A City Full of Lies
1-5 “Run for your lives, children of Benjamin!
Get out of Jerusalem, and now!
Give a blast on the ram’s horn in Blastville.
Send up smoke signals from Smoketown.
Doom pours out of the north—
I have likened my dear daughter Zion
to a lovely meadow.
Well, now ‘shepherds’ from the north have discovered her
and brought in their flocks of soldiers.
They’ve pitched camp all around her,
and plan where they’ll ‘graze.’
And then, ‘Prepare to attack! The fight is on!
To arms! We’ll strike at noon!
Oh, it’s too late? Day is dying?
Evening shadows are upon us?
Well, up anyway! We’ll attack by night
and tear apart her defenses stone by stone.’”
God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave the orders:
“Chop down her trees.
Build a siege ramp against Jerusalem,
A city full of brutality,
bursting with violence.
Just as a well holds a good supply of water,
she supplies wickedness nonstop.
The streets echo the cries: ‘Violence! Rape!’
Victims, bleeding and moaning, lie all over the place.
You’re in deep trouble, Jerusalem.
You’ve pushed me to the limit.
You’re on the brink of being wiped out,
being turned into a ghost town.”
More orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“Time’s up! Harvest the grapes for judgment.
Salvage what’s left of Israel.
Go back over the vines.
Pick them clean, every last grape.
Is Anybody Listening?
“I’ve got something to say. Is anybody listening?
I’ve a warning to post. Will anyone notice?
It’s hopeless! Their ears are stuffed with wax—
deaf as a post, blind as a bat.
It’s hopeless! They’ve tuned out God.
They don’t want to hear from me.
But I’m bursting with the wrath of God.
I can’t hold it in much longer.
“So dump it on the children in the streets.
Let it loose on the gangs of youth.
For no one’s exempt: Husbands and wives will be taken,
the old and those ready to die;
Their homes will be given away—
all they own, even their loved ones—
When I give the signal
against all who live in this country.”
“Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar,
little people and big people alike.
Prophets and priests and everyone in between
twist words and doctor truth.
My people are broken—shattered!—
and they put on Band-Aids,
Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’
But things are not ‘just fine’!
Do you suppose they are embarrassed
over this outrage?
No, they have no shame.
They don’t even know how to blush.
There’s no hope for them. They’ve hit bottom
and there’s no getting up.
As far as I’m concerned,
God has spoken.
Death Is on the Prowl
God’s Message yet again:
“Go stand at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for directions to the old road,
The tried-and-true road. Then take it.
Discover the right route for your souls.
But they said, ‘Nothing doing.
We aren’t going that way.’
I even provided watchmen for them
to warn them, to set off the alarm.
But the people said, ‘It’s a false alarm.
It doesn’t concern us.’
And so I’m calling in the nations as witnesses:
‘Watch, witnesses, what happens to them!’
And, ‘Pay attention, Earth!
Don’t miss these bulletins.’
I’m visiting catastrophe on this people, the end result
of the games they’ve been playing with me.
They’ve ignored everything I’ve said,
had nothing but contempt for my teaching.
What would I want with incense brought in from Sheba,
rare spices from exotic places?
Your burnt sacrifices in worship give me no pleasure.
Your religious rituals mean nothing to me.”
So listen to this. Here’s God’s verdict on your way of life:
“Watch out! I’m putting roadblocks and barriers
on the road you’re taking.
They’ll send you sprawling,
parents and children, neighbors and friends—
and that will be the end of the lot of you.”
And listen to this verdict from God:
“Look out! An invasion from the north,
a mighty power on the move from a faraway place:
Armed to the teeth,
vicious and pitiless,
Booming like sea storm and thunder—tramp, tramp, tramp—
riding hard on war horses,
In battle formation
against you, dear Daughter Zion!”
We’ve heard the news,
and we’re as limp as wet dishrags.
We’re paralyzed with fear.
Terror has a death grip on our throats.
Don’t dare go outdoors!
Don’t leave the house!
Death is on the prowl.
“Dear Daughter Zion: Dress in black.
Blacken your face with ashes.
Weep most bitterly,
as for an only child.
The countdown has begun . . .
six, five, four, three . . .
The Terror is on us!”
