19 I’ve got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m in agony.
Every beat of my heart pounds with an awful dread.
I can’t stay silent, for I know what is coming—
oh my soul, there it is: the blast of the trumpet;
The battle cries of the invading hoards.
20 Crushing defeat after crushing defeat. That’s the news.
The land is in ruins, all of it.
In an instant, my world changed;
in a moment, my tents destroyed, my curtains torn, my refuge gone.
21 How long must I see the flags of the enemy?
How long must I be forced to hear the trumpets sound?
Eternal One (to Jeremiah): 22 My people are foolish.
They do not know Me at all.
They are reckless, senseless children.
They are clever and cunning when it comes to evil,
But inept and incapable of doing good.
23 I looked at the earth and saw that it was again formless and empty;
I looked at the heavens and saw no light.
24 I looked at the mountains and saw them quaking;
all the hills, they shuddered.
25 I looked around and saw no hint of life.
The people were gone. The birds had fled the sky.
26 I looked at what was once a garden and saw a desert—
the rubble of its cities torn down right in front of the Eternal and His fierce anger.
27 Eternal One: The whole land will lie in ruin,
but I will not completely destroy it.
28 Because of this devastation,
the earth will mourn and the skies will darken—for I have spoken.
Once I have decided, I will not change My mind.
I will not turn back from this.
29 As the horseman thunders closer and the archer draws near,
the people panic and the cities empty.
They scatter to the bushes; they scramble to the hills.
The villages are abandoned, for no one dares remain.
30 So what are you doing, my ravaged one?
Why are you dressing up in scarlet, putting on your gold jewelry,
And painting your eyes to make them larger, more beautiful?
You’re wasting your time.
Your lovers want nothing to do with you.
In fact, they despise you, and are looking to kill you.
31 I hear a cry like a woman in labor, the distress of a first-time mother.
It is the anguish of my people; it is the voice of the daughter of Zion,
Gasping for breath, reaching for help, as she cries out,
“I am faint, and my life is in the hands of murderers!”
5 Eternal One: Roam the streets of Jerusalem, and tell Me what you see, Jeremiah.
See if you can find anything good happening anywhere.
Look in the marketplaces and open spaces of the city.
If you can find just one honest person who lives according to My ways,
I’ll spare the city of this horror.
2 I hear them making oaths in My name. “As the Eternal lives,” they say.
But they know the oaths are not true.
As when Abraham pleaded with God over Sodom’s fate (Genesis 18:23–32), God is willing to spare Jerusalem if the prophet can find a single person, honest and true, living there.
3 Jeremiah: O Eternal One, aren’t You looking for truth and integrity?
You struck them, but they did not flinch.
You destroyed them, but they did not yield to Your correction.
They wouldn’t change their ways.
They have set their stony faces against You—
defiant and determined, refusing to repent.
4 And I thought to myself, “How could they know any better?
They are poor and senseless people, unfamiliar with the ways of the Eternal,
Unaware of what their God requires.
5 So I will go to their leaders and share what I see.
They will do the right thing because they know the Eternal’s ways.
Surely, they will do what their God requires.”
But to a person, I was wrong; leaders were no different;
They, too, had broken the yoke, burst the bonds,
and pulled away from God’s guidance and correction.
6 Therefore, from the forest, a lion will strike.
From the desert, a wolf will pounce and destroy.
And from the shadows, a leopard now stalks their villages,
waiting to tear apart any who dare wander outside.
Such is the fate of all who fall away,
for their rebellion is great; their sins are many.
7 Eternal One (to His people): How can I forgive what you’ve done?
You have passed on your legacy of rebellion to your children who also rejected Me.
They have made unholy oaths in the names of so-called gods.
Why? I have fed them till they were full, and still they wanted more.
So they betrayed Me with their adultery,
trooping off to worship idols, filling up the houses of prostitutes.
8 They have everything they need, and still they want more.
Like lusty stallions, they call for each other’s mate.
