Jeremiah 3-5The Message (MSG)
Your Sex-and-Religion Obsessions
3 God’s Message came to me as follows:
“If a man’s wife
walks out on him
And marries another man,
can he take her back as if nothing had happened?
Wouldn’t that raise a huge stink
in the land?
And isn’t that what you’ve done—
‘whored’ your way with god after god?
And now you want to come back as if nothing had happened.”
2-5 “Look around at the hills.
Where have you not had sex?
You’ve camped out like hunters stalking deer.
You’ve solicited many lover-gods,
Like a streetwalking whore
chasing after other gods.
And so the rain has stopped.
No more rain from the skies!
But it doesn’t even faze you. Brazen as whores,
you carry on as if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Then you have the nerve to call out, ‘My father!
You took care of me when I was a child. Why not now?
Are you going to keep up your anger nonstop?’
That’s your line. Meanwhile you keep sinning nonstop.”
Admit Your God-Defiance
6-10 God spoke to me during the reign of King Josiah: “You have noticed, haven’t you, how fickle Israel has visited every hill and grove of trees as a whore at large? I assumed that after she had gotten it out of her system, she’d come back, but she didn’t. Her flighty sister, Judah, saw what she did. She also saw that because of fickle Israel’s loose morals I threw her out, gave her her walking papers. But that didn’t faze flighty sister Judah. She went out, big as you please, and took up a whore’s life also. She took up cheap sex-and-religion as a sideline diversion, an indulgent recreation, and used anything and anyone, flouting sanity and sanctity alike, stinking up the country. And not once in all this did flighty sister Judah even give me a nod, although she made a show of it from time to time.” God’s Decree.
11-12 Then God told me, “Fickle Israel was a good sight better than flighty Judah. Go and preach this message. Face north toward Israel and say:
12-15 “‘Turn back, fickle Israel.
I’m not just hanging back to punish you.
I’m committed in love to you.
My anger doesn’t seethe nonstop.
Just admit your guilt.
Admit your God-defiance.
Admit to your promiscuous life with casual partners,
pulling strangers into the sex-and-religion groves
While turning a deaf ear to me.’”
“Come back, wandering children!”
“I, yes I, am your true husband.
I’ll pick you out one by one—
This one from the city, these two from the country—
and bring you to Zion.
I’ll give you good shepherd-rulers who rule my way,
who rule you with intelligence and wisdom.
16 “And this is what will happen: You will increase and prosper in the land. The time will come”—God’s Decree!—“when no one will say any longer, ‘Oh, for the good old days! Remember the Ark of the Covenant?’ It won’t even occur to anyone to say it—‘the good old days.’ The so-called good old days of the Ark are gone for good.
17 “Jerusalem will be the new Ark—‘God’s Throne.’ All the godless nations, no longer stuck in the ruts of their evil ways, will gather there to honor God.
18 “At that time, the House of Judah will join up with the House of Israel. Holding hands, they’ll leave the north country and come to the land I willed to your ancestors.
19-20 “I planned what I’d say if you returned to me:
‘Good! I’ll bring you back into the family.
I’ll give you choice land,
land that the godless nations would die for.’
And I imagined that you would say, ‘Dear father!’
and would never again go off and leave me.
But no luck. Like a false-hearted woman walking out on her husband,
you, the whole family of Israel, have proven false to me.”
21-22 The sound of voices comes drifting out of the hills,
the unhappy sound of Israel’s crying,
Israel lamenting the wasted years,
never once giving her God a thought.
“Come back, wandering children!
I can heal your wanderlust!”
22-25 “We’re here! We’ve come back to you.
You’re our own true God!
All that popular religion was a cheap lie,
duped crowds buying up the latest in gods.
We’re back! Back to our true God,
the salvation of Israel.
The Fraud picked us clean, swindled us
of what our ancestors bequeathed us,
Gypped us out of our inheritance—
God-blessed flocks and God-given children.
We made our bed and now lie in it,
all tangled up in the dirty sheets of dishonor.
All because we sinned against our God,
we and our fathers and mothers.
From the time we took our first steps, said our first words,
we’ve been rebels, disobeying the voice of our God.”
4 1-2 “If you want to come back, O Israel,
you must really come back to me.
You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia
and not wander away from me anymore.
Then you can say words like, ‘As God lives . . .’
and have them mean something true and just and right.
And the godless nations will get caught up in the blessing
and find something in Israel to write home about.”
