The Message from God to Jeremiah:
"Stand in the gate of God's Temple and preach this Message.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God, has this to say to you:
Don't for a minute believe the lies being spoken here - "This is God's Temple, God's Temple, God's Temple!"
Total nonsense! Only if you clean up your act (the way you live, the things you do), only if you do a total spring cleaning on the way you live and treat your neighbors,
only if you quit exploiting the street people and orphans and widows, no longer taking advantage of innocent people on this very site and no longer destroying your souls by using this Temple as a front for other gods -
only then will I move into your neighborhood. Only then will this country I gave your ancestors be my permanent home, my Temple.
"'Get smart! Your leaders are handing you a pack of lies, and you're swallowing them!
Use your heads! Do you think you can rob and murder, have sex with the neighborhood wives, tell lies nonstop, worship the local gods, and buy every novel religious commodity on the market
- and then march into this Temple, set apart for my worship, and say, "We're safe!" thinking that the place itself gives you a license to go on with all this outrageous sacrilege?
A cave full of criminals! Do you think you can turn this Temple, set apart for my worship, into something like that? Well, think again. I've got eyes in my head. I can see what's going on.'" God's Decree!
"'Take a trip down to the place that was once in Shiloh, where I met my people in the early days. Take a look at those ruins, what I did to it because of the evil ways of my people Israel.
"'So now, because of the way you have lived and failed to listen, even though time and again I took you aside and talked seriously with you, and because you refused to change when I called you to repent,
I'm going to do to this Temple, set aside for my worship, this place you think is going to keep you safe no matter what, this place I gave as a gift to your ancestors and you, the same as I did to Shiloh.
And as for you, I'm going to get rid of you, the same as I got rid of those old relatives of yours around Shiloh, your fellow Israelites in that former kingdom to the north.'
"And you, Jeremiah, don't waste your time praying for this people. Don't offer to make petitions or intercessions. Don't bother me with them. I'm not listening.
Can't you see what they're doing in all the villages of Judah and in the Jerusalem streets?
Why, they've got the children gathering wood while the fathers build fires and the mothers make bread to be offered to 'the Queen of Heaven'! And as if that weren't bad enough, they go around pouring out libations to any other gods they come across, just to hurt me.
"But is it me they're hurting?" God's Decree! "Aren't they just hurting themselves? Exposing themselves shamefully? Making themselves ridiculous?
"Here's what the Master God has to say: 'My white-hot anger is about to descend on this country and everything in it - people and animals, trees in the field and vegetables in the garden - a raging wildfire that no one can put out.'
"The Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God: 'Go ahead! Put your burnt offerings with all your other sacrificial offerings and make a good meal for yourselves. I sure don't want them!
When I delivered your ancestors out of Egypt, I never said anything to them about wanting burnt offerings and sacrifices as such.
But I did say this, commanded this: "Obey me. Do what I say and I will be your God and you will be my people. Live the way I tell you. Do what I command so that your lives will go well."
"'But do you think they listened? Not a word of it. They did just what they wanted to do, indulged any and every evil whim and got worse day by day.
From the time your ancestors left the land of Egypt until now, I've supplied a steady stream of my servants the prophets,
but do you think the people listened? Not once. Stubborn as mules and worse than their ancestors!'
"Tell them all this, but don't expect them to listen. Call out to them, but don't expect an answer.
Tell them, 'You are the nation that wouldn't obey God, that refused all discipline. Truth has disappeared. There's not a trace of it left in your mouths.
"'So shave your heads. Go bald to the hills and lament, For God has rejected and left this generation that has made him so angry.'
"The people of Judah have lived evil lives while I've stood by and watched." God's Decree. "In deliberate insult to me, they've set up their obscene god-images in the very Temple that was built to honor me.
They've constructed Topheth altars for burning babies in prominent places all through the valley of Ben-hinnom, altars for burning their sons and daughters alive in the fire - a shocking perversion of all that I am and all I command.
"But soon, very soon" - God's Decree! - "the names Topheth and Ben-hinnom will no longer be used. They'll call the place what it is: Murder Meadow. Corpses will be stacked up in Topheth because there's no room left to bury them!
Corpses abandoned in the open air, fed on by crows and coyotes, who have the run of the place.
And I'll empty both smiles and laughter from the villages of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. No wedding songs, no holiday sounds. Dead silence.