God Will Speak in Baby Talk
28 1-4 Doom to the pretentious drunks of Ephraim,
shabby and washed out and seedy—
Tipsy, sloppy-fat, beer-bellied parodies
of a proud and handsome past.
Watch closely: God has someone picked out,
someone tough and strong to flatten them.
Like a hailstorm, like a hurricane, like a flash flood,
one-handed he’ll throw them to the ground.
Samaria, the party hat on Israel’s head,
will be knocked off with one blow.
It will disappear quicker than
a piece of meat tossed to a dog.
5-6 At that time, God-of-the-Angel-Armies will be
the beautiful crown on the head of what’s left of his people:
Energy and insights of justice to those who guide and decide,
strength and prowess to those who guard and protect.
7-8 These also, the priest and prophet, stagger from drink,
weaving, falling-down drunks,
Besotted with wine and whiskey,
can’t see straight, can’t talk sense.
Every table is covered with vomit.
They live in vomit.
9-10 “Is that so? And who do you think you are to teach us?
Who are you to lord it over us?
We’re not babies in diapers
to be talked down to by such as you—
‘Da, da, da, da,
blah, blah, blah, blah.
That’s a good little girl,
that’s a good little boy.’”
11-12 But that’s exactly how you will be addressed.
God will speak to this people
In baby talk, one syllable at a time—
and he’ll do it through foreign oppressors.
He said before, “This is the time and place to rest,
to give rest to the weary.
This is the place to lay down your burden.”
But they won’t listen.
13 So God will start over with the simple basics
and address them in baby talk, one syllable at a time—
“Da, da, da, da,
blah, blah, blah, blah.
That’s a good little girl,
that’s a good little boy.”
And like toddlers, they will get up and fall down,
get bruised and confused and lost.
14-15 Now listen to God’s Message, you scoffers,
you who rule this people in Jerusalem.
You say, “We’ve taken out good life insurance.
We’ve hedged all our bets, covered all our bases.
No disaster can touch us. We’ve thought of everything.
We’re advised by the experts. We’re set.”
The Meaning of the Stone
16-17 But the Master, God, has something to say to this:
“Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion,
a solid granite foundation, squared and true.
And this is the meaning of the stone:
a trusting life won’t topple.
I’ll make justice the measuring stick
and righteousness the plumb line for the building.
A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies,
and a flash flood will wash out the rubble.
18-22 “Then you’ll see that your precious life insurance policy
wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Your careful precautions against death
were a pack of illusions and lies.
When the disaster happens,
you’ll be crushed by it.
Every time disaster comes, you’ll be in on it—
disaster in the morning, disaster at night.”
Every report of disaster
will send you cowering in terror.
There will be no place where you can rest,
nothing to hide under.
God will rise to full stature,
raging as he did long ago on Mount Perazim
And in the valley of Gibeon against the Philistines.
But this time it’s against you.
Hard to believe, but true.
Not what you’d expect, but it’s coming.
Sober up, friends, and don’t scoff.
Scoffing will just make it worse.
I’ve heard the orders issued for destruction, orders from
God-of-the-Angel-Armies—ending up in an international disaster.
* * *
23-26 Listen to me now.
Give me your closest attention.
Do farmers plow and plow and do nothing but plow?
Or harrow and harrow and do nothing but harrow?
After they’ve prepared the ground, don’t they plant?
Don’t they scatter dill and spread cumin,
Plant wheat and barley in the fields
and raspberries along the borders?
They know exactly what to do and when to do it.
Their God is their teacher.
27-29 And at the harvest, the delicate herbs and spices,
the dill and cumin, are treated delicately.
On the other hand, wheat is threshed and milled, but still not endlessly.
The farmer knows how to treat each kind of grain.
He’s learned it all from God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
who knows everything about when and how and where.
Blind Yourselves So That You See Nothing
29 1-4 Doom, Ariel, Ariel,
the city where David set camp!
Let the years add up,
let the festivals run their cycles,
But I’m not letting up on Jerusalem.
The moaning and groaning will continue.
Jerusalem to me is an Ariel.
Like David, I’ll set up camp against you.
I’ll set siege, build towers,
bring in siege engines, build siege ramps.
Driven into the ground, you’ll speak,
you’ll mumble words from the dirt—
Your voice from the ground, like the muttering of a ghost.
Your speech will whisper from the dust.
5-8 But it will be your enemies who are beaten to dust,
the mob of tyrants who will be blown away like chaff.
Because, surprise, as if out of nowhere,
a visit from God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
With thunderclaps, earthquakes, and earsplitting noise,
backed up by hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning strikes,
And the mob of enemies at war with Ariel,
all who trouble and hassle and torment her,
will turn out to be a bad dream, a nightmare.
Like a hungry man dreaming he’s eating steak
and wakes up hungry as ever,
Like a thirsty woman dreaming she’s drinking iced tea
and wakes up thirsty as ever,
So that mob of nations at war against Mount Zion
will wake up and find they haven’t shot an arrow,
haven’t killed a single soul.
9-10 Drug yourselves so you feel nothing.
Blind yourselves so you see nothing.
Get drunk, but not on wine.
Black out, but not from whiskey.
For God has rocked you into a deep, deep sleep,
put the discerning prophets to sleep,
put the farsighted seers to sleep.
You Have Everything Backward
11-12 What you’ve been shown here is somewhat like a letter in a sealed envelope. If you give it to someone who can read and tell her, “Read this,” she’ll say, “I can’t. The envelope is sealed.” And if you give it to someone who can’t read and tell him, “Read this,” he’ll say, “I can’t read.”
* * *
13-14 The Master said:
“These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their hearts aren’t in it.
Because they act like they’re worshiping me
but don’t mean it,
I’m going to step in and shock them awake,
astonish them, stand them on their ears.
