The Heart Is Hopelessly Dark and Deceitful
17 1-2 “Judah’s sin is engraved
with a steel chisel,
A steel chisel with a diamond point—
engraved on their granite hearts,
engraved on the stone corners of their altars.
The evidence against them is plain to see:
sex-and-religion altars and sacred sex shrines
Anywhere there’s a grove of trees,
anywhere there’s an available hill.
3-4 “I’ll use your mountains as roadside stands
for giving away everything you have.
All your ‘things’ will serve as reparations
for your sins all over the country.
You’ll lose your gift of land,
The inheritance I gave you.
I’ll make you slaves of your enemies
in a far-off and strange land.
My anger is hot and blazing and fierce,
and no one will put it out.”
* * *
5-6 God’s Message:
“Cursed is the strong one
who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone
and sets God aside as dead weight.
He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie,
out of touch with the good earth.
He lives rootless and aimless
in a land where nothing grows.
7-8 “But blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.
* * *
9-10 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
not as they pretend to be.”
* * *
11 Like a cowbird that cheats by laying its eggs
in another bird’s nest
Is the person who gets rich by cheating.
When the eggs hatch, the deceit is exposed.
What a fool he’ll look like then!
* * *
12-13 From early on your Sanctuary was set high,
a throne of glory, exalted!
O God, you’re the hope of Israel.
All who leave you end up as fools,
Deserters with nothing to show for their lives,
who walk off from God, fountain of living waters—
and wind up dead!
* * *
14-18 God, pick up the pieces.
Put me back together again.
You are my praise!
Listen to how they talk about me:
“So where’s this ‘Word of God’?
We’d like to see something happen!”
But it wasn’t my idea to call for Doomsday.
I never wanted trouble.
You know what I’ve said.
It’s all out in the open before you.
Don’t add to my troubles.
Give me some relief!
Let those who harass me be harassed, not me.
Let them be disgraced, not me.
Bring down upon them the day of doom.
Lower the boom. Boom!
Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
19-20 God’s Message to me: “Go stand in the People’s Gate, the one used by Judah’s kings as they come and go, and then proceed in turn to all the gates of Jerusalem. Tell them, ‘Listen, you kings of Judah, listen to God’s Message—and all you people who go in and out of these gates, you listen!
21-23 “‘This is God’s Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don’t use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. They never did it, as you know. They paid no attention to what I said and went about their own business, refusing to be guided or instructed by me.
24-26 “‘But now, take seriously what I tell you. Quit desecrating the Sabbath by busily going about your own work, and keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing business as usual. Then kings from the time of David and their officials will continue to ride through these gates on horses or in chariots. The people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem will continue to pass through them, too. Jerusalem will always be filled with people. People will stream in from all over Judah, from the province of Benjamin, from the Jerusalem suburbs, from foothills and mountains and deserts. They’ll come to worship, bringing all kinds of offerings—animals, grains, incense, expressions of thanks—into the Sanctuary of God.
27 “‘But if you won’t listen to me, won’t keep the Sabbath holy, won’t quit using the Sabbath for doing your own work, busily going in and out of the city gates on your self-important business, then I’ll burn the gates down. In fact, I’ll burn the whole city down, palaces and all, with a fire nobody will be able to put out!’”
To Worship the Big Lie
18 1-2 God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”
3-4 So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.
5-10 Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel. At any moment I may decide to pull up a people or a country by the roots and get rid of them. But if they repent of their wicked lives, I will think twice and start over with them. At another time I might decide to plant a people or country, but if they don’t cooperate and won’t listen to me, I will think again and give up on the plans I had for them.
11 “So, tell the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem my Message: ‘Danger! I’m shaping doom against you, laying plans against you. Turn back from your doomed way of life. Straighten out your lives.’
12 “But they’ll just say, ‘Why should we? What’s the point? We’ll live just the way we’ve always lived, doom or no doom.’”
* * *
13-17 God’s Message:
Survey the godless nations.
Has anyone heard the likes of this?
Virgin Israel has become a slut!
Does snow disappear from the Lebanon peaks?
Do alpine streams run dry?
But my people have left me
to worship the Big Lie.
They’ve gotten off the track,
the old, well-worn trail,
And now bushwhack through underbrush
in a tangle of roots and vines.
Their land’s going to end up a mess—
a fool’s memorial to be spit on.
Travelers passing through
will shake their heads in disbelief.
I’ll scatter my people before their enemies,
like autumn leaves in a high wind.
On their day of doom, they’ll stare at my back as I walk away,
catching not so much as a glimpse of my face.”
* * *
18 Some of the people said, “Come on, let’s cook up a plot against Jeremiah. We’ll still have the priests to teach us the law, wise counselors to give us advice, and prophets to tell us what God has to say. Come on, let’s discredit him so we don’t have to put up with him any longer.”
19-23 And I said to God:
“God, listen to me!
Just listen to what my enemies are saying.
Should I get paid evil for good?
That’s what they’re doing. They’ve made plans to kill me!
Remember all the times I stood up for them before you,
speaking up for them,
trying to soften your anger?
But enough! Let their children starve!
