1 1-2 This is an account of the words and deeds of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who lived in the village of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. The word of the Eternal came to him in a series of messages that started coming to the prophet in the 13th year of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah. 3 These disturbing and awesome messages continued throughout the reign of Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, king of Judah, until Jerusalem was captured in the 5th month of the 11th year of Zedekiah, another of Josiah’s sons, who was also king of Judah.
4 And now the fateful day when the Eternal One first spoke to me:
5 Eternal One: Before I even formed you in your mother’s womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you drew your first breath, I had already chosen you
to be My prophet to speak My word to the nations.
6 Jeremiah: Ah, Eternal Lord!
I’m too young and inexperienced to speak for You.
7 Eternal One: Don’t use your youth as an excuse;
you can and will go wherever I send you.
You can and will say whatever I tell you to say.
8 You have no reason to fear the people you speak to,
for I am with you and will defend you.
9 Then the Eternal reached out and touched my mouth, and He gave me His divine message.
Eternal One: Look, I have placed My words in you.
You will know what to say now, for you will be My voice.
10 This very day I appointed you to speak with My authority over nations and kingdoms.
Your word—My word—will have the power to uproot and stamp out;
it will destroy and upend.
And then your word—My word—will rebuild and plant anew.
Nations and empires will now hear Jeremiah’s voice as God’s in these days of painful change. To confirm that Jeremiah has indeed been called to speak for God, two simple visions are given to him, each with an explanation. Both speak of coming judgment and remind the young prophet of his difficult assignment.
11 The word of the Eternal came to me.
Eternal One: What do you see, Jeremiah?
Jeremiah: I see the branch of an almond tree.
Eternal One: 12 That’s right. From this know that I am watching over My word until it is accomplished.
Words are the tools of a prophet. The word of God comes asking the prophet what he sees. He responds that he sees something rather ordinary: an almond tree. God uses this ordinary sight to give him an extraordinary message. There is a play on words here between the Hebrew words for “almond” and “watching,” which sound alike in that language. Jeremiah sees an almond, which is shaped like a person’s eye, and God says He is watching. This playful and clever use of words gets Jeremiah’s attention; it stirs his prophetic imagination so that he will similarly use poetry, wordplay, and object lessons to get the attention of his listeners. Just as the almond tree is usually the first sign of spring, soon the first signs of God’s approaching judgment will appear.
13 Then the word of the Eternal came to me a second time.
Eternal One: What do you see this time?
Jeremiah: I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north, ready to spill out toward the south.
Eternal One: 14 That is because an evil out of the north will indeed begin spilling onto the people of this land. 15 Watch now, as I summon the clans and kingdoms of the north to march against Judah, rule with power at the very gates of Jerusalem, press in on every side, and vanquish all the cities of Judah. 16 I will declare My sentence for their wicked crimes. My own people have abandoned Me, burning incense to other gods and bowing down to handmade idols.
17 Now stand with courage, and tell the people exactly what I command. Don’t break down in front of them, or I will break you Myself. 18 Remember, Jeremiah, this very day I have made you as a fortress, a column as strong as iron, a wall of bronze able to withstand the attacks of the entire nation of Judah—from her kings and leaders to the priests and people. 19 Eventually, they will all give you trouble, but you will be safe. They will fight you, but they will not win. Remember, I am with you. I promise I will always deliver you.
2 The word of the Eternal came to me again.
With Jeremiah as God’s mouthpiece, the mighty oracles begin about a loving husband (God) divorcing his unfaithful wife (Judah).
Eternal One: 2 Go now, and say this loud enough for all Jerusalem to hear. Tell them that the Eternal speaks these words:
“I still remember the way you clung to Me in your youth, in the early days of our union.
Like a young bride, you loved the vows you made.
As I led you from slavery in Egypt to your freedom in Canaan, you drew close to Me.
Even in the barren wilderness along the way, I filled your every need.
3 In those days, you, Israel, were set apart for Me, the Eternal.
You were like the first portions of the harvest—devoted and true.
All who defied this arrangement and ate My portion for themselves were guilty,
and evil rained down upon them.”
4 Listen to the very word of the Eternal, house of Jacob and all the clans of Israel!
5 Eternal One: What happened between us?
What could I have done to your ancestors that was so wrong, so unfair?
Why would they pull away from Me
to pursue the empty worship of idols that has left them just as empty?
6 They didn’t think to say, “Where is the Eternal who rescued us from slavery in Egypt?
Where is the One who led us through the wilderness—a land of deserts and ravines?”
No one seems to remember how they crossed a scorched and lifeless land,
a darkness none had ever crossed before, a place where none survive.
