"And when that happens" - God's Decree - "it will be plain as the sun at high noon: I'll be the God of every man, woman, and child in Israel and they shall be my very own people."
This is the way God put it: "They found grace out in the desert, these people who survived the killing. Israel, out looking for a place to rest,
met God out looking for them!" God told them, "I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!
And so now I'll start over with you and build you up again, dear virgin Israel. You'll resume your singing, grabbing tambourines and joining the dance.
You'll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides, And sit back and enjoy the fruit - oh, how you'll enjoy those harvests!
The time's coming when watchmen will call out from the hilltops of Ephraim: 'On your feet! Let's go to Zion, go to meet our God!'"
Oh yes, God says so: "Shout for joy at the top of your lungs for Jacob! Announce the good news to the number-one nation! Raise cheers! Sing praises. Say, 'God has saved his people, saved the core of Israel.'
"Watch what comes next: "I'll bring my people back from the north country And gather them up from the ends of the earth, gather those who've gone blind And those who are lame and limping, gather pregnant women, Even the mothers whose birth pangs have started, bring them all back, a huge crowd!
"Watch them come! They'll come weeping for joy as I take their hands and lead them, Lead them to fresh flowing brooks, lead them along smooth, uncluttered paths. Yes, it's because I'm Israel's Father and Ephraim's my firstborn son!
"Hear this, nations! God's Message! Broadcast this all over the world! Tell them, 'The One who scattered Israel will gather them together again. From now on he'll keep a careful eye on them, like a shepherd with his flock.'
I, God, will pay a stiff ransom price for Jacob; I'll free him from the grip of the Babylonian bully.
The people will climb up Zion's slopes shouting with joy, their faces beaming because of God's bounty - Grain and wine and oil, flocks of sheep, herds of cattle. Their lives will be like a well-watered garden, never again left to dry up.
Young women will dance and be happy, young men and old men will join in. I'll convert their weeping into laughter, lavishing comfort, invading their grief with joy.
I'll make sure that their priests get three square meals a day and that my people have more than enough.'" God's Decree.
Again, God's Message: "Listen to this! Laments coming out of Ramah, wild and bitter weeping. It's Rachel weeping for her children, Rachel refusing all solace. Her children are gone, gone - long gone into exile."
But God says, "Stop your incessant weeping, hold back your tears. Collect wages from your grief work." God's Decree. "They'll be coming back home!
There's hope for your children." God's Decree.
"I've heard the contrition of Ephraim. Yes, I've heard it clearly, saying, 'You trained me well. You broke me, a wild yearling horse, to the saddle. Now put me, trained and obedient, to use. You are my God.
After those years of running loose, I repented. After you trained me to obedience, I was ashamed of my past, my wild, unruly past. Humiliated, I beat on my chest. Will I ever live this down?'
"Oh! Ephraim is my dear, dear son, my child in whom I take pleasure! Every time I mention his name, my heart bursts with longing for him! Everything in me cries out for him. Softly and tenderly I wait for him." God's Decree.
"Set up signposts to mark your trip home. Get a good map. Study the road conditions. The road out is the road back. Come back, dear virgin Israel, come back to your hometowns.
How long will you flit here and there, indecisive? How long before you make up your fickle mind? God will create a new thing in this land: A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!"
Message from Israel's God-of-the-Angel-Armies: "When I've turned everything around and brought my people back, the old expressions will be heard on the streets: 'God bless you!' . . . 'O True Home!' . . . 'O Holy Mountain!'
All Judah's people, whether in town or country, will get along just fine with each other.
I'll refresh tired bodies; I'll restore tired souls.
Just then I woke up and looked around - what a pleasant and satisfying sleep!
"Be ready. The time's coming" - God's Decree - "when I will plant people and animals in Israel and Judah, just as a farmer plants seed.
And in the same way that earlier I relentlessly pulled up and tore down, took apart and demolished, so now I am sticking with them as they start over, building and planting.
"When that time comes you won't hear the old proverb anymore, Parents ate the green apples, their children got the stomachache.
"No, each person will pay for his own sin. You eat green apples, you're the one who gets sick.
"That's right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah.
It won't be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master." God's Decree.
"This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them - write it on their hearts! - and be their God. And they will be my people.
They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They'll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I'll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I'll forget they ever sinned!" God's Decree. If This Ordered Cosmos Ever Fell to Pieces
God's Message, from the God who lights up the day with sun and brightens the night with moon and stars, Who whips the ocean into a billowy froth, whose name is God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
"If this ordered cosmos ever fell to pieces, fell into chaos before me" - God's Decree - "Then and only then might Israel fall apart and disappear as a nation before me."
God's Message: "If the skies could be measured with a yardstick and the earth explored to its core, Then and only then would I turn my back on Israel, disgusted with all they've done." God's Decree.
"The time is coming" - it's God's Decree - "when God's city will be rebuilt, rebuilt all the way from the Citadel of Hanamel to the Corner Gate.
The master plan will extend west to Gareb Hill and then around to Goath.
The whole valley to the south where incinerated corpses are dumped - a death valley if there ever was one! - and all the terraced fields out to the Brook Kidron on the east as far north as the Horse Gate will be consecrated to me as a holy place. "This city will never again be torn down or destroyed."
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)