The Terms of This Covenant
11 The Message that came to Jeremiah from God:
2-4 “Preach to the people of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem. Tell them this: ‘This is God’s Message, the Message of Israel’s God to you. Anyone who does not keep the terms of this covenant is cursed. The terms are clear. I made them plain to your ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt, out of the iron furnace of suffering.
4-5 “‘Obey what I tell you. Do exactly what I command you. Your obedience will close the deal. You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours. This will provide the conditions in which I will be able to do what I promised your ancestors: to give them a fertile and lush land. And, as you know, that’s what I did.’”
“Yes, God,” I replied. “That’s true.”
6-8 God continued: “Preach all this in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. Say, ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and carry them out! I warned your ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt and I’ve kept up the warnings. I haven’t quit warning them for a moment. I warned them from morning to night: “Obey me or else!” But they didn’t obey. They paid no attention to me. They did whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted to do it, until finally I stepped in and ordered the punishments set out in the covenant, which, despite all my warnings, they had ignored.’”
9-10 Then God said, “There’s a conspiracy among the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. They’ve plotted to reenact the sins of their ancestors—the ones who disobeyed me and decided to go after other gods and worship them. Israel and Judah are in this together, mindlessly breaking the covenant I made with their ancestors.”
11-13 “Well, your God has something to say about this: Watch out! I’m about to visit doom on you, and no one will get out of it. You’re going to cry for help but I won’t listen. Then all the people in Judah and Jerusalem will start praying to the gods you’ve been sacrificing to all these years, but it won’t do a bit of good. You’ve got as many gods as you have villages, Judah! And you’ve got enough altars for sacrifices to that impotent sex god Baal to put one on every street corner in Jerusalem!”
14 “And as for you, Jeremiah, I don’t want you praying for this people. Nothing! Not a word of petition. Indeed, I’m not going to listen to a single syllable of their crisis-prayers.”
Promises and Pious Programs
15-16 “What business do the ones I love have figuring out
how to get off the hook? And right in the house of worship!
Do you think making promises and devising pious programs
will save you from doom?
Do you think you can get out of this
by becoming more religious?
A mighty oak tree, majestic and glorious—
that’s how I once described you.
But it will only take a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning
to leave you a shattered wreck.
17 “I, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who planted you—yes, I have pronounced doom on you. Why? Because of the disastrous life you’ve lived, Israel and Judah alike, goading me to anger with your continuous worship and offerings to that sorry god Baal.”
18-19 God told me what was going on. That’s how I knew.
You, God, opened my eyes to their evil scheming.
I had no idea what was going on—naive as a lamb
being led to slaughter!
I didn’t know they had it in for me,
didn’t know of their behind-the-scenes plots:
“Let’s get rid of the preacher.
That will stop the sermons!
Let’s get rid of him for good.
He won’t be remembered for long.”
20 Then I said, “God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
you’re a fair judge.
You examine and cross-examine
human actions and motives.
I want to see these people shown up and put down!
I’m an open book before you. Clear my name.”
21-23 That sent a signal to God, who spoke up: “Here’s what I’ll do to the men of Anathoth who are trying to murder you, the men who say, ‘Don’t preach to us in God’s name or we’ll kill you.’ Yes, it’s God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaking. Indeed! I’ll call them to account: Their young people will die in battle, their children will die of starvation, and there will be no one left at all, none. I’m visiting the men of Anathoth with doom. Doomsday!”
What Makes You Think You Can Race Against Horses?
12 1-4 You are right, O God, and you set things right.
I can’t argue with that. But I do have some questions:
Why do bad people have it so good?
Why do con artists make it big?
You planted them and they put down roots.
They flourished and produced fruit.
They talk as if they’re old friends with you,
but they couldn’t care less about you.
Meanwhile, you know me inside and out.
You don’t let me get by with a thing!
Make them pay for the way they live,
pay with their lives, like sheep marked for slaughter.
How long do we have to put up with this—
the country depressed, the farms in ruin—
And all because of wickedness, these wicked lives?
Even animals and birds are dying off
Because they’ll have nothing to do with God
and think God has nothing to do with them.
5-6 “So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men,
what makes you think you can race against horses?
And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm,
what’s going to happen when troubles break loose
like the Jordan in flood?
Those closest to you, your own brothers and cousins,
are working against you.
They’re out to get you. They’ll stop at nothing.
Don’t trust them, especially when they’re smiling.
7-11 “I will abandon the House of Israel,
walk away from my beloved people.
I will turn over those I most love
to those who are her enemies.
She’s been, this one I held dear,
like a snarling lion in the jungle,
Growling and baring her teeth at me—
and I can’t take it anymore.
Has this one I hold dear become a preening peacock?
But isn’t she under attack by vultures?
Then invite all the hungry animals at large,
invite them in for a free meal!
Foreign, scavenging shepherds
will loot and trample my fields,
Turn my beautiful, well-cared-for fields
into vacant lots of tin cans and thistles.
They leave them littered with junk—
a ruined land, a land in lament.
The whole countryside is a wasteland,
and no one will really care.
12-13 “The barbarians will invade,
swarm over hills and plains.
The judgment sword of God will take its toll
from one end of the land to the other.
Nothing living will be safe.
They will plant wheat and reap weeds.
Nothing they do will work out.
They will look at their meager crops and wring their hands.
All this the result of God’s fierce anger!”
14-17 God’s Message: “Regarding all the bad neighbors who abused the land I gave to Israel as their inheritance: I’m going to pluck them out of their lands, and then pluck Judah out from among them. Once I’ve pulled the bad neighbors out, I will relent and take them tenderly to my heart and put them back where they belong, put each of them back in their home country, on their family farms. Then if they will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to that god Baal, everything will go well for them. But if they won’t listen, then I’ll pull them out of their land by the roots and cart them off to the dump. Total destruction!” God’s Decree.