Jeremiah 4; Jeremiah 5; Jeremiah 6

1 "If you will return, Israel, return to me," announces the Lord. "Put the statues of your gods out of my sight. I hate them. Stop going down the wrong path. 2 Take all of your oaths in my name. Say, 'You can be sure that the LORD is alive.' Let all of your promises be truthful, fair and honest. Then I will bless the nations. And they will take delight in me." 3 Here is what the LORD is telling the people of Judah and Jerusalem. He says, "Your hearts are as hard as a field that has not been plowed. So change your ways and produce good crops. Do not plant seeds among thorns. 4 People of Judah and Jerusalem, obey me. Do not let your hearts be stubborn. If you do, my anger will blaze out against you. It will burn like fire because of the evil things you have done. No one will be able to put it out. 5 "Announce my message in Judah. Tell it in Jerusalem. Say, 'Blow trumpets all through the land!' Give a loud shout and say, 'Gather together! Let's run to cities that have high walls around them!' 6 Warn everyone to go to Zion! Run for safety! Do not wait! I am bringing trouble from the north. Everything will be totally destroyed." 7 Lions have come out of their den. Those who destroy nations have begun to march out. They have left their place to destroy your land completely. Your towns will be broken to pieces. No one will live in them. 8 So put on black clothes. Sob and cry over what has happened. The LORD hasn't turned his burning anger away from us. 9 "A dark day is coming," announces the Lord. "The king and his officials will lose hope. The priests will be shocked. And the prophets will be terrified." 10 Then I said, "You are my LORD and King. You have completely tricked the people of Judah and Jerusalem. You have told them, 'You will have peace and rest.' But swords are pointed at our throats." 11 At that time the people of Judah and Jerusalem will be warned. They will be told, "A hot and dry wind is coming, my people. It is blowing toward you from the bare hilltops in the desert. But it does not separate straw from grain. 12 It is much too strong for that. The wind is coming from me. I am making my decision against you." 13 Look! Our enemies are approaching like the clouds. Their chariots are coming like a strong wind. Their horses are faster than eagles. How terrible it will be for us! We'll be destroyed! 14 People of Jerusalem, wash your sins from your hearts and be saved. How long will you hold on to your evil thoughts? 15 A voice is speaking all the way from the city of Dan. From the hills of Ephraim it announces that trouble is coming. 16 "Tell the nations. Warn Jerusalem. Say, 'An army will attack you. It is coming from a land far away. It will shout a war cry against the cities of Judah. 17 It will surround them like people who guard a field. Judah has refused to obey me,' " announces the Lord. 18 "The army will attack you because of your conduct and actions. That is how you will be punished. It will be so bitter! It will cut deep down into your hearts!" 19 I'm suffering! I'm really suffering! I'm hurting badly. My heart is suffering so much! It's pounding inside me. I can't keep silent. I've heard the sound of trumpets. I've heard the battle cry. 20 One trouble follows another. The whole land is destroyed. In an instant my tents are gone. My home disappears in a moment. 21 How long must I look at our enemy's battle flag? How long must I hear the sound of the trumpets? 22 The LORD says, "My people are foolish. They do not know me. They are children who do not have any sense. They have no understanding at all. They are skilled in doing what is evil. They do not know how to do what is good." 23 I looked at the earth. It didn't have any shape. And it was empty. I looked at the sky. Its light was gone. 24 I looked at the mountains. They were shaking. All of the hills were swaying. 25 I looked. And there weren't any people. Every bird in the sky had flown away. 26 I looked. And the fruitful land had become a desert. All of its towns were destroyed. The LORD had done all of that because of his burning anger. 27 The LORD says, "The whole land will be destroyed. But I will not destroy it completely. 28 So the earth will be filled with sadness. The sky above will grow dark. I have spoken, and I will not take pity on them. I have made my decision, and I will not change my mind." 29 People can hear the sound of horsemen. Men who are armed with bows are coming. The people in every town run away. Some of them go into the bushes. Others climb up among the rocks. All of the towns are deserted. No one is living in them. 30 What are you doing, you who are destroyed? Why do you dress yourself in bright red clothes? Why do you put on jewels of gold? Why do you put makeup on your eyes? You make yourself beautiful for no reason at all. Your lovers hate you. They are trying to kill you. 31 I hear a cry like the cry of a woman having a baby. I hear a groan like someone having her first child. It's the cry of the people of Zion struggling to breathe. They reach out their hands and say, "Help us! We're fainting! Murderers are about to kill us!"