Let them be massacred in battle!
Let their wives be childless and widowed,
their friends die and their proud young men be killed.
Let cries of panic sound from their homes
as you surprise them with war parties!
They’re all set to lynch me.
The noose is practically around my neck!
But you know all this, God.
You know they’re determined to kill me.
Don’t whitewash their crimes,
don’t overlook a single sin!
Round the bunch of them up before you.
Strike while the iron of your anger is hot!”
Smashing the Clay Pot
19 1-2 God said to me, “Go, buy a clay pot. Then get a few leaders from the people and a few of the leading priests and go out to the Valley of Ben-hinnom, just outside the Potsherd Gate, and preach there what I tell you.
3-5 “Say, ‘Listen to God’s Word, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem! This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel. I’m about to bring doom crashing down on this place. Oh, and will ears ever ring! Doom—because they’ve walked off and left me, and made this place strange by worshiping strange gods, gods never heard of by them, their parents, or the old kings of Judah. Doom—because they have massacred innocent people. Doom—because they’ve built altars to that no-god Baal, and burned their own children alive in the fire as offerings to Baal, an atrocity I never ordered, never so much as hinted at!
6-9 “‘And so it’s payday, and soon’—God’s Decree!—‘this place will no longer be known as Topheth or Valley of Ben-hinnom, but Massacre Meadows. I’m canceling all the plans Judah and Jerusalem had for this place, and I’ll have them killed by their enemies. I’ll stack their dead bodies to be eaten by carrion crows and wild dogs. I’ll turn this city into such a museum of atrocities that anyone coming near will be shocked speechless by the savage brutality. The people will turn into cannibals. Dehumanized by the pressure of the enemy siege, they’ll eat their own children! Yes, they’ll eat one another, family and friends alike.’
10-13 “Say all this, and then smash the pot in front of the men who have come with you. Then say, ‘This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: I’ll smash this people and this city like a man who smashes a clay pot into so many pieces it can never be put together again. They’ll bury bodies here in Topheth until there’s no more room. And the whole city will become a Topheth. The city will be turned by people and kings alike into a center for worshiping the star gods and goddesses, turned into an open grave, the whole city an open grave, stinking like a sewer, like Topheth.’”
14-15 Then Jeremiah left Topheth, where God had sent him to preach the sermon, and took his stand in the court of God’s Temple and said to the people, “This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies to you: ‘Warning! Danger! I’m bringing down on this city and all the surrounding towns the doom that I have pronounced. They’re set in their ways and won’t budge. They refuse to do a thing I say.’”
Life’s Been Nothing but Trouble and Tears
20 1-5 The priest Pashur son of Immer was the senior priest in God’s Temple. He heard Jeremiah preach this sermon. He whipped Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate of God’s Temple. The next day Pashur came and let him go. Jeremiah told him, “God has a new name for you: not Pashur but Danger-Everywhere, because God says, ‘You’re a danger to yourself and everyone around you. All your friends are going to get killed in battle while you stand there and watch. What’s more, I’m turning all of Judah over to the king of Babylon to do whatever he likes with them—haul them off into exile, kill them at whim. Everything worth anything in this city, property and possessions along with everything in the royal treasury—I’m handing it all over to the enemy. They’ll rummage through it and take what they want back to Babylon.
6 “‘And you, Pashur, you and everyone in your family will be taken prisoner into exile—that’s right, exile in Babylon. You’ll die and be buried there, you and all your cronies to whom you preached your lies.’”
* * *
7-10 You pushed me into this, God, and I let you do it.
You were too much for me.
And now I’m a public joke.
They all poke fun at me.
Every time I open my mouth
I’m shouting, “Murder!” or “Rape!”
And all I get for my God-warnings
are insults and contempt.
But if I say, “Forget it!
No more God-Messages from me!”
The words are fire in my belly,
a burning in my bones.
I’m worn out trying to hold it in.
I can’t do it any longer!
Then I hear whispering behind my back:
“There goes old ‘Danger-Everywhere.’ Shut him up! Report him!”
Old friends watch, hoping I’ll fall flat on my face:
“One misstep and we’ll have him. We’ll get rid of him for good!”
11 But God, a most fierce warrior, is at my side.
Those who are after me will be sent sprawling—
Slapstick buffoons falling all over themselves,
a spectacle of humiliation no one will ever forget.
12 Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, no one fools you.
You see through everyone, everything.
I want to see you pay them back for what they’ve done.
I rest my case with you.
13 Sing to God! All praise to God!
He saves the weak from the grip of the wicked.
* * *
14-18 Curse the day
I was born!
The day my mother bore me—
a curse on it, I say!
And curse the man who delivered
the news to my father:
“You’ve got a new baby—a boy baby!”
(How happy it made him.)
Let that birth notice be blacked out,
deleted from the records,
And the man who brought it haunted to his death
with the bad news he brought.
He should have killed me before I was born,
with that womb as my tomb,
My mother pregnant for the rest of her life
with a baby dead in her womb.
Why, oh why, did I ever leave that womb?
Life’s been nothing but trouble and tears,
and what’s coming is more of the same.