9 Should I not punish them for these atrocities?
Against this nation, should I not avenge Myself?
10 (to His people’s enemies) Walk through the rows in her vineyards, and destroy them.
But do not destroy them completely.
Lop off the branches,
for they do not belong to Me, the Eternal.
11 Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have betrayed Me.
12 They spew lies about the Eternal that mock My sovereign power.
They have said, “Nothing will happen! God will not hurt us!
All this talk of war and famine is just talk.
13 As for the prophets, they are full of hot air;
the word of God is not in them;
Let their words of doom fall on them.”
14 The Eternal One, Commander of heavenly armies, has this to say:
Eternal One (to Jeremiah): Because this is the way they[a] speak,
I am going to turn My words in your mouth into a fire,
A fire that will consume these people; they are nothing but kindling for My fury.
15 (to His people) O house of Israel, I am stirring up a distant nation to march against you.
They are an enduring people from ancient times.
The language they speak is unknown to you;
you will not understand them.
16 Their quiver is like a gaping grave, full of death.
They are all mighty warriors.
17 They will devour your harvest and your food.
They will devour your sons and daughters.
They will devour your livestock, flocks, and herds.
They will devour your vineyards and orchards.
They will wield their swords
and cut down the fortified cities you think are so safe.
(to Jeremiah) 18 But even then, I will not destroy your people completely. 19 So when they ask you, “Why has the Eternal done this to us? Why would our one True God treat us this way?” remind them and speak to them My words: “Because you have rejected Me and bowed down to foreign gods in a land that was yours, now you will bow down to a foreign people in a land that is not yours.”
20 Declare My truth to the house of Jacob.
Proclaim it throughout the land of Judah:
21 Hear Me you foolish, heartless people.
Even with eyes and ears you are still blind and deaf to what is happening.
22 Do you not realize who I am? Do you not fear Me?
Do you not shake in the presence of the Eternal, the Creator of all things?
It is I who has drawn for all time the boundaries of the sea.
The waves may crash and roar against the sand,
But the waters do not cross the lines I have drawn.
23 But with stubborn and defiant hearts, this people
ignored Me and left Me for another.
24 It never occurs to them to say,
“Let us stand in awe of the Eternal our God,
For He sends the rain—both the autumn and the spring rain—
and He brings the harvest at just the right time year after year.”
25 It is your sins that hold back the rain.
It is your rebellion that keeps good things from happening to you.
26 Lurking among My own people are the wicked
who watch and wait, preying on the less fortunate.
Like hunters who set traps for birds,
they ensnare people for their own benefit.
27 Like a cage full of noisy birds, their homes are filled with screeching lies.
This is how they have become so rich and important—because others fell for their lies.
28 This is how they have grown so fat and polished.
Their evil deeds know no boundaries.
They do not take the side of the orphaned to help them prosper.
They do not seek justice for the poor;
29 Should I not punish them for these atrocities?
Against a nation like this, should I not avenge Myself?
30 (to His people) Something horrible and appalling has happened
in this land of promise.
31 The prophets who claim to speak for Me
are nothing more than false prophets, spewing lies and empty predictions.
The priests who were to do My bidding have chosen to go their own way,
and all the while, My people think nothing of it.
They actually prefer it this way,
but when the end comes, when My justices arrives, what will you do then?
God, through His prophet, speaks about the ills of a greedy people who have forgotten how much the poor and orphaned matter to Him. The stench of injustice has become unbearable. For God, it is time to act.
As the swirling clouds gather to form a storm only Jeremiah sees on the horizon, the destruction of Jerusalem seems at hand. This ancient city, this storied place, is on the brink of a disaster beyond imagination. God is raising up an army from an ancient nation, known for its power and cruelty. For the prophet of God, the minutes are blurring into seconds. There seems to be little time to run and hide as the city will soon fall into the hands of those who mean her harm.
6 Eternal One (to His people): Run away, people of Benjamin,
and take refuge anywhere but Jerusalem.
You’re not safe inside those walls.