1 The LORD says, "Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem. Look around. Think about what you see. Search through the market places. See if you can find one honest person who tries to be truthful. If you can, I will forgive this city. 2 They take all of their oaths in my name. They say, 'You can be sure that the LORD is alive.' But their oaths can't be trusted." 3 Lord, don't your eyes look for truth? You struck your people down. But they didn't feel any pain. You crushed them. But they refused to be corrected. They made their faces harder than stone. They refused to turn away from their sins. 4 I thought, "The people of Jerusalem are foolish. They don't know how the LORD wants them to live. They don't know what their God requires of them. 5 So I will go to the leaders. I'll speak to them. They should know how the LORD wants them to live. They must know what their God requires of them." But all of them had broken off the yoke the LORD had put on them. They had torn off the ropes he had tied them up with. 6 So a lion from the forest will attack them. A wolf from the desert will destroy them. A leopard will hide and wait near their towns. It will tear to pieces anyone who dares to go out. Again and again they have refused to obey the Lord. They have turned away from him many times. 7 The LORD says, "Jerusalem, why should I forgive you? Your people have deserted me. They have taken their oaths in the names of gods that are not really gods at all. I supplied everything they needed. But they committed adultery. Large crowds went to the houses of prostitutes. 8 Your people are like stallions that have plenty to eat. Their sinful longings are out of control. Each of them goes after another man's wife. 9 Shouldn't I punish them for that?" announces the Lord. "Shouldn't I pay back the nation that does those things? 10 "Armies of Babylonia, go through their vineyards and destroy them. But do not destroy them completely. Strip off their branches. Those people do not belong to me. 11 The people of Israel and Judah have not been faithful to me at all," announces the Lord. 12 They have told lies about the Lord. They said, "He won't do anything! No harm will come to us. We will never see war or be hungry. 13 The prophets are nothing but wind. Their message doesn't come from the Lord. So let what they say will happen be done to them." 14 The LORD God rules over all. He says to me, "The people have spoken those words. So my words will be like fire in your mouth. I will make the people like wood. And the fire will burn them up." 15 "People of Israel, listen to me," announces the Lord. "I am bringing against you a nation from far away. It is an old nation. And it will last for a long time. Its people speak a language you do not know. You can't understand what they are saying. 16 The bags they carry their arrows in are like an open grave. All of their soldiers are mighty. 17 They will eat up your crops and your food. They will strike down your sons and daughters. They will kill your sheep and cattle. They will destroy your vines and fig trees. You trust in your cities that have high walls around them. But the people in them will be killed with swords. 18 "In spite of that, even in those days I will not destroy you completely," announces the Lord. 19 " 'Jeremiah,' the people will ask, 'Why has the LORD our God done all of this to us?' "Then you will tell them, 'You have deserted the LORD. You have served other gods in your own land. So now you will serve another nation in a land that is not your own.' 20 "Here is what I want you to announce to the people of Jacob. Tell it in Judah. Tell them I say, 21 'Listen to this, you foolish people, who do not have any sense. You have eyes, but you do not see. You have ears, but you do not hear. 22 Shouldn't you have respect for me?' announces the Lord. 'Shouldn't you tremble with fear in front of me? I made the sand to hold the ocean back. It will do that forever. The ocean can't go past it. The waves might roll, but they can't sweep over it. They might roar, but they can't go across it. 23 But you people have stubborn hearts. You refuse to obey me. You have turned away from me. You have gone down the wrong path. 24 You do not say to yourselves, "Let us have respect for the LORD our God. He sends rain in the fall and the spring. He promises us that the harvest will come at the same time each year." 25 But the things you have done wrong have robbed you of those gifts. Your sins have kept those good things far away from you.' 26 "Jeremiah, some of my people are evil. They hide and wait just as people hide to catch birds. They set traps for men. 27 A hunter uses tricks to fill his cage with birds. And my people have filled their houses with a lot of goods. They have become rich and powerful. 28 They have grown fat and heavy. There is no limit to the evil things they do. In court they do not state the case of children whose fathers have died. They do not stand up for poor people. 29 Shouldn't I punish them for that?" announces the Lord. "Shouldn't I pay back the nation that does those things? 30 "Something horrible and shocking has happened in the land. 31 The prophets prophesy lies. The priests rule by their own authority. And my people love it that way. But what will they do in the end?"
