Don’t Despair, Israel

30 1-2 This is the Message Jeremiah received from God: “God’s Message, the God of Israel: ‘Write everything I tell you in a book.

“‘Look. The time is coming when I will turn everything around for my people, both Israel and Judah. I, God, say so. I’ll bring them back to the land I gave their ancestors, and they’ll take up ownership again.’”

This is the way God put it to Israel and Judah:

5-7 God’s Message:

“‘Cries of panic are being heard.
    The peace has been shattered.
Ask around! Look around!
    Can men bear babies?
So why do I see all these he-men
    holding their bellies like women in labor,
Faces contorted,
    pale as death?
The blackest of days,
    no day like it ever!
A time of deep trouble for Jacob—
    but he’ll come out of it alive.

8-9 “‘And then I’ll enter the darkness.
    I’ll break the yoke from their necks,
Cut them loose from the harness.
    No more slave labor to foreigners!
They’ll serve their God
    and the David-King I’ll establish for them.

10-11 “‘So fear no more, Jacob, dear servant.
    Don’t despair, Israel.
Look up! I’ll save you out of faraway places,
    I’ll bring your children back from exile.
Jacob will come back and find life good,
    safe and secure.
I’ll be with you. I’ll save you.
    I’ll finish off all the godless nations
Among which I’ve scattered you,
    but I won’t finish you off.
I’ll punish you, but fairly.
    I won’t send you off with just a slap on the wrist.’

12-15 “This is God’s Message:

“‘You’re a burned-out case,
    as good as dead.
Everyone has given up on you.
    You’re hopeless.
All your fair-weather friends have skipped town
    without giving you a second thought.
But I delivered the knockout blow,
    a punishment you will never forget,
Because of the enormity of your guilt,
    the endless list of your sins.
So why all this self-pity, licking your wounds?
    You deserve all this, and more.
Because of the enormity of your guilt,
    the endless list of your sins,
I’ve done all this to you.

16-17 “‘Everyone who hurt you will be hurt;
    your enemies will end up as slaves.
Your plunderers will be plundered;
    your looters will become loot.
As for you, I’ll come with healing,
    curing the incurable,
Because they all gave up on you
    and dismissed you as hopeless—
    that good-for-nothing Zion.’

18-21 “Again, God’s Message:

“‘I’ll turn things around for Jacob.
    I’ll compassionately come in and rebuild homes.
The town will be rebuilt on its old foundations;
    the mansions will be splendid again.
Thanksgivings will pour out of the windows;
    laughter will spill through the doors.
Things will get better and better.
    Depression days are over.
They’ll thrive, they’ll flourish.
    The days of contempt will be over.
They’ll look forward to having children again,
    to being a community in which I take pride.
I’ll punish anyone who hurts them,
    and their prince will come from their own ranks.
One of their own people shall be their leader.
    Their ruler will come from their own ranks.
I’ll grant him free and easy access to me.
    Would anyone dare to do that on his own,
    to enter my presence uninvited?’ God’s Decree.

22 “‘And that’s it: You’ll be my very own people,
    I’ll be your very own God.’”

23-24 Look out! God’s hurricane is let loose,
    his hurricane blast,
Spinning the heads of the wicked like dust devils!
    God’s raging anger won’t let up
Until he’s made a clean sweep
    completing the job he began.
When the job’s done
    you’ll see it’s been well done.

* * *

31 “And when that happens”—God’s Decree—
    “it will be plain as the sun at high noon:
I’ll be the God of every man, woman, and child in Israel
    and they shall be my very own people.”

* * *

2-6 This is the way God put it:

“They found grace out in the desert,
    these people who survived the killing.
Israel, out looking for a place to rest,
    met God out looking for them!”
God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
    Expect love, love, and more love!
And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again,
    dear virgin Israel.
You’ll resume your singing,
    grabbing tambourines and joining the dance.
You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards
    on the Samaritan hillsides,
And sit back and enjoy the fruit—
    oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests!
The time’s coming when watchmen will call out
    from the hilltops of Ephraim:
‘On your feet! Let’s go to Zion,
    go to meet our God!’”

* * *

Oh yes, God says so:

“Shout for joy at the top of your lungs for Jacob!
    Announce the good news to the number-one nation!
Raise cheers! Sing praises. Say,
    God has saved his people,
    saved the core of Israel.’

“Watch what comes next:

“I’ll bring my people back
    from the north country
And gather them up from the ends of the earth,
    gather those who’ve gone blind
And those who are lame and limping,
    gather pregnant women,
Even the mothers whose birth pangs have started,
    bring them all back, a huge crowd!

