‘You of this generation, consider the word of the Lord:
‘Have I been a desert to Israel
or a land of great darkness?
Why do my people say, “We are free to roam;
we will come to you no more”?
Does a young woman forget her jewellery,
a bride her wedding ornaments?
Yet my people have forgotten me,
days without number.
How skilled you are at pursuing love!
Even the worst of women can learn from your ways.
On your clothes is found
the lifeblood of the innocent poor,
though you did not catch them breaking in.
Yet in spite of all this
you say, “I am innocent;
he is not angry with me.”
But I will pass judgment on you
because you say, “I have not sinned.”
Why do you go about so much,
changing your ways?
You will be disappointed by Egypt
as you were by Assyria.
You will also leave that place
with your hands on your head,
for the Lord has rejected those you trust;
you will not be helped by them.
‘If a man divorces his wife
and she leaves him and marries another man,
should he return to her again?
Would not the land be completely defiled?
But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers –
would you now return to me?’
declares the Lord.
‘Look up to the barren heights and see.
Is there any place where you have not been ravished?
By the roadside you sat waiting for lovers,
sat like a nomad in the desert.
You have defiled the land
with your prostitution and wickedness.
Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and no spring rains have fallen.
Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute;
you refuse to blush with shame.
Have you not just called to me:
“My Father, my friend from my youth,
will you always be angry?
Will your wrath continue for ever?”
This is how you talk,
but you do all the evil you can.’
During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, ‘Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence,’ declares the Lord.
The Lord said to me, ‘Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah. Go, proclaim this message towards the north:
‘“Return, faithless Israel,” declares the Lord,
“I will frown on you no longer,
for I am faithful,” declares the Lord,
“I will not be angry for ever.
Only acknowledge your guilt –
you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
you have scattered your favours to foreign gods
under every spreading tree,
and have not obeyed me,”’
declares the Lord.
‘Return, faithless people,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am your husband. I will choose you – one from a town and two from a clan – and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘people will no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.
‘I myself said,
‘“How gladly would I treat you like my children
and give you a pleasant land,
the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.”
I thought you would call me “Father”
and not turn away from following me.
But like a woman unfaithful to her husband,
so you, Israel, have been unfaithful to me,’
declares the Lord.
A cry is heard on the barren heights,
the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel,
because they have perverted their ways
and have forgotten the Lord their God.
‘Return, faithless people;
I will cure you of backsliding.’
‘Yes, we will come to you,
for you are the Lord our God.
Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills
and mountains is a deception;
surely in the Lord our God
is the salvation of Israel.
From our youth shameful gods have consumed
the fruits of our ancestors’ labour –
their flocks and herds,
their sons and daughters.
Let us lie down in our shame,
and let our disgrace cover us.
We have sinned against the Lord our God,
both we and our ancestors;
from our youth till this day
we have not obeyed the Lord our God.’
‘If you, Israel, will return,
then return to me,’
declares the Lord.
‘If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
and no longer go astray,
and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
you swear, “As surely as the Lord lives,”
then the nations will invoke blessings by him
and in him they will boast.’
This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:
‘Break up your unploughed ground
and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
circumcise your hearts,
you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
because of the evil you have done –
burn with no one to quench it.
Disaster from the North
‘Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say:
“Sound the trumpet throughout the land!”
Cry aloud and say:
Let us flee to the fortified cities!”
Raise the signal to go to Zion!
Flee for safety without delay!
For I am bringing disaster from the north,
even terrible destruction.’
A lion has come out of his lair;
a destroyer of nations has set out.
He has left his place
to lay waste your land.
Your towns will lie in ruins
So put on sackcloth,
lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
has not turned away from us.
‘In that day,’ declares the Lord,
‘the king and the officials will lose heart,
the priests will be horrified,
and the prophets will be appalled.’