Start Each Day with a Sense of Justice
21 1-2 God’s Message to Jeremiah when King Zedekiah sent Pashur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to him with this request: “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, has waged war against us. Pray to God for us. Ask him for help. Maybe God will intervene with one of his famous miracles and make him leave.”
3-7 But Jeremiah said, “Tell Zedekiah: ‘This is the God of Israel’s Message to you: You can say good-bye to your army, watch morale and weapons flushed down the drain. I’m going to personally lead the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, against whom you’re fighting so hard, right into the city itself. I’m joining their side and fighting against you, fighting all-out, holding nothing back. And in fierce anger. I’m prepared to wipe out the population of this city, people and animals alike, in a raging epidemic. And then I will personally deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his princes, and any survivors left in the city who haven’t died from disease, been killed, or starved. I’ll deliver them to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—yes, hand them over to their enemies, who have come to kill them. He’ll kill them ruthlessly, showing no mercy.’
8-10 “And then tell the people at large, ‘God’s Message to you is this: Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death. Whoever stays in this city will die—either in battle or by starvation or disease. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who have surrounded the city will live. You’ll lose everything—but not your life. I’m determined to see this city destroyed. I’m that angry with this place! God’s Decree. I’m going to give it to the king of Babylon, and he’s going to burn it to the ground.’
* * *
11-14 “To the royal house of Judah, listen to God’s Message!
House of David, listen—God’s Message to you:
‘Start each day by dealing with justice.
Rescue victims from their exploiters.
Prevent fire—the fire of my anger—
for once it starts, it can’t be put out.
Your evil regime
is fuel for my anger.
Don’t you realize that I’m against you,
yes, against you.
You think you’ve got it made,
all snug and secure.
You say, “Who can possibly get to us?
Who can crash our party?”
Well, I can—and will!
I’ll punish your evil regime.
I’ll start a fire that will rage unchecked,
burn everything in sight to cinders.’”
Walking Out on the Covenant of God
22 1-3 God’s orders: “Go to the royal palace and deliver this Message. Say, ‘Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. This is God’s Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!
4-5 “‘If you obey these commands, then kings who follow in the line of David will continue to go in and out of these palace gates mounted on horses and riding in chariots—they and their officials and the citizens of Judah. But if you don’t obey these commands, then I swear—God’s Decree!—this palace will end up a heap of rubble.’”
* * *
6-7 This is God’s verdict on Judah’s royal palace:
“I number you among my favorite places—
like the lovely hills of Gilead,
like the soaring peaks of Lebanon.
Yet I swear I’ll turn you into a wasteland,
as empty as a ghost town.
I’ll hire a demolition crew,
well-equipped with sledgehammers and wrecking bars,
Pound the country to a pulp
and burn it all up.
8-9 “Travelers from all over will come through here and say to one another, ‘Why would God do such a thing to this wonderful city?’ They’ll be told, ‘Because they walked out on the covenant of their God, took up with other gods and worshiped them.’”
Building a Fine House but Destroying Lives
10 Don’t weep over dead King Josiah.
Don’t waste your tears.
Weep for his exiled son:
He’s gone for good.
He’ll never see home again.
11-12 For this is God’s Word on Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah: “He’s gone from here, gone for good. He’ll die in the place they’ve taken him to. He’ll never see home again.”
* * *
13-17 “Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people,
who makes a fine house but destroys lives,
Who cheats his workers
and won’t pay them for their work,
Who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion
with spacious rooms and fancy windows.
I’ll bring in rare and expensive woods
and the latest in interior decor.’
So, that makes you a king—
living in a fancy palace?
Your father got along just fine, didn’t he?
He did what was right and treated people fairly,
And things went well with him.
He stuck up for the down-and-out,
And things went well for Judah.
Isn’t this what it means to know me?”
“But you’re blind and brainless.
All you think about is yourself,
Taking advantage of the weak,
bulldozing your way, bullying victims.”