“Watch them come! They’ll come weeping for joy
    as I take their hands and lead them,
Lead them to fresh flowing brooks,
    lead them along smooth, uncluttered paths.
Yes, it’s because I’m Israel’s Father
    and Ephraim’s my firstborn son!

10-14 “Hear this, nations! God’s Message!
    Broadcast this all over the world!
Tell them, ‘The One who scattered Israel
    will gather them together again.
From now on he’ll keep a careful eye on them,
    like a shepherd with his flock.’
I, God, will pay a stiff ransom price for Jacob;
    I’ll free him from the grip of the Babylonian bully.
The people will climb up Zion’s slopes shouting with joy,
    their faces beaming because of God’s bounty—
Grain and wine and oil,
    flocks of sheep, herds of cattle.
Their lives will be like a well-watered garden,
    never again left to dry up.
Young women will dance and be happy,
    young men and old men will join in.
I’ll convert their weeping into laughter,
    lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.
I’ll make sure that their priests get three square meals a day
    and that my people have more than enough.’” God’s Decree.

* * *

15-17 Again, God’s Message:

“Listen to this! Laments coming out of Ramah,
    wild and bitter weeping.
It’s Rachel weeping for her children,
    Rachel refusing all solace.
Her children are gone,
    gone—long gone into exile.”
But God says, “Stop your incessant weeping,
    hold back your tears.
Collect wages from your grief work.” God’s Decree.
    “They’ll be coming back home!
There’s hope for your children.” God’s Decree.

18-19 “I’ve heard the contrition of Ephraim.
    Yes, I’ve heard it clearly, saying,
‘You trained me well.
    You broke me, a wild yearling horse, to the saddle.
Now put me, trained and obedient, to use.
    You are my God.
After those years of running loose, I repented.
    After you trained me to obedience,
I was ashamed of my past, my wild, unruly past.
    Humiliated, I beat on my chest.
Will I ever live this down?’

20 “Oh! Ephraim is my dear, dear son,
    my child in whom I take pleasure!
Every time I mention his name,
    my heart bursts with longing for him!
Everything in me cries out for him.
    Softly and tenderly I wait for him.” God’s Decree.

21-22 “Set up signposts to mark your trip home.
    Get a good map.
Study the road conditions.
    The road out is the road back.
Come back, dear virgin Israel,
    come back to your hometowns.
How long will you flit here and there, indecisive?
    How long before you make up your fickle mind?
God will create a new thing in this land:
    A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!”

* * *

23-24 A Message from Israel’s God-of-the-Angel-Armies: “When I’ve turned everything around and brought my people back, the old expressions will be heard on the streets: ‘God bless you!’ . . . ‘O True Home!’ . . . ‘O Holy Mountain!’ All Judah’s people, whether in town or country, will get along just fine with each other.

25     I’ll refresh tired bodies;
    I’ll restore tired souls.

26 Just then I woke up and looked around—what a pleasant and satisfying sleep!

* * *

27-28 “Be ready. The time’s coming”—God’s Decree—“when I will plant people and animals in Israel and Judah, just as a farmer plants seed. And in the same way that earlier I relentlessly pulled up and tore down, took apart and demolished, so now I am sticking with them as they start over, building and planting.

29 “When that time comes you won’t hear the old proverb anymore,

        Parents ate the green apples,
        their children got the stomachache.

30 “No, each person will pay for his own sin. You eat green apples, you’re the one who gets sick.

* * *

31-32 “That’s right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won’t be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master.” God’s Decree.

33-34 “This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They’ll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” God’s Decree.

If This Ordered Cosmos Ever Fell to Pieces

35 God’s Message, from the God who lights up the day with sun and
    brightens the night with moon and stars,
Who whips the ocean into a billowy froth,
    whose name is God-of-the-Angel-Armies:

36 “If this ordered cosmos ever fell to pieces,
    fell into chaos before me”—God’s Decree—
“Then and only then might Israel fall apart
    and disappear as a nation before me.”

* * *

37 God’s Message:

“If the skies could be measured with a yardstick
    and the earth explored to its core,
Then and only then would I turn my back on Israel,
    disgusted with all they’ve done.” God’s Decree.

* * *

38-40 “The time is coming”—it’s God’s Decree—“when God’s city will be rebuilt, rebuilt all the way from the Citadel of Hanamel to the Corner Gate. The master plan will extend west to Gareb Hill and then around to Goath. The whole valley to the south where incinerated corpses are dumped—a death valley if there ever was one!—and all the terraced fields out to the Brook Kidron on the east as far north as the Horse Gate will be consecrated to me as a holy place.

