9 1-2 I wish my head were a well of water
and my eyes fountains of tears
So I could weep day and night
for casualties among my dear, dear people.
At times I wish I had a wilderness hut,
a backwoods cabin,
Where I could get away from my people
and never see them again.
They’re a faithless, feckless bunch,
a congregation of degenerates.
* * *
3-6 “Their tongues shoot out lies
like a bow shoots arrows—
A mighty army of liars,
the sworn enemies of truth.
They advance from one evil to the next,
ignorant of me.”
“Be wary of even longtime neighbors.
Don’t even trust your grandmother!
Brother schemes against brother,
like old cheating Jacob.
Friend against friend
spreads malicious gossip.
Neighbors gyp neighbors,
never telling the truth.
They’ve trained their tongues to tell lies,
and now they can’t tell the truth.
They pile wrong upon wrong, stack lie upon lie,
and refuse to know me.”
7-9 Therefore, God-of-the-Angel-Armies says:
“Watch this! I’ll melt them down
and see what they’re made of.
What else can I do
with a people this wicked?
Their tongues are poison arrows!
Deadly lies stream from their mouths.
Neighbor greets neighbor with a smile,
‘Good morning! How’re things?’
while scheming to do away with him.
Do you think I’m going to stand around and do nothing?”
“Don’t you think I’ll take serious measures
against a people like this?
10-11 “I’m lamenting the loss of the mountain pastures.
I’m chanting dirges for the old grazing grounds.
They’ve become deserted wastelands too dangerous for travelers.
No sounds of sheep bleating or cattle mooing.
Birds and wild animals, all gone.
Nothing stirring, no sounds of life.
I’m going to make Jerusalem a pile of rubble,
fit for nothing but stray cats and dogs.
I’m going to reduce Judah’s towns to piles of ruins
where no one lives!”
* * *
12 I asked, “Is there anyone around bright enough to tell us what’s going on here? Anyone who has the inside story from God and can let us in on it?
“Why is the country wasted?
“Why no travelers in this desert?”
13-15 God’s answer: “Because they abandoned my plain teaching. They wouldn’t listen to anything I said, refused to live the way I told them to. Instead they lived any way they wanted and took up with the Baal gods, who they thought would give them what they wanted—following the example of their parents.” And this is the consequence. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so:
“I’ll feed them with pig slop.
“I’ll give them poison to drink.
16 “Then I’ll scatter them far and wide among godless peoples that neither they nor their parents have ever heard of, and I’ll send Death in pursuit until there’s nothing left of them.”
A Life That Is All Outside but No Inside
17-19 A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“Look over the trouble we’re in and call for help.
Send for some singers who can help us mourn our loss.
Tell them to hurry—
to help us express our loss and lament,
Help us get our tears flowing,
make tearful music of our crying.
Listen to it!
Listen to that torrent of tears out of Zion:
‘We’re a ruined people,
we’re a shamed people!
We’ve been driven from our homes
and must leave our land!’”
* * *
20-21 Mourning women! Oh, listen to God’s Message!
Open your ears. Take in what he says.
Teach your daughters songs for the dead
and your friends the songs of heartbreak.
Death has climbed in through the window,
broken into our bedrooms.
Children on the playgrounds drop dead,
and young men and women collapse at their games.
22 Speak up! “God’s Message:
“‘Dead bodies everywhere, scattered at random
like sheep and goat dung in the fields,
Like wheat cut down by reapers
and left to rot where it falls.’”
23-24 God’s Message:
“Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom.
Don’t let heroes brag of their exploits.
Don’t let the rich brag of their riches.
If you brag, brag of this and this only:
That you understand and know me.
I’m God, and I act in loyal love.
I do what’s right and set things right and fair,
and delight in those who do the same things.
These are my trademarks.”
* * *
25-26 “Stay alert! It won’t be long now”—God’s Decree!—“when I will personally deal with everyone whose life is all outside but no inside: Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab. All these nations are big on performance religion—including Israel, who is no better.”
The Stick Gods
10 1-5 Listen to the Message that God is sending your way, House of Israel. Listen most carefully:
“Don’t take the godless nations as your models.
Don’t be impressed by their glamour and glitz,
no matter how much they’re impressed.
The religion of these peoples
is nothing but smoke.
An idol is nothing but a tree chopped down,
then shaped by a woodsman’s ax.
They trim it with tinsel and balls,
use hammer and nails to keep it upright.
It’s like a scarecrow in a cabbage patch—can’t talk!
Deadwood that has to be carried—can’t walk!
Don’t be impressed by such stuff.
It’s useless for either good or evil.”
6-9 All this is nothing compared to you, O God.
You’re wondrously great, famously great.
Who can fail to be impressed by you, King of the nations?
It’s your very nature to be worshiped!
Look far and wide among the elite of the nations.
The best they can come up with is nothing compared to you.
Stupidly, they line them up—a lineup of sticks,
good for nothing but making smoke.
Gilded with silver foil from Tarshish,
covered with gold from Uphaz,
Hung with violet and purple fabrics—
no matter how fancy the sticks, they’re still sticks.
10 But God is the real thing—
the living God, the eternal King.
When he’s angry, Earth shakes.
Yes, and the godless nations quake.
11-15 “Tell them this, ‘The stick gods
who made nothing, neither sky nor earth,
Will come to nothing
on the earth and under the sky.’”
But it is God whose power made the earth,
whose wisdom gave shape to the world,
who crafted the cosmos.
He thunders, and rain pours down.
He sends the clouds soaring.
He embellishes the storm with lightnings,
launches wind from his warehouse.
Stick-god worshipers looking mighty foolish,
god-makers embarrassed by their handmade gods!
Their gods are frauds—dead sticks,
deadwood gods, tasteless jokes.
When the fires of judgment come, they’ll be ashes.
16 But the Portion-of-Jacob is the real thing.
He put the whole universe together
And pays special attention to Israel.
His name? God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
* * *
17-18 Grab your bags,
all you who are under attack.
God has given notice:
“Attention! I’m evicting
Everyone who lives here,
And right now—yes, right now!
I’m going to press them to the limit,
squeeze the life right out of them.”
* * *
19-20 But it’s a black day for me!
I said, “Why, oh why
did I think I could bear it?”
My house is ruined—
the roof caved in.
Our children are gone—
we’ll never see them again.
No one left to help in rebuilding,
no one to make a new start!
21 It’s because our leaders are stupid.
They never asked God for counsel,
And so nothing worked right.
The people are scattered all over.
22 But listen! Something’s coming!
A big commotion from the northern borders!
Judah’s towns about to be smashed,
left to all the stray dogs and cats!
23-25 I know, God, that mere mortals
can’t run their own lives,
That men and women
don’t have what it takes to take charge of life.
So correct us, God, as you see best.
Don’t lose your temper. That would be the end of us.
Vent your anger on the godless nations,
who refuse to acknowledge you,
And on the people
who won’t pray to you—
The very ones who’ve made a meal out of Jacob,
yes, made a meal
And devoured him whole,
people and pastures alike.