From the village of Tekoa, blow the trumpet, sound the alarm.
Light the warning fires above Beth-haccerem across the land.
For evil peers down; a dark army of destruction is gathering in the north.
2 I will destroy Jerusalem,
beautiful and delicate daughter of Zion.
3 As shepherds come and surround her with flocks of hungry sheep,
so their enemies will gather their troops around you, set up camp,
And feed off your land as they see fit.
4 “Get ready for the battle,” they cry.
“Come on, let’s attack. It’s already noon!
But look, the day is half over—
the shadows are growing longer.
5 So arise, let us launch our attack at night.
The palaces will fall in the darkness!”
6 This is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, decrees.
Eternal One: Cut down her trees—make battering rams and siege ramps—
for Jerusalem will soon be under attack.
Swarm over those walls, you invading hoards,
and punish My Jerusalem, the city of oppression.
7 Like fresh water from a well,
fresh wickedness flows from deep inside of her.
Sounds of cruelty and destruction rumble through this city;
her wounds are always before Me.
8 Take Me seriously, O Jerusalem; this warning is for you!
Listen to My words and turn away from evil
Or I will turn away from you in disgust.
I will turn you into a land so barren that no one would dare to live there.
9 This is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, decrees:
Eternal One: The enemy will pass over the remnant of Israel again and glean what is left,
like the worker who checks the vine again for any missed grapes.
10 To whom should I speak and give this warning?
Who will listen to what I say?
Their ears are closed; they cannot hear. They’re deaf to anything about God.
The Eternal’s word is offensive to them. They take no delight in it.
11 But I am welling up with His anger.
I’m too tired to try to hold it in any longer.
Eternal One: Pour it out on children playing in the streets,
on young men meeting together.
Husbands and wives, old and even the very old—
let each of them know they will be taken.
12 Their homes will be seized and lived in by others;
so, too, will their fields and wives be taken from them and given to others when I reach out against the people of this land.
13 Greed has corrupted this culture, from the least to the greatest:
all are tainted with this lust for what they don’t deserve.
The prophets and priests are no better.
Their lives reek with deceit.
14 To heal the brokenness of My people,
they offer superficial words.
They say, “Peace, peace,” as if all is well.
But there is no peace.
15 Do they feel any shame for their disgraceful deeds?
Absolutely not. My very own have forgotten how to blush.
And so it is that they will fall among the fallen and be defeated;
when the time comes, they will stumble beneath the weight of My punishment;
They will know soon enough what they have done.
This is what the Eternal decrees:
- 5:14 Hebrew manuscripts read, “you.”
18 He is the head of this body, the church. He is the beginning, the first of those to be reborn from the dead, so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything—He is first. 19 God was pleased that all His fullness should forever dwell in the Son 20 who, as predetermined by God, bled peace into the world by His death on the cross as God’s means of reconciling to Himself the whole creation—all things in heaven and all things on earth.
As Paul gives thanks to God—a normal thing to do in a letter—he remembers a hymn he heard in the churches. The Colossian hymn (verses 15–20), as we call it, is all about Jesus. It celebrates His reign, first as the Creator and Sustainer of the cosmos and second as the head of the church and the One who reconciles every broken thing to God by what He accomplished on the cross. In this hymn, the story of redemption is a witness to God’s love. Paul wants the Colossians to understand who they are; but to do that, they must first know to whom they belong.
21 You were once at odds with God, wicked in your ways and evil in your minds; 22 but now He has reconciled you in His body—in His flesh through His death—so that He can present you to God holy, blameless, and totally free of imperfection 23 as long as you stay planted in the faith. So don’t venture away from what you have heard and taken to heart: the living hope of the good news that has been announced to all creation under heaven and has captured me, Paul, as its servant.
