August 9-10, Jeremiah 4-9

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Blessing or Curse

If you return,[a] Israel—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
you will return to me,
if you remove your abhorrent idols
from my presence
and do not waver,
then you can swear, “As the Lord lives,”
in truth, justice, and righteousness,
and then the nations will be blessed[b] by him
and will boast in him.

For this is what the Lord says to the men of Judah and Jerusalem:

Break up the unplowed ground;
do not sow among the thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord;
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
men of Judah and residents of Jerusalem.
Otherwise, my wrath will break out like fire
and burn with no one to extinguish it
because of your evil deeds.

Judgment from the North

Declare in Judah, proclaim in Jerusalem, and say,

Blow the ram’s horn throughout the land.
Cry out loudly and say,
“Assemble yourselves,
and let’s flee to the fortified cities.”
Lift up a signal flag toward Zion.
Run for cover! Don’t stand still!
For I am bringing disaster from the north—
a crushing blow.
A lion has gone up from his thicket;
a destroyer of nations has set out.
He has left his lair
to make your land a waste.
Your cities will be reduced to uninhabited ruins.
Because of this, put on sackcloth;
mourn and wail,
for the Lord’s burning anger
has not turned away from us.

“On that day”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“the king and the officials will lose their courage. The priests will tremble in fear, and the prophets will be scared speechless.”

10 I said, “Oh no, Lord God, you have certainly deceived this people and Jerusalem, by announcing, ‘You will have peace,’while a sword is at[c] our throats.”

11 “At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, ‘A searing wind blows from the barren heights in the wilderness on the way to my dear[d] people. It comes not to winnow or to sift; 12 a wind too strong for this comes at my call.[e] Now I will also pronounce judgments against them.’”

13 Look, he advances like clouds;
his chariots are like a storm.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
Woe to us, for we are ruined!
14 Wash the evil from your heart, Jerusalem,
so that you will be delivered.
How long will you harbor
malicious thoughts?
15 For a voice announces from Dan,
proclaiming malice from Mount Ephraim.
16 Warn the nations: Look!
Proclaim to Jerusalem:
Those who besiege are coming
from a distant land;
they raise their voices
against the cities of Judah.
17 They have her surrounded
like those who guard a field,
because she has rebelled against me.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
18 Your way and your actions
have brought this on you.
This is your punishment. It is very bitter,
because it has reached your heart!

Jeremiah’s Lament

19 My anguish, my anguish![f] I writhe in agony!
Oh, the pain in[g] my heart!
My heart pounds;
I cannot be silent.
For you, my soul,
have heard the sound of the ram’s horn—
the shout of battle.
20 Disaster after disaster is reported
because the whole land is destroyed.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
my tent curtains, in a moment.
21 How long must I see the signal flag
and hear the sound of the ram’s horn?
22 “For my people are fools;
they do not know me.
They are foolish children,
without understanding.
They are skilled in doing what is evil,
but they do not know how to do what is good.”
23 I looked at the earth,
and it was formless and empty.
I looked to the heavens,
and their light was gone.
24 I looked at the mountains,
and they were quaking;
all the hills shook.
25 I looked, and there was no human being,
and all the birds of the sky had fled.
26 I looked, and the fertile field was a wilderness.
All its cities were torn down
because of the Lord
and his burning anger.

27 For this is what the Lord says:

“The whole land will be a desolation,
but I will not finish it off.
28 Because of this, the earth will mourn;
the skies above will grow dark.
I have spoken; I have planned,
and I will not relent or turn back from it.”

29 Every city flees
at the sound of the horseman and the archer.
They enter the thickets
and climb among the rocks.
Every city is abandoned;
no inhabitant is left.
30 And you, devastated one, what are you doing
that you dress yourself in scarlet,
that you adorn yourself with gold jewelry,
that you enhance your eyes with makeup?
You beautify yourself for nothing.
Your lovers reject you;
they intend to take your life.
31 I hear a cry like a woman in labor,
a cry of anguish like one bearing her first child.
The cry of Daughter Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands:
“Woe is me, for my life is weary
because of the murderers!”

The Depravity of Jerusalem

Roam through the streets of Jerusalem.
Investigate;[h]
search in her squares.
If you find one person,
any who acts justly,
who pursues faithfulness,
then I will forgive her.
When they say, “As the Lord lives,”
they are swearing falsely.
Lord, don’t your eyes look for faithfulness?
You have struck them, but they felt no pain.
You finished them off,
but they refused to accept discipline.
They made their faces harder than rock,
and they refused to return.

