Demolish, and Then Start Over
1 1-4 The Message of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah of the family of priests who lived in Anathoth in the country of Benjamin. God’s Message began to come to him during the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amos reigned over Judah. It continued to come to him during the time Jehoiakim son of Josiah reigned over Judah. And it continued to come to him clear down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah over Judah, the year that Jerusalem was taken into exile. This is what God said:
5 “Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
that’s what I had in mind for you.”
6 But I said, “Hold it, Master God! Look at me.
I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!”
7-8 God told me, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a boy.’
I’ll tell you where to go and you’ll go there.
I’ll tell you what to say and you’ll say it.
Don’t be afraid of a soul.
I’ll be right there, looking after you.”
9-10 God reached out, touched my mouth, and said,
“Look! I’ve just put my words in your mouth—hand-delivered!
See what I’ve done? I’ve given you a job to do
among nations and governments—a red-letter day!
Your job is to pull up and tear down,
take apart and demolish,
And then start over,
building and planting.”
Stand Up and Say Your Piece
11-12 God’s Message came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
I said, “A walking stick—that’s all.”
And God said, “Good eyes! I’m sticking with you.
I’ll make every word I give you come true.”
13-15 God’s Message came again: “So what do you see now?”
I said, “I see a boiling pot, tipped down toward us.”
Then God told me, “Disaster will pour out of the north
on everyone living in this land.
Watch for this: I’m calling all the kings out of the north.”
15-16 “They’ll come and set up headquarters
facing Jerusalem’s gates,
Facing all the city walls,
facing all the villages of Judah.
I’ll pronounce my judgment on the people of Judah
for walking out on me—what a terrible thing to do!—
And courting other gods with their offerings,
worshiping as gods sticks they’d carved, stones they’d painted.
17 “But you—up on your feet and get dressed for work!
Stand up and say your piece. Say exactly what I tell you to say.
Don’t pull your punches
or I’ll pull you out of the lineup.
18-19 “Stand at attention while I prepare you for your work.
I’m making you as impregnable as a castle,
Immovable as a steel post,
solid as a concrete block wall.
You’re a one-man defense system
against this culture,
Against Judah’s kings and princes,
against the priests and local leaders.
They’ll fight you, but they won’t
even scratch you.
I’ll back you up every inch of the way.”
Israel Was God’s Holy Choice
2 1-3 God’s Message came to me. It went like this:
“Get out in the streets and call to Jerusalem,
I remember your youthful loyalty,
our love as newlyweds.
You stayed with me through the wilderness years,
stuck with me through all the hard places.
Israel was God’s holy choice,
the pick of the crop.
Anyone who laid a hand on her
would soon wish he hadn’t!’”
4-6 Hear God’s Message, House of Jacob!
Yes, you—House of Israel!
God’s Message: “What did your ancestors find fault with in me
that they drifted so far from me,
Took up with Sir Windbag
and turned into windbags themselves?
It never occurred to them to say, ‘Where’s God,
the God who got us out of Egypt,
Who took care of us through thick and thin, those rough-and-tumble
wilderness years of parched deserts and death valleys,
A land that no one who enters comes out of,
a cruel, inhospitable land?’
7-8 “I brought you to a garden land
where you could eat lush fruit.
But you barged in and polluted my land,
trashed and defiled my dear land.
The priests never thought to ask, ‘Where’s God?’
The religion experts knew nothing of me.
The rulers defied me.
The prophets preached god Baal
And chased empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.
9-11 “Because of all this, I’m bringing charges against you”
“charging you and your children and your grandchildren.
Look around. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?
Sail to the western islands and look.
Travel to the Kedar wilderness and look.
Look closely. Has this ever happened before,
That a nation has traded in its gods
for gods that aren’t even close to gods?
But my people have traded my Glory
for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes.
12-13 “Stand in shock, heavens, at what you see!
Throw up your hands in disbelief—this can’t be!”
“My people have committed a compound sin:
they’ve walked out on me, the fountain
Of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns—
cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves.
