When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,
but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."
They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."
Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.
He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John."
Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.
The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.
Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us--
to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."
And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.
The word of the LORD came to me:
"Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir; prophesy against it
and say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against you and make you a desolate waste.
I will turn your towns into ruins and you will be desolate. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
" 'Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax,
therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.
I will make Mount Seir a desolate waste and cut off from it all who come and go.
I will fill your mountains with the slain; those killed by the sword will fall on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines.
I will make you desolate forever; your towns will not be inhabited. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
" 'Because you have said, "These two nations and countries will be ours and we will take possession of them," even though I the LORD was there,
therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will treat you in accordance with the anger and jealousy you showed in your hatred of them and I will make myself known among them when I judge you.
Then you will know that I the LORD have heard all the contemptible things you have said against the mountains of Israel. You said, "They have been laid waste and have been given over to us to devour."
You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate.
Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all of Edom. Then they will know that I am the LORD.' "
"Son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, 'O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The enemy said of you, "Aha! The ancient heights have become our possession." '
Therefore prophesy and say, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because they ravaged and hounded you from every side so that you became the possession of the rest of the nations and the object of people's malicious talk and slander,
therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys, to the desolate ruins and the deserted towns that have been plundered and ridiculed by the rest of the nations around you--
this is what the Sovereign LORD says: In my burning zeal I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, for with glee and with malice in their hearts they made my land their own possession so that they might plunder its pastureland.'
Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations.
Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I swear with uplifted hand that the nations around you will also suffer scorn.
" 'But you, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.
I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown,
and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt.
I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
I will cause people, my people Israel, to walk upon you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children.
" 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because people say to you, "You devour men and deprive your nation of its children,"
therefore you will no longer devour men or make your nation childless, declares the Sovereign LORD.
No longer will I make you hear the taunts of the nations, and no longer will you suffer the scorn of the peoples or cause your nation to fall, declares the Sovereign LORD.' "
Again the word of the LORD came to me:
"Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman's monthly uncleanness in my sight.
So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols.
I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions.
And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, 'These are the LORD's people, and yet they had to leave his land.'
I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.
I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.
" 'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you.
I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.
Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.
I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, O house of Israel!
" 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.
The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it.
They will say, "This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited."
Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.'
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Once again I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep,
as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed feasts. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the LORD."
Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.
No one calls for justice; no one pleads his case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments and speak lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.
They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider's web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched.
Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands.
Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways.
The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.
So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.
We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.
For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:
rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, fomenting oppression and revolt, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due.
From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.
"The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD.
"As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD.