Sins Are Piled Sky-High
5 1-2 “Patrol Jerusalem’s streets.
Look around. Take note.
Search the market squares.
See if you can find one man, one woman,
A single soul who does what is right
and tries to live a true life.
I want to forgive that person.”
“But if all they do is say, ‘As sure as God lives . . .’
they’re nothing but a bunch of liars.”
3-6 But you, God,
you have an eye for truth, don’t you?
You hit them hard, but it didn’t faze them.
You disciplined them, but they refused correction.
Hardheaded, harder than rock,
they wouldn’t change.
Then I said to myself, “Well, these are just poor people.
They don’t know any better.
They were never taught anything about God.
They never went to prayer meetings.
I’ll find some people from the best families.
I’ll talk to them.
They’ll know what’s going on, the way God works.
They’ll know the score.”
But they were no better! Rebels all!
Off doing their own thing.
The invaders are ready to pounce and kill,
like a mountain lion, a wilderness wolf,
Panthers on the prowl.
The streets aren’t safe anymore.
And why? Because the people’s sins are piled sky-high;
their betrayals are past counting.
7-9 “Why should I even bother with you any longer?
Your children wander off, leaving me,
Taking up with gods
that aren’t even gods.
I satisfied their deepest needs, and then they went off with the ‘sacred’ whores,
left me for orgies in sex shrines!
A bunch of well-groomed, lusty stallions,
each one pawing and snorting for his neighbor’s wife.
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?
Eyes That Don’t Really Look, Ears That Don’t Really Listen
10-11 “Go down the rows of vineyards and rip out the vines,
but not all of them. Leave a few.
Prune back those vines!
That growth didn’t come from God!
They’ve betrayed me over and over again,
Judah and Israel both.”
12-13 “They’ve spread lies about God.
They’ve said, ‘There’s nothing to him.
Nothing bad will happen to us,
neither famine nor war will come our way.
The prophets are all windbags.
They speak nothing but nonsense.’”
14 Therefore, this is what God said to me, God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“Because they have talked this way,
they are going to eat those words.
Watch now! I’m putting my words
as fire in your mouth.
And the people are a pile of kindling
ready to go up in flames.
15-17 “Attention! I’m bringing a far-off nation
against you, O house of Israel.”
“A solid nation,
an ancient nation,
A nation that speaks another language.
You won’t understand a word they say.
When they aim their arrows, you’re as good as dead.
They’re a nation of real fighters!
They’ll clean you out of house and home,
rob you of crops and children alike.
They’ll feast on your sheep and cattle,
strip your vines and fig trees.
And the fortresses that made you feel so safe—
leveled with a stroke of the sword!
18-19 “Even then, as bad as it will be”—God’s Decree!—“it will not be the end of the world for you. And when people ask, ‘Why did our God do all this to us?’ you must say to them, ‘It’s tit for tat. Just as you left me and served foreign gods in your own country, so now you must serve foreigners in their own country.’
20-25 “Tell the house of Jacob this,
put out this bulletin in Judah:
Listen to this,
you scatterbrains, airheads,
With eyes that see but don’t really look,
and ears that hear but don’t really listen.
Why don’t you honor me?
Why aren’t you in awe before me?
Yes, me, who made the shorelines
to contain the ocean waters.
I drew a line in the sand
that cannot be crossed.
Waves roll in but cannot get through;
breakers crash but that’s the end of them.
But this people—what a people!
Uncontrollable, untameable runaways.
It never occurs to them to say,
‘How can we honor our God with our lives,
The God who gives rain in both spring and autumn
and maintains the rhythm of the seasons,
Who sets aside time each year for harvest
and keeps everything running smoothly for us?’
Of course you don’t! Your bad behavior blinds you to all this.
Your sins keep my blessings at a distance.
To Stand for Nothing and Stand Up for No One
26-29 “My people are infiltrated by wicked men,
unscrupulous men on the hunt.
They set traps for the unsuspecting.
Their victims are innocent men and women.
Their houses are stuffed with ill-gotten gain,
like a hunter’s bag full of birds.
Pretentious and powerful and rich,
hugely obese, oily with rolls of fat.
Worse, they have no conscience.
Right and wrong mean nothing to them.
They stand for nothing, stand up for no one,
throw orphans to the wolves, exploit the poor.
Do you think I’ll stand by and do nothing about this?”
“Don’t you think I’ll take serious measures
against a people like this?
30-31 “Unspeakable! Sickening!
What’s happened in this country?
Prophets preach lies
and priests hire on as their assistants.
And my people love it. They eat it up!
But what will you do when it’s time to pick up the pieces?”