24 Now I rejoice in what I’ve suffered on your behalf, but even more suffering is ahead for me as I take on and complete what remains of the Anointed’s suffering for the sake of His body, the church. 25 I am a servant appointed by God to preach the Word of God until it is known to you and all over—what I am talking about is nothing less than 26 the mystery of the ages! What was hidden for ages, generations and generations, is now being revealed to His holy ones. 27 He decided to make known to them His blessing to the nations; the glorious riches of this mystery is the indwelling of the Anointed in you! The very hope of glory.
28 We are preaching Him—spreading the Word to all with equal amounts of wise warning and instruction—so that, at the final judgment, we will be able to present everyone to the Creator fully mature because of what Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, has done. 29 This is why I continue to toil and struggle—because His amazing power and energy surge within me.
At the heart of the good news is a mystery hidden in ancient Scriptures but now exposed to the world through the lives of the church’s holy ones. Paul never refers to just one “holy one”; he always uses the plural. He knows that holiness is too difficult for us to accomplish on our own. Each of us has to be called and equipped by God, but we also have to be accompanied by others who’ve answered the call. Those who say “yes” to Jesus become the church, the company of those rescued from darkness and ultimately from death. Paul is fond of calling the church the body of the risen Jesus. Our own hopes and dreams for the future are concentrated in Him. Not only do we dwell in Him, but He also dwells in us.
2 This battle I am facing is huge. And I want you to know I do it for you, for all those at Laodicea, and for everyone else (even those who have never seen my face). 2 I’m working hard to comfort and encourage them so that they will be knit together—that many hearts would become one through His love. I do it so they will be rich in understanding and have full knowledge of God’s mystery, which is the Anointed One Himself— 3 in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed. 4 I only tell you this to warn you about those who would try and deceive you with their arguments. They seem plausible enough; but in the end, they are false. 5 Even though I cannot be there in the body, my spirit is with you; and I’m happy to know of your good order and your solid commitment to the Anointed One, our Liberating King.
Paul calls the believers in Colossae to remain steadfast in their faith.
6 Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. 7 Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness.
For the worship leader, Jeduthun. A song of Asaph.
1 I cry up to heaven,
“My God, True God,” and He hears.
2 In my darkest days, I seek the Lord.
Through the night, my hands are raised up, stretched out, waiting;
And though they do not grow tired,
my soul is uneasy.
3 I remember the True God and become distraught.
I think about Him, and my spirit becomes weak.
4 You hold my eyes wide open.
I am troubled beyond words.
5 My mind drifts to thoughts of yesterdays
6 I call to mind my music; it keeps me company at night.
Together with my heart I contemplate;
my spirit searches, wondering, questioning:
7 “What will the Lord do? Reject us for good?
Will He never show us His favor again?
8 Has His loyal love finally worn down?
Have His promises reached an end?
9 Has the True God forgotten how to be gracious?
In His anger, has He withdrawn His compassion?”
10 “I can’t help but be distraught,” I said,
“for the power of the Most High that was once for us is now against us.”
11 I will remember the actions the Eternal has taken,
reminisce on Your ancient wonders.
12 I will reflect on all of Your work;
indeed, I will study all You have performed.
13 O God, Your way is so different, so distinct, so divine.
No other god compares with our God.
14 You, God, and Your works evoke wonder.
You have proved Your strength to the nations.
15 You used Your great power to release Your people:
with a strong arm, You freed Jacob’s children, and Joseph’s.
16 The waters saw You, O True God.
The seas saw You and swelled in sorrow.
Even the deep trembled.
17 Water poured from the clouds,
and the sky boomed out in response
as Your arrows of lightning flashed this way and that.
18 The sound of Your thunder whirled within the wind
as Your lightning lit up the world.
Yes, the whole earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way ran through the sea,
Your path cut through great waters,
and still no one can spot Your footprints.
20 You led Your people as a flock
tended by the hands of Moses and Aaron.
- 77:3 Literally, selah, likely a musical direction from a Hebrew root meaning “to lift up”
23 The wise also say,
It is not good for a judge to be partial.
24 When a judge says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
he will be cursed by all people; he will be hated by nations.
25 But those who reprimand evildoers will be celebrated,
and good fortune will come their way.