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Jeremiah 12:1-14:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12; Psalms 79:1-13; Proverbs 24:30-34 (The Voice)

Jeremiah 12:1-14:10

12 Jeremiah: Eternal, You always do what is right
        when I bring a complaint Your way.
    So now let me put a case before You:
        Why do the wicked prosper so much?
        Why do all the untrustworthy have it so easy?
    You plant them and watch them take root;
        You allow them to grow and even bear fruit.
        And yet, Your words mean nothing to them, deep down.
    Still, You know me, Eternal One; You see what is deep inside me.
        You’ve examined my heart,
    So why aren’t they brought to justice? Deal with them as sheep
        set aside for slaughter, singled out for death.
    How long must the land cry out in mourning,
        the grasses of the field wither and bake in the sun?
    The birds and wild animals have simply vanished,
        all because of the wicked living here—
    Because they say, “God does not see what will become of us.”

Jeremiah’s complaint is a common one; it is as old as civilization itself: Why do the wicked prosper? Why do good people have to wait for God’s justice? God doesn’t shrink back from such questions, and He does not punish those who dare ask them. In fact, Scripture invites us to ask God the hard questions through Jeremiah’s example. The answers to hard questions are never easy. In fact, as Jeremiah will soon discover, his troubles are only beginning. God calls him again to endure.

Eternal One: If you are worn out after only running with a few men,
        how will you one day compete against horses?
    If you stumble on the easy terrain,
        how will you manage in the thick brush near the Jordan?
    Jeremiah, even your brothers and the rest of your family
        are ready to betray you.
    Even they cry out for your death; don’t trust any of them,
        no matter how nicely they speak to your face.

    I have turned away My house,
        abandoned My heritage;
    I have given My deeply beloved one over to her enemies.
    My very own people have acted toward Me like a lion in the wild,
        roaring at Me in defiance. For this, I hate her.
    Have My own people become like colorful vultures?
        Are birds of prey circling all around them?[a]
    Gather the wild beasts and bring them on to devour My beloved.
10     Many shepherds have already destroyed My vineyard;
        they have crushed My fields.
    My beautiful land of promise has turned into a barren wasteland.
11     The very ground cries out to Me in this empty and forsaken land;
        the whole land is desolate, but no one seems to care.
12     The destroyers pour over the bare hills in the desert
        as the sword of the Eternal devours the land from one end to another.
    There is no peace for anyone.
13     The people planted wheat, but they will reap only thorns.
        In the end, there will be nothing to show for all their hard work.
    Shame will be their harvest because of the Eternal’s burning anger against them.

Jeremiah now speaks to the nations. They, too, must trust God. His love and mercy are not for Israel alone.

The Eternal has this to say:

Eternal One: 14 As for My wicked neighbors so eager to take away the inheritance I gave My people Israel, look! There will come a day when I will uproot them from their lands, and I will take Judah from their midst. 15 But after I have uprooted them from their homelands, I will have mercy on them and restore them to their own lands and their own possessions. 16 And if they diligently learn the ways of My people and trust in Me instead of idols, if they swear by My name saying, “As the Eternal lives,” just as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then I will establish them alongside My people. 17 As for any nation that will not listen to and follow My ways, I will uproot it and destroy it completely.

This is what the Eternal has declared.

13 The Eternal directed me.

Eternal One: Go and buy a linen undergarment; put it around your waist next to your body beneath your clothes, but do not wash it.

So I bought the undergarment, just as the Eternal had told me, and put it around my waist. Then the Eternal spoke to me a second time.

Eternal One: Now take off this undergarment you’ve purchased and have been wearing around your waist, and go to the Euphrates. I want you to hide it in a crevice in the rocks there.

So I took the undergarment to the Euphrates and hid it in the rocks, just as the Eternal told me. After many days had passed, the Eternal spoke to me a third time.

Eternal One: Now go back to the Euphrates, and get the linen undergarment I told you to hide there.

When I went back and dug up this garment from the place where I’d hidden it, I found it had begun to rot. This garment that was once new and clean was now completely worthless. The word of the Eternal came to me to drive home His point.

At times God’s message given through Jeremiah must be acted out. He wants so badly for His people to understand, that mere words aren’t sufficient. This is one such moment.

Eternal One: Mark My words, for the same thing will happen to the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 I will ruin these haughty and wicked people who ignore My words, who follow their own stubborn hearts, who run after other gods, who bow down to lifeless idols. They will end up like this rotten undergarment in your hands—completely worthless! 11 Just as the undergarment clings to a person’s waist, so did I, the Eternal One, make Israel and Judah to cling tightly to Me. They were to be My people, known by all, bringing honor and glory to My name. That was My plan for them, but they did not listen.

This is the first of several symbolic actions or prophetic dramas in the book. God made Israel and Judah to stick close to him—as close as an undergarment—but because they disobey Him and refuse to live within the bonds of the covenant, God will bury them in exile, and they will be ruined.

