12 Jeremiah: Eternal, You always do what is right when I bring a complaint Your way. So now let me put a case before You: Why do the wicked prosper so much? Why do all the untrustworthy have it so easy? 2 You plant them and watch them take root; You allow them to grow and even bear fruit. And yet, Your words mean nothing to them, deep down. 3 Still, You know me, Eternal One; You see what is deep inside me. You’ve examined my heart, So why aren’t they brought to justice? Deal with them as sheep set aside for slaughter, singled out for death. 4 How long must the land cry out in mourning, the grasses of the field wither and bake in the sun? The birds and wild animals have simply vanished, all because of the wicked living here— Because they say, “God does not see what will become of us.”
Jeremiah’s complaint is a common one; it is as old as civilization itself: Why do the wicked prosper? Why do good people have to wait for God’s justice? God doesn’t shrink back from such questions, and He does not punish those who dare ask them. In fact, Scripture invites us to ask God the hard questions through Jeremiah’s example. The answers to hard questions are never easy. In fact, as Jeremiah will soon discover, his troubles are only beginning. God calls him again to endure.
5 Eternal One: If you are worn out after only running with a few men, how will you one day compete against horses? If you stumble on the easy terrain, how will you manage in the thick brush near the Jordan? 6 Jeremiah, even your brothers and the rest of your family are ready to betray you. Even they cry out for your death; don’t trust any of them, no matter how nicely they speak to your face.
7 I have turned away My house, abandoned My heritage; I have given My deeply beloved one over to her enemies. 8 My very own people have acted toward Me like a lion in the wild, roaring at Me in defiance. For this, I hate her. 9 Have My own people become like colorful vultures? Are birds of prey circling all around them?[a] Gather the wild beasts and bring them on to devour My beloved. 10 Many shepherds have already destroyed My vineyard; they have crushed My fields. My beautiful land of promise has turned into a barren wasteland. 11 The very ground cries out to Me in this empty and forsaken land; the whole land is desolate, but no one seems to care. 12 The destroyers pour over the bare hills in the desert as the sword of the Eternal devours the land from one end to another. There is no peace for anyone. 13 The people planted wheat, but they will reap only thorns. In the end, there will be nothing to show for all their hard work. Shame will be their harvest because of the Eternal’s burning anger against them.
Jeremiah now speaks to the nations. They, too, must trust God. His love and mercy are not for Israel alone.
The Eternal has this to say:
Eternal One:14 As for My wicked neighbors so eager to take away the inheritance I gave My people Israel, look! There will come a day when I will uproot them from their lands, and I will take Judah from their midst. 15 But after I have uprooted them from their homelands, I will have mercy on them and restore them to their own lands and their own possessions. 16 And if they diligently learn the ways of My people and trust in Me instead of idols, if they swear by My name saying, “As the Eternal lives,” just as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then I will establish them alongside My people. 17 As for any nation that will not listen to and follow My ways, I will uproot it and destroy it completely.
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