven't forgiven. 43  "You lost your temper with us, holding nothing back. You chased us and cut us down without mercy. 44  You wrapped yourself in thick blankets of clouds so no prayers could get through. 45  You treated us like dirty dishwater, threw us out in the backyard of the nations. 46  "Our enemies shout abuse, their mouths full of derision, spitting invective. 47  We've been to hell and back. We've nowhere to turn, nowhere to go. 48  Rivers of tears pour from my eyes at the smashup of my dear people. 49  "The tears stream from my eyes, an artesian well of tears, 50  Until you, God, look down from on high, look and see my tears. 51  When I see what's happened to the young women in the city, the pain breaks my heart. 52  "Enemies with no reason to be enemies hunted me down like a bird. 53  They threw me into a pit, then pelted me with stones. 54  Then the rains came and filled the pit. The water rose over my head. I said, 'It's all over.'

55  "I called out your name, O God, called from the bottom of the pit. 56  You listened when I called out, 'Don't shut your ears! Get me out of here! Save me!' 57  You came close when I called out. You said, 'It's going to be all right.' 58  "You took my side, Master; you brought me back alive! 59  God, you saw the wrongs heaped on me. Give me my day in court! 60  Yes, you saw their mean-minded schemes, their plots to destroy me. 61  "You heard, God, their vicious gossip, their behind-my-back plots to ruin me. 62  They never quit, these enemies of mine, dreaming up mischief, hatching out malice, day after day after day. 63  Sitting down or standing up - just look at them! - they mock me with vulgar doggerel. 64  "Make them pay for what they've done, God. Give them their just deserts. 65  Break their miserable hearts! Damn their eyes! 66  Get good and angry. Hunt them down. Make a total demolition here under your heaven!"

The Punishment of Zion Accomplished

4 1  Oh, oh, oh . . . How gold is treated like dirt, the finest gold thrown out with the garbage, Priceless jewels scattered all over, jewels loose in the gutters. 2  And the people of Zion, once prized, far surpassing their weight in gold, Are now treated like cheap pottery, like everyday pots and bowls mass-produced by a potter. 3  Even wild jackals nurture their babies, give them their breasts to suckle. But my people have turned cruel to their babies, like an ostrich in the wilderness. 4  Babies have nothing to drink. Their tongues stick to the roofs of their mouths. Little children ask for bread but no one gives them so much as a crust. 5  People used to the finest cuisine forage for food in the streets. People used to the latest in fashions pick through the trash for something to wear. 6  The evil guilt of my dear people was worse than the sin of Sodom - The city was destroyed in a flash, and no one around to help. 7  The splendid and sacred nobles once glowed with health. Their bodies were robust and ruddy, their beards like carved stone. 8  But now they are smeared with soot, unrecognizable in the street, Their bones sticking out, their skin dried out like old leather. 9  Better to have been killed in battle than killed by starvation. Better to have died of battle wounds than to slowly starve to death. 10  Nice and kindly women boiled their own children for supper. This was the only food in town when my dear people were broken. 11  God let all his anger loose, held nothing back. He poured out his raging wrath. He set a fire in Zion that burned it to the ground. 12  The kings of the earth couldn't believe it. World rulers were in shock, Watching old enemies march in big as you please, right through Jerusalem's gates.

13  Because of the sins of her prophets and the evil of her priests, Who exploited good and trusting people, robbing them of their lives, 14  These prophets and priests blindly grope their way through the streets, grimy and stained from their dirty lives, Wasted by their wasted lives, shuffling from fatigue, dressed in rags. 15  People yell at them, "Get out of here, dirty old men! Get lost, don't touch us, don't infect us!" They have to leave town. They wander off. Nobody wants them to stay here. Everyone knows, wherever they wander, that they've been kicked out of their own hometown. 16  God himself scattered them. No longer does he look out for them. He has nothing to do with the priests; he cares nothing for the elders. 17  We watched and watched, wore our eyes out looking for help. And nothing. We mounted our lookouts and looked for the help that never showed up. 18  They tracked us down, those hunters. It wasn't safe to go out in the street. Our end was near, our days numbered. We were doomed. 19  They came after us faster than eagles in flight, pressed us hard in the mountains, ambushed us in the desert. 20  Our king, our life's breath, the anointed of God, was caught in their traps - Our king under whose protection we always said we'd live.

21  Celebrate while you can, O Edom! Live it up in Uz! For it won't be long before you drink this cup, too. You'll find out what it's like to drink God's wrath, Get drunk on God's wrath and wake up with nothing, stripped naked. 22  And that's it for you, Zion. The punishment's complete. You won't have to go through this exile again. But Edom, your time is coming: He'll punish your evil life, put all your sins on display.

A Prayer for Mercy

5 1  "Remember, God, all we've been through. Study our plight, the black mark we've made in history. 2  Our precious land has been given to outsiders, our homes to strangers. 3  Orphans we are, not a father in sight, and our mothers no better than widows. 4  We have to pay to drink our own water. Even our firewood comes at a price. 5  We're nothing but slaves, bullied and bowed, worn out and without any rest. 6  We sold ourselves to Assyria and Egypt just to get something to eat. 7  Our parents sinned and are no more, and now we're paying for the wrongs they did. 8  Slaves rule over us; there's no escape from their grip. 9  We risk our lives to gather food in the bandit-infested desert. 10  Our skin has turned black as an oven, dried out like old leather from the famine. 11  Our wives were raped in the streets in Zion, and our virgins in the cities of Judah. 12  They hanged our princes by their hands, dishonored our elders. 13  Strapping young men were put to women's work, mere boys forced to do men's work. 14  The city gate is empty of wise elders. Music from the young is heard no more. 15  All the joy is gone from our hearts. Our dances have turned into dirges. 16  The crown of glory has toppled from our head. Woe! Woe! Would that we'd never sinned!

17  Because of all this we're heartsick; we can't see through the tears. 18  On Mount Zion, wrecked and ruined, jackals pace and prowl. 19  And yet, God, you're sovereign still, your throne intact and eternal. 20  So why do you keep forgetting us? Why dump us and leave us like this? 21  Bring us back to you, God - we're ready to come back. Give us a fresh start. 22  As it is, you've cruelly disowned us. You've been so very angry with us."

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