God gave me this task:
“I have made you the examiner of my people,
to examine and weigh their lives.
They’re a thickheaded, hard-nosed bunch,
rotten to the core, the lot of them.
Refining fires are cranked up to white heat,
but the ore stays a lump, unchanged.
It’s useless to keep trying any longer.
Nothing can refine evil out of them.
Men will give up and call them ‘slag,’
thrown on the slag heap by me, their God.”
The Nation That Wouldn’t Obey God
The Message from God to Jeremiah: “Stand in the gate of God’s Temple and preach this Message.
“Say, ‘Listen, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship God. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, has this to say to you:
“‘Clean up your act—the way you live, the things you do—so I can make my home with you in this place. Don’t for a minute believe the lies being spoken here—“This is God’s Temple, God’s Temple, God’s Temple!” Total nonsense! Only if you clean up your act (the way you live, the things you do), only if you do a total spring cleaning on the way you live and treat your neighbors, only if you quit exploiting the street people and orphans and widows, no longer taking advantage of innocent people on this very site and no longer destroying your souls by using this Temple as a front for other gods—only then will I move into your neighborhood. Only then will this country I gave your ancestors be my permanent home, my Temple.
“‘Get smart! Your leaders are handing you a pack of lies, and you’re swallowing them! Use your heads! Do you think you can rob and murder, have sex with the neighborhood wives, tell lies nonstop, worship the local gods, and buy every novel religious commodity on the market—and then march into this Temple, set apart for my worship, and say, “We’re safe!” thinking that the place itself gives you a license to go on with all this outrageous sacrilege? A cave full of criminals! Do you think you can turn this Temple, set apart for my worship, into something like that? Well, think again. I’ve got eyes in my head. I can see what’s going on.’” God’s Decree!
“‘Take a trip down to the place that was once in Shiloh, where I met my people in the early days. Take a look at those ruins, what I did to it because of the evil ways of my people Israel.
“‘So now, because of the way you have lived and failed to listen, even though time and again I took you aside and talked seriously with you, and because you refused to change when I called you to repent, I’m going to do to this Temple, set aside for my worship, this place you think is going to keep you safe no matter what, this place I gave as a gift to your ancestors and you, the same as I did to Shiloh. And as for you, I’m going to get rid of you, the same as I got rid of those old relatives of yours around Shiloh, your fellow Israelites in that former kingdom to the north.’
“And you, Jeremiah, don’t waste your time praying for this people. Don’t offer to make petitions or intercessions. Don’t bother me with them. I’m not listening. Can’t you see what they’re doing in all the villages of Judah and in the Jerusalem streets? Why, they’ve got the children gathering wood while the fathers build fires and the mothers make bread to be offered to ‘the Queen of Heaven’! And as if that weren’t bad enough, they go around pouring out libations to any other gods they come across, just to hurt me.
“But is it me they’re hurting?” God’s Decree! “Aren’t they just hurting themselves? Exposing themselves shamefully? Making themselves ridiculous?
“Here’s what the Master God has to say: ‘My white-hot anger is about to descend on this country and everything in it—people and animals, trees in the field and vegetables in the garden—a raging wildfire that no one can put out.’
“The Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God: ‘Go ahead! Put your burnt offerings with all your other sacrificial offerings and make a good meal for yourselves. I sure don’t want them! When I delivered your ancestors out of Egypt, I never said anything to them about wanting burnt offerings and sacrifices as such. But I did say this, commanded this: “Obey me. Do what I say and I will be your God and you will be my people. Live the way I tell you. Do what I command so that your lives will go well.”
“‘But do you think they listened? Not a word of it. They did just what they wanted to do, indulged any and every evil whim and got worse day by day. From the time your ancestors left the land of Egypt until now, I’ve supplied a steady stream of my servants the prophets, but do you think the people listened? Not once. Stubborn as mules and worse than their ancestors!’
“Tell them all this, but don’t expect them to listen. Call out to them, but don’t expect an answer. Tell them, ‘You are the nation that wouldn’t obey God, that refused all discipline. Truth has disappeared. There’s not a trace of it left in your mouths.
“‘So shave your heads.
Go bald to the hills and lament,
For God has rejected and left
this generation that has made him so angry.’