1 The LORD says, "People of Benjamin, run for safety! Run away from Jerusalem! Blow trumpets in Tekoa! Warn everyone in Beth Hakkerem! Horrible trouble is coming from the north. The Babylonians will destroy everything with awful power. 2 I will destroy the city of Zion, even though it is very beautiful. 3 Shepherds will come against it with their flocks. They will set up their tents around it. All of them will take care of their own sheep." 4 The Babylonians say, "Prepare for battle against Judah! Get up! Let's attack them at noon! But the daylight is fading. The shadows of evening are getting longer. 5 So get up! Let's attack them at night! Let's destroy their strongest forts!" 6 The LORD who rules over all speaks to the Babylonians. He says, "Cut some trees down. Use the wood to build ramps against Jerusalem's walls. I must punish that city. It is filled with people who treat others badly. 7 Wells keep giving fresh water. And Jerusalem keeps on sinning. Its people are always fighting and causing trouble. When I look at them, I see nothing but sickness and wounds. 8 Jerusalem, listen to my warning. If you do not, I will turn away from you. Your land will become a desert. No one will be able to live there." 9 The LORD rules over all. He says to me, "People gather the few grapes that are left on a vine. So let Israel's enemies gather the few people who are left alive in the land. Look carefully at the branches again. Do it like someone who gathers the last few grapes." 10 Who can I speak to? Who can I warn? Who will even listen to me? Their ears are closed so they can't hear. The LORD's message displeases them. They don't take any delight in it. 11 But the LORD's anger burns inside me. I can no longer hold it in. The LORD says to me, "Pour out my anger on the children in the street. Pour it out on the young people who are gathered together. Husband and wife alike will be caught in it. So will those who are very old. 12 I will reach out my hand against those who live in the land," announces the Lord. "Then their houses will be turned over to others. So will their fields and their wives. 13 Everyone wants to get richer and richer, from the least important of them to the most important. Prophets and priests alike try to fool everyone they can. 14 They bandage the wounds of my people as if they were not very deep. 'Peace, peace,' they say. But there isn't any peace. 15 Are they ashamed of their hateful actions? No. They do not feel any shame at all. They do not even know how to blush. So they will fall like others who have already fallen. They will be brought down when I punish them," says the Lord. 16 The LORD tells the people of Judah, "Stand where the roads cross, and look around. Ask where the old paths are. Ask for the good path, and walk on it. Then your hearts will find rest in me. But you said, 'We won't walk on it.' 17 I appointed prophets to warn you. I said, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpets!' But you said, 'We won't listen.' 18 So pay attention, you nations. Be witnesses for me. Watch what will happen to my people. 19 Earth, pay attention. I am going to bring trouble on them. I will punish them because of the evil things they have done. They have not listened to my words. They have said no to my law. 20 What do I care about incense from the land of Sheba? Why should I bother with sweet-smelling cane from a land far away? I do not accept your burnt offerings. Your sacrifices do not please me." 21 So the LORD says, "I will bring an army against the people of Judah. Parents and children alike will trip and fall. Neighbors and friends will die." 22 The LORD says to Jerusalem, "Look! An army is coming from the land of the north. I am stirring up a great nation. Its army is coming from a land that is very far away. 23 Its soldiers are armed with bows and spears. They are mean. They do not show any mercy at all. They come riding in on their horses. They sound like the roaring ocean. They are lined up for battle. They are marching out to attack you, city of Zion." 24 We have heard reports about them. And our hands can't help us. We are suffering greatly. It's like the pain of a woman having a baby. 25 Don't go out to the fields. Don't walk on the roads. Our enemies have swords. And there is terror on every side. 26 Put on black clothes, my people. Roll among the ashes. Cry with bitter sobbing just as you would cry for an only child. The one who is going to destroy us will come suddenly. 27 The LORD says to me, "I have made you like one who tests metals. My people are the ore. I want you to watch them and test the way they live. 28 All of them are used to disobeying me. They go around telling lies about others. They are like bronze mixed with iron. All of them do very sinful things. 29 The fire is made very hot so the lead will burn away. But it is impossible to make those people pure. Those who are evil are not removed. 30 They are like silver that is thrown away. That is because I have not accepted them."
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