Time and Again We’ve Betrayed God
14 1-6 God’s Message that came to Jeremiah regarding the drought:
her cities mourn.
The people fall to the ground, moaning,
while sounds of Jerusalem’s sobs rise up, up.
The rich people sent their servants for water.
They went to the cisterns, but the cisterns were dry.
They came back with empty buckets,
wringing their hands, shaking their heads.
All the farm work has stopped.
Not a drop of rain has fallen.
The farmers don’t know what to do.
They wring their hands, they shake their heads.
Even the doe abandons her fawn in the field
because there is no grass—
Eyes glazed over, on her last legs,
nothing but skin and bones.”
7-9 We know we’re guilty. We’ve lived bad lives—
but do something, God. Do it for your sake!
Time and time again we’ve betrayed you.
No doubt about it—we’ve sinned against you.
Hope of Israel! Our only hope!
Israel’s last chance in this trouble!
Why are you acting like a tourist,
taking in the sights, here today and gone tomorrow?
Why do you just stand there and stare,
like someone who doesn’t know what to do in a crisis?
But God, you are, in fact, here, here with us!
You know who we are—you named us!
Don’t leave us without a leg to stand on.
10 Then God said of these people:
“Since they loved to wander this way and that,
never giving a thought to where they were going,
I will now have nothing more to do with them—
except to note their guilt and punish their sins.”
The Killing Fields
11-12 God said to me, “Don’t pray that everything will turn out all right for this people. When they skip their meals in order to pray, I won’t listen to a thing they say. When they redouble their prayers, bringing all kinds of offerings from their herds and crops, I’ll not accept them. I’m finishing them off with war and famine and disease.”
13 I said, “But Master, God! Their preachers have been telling them that everything is going to be all right—no war and no famine—that there’s nothing to worry about.”
14 Then God said, “These preachers are liars, and they use my name to cover their lies. I never sent them, I never commanded them, and I don’t talk with them. The sermons they’ve been handing out are sheer illusion, tissues of lies, whistlings in the dark.
15-16 “So this is my verdict on them: All the preachers who preach using my name as their text, preachers I never sent in the first place, preachers who say, ‘War and famine will never come here’—these preachers will die in war and by starvation. And the people to whom they’ve been preaching will end up as corpses, victims of war and starvation, thrown out in the streets of Jerusalem unburied—no funerals for them or their wives or their children! I’ll make sure they get the full brunt of all their evil.
17-18 “And you, Jeremiah, will say this to them:
“‘My eyes pour out tears.
Day and night, the tears never quit.
My dear, dear people are battered and bruised,
hopelessly and cruelly wounded.
I walk out into the fields,
shocked by the killing fields strewn with corpses.
I walk into the city,
shocked by the sight of starving bodies.
And I watch the preachers and priests
going about their business as if nothing’s happened!’”
19-22 God, have you said your final No to Judah?
Can you simply not stand Zion any longer?
If not, why have you treated us like this,
beaten us nearly to death?
We hoped for peace—
nothing good came from it;
We looked for healing—
and got kicked in the stomach.
We admit, O God, how badly we’ve lived,
and our ancestors, how bad they were.
We’ve sinned, they’ve sinned,
we’ve all sinned against you!
Your reputation is at stake! Don’t quit on us!
Don’t walk out and abandon your glorious Temple!
Remember your covenant.
Don’t break faith with us!
Can the no-gods of the godless nations cause rain?
Can the sky water the earth by itself?
You’re the one, O God, who does this.
So you’re the one for whom we wait.
You made it all,
you do it all.
15 1-2 Then God said to me: “Jeremiah, even if Moses and Samuel stood here and made their case, I wouldn’t feel a thing for this people. Get them out of here. Tell them to get lost! And if they ask you, ‘So where do we go?’ tell them God says,
“‘If you’re assigned to die, go and die;
if assigned to war, go and get killed;
If assigned to starve, go starve;
if assigned to exile, off to exile you go!’
3-4 “I’ve arranged for four kinds of punishment: death in battle, the corpses dropped off by killer dogs, the rest picked clean by vultures, the bones gnawed by hyenas. They’ll be a sight to see, a sight to shock the whole world—and all because of Manasseh son of Hezekiah and all he did in Jerusalem.
5 “Who do you think will feel sorry for you, Jerusalem?
Who do you think will waste tears on you?
Who will bother to take the time to ask,
‘So, how are things going?’
6-9 “You left me, remember?” God’s Decree.
“You turned your back and walked out.
So I will grab you and hit you hard.
I’m tired of letting you off the hook.
I threw you to the four winds
and let the winds scatter you like leaves.
I made sure you’ll lose everything,
since nothing makes you change.
I created more widows among you
than grains of sand on the ocean beaches.
At noon mothers will get the news
of their sons killed in action.
Sudden anguish for the mothers—
all those terrible deaths.