Eternal One: 12 Speak this word to the people as well: “Listen to what the Eternal, the God of Israel, has to say: ‘Every jug will be filled with wine.’ When they respond, ‘Tell us something we don’t already know, prophet! Don’t you think we know that every jug will be filled with wine?’ 13 Go on telling them, ‘This is what the Eternal says: “I am going to fill all who live in this land with drunkenness—the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the false prophets, and all the citizens of Jerusalem. 14 And then I will smash them together in confusion and panic—smashing fathers against sons in the chaos of the enemy invasion. I will have no pity on them. My sorrow or compassion will not keep Me from ruining them.”’”

15 Listen carefully to me!
    Stop being so smug, because the Eternal has spoken.
16 It is time to honor the Eternal your God before He makes the darkness fall
    and you stumble on the darkening mountains.
You will long for the light,
    but He will make the darkness deepen as the gloom settles in.
17 If you still won’t listen, I will weep for you in secret.
    From the depths of my soul, I will cry bitter tears,
Because the Eternal’s own flock will be taken captive.
18 Tell the king and the queen mother:
    Come down from your thrones, and take a seat in a humble place,
    for your glorious crowns will be taken from you.”
19 The cities in the Negev have already shut their gates.
    There will be no one to open them.
The people of Judah will be taken captive,
    all of them carried away into exile.

20 (to Jerusalem) Now look to the north and see who is marching toward you.
    Where is the beautiful flock that was entrusted to you?
21 What will you say when He appoints your so-called allies,
    the very ones you trained, to rule over you?
Will not the pain stab at you
    as it does a woman in childbirth?
22 When you begin to ask yourself, “Why is all this happening to me?”
    know this: it is because of the weight of your sins.
This is why your enemies will tear off your skirts and violate your bodies.
23 And still, you will not change.
    Can the Ethiopian change his skin?
    Can a leopard change its spots?
It seems just as unlikely that you will change your ways and do good,
    when you are so used to doing evil—it has become such a part of you.

24 Eternal One (to His people): This is why I will scatter you
        like chaff driven by the desert wind.
25     This is now your fate—retribution measured out for you from the Eternal—
        for you have forgotten Me and trusted in the lies of another.
26     For all this, I will be the One who lifts your skirts over your face,
        exposing you and letting others see your disgrace.
27     As for your faithlessness, your adulteries and your lustful ways,
        as for the degrading way you prostitute yourself to other gods out in the open, I see it all.
    For all this, your fate is sealed. O Jerusalem—how bad it will be for you!
        How long before you are clean again?

14 The word of the Eternal came to Jeremiah about the coming droughts.

A series of droughts come upon the land of Judah, making life very difficult for the people. Even the animals suffer as God holds back the rain.

Eternal One: Judah mourns and her cities grow weak;
        her people collapse to the ground in grief.
        The cries of Jerusalem echo through the city.
    The nobles send their servants for water that is not there.
        They come to cisterns only to return home with their jars empty.
    They have all been shamed, humiliated,
        so they cover their heads.
    The fields are dry and the ground is cracked because there is no rain.
        The farmers suffer shame; they, too, cover their heads.
    Even the animals of the field struggle:
        the devoted doe walks away from her newborn fawn,
        all because there is no grass to be found.
    The wild donkeys stand on barren hills panting like jackals in the dry heat.
        With no plants to eat, their bodies weaken—their eyes grow dim.

People (to God): We know our guilt cries out against us,
        but O Eternal One, step in now and do something!
    For the sake of Your own good name, help us.
        It’s true—our betrayals are many, so much have we sinned against You.
    But O Hope of Israel, her Savior in times of trouble, don’t forget us!
        Why are You acting like a stranger here in Your own land,
    Treating us like some traveler who’s only staying for the night?
    Why do You seem surprised,
        like a warrior who cannot defend us?
    But we know You are here, among us even now.
        Eternal One—we are Your people.
    You know us by name;
        do not disown us!

Eternal One: 10 (about His people) All this is true, but they love to wander from Me; they cannot control their restless feet—which are constantly running after other gods. That is why I won’t accept them and take them back. I will remember their guilt and hold them accountable for their sins.


  1. 12:9 Meaning of the manuscripts is uncertain.
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1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12

Paul, Silvanus,[a] and Timothy to the church gathering in Thessalonica, those living in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus the Anointed.

May grace and peace be yours [from God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Anointed].[b]

We always thank God for all of you in our prayers. Your actions on behalf of the true faith, your tireless toil of love, and your unfailing, unwavering, unending hope in our Lord Jesus the Anointed before God our Father have put you consistently at the forefront of our thoughts. O brothers and sisters loved by God, we know He has chosen you. And here is why: what you experienced in the good news we brought you was more than words channeling down your ears; it came to you as a life-empowering, Spirit-infused message that offers complete hope and assurance! We lived transparently before you so that you would know what sort of people we truly are. We did it for your sake, and you have modeled your lives after ours just as we are modeling ours after the Lord. You took to heart the word we taught with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, even in the face of trouble. As a result, you have turned into a model of faith yourselves for all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. In fact, not only has the message of our Lord thundered from your gathering into Macedonia and Achaia, but everywhere we go, your faith in God is talked about so we don’t even have to say a thing! You see, they go on and on telling us the story of how you welcomed us when we were introduced to you; how you turned toward God and realigned your life to serve the one true living God—leaving your idols to crumble in the dust 10 and how you now await the return from heaven of His Son, whom He raised from the dead—namely, Jesus—our rescuer from the wrath to come.