“This city will never again be torn down or destroyed.”

Killing and Disease Are on Our Doorstep

32 1-5 The Message Jeremiah received from God in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah. It was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was holding Jerusalem under siege. Jeremiah was shut up in jail in the royal palace. Zedekiah, king of Judah, had locked him up, complaining, “How dare you preach, saying, ‘God says, I’m warning you: I will hand this city over to the king of Babylon and he will take it over. Zedekiah king of Judah will be handed over to the Chaldeans right along with the city. He will be handed over to the king of Babylon and forced to face the music. He’ll be hauled off to Babylon where he’ll stay until I deal with him. God’s Decree. Fight against the Babylonians all you want—it won’t get you anywhere.’”

6-7 Jeremiah said, “God’s Message came to me like this: Prepare yourself! Hanamel, your uncle Shallum’s son, is on his way to see you. He is going to say, ‘Buy my field in Anathoth. You have the legal right to buy it.’

“And sure enough, just as God had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me while I was in jail and said, ‘Buy my field in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin, for you have the legal right to keep it in the family. Buy it. Take it over.’

“That did it. I knew it was God’s Message.

9-12 “So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I paid him seventeen silver shekels. I followed all the proper procedures: In the presence of witnesses I wrote out the bill of sale, sealed it, and weighed out the money on the scales. Then I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy that contained the contract and its conditions and also the open copy—and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. All this took place in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and the witnesses who had signed the deed, as the Jews who were at the jail that day looked on.

13-15 “Then, in front of all of them, I told Baruch, ‘These are orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: Take these documents—both the sealed and the open deeds—and put them for safekeeping in a pottery jar. For God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, “Life is going to return to normal. Homes and fields and vineyards are again going to be bought in this country.”’

16-19 “And then, having handed over the legal documents to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to God, ‘Dear God, my Master, you created earth and sky by your great power—by merely stretching out your arm! There is nothing you can’t do. You’re loyal in your steadfast love to thousands upon thousands—but you also make children live with the fallout from their parents’ sins. Great and powerful God, named God-of-the-Angel-Armies, determined in purpose and relentless in following through, you see everything that men and women do and respond appropriately to the way they live, to the things they do.

20-23 “‘You performed signs and wonders in the country of Egypt and continue to do so right into the present, right here in Israel and everywhere else, too. You’ve made a reputation for yourself that doesn’t diminish. You brought your people Israel out of Egypt with signs and wonders—a powerful deliverance!—by merely stretching out your arm. You gave them this land and solemnly promised to their ancestors a bountiful and fertile land. But when they entered the land and took it over, they didn’t listen to you. They didn’t do what you commanded. They wouldn’t listen to a thing you told them. And so you brought this disaster on them.

24-25 “‘Oh, look at the siege ramps already set in place to take the city. Killing and starvation and disease are on our doorstep. The Babylonians are attacking! The Word you spoke is coming to pass—it’s daily news! And yet you, God, the Master, even though it is certain that the city will be turned over to the Babylonians, also told me, Buy the field. Pay for it in cash. And make sure there are witnesses.’”

* * *

26-30 Then God’s Message came again to Jeremiah: “Stay alert! I am God, the God of everything living. Is there anything I can’t do? So listen to God’s Message: No doubt about it, I’m handing this city over to the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He’ll take it. The attacking Chaldeans will break through and burn the city down: All those houses whose roofs were used as altars for offerings to Baal and the worship of who knows how many other gods provoked me. It isn’t as if this were the first time they had provoked me. The people of Israel and Judah have been doing this for a long time—doing what I hate, making me angry by the way they live.” God’s Decree.

31-35 “This city has made me angry from the day they built it, and now I’ve had my fill. I’m destroying it. I can’t stand to look any longer at the wicked lives of the people of Israel and Judah, deliberately making me angry, the whole lot of them—kings and leaders and priests and preachers, in the country and in the city. They’ve turned their backs on me—won’t even look me in the face!—even though I took great pains to teach them how to live. They refused to listen, refused to be taught. Why, they even set up obscene god and goddess statues in the Temple built in my honor—an outrageous desecration! And then they went out and built shrines to the god Baal in the valley of Hinnom, where they burned their children in sacrifice to the god Molech—I can hardly conceive of such evil!—turning the whole country into one huge act of sin.

