While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
"This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Go to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, 'This is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down.
You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon.
" 'Yet hear the promise of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the LORD says concerning you: You will not die by the sword;
you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire in honor of your fathers, the former kings who preceded you, so they will make a fire in your honor and lament, "Alas, O master!" I myself make this promise, declares the LORD.' "
Then Jeremiah the prophet told all this to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem,
while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that were still holding out--Lachish and Azekah. These were the only fortified cities left in Judah.
The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves.
Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Jew in bondage.
So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free.
But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
"This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your forefathers when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I said,
'Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrew who has sold himself to you. After he has served you six years, you must let him go free.' Your fathers, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me.
Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to his countrymen. You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name.
But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again.
"Therefore, this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim 'freedom' for you, declares the LORD--'freedom' to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.
The men who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.
The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf,
I will hand over to their enemies who seek their lives. Their dead bodies will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.
"I will hand Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials over to their enemies who seek their lives, to the army of the king of Babylon, which has withdrawn from you.
I am going to give the order, declares the LORD, and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, take it and burn it down. And I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there."
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
"Go to the Recabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the LORD and give them wine to drink."
So I went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons--the whole family of the Recabites.
I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper.
Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the men of the Recabite family and said to them, "Drink some wine."
But they replied, "We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jonadab son of Recab gave us this command: 'Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine.
Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.'
We have obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab son of Recab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine
or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops.
We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us.
But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded this land, we said, 'Come, we must go to Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies.' So we have remained in Jerusalem."
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying:
"This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem, 'Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?' declares the LORD.
'Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather's command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.
Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, "Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers." But you have not paid attention or listened to me.
The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.'
"Therefore, this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.' "
Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Recabites, "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.'
Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.' "
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.
But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins,
because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.' "
First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made).
Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second.
And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool,
because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."
Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,
but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.