The wise ones who had it all figured out
will be exposed as fools.
The smart people who thought they knew everything
will turn out to know nothing.”
15-16 Doom to you! You pretend to have the inside track.
You shut God out and work behind the scenes,
Plotting the future as if you knew everything,
acting mysterious, never showing your hand.
You have everything backward!
You treat the potter as a lump of clay.
Does a book say to its author,
“He didn’t write a word of me”?
Does a meal say to the woman who cooked it,
“She had nothing to do with this”?
17-21 And then before you know it,
and without you having anything to do with it,
Wasted Lebanon will be transformed into lush gardens,
and Mount Carmel reforested.
At that time the deaf will hear
word-for-word what’s been written.
After a lifetime in the dark,
the blind will see.
The castoffs of society will be laughing and dancing in God,
the down-and-outs shouting praise to The Holy of Israel.
For there’ll be no more gangs on the street.
Cynical scoffers will be an extinct species.
Those who never missed a chance to hurt or demean
will never be heard of again:
Gone the people who corrupted the courts,
gone the people who cheated the poor,
gone the people who victimized the innocent.
22-24 And finally this, God’s Message for the family of Jacob,
the same God who redeemed Abraham:
“No longer will Jacob hang his head in shame,
no longer grow gaunt and pale with waiting.
For he’s going to see his children,
my personal gift to him—lots of children.
And these children will honor me
by living holy lives.
In holy worship they’ll honor the Holy One of Jacob
and stand in holy awe of the God of Israel.
Those who got off-track will get back on-track,
and complainers and whiners will learn gratitude.”
All Show, No Substance
30 1-5 “Doom, rebel children!”
“You make plans, but not mine.
You make deals, but not in my Spirit.
You pile sin on sin,
one sin on top of another,
Going off to Egypt
without so much as asking me,
Running off to Pharaoh for protection,
expecting to hide out in Egypt.
Well, some protection Pharaoh will be!
Some hideout, Egypt!
They look big and important, true,
with officials strategically established in
Zoan in the north and Hanes in the south,
but there’s nothing to them.
Anyone stupid enough to trust them
will end up looking stupid—
All show, no substance,
an embarrassing farce.”
6-7 And this note on the animals of the Negev
encountered on the road to Egypt:
A most dangerous, treacherous route,
menaced by lions and deadly snakes.
And you’re going to lug all your stuff down there,
your donkeys and camels loaded down with bribes,
Thinking you can buy protection
from that hollow farce of a nation?
Egypt is all show, no substance.
My name for her is Toothless Dragon.
This Is a Rebel Generation
8-11 So, go now and write all this down.
Put it in a book
So that the record will be there
to instruct the coming generations,
Because this is a rebel generation,
a people who lie,
A people unwilling to listen
to anything God tells them.
They tell their spiritual leaders,
“Don’t bother us with irrelevancies.”
They tell their preachers,
“Don’t waste our time on impracticalities.
Tell us what makes us feel better.
Don’t bore us with obsolete religion.
That stuff means nothing to us.
Quit hounding us with The Holy of Israel.”
12-14 Therefore, The Holy of Israel says this:
“Because you scorn this Message,
Preferring to live by injustice
and shape your lives on lies,
This perverse way of life
will be like a towering, badly built wall
That slowly, slowly tilts and shifts,
and then one day, without warning, collapses—
Smashed to bits like a piece of pottery,
smashed beyond recognition or repair,
Useless, a pile of debris
to be swept up and thrown in the trash.”
God Takes the Time to Do Everything Right
15-17 God, the Master, The Holy of Israel,
has this solemn counsel:
“Your salvation requires you to turn back to me
and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.
Your strength will come from settling down
in complete dependence on me—
The very thing
you’ve been unwilling to do.
You’ve said, ‘No way! We’ll rush off on horseback!’
You’ll rush off, all right! Just not far enough!
You’ve said, ‘We’ll ride off on fast horses!’
Do you think your pursuers ride old nags?
Think again: A thousand of you will scatter before one attacker.
Before a mere five you’ll all run off.
There’ll be nothing left of you—
a flagpole on a hill with no flag,
a signpost on a roadside with the sign torn off.”
18 But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.
He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you.
God takes the time to do everything right—everything.
Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.
19-22 Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” You’ll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You’ll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good riddance!”
23-26 God will provide rain for the seeds you sow. The grain that grows will be abundant. Your cattle will range far and wide. Oblivious to war and earthquake, the oxen and donkeys you use for hauling and plowing will be fed well near running brooks that flow freely from mountains and hills. Better yet, on the Day God heals his people of the wounds and bruises from the time of punishment, moonlight will flare into sunlight, and sunlight, like a whole week of sunshine at once, will flood the land.
* * *
27-28 Look, God’s on his way,
and from a long way off!
Smoking with anger,
immense as he comes into view,
Words steaming from his mouth,
searing, indicting words!
A torrent of words, a flash flood of words
sweeping everyone into the vortex of his words.
He’ll shake down the nations in a sieve of destruction,
herd them into a dead end.
29-33 But you will sing,
sing through an all-night holy feast!
Your hearts will burst with song,
make music like the sound of flutes on parade,
En route to the mountain of God,
on the way to the Rock of Israel.
God will sound out in grandiose thunder,
display his hammering arm,
Furiously angry, showering sparks—
cloudburst, storm, hail!
Oh yes, at God’s thunder
Assyria will cower under the clubbing.
Every blow God lands on them with his club
is in time to the music of drums and pipes,
God in all-out, two-fisted battle,
fighting against them.
Topheth’s fierce fires are well prepared,
ready for the Assyrian king.
The Topheth furnace is deep and wide,
well stoked with hot-burning wood.
God’s breath, like a river of burning pitch,
starts the fire.