7 I am the One who delivered you into this land of abundance
to enjoy its fruits and many good things.
But you have now taken the very land I gave you and defiled it.
You have done a most disgusting thing with this gift I reserved only for you.
8 Even then, the priests didn’t think to say, “Where is the Eternal One?”
Those who understand and teach the law act as if they’ve never known Me.
The rulers also have moved against Me.
Even the so-called prophets spoke in the name of Baal
and pursued worthless idols in their vain attempt for greater prosperity.
9 This is the case that I bring against you and your descendants:
10 You can search from the coastlands of Kittim in the west
to the deserts of Kedar in the east, and you won’t find anything as sickening as this.
11 Has a nation ever exchanged its gods for some others,
even if they weren’t really gods in the first place?
But My beloved people have done just that: they have exchanged their glory
to pursue worthless idols in their vain attempt for greater prosperity.
Israel’s plan to submit herself to the authority of a stronger pagan nation in return for protection makes no sense to an objective observer, much less to God Himself. During the long history of this nation, her troubles have often resulted from a stubborn refusal to trust God. They have a habit of looking elsewhere—to anywhere or anyone but God—for relief, of turning to nations that are never constant friends. For example, when the Assyrian Empire was conquering the region 100 years earlier, the Northern Kingdom of Israel attempted to ward off the threat by making treaties with other nations. Despite their feeble plans, Israel fell in 722 b.c. to Assyrian might and cruelty. Now God points out to Judah’s leaders in the Southern Kingdom how useless it is to align with either Egypt or Assyria when the punishing Babylonian army is on the horizon. It doesn’t matter how powerful her allies may seem; once the covenant with God is broken, Israel must pay for her infidelity.
12 Be horrified, O you heavens, at this appalling betrayal.
Cringe in horror and be repulsed.
13 My people are guilty of two evils:
They have abandoned Me, the spring of living waters;
And instead, they have settled for dead and stagnant water
from cracked, leaky cisterns of their own making.
14 Is Israel some common slave, born into bondage?
Why has he been carted off as if he were the spoil of battle?
15 The nations have circled him like hungry young lions,
roaring and growling their war cries.
They have left Israel a wasteland—
the cities destroyed and the people scattered.
16 Even your Egyptian allies, from Memphis and Tahpanhes,
have stripped you of land and your crowning glory.
17 Is there anyone to blame but yourself?
Weren’t you the ones who abandoned the Eternal,
Your True God, even as He led you on this journey?
18 Eternal One: What do you hope to accomplish by going to Egypt
and drinking from the waters of the Nile?
What do you think you will gain by traveling to Assyria
and drinking from the waters of the Euphrates?
19 It is your wickedness that will punish you
and your desertion of My ways that will convict you.
See the evil and taste the bitterness of forsaking the one True God, the Eternal.
At the core of this evil is the sad truth that you have forgotten the wonder and terror of who I am.
So says the Eternal Lord, Commander of heavenly armies.
20 Eternal One (to His people): A long time ago, I broke the yoke that weighed you down
and tore off the chains that enslaved you;
Still you boldly said, “I will not serve You!”
Instead, you bowed down like a whore to pagan gods on the high hills, under every green tree.
21 I am the One who planted you like a select vine, chosen from vintage stock.
How could you turn into such a useless, wild weed of a vine?
22 You can scrub yourself with all the soap you want,
but you’ll never be able to wash away the stain of what you’ve done before Me.
So says the Eternal Lord.
23 Eternal One (to His people): How can you say, “I have not been defiled”?
How can you reply, “I have not run after the idols of Baal?”
You know exactly what you’ve done down in the valley—
you’re like a young camel running here and there without any direction.
24 You’ve acted like a wild donkey at home in that desert,
sniffing at the wind for any scent of the next encounter, unbridled in her lust.
It’s not even fair to say you were seduced by these gods.
You sought them out!
25 I warn you again: stop running after these rituals
till your feet are bare and your throat is dried out.
You said, “I can’t help myself, for I love these strange gods I am chasing after.”
26 Like a thief caught in the act, the people of Israel will be put to shame:
kings, leaders, priests, and prophets will be shamed.
27 They say to a piece of wood, “You are my father”;
they confess to a stone, “You gave me birth.”
They have shunned Me, who gave them life—turning their backs
instead of facing Me—
But that will change when troubles come.
That’s when they will cry out to Me, “Stand up for us, and save us!”
28 O Judah, where will your pagan gods be then?
You know, the ones you made yourself?
Let them stand up on their own.
