"If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers-- would you now return to me?" declares the LORD.
"Look up to the barren heights and see. Is there any place where you have not been ravished? By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers, sat like a nomad in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness.
Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame.
Have you not just called to me: 'My Father, my friend from my youth,
will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?' This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can."
During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, "Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there.
I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it.
I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.
Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood.
In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense," declares the LORD.
The LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.
Go, proclaim this message toward the north: " 'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.
Only acknowledge your guilt-- you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,' " declares the LORD.
"Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you--one from a town and two from a clan--and bring you to Zion.
Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.
In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made.
At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.
In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.
"I myself said, " 'How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.' I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn away from following me.
But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel," declares the LORD.
A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the LORD their God.
"Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." "Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God.
Surely the [idolatrous] commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.
From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our fathers' labor-- their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters.
Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God."
"If you will return, O Israel, return to me," declares the LORD. "If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray,
and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory."
This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: "Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done-- burn with no one to quench it.
"Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: 'Sound the trumpet throughout the land!' Cry aloud and say: 'Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!'
Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction."
A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant.
So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned away from us.
"In that day," declares the LORD, "the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled."
Then I said, "Ah, Sovereign LORD, how completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, 'You will have peace,' when the sword is at our throats."
At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, "A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse;
a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them."
Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined!
O Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts?
A voice is announcing from Dan, proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim.
"Tell this to the nations, proclaim it to Jerusalem: 'A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.
They surround her like men guarding a field, because she has rebelled against me,' " declares the LORD.
"Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!"
Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry.
Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment.
How long must I see the battle standard and hear the sound of the trumpet?
"My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good."
I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone.
I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying.
I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away.
I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
This is what the LORD says: "The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely.
Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back."
At the sound of horsemen and archers every town takes to flight. Some go into the thickets; some climb up among the rocks. All the towns are deserted; no one lives in them.
What are you doing, O devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and put on jewels of gold? Why shade your eyes with paint? You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.
I hear a cry as of a woman in labor, a groan as of one bearing her first child-- the cry of the Daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands and saying, "Alas! I am fainting; my life is given over to murderers."
You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.
We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.
On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.
You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed--God is our witness.
We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you,
but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.
For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,
encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews,
who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men
in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.
For we wanted to come to you--certainly I, Paul, did, again and again--but Satan stopped us.
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?
Indeed, you are our glory and joy.