20 One day some of the elders of Israel came to me to ask the Lord for advice. This was on the tenth day of the fifth month of the seventh year of exile.[a] The elders sat down in front of me.
2 Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, 3 “Son of man,[b] speak to the elders of Israel. Tell them ‘This is what the Lord God says: Have you come to ask me what you should do? I, the Lord God, tell you that, as surely as I live, I will not listen to you.’ 4 Should you judge them? Will you judge them, son of man? You must tell them about the terrible things their fathers have done. 5 You must tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: On the day I chose Israel, I raised my hand to Jacob’s family and made a promise to them in Egypt. When I let them know who I was, I raised my hand and said, “I am the Lord your God.” 6 On that day I promised to take you out of Egypt and lead you to the land I was giving to you. That was a good land filled with many good things.[c] It was the most beautiful of all countries!
7 “‘I told the family of Israel to throw away their horrible idols. I told them not to become filthy with those filthy statues from Egypt. I said, “I am the Lord your God.” 8 But they turned against me and refused to listen to me. They did not throw away their horrible idols. They did not leave their filthy statues in Egypt. So I decided to destroy them in Egypt—to let them feel the full force of my anger. 9 But I did not destroy them. I had already told the Egyptians that I would bring my people out of Egypt. I did not want to ruin my good name, so I did not destroy Israel in front of those other people. 10 I brought the family of Israel out of Egypt. I led them into the desert. 11 Then I gave them my laws and told them all my rules. All those who obey them will live. 12 I also told them about all the special days of rest, which were a special sign between us. They showed that I am the Lord and that I was making them special to me.
13 “‘But the family of Israel turned against me in the desert. They did not follow my laws. They refused to obey my rules—even though people who obey my laws live because of them. They treated my special days of rest as if they were not important. They worked on those days many times. I decided to destroy them in the desert—to let them feel the full force of my anger. 14 But I did not destroy them. The other nations saw me bring Israel out of Egypt. I did not want to ruin my good name, so I did not destroy Israel in front of those other people. 15 I made another promise to those people in the desert. I promised that I would not bring them into the land I was giving them. That was a good land filled with many good things. It was the most beautiful of all countries!
16 “‘The people of Israel refused to obey my rules or to follow my laws. They treated my days of rest as if they were not important. They did all these things because their hearts belonged to their filthy idols. 17 But I felt sorry for them, so I did not destroy them. I did not completely destroy them in the desert. 18 I spoke to their children and told them, “Don’t be like your parents. Don’t make yourselves filthy with their filthy idols. Don’t follow their laws or obey their commands. 19 I am the Lord. I am your God. Obey my laws and keep my commands. Do the things I tell you. 20 Show that my days of rest are important to you. Remember, they are a special sign between us. I am the Lord, and these days show you that I am your God.”
21 “‘But the children turned against me and did not obey my laws. They did not keep my commands—even though people who obey my laws live because of them. They treated my special days of rest as though they were not important. So I decided to destroy them completely in the desert—to let them feel the full force of my anger. 22 But I stopped myself. The other nations saw me bring Israel out of Egypt. I did not want to ruin my good name, so I did not destroy Israel in front of those other people. 23 So I made another promise to those people in the desert. I promised to scatter them among the nations, to send them to many different countries.
24 “‘The people of Israel did not obey my commands. They refused to obey my laws. They treated my special days of rest as though they were not important, and they worshiped the filthy idols of their fathers. 25 So I gave them laws that were not good. I gave them commands that would not bring life. 26 I let them make themselves filthy with their gifts. They even began to sacrifice their own firstborn children. In this way I would destroy them. Then they would know that I am the Lord.’ 27 So now, son of man, speak to the family of Israel. Tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: The people of Israel said bad things about me and made evil plans against me. 28 But I still brought them to the land I promised to give them. They saw all the hills and green trees, so they went to all those places to worship. They took their sacrifices and anger offerings[d] to all those places. They offered their sacrifices that made a sweet smell, and they offered their drink offerings at those places. 29 I asked the people of Israel why they were going to the high places. But that high place is still there today.[e]’
30 “Since Israel did those things, speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: You people have made yourselves filthy by doing the things your ancestors did. You have acted like a prostitute. You have left me to be with the horrible gods your ancestors worshiped. 31 You are giving the same kind of gifts. You are putting your children in the fire as a gift to your false gods. You are still making yourself filthy with these filthy idols today! Do you really think that I should let you come to me and ask me for advice? I am the Lord God. By my life, I swear that I will not answer your questions or give you advice! 32 You keep saying you want to be like the other nations. You live like the people in other nations. You serve pieces of wood and stone idols!’”
