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Lonely Jerusalem

The Prophet Speaks:

Jerusalem, once so crowded,
    lies deserted and lonely.
This city that was known
all over the world
    is now like a widow.
This queen of the nations
    has been made a slave.
Each night, bitter tears
    flood her cheeks.
None of her former lovers
    are there to offer comfort;
her friends[a] have betrayed her
    and are now her enemies.

The people of Judah are slaves,
suffering in a foreign land,
    with no rest from sorrow.
Their enemies captured them
    and were terribly cruel.[b]
The roads to Zion mourn
because no one travels there
    to celebrate the festivals.
The city gates are deserted;
    priests are weeping.
Young women are raped;[c]
    Zion is in sorrow!
Enemies now rule the city
    and live as they please.
The Lord has punished Jerusalem
    because of her awful sins;
he has let her people
    be dragged away.

Zion’s glory has disappeared.
Her leaders are like deer
    that cannot find pasture;
they are hunted down
    till their strength is gone.
Her people recall the good life
    that once was theirs;
now they suffer
    and are scattered.
No one was there to protect them
from their enemies
who sneered
    when their city was taken.

Jerusalem’s horrible sins
    have made the city a joke.
Those who once admired her
    now hate her instead—
she has been disgraced;
    she groans and turns away.

Her sins had made her filthy,
but she wasn’t worried
    about what could happen.
And when Jerusalem fell,
    it was so tragic.
No one gave her comfort
    when she cried out,
“Help! I’m in trouble, Lord!
    The enemy has won.”

10 Zion’s treasures were stolen.
Jerusalem saw foreigners
    enter her place of worship,
though the Lord
had forbidden them
    to belong to his people.[d]
11 Everyone in the city groans
    while searching for food;
they trade their valuables
for barely enough scraps
    to stay alive.

Jerusalem Speaks:

Jerusalem shouts to the Lord,
“Please look and see
    how miserable I am!”
12 No passerby even cares.[e]
Why doesn’t someone notice
    my terrible sufferings?
You were fiercely angry, Lord,
and you punished me
    worst of all.
13 From heaven you sent a fire
    that burned in my bones;
you set a trap for my feet
    and made me turn back.
All day long you leave me
    in shock from constant pain.
14 You have tied my sins
    around my neck,[f]
and they weigh so heavily
    that my strength is gone.
You have put me in the power
    of enemies
too strong for me.

15 You, Lord, have turned back
my warriors
and crushed
    my young heroes.
Judah was a woman untouched,
but you let her be trampled
    like grapes in a wine pit.
16 Because of this, I mourn,
    and tears flood my eyes.
No one is here to comfort
    or to encourage me;
we have lost the war—
    my people are suffering.

The Prophet Speaks:

17 Zion reaches out her hands,
    but no one offers comfort.
The Lord has turned
the neighboring nations
    against Jacob’s descendants.
Jerusalem is merely a filthy rag
    to her neighbors.

Jerusalem Speaks:

18 The Lord was right,
    but I refused to obey him.
Now I ask all of you to look
    at my sufferings—
even my young people
    have been dragged away.
19 I called out to my lovers,
    but they betrayed me.
My priests and my leaders died
while searching the city
    for scraps of food.

20 Won’t you look and see
    how upset I am, our Lord?
My stomach is in knots,
and my heart is broken
    because I betrayed you.
In the streets and at home,
    my people are slaughtered.

21 Everyone heard my groaning,
    but no one offered comfort.
My enemies know of the trouble
that you have brought on me,
    and it makes them glad.
Hurry and punish them,
    as you have promised.
22 Don’t let their evil deeds
    escape your sight.
Punish them as much
as you have punished me
    because of my sins.
I never stop groaning—
    I’ve lost all hope!

The Lord Was Like an Enemy

The Prophet Speaks:

The Lord was angry!
    So he disgraced[g] Zion
though it was Israel’s pride
    and his own place of rest.
In his anger he threw Zion down
    from heaven to earth.
The Lord had no mercy!
He destroyed the homes
    of Jacob’s descendants.
In his anger he tore down
    every walled city in Judah;
he toppled the nation
together with its leaders,
    leaving them in shame.

The Lord was so furiously angry
that he wiped out
    the whole army[h] of Israel
by not supporting them
    when the enemy attacked.
He was like a raging fire
that swallowed up
    the descendants of Jacob.
He attacked like an enemy
with a bow and arrows,
    killing our loved ones.
He has burned to the ground
    the homes on Mount Zion.[i]

The Lord was like an enemy!
    He left Israel in ruins
with its palaces
    and fortresses destroyed,
and with everyone in Judah
    moaning and weeping.
He shattered his temple
    like a hut in a garden;[j]
he completely wiped out
    his meeting place,
and did away with festivals
and Sabbaths
    in the city of Zion.
In his fierce anger he rejected
    our king and priests.

The Lord abandoned his altar
    and his temple;
he let Zion’s enemies
    capture her fortresses.
Noisy shouts were heard
    from the temple,
as if it were a time
    of celebration.

The Lord had decided
to tear down the walls of Zion
    stone by stone.
So he started destroying
    and did not stop
until walls and fortresses
    mourned and trembled.
Zion’s gates have fallen
    facedown on the ground;
the bars that locked the gates
    are smashed to pieces.
Her king and royal family
are prisoners
    in foreign lands.
Her priests don’t teach,
and her prophets don’t have
    a message from the Lord.

