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16 The word of the Eternal came to me.

The loneliness Jeremiah has already endured is indeed painful. Surely he wants just one companion in whom he can confide; even that would be something. If only he could find solace in a loving spouse! Certainly society is composed of husbands and wives; even the worst people have families, while Jeremiah is alone. It now becomes clear that this isolation is his life’s calling. He is banned not only from starting his own family, but from being with others. He cannot enter into the sorrow of his people’s grief or enjoy any celebration in the community. To abstain from both the sorrow and joy of those around him ensures Jeremiah’s isolation. But it also raises important questions with painful answers. As always, God anticipates these questions.

Eternal One: Jeremiah, you must not get married and have children in this place, because this is what I, the Eternal One, say about the sons and daughters of this land and about their mothers and fathers: They will die of deadly diseases. There will be so many dead that no one will bury them or grieve for them; they will be like dung scattered on the ground. Others will perish from war and famine, and their corpses will feed the vultures and wild beasts of the earth.

This is what I declare to you, My prophet: Do not go inside a house that is mourning. Do not grieve with these friends and families. Do not comfort them because I, the Eternal One, have taken My peace, even My loyal love and mercy, from them. Death will come to the great and small of this land, but they will not be buried or mourned. There will be no one left to cut themselves or shave their heads in ritual displays of mourning. No one will bring food to comfort those in mourning or offer a drink to console even one who has lost a parent. You are not to enter a house where they are feasting and celebrating. Refuse to eat and drink with them. For this is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies and God of Israel, now declares: Before your eyes and during your lifetime, I will silence the sounds of laughter and joy in this place; the joy of a wedding will no longer be heard.

10 When you tell these people all of this, they will ask you, “Why has the Eternal decided to bring this horrendous evil on us? What have we done wrong? What sin have we committed against the Eternal our God?” 11 I want you to answer them with My words: All this is because your ancestors deserted Me and followed after other gods. They served and worshiped them, but Me they have deserted. My instruction they have ignored. 12 As for you, you are even worse than your ancestors because every one of your hearts is evil and stubborn, and you continue to ignore Me as you follow your own wicked ways. 13 For this reason, I will throw you out of this land into a land you and your ancestors have never known. There you will be able to serve these other gods all you want—day and night—for I will show you no compassion.

This horrible vision of judgment is tempered with words of God’s gracious restoration. Though the sentence against faithless Judah is harsh, it will not be the end of her.

(to the people) 14 Look, days are coming when people will remember how I restored you. They will no longer say, “As the Eternal lives who brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.” 15 Instead, they will say, “As the Eternal lives, who brought the people of Israel out of the lands of the north and the countries where He had exiled them.” For I will bring them back to their promised land, the land I gave to your ancestors.

16 But first, I will send for many fishermen who will catch them. After this, I will summon many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and every hill, in every crack and crevice of this land. 17 My eyes are fixed on all they are doing. Nothing is hidden from Me; their sins are exposed before My eyes. 18 For their wickedness and sin—polluting My land with the lifeless husks of their disgusting idols, taking what is Mine and filling it with these abominable things—I will repay them doubly.

Jeremiah: 19 O Eternal One, You are my strength,
        my fortress, my sanctuary in times of trouble.
    The day will come when the nations will come from all over the world and admit,
        “Our ancestors were fools! They inherited and clung to empty lies,
    Worthless gods that gained them nothing good.
20     Can people make their own gods?
        No, because a man-made idol is not a god.”

21 Eternal One: Behold, I will teach these people.
        This time, they will learn of My power and strength.
    I will teach them, and they will know and fully understand that I am the Eternal.

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