A mother of seven falls to the ground,
gasping for breath,
Robbed of her children in their prime.
Her sun sets at high noon!
Then I’ll round up any of you that are left alive
and see that you’re killed by your enemies.”
Giving Everything Away for Nothing
10-11 Unlucky mother—that you had me as a son,
given the unhappy job of indicting the whole country!
I’ve never hurt or harmed a soul,
and yet everyone is out to get me.
But, God knows, I’ve done everything I could to help them,
prayed for them and against their enemies.
I’ve always been on their side, trying to stave off disaster.
God knows how I’ve tried!
* * *
12-14 “O Israel, O Judah, what are your chances
against the iron juggernaut from the north?
In punishment for your sins, I’m giving away
everything you’ve got, giving it away for nothing.
I’ll make you slaves to your enemies
in a strange and far-off land.
My anger is blazing and fierce,
burning in hot judgment against you.”
* * *
15-18 You know where I am, God! Remember what I’m doing here!
Take my side against my detractors.
Don’t stand back while they ruin me.
Just look at the abuse I’m taking!
When your words showed up, I ate them—
swallowed them whole. What a feast!
What delight I took in being yours,
O God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
I never joined the party crowd
in their laughter and their fun.
Led by you, I went off by myself.
You’d filled me with indignation. Their sin had me seething.
But why, why this chronic pain,
this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight?
You’re nothing, God, but a mirage,
a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing!
* * *
19-21 This is how God answered me:
“Take back those words, and I’ll take you back.
Then you’ll stand tall before me.
Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining.
Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.
Let your words change them.
Don’t change your words to suit them.
I’ll turn you into a steel wall,
a thick steel wall, impregnable.
They’ll attack you but won’t put a dent in you
because I’m at your side, defending and delivering.”
“I’ll deliver you from the grip of the wicked.
I’ll get you out of the clutch of the ruthless.”
Can Mortals Manufacture Gods?
16 God’s Message to me:
2-4 “Jeremiah, don’t get married. Don’t raise a family here. I have signed the death warrant on all the children born in this country, the mothers who bear them and the fathers who beget them—an epidemic of death. Death unlamented, the dead unburied, dead bodies decomposing and stinking like dung, all the killed and starved corpses served up as meals for carrion crows and mongrel dogs!”
5-7 God continued: “Don’t enter a house where there’s mourning. Don’t go to the funeral. Don’t sympathize. I’ve quit caring about what happens to this people.” God’s Decree. “No more loyal love on my part, no more compassion. The famous and obscure will die alike here, unlamented and unburied. No funerals will be conducted, no one will give them a second thought, no one will care, no one will say, ‘I’m sorry,’ no one will so much as offer a cup of tea, not even for the mother or father.
8 “And if there happens to be a feast celebrated, don’t go there either to enjoy the festivities.”
9 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, “Watch this! I’m about to banish smiles and laughter from this place. No more brides and bridegrooms celebrating. And I’m doing it in your lifetime, before your very eyes.
10-13 “When you tell this to the people and they ask, ‘Why is God talking this way, threatening us with all these calamities? We’re not criminals, after all. What have we done to our God to be treated like this?’ tell them this: ‘It’s because your ancestors left me, walked off and never looked back. They took up with the no-gods, worshiped and doted on them, and ignored me and wouldn’t do a thing I told them. And you’re even worse! Take a good look in the mirror—each of you doing whatever you want, whenever you want, refusing to pay attention to me. And for this I’m getting rid of you, throwing you out in the cold, into a far and strange country. You can worship your precious no-gods there to your heart’s content. Rest assured, I won’t bother you anymore.’
* * *
14-15 “On the other hand, don’t miss this: The time is coming when no one will say any longer, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who delivered Israel from Egypt.’ What they’ll say is, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who brought Israel back from the land of the north, brought them back from all the places where he’d scattered them.’ That’s right, I’m going to bring them back to the land I first gave to their ancestors.
* * *
16-17 “Now, watch for what comes next: I’m going to assemble a bunch of fishermen.” God’s Decree! “They’ll go fishing for my people and pull them in for judgment. Then I’ll send out a party of hunters, and they’ll hunt them out in all the mountains, hills, and caves. I’m watching their every move. I haven’t lost track of a single one of them, neither them nor their sins.
18 “They won’t get by with a thing. They’ll pay double for everything they did wrong. They’ve made a complete mess of things, littering their lives with their obscene no-gods, leaving piles of stinking god-junk all over the place.”
19-20 God, my strength, my stronghold,
my safe retreat when trouble descends:
The godless nations will come
from earth’s four corners, saying,
“Our ancestors lived on lies,
useless illusions, all smoke.”
Can mortals manufacture gods?
Their factories turn out no-gods!
21 “Watch closely now. I’m going to teach these wrongheaded people.
Starting right now, I’m going to teach them
Who I am and what I do,
teach them the meaning of my name, God—‘I Am.’”