These are the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests from Anathoth, a town in the land of Benjamin.
The LORD first gave messages to Jeremiah during the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign in Judah.
He continued to give messages throughout the reign of Josiah's son, King Jehoiakim, until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah's reign in Judah. In August of that year, the people of Jerusalem were taken away as captives.
The LORD gave me a message. He said,
"I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world."
"O Sovereign LORD," I said, "I can't speak for you! I'm too young!"
"Don't say that," the LORD replied, "for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you.
And don't be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and take care of you. I, the LORD, have spoken!"
Then the LORD touched my mouth and said, "See, I have put my words in your mouth!
Today I appoint you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. You are to uproot some and tear them down, to destroy and overthrow them. You are to build others up and plant them."
Then the LORD said to me, "Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?" And I replied, "I see a branch from an almond tree."
And the LORD said, "That's right, and it means that I am watching, and I will surely carry out my threats of punishment."
Then the LORD spoke to me again and asked, "What do you see now?" And I replied, "I see a pot of boiling water, tipping from the north."
"Yes," the LORD said, "for terror from the north will boil out on the people of this land."
Listen! I am calling the armies of the kingdoms of the north to come to Jerusalem. They will set their thrones at the gates of the city. They will attack its walls and all the other towns of Judah."
I will pronounce judgment on my people for all their evil -- for deserting me and worshiping other gods. Yes, they worship idols that they themselves have made!"
"Get up and get dressed. Go out, and tell them whatever I tell you to say. Do not be afraid of them, or I will make you look foolish in front of them.
For see, today I have made you immune to their attacks. You are strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. None of the kings, officials, priests, or people of Judah will be able to stand against you."
They will try, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the LORD, have spoken!"
The LORD gave me another message. He said,
"Go and shout in Jerusalem's streets: 'This is what the LORD says: I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.
In those days Israel was holy to the LORD, the first of my children. All who harmed my people were considered guilty, and disaster fell upon them. I, the LORD, have spoken!'"
Listen to the word of the LORD, people of Jacob -- all you families of Israel!
This is what the LORD says: "What sin did your ancestors find in me that led them to stray so far? They worshiped foolish idols, only to become foolish themselves.
They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD who brought us safely out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness -- a land of deserts and pits, of drought and death, where no one lives or even travels?'"
"And when I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness, you defiled my land and corrupted the inheritance I had promised you.
The priests did not ask, 'Where is the LORD?' The judges ignored me, the rulers turned against me, and the prophets spoke in the name of Baal, wasting their time on nonsense.
Therefore, I will bring my case against you and will keep on accusing you, even against your children's children in the years to come. I, the LORD, have spoken!"
"Go west to the land of Cyprus; go east to the land of Kedar. Think about what you see there. See if anyone has ever heard of anything as strange as this.
Has any nation ever exchanged its gods for another god, even though its gods are nothing? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols!
The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay, says the LORD.
For my people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me -- the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!"
"Why has Israel become a nation of slaves? Why has she been carried away as plunder?
Lions have roared against her. The land has been destroyed, and the cities are now in ruins. No one lives in them anymore.
Egyptians, marching from their cities of Memphis and Tahpanhes, have utterly destroyed Israel's glory and power.
And you have brought this on yourselves by rebelling against the LORD your God when he wanted to lead you and show you the way!"
"What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt and Assyria? What good to you are the waters of the Nile and the Euphrates?
Your own wickedness will punish you. You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to forsake the LORD your God, having no fear of him. I, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, have spoken!
Long ago I broke your yoke and tore away the chains of your slavery, but still you would not obey me. On every hill and under every green tree, you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols."
"How could this happen? When I planted you, I chose a vine of the purest stock -- the very best. How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?"
No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. You are stained with guilt that cannot be washed away. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!"
"You say, 'That's not true! We haven't worshiped the images of Baal!' But how can you say that? Go and look in any valley in the land! Face the awful sins you have done. You are like a restless female camel, desperate for a male!
You are like a wild donkey, sniffing the wind at mating time. Who can restrain your lust? Those who desire you do not even need to search, for you come running to them!
Why do you refuse to turn from all this running after other gods? But you say, 'Don't waste your breath. I have fallen in love with these foreign gods, and I can't stop loving them now!'"
"Like a thief, Israel feels shame only when she gets caught. Kings, officials, priests, and prophets -- all are alike in this.
To an image carved from a piece of wood they say, 'You are my father.' To an idol chiseled out of stone they say, 'You are my mother.' They turn their backs on me, but in times of trouble they cry out for me to save them!
Why don't you call on these gods you have made? When danger comes, let them save you if they can! For you have as many gods as there are cities and towns in Judah.
Why do you accuse me of doing wrong? You are the ones who have rebelled, says the LORD.
I have punished your children, but it did them no good. They still refuse to obey. You yourselves have killed your prophets as a lion kills its prey."
"O my people, listen to the words of the LORD! Have I been like a desert to Israel? Have I been to them a land of darkness? Why then do my people say, 'At last we are free from God! We won't have anything to do with him anymore!'
Does a young woman forget her jewelry? Does a bride hide her wedding dress? No! Yet for years on end my people have forgotten me."
"How you plot and scheme to win your lovers. The most experienced prostitute could learn from you!
Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor. You killed them even though they didn't break into your houses!
And yet you say, 'I haven't done anything wrong. Surely he isn't angry with me!' Now I will punish you severely because you claim you have not sinned."
"First here, then there -- you flit from one ally to another asking for help. But your new friends in Egypt will let you down, just as Assyria did before.
In despair, you will be led into exile with your hands on your heads, for the LORD has rejected the nations you trust. You will not succeed despite their help."
It is a true saying that if someone wants to be an elder, he desires an honorable responsibility.
For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach.
He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money.
He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him.
For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church?
An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and the Devil will use that pride to make him fall.
Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not fall into the Devil's trap and be disgraced.
In the same way, deacons must be people who are respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers and must not be greedy for money.
They must be committed to the revealed truths of the Christian faith and must live with a clear conscience.
Before they are appointed as deacons, they should be given other responsibilities in the church as a test of their character and ability. If they do well, then they may serve as deacons.
In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not speak evil of others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.
A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well.
Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.
I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon,
so that if I can't come for a while, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and support of the truth.
Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and was announced to the nations. He was believed on in the world and was taken up into heaven.
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)