The Leader Who Will Shepherd-Rule Israel
5 But for now, prepare for the worst, victim daughter!
The siege is set against us.
They humiliate Israel’s king,
slapping him around like a rag doll.
2-4 But you, Bethlehem, David’s country,
the runt of the litter—
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule Israel.
He’ll be no upstart, no pretender.
His family tree is ancient and distinguished.
Meanwhile, Israel will be in foster homes
until the birth pangs are over and the child is born,
And the scattered brothers come back
home to the family of Israel.
He will stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God’s strength,
centered in the majesty of God-Revealed.
And the people will have a good and safe home,
for the whole world will hold him in respect—
Peacemaker of the world!
5-6 And if some bullying Assyrian shows up,
invades and violates our land, don’t worry.
We’ll put him in his place, send him packing,
and watch his every move.
Shepherd-rule will extend as far as needed,
to Assyria and all other Nimrod-bullies.
Our shepherd-ruler will save us from old or new enemies,
from anyone who invades or violates our land.
7 The purged and select company of Jacob will be
like an island in the sea of peoples.
They’ll be like dew from God,
like summer showers
Not mentioned in the weather forecast,
not subject to calculation or control.
8-9 Yes, the purged and select company of Jacob will be
like an island in the sea of peoples,
Like the king of beasts among wild beasts,
like a young lion loose in a flock of sheep,
Killing and devouring the lambs
and no one able to stop him.
With your arms raised in triumph over your foes,
your enemies will be no more!
* * *
10-15 “The day is coming”
“When there will be no more war. None.
I’ll slaughter your war horses and demolish your chariots.
I’ll dismantle military posts
and level your fortifications.
I’ll abolish your religious black markets,
your underworld traffic in black magic.
I will smash your carved and cast gods
and chop down your phallic posts.
No more taking control of the world,
worshiping what you do or make.
I’ll root out your sacred sex-and-power centers
and destroy the God-defiant.
In raging anger, I’ll make a clean sweep
of godless nations who haven’t listened.”
What God Is Looking For
6 1-2 Listen now, listen to God:
“Take your stand in court.
If you have a complaint, tell the mountains;
make your case to the hills.
And now, Mountains, hear God’s case;
listen, Jury Earth—
For I am bringing charges against my people.
I am building a case against Israel.
3-5 “Dear people, how have I done you wrong?
Have I burdened you, worn you out? Answer!
I delivered you from a bad life in Egypt;
I paid a good price to get you out of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you—
and Aaron and Miriam to boot!
Remember what Balak king of Moab tried to pull,
and how Balaam son of Beor turned the tables on him.
Remember all those stories about Shittim and Gilgal.
Keep all God’s salvation stories fresh and present.”
6-7 How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings
topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams,
with buckets and barrels of olive oil?
Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child,
my precious baby, to cancel my sin?
* * *
8 But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.
9 Attention! God calls out to the city!
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll listen.
So listen, all of you!
This is serious business.
* * *
10-16 “Do you expect me to overlook obscene wealth
you’ve piled up by cheating and fraud?
Do you think I’ll tolerate shady deals
and shifty scheming?
I’m tired of the violent rich
bullying their way with bluffs and lies.
I’m fed up. Beginning now, you’re finished.
You’ll pay for your sins down to your last cent.
No matter how much you get, it will never be enough—
hollow stomachs, empty hearts.
No matter how hard you work, you’ll have nothing to show for it—
bankrupt lives, wasted souls.
You’ll plant grass
but never get a lawn.
You’ll make jelly
but never spread it on your bread.
You’ll press apples
but never drink the cider.
You have lived by the standards of your king, Omri,
the decadent lifestyle of the family of Ahab.
Because you’ve slavishly followed their fashions,
I’m forcing you into bankruptcy.
Your way of life will be laughed at, a tasteless joke.
Your lives will be derided as futile and fake.”
Stick Around to See What God Will Do
7 1-6 I’m overwhelmed with sorrow!
sunk in a swamp of despair!
I’m like someone who goes to the garden
to pick cabbages and carrots and corn
And returns empty-handed,
finds nothing for soup or sandwich or salad.
There’s not a decent person in sight.
Right-living humans are extinct.
They’re all out for one another’s blood,
animals preying on each other.
They’ve all become experts in evil.
Corrupt leaders demand bribes.
The powerful rich
make sure they get what they want.
The best and brightest are thistles.
The top of the line is crabgrass.
But no longer: It’s exam time.
Look at them slinking away in disgrace!
Don’t trust your neighbor,
don’t confide in your friend.
Watch your words,
even with your spouse.
Neighborhoods and families are falling to pieces.
The closer they are—sons, daughters, in-laws—
The worse they can be.
Your own family is the enemy.
* * *
7 But me, I’m not giving up.
I’m sticking around to see what God will do.
I’m waiting for God to make things right.
I’m counting on God to listen to me.
Spreading Your Wings
8-10 Don’t, enemy, crow over me.
I’m down, but I’m not out.
I’m sitting in the dark right now,
but God is my light.
I can take God’s punishing rage.
I deserve it—I sinned.
But it’s not forever. He’s on my side
and is going to get me out of this.
He’ll turn on the lights and show me his ways.
I’ll see the whole picture and how right he is.
And my enemy will see it, too,
and be discredited—yes, disgraced!
This enemy who kept taunting,
“So where is this God of yours?”
I’m going to see it with these, my own eyes—
my enemy disgraced, trash in the gutter.
* * *
11-13 Oh, that will be a day! A day for rebuilding your city,
a day for stretching your arms, spreading your wings!
All your dispersed and scattered people will come back,
old friends and family from faraway places,
From Assyria in the east to Egypt in the west,
from across the seas and out of the mountains.
But there’ll be a reversal for everyone else—massive depopulation—
because of the way they lived, the things they did.
14-17 Shepherd, O God, your people with your staff,
your dear and precious flock.
Uniquely yours in a grove of trees,
centered in lotus land.
Let them graze in lush Bashan
as in the old days in green Gilead.
Reproduce the miracle-wonders
of our exodus from Egypt.
And the godless nations: Put them in their place—
humiliated in their arrogance, speechless and clueless.
Make them slink like snakes, crawl like cockroaches,
come out of their holes from under their rocks
And face our God.
Fill them with holy fear and trembling.
* * *
18-20 Where is the god who can compare with you—
wiping the slate clean of guilt,
Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,
to the past sins of your purged and precious people?
You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long,
for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most.
And compassion is on its way to us.
You’ll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You’ll sink our sins
to the bottom of the ocean.
You’ll stay true to your word to Father Jacob
and continue the compassion you showed Grandfather Abraham—
Everything you promised our ancestors
from a long time ago.