10 Zion’s leaders are silent.
    They just sit on the ground,
tossing dirt on their heads
    and wearing sackcloth.
Her young women can do nothing
    but stare at the ground.

11 My eyes are red from crying,
my stomach is in knots,
    and I feel sick all over.
My people are being wiped out,
and children lie helpless
    in the streets of the city.
12 A child begs its mother
    for food and drink,
then blacks out
like a wounded soldier
    lying in the street.
The child slowly dies
    in its mother’s arms.

13 Zion, how can I comfort you?
    How great is your pain?[k]
Lovely city of Jerusalem,
how can I heal your wounds,
    gaping as wide as the sea?
14 Your prophets deceived you
with false visions
    and lying messages—
they should have warned you
to leave your sins
    and be saved from disaster.
15 Those who pass by
shake their heads and sneer
    as they make fun and shout,
“What a lovely city you were,
the happiest on earth,
    but look at you now!”

16 Zion, your enemies curse you
and snarl like wild animals,
    while shouting,
“This is the day
we’ve waited for!
    At last, we’ve got you!”

17 The Lord has done everything
that he had planned
    and threatened long ago.
He destroyed you without mercy
and let your enemies boast
about
    their powerful forces.[l]

18 Zion, deep in your heart
    you cried out to the Lord.
Now let your tears overflow
    your walls day and night.
Don’t ever lose hope
    or let your tears stop.
19 Get up and pray for help
    all through the night.
Pour out your feelings
    to the Lord,
as you would pour water
    out of a jug.
Beg him to save your people,
who are starving to death
    at every street crossing.

Jerusalem Speaks:

20 Think about it, Lord!
Have you ever been this cruel
    to anyone before?
Is it right for mothers
    to eat their children,
or for priests and prophets
    to be killed in your temple?
21 My people, both young and old,
    lie dead in the streets.
Because you were angry,
my young men and women
    were brutally slaughtered.
22 When you were angry, Lord,
you invited my enemies
    like guests for a party.
No one survived that day;
enemies killed my children,
    my own little ones.

There Is Still Hope

The Prophet Speaks:

I have suffered much
    because God was angry.
He chased me into a dark place,
    where no light could enter.
I am the only one he punishes
over and over again,
    without ever stopping.
God caused my skin and flesh
to waste away,
    and he crushed my bones.
He attacked and surrounded me
    with hardships and trouble;
he forced me to sit in the dark
    like someone long dead.

God built a fence around me
that I cannot climb over,
    and he chained me down.
Even when I shouted
and prayed for help,
    he refused to listen.
God put big rocks in my way
and made me follow
    a crooked path.
10 God was like a bear or a lion
    waiting in ambush for me;
11 he dragged me from the road,
    then tore me to shreds.[m]
12 God took careful aim
and shot his arrows
13     straight through my heart.

14 I am a joke to everyone—
no one ever stops
    making fun of me.
15 God has turned my life sour.
16 He made me eat gravel
    and rubbed me in the dirt.
17 I cannot find peace
    or remember happiness.

18 I tell myself, “I am finished!
I can’t count on the Lord
    to do anything for me.”
19 Just thinking of my troubles
and my lonely wandering
    makes me miserable.
20 That’s all I ever think about,
    and I am depressed.[n]
21 Then I remember something
    that fills me with hope.
22 The Lord’s kindness never fails!
If he had not been merciful,
    we would have been destroyed.[o]
23 The Lord can always be trusted
    to show mercy each morning.
24 Deep in my heart I say,
“The Lord is all I need;
    I can depend on him!”

25 The Lord is kind to everyone
    who trusts and obeys him.
26 It is good to wait patiently
    for the Lord to save us.
27 When we are young,
    it is good to struggle hard
28 and to sit silently alone,
if this is what
    the Lord intends.
29 Being rubbed in the dirt
    can teach us a lesson;[p]
30 we can also learn from insults
    and hard knocks.

31 The Lord won’t always reject us!
32     He causes a lot of suffering,
but he also has pity
    because of his great love.
33 The Lord doesn’t enjoy
    sending grief or pain.

34 Don’t trample prisoners
    under your feet
35 or cheat anyone out of
    what is rightfully theirs.
God Most High sees everything,
36 and he knows
when you refuse
    to give someone a fair trial.

Footnotes

  1. 1.2 lovers. . . friends: Israel’s former allies.
  2. 1.3 Their. . . cruel: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  3. 1.4 raped: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  4. 1.10 to. . . people: Or “to enter his temple.”
  5. 1.12 No. . . cares: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  6. 1.14 You. . . neck: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  7. 2.1 disgraced: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  8. 2.3 army: The Hebrew text has “horn,” which refers to the horn of a bull, one of the most powerful animals in ancient Palestine.
  9. 2.4 the homes on Mount Zion: Or “the temple on Mount Zion.”
  10. 2.6 He. . . garden: Or “He shattered the temple walls, as if they were the walls of a garden.”
  11. 2.13 How great. . . pain: Or “What are you really like?” or “What can I say about you?”
  12. 2.17 powerful forces: The Hebrew text has “horn,” which refers to the horn of a bull, one of the most powerful animals in ancient Palestine.
  13. 3.11 shreds: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 11.
  14. 3.20 I am depressed: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  15. 3.22 destroyed: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 22.
  16. 3.29 lesson: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 29.