Things You Could Never Figure Out on Your Own
33 While Jeremiah was still locked up in jail, a second Message from God was given to him:
2-3 “This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’
4-5 “This is what God, the God of Israel, has to say about what’s going on in this city, about the homes of both people and kings that have been demolished, about all the ravages of war and the killing by the Chaldeans, and about the streets littered with the dead bodies of those killed because of my raging anger—about all that’s happened because the evil actions in this city have turned my stomach in disgust.
6-9 “But now take another look. I’m going to give this city a thorough renovation, working a true healing inside and out. I’m going to show them life whole, life brimming with blessings. I’ll restore everything that was lost to Judah and Jerusalem. I’ll build everything back as good as new. I’ll scrub them clean from the dirt they’ve done against me. I’ll forgive everything they’ve done wrong, forgive all their rebellions. And Jerusalem will be a center of joy and praise and glory for all the countries on earth. They’ll get reports on all the good I’m doing for her. They’ll be in awe of the blessings I am pouring on her.
10-11 “Yes, God’s Message: ‘You’re going to look at this place, these empty and desolate towns of Judah and streets of Jerusalem, and say, “A wasteland. Unlivable. Not even a dog could live here.” But the time is coming when you’re going to hear laughter and celebration, marriage festivities, people exclaiming, “Thank God-of-the-Angel-Armies. He’s so good! His love never quits,” as they bring thank offerings into God’s Temple. I’ll restore everything that was lost in this land. I’ll make everything as good as new.’ I, God, say so.
12-13 “God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘This coming desolation, unfit for even a stray dog, is once again going to become a pasture for shepherds who care for their flocks. You’ll see flocks everywhere—in the mountains around the towns of the Shephelah and Negev, all over the territory of Benjamin, around Jerusalem and the towns of Judah—flocks under the care of shepherds who keep track of each sheep.’ God says so.
A Fresh and True Shoot from the David-Tree
14-18 “‘Watch for this: The time is coming’—God’s Decree—‘when I will keep the promise I made to the families of Israel and Judah. When that time comes, I will make a fresh and true shoot sprout from the David-Tree. He will run this country honestly and fairly. He will set things right. That’s when Judah will be secure and Jerusalem live in safety. The motto for the city will be, “God Has Set Things Right for Us.” God has made it clear that there will always be a descendant of David ruling the people of Israel and that there will always be Levitical priests on hand to offer burnt offerings, present grain offerings, and carry on the sacrificial worship in my honor.’”
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19-22 God’s Message to Jeremiah: “God says, ‘If my covenant with day and my covenant with night ever fell apart so that day and night became haphazard and you never knew which was coming and when, then and only then would my covenant with my servant David fall apart and his descendants no longer rule. The same goes for the Levitical priests who serve me. Just as you can’t number the stars in the sky nor measure the sand on the seashore, neither will you be able to account for the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who serve me.’”
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23-24 God’s Message to Jeremiah: “Have you heard the saying that’s making the rounds: ‘The two families God chose, Israel and Judah, he disowned’? And have you noticed that my people are treated with contempt, with rumors afoot that there’s nothing to them anymore?
25-26 “Well, here’s God’s response: ‘If my covenant with day and night wasn’t in working order, if sky and earth weren’t functioning the way I set them going, then, but only then, you might think I had disowned the descendants of Jacob and of my servant David, and that I wouldn’t set up any of David’s descendants over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But as it is, I will give them back everything they’ve lost. The last word is, I will have mercy on them.’”
Freedom to the Slaves
34 God’s Message to Jeremiah at the time King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon mounted an all-out attack on Jerusalem and all the towns around it with his armies and allies and everyone he could muster:
2-3 “I, God, the God of Israel, direct you to go and tell Zedekiah king of Judah: ‘This is God’s Message. Listen to me. I am going to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he is going to burn it to the ground. And don’t think you’ll get away. You’ll be captured and be his prisoner. You will have a personal confrontation with the king of Babylon and be taken off with him, captive, to Babylon.
4-5 “‘But listen, O Zedekiah king of Judah, to the rest of the Message of God. You won’t be killed. You’ll die a peaceful death. They will honor you with funeral rites as they honored your ancestors, the kings who preceded you. They will properly mourn your death, weeping, “Master, master!” This is a solemn promise. God’s Decree.’”
6-7 The prophet Jeremiah gave this Message to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem, gave it to him word for word. It was at the very time that the king of Babylon was mounting his all-out attack on Jerusalem and whatever cities in Judah that were still standing—only Lachish and Azekah, as it turned out (they were the only fortified cities left in Judah).
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8-10 God delivered a Message to Jeremiah after King Zedekiah made a covenant with the people of Jerusalem to decree freedom to the slaves who were Hebrews, both men and women. The covenant stipulated that no one in Judah would own a fellow Jew as a slave. All the leaders and people who had signed the covenant set free the slaves, men and women alike.
11 But a little while later, they reneged on the covenant, broke their promise and forced their former slaves to become slaves again.
12-14 Then Jeremiah received this Message from God: “God, the God of Israel, says, ‘I made a covenant with your ancestors when I delivered them out of their slavery in Egypt. At the time I made it clear: “At the end of seven years, each of you must free any fellow Hebrew who has had to sell himself to you. After he has served six years, set him free.” But your ancestors totally ignored me.
15-16 “‘And now, you—what have you done? First you turned back to the right way and did the right thing, decreeing freedom for your brothers and sisters—and you made it official in a solemn covenant in my Temple. And then you turned right around and broke your word, making a mockery of both me and the covenant, and made them all slaves again, these men and women you’d just set free. You forced them back into slavery.
17-20 “‘So here is what I, God, have to say: You have not obeyed me and set your brothers and sisters free. Here is what I’m going to do: I’m going to set you free—God’s Decree—free to get killed in war or by disease or by starvation. I’ll make you a spectacle of horror. People all over the world will take one look at you and shudder. Everyone who violated my covenant, who didn’t do what was solemnly promised in the covenant ceremony when they split the young bull into two halves and walked between them, all those people that day who walked between the two halves of the bull—leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, palace officials, priests, and all the rest of the people—I’m handing the lot of them over to their enemies who are out to kill them. Their dead bodies will be carrion food for vultures and stray dogs.
21-22 “‘As for Zedekiah king of Judah and his palace staff, I’ll also hand them over to their enemies, who are out to kill them. The army of the king of Babylon has pulled back for a time, but not for long, for I’m going to issue orders that will bring them back to this city. They’ll attack and take it and burn it to the ground. The surrounding cities of Judah will fare no better. I’ll turn them into ghost towns, unlivable and unlived in.’” God’s Decree.