Jerusalem on Its Last Legs

1-7 The Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
    is emptying Jerusalem and Judah
Of all the basic necessities,
    plain bread and water to begin with.
He’s withdrawing police and protection,
    judges and courts,
    pastors and teachers,
    captains and generals,
    doctors and nurses,
    and, yes, even the repairmen and jacks-of-all-trades.
He says, “I’ll put little kids in charge of the city.
    Schoolboys and schoolgirls will order everyone around.
People will be at each other’s throats,
    stabbing one another in the back:
Neighbor against neighbor, young against old,
    the no-account against the well-respected.
One brother will grab another and say,
    ‘You look like you’ve got a head on your shoulders.
Do something!
    Get us out of this mess.’
And he’ll say, ‘Me? Not me! I don’t have a clue.
    Don’t put me in charge of anything.’

8-9 “Jerusalem’s on its last legs.
    Judah is soon down for the count.
Everything people say and do
    is at cross-purposes with God,
    a slap in my face.
Brazen in their depravity,
    they flaunt their sins like degenerate Sodom.
Doom to their eternal souls! They’ve made their bed;
    now they’ll sleep in it.

10-11 “Reassure the righteous
    that their good living will pay off.
But doom to the wicked! Disaster!
    Everything they did will be done to them.

12 “Skinny kids terrorize my people.
    Silly girls bully them around.
My dear people! Your leaders are taking you down a blind alley.
    They’re sending you off on a wild-goose chase.”

A City Brought to Her Knees by Her Sorrows

13-15 God enters the courtroom.
    He takes his place at the bench to judge his people.
God calls for order in the court,
    hauls the leaders of his people into the dock:
“You’ve played havoc with this country.
    Your houses are stuffed with what you’ve stolen from the poor.
What is this anyway? Stomping on my people,
    grinding the faces of the poor into the dirt?”
That’s what the Master,
    God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says.

16-17 God says, “Zion women are stuck-up,
    prancing around in their high heels,
Making eyes at all the men in the street,
    swinging their hips,
Tossing their hair,
    gaudy and garish in cheap jewelry.”
The Master will fix it so those Zion women
    will all turn bald—
Scabby, bald-headed women.
    The Master will do it.

18-23 The time is coming when the Master will strip them of their fancy baubles—the dangling earrings, anklets and bracelets, combs and mirrors and silk scarves, diamond brooches and pearl necklaces, the rings on their fingers and the rings on their toes, the latest fashions in hats, exotic perfumes and aphrodisiacs, gowns and capes, all the world’s finest in fabrics and design.

24 Instead of wearing seductive scents,
    these women are going to smell like rotting cabbages;
Instead of modeling flowing gowns,
    they’ll be sporting rags;
Instead of their stylish hairdos,
    scruffy heads;
Instead of beauty marks,
    scabs and scars.

25-26 Your finest fighting men will be killed,
    your soldiers left dead on the battlefield.
The entrance gate to Zion will be clotted
    with people mourning their dead—
A city stooped under the weight of her loss,
    brought to her knees by her sorrows.

* * *

That will be the day when seven women
    will gang up on one man, saying,
“We’ll take care of ourselves,
    get our own food and clothes.
Just give us a child. Make us pregnant
    so we’ll have something to live for!”

God’s Branch

2-4 And that’s when God’s Branch will sprout green and lush. The produce of the country will give Israel’s survivors something to be proud of again. Oh, they’ll hold their heads high! Everyone left behind in Zion, all the discards and rejects in Jerusalem, will be reclassified as “holy”—alive and therefore precious. God will give Zion’s women a good bath. He’ll scrub the bloodstained city of its violence and brutality, purge the place with a firestorm of judgment.

5-6 Then God will bring back the ancient pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and mark Mount Zion and everyone in it with his glorious presence, his immense, protective presence, shade from the burning sun and shelter from the driving rain.

Looking for a Crop of Justice

1-2 I’ll sing a ballad to the one I love,
    a love ballad about his vineyard:
The one I love had a vineyard,
    a fine, well-placed vineyard.
He hoed the soil and pulled the weeds,
    and planted the very best vines.
He built a lookout, built a winepress,
    a vineyard to be proud of.
He looked for a vintage yield of grapes,
    but for all his pains he got garbage grapes.