18-19 This is God’s epitaph on Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
“Doom to this man!
Nobody will shed tears over him,
‘Poor, poor brother!’
Nobody will shed tears over him,
‘Poor, poor master!’
They’ll give him a donkey’s funeral,
drag him out of the city and dump him.
You’ve Made a Total Mess of Your Life
20-23 “People of Jerusalem, climb a Lebanon peak and weep,
climb a Bashan mountain and wail,
Climb the Abarim ridge and cry—
you’ve made a total mess of your life.
I spoke to you when everything was going your way.
You said, ‘I’m not interested.’
You’ve been that way as long as I’ve known you,
never listened to a thing I said.
All your leaders will be blown away,
all your friends end up in exile,
And you’ll find yourself in the gutter,
disgraced by your evil life.
You big-city people thought you were so important,
thought you were ‘king of the mountain’!
You’re soon going to be doubled up in pain,
pain worse than the pangs of childbirth.
* * *
24-26 “As sure as I am the living God”—God’s Decree—“even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, I’d pull you off and give you to those who are out to kill you, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, and then throw you, both you and your mother, into a foreign country, far from your place of birth. There you’ll both die.
27 “You’ll be homesick, desperately homesick, but you’ll never get home again.”
28-30 Is Jehoiachin a leaky bucket,
a rusted-out pail good for nothing?
Why else would he be thrown away, he and his children,
thrown away to a foreign place?
O land, land, land,
listen to God’s Message!
This is God’s verdict:
“Write this man off as if he were childless,
a man who will never amount to anything.
Nothing will ever come of his life.
He’s the end of the line, the last of the kings.”
An Authentic David-Branch
23 1-4 “Doom to the shepherd-leaders who butcher and scatter my sheep!” God’s Decree. “So here is what I, God, Israel’s God, say to the shepherd-leaders who misled my people: ‘You’ve scattered my sheep. You’ve driven them off. You haven’t kept your eye on them. Well, let me tell you, I’m keeping my eye on you, keeping track of your criminal behavior. I’ll take over and gather what’s left of my sheep, gather them in from all the lands where I’ve driven them. I’ll bring them back where they belong, and they’ll recover and flourish. I’ll set shepherd-leaders over them who will take good care of them. They won’t live in fear or panic anymore. All the lost sheep rounded up!’ God’s Decree.
5-6 “Time’s coming”—God’s Decree—
“when I’ll establish a truly righteous David-Branch,
A ruler who knows how to rule justly.
He’ll make sure of justice and keep people united.
In his time Judah will be secure again
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name they’ll give him:
7-8 “So watch for this. The time’s coming”—God’s Decree—“when no one will say, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt,’ but, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who brought the descendants of Israel back from the north country and from the other countries where he’d driven them, so that they can live on their own good earth.’”
The “Everything Will Turn Out Fine” Sermon
9 My head is reeling,
my limbs are limp,
I’m staggering like a drunk,
seeing double from too much wine—
And all because of God,
because of his holy words.
10-12 Now for what God says regarding the lying prophets:
“Can you believe it? A country teeming with adulterers!
faithless, promiscuous idolater-adulterers!
They’re a curse on the land.
The land’s a wasteland.
is turning the country into a cesspool,
Prophets and priests devoted to desecration.
They have nothing to do with me as their God.
My very own Temple, mind you—
mud-spattered with their crimes.” God’s Decree.
“But they won’t get by with it.
They’ll find themselves on a slippery slope,
Careening into the darkness,
somersaulting into the pitch-black dark.
I’ll make them pay for their crimes.
It will be the Year of Doom.” God’s Decree.
* * *
13-14 “Over in Samaria I saw prophets
acting like silly fools—shocking!
They preached using that no-god Baal for a text,
messing with the minds of my people.
And the Jerusalem prophets are even worse—horrible!—
sex-driven, living a lie,
Subsidizing a culture of wickedness,
and never giving it a second thought.