14-17 “Isn’t Israel a valued servant,
born into a family with place and position?
So how did she end up a piece of meat
fought over by snarling and roaring lions?
There’s nothing left of her but a few old bones,
her towns trashed and deserted.
Egyptians from the cities of Memphis and Tahpanhes
have broken your skulls.
And why do you think all this has happened?
Isn’t it because you walked out on your God
just as he was beginning to lead you in the right way?
18-19 “And now, what do you think you’ll get by going off to Egypt?
Maybe a cool drink of Nile River water?
Or what do you think you’ll get by going off to Assyria?
Maybe a long drink of Euphrates River water?
Your evil ways will get you a sound thrashing, that’s what you’ll get.
You’ll pay dearly for your disloyal ways.
Take a long, hard look at what you’ve done and its bitter results.
Was it worth it to have walked out on your God?”
God’s Decree, Master God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
Addicted to Alien Gods
20-22 “A long time ago you broke out of the harness.
You shook off all restraints.
You said, ‘I will not serve!’
and off you went,
Visiting every sex-and-religion shrine on the way,
like a common whore.
You were a select vine when I planted you
from completely reliable stock.
And look how you’ve turned out—
a tangle of rancid growth, a poor excuse for a vine.
Scrub, using the strongest soaps.
Scour your skin raw.
The sin-grease won’t come out. I can’t stand to even look at you!”
God’s Decree, the Master’s Decree.
23-24 “How dare you tell me, ‘I’m not stained by sin.
I’ve never chased after the Baal sex gods’!
Well, look at the tracks you’ve left behind in the valley.
How do you account for what is written in the desert dust—
Tracks of a camel in heat, running this way and that,
tracks of a wild donkey in rut,
Sniffing the wind for the slightest scent of sex.
Who could possibly corral her!
On the hunt for sex, sex, and more sex—
insatiable, indiscriminate, promiscuous.
25 “Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry?
Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?
But you say, ‘I can’t help it.
I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.’
26-28 “Just as a thief is chagrined, but only when caught,
so the people of Israel are chagrined,
Caught along with their kings and princes,
their priests and prophets.
They walk up to a tree and say, ‘My father!’
They pick up a stone and say, ‘My mother! You bore me!’
All I ever see of them is their backsides.
They never look me in the face.
But when things go badly, they don’t hesitate to come running,
calling out, ‘Get a move on! Save us!’
Why not go to your handcrafted gods you’re so fond of?
Rouse them. Let them save you from your bad times.
You’ve got more gods, Judah,
than you know what to do with.
Trying Out Another Sin-Project
29-30 “What do you have against me,
running off to assert your ‘independence’?”
“I’ve wasted my time trying to train your children.
They’ve paid no attention to me, ignored my discipline.
And you’ve gotten rid of your God-messengers,
treating them like dirt and sweeping them away.
31-32 “What a generation you turned out to be!
Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I warn you?
Have I let you down, Israel?
Am I nothing but a dead-end street?
Why do my people say, ‘Good riddance!
From now on we’re on our own’?
Young women don’t forget their jewelry, do they?
Brides don’t show up without their veils, do they?
But my people forget me.
Day after day after day they never give me a thought.
33-35 “What an impressive start you made
to get the most out of life.
You founded schools of sin,
taught graduate courses in evil!
And now you’re sending out graduates, resplendent in cap and gown—
except the gowns are stained with the blood of your victims!
All that blood convicts you.
You cut and hurt a lot of people to get where you are.
And yet you have the gall to say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.
God doesn’t mind. He hasn’t punished me, has he?’
Don’t look now, but judgment’s on the way,
aimed at you who say, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’
36-37 “You think it’s just a small thing, don’t you,
to try out another sin-project when the first one fails?
But Egypt will leave you in the lurch
the same way that Assyria did.
You’re going to walk away from there
wringing your hands.
I, God, have blacklisted those you trusted.
You’ll get not a lick of help from them.”