3-4 “Now listen to what I’m telling you,
    you who live in Jerusalem and Judah.
What do you think is going on
    between me and my vineyard?
Can you think of anything I could have done
    to my vineyard that I didn’t do?
When I expected good grapes,
    why did I get bitter grapes?

5-6 “Well now, let me tell you
    what I’ll do to my vineyard:
I’ll tear down its fence
    and let it go to ruin.
I’ll knock down the gate
    and let it be trampled.
I’ll turn it into a patch of weeds, untended, uncared for—
    thistles and thorns will take over.
I’ll give orders to the clouds:
    ‘Don’t rain on that vineyard, ever!’”

Do you get it? The vineyard of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    is the country of Israel.
All the men and women of Judah
    are the garden he was so proud of.
He looked for a crop of justice
    and saw them murdering each other.
He looked for a harvest of righteousness
    and heard only the moans of victims.

You Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil

8-10 Doom to you who buy up all the houses
    and grab all the land for yourselves—
Evicting the old owners,
    posting no trespassing signs,
Taking over the country,
    leaving everyone homeless and landless.
I overheard God-of-the-Angel-Armies say:
“Those mighty houses will end up empty.
    Those extravagant estates will be deserted.
A ten-acre vineyard will produce a pint of wine,
    a fifty-pound sack of seed, a quart of grain.”

11-17 Doom to those who get up early
    and start drinking booze before breakfast,
Who stay up all hours of the night
    drinking themselves into a stupor.
They make sure their banquets are well-furnished
    with harps and flutes and plenty of wine,
But they’ll have nothing to do with the work of God,
    pay no mind to what he is doing.
Therefore my people will end up in exile
    because they don’t know the score.
Their “honored men” will starve to death
    and the common people die of thirst.
Sheol developed a huge appetite,
    swallowing people nonstop!
Big people and little people alike
    down that gullet, to say nothing of all the drunks.
The down-and-out on a par
    with the high-and-mighty,
Windbag boasters crumpled,
    flaccid as a punctured bladder.
But by working justice,
    God-of-the-Angel-Armies will be a mountain.
By working righteousness,
    Holy God will show what “holy” is.
And lambs will graze
    as if they owned the place,
Kids and calves
    right at home in the ruins.

18-19 Doom to you who use lies to sell evil,
    who haul sin to market by the truckload,
Who say, “What’s God waiting for?
    Let him get a move on so we can see it.
Whatever The Holy of Israel has cooked up,
    we’d like to check it out.”

20 Doom to you who call evil good
    and good evil,
Who put darkness in place of light
    and light in place of darkness,
Who substitute bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!

21-23 Doom to you who think you’re so smart,
    who hold such a high opinion of yourselves!
All you’re good at is drinking—champion boozers
    who collect trophies from drinking bouts
And then line your pockets with bribes from the guilty
    while you violate the rights of the innocent.

24 But they won’t get by with it. As fire eats stubble
    and dry grass goes up in smoke,
Their souls will atrophy,
    their achievements crumble into dust,
Because they said no to the revelation
    of God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
Would have nothing to do
    with The Holy of Israel.

25-30 That’s why God flamed out in anger against his people,
    reached out and knocked them down.
The mountains trembled
    as their dead bodies piled up in the streets.
But even after that, he was still angry,
    his fist still raised, ready to hit them again.
He raises a flag, signaling a distant nation,
    whistles for people at the ends of the earth.
And here they come—
    on the run!
None drag their feet, no one stumbles,
    no one sleeps or dawdles.
Shirts are on and pants buckled,
    every boot is spit-polished and tied.
Their arrows are sharp,
    bows strung,
The hooves of their horses shod,
    chariot wheels greased.
Roaring like a pride of lions,
    the full-throated roars of young lions,
They growl and seize their prey,
    dragging it off—no rescue for that one!
They’ll roar and roar and roar on that Day,
    like the roar of ocean billows.
Look as long and hard as you like at that land,
    you’ll see nothing but darkness and trouble.
Every light in the sky
    will be blacked out by the clouds.

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