3-4 Here’s another Message from God
to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Plow your unplowed fields,
but then don’t plant weeds in the soil!
Yes, circumcise your lives for God’s sake.
Plow your unplowed hearts,
all you people of Judah and Jerusalem.
Prevent fire—the fire of my anger—
for once it starts it can’t be put out.
Your wicked ways
are fuel for the fire.
God’s Sledgehammer Anger
5-8 “Sound the alarm in Judah,
broadcast the news in Jerusalem.
Say, ‘Blow the ram’s horn trumpet through the land!’
Shout out—a bullhorn bellow!—
Run for your lives to the shelters!’
Send up a flare warning Zion:
‘Not a minute to lose! Don’t sit on your hands!’
Disaster’s descending from the north. I set it off!
When it lands, it will shake the foundations.
Invaders have pounced like a lion from its cover,
ready to rip nations to shreds,
Leaving your land in wrack and ruin,
your cities in rubble, abandoned.
Dress in funereal black.
Weep and wail,
For God’s sledgehammer anger
has slammed into us head-on.
9 “When this happens”
“King and princes will lose heart;
priests will be baffled and prophets stand dumbfounded.”
10 Then I said, “Alas, Master God!
You’ve fed lies to this people, this Jerusalem.
You assured them, ‘All is well, don’t worry,’
at the very moment when the sword was at their throats.”
11-12 At that time, this people, yes, this very Jerusalem,
will be told in plain words:
“The northern hordes are sweeping in
from the desert steppes—
A wind that’s up to no good, a gale-force wind.
I ordered this wind.
my hurricane judgment on my people.”
Your Evil Life Is Piercing Your Heart
13-14 Look at them! Like banks of storm clouds,
racing, tumbling, their chariots a tornado,
Their horses faster than eagles!
Woe to us! We’re done for!
Jerusalem! Scrub the evil from your lives
so you’ll be fit for salvation.
How much longer will you harbor
devious and malignant designs within you?
15-17 What’s this? A messenger from Dan?
Bad news from Ephraim’s hills!
Make the report public.
Broadcast the news to Jerusalem:
“Invaders from far off are
raising war cries against Judah’s towns.
They’re all over her, like a dog on a bone.
And why? Because she rebelled against me.”
18 “It’s the way you’ve lived
that’s brought all this on you.
The bitter taste is from your evil life.
That’s what’s piercing your heart.”
19-21 I’m doubled up with cramps in my belly—
a poker burns in my gut.
My insides are tearing me up,
never a moment’s peace.
The ram’s horn trumpet blast rings in my ears,
the signal for all-out war.
Disaster hard on the heels of disaster,
the whole country in ruins!
In one stroke my home is destroyed,
the walls flattened in the blink of an eye.
How long do I have to look at the warning flares,
listen to the siren of danger?
Experts at Evil
22 “What fools my people are!
They have no idea who I am.
A company of half-wits,
dopes and donkeys all!
Experts at evil
but klutzes at good.”
23-26 I looked at the earth—
it was back to pre-Genesis chaos and emptiness.
I looked at the skies,
and not a star to be seen.
I looked at the mountains—
they were trembling like aspen leaves,
And all the hills
rocking back and forth in the wind.
I looked—what’s this! Not a man or woman in sight,
and not a bird to be seen in the skies.
I looked—this can’t be! Every garden and orchard shriveled up.
All the towns were ghost towns.
And all this because of God,
because of the blazing anger of God.
27-28 Yes, this is God’s Word on the matter:
“The whole country will be laid waste—
still it won’t be the end of the world.
The earth will mourn
and the skies lament
Because I’ve given my word and won’t take it back.
I’ve decided and won’t change my mind.”
You’re Not Going to Seduce Anyone
29 Someone shouts, “Horsemen and archers!”
and everybody runs for cover.
They hide in ditches,
they climb into caves.
The cities are emptied,
not a person left anywhere.
30-31 And you, what do you think you’re up to?
Dressing up in party clothes,
Decking yourselves out in jewelry,
putting on lipstick and rouge and mascara!
Your primping goes for nothing.
You’re not going to seduce anyone. They’re out to kill you!
And what’s that I hear? The cry of a woman in labor,
the screams of a mother giving birth to her firstborn.
It’s the cry of Daughter Zion, gasping for breath,
reaching out for help:
“Help, oh help me! I’m dying!
The killers are on me!”
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?”