See if they’re able to save you from your troubles.
You have as many gods as villages, Judah. Now let them take care of you.
29 Why are you leveling charges against Me?
You are the unfaithful one here.
You have all pulled away from Me.
30 I tried to discipline your sons, but it didn’t work; they wouldn’t listen.
You destroyed the prophets I sent to speak truth to you.
You devoured them as a lion does his prey.
4 For this reason, brothers and sisters, my joy and crown whom I dearly love, I cannot wait to see you again. Continue to stand firm in the Lord, and follow my instructions in this letter, beloved. 2 Euodia and Syntyche, I urge you to put aside your differences, agree, and work together in the Lord. 3 Yes, Syzygus, loyal friend, I enlist you to please help these women. They, along with brother Clement and many others, have worked by my side to spread the good news of the gospel. They have their names recorded in the book of life.
4 Most of all, friends, always rejoice in the Lord! I never tire of saying it: Rejoice! 5 Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. 6 Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. 7 And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. 9 Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you.
10 I could hardly contain my joy in the Lord when I realized you have started to show your care for me once again. Since you have not had the opportunity to show how much you cared until now, I want you to know how it touched me. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need. I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. 12 I know how to survive in tight situations, and I know how to enjoy having plenty. In fact, I have learned how to face any circumstances: fed or hungry, with or without. 13 I can be content in any and every situation through the Anointed One who is my power and strength. 14 Nevertheless, it was admirable of you to participate in my affliction.
True contentment is the result of a heart committed to the risen Lord. Think of all the sins, pain, and brokenness that come from coveting. Adultery, murder, stealing, and lying can all be traced directly to a prior condition when hearts and minds are frustrated and discontent.
Notice what Paul says doesn’t come naturally; it is learned. The normal, natural state of humanity is discontent and quiet desperation. It takes a powerful, spiritual presence to transform anxiety into joyous satisfaction. Ironically, it may be the shackles more than his freedom that schools Paul in the art of contentment. Despite the chains, Paul discovers this beautiful state of inner peace through the power of Jesus residing in him.
15 You remember, Philippians, at the beginning of my gospel journey after I left Macedonia, no church offered me the financial assistance I needed to do the Lord’s work, except you alone. 16 Even when I took the message to Thessalonica, you sent provisions to me. Twice even! 17 Not that I am looking for a gift—I am just looking toward your reward that comes from your gift. 18 With what Epaphroditus delivered to me from your generous pockets, I have even been blessed in excess. I am fully satisfied. I know God is pleased with your dedication and accepts this gift as a fragrant offering, a holy sacrifice, on His behalf. 19 Know this: my God will also fill every need you have according to His glorious riches in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King. 20 So may our God and Father be glorified forever and ever. Amen.
21 Greet every saint there in Jesus the Anointed One, for my brothers and sisters and I send our greetings to you. 22 All of the saints, especially those serving in Caesar’s household, also send salutations to you. 23 May you all continue the journey with your spirits strengthened by the grace of the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. [Amen.][a]
- 4:23 Some manuscripts omit this word.
For the worship leader. A song of Asaph to the tune “Do Not Destroy.”[a]
1 We thank You, O True God.
Our souls are overflowing with thanks! Your name is near;
Your people remember and tell of Your marvelous works and wonders.
2 You say, “At the time that I choose,
I will judge and do so fairly.
3 When the earth and everyone living upon it spin into chaos,
I am the One who stabilizes and supports it.”[b]
4 “I discipline the arrogant by telling them, ‘No more bragging.’
I discipline the wicked by saying, ‘Do not raise your horn to demonstrate your power.[d]
5 Do not thrust your horn into the air, issuing a challenge,
and never speak with insolence when you address Me.’”
6 There is no one on earth who can raise up another to grant honor,
not from the east or the west, not from the desert.
There is no one. God is the only One.
7 God is the only Judge.
He is the only One who can ruin or redeem a man.
8 For the Eternal holds a full cup of wine in His hand—
a chalice well stirred and foaming full of wrath.
He pours the cup out,
and all wicked people of the earth drink it up—every drop of it!
9 But I will tell of His great deeds forever.
I will sing praises to Jacob’s True God.
10 I will cut off the horns of strength raised by the wicked,
but I will lift up the horns of strength of the righteous.
17 Do not celebrate when your enemies fall,
and do not rejoice when they trip up;
18 Or else the Eternal will know and be upset with you,
and He will release them from His anger.
19 Do not worry when evildoers go unpunished
or be jealous when the wicked seem to prosper.
20 Evil people will have no future;
the life of the wicked will be snuffed out like a candle.