Then I thought:

They are just the poor;
they have been foolish.
For they don’t understand the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.
I will go to the powerful
and speak to them.
Surely they know the way of the Lord,
the justice of their God.
However, these also had broken the yoke
and torn off the chains.
Therefore, a lion from the forest will strike them down.
A wolf from arid plains will ravage them.
A leopard stalks their cities.
Anyone who leaves them will be torn to pieces
because their rebellious acts are many,
their unfaithful deeds numerous.

Why should I forgive you?
Your children have abandoned me
and sworn by those who are not gods.
I satisfied their needs, yet they committed adultery;
they gashed themselves at the[i] prostitute’s house.
They are well-fed,[j] eager[k] stallions,
each neighing after someone else’s wife.
Should I not punish them for these things?
This is the Lord’s declaration.
Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?

10 Go up among her vineyard terraces and destroy them,
but do not finish them off.
Prune away her shoots,
for they do not belong to the Lord.
11 They, the house of Israel and the house of Judah,
have dealt very treacherously with me.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
12 They have contradicted the Lord
and insisted, “It won’t happen.[l]
Harm won’t come to us;
we won’t see sword or famine.”
13 The prophets become only wind,
for the Lord’s word is not in them.
This will in fact happen to them.

Coming Judgment

14 Therefore, this is what the Lord God of Armies says:

Because you have spoken this word,
I am going to make my words
become fire in your mouth.
These people are the wood,
and the fire will consume them.
15 I am about to bring a nation
from far away against you,
house of Israel.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
It is an established nation,
an ancient nation,
a nation whose language you do not know
and whose speech you do not understand.
16 Their quiver is like an open grave;
they are all warriors.
17 They will consume your harvest and your food.
They will consume your sons and your daughters.
They will consume your flocks and your herds.
They will consume your vines and your fig trees.
With the sword they will destroy
your fortified cities in which you trust.

18 “But even in those days”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“I will not finish you off. 19 When people ask, ‘For what offense has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ You will respond to them, ‘Just as you abandoned me and served foreign gods in your land, so will you serve strangers in a land that is not yours.’

20 “Declare this in the house of Jacob; proclaim it in Judah, saying:

21 Hear this,
you foolish and senseless[m] people.
They have eyes, but they don’t see.
They have ears, but they don’t hear.
22 Do you not fear me?
This is the Lord’s declaration.
Do you not tremble before me,
the one who set the sand as the boundary of the sea,
an enduring barrier that it cannot cross?
The waves surge, but they cannot prevail.
They roar but cannot pass over it.
23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts.
They have turned aside and have gone away.
24 They have not said to themselves,
‘Let’s fear the Lord our God,
who gives the seasonal rains, both autumn and spring,
who guarantees to us the fixed weeks of the harvest.’
25 Your guilty acts have diverted these things from you.
Your sins have withheld my bounty from you,
26 for wicked men live among my people.
They watch like hunters[n] lying in wait.[o]
They set a trap;
they catch men.
27 Like a cage full of birds,
so their houses are full of deceit.
Therefore they have grown powerful and rich.
28 They have become fat and sleek.
They have also excelled in evil matters.
They have not taken up cases,
such as the case of the fatherless, so they might prosper,
and they have not defended the rights of the needy.
29 Should I not punish them for these things?
This is the Lord’s declaration.
Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?

30 “An appalling, horrible thing
has taken place in the land.
31 The prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule by their own authority.
My people love it like this.
But what will you do at the end of it?

Threatened Siege of Jerusalem

“Run for cover
out of Jerusalem, Benjaminites.
Sound the ram’s horn in Tekoa;
raise a smoke signal over Beth-haccherem,[p]
for disaster threatens from the north,
even a crushing blow.
Though she is beautiful and delicate,
I will destroy[q] Daughter Zion.
Shepherds and their flocks will come against her;
they will pitch their tents all around her.
Each will pasture his own portion.
Set them apart for war against her;
rise up, let’s attack at noon.
Woe to us, for the day is passing;
the evening shadows grow long.
Rise up, let’s attack by night.
Let’s destroy her fortresses.”

