"O Israel, come back to me," says the LORD. "If you will throw away your detestable idols and go astray no more,
and if you will swear by my name alone, and begin to live good, honest lives and uphold justice, then you will be a blessing to the nations of the world, and all people will come and praise my name."
This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: "Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns.
Cleanse your minds and hearts before the LORD, or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire because of all your sins.
"Shout to Jerusalem and to all Judah! Tell them to sound the alarm throughout the land: 'Run for your lives! Flee to the fortified cities!'
Send a signal toward Jerusalem a : 'Flee now! Do not delay!' For I am bringing terrible destruction upon you from the north."
A lion stalks from its den, a destroyer of nations. And it is headed for your land! Your towns will lie in ruins, empty of people.
So put on clothes of mourning and weep with broken hearts, for the fierce anger of the LORD is still upon us.
"In that day," says the LORD, "the king and the officials will tremble in fear. The priests and the prophets will be struck with horror."
Then I said, "O Sovereign LORD, the people have been deceived by what you said, for you promised peace for Jerusalem. Yet the sword is even now poised to strike them dead!"
The time is coming when the LORD will say to the people of Jerusalem, "A burning wind is blowing in from the desert. It is not a gentle breeze useful for winnowing grain.
It is a roaring blast sent by me! Now I will pronounce your destruction!"
Our enemy rushes down on us like a storm wind! His chariots are like whirlwinds; his horses are swifter than eagles. How terrible it will be! Our destruction is sure!
O Jerusalem, cleanse your hearts that you may be saved. How long will you harbor your evil thoughts?
From Dan and the hill country of Ephraim, your destruction has been announced.
"Warn the surrounding nations and announce to Jerusalem: 'The enemy is coming from a distant land, raising a battle cry against the towns of Judah.
They surround Jerusalem like watchmen surrounding a field, for my people have rebelled against me,'" says the LORD.
"Your own actions have brought this upon you. This punishment is a bitter dose of your own medicine. It has pierced you to the heart!"
My heart, my heart -- I writhe in pain! My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still. For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets and the roar of their battle cries.
Waves of destruction roll over the land, until it lies in complete desolation. Suddenly, every tent is destroyed; in a moment, every shelter is crushed.
How long must this go on? How long must I be surrounded by war and death?
"My people are foolish and do not know me," says the LORD. "They are senseless children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no talent at all for doing right!"
I looked at the earth, and it was empty and formless. I looked at the heavens, and there was no light.
I looked at the mountains and hills, and they trembled and shook.
I looked, and all the people were gone. All the birds of the sky had flown away.
I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness. The cities lay in ruins, crushed by the LORD's fierce anger.
This is what the LORD says: "The whole land will be ruined, but I will not destroy it completely.
The earth will mourn, the heavens will be draped in black, because of my decree against my people. I have made up my mind and will not change it."
At the noise of marching armies, the people flee in terror from the cities. They hide in the bushes and run for the mountains. All the cities have been abandoned -- not a person remains!
What are you doing, you who have been plundered? Why do you dress up in your most beautiful clothing and jewelry? Why do you brighten your eyes with mascara? It will do you no good! Your allies despise you and will kill you.
I hear a great cry, like that of a woman giving birth to her first child. It is the cry of Jerusalem's people b gasping for breath, pleading for help, prostrate before their murderers.
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)