It’s only by the leading of the Spirit that these first-generation church planters find themselves in this most disagreeable city (although it seems there’s no place Paul can go without causing a commotion). Likewise, it is neither by chance nor by any human power that these people are drawn out of their comfy old habits into a radical new way of living. A miracle really takes shape when, by trading in their old ways of living, believers take to heart the message of Jesus, and their unshakable faith shakes up conversations everywhere.

Kingdom work begins at the surrender of life, by giving yourself away and expecting nothing in return. Real change is then ushered in by the loving touch of the Spirit, moving out from people living transparently faithful lives even in the middle of commotion.

Brothers and sisters, you yourselves know that our coming to you was not a waste of time. You remember how we had just suffered through brutal and insulting attacks in Philippi; but because of God, we boldly stepped into the open to tell you His good news, even though it would likely mean more conflict for us. For we haven’t approached you—or anyone else for that matter—with some error or impure motives or deceitful agenda; but as we have been approved by God and entrusted with the good news, that’s how we are telling the world. We aren’t trying to please everybody, but God, the only One who can truly examine our motives. As you know, we didn’t sandwich the truth between cunning compliments—we told it straight—and before the eye of God, we never conspired to make a single cent off of you. We didn’t come seeking respect from people—not from you or anyone else—although we could have leveraged our position as emissaries[c] of the Anointed One, the Liberating King. Instead, we proved to be gentle among you, like a nursing mother caring for her own children. We were so taken by you that we not only eagerly shared with you God’s good news, but we also shared with you our own lives. That’s how much you’ve come to mean to us.

Don’t you remember, my brothers and sisters, how hard we worked and struggled? We worked day and night so that we wouldn’t be a burden to any of you and so that we could continue to proclaim to you the good news of God. 10 Both you and God can confirm how well we treated the believers: we were always holy, just, and blameless. 11-12 As you know, we comforted and consoled each of you as a father soothes his own children, encouraging you to live lives worthy of God—of the One calling you into His own kingdom and into His glory.


  1. 1:1 Silvanus is better known in Acts as Silas.
  2. 1:1 Some early manuscripts omit this portion.
  3. 2:6 Literally, apostles
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Psalm 79

Psalm 79

A song of Asaph.

O God, the nations around us have raided the land that belongs to You;
    they have defiled Your holy house
    and crushed Jerusalem to a heap of ruins.
Your servants are dead;
    birds of the air swoop down to pick at their remains.
    Scavengers of the earth eat what is left of Your saints.
The enemy poured out their blood;
    it flowed like water
    all over Jerusalem,
    and there is no one left, no one to bury what remains of them.
The surrounding peoples taunt us.
    We are nothing but a joke to them, people to be ridiculed.

The Book of Psalms records both the highs and lows in the lives of God’s covenant people. Psalm 79 is an example of a communal lament after the destruction of Jerusalem and the loss of God’s temple. Songs like these address God with a complaint resulting from some sort of national tragedy.

Communal laments share a common structure. First, the singers address God and tell Him of their problems. Second, they beg Him for help and express trust that He will answer them, often remembering how He has saved Israel in the past. Finally, the singers promise to praise God once He has resolved their problem. The specifics of the situation determine the thrust of the song. Communal laments are often the people’s poetic and practical response to their perception of God’s inaction in their affairs.

How long can this go on, O Eternal One?
    Will You stay angry at us forever?
    Your jealousy burning like wildfire?
Flood these outsiders with Your wrath—
    they have no knowledge of You!
Drown the kingdoms of this world
    that call on false gods and not on Your name.
For these nations devoured Jacob, consumed him,
    and turned his home into a wasteland.

Do not hold the sins of our ancestors against us,
    but send Your compassion to meet us quickly, God.
    We are in deep despair.
Help us, O God who saves us,
    to the honor and glory of Your name.
Pull us up, deliver us, and forgive our sins,
    for Your name’s sake.
10 Don’t give these people any reason to ask,
    “Where is their God?”
Avenge the blood spilled by Your servants.
    Put it on display among the nations before our very eyes.

11 May the deep groans and wistful sighs of the prisoners reach You,
    and by Your great power, save those condemned to die.
12 Pay back each of our invaders personally, seven times
    for the shame they heaped on You, O Lord!
13 Then we, Your people, the sheep of Your pasture,
    will pause and give You thanks forever;
    Your praise will be told by our generation to the next.

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Proverbs 24:30-34

30 Once I passed by the property of a slacker,
    by the vineyard of a foolish man.
31 You should have seen it! The entire field was overgrown with thorns.
    Every inch was covered with weeds.
    Even the stone wall was crumbling down.
32 I took a moment to take it all in.
    The scene taught me:
33 “A little sleep, a little rest,
    a few more minutes, a nice little nap.”
34 But soon poverty will be on top of you like a robber,
    need will strike you down like a well-armed warrior.

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The Voice (VOICE)

The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

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