33 The Lord God says, “By my life, I swear that I will rule over you as king. But I will raise my powerful arm and punish you. I will show my anger against you! 34 I will bring you out of these other nations. I scattered you among these nations, but I will gather you together and bring you back from these countries. But I will raise my powerful arm and punish you. I will show my anger against you! 35 I will lead you into a desert as I did before, but this will be a place where other nations live. We will stand face to face, and I will judge you. 36 I will judge you as I judged your ancestors in the desert near Egypt.” This is what the Lord God said.
37 “I will judge you guilty and punish you according to the agreement. 38 I will remove all those who turned against me and sinned against me. I will remove them from your homeland. They will never again come to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
39 Now, family of Israel, this is what the Lord God says: “Whoever wants to worship their filthy idols, let them go and worship them. But later, don’t think you will get any advice from me. You will not ruin my name anymore—not when you continue to give your gifts to your filthy idols!”
40 The Lord God says, “People must come to my holy mountain—the high mountain in Israel—to serve me! The whole family of Israel will be on their land; they will be there in their country. There you can come to ask me for advice, and you must come there to bring me your offerings. You must bring the first part of your crops to me there. You must bring all your holy gifts to me in that place. 41 Then I will be pleased with the sweet smell of your sacrifices. That will happen when I bring you back. I scattered you among many nations, but I will gather you together and make you my special people again. And all the nations will see it. 42 Then you will know that I am the Lord. You will know this when I bring you back to the land of Israel, the land I promised to give to your ancestors. 43 In that country you will remember all the evil things you did that made you filthy, and you will be ashamed. 44 Family of Israel, you did many evil things, and you should be destroyed because of them. But to protect my good name, I will not give you the punishment you really deserve. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” This is what the Lord God said.
45 Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, 46 “Son of man, look toward the Negev, the southern part of Judah. Speak against the Negev Forest.[f] 47 Say to the Negev Forest, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord God said: Look, I am ready to start a fire in your forest. The fire will destroy every green tree and every dry tree. The flame that burns will not be put out. All the land from south to north will be burned by the fire. 48 Then all people will see that I, the Lord, have started the fire. The fire will not be put out!’”
49 Then I said, “Oh, Lord God! If I say this, the people will say that I am only telling them stories.”
21 So the word of the Lord came to me again. He said, 2 “Son of man,[g] look toward Jerusalem and speak against their holy places. Speak against the land of Israel for me. 3 Say to the land of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord said: I am against you! I will pull my sword from its sheath. I will remove all people from you—the good and the evil. 4 I will cut off both good people and evil people from you. I will pull my sword from its sheath and use it against all people from south to north. 5 Then everyone will know that I am the Lord. They will know that I have pulled my sword from its sheath. My sword will not go back into its sheath again until it is finished.’
6 “Son of man, make sad sounds like a sad person with a broken heart. Make these sad sounds in front of the people. 7 Then they will ask you, ‘Why are you making these sad sounds?’ Then you must say, ‘Because of the sad news that is coming. Every heart will melt with fear. All hands will become weak. Every spirit will become weak. All knees will be like water.’ Look, that bad news is coming. These things will happen!” This is what the Lord God said.
8 The word of the Lord came to me. He said, 9 “Son of man, speak to the people for me. Say this, ‘This is what the Lord says:
“‘Look, a sword, a sharp sword,
and it has been polished.
10 The sword was made sharp for killing.
It was polished to flash like lightning.
My son, you ran away from the stick I used to punish you.
You refused to be punished with that wooden stick.
11 So the sword has been polished.
Now it can be used.
The sword was sharpened and polished.
Now it can be put in the hand of the killer.
12 “‘Son of man, shout out and scream because the sword will be used against my people and all the rulers of Israel. They wanted war—so they will be with my people when the sword comes. So slap your thigh to show your sadness, 13 because it is not just a test. You refused to be punished with the wooden stick, so what else should I use to punish you? A sword?’” This is what the Lord God said.
14 “Son of man, clap your hands to show your sadness,
and speak to the people for me.
Let the sword come down twice, no, three times!
This sword is for killing the people.
This is the sword for the great killing.
This sword will cut into them.
15 Their hearts will melt with fear,
and many people will fall.
The sword will kill many people by the city gates.
Yes, the sword will flash like lightning.
It was polished to kill the people!
16 Sword, be sharp!
Cut on the right side.
Cut straight ahead.
Cut on the left side.
Go wherever your edge was chosen to go.