They’re as bad as those wretches in old Sodom,
the degenerates of old Gomorrah.”
15 So here’s the Message to the prophets from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“I’ll cook them a supper of maggoty meat
with after-dinner drinks of strychnine.
The Jerusalem prophets are behind all this.
They’re the cause of the godlessness polluting this country.”
* * *
16-17 A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“Don’t listen to the sermons of the prophets.
It’s all hot air. Lies, lies, and more lies.
They make it all up.
Not a word they speak comes from me.
They preach their ‘Everything Will Turn Out Fine’ sermon
to congregations with no taste for God,
Their ‘Nothing Bad Will Ever Happen to You’ sermon
to people who are set in their own ways.
18-20 “Have any of these prophets bothered to meet with me, the true God?
bothered to take in what I have to say?
listened to and then lived out my Word?
Look out! God’s hurricane will be let loose—
my hurricane blast,
Spinning the heads of the wicked like tops!
God’s raging anger won’t let up
Until I’ve made a clean sweep,
completing the job I began.
When the job’s done,
you’ll see that it’s been well done.
Quit the “God Told Me This” Kind of Talk
21-22 “I never sent these prophets,
but they ran anyway.
I never spoke to them,
but they preached away.
If they’d have bothered to sit down and meet with me,
they’d have preached my Message to my people.
They’d have gotten them back on the right track,
gotten them out of their evil ruts.
* * *
23-24 “Am I not a God near at hand”—God’s Decree—
“and not a God far off?
Can anyone hide out in a corner
where I can’t see him?”
“Am I not present everywhere,
whether seen or unseen?”
* * *
25-27 “I know what they’re saying, all these prophets who preach lies using me as their text, saying ‘I had this dream! I had this dream!’ How long do I have to put up with this? Do these prophets give two cents about me as they preach their lies and spew out their grandiose delusions? They swap dreams with one another, feed on each other’s delusive dreams, trying to distract my people from me just as their ancestors were distracted by the no-god Baal.
28-29 “You prophets who do nothing but dream—
go ahead and tell your silly dreams.
But you prophets who have a message from me—
tell it truly and faithfully.
What does straw have in common with wheat?
Nothing else is like God’s Decree.
Isn’t my Message like fire?” God’s Decree.
“Isn’t it like a sledgehammer busting a rock?
30-31 “I’ve had it with the ‘prophets’ who get all their sermons secondhand from each other. Yes, I’ve had it with them. They make up stuff and then pretend it’s a real sermon.
32 “Oh yes, I’ve had it with the prophets who preach the lies they dream up, spreading them all over the country, ruining the lives of my people with their cheap and reckless lies.
“I never sent these prophets, never authorized a single one of them. They do nothing for this people—nothing!” God’s Decree.
33 “And anyone, including prophets and priests, who asks, ‘What’s God got to say about all this, what’s troubling him?’ tell him, ‘You, you’re the trouble, and I’m getting rid of you.’” God’s Decree.
34 “And if anyone, including prophets and priests, goes around saying glibly ‘God’s Message! God’s Message!’ I’ll punish him and his family.
35-36 “Instead of claiming to know what God says, ask questions of one another, such as ‘How do we understand God in this?’ But don’t go around pretending to know it all, saying ‘God told me this . . . God told me that. . . . ’ I don’t want to hear it anymore. Only the person I authorize speaks for me. Otherwise, my Message gets twisted, the Message of the living God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
37-38 “You can ask the prophets, ‘How did God answer you? What did he tell you?’ But don’t pretend that you know all the answers yourselves and talk like you know it all. I’m telling you: Quit the ‘God told me this . . . God told me that . . . ’ kind of talk.
39-40 “Are you paying attention? You’d better, because I’m about to take you in hand and throw you to the ground, you and this entire city that I gave to your ancestors. I’ve had it with the lot of you. You’re never going to live this down. You’re going down in history as a disgrace.”