A message came to me from the Lord. He said,
"Son of man, speak to the people of your own country. Tell them, 'Suppose I send enemies against a land. And its people choose one of their men to stand guard.
He sees the enemies coming against the land. He blows a trumpet to warn the people.
" 'Someone hears the trumpet. But he does not pay any attention to the warning. The enemies come and kill him. Then what happens to him will be his own fault.
He heard the sound of the trumpet. But he did not pay any attention to the warning. So what happened to him was his own fault. If he had paid attention, he would have saved himself.
" 'But suppose the guard sees the enemies coming. And he does not blow the trumpet to warn the people. The enemies come and kill one of them. Then his life has been taken away from him because he sinned. But I will hold the guard accountable for his death.'
"Son of man, I have appointed you as a prophet to warn the people of Israel. So listen to my message. Give them a warning from me.
"Suppose I say to a sinful person, 'You can be sure that you will die.' And suppose you do not try to get him to change his ways. Then he will die because he has sinned. And I will hold you accountable for his death.
"But suppose you do warn that sinful person. You tell him to change his ways. But he does not do it. Then he will die because he has sinned. But you will have saved yourself.
"Son of man, speak to the people of Israel. Tell them, 'You are saying, "Our sins and the wrong things we have done weigh us down. We are wasting away because we have sinned so much. So how can we live?" '
"Tell them, 'When sinful people die, it does not give me any joy. But when they turn away from their sins and live, that makes me very happy. And that is just as sure as I am alive,' announces the LORD and King. 'So turn away from your sins! Change your evil ways! Why should you die, people of Israel?'
"Son of man, speak to the people of your own country. Tell them, 'The right things a godly person does will not save him when he does not obey the Lord. The wrong things a sinful person does will not destroy him when he turns away from them. If a godly person sins, he will not be allowed to live just because he used to do what is right.'
"Suppose I tell someone who is godly that he will live. And he trusts in the fact that he used to do what was right. But now he does what is evil. Then I will not remember any of the right things he has done. He will die because he has done so many evil things.
"Suppose I say to a sinful person, 'You can be sure you will die.' And then he turns away from his sin. He does what is fair and right.
He gives back what he took as security for a loan. He returns what he has stolen. He follows my rules that give life. He does not do what is evil. Then you can be sure he will live. He will not die.
None of the sins he has committed will be held against him. He has done what is fair and right. So you can be sure he will live.
"In spite of that, your people say, 'What the Lord does isn't fair.' But it is what you do that is not fair.
"Suppose someone who is godly stops doing what is right. And he does what is evil. Then he will die because of it.
But suppose a sinful person turns away from the evil things he has done. And he does what is fair and right. Then he will live by doing that.
"In spite of that, you people of Israel say, 'What the Lord does isn't fair.' But I will judge each of you based on how you have lived."
It was the 12th year since we had been brought to Babylonia as prisoners. On the fifth day of the tenth month, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to bring me a report. He said, "The city has fallen!"
The evening before the man arrived, the LORD put his strong hand on me. He opened my mouth before the man came to me in the morning. So my mouth was opened. I was no longer silent.
Then a message came to me from the Lord. He said,
"Son of man, the people who live in those broken-down buildings in Israel are saying, 'Abraham was only one man. But he owned the land. We are many people. The land must certainly belong to us.'
"So tell them, 'The LORD and King says, "You eat meat that still has blood in it. You worship your gods. You commit murder. So should you still possess the land?
You depend on your swords. You do things I hate. Each one of you has sex with your neighbor's wife. So should you still possess the land?" '
"Tell them, 'The LORD and King says, "The people who are left in those broken-down buildings will be killed with swords. Wild animals will eat up those who are out in the country. Those who are in caves and other safe places will die of a plague. And that is just as sure as I am alive.
" ' "I will turn the land into a dry and empty desert. The strength Jerusalem is so proud of will come to an end. The mountains of Israel will be deserted. No one will travel across them.
So I will turn the land into a dry and empty desert. I will punish my people because of all of the evil things they have done. I hate those things. They will know that I am the Lord." '
"Son of man, your people are talking about you. They are getting together by the walls of their houses and at their doors. They are saying to one another, 'Come. Listen to the LORD's message.'
"My people come to you, just as they usually do. They sit in front of you. They listen to what you say. But they do not put it into practice. With their mouths they claim to be faithful to me. But in their hearts they want what belongs to others. They try to get rich by cheating them.
You are nothing more to them than someone who sings love songs. They say you have a beautiful voice. They think you play an instrument well. They listen to what you say. But they do not put it into practice.
"Everything I have told you will come true. You can be sure of it. Then the people will know that a prophet has been among them."