1 Can you, panel of judges, get anything right?
When you judge people, do you tell the truth and pursue justice?
2 No, your real selves have been revealed. You have wickedness in your heart,
and many people have suffered by your hands.
3 Evildoers are naturally offensive, wayward at birth!
They were born telling lies and willfully wandering from the truth.
4 Their bite is painful; their venom is like the deadly poison of a snake;
they are like a cobra that closes up its ears
5 To escape the voice of the charmers,
no matter how enchanting the spells may be.
6 O God, shatter their teeth in their mouths!
Render the young lions harmless; break out their fangs, O Eternal One.
7 Let them run off like the waters of a flood,
and though they aim their arrows, let them fly without their heads.
8 Let them melt like a snail that oozes along;
may they be like a stillborn that never catches its first breath, never sees the sun.
9 Before your cook pots know the furious flame of a fire of thorns—
whether green or burning—He will blow the wicked away.
10 Cheers will rise as the right-living watch Him settle the score,
their feet washed in the blood after the onslaught of the wicked.
11 And it will be heard, “Those who seek justice will be rewarded.
Indeed, there is a God who brings justice to the earth!”
23 Eternal One (to His people): How can you say, “I have not been defiled”?
How can you reply, “I have not run after the idols of Baal?”
You know exactly what you’ve done down in the valley—
you’re like a young camel running here and there without any direction.
24 You’ve acted like a wild donkey at home in that desert,
sniffing at the wind for any scent of the next encounter, unbridled in her lust.
It’s not even fair to say you were seduced by these gods.
You sought them out!
25 I warn you again: stop running after these rituals
till your feet are bare and your throat is dried out.
You said, “I can’t help myself, for I love these strange gods I am chasing after.”
26 Like a thief caught in the act, the people of Israel will be put to shame:
kings, leaders, priests, and prophets will be shamed.
27 They say to a piece of wood, “You are my father”;
they confess to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
They have shunned Me, who gave them life—turning their backs
instead of facing Me—
But that will change when troubles come.
That’s when they will cry out to Me, “Stand up for us, and save us!”
28 O Judah, where will your pagan gods be then?
You know, the ones you made yourself?
Let them stand up on their own.
See if they’re able to save you from your troubles.
You have as many gods as villages, Judah. Now let them take care of you.
29 Why are you leveling charges against Me?
You are the unfaithful one here.
You have all pulled away from Me.
30 I tried to discipline your sons, but it didn’t work; they wouldn’t listen.
You destroyed the prophets I sent to speak truth to you.
You devoured them as a lion does his prey.
31 People of this generation, consider again the word of the Eternal.
Eternal One: Have I been a barren wasteland to Israel with nothing to offer?
Am I no more than a land cloaked in darkness to them?
Why do My own people say to Me,
“We would rather wander where we want than come to You”?
32 Does a young woman ever forget her jewelry?
Does a bride forget to bring along her wedding dress?
And yet My people forgot Me long, long ago.
33 How good you’ve become at your reckless loving!
You could teach even a loose woman a thing or two.
34 The stain of the blood of the poor and the innocent is on your clothes
Even though you didn’t find them breaking into your houses.
In spite of it all,
35 Still you dare to say, “I am innocent;
surely God could not be angry with me anymore.”
Yet watch as I condemn you
because you perjure yourself saying, “I have not sinned.”
36 How do you keep changing directions,
making a covenant with Me, then a treaty with them?
You will soon be disappointed by the alliance with Egypt
just as you were by the one with Assyria.
37 You will leave this land as captives, with your hands on your head.
Why? Because I, the Eternal One, have rejected those you relied on.
You will never prosper from their help.
7 Listen to your leaders, who have spoken God’s word to you. Notice the fruits of their lives and mirror their faith.
8 Jesus the Anointed One is always the same: yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by diverse and strange ways of believing or worshiping. It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about what you can eat (which do no good even for those who observe them). 10 We approach an altar from which those who stand before the altar in the tent have no right to eat. 11 In the past, the bodies of those animals whose blood was carried into the sanctuary by the high priest to take away sin were all burned outside the camp. 12 (In the same way, Jesus suffered and bled outside the city walls of Jerusalem to sanctify the people.)
If we are honest, we have to admit that coming to Jesus and entering into His church ruins us—at least as far as this world is concerned. If we identify with Him in His suffering and rejection, we become a reproachful irritation to the powers that rule this culture. If we ever felt at home in this world—if we ever sensed that we belonged—then we would wake up one day to discover that we will never be at home again until we enter the city of God. By entering through Jesus, we become citizens of another city, subjects of another king. As long as we are here, we should live as resident aliens longing to go home.
13 Let’s then go out to Him and resolve to bear the insult and abuse that He endured. 14 For as long as we are here, we do not live in any permanent city, but are looking for the city that is to come.
15 Through Jesus, then, let us keep offering to God our own sacrifice, the praise of lips that confess His name without ceasing. 16 Let’s not neglect what is good and share what we have, for these sacrifices also please God.
17 Listen to your leaders and submit to their authority over the community, for they are on constant watch to protect your souls and someday they must give account. Give them reason to be joyful and not to regret their duty, for that will be of no good to you.
18-19 Pray for us, for we have no doubt that our consciences are clean and that we seek to live honestly in all things. But please pray for me that I may be restored to you even more quickly.
20 Now may the God of peace, who brought the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus, back from the dead through the blood of the new everlasting covenant, 21 perfect you in every good work as you work God’s will. May God do in you only those things that are pleasing in His sight through Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, to whom we give glory always and forever. Amen.Read full chapter