Selected Grain by Grain
At that time God will unsheathe his sword,
his merciless, massive, mighty sword.
He’ll punish the serpent Leviathan as it flees,
the serpent Leviathan thrashing in flight.
He’ll kill that old dragon
that lives in the sea.
“At that same time, a fine vineyard will appear.
There’s something to sing about!
I, God, tend it.
I keep it well-watered.
I keep careful watch over it
so that no one can damage it.
I’m not angry. I care.
Even if it gives me thistles and thornbushes,
I’ll just pull them out
and burn them up.
Let that vine cling to me for safety,
let it find a good and whole life with me,
let it hold on for a good and whole life.”
The days are coming when Jacob
shall put down roots,
Israel blossom and grow fresh branches,
and fill the world with its fruit.
Has God knocked them to the ground
as he knocked down those who hit them? Oh, no.
Were they killed
as their killers were killed? Again, no.
He was hard on them all right. The exile was a harsh sentence.
He blew them away on a fierce blast of wind.
But the good news is that through this experience
Jacob’s guilt was taken away.
The evidence that his sin is removed will be this:
He will tear down the alien altars,
take them apart stone by stone,
And then crush the stones into gravel
and clean out all the sex-and-religion shrines.
For there’s nothing left of that pretentious grandeur.
Nobody lives there anymore. It’s unlivable.
But animals do just fine,
browsing and bedding down.
And it’s not a bad place to get firewood.
Dry twigs and dead branches are plentiful.
It’s the leavings of a people with no sense of God.
So, the God who made them
Will have nothing to do with them.
He who formed them will turn his back on them.
At that time God will thresh
from the River Euphrates to the Brook of Egypt,
And you, people of Israel,
will be selected grain by grain.
At that same time a great trumpet will be blown,
calling home the exiles from Assyria,
Welcoming home the refugees from Egypt
to come and worship God on the holy mountain, Jerusalem.
God Will Speak in Baby Talk
1-4 Doom to the pretentious drunks of Ephraim,
shabby and washed out and seedy—
Tipsy, sloppy-fat, beer-bellied parodies
of a proud and handsome past.
Watch closely: God has someone picked out,
someone tough and strong to flatten them.
Like a hailstorm, like a hurricane, like a flash flood,
one-handed he’ll throw them to the ground.
Samaria, the party hat on Israel’s head,
will be knocked off with one blow.
It will disappear quicker than
a piece of meat tossed to a dog.
At that time, God-of-the-Angel-Armies will be
the beautiful crown on the head of what’s left of his people:
Energy and insights of justice to those who guide and decide,
strength and prowess to those who guard and protect.
These also, the priest and prophet, stagger from drink,
weaving, falling-down drunks,
Besotted with wine and whiskey,
can’t see straight, can’t talk sense.
Every table is covered with vomit.
They live in vomit.
“Is that so? And who do you think you are to teach us?
Who are you to lord it over us?
We’re not babies in diapers
to be talked down to by such as you—
‘Da, da, da, da,
blah, blah, blah, blah.
That’s a good little girl,
that’s a good little boy.’”
But that’s exactly how you will be addressed.
God will speak to this people
In baby talk, one syllable at a time—
and he’ll do it through foreign oppressors.
He said before, “This is the time and place to rest,
to give rest to the weary.
This is the place to lay down your burden.”
But they won’t listen.
So God will start over with the simple basics
and address them in baby talk, one syllable at a time—
“Da, da, da, da,
blah, blah, blah, blah.
That’s a good little girl,
that’s a good little boy.”
And like toddlers, they will get up and fall down,
get bruised and confused and lost.
Now listen to God’s Message, you scoffers,
you who rule this people in Jerusalem.
You say, “We’ve taken out good life insurance.
We’ve hedged all our bets, covered all our bases.
No disaster can touch us. We’ve thought of everything.
We’re advised by the experts. We’re set.”
The Meaning of the Stone
But the Master, God, has something to say to this:
“Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion,
a solid granite foundation, squared and true.
And this is the meaning of the stone:
a trusting life won’t topple.
I’ll make justice the measuring stick
and righteousness the plumb line for the building.
A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies,
and a flash flood will wash out the rubble.
“Then you’ll see that your precious life insurance policy
wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Your careful precautions against death
were a pack of illusions and lies.
When the disaster happens,
you’ll be crushed by it.
Every time disaster comes, you’ll be in on it—
disaster in the morning, disaster at night.”
Every report of disaster
will send you cowering in terror.
There will be no place where you can rest,
nothing to hide under.
God will rise to full stature,
raging as he did long ago on Mount Perazim
And in the valley of Gibeon against the Philistines.
But this time it’s against you.
Hard to believe, but true.
Not what you’d expect, but it’s coming.
Sober up, friends, and don’t scoff.
Scoffing will just make it worse.
I’ve heard the orders issued for destruction, orders from
God-of-the-Angel-Armies—ending up in an international disaster.
Listen to me now.
Give me your closest attention.
Do farmers plow and plow and do nothing but plow?
Or harrow and harrow and do nothing but harrow?
After they’ve prepared the ground, don’t they plant?
Don’t they scatter dill and spread cumin,
Plant wheat and barley in the fields
and raspberries along the borders?
They know exactly what to do and when to do it.
Their God is their teacher.
And at the harvest, the delicate herbs and spices,
the dill and cumin, are treated delicately.
On the other hand, wheat is threshed and milled, but still not endlessly.
The farmer knows how to treat each kind of grain.
He’s learned it all from God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
who knows everything about when and how and where.