God Loves Israel
The Lord continues,
“When Israel was a young nation, I loved them.
I chose to bring my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called out to Israel,
the more they went away from me.
They brought sacrifices to the statues of the gods
that were named Baal.
And they burned incense to them.
I taught Ephraim to walk.
I took them up in my arms.
But they did not realize
I was the one who took care of them.
I led them with kindness and love.
I was to them like a person who lifts
a little child to their cheek.
I bent down and fed them.
“But they refuse to turn away from their sins.
So they will return to Egypt.
And Assyria will rule over them.
A sword will flash in their cities.
It will destroy the prophets who teach lies.
It will bring an end to their plans.
My people have made up their minds
to turn away from me.
Even if they call me the Most High God,
I will certainly not honor them.”
The Lord continues,
“People of Ephraim, how can I give you up?
Israel, how can I hand you over to your enemies?
Can I destroy you as I did the town of Admah?
Can I treat you like Zeboyim?
My heart is stirred inside me.
It is filled with pity for you.
I will not be so angry with you anymore.
I will not completely destroy you again.
After all, I am God.
I am not a mere man.
I am the Holy One among you.
I will not direct my anger against their cities.
I will roar like a lion against my enemies.
Then the Lord’s people will follow him.
When he roars, his children will come home trembling with fear.
They will return from the west.
They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows.
They will return from Assyria, flying in like doves.
I will settle you again in your homes,”
announces the Lord.
Israel Has Sinned
The people of Ephraim tell me nothing but lies.
Israel has not been honest with me.
And Judah continues to wander away from God.
They have deserted the faithful Holy One.
The people of Ephraim look to others for help.
It’s like chasing the wind.
The wind they keep chasing
is hot and dry.
They tell more and more lies.
They are always hurting others.
They make a peace treaty with Assyria.
They send olive oil to Egypt to get help.
The Lord is bringing charges against Judah.
He will punish Jacob’s people
because of how they act.
He’ll pay them back
for the evil things they’ve done.
Even before Jacob was born,
he was holding on to his brother’s heel.
When he became a man,
he struggled with God.
At Peniel he struggled with the angel and won.
Jacob wept and begged for his blessing.
God also met with him at Bethel.
He talked with him there.
He is the Lord God who rules over all.
His name is the Lord.
People of Jacob, you must return to your God.
You must hold on to love and do what is fair.
You must trust in your God always.
You are like a trader who uses dishonest scales.
You love to cheat others.
People of Ephraim, you brag,
“We are very rich.
We’ve become wealthy.
And no one can prove we sinned
to gain all this wealth.”
The Lord says,
“I have been the Lord your God
ever since you came out of Egypt.
But I will make you live in tents again.
That is what you did when you celebrated
the Feast of Booths in the desert.
I spoke to the prophets.
They saw many visions.
I gave you warnings through them.”
The people of Gilead are evil!
They aren’t worth anything!
Gilgal’s people sacrifice bulls to other gods.
Their altars will become like piles of stones
on a plowed field.
Jacob ran away to the country of Aram.
There Israel served Laban to get a wife.
He took care of sheep to pay for her.
The prophet Moses brought Israel up from Egypt.
The Lord used him to take care of them.
But Ephraim’s people have made the Lord very angry.
Their Lord will hold them accountable for the blood they’ve spilled.
He’ll pay them back for the shameful things they’ve done.
The Lord Is Angry With Israel
When the tribe of Ephraim spoke,
the other tribes trembled with fear.
Ephraim was honored in Israel.
But its people sinned by worshiping Baal.
So they were as good as dead.
Now they sin more and more.
They use their silver
to make statues of gods for themselves.
The statues come from their own clever ideas.
Skilled workers make all of them.
The people pray to these gods.
They offer human sacrifices to them.
They kiss the gods that look like calves.
So these people will vanish like the morning mist.
They will soon disappear like the early dew.
They will be like straw
that the wind blows around on a threshing floor.
They will be like smoke
that escapes through a window.
The Lord says,
“People of Israel, I have been the Lord your God
ever since you came out of Egypt.
You must not worship any god but me.
You must not have any savior except me.
I took care of you in the desert.
It was a land of burning heat.
I fed them until they were satisfied.
Then they became proud.
They forgot all about me.
So I will leap on them like a lion.
I will hide and wait
beside the road like a leopard.
I will attack them like a bear
that is robbed of her cubs.
I will rip them wide open.
Like a lion I will eat them up.
Like a wild animal I will tear them apart.
“Israel, you will be destroyed.
I helped you. But you turned against me.
Where is your king?
Wasn’t he supposed to save you?
Where are the rulers in all your towns?
You said, ‘Give us a king and princes.’
So I became angry and gave you a king.
Then I took him away from you.
Ephraim’s guilt is piling up.
I am keeping a record of all their sins.
They will suffer pain like a woman having a baby.
They are like foolish children.
It is time for them to be born.
But they don’t have the sense to come out of their mother’s body.
“I will set these people free from the power of the grave.
I will save them from death.
Death, where are your plagues?
Grave, where is your power to destroy?
“I will no longer pity Ephraim.
Even though they are doing well among the other tribes,
trouble will come to them.
I will send a hot and dry wind from the east.
It will blow in from the desert.
Their springs will not have any water.
Their wells will dry up.
All their treasures
will be taken out of their storerooms.
The people of Samaria must pay for their sins.
They have refused to obey me.
They will be killed by swords.
Their little children will be smashed on the ground.
Their pregnant women will be ripped wide open.”
The Lord Blesses Those Who Turn Away From Sin
Israel, return to the Lord your God.
Your sins have destroyed you!
Tell the Lord you are turning away from your sins.
Return to him.
Say to him,
“Forgive us for all our sins.
Please be kind to us.
Welcome us back to you.
Then our lips will offer you our praise.
Assyria can’t save us.
We won’t trust in our war horses.
Our own hands have made statues of gods.
But we will never call them our gods again.
We are like children whose fathers have died.
But you show us your tender love.”
Then the Lord will answer,
“My people always wander away from me.
But I will put an end to that.
My anger has turned away from them.
Now I will love them freely.
I will be like the dew to Israel.
They will bloom like a lily.
They will send their roots down deep
like a cedar tree in Lebanon.
They will spread out like new branches.
They will be as beautiful as an olive tree.
They will smell as sweet as the cedar trees in Lebanon.
Once again my people will live
in the safety of my shade.
They will grow like grain.
They will bloom like vines.
And Israel will be as famous
as wine from Lebanon.
Ephraim will have nothing more to do with other gods.
I will answer the prayers of my people.
I will take good care of them.
I will be like a healthy juniper tree to them.
All the fruit they bear will come from me.”
If someone is wise, they will realize
that what I’ve said is true.
If they have understanding,
they will know what it means.
The ways of the Lord are right.
People who are right with God live the way he wants them to.
But those who refuse to obey him trip and fall.