On August 14, a during the seventh year of King Jehoiachin's captivity, some of the leaders of Israel came to request a message from the LORD. They sat down in front of me to wait for his reply.
Then this message came to me from the LORD:
"Son of man, give the leaders of Israel this message from the Sovereign LORD: How dare you come to ask for my help? As surely as I live, I will tell you nothing. This is the word of the Sovereign LORD!
"Son of man, bring judgment against them and condemn them. Make them realize how loathsome the actions of their ancestors really were.
Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: When I chose Israel and revealed myself to her in Egypt, I swore that I, the LORD, would be her God.
I promised that I would bring her and her descendants out of Egypt to a land I had discovered and explored for them -- a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the best of all lands anywhere.
Then I said to them, 'Each of you, get rid of your idols. Do not defile yourselves with the Egyptian gods, for I am the LORD your God.'
"But they rebelled against me and would not listen. They did not get rid of their idols or forsake the gods of Egypt. Then I threatened to pour out my fury on them to satisfy my anger while they were still in Egypt.
But I didn't do it, for I acted to protect the honor of my name. That way the surrounding nations wouldn't be able to laugh at Israel's God, who had promised to deliver his people.
So I brought my people out of Egypt and led them into the wilderness.
There I gave them my laws so they could live by keeping them. Yes, all those who keep them will live!
And I gave them my Sabbath days of rest as a sign between them and me. It was to remind them that I, the LORD, had set them apart to be holy, making them my special people.
"But the people of Israel rebelled against me, and they refused to obey my laws there in the wilderness. They wouldn't obey my instructions even though obedience would have given them life. And they also violated my Sabbath days. So I threatened to pour out my fury on them, and I made plans to utterly consume them in the desert.
But again I held back in order to protect the honor of my name. That way the nations who saw me lead my people out of Egypt wouldn't be able to claim I destroyed them because I couldn't take care of them.
But I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful place on earth.
I told them this because they had rejected my laws, ignored my will for them, and violated my Sabbath days. Their hearts were given to their idols.
Nevertheless, I pitied them and held back from destroying them in the wilderness.
"Then I warned their children and told them not to follow in their parents' footsteps, defiling themselves with their idols.
'I am the LORD your God,' I told them. 'Follow my laws, pay attention to my instructions,
and keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the LORD your God.'
"But their children, too, rebelled against me. They refused to keep my laws and follow my instructions, even though obeying them would have given them life. And they also violated my Sabbath days. So again I threatened to pour out my fury on them in the wilderness.
Nevertheless, I withdrew my judgment against them to protect the honor of my name among the nations who had seen my power in bringing them out of Egypt.
But I took a solemn oath against them while they were in the wilderness. I vowed I would scatter them among all the nations
because they did not obey my laws. They scorned my instructions by violating my Sabbath days and longing for the idols of their ancestors.
I gave them over to worthless customs and laws that would not lead to life.
I let them pollute themselves with the very gifts I had given them, and I allowed them to give their firstborn children as offerings to their gods -- so I might devastate them and show them that I alone am the LORD.
"Therefore, son of man, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign LORD: Your ancestors continued to blaspheme and betray me,
for when I brought them into the land I had promised them, they offered sacrifices and incense on every high hill and under every green tree they saw! They roused my fury as they offered up sacrifices to their gods. They brought their perfumes and incense and poured out their drink offerings to them!
I said to them, 'What is this high place where you are going?' (This idol shrine has been called Bamah -- 'high place' -- ever since.)
"Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign LORD: Do you plan to pollute yourselves just as your ancestors did? Do you intend to keep prostituting yourselves by worshiping detestable idols?
For when you offer gifts to them and give your little children to be burned as sacrifices, b you continue to pollute yourselves to this day. Should I listen to you or help you, O people of Israel? As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I will not give you a message even though you have come to me requesting one.
"You say, 'We want to be like the nations all around us, who serve idols of wood and stone.' But what you have in mind will never happen.
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I will rule you with an iron fist in great anger and with awesome power.
With might and fury I will bring you out from the lands where you are scattered.
I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations, and there I will judge you face to face.
I will judge you there just as I did your ancestors in the wilderness after bringing them out of Egypt, says the Sovereign LORD.
I will count you carefully and hold you to the terms of the covenant.
I will purge you of all those who rebel and sin against me. I will bring them out of the countries where they are in exile, but they will never enter the land of Israel. And when that happens, you will know that I am the LORD.
"As for you, O people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: If you insist, go right ahead and worship your idols, but then don't turn around and bring gifts to me. Such desecration of my holy name must stop!
For on my holy mountain, says the Sovereign LORD, the people of Israel will someday worship me, and I will accept them. There I will require that you bring me all your offerings and choice gifts and sacrifices.
When I bring you home from exile, you will be as pleasing to me as an offering of perfumed incense. And I will display my holiness in you as all the nations watch.
Then when I have brought you home to the land I promised your ancestors, you will know that I am the LORD.
You will look back at all your sins and hate yourselves because of the evil you have done.
You will know that I am the LORD, O people of Israel, when I have honored my name by treating you mercifully in spite of your wickedness, says the Sovereign LORD."
Then this message came to me from the LORD:
"Son of man, look toward the south c and speak out against it; prophesy against the fields of the Negev.
Give the southern wilderness this message from the Sovereign LORD: Hear the word of the LORD! I will set you on fire, O forest, and every tree will be burned -- green and dry trees alike. The terrible flames will not be quenched; they will scorch everything from south to north.
And all the world will see that I, the LORD, have set this fire. It will not be put out."
Then I said, "O Sovereign LORD, they are saying of me, 'He only talks in riddles!'"
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)