17 “Then I, too, will clap my hands
and stop showing my anger.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
18 The word of the Lord came to me. He said, 19 “Son of man, draw two roads that the sword of the king of Babylon can use to come to Israel. Both roads will come from the same country. Then draw a sign at the head of the road to the city. 20 Use the sign to show which road the sword will use. One road leads to the Ammonite city of Rabbah. The other road leads to Judah, to the protected city, Jerusalem. 21 The king of Babylon has come to where the two roads separate. He uses magic to learn which way to go: He shakes his arrows, he asks his family idols, and he looks at the liver[h] from an animal he has killed.
22 “The signs tell him to take the road on his right, the road leading to Jerusalem, where he will use battering rams.[i] The signs tell him to give the command for his soldiers to begin the killing. They will shout the battle cry and set the battering rams against the gates. They will build a wall of dirt around the city and a dirt road leading up to the walls. They will build wooden towers to attack the city. 23 But the people in Jerusalem will think this is all a big mistake. They will not believe that this could happen, because they had made a peace agreement with Babylon’s king. But the king will remind them that they are guilty of breaking that agreement, and he will take them captive.”
24 This is what the Lord God says: “You have done many evil things. Your sins are very clear. You forced me to remember that you are guilty, so the enemy will catch you in his hand. 25 And you, evil leader of Israel, you will be killed. Your time of punishment has come! The end is here!”
26 This is what the Lord God says: “Take off the turban! Take off the crown! The time has come to change. The important leaders will be brought low, and those who are not important now will become important leaders. 27 I will completely destroy that city! But this will not happen until the right man becomes the new king. Then I will let him have this city.”
28 “Son of man, speak to the people for me. Say this, ‘This is what the Lord God says to the people of Ammon and their shameful god:
“‘Look, a sword!
The sword is out of its sheath.
It has been polished.
The sword is ready to kill.
It was polished to flash like lightning!
29 “‘Your visions are useless.
Your magic will not help you.
It is only a bunch of lies.
The sword is now at the throats of evil men.
They will soon be only dead bodies.
Their time has come.
The time has come for their evil to end.
30 “‘Put the sword back in its sheath. Babylon, I will judge you in the place where you were created, in the land where you were born. 31 I will pour out my anger against you. My anger will burn you like a hot wind. I will hand you over to cruel men.[j] Those men are skilled at killing people. 32 You will be like fuel for the fire. Your blood will flow deep into the earth—people will never remember you again. I, the Lord, have spoken!’”
5 You rich people, listen! Cry and be very sad because much trouble will come to you. 2 Your riches will rot and be worth nothing. Your clothes will be eaten by moths. 3 Your gold and silver will rust, and that rust will be a proof that you were wrong. That rust will eat your bodies like fire. You saved your treasure in the last days. 4 People worked in your fields, but you did not pay them. They are crying out against you. They harvested your crops. Now the Lord All-Powerful has heard their cries.
5 Your life on earth was full of rich living. You pleased yourselves with everything you wanted. You made yourselves fat, like an animal ready for the day of slaughter.[a] 6 You showed no mercy to good people. They were not against you, but you killed them.
7 Brothers and sisters, be patient; the Lord will come. So be patient until that time. Look at the farmers. They have to be patient. They have to wait for their valuable crop to grow and produce a harvest. They wait patiently for the first rain and the last rain.[b] 8 You must be patient too. Never stop hoping. The Lord is coming soon. 9 Brothers and sisters, don’t complain against each other. If you don’t stop complaining, you will be judged guilty. And the Judge is ready to come!
10 Brothers and sisters, follow the example of the prophets who spoke for the Lord. They suffered many bad things, but they were patient. 11 And we say that those who accepted their troubles with patience now have God’s blessing. You have heard about Job’s patience.[c] You know that after all his troubles, the Lord helped him. This shows that the Lord is full of mercy and is kind.
12 My brothers and sisters, it is very important that you not use an oath when you make a promise. Don’t use the name of heaven, earth, or anything else to prove what you say. When you mean yes, say only “yes.” When you mean no, say only “no.” Do this so that you will not be judged guilty.
13 Are you having troubles? You should pray. Are you happy? You should sing. 14 Are you sick? Ask the elders of the church to come and rub oil on you[d] in the name of the Lord and pray for you. 15 If such a prayer is offered in faith, it will heal anyone who is sick. The Lord will heal them. And if they have sinned, he will forgive them.
16 So always tell each other the wrong things you have done. Then pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you. Anyone who lives the way God wants can pray, and great things will happen. 17 Elijah was a person just like us. He prayed that it would not rain. And it did not rain on the land for three and a half years! 18 Then Elijah prayed that it would rain. And the rain came down from the sky, and the land grew crops again.
19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone wanders away from the truth and someone helps that person come back, 20 remember this: Anyone who brings a sinner back from the wrong way will save that person from eternal death and cause many sins to be forgiven.