For this is what the Lord of Armies says:

Cut down the trees;
raise a siege ramp against Jerusalem.
This city must be punished.
There is nothing but oppression within her.
As a well gushes out its water,
so she pours out her evil.[r]
Violence and destruction resound in her.
Sickness and wounds keep coming to my attention.
Be warned, Jerusalem,
or I will turn away from you;
I will make you a desolation,
a land without inhabitants.

Wrath on Israel

This is what the Lord of Armies says:

Glean the remnant of Israel
as thoroughly as a vine.
Pass your hand once more like a grape gatherer
over the branches.

10 Who can I speak to and give such a warning[s]
that they will listen?
Look, their ear is uncircumcised,[t]
so they cannot pay attention.
See, the word of the Lord has become contemptible to them—
they find no pleasure in it.
11 But I am full of the Lord’s wrath;
I am tired of holding it back.
Pour it out on the children in the street,
on the gathering of young men as well.
For both husband and wife will be captured,
the old with the very old.[u]
12 Their houses will be turned over to others,
their fields and wives as well,
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

13 For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is making profit dishonestly.
From prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
14 They have treated my people’s brokenness superficially,
claiming, “Peace, peace,”
when there is no peace.
15 Were they ashamed when they acted so detestably?
They weren’t at all ashamed.
They can no longer feel humiliation.
Therefore, they will fall among the fallen.
When I punish them, they will collapse,
says the Lord.

Disaster because of Disobedience

16 This is what the Lord says:

Stand by the roadways and look.
Ask about the ancient paths,
“Which is the way to what is good?”
Then take it
and find rest for yourselves.
But they protested, “We won’t!”
17 I appointed watchmen over you
and said, “Listen for the sound of the ram’s horn.”
But they protested, “We won’t listen!”

18 Therefore listen, you nations
and you witnesses,
learn what the charge is against them.
19 Listen, earth!
I am about to bring disaster on these people,
the fruit of their own plotting,
for they have paid no attention to my words.
They have rejected my instruction.
20 What use to me is frankincense from Sheba
or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable;
your sacrifices do not please me.
21 Therefore, this is what the Lord says:
I am going to place stumbling blocks before these people;
fathers and sons together will stumble over them;
friends and neighbors will also perish.

A Cruel Nation from the North

22 This is what the Lord says:

Look, an army is coming from a northern land;
a great nation will be stirred up
from the remote regions of the earth.
23 They grasp bow and javelin.
They are cruel and show no mercy.
Their voice roars like the sea,
and they ride on horses,
lined up like men in battle formation
against you, Daughter Zion.

24 We have heard about it,
and our hands have become weak.
Distress has seized us—
pain, like a woman in labor.
25 Don’t go out to the fields;
don’t walk on the road.
For the enemy has a sword;
terror is on every side.

26 My dear[v] people, dress yourselves in sackcloth
and roll in the dust.
Mourn as you would for an only son,
a bitter lament,
for suddenly the destroyer will come on us.

Jeremiah Appointed as an Examiner

27 I have appointed you to be an assayer among my people—
a refiner[w]
so you may know and assay their way of life.
28 All are stubborn rebels
spreading slander.
They are bronze and iron;
all of them are corrupt.
29 The bellows blow,
blasting the lead with fire.
The refining is completely in vain;
the evil ones are not separated out.
30 They are called rejected silver,
for the Lord has rejected them.

False Trust in the Temple

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the house of the Lord and there call out this word: ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who enter through these gates to worship the Lord.

“‘This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Correct your ways and your actions, and I will allow you to live in this place. Do not trust deceitful words, chanting, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Instead, if you really correct your ways and your actions, if you act justly toward one another,[x] if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow and no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow other gods, bringing harm on yourselves, I will allow you to live in this place, the land I gave to your ancestors long ago and forever. But look, you keep trusting in deceitful words that cannot help.

“‘Do you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods that you have not known? 10 Then do you come and stand before me in this house that bears my name and say, “We are rescued, so we can continue doing all these detestable acts”? 11 Has this house, which bears my name, become a den of robbers in your view? Yes, I too have seen it.

This is the Lord’s declaration.

Shiloh as a Warning

12 “‘But return to my place that was at Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first. See what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. 13 Now, because you have done all these things—this is the Lord’s declaration—and because I have spoken to you time and time again[y] but you wouldn’t listen, and I have called to you, but you wouldn’t answer, 14 what I did to Shiloh I will do to the house that bears my name, the house in which you trust, the place that I gave you and your ancestors. 15 I will banish you from my presence, just as I banished all of your brothers, all the descendants of Ephraim.’

