20 In the seventh year, the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, some of the leaders of Israel came to ask for guidance from God. They sat down before me.
2-3 Then God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, talk with the leaders of Israel. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says, “Have you come to ask me questions? As sure as I am the living God, I’ll not put up with questions from you. Decree of God, the Master.”’
4-5 “Son of man, why don’t you do it? Yes, go ahead. Hold them accountable. Confront them with the outrageous obscenities of their parents. Tell them that God, the Master, says:
5-6 “‘On the day I chose Israel, I revealed myself to them in the country of Egypt, raising my hand in a solemn oath to the people of Jacob, in which I said, “I am God, your personal God.” On the same day that I raised my hand in the solemn oath, I promised them that I would take them out of the country of Egypt and bring them into a country that I had searched out just for them, a country flowing with milk and honey, a jewel of a country.
7 “‘At that time I told them, “Get rid of all the vile things that you’ve become addicted to. Don’t make yourselves filthy with the Egyptian no-god idols. I alone am God, your God.”
8-10 “‘But they rebelled against me, wouldn’t listen to a word I said. None got rid of the vile things they were addicted to. They held on to the no-gods of Egypt as if for dear life. I seriously considered inflicting my anger on them in force right there in Egypt. Then I thought better of it. I acted out of who I was, not by how I felt. And I acted in a way that would evoke honor, not blasphemy, from the nations around them, nations who had seen me reveal myself by promising to lead my people out of Egypt. And then I did it: I led them out of Egypt into the desert.
11-12 “‘I gave them laws for living, showed them how to live well and obediently before me. I also gave them my weekly holy rest days, my “Sabbaths,” a kind of signpost erected between me and them to show them that I, God, am in the business of making them holy.
13-17 “‘But Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They didn’t follow my statutes. They despised my laws for living well and obediently in the ways I had set out. And they totally desecrated my holy Sabbaths. I seriously considered unleashing my anger on them right there in the desert. But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out. But I did lift my hand in a solemn oath there in the desert and promise them that I would not bring them into the country flowing with milk and honey that I had chosen for them, that jewel among all lands. I canceled my promise because they despised my laws for living obediently, wouldn’t follow my statutes, and went ahead and desecrated my holy Sabbaths. They preferred living by their no-god idols. But I didn’t go all the way: I didn’t wipe them out, didn’t finish them off in the desert.
18-20 “‘Then I addressed myself to their children in the desert: “Don’t do what your parents did. Don’t take up their practices. Don’t make yourselves filthy with their no-god idols. I myself am God, your God: Keep my statutes and live by my laws. Keep my Sabbaths as holy rest days, signposts between me and you, signaling that I am God, your God.”
21-22 “‘But the children also rebelled against me. They neither followed my statutes nor kept my laws for living upright and well. And they desecrated my Sabbaths. I seriously considered dumping my anger on them, right there in the desert. But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt, so that I might be honored and not blasphemed by the nations who had seen me bring them out.
23-26 “‘But I did lift my hand in solemn oath there in the desert, and swore that I would scatter them all over the world, disperse them every which way because they didn’t keep my laws nor live by my statutes. They desecrated my Sabbaths and remained addicted to the no-god idols of their parents. Since they were determined to live bad lives, I myself gave them statutes that could not produce goodness and laws that did not produce life. I abandoned them. Filthy in the gutter, they perversely sacrificed their firstborn children in the fire. The very horror should have shocked them into recognizing that I am God.’
27-29 “Therefore, speak to Israel, son of man. Tell them that God says, ‘As if that wasn’t enough, your parents further insulted me by betraying me. When I brought them into that land that I had solemnly promised with my upraised hand to give them, every time they saw a hill with a sex-and-religion shrine on it or a grove of trees where the sacred whores practiced, they were there, buying into the whole pagan system. I said to them, “What hill do you go to?”’ (It’s still called “Whore Hills.”)
30-31 “Therefore, say to Israel, ‘The Message of God, the Master: You’re making your lives filthy by copying the ways of your parents. In repeating their vile practices, you’ve become whores yourselves. In burning your children as sacrifices, you’ve become as filthy as your no-god idols—as recently as today!
“‘Am I going to put up with questions from people like you, Israel? As sure as I am the living God, I, God, the Master, refuse to be called into question by you!
32 “‘What you’re secretly thinking is never going to happen. You’re thinking, “We’re going to be like everybody else, just like the other nations. We’re going to worship gods we can make and control.”
33-35 “‘As sure as I am the living God, says God, the Master, think again! With a mighty show of strength and a terrifying rush of anger, I will be King over you! I’ll bring you back from the nations, collect you out of the countries to which you’ve been scattered, with a mighty show of strength and a terrifying rush of anger. I’ll bring you to the desert of nations and haul you into court, where you’ll be face-to-face with judgment.
36-38 “‘As I faced your parents with judgment in the desert of Egypt, so I’ll face you with judgment. I’ll scrutinize and search every person as you arrive, and I’ll bring you under the bond of the covenant. I’ll cull out the rebels and traitors. I’ll lead them out of their exile, but I won’t bring them back to Israel.
“‘Then you’ll realize that I am God.