A City Full of Lies
6 1-5 “Run for your lives, children of Benjamin!
Get out of Jerusalem, and now!
Give a blast on the ram’s horn in Blastville.
Send up smoke signals from Smoketown.
Doom pours out of the north—
I have likened my dear daughter Zion
to a lovely meadow.
Well, now ‘shepherds’ from the north have discovered her
and brought in their flocks of soldiers.
They’ve pitched camp all around her,
and plan where they’ll ‘graze.’
And then, ‘Prepare to attack! The fight is on!
To arms! We’ll strike at noon!
Oh, it’s too late? Day is dying?
Evening shadows are upon us?
Well, up anyway! We’ll attack by night
and tear apart her defenses stone by stone.’”
6-8 God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave the orders:
“Chop down her trees.
Build a siege ramp against Jerusalem,
A city full of brutality,
bursting with violence.
Just as a well holds a good supply of water,
she supplies wickedness nonstop.
The streets echo the cries: ‘Violence! Rape!’
Victims, bleeding and moaning, lie all over the place.
You’re in deep trouble, Jerusalem.
You’ve pushed me to the limit.
You’re on the brink of being wiped out,
being turned into a ghost town.”
9 More orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“Time’s up! Harvest the grapes for judgment.
Salvage what’s left of Israel.
Go back over the vines.
Pick them clean, every last grape.
Is Anybody Listening?
10-11 “I’ve got something to say. Is anybody listening?
I’ve a warning to post. Will anyone notice?
It’s hopeless! Their ears are stuffed with wax—
deaf as a post, blind as a bat.
It’s hopeless! They’ve tuned out God.
They don’t want to hear from me.
But I’m bursting with the wrath of God.
I can’t hold it in much longer.
11-12 “So dump it on the children in the streets.
Let it loose on the gangs of youth.
For no one’s exempt: Husbands and wives will be taken,
the old and those ready to die;
Their homes will be given away—
all they own, even their loved ones—
When I give the signal
against all who live in this country.”
13-15 “Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar,
little people and big people alike.
Prophets and priests and everyone in between
twist words and doctor truth.
My people are broken—shattered!—
and they put on Band-Aids,
Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’
But things are not ‘just fine’!
Do you suppose they are embarrassed
over this outrage?
No, they have no shame.
They don’t even know how to blush.
There’s no hope for them. They’ve hit bottom
and there’s no getting up.
As far as I’m concerned,
God has spoken.
Death Is on the Prowl
16-20 God’s Message yet again:
“Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for directions to the old road,
The tried-and-true road. Then take it.
Discover the right route for your souls.
But they said, ‘Nothing doing.
We aren’t going that way.’
I even provided watchmen for them
to warn them, to set off the alarm.
But the people said, ‘It’s a false alarm.
It doesn’t concern us.’
And so I’m calling in the nations as witnesses:
‘Watch, witnesses, what happens to them!’
And, ‘Pay attention, Earth!
Don’t miss these bulletins.’
I’m visiting catastrophe on this people, the end result
of the games they’ve been playing with me.
They’ve ignored everything I’ve said,
had nothing but contempt for my teaching.
What would I want with incense brought in from Sheba,
rare spices from exotic places?
Your burnt sacrifices in worship give me no pleasure.
Your religious rituals mean nothing to me.”
21 So listen to this. Here’s God’s verdict on your way of life:
“Watch out! I’m putting roadblocks and barriers
on the road you’re taking.
They’ll send you sprawling,
parents and children, neighbors and friends—
and that will be the end of the lot of you.”
22-23 And listen to this verdict from God:
“Look out! An invasion from the north,
a mighty power on the move from a faraway place:
Armed to the teeth,
vicious and pitiless,
Booming like sea storm and thunder—tramp, tramp, tramp—
riding hard on war horses,
In battle formation
against you, dear Daughter Zion!”
24-25 We’ve heard the news,
and we’re as limp as wet dishrags.
We’re paralyzed with fear.
Terror has a death grip on our throats.
Don’t dare go outdoors!
Don’t leave the house!
Death is on the prowl.
26 “Dear Daughter Zion: Dress in black.
Blacken your face with ashes.
Weep most bitterly,
as for an only child.
The countdown has begun . . .
six, five, four, three . . .
The Terror is on us!”
27-30 God gave me this task:
“I have made you the examiner of my people,
to examine and weigh their lives.
They’re a thickheaded, hard-nosed bunch,
rotten to the core, the lot of them.
Refining fires are cranked up to white heat,
but the ore stays a lump, unchanged.
It’s useless to keep trying any longer.
Nothing can refine evil out of them.
Men will give up and call them ‘slag,’
thrown on the slag heap by me, their God.”