Do Not Pray for Judah

16 “As for you, do not pray for these people. Do not offer a cry or a prayer on their behalf, and do not beg me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Don’t you see how they behave in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The sons gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven,[z] and they pour out drink offerings to other gods so that they provoke me to anger. 19 But are they really provoking me?” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Isn’t it they themselves being provoked to disgrace?”

20 Therefore, this is what the Lord God says: “Look, my anger—my burning wrath—is about to be poured out on this place,on people and animals, on the tree of the field, and on the produce of the land. My wrath will burn and not be quenched.”

Obedience over Sacrifice

21 This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices, and eat the meat yourselves, 22 for when I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offering and sacrifice. 23 However, I did give them this command: ‘Obey me, and then I will be your God, and you will be my people. Follow every way I command you so that it may go well with you.’ 24 Yet they didn’t listen or pay attention but followed their own advice and their own stubborn, evil heart. They went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until today, I have sent all my servants the prophets to you time and time again.[aa] 26 However, my people wouldn’t listen to me or pay attention but became obstinate; they did more evil than their ancestors.

A Lament for Disobedient Judah

27 “When you speak all these things to them, they will not listen to you. When you call to them, they will not answer you. 28 Therefore, declare to them, ‘This is the nation that would not listen to the Lord their God and would not accept discipline. Truth[ab] has perished—it has disappeared from their mouths. 29 Cut off the hair of your sacred vow[ac] and throw it away. Raise up a dirge on the barren heights, for the Lord has rejected and abandoned the generation under his wrath.’

30 “For the Judeans have done what is evil in my sight.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “They have set up their abhorrent things in the house that bears my name in order to defile it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth[ad] in Ben Hinnom Valley[ae] in order to burn their sons and daughters in the fire, a thing I did not command; I never entertained the thought.

32 “Therefore, look, the days are coming”—the Lord’s declaration—“when this place will no longer be called Topheth and Ben Hinnom Valley, but Slaughter Valley. Topheth will become a cemetery,[af] because there will be no other burial place. 33 The corpses of these people will become food for the birds of the sky and for the wild animals of the land, with no one to scare them away. 34 I will remove from the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and gladness and the voices of the groom and the bride, for the land will become a desolate waste.

Death over Life

“At that time”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of her officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the residents of Jerusalem will be brought out of their graves.They will be exposed to the sun, the moon, and all the stars in the sky, which they have loved, served, followed, consulted, and worshiped. Their bones will not be collected and buried but will become like manure on the soil’s surface. Death will be chosen over life by all the survivors of this evil family, those who remain wherever I have banished them.” This is the declaration of the Lord of Armies.

“You are to say to them: This is what the Lord says:

Do people fall and not get up again?
If they turn away, do they not return?
Why have these people turned away?
Why is Jerusalem always turning away?
They take hold of deceit;
they refuse to return.
I have paid careful attention.
They do not speak what is right.
No one regrets his evil,
asking, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone has stayed his course
like a horse rushing into battle.
Even storks in the sky
know their seasons.
Turtledoves, swallows, and cranes[ag]
are aware of their migration,
but my people do not know
the requirements of the Lord.

Punishment for Judah’s Leaders

“How can you claim, ‘We are wise;
the law of the Lord is with us’?
In fact, the lying pen of scribes
has produced falsehood.
The wise will be put to shame;
they will be dismayed and snared.
They have rejected the word of the Lord,
so what wisdom do they really have?
10 Therefore, I will give their wives to other men,
their fields to new occupants,
for from the least to the greatest,
everyone is making profit dishonestly.
From prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
11 They have treated the brokenness
of my dear[ah] people superficially,
claiming, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
12 Were they ashamed when they acted so detestably?
They weren’t at all ashamed.
They can no longer feel humiliation.
Therefore, they will fall among the fallen.
When I punish them, they will collapse,”
says the Lord.

13 “I will gather them and bring them to an end.”[ai]
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“There will be no grapes on the vine,
no figs on the fig tree,
and even the leaf will wither.
Whatever I have given them will be lost to them.”

