Israel was once a lush vine, bountiful in grapes. The more lavish the harvest, the more promiscuous the worship. The more money they got, the more they squandered on gods-in-their-own-image.
Their sweet smiles are sheer lies. They're guilty as sin. God will smash their worship shrines, pulverize their god-images.
They go around saying, "Who needs a king? We couldn't care less about God, so why bother with a king? What difference would he make?"
They talk big, lie through their teeth, make deals. But their high-sounding words turn out to be empty words, litter in the gutters.
The people of Samaria travel over to Crime City to worship the golden calf-god. They go all out, prancing and hollering, taken in by their showmen priests. They act so important around the calf-god, but are oblivious to the sham, the shame.
They have plans to take it to Assyria, present it as a gift to the great king. And so Ephraim makes a fool of himself, disgraces Israel with his stupid idols.
Samaria is history. Its king is a dead branch floating down the river.
Israel's favorite sin centers will all be torn down. Thistles and crabgrass will decorate their ruined altars. Then they'll say to the mountains, "Bury us!" and to the hills, "Fall on us!"
You got your start in sin at Gibeah - that ancient, unspeakable, shocking sin - And you've been at it ever since. And Gibeah will mark the end of it in a war to end all the sinning.
I'll come to teach them a lesson. Nations will gang up on them, Making them learn the hard way the sum of Gibeah plus Gibeah.
Ephraim was a trained heifer that loved to thresh. Passing by and seeing her strong, sleek neck, I wanted to harness Ephraim, Put Ephraim to work in the fields - Judah plowing, Jacob harrowing:
Sow righteousness, reap love. It's time to till the ready earth, it's time to dig in with God, Until he arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest.
But instead you plowed wicked ways, reaped a crop of evil and ate a salad of lies. You thought you could do it all on your own, flush with weapons and manpower.
But the volcano of war will erupt among your people. All your defense posts will be leveled As viciously as king Shalman leveled the town of Beth-arba, When mothers and their babies were smashed on the rocks.
That's what's ahead for you, you so-called people of God, because of your off-the-charts evil. Some morning you're going to wake up and find Israel, king and kingdom, a blank - nothing.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)