The Lord spoke his word to me, saying:
"Human, speak to your people and say to them: 'Suppose I bring a war against a land. The people of the land may choose one of their men and make him their watchman.
When he sees the enemy coming to attack the land, he will blow the trumpet and warn the people.
If they hear the sound of the trumpet but do nothing, the enemy will come and kill them. They will be responsible for their own deaths.
They heard the sound of the trumpet but didn't do anything. So they are to blame for their own deaths. If they had done something, they would have saved their own lives.
But if the watchman sees the enemy coming to attack and does not blow the trumpet, the people will not be warned. Then if the enemy comes and kills any of them, they have died because of their own sin. But I will punish the watchman for their deaths.'
"You, human, are the one I have made a watchman for Israel. If you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me.
Suppose I say to the wicked: 'Wicked people, you will surely die,' but you don't speak to warn the wicked to stop doing evil. Then they will die because they were sinners, but I will punish you for their deaths.
But if you warn the wicked to stop doing evil and they do not stop, they will die because they were sinners. But you have saved your life.
"So you, human, say to Israel: 'You have said: Surely our law-breaking and sins are hurting us. They will kill us. What can we do so we will live?'
Say to them: 'The Lord God says: As surely as I live, I do not want any who are wicked to die. I want them to stop doing evil and live. Stop! Stop your wicked ways! You don't want to die, do you, people of Israel?'
"Human, say to your people: 'The goodness of those who do right will not save them when they sin. The evil of wicked people will not cause them to be punished if they stop doing it. If good people sin, they will not be able to live by the good they did earlier.'
If I tell good people, 'You will surely live,' they might think they have done enough good and then do evil. Then none of the good things they did will be remembered. They will die because of the evil they have done.
Or, if I say to the wicked people, 'You will surely die,' they may stop sinning and do what is right and honest.
For example, they may return what somebody gave them as a promise to repay a loan, or pay back what they stole. If they live by the rules that give life and do not sin, then they will surely live, and they will not die.
They will not be punished for any of their sins. They now do what is right and fair, so they will surely live.
"Your people say: 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' But it is their own ways that are not fair.
When the good people stop doing good and do evil, they will die for their evil.
But when the wicked stop doing evil and do what is right and fair, they will live.
You still say: 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Israel, I will judge all of you by your own ways."
It was in the twelfth year of our captivity, on the fifth day of the tenth month. A person who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, "Jerusalem has been captured."
Now I had felt the power of the Lord on me the evening before. He had made me able to talk again before this person came to me. I could speak; I was not without speech anymore.
Then the Lord spoke his word to me, saying:
"Human, people who live in the ruins in the land of Israel are saying: 'Abraham was only one person, yet he was given the land as his own. Surely the land has been given to us, who are many, as our very own.'
So say to them: 'This is what the Lord God says: You eat meat with the blood still in it, you ask your idols for help, and you murder people. Should you then have the land as your very own?
You depend on your sword and do terrible things which I hate. Each of you has sexual relations with his neighbor's wife. So should you have the land?'
"Say to them: 'This is what the Lord God says: As surely as I live, those who are among the city ruins in Israel will be killed in war. I will cause those who live in the country to be eaten by wild animals. People hiding in the strongholds and caves will die of disease.
I will make the land an empty desert. The people's pride in the land's power will end. The mountains of Israel will become empty so that no one will pass through them.
They will know that I am the Lord when I make the land an empty desert because of the things they have done that I hate.'
"But as for you, human, your people are talking about you by the walls and in the doorways of houses. They say to each other: 'Come now, and hear the message from the Lord.'
So they come to you in crowds as if they were really ready to listen. They sit in front of you as if they were my people and hear your words, but they will not obey them. With their mouths they tell me they love me, but their hearts desire their selfish profits.
To your people you are nothing more than a singer who sings love songs and has a beautiful voice and plays a musical instrument well. They hear your words, but they will not obey them.
"When this comes true, and it surely will happen, then the people will know that a prophet has been among them."
Scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.