God’s People Unrepentant

14 Why are we just sitting here?
Gather together; let’s enter the fortified cities
and perish there,[aj]
for the Lord our God has destroyed[ak] us.
He has given us poisoned water to drink,
because we have sinned against the Lord.
15 We hoped for peace, but there was nothing good;
for a time of healing, but there was only terror.

16 From Dan, the snorting of horses is heard.
At the sound of the neighing of mighty steeds,
the whole land quakes.
They come to devour the land and everything in it,
the city and all its residents.
17 Indeed, I am about to send snakes among you,
poisonous vipers that cannot be charmed.
They will bite you.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

Lament over Judah

18 My joy has flown away;
grief has settled on me.
My heart is sick.
19 Listen—the cry of my dear people
from a faraway land,
“Is the Lord no longer in Zion,
her King not within her?”
Why have they angered me
with their carved images,
with their worthless foreign idols?
20 Harvest has passed, summer has ended,
but we have not been saved.
21 I am broken by the brokenness
of my dear people.
I mourn; horror has taken hold of me.
22 Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
So why has the healing of my dear people
not come about?

If my head were a flowing spring,
my eyes a fountain of tears,
I would weep day and night
over the slain of my dear[al] people.
If only I had a traveler’s lodging place
in the wilderness,
I would abandon my people
and depart from them,
for they are all adulterers,
a solemn assembly of treacherous people.

They bent their tongues like their bows;
lies and not faithfulness prevail in the land,
for they proceed from one evil to another,
and they do not take me into account.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

Imminent Ruin and Exile

Everyone has to be on guard against his friend.
Don’t trust any brother,
for every brother will certainly deceive,
and every friend spread slander.
Each one betrays his friend;
no one tells the truth.
They have taught their tongues to speak lies;
they wear themselves out doing wrong.
You live in a world of deception.[am]
In their deception they refuse to know me.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

Therefore, this is what the Lord of Armies says:

I am about to refine them and test them,
for what else can I do
because of my dear[an] people?[ao]
Their tongues are deadly arrows—
they speak deception.
With his mouth
one speaks peaceably with his friend,
but inwardly he sets up an ambush.
Should I not punish them for these things?
This is the Lord’s declaration.
Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?

10 I will raise weeping and a lament
over the mountains,
a dirge over the wilderness grazing land,
for they have been so scorched
that no one passes through.
The sound of cattle is no longer heard.
From the birds of the sky to the animals,
everything has fled—they have gone away.
11 I will make Jerusalem a heap of rubble,
a jackals’ den.
I will make the cities of Judah a desolation,
an uninhabited place.

12 Who is the person wise enough to understand this? Who has the Lord spoken to, that he may explain it? Why is the land destroyed and scorched like a wilderness, so no one can pass through?

13 The Lord said, “It is because they abandoned my instruction, which I set before them, and did not obey my voice or walk according to it. 14 Instead, they followed the stubbornness of their hearts and followed the Baals as their ancestors taught them.” 15 Therefore, this is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to feed this people wormwood and give them poisonous water to drink. 16 I will scatter them among the nations that they and their ancestors have not known. I will send a sword after them until I have finished them off.”

Mourning over Judah

17 This is what the Lord of Armies says:

Consider, and summon the women who mourn;
send for the skillful women.
18 Let them come quickly to raise a lament over us
so that our eyes may overflow with tears,
our eyelids be soaked with weeping.
19 For a sound of lamentation is heard from Zion:
How devastated we are.
We are greatly ashamed,
for we have abandoned the land;
our dwellings have been torn down.

20 Now hear the word of the Lord, you women.
Pay attention to[ap] the words from his mouth.
Teach your daughters a lament
and one another a dirge,
21 for Death has climbed through our windows;
it has entered our fortresses,
cutting off children from the streets,
young men from the squares.

22 “Speak as follows: ‘This is what the Lord declares: Human corpses will fall like manure on the surface of the field, like newly cut grain after the reaper with no one to gather it.

Boast in the Lord

23 “‘This is what the Lord says:

The wise person should not boast in his wisdom;
the strong should not boast in his strength;
the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.
24 But the one who boasts should boast in this:
that he understands and knows me—
that I am the Lord, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
This is the Lord’s declaration.

25 “‘Look, the days are coming—this is the Lord’s declaration—when I will punish all the circumcised yet uncircumcised:26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and all the inhabitants of the desert who clip the hair on their temples.[aq] All these nations are uncircumcised, and the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.’”

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