39-43 “‘But you, people of Israel, this is the Message of God, the Master, to you: Go ahead, serve your no-god idols! But later, you’ll think better of it and quit throwing filth and mud on me with your pagan offerings and no-god idols. For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, I, God, the Master, tell you that the entire people of Israel will worship me. I’ll receive them there with open arms. I’ll demand your best gifts and offerings, all your holy sacrifices. What’s more, I’ll receive you as the best kind of offerings when I bring you back from all the lands and countries in which you’ve been scattered. I’ll demonstrate in the eyes of the world that I am The Holy. When I return you to the land of Israel, the land that I solemnly promised with upraised arm to give to your parents, you’ll realize that I am God. Then and there you’ll remember all that you’ve done, the way you’ve lived that has made you so filthy—and you’ll loathe yourselves.
44 “‘But, dear Israel, you’ll also realize that I am God when I respond to you out of who I am, not by what I feel about the evil lives you’ve lived, the corrupt history you’ve compiled. Decree of God, the Master.’”
45-46 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, face south. Let the Message roll out against the south. Prophesy against the wilderness forest of the south.
47-48 “Tell the forest of the south, ‘Listen to the Message of God! God, the Master, says, I’ll set a fire in you that will burn up every tree, dead trees and live trees alike. Nobody will put out the fire. The whole country from south to north will be blackened by it. Everyone is going to see that I, God, started the fire and that it’s not going to be put out.’”
49 And I said, “O God, everyone is saying of me, ‘He just makes up stories.’”
21 1-5 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, now face Jerusalem and let the Message roll out against the Sanctuary. Prophesy against the land of Israel. Say, ‘God’s Message: I’m against you. I’m pulling my sword from its sheath and killing both the wicked and the righteous. Because I’m treating everyone the same, good and bad, everyone from south to north is going to feel my sword! Everyone will know that I mean business.’
6 “So, son of man, groan! Double up in pain. Make a scene!
7 “When they ask you, ‘Why all this groaning, this carrying on?’ say, ‘Because of the news that’s coming. It’ll knock the breath out of everyone. Hearts will stop cold, knees turn to rubber. Yes, it’s coming. No stopping it. Decree of God, the Master.’”
8-10 God’s Message to me: “Son of man, prophesy. Tell them, ‘The Master says:
“‘A sword! A sword!
razor-sharp and polished,
Sharpened to kill,
polished to flash like lightning!
“‘My child, you’ve despised the scepter of Judah
by worshiping every tree-idol.
11 “‘The sword is made to glisten,
to be held and brandished.
It’s sharpened and polished,
ready to be brandished by the killer.’
12 “Yell out and wail, son of man.
The sword is against my people!
The princes of Israel
and my people—abandoned to the sword!
Wring your hands!
Tear out your hair!
13 “‘Testing comes.
Why have you despised discipline?
You can’t get around it.
Decree of God, the Master.’
14-17 “So, prophesy, son of man!
Clap your hands. Get their attention.
Tell them that the sword’s coming down
once, twice, three times.
It’s a sword to kill,
a sword for a massacre,
A sword relentless,
a sword inescapable—
People collapsing right and left,
going down like dominoes.
I’ve stationed a murderous sword
at every gate in the city,
Flashing like lightning,
Cut to the right, thrust to the left,
murderous, sharp-edged sword!
Then I’ll clap my hands,
a signal that my anger is spent.
I, God, have spoken.”
18-22 God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, lay out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to take. Start them from the same place. Place a signpost at the beginning of each road. Post one sign to mark the road of the sword to Rabbah of the Ammonites. Post the other to mark the road to Judah and Fort Jerusalem. The king of Babylon stands at the fork in the road and he decides by divination which of the two roads to take. He draws straws, he throws god-dice, he examines a goat liver. He opens his right hand: The omen says, ‘Head for Jerusalem!’ So he’s on his way with battering rams, roused to kill, sounding the battle cry, pounding down city gates, building siege works.
23 “To the Judah leaders, who themselves have sworn oaths, it will seem like a false divination, but he will remind them of their guilt, and so they’ll be captured.
24 “So this is what God, the Master, says: ‘Because your sin is now out in the open so everyone can see what you’ve been doing, you’ll be taken captive.
25-27 “‘O Zedekiah, blasphemous and evil prince of Israel: Time’s up. It’s “punishment payday.” God says, Take your royal crown off your head. No more “business as usual.” The underdog will be promoted and the top dog will be demoted. Ruins, ruins, ruins! I’ll turn the whole place into ruins. And ruins it will remain until the one comes who has a right to it. Then I’ll give it to him.’
28-32 “But, son of man, your job is to prophesy. Tell them, ‘This is the Message from God, the Master, against the Ammonites and against their cruel taunts:
“‘A sword! A sword!
Bared to kill,
Sharp as a razor,
flashing like lightning.
Despite false sword propaganda
circulated in Ammon,
The sword will sever Ammonite necks,
for whom it’s punishment payday.
Return the sword to the sheath! I’ll judge you in your home country,
in the land where you grew up.
I’ll empty out my wrath on you,
breathe hot anger down your neck.
I’ll give you to vicious men
skilled in torture.
You’ll end up as stove-wood.
Corpses will litter your land.
Not so much as a memory will be left of you.
I, God, have said so.’”
5 1-3 And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.
4-6 All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.
7-8 Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.
9 Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.
10-11 Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.
12 And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.
13-15 Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.
16-18 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.
19-20 My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.