* * *

36 “But there is also this Message from me, the God of Israel, to this city of which you have said, ‘In killing and starvation and disease this city will be delivered up to the king of Babylon’:

37-40 “‘Watch for this! I will collect them from all the countries to which I will have driven them in my anger and rage and indignation. Yes, I’ll bring them all back to this place and let them live here in peace. They will be my people, I will be their God. I’ll make them of one mind and heart, always honoring me, so that they can live good and whole lives, they and their children after them. What’s more, I’ll make a covenant with them that will last forever, a covenant to stick with them no matter what, and work for their good. I’ll fill their hearts with a deep respect for me so they’ll not even think of turning away from me.

41 “‘Oh how I’ll rejoice in them! Oh how I’ll delight in doing good things for them! Heart and soul, I’ll plant them in this country and keep them here!’

42-44 “Yes, this is God’s Message: ‘I will certainly bring this huge catastrophe on this people, but I will also usher in a wonderful life of prosperity. I promise. Fields are going to be bought here again, yes, in this very country that you assume is going to end up desolate—gone to the dogs, unlivable, wrecked by the Babylonians. Yes, people will buy farms again, and legally, with deeds of purchase, sealed documents, proper witnesses—and right here in the territory of Benjamin, and in the area around Jerusalem, around the villages of Judah and the hill country, the Shephelah and the Negev. I will restore everything that was lost.’ God’s Decree.”

Things You Could Never Figure Out on Your Own

33 While Jeremiah was still locked up in jail, a second Message from God was given to him:

2-3 “This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’

4-5 “This is what God, the God of Israel, has to say about what’s going on in this city, about the homes of both people and kings that have been demolished, about all the ravages of war and the killing by the Chaldeans, and about the streets littered with the dead bodies of those killed because of my raging anger—about all that’s happened because the evil actions in this city have turned my stomach in disgust.

6-9 “But now take another look. I’m going to give this city a thorough renovation, working a true healing inside and out. I’m going to show them life whole, life brimming with blessings. I’ll restore everything that was lost to Judah and Jerusalem. I’ll build everything back as good as new. I’ll scrub them clean from the dirt they’ve done against me. I’ll forgive everything they’ve done wrong, forgive all their rebellions. And Jerusalem will be a center of joy and praise and glory for all the countries on earth. They’ll get reports on all the good I’m doing for her. They’ll be in awe of the blessings I am pouring on her.

10-11 “Yes, God’s Message: ‘You’re going to look at this place, these empty and desolate towns of Judah and streets of Jerusalem, and say, “A wasteland. Unlivable. Not even a dog could live here.” But the time is coming when you’re going to hear laughter and celebration, marriage festivities, people exclaiming, “Thank God-of-the-Angel-Armies. He’s so good! His love never quits,” as they bring thank offerings into God’s Temple. I’ll restore everything that was lost in this land. I’ll make everything as good as new.’ I, God, say so.

12-13 God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘This coming desolation, unfit for even a stray dog, is once again going to become a pasture for shepherds who care for their flocks. You’ll see flocks everywhere—in the mountains around the towns of the Shephelah and Negev, all over the territory of Benjamin, around Jerusalem and the towns of Judah—flocks under the care of shepherds who keep track of each sheep.’ God says so.

A Fresh and True Shoot from the David-Tree

14-18 “‘Watch for this: The time is coming’—God’s Decree—‘when I will keep the promise I made to the families of Israel and Judah. When that time comes, I will make a fresh and true shoot sprout from the David-Tree. He will run this country honestly and fairly. He will set things right. That’s when Judah will be secure and Jerusalem live in safety. The motto for the city will be, “God Has Set Things Right for Us.” God has made it clear that there will always be a descendant of David ruling the people of Israel and that there will always be Levitical priests on hand to offer burnt offerings, present grain offerings, and carry on the sacrificial worship in my honor.’”

* * *

19-22 God’s Message to Jeremiah: “God says, ‘If my covenant with day and my covenant with night ever fell apart so that day and night became haphazard and you never knew which was coming and when, then and only then would my covenant with my servant David fall apart and his descendants no longer rule. The same goes for the Levitical priests who serve me. Just as you can’t number the stars in the sky nor measure the sand on the seashore, neither will you be able to account for the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who serve me.’”

* * *

23-24 God’s Message to Jeremiah: “Have you heard the saying that’s making the rounds: ‘The two families God chose, Israel and Judah, he disowned’? And have you noticed that my people are treated with contempt, with rumors afoot that there’s nothing to them anymore?

25-26 “Well, here’s God’s response: ‘If my covenant with day and night wasn’t in working order, if sky and earth weren’t functioning the way I set them going, then, but only then, you might think I had disowned the descendants of Jacob and of my servant David, and that I wouldn’t set up any of David’s descendants over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But as it is, I will give them back everything they’ve lost. The last word is, I will have mercy on them.’”

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