12 Lord, you always give me justice when I bring a case before you. So let me bring you this complaint: Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? 2 You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts. 3 But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered!
4 How long must this land mourn? Even the grass in the fields has withered. The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land. For the people have said, “The Lord doesn’t see what’s ahead for us!”
The Lord’s Reply to Jeremiah
5 “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? 6 Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you. Do not trust them, no matter how pleasantly they speak.
7 “I have abandoned my people, my special possession. I have surrendered my dearest ones to their enemies. 8 My chosen people have roared at me like a lion of the forest, so I have treated them with contempt. 9 My chosen people act like speckled vultures,[a] but they themselves are surrounded by vultures. Bring on the wild animals to pick their corpses clean!
10 “Many rulers have ravaged my vineyard, trampling down the vines and turning all its beauty into a barren wilderness. 11 They have made it an empty wasteland; I hear its mournful cry. The whole land is desolate, and no one even cares. 12 On all the bare hilltops, destroying armies can be seen. The sword of the Lord devours people from one end of the nation to the other. No one will escape! 13 My people have planted wheat but are harvesting thorns. They have worn themselves out, but it has done them no good. They will harvest a crop of shame because of the fierce anger of the Lord.”
A Message for Israel’s Neighbors
14 Now this is what the Lord says: “I will uproot from their land all the evil nations reaching out for the possession I gave my people Israel. And I will uproot Judah from among them.15 But afterward I will return and have compassion on all of them. I will bring them home to their own lands again, each nation to its own possession.16 And if these nations truly learn the ways of my people, and if they learn to swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’ (just as they taught my people to swear by the name of Baal), then they will be given a place among my people.17 But any nation who refuses to obey me will be uprooted and destroyed. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah’s Linen Loincloth
13 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it on, but do not wash it.”2 So I bought the loincloth as the Lord directed me, and I put it on.
3 Then the Lord gave me another message:4 “Take the linen loincloth you are wearing, and go to the Euphrates River.[b] Hide it there in a hole in the rocks.”5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates as the Lord had instructed me.
6 A long time afterward the Lord said to me, “Go back to the Euphrates and get the loincloth I told you to hide there.”7 So I went to the Euphrates and dug it out of the hole where I had hidden it. But now it was rotting and falling apart. The loincloth was good for nothing.
8 Then I received this message from the Lord:9 “This is what the Lord says: This shows how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem.10 These wicked people refuse to listen to me. They stubbornly follow their own desires and worship other gods. Therefore, they will become like this loincloth—good for nothing!11 As a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me, says the Lord. They were to be my people, my pride, my glory—an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me.
12 “So tell them, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: May all your jars be filled with wine.’ And they will reply, ‘Of course! Jars are made to be filled with wine!’
13 “Then tell them, ‘No, this is what the Lord means: I will fill everyone in this land with drunkenness—from the king sitting on David’s throne to the priests and the prophets, right down to the common people of Jerusalem.14 I will smash them against each other, even parents against children, says the Lord. I will not let my pity or mercy or compassion keep me from destroying them.’”
A Warning against Pride
15 Listen and pay attention! Do not be arrogant, for the Lord has spoken. 16 Give glory to the Lord your God before it is too late. Acknowledge him before he brings darkness upon you, causing you to stumble and fall on the darkening mountains. For then, when you look for light, you will find only terrible darkness and gloom. 17 And if you still refuse to listen, I will weep alone because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be led away into exile.
18 Say to the king and his mother, “Come down from your thrones and sit in the dust, for your glorious crowns will soon be snatched from your heads.” 19 The towns of the Negev will close their gates, and no one will be able to open them. The people of Judah will be taken away as captives. All will be carried into exile.
20 Open up your eyes and see the armies marching down from the north! Where is your flock— your beautiful flock— that he gave you to care for? 21 What will you say when the Lord takes the allies you have cultivated and appoints them as your rulers? Pangs of anguish will grip you, like those of a woman in labor! 22 You may ask yourself, “Why is all this happening to me?” It is because of your many sins! That is why you have been stripped and raped by invading armies. 23 Can an Ethiopian[c] change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil.
24 “I will scatter you like chaff that is blown away by the desert winds. 25 This is your allotment, the portion I have assigned to you,” says the Lord, “for you have forgotten me, putting your trust in false gods. 26 I myself will strip you and expose you to shame. 27 I have seen your adultery and lust, and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills. What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem! How long before you are pure?”
Judah’s Terrible Drought
14 This message came to Jeremiah from the Lord, explaining why he was holding back the rain:
2 “Judah wilts; commerce at the city gates grinds to a halt. All the people sit on the ground in mourning, and a great cry rises from Jerusalem. 3 The nobles send servants to get water, but all the wells are dry. The servants return with empty pitchers, confused and desperate, covering their heads in grief. 4 The ground is parched and cracked for lack of rain. The farmers are deeply troubled; they, too, cover their heads. 5 Even the doe abandons her newborn fawn because there is no grass in the field. 6 The wild donkeys stand on the bare hills panting like thirsty jackals. They strain their eyes looking for grass, but there is none to be found.”
7 The people say, “Our wickedness has caught up with us, Lord, but help us for the sake of your own reputation. We have turned away from you and sinned against you again and again. 8 O Hope of Israel, our Savior in times of trouble, why are you like a stranger to us? Why are you like a traveler passing through the land, stopping only for the night? 9 Are you also confused? Is our champion helpless to save us? You are right here among us, Lord. We are known as your people. Please don’t abandon us now!”
10 So this is what the Lord says to his people: “You love to wander far from me and do not restrain yourselves. Therefore, I will no longer accept you as my people. Now I will remember all your wickedness and will punish you for your sins.”
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