16 Eternal One (to the people): Stand at the crossing, and consider the ancient path,
for it is good and it leads to Me.
Walk on this path, and you will find rest for your souls.
But they have said, “We will not walk upon this road.”
17 Even then I sent watchmen to warn you of what is to come.
“Listen for the blaring of the trumpet,” I warned.
But the people did not listen.
They said, “We will not pay attention.”
18 Now listen to Me, nations of the earth.
Learn, O congregation, what is about to happen to My people.
19 Listen, O Earth, for I am bringing this disaster upon Judah.
This is the fruit of their own scheming.
For My people would not listen to My instructions;
They have rejected My guidance—My law—to go their own way.
Many people in Judah keep going through the motions of worship; they offer sacrifices and incense to the one True God. They speak superficial words when they think it counts, and they give Him extravagant gifts. But the prophet knows the mind of God, and God is not impressed with any of it. Empty worship is meaningless. In fact, empty worship may do more harm than good. These gifts and actions, it seems, have no meaning unless the hearts of the people are attuned to God, unless they are willing to hear and do what God asks. Obedience, you see, is better than sacrifice.
20 Eternal One: What use do I have of your expensive incense from Sheba
or the fragrant reeds you offer Me from a faraway land?
I will not accept your burnt offerings;
the aroma of these empty sacrifices does not please Me.
21 And so I, the Eternal One, will place stumbling blocks on your path of rebellion.
You will stumble indeed, fathers and sons alike.
Neighbors and friends will be wiped out.
22 Look in the distance, and you will see an army
marching toward you out of the north.
A nation whose size and might you can’t imagine
is now awakening and coming from the remote parts of the earth.
23 They are armed with bows and spears.
Their hearts are cruel and will show you no mercy.
The sound of their massive army,
riding in on their horses, is like the sound of an angry sea;
They are ready for battle, marching in formation,
coming to destroy you, O Jerusalem, daughter of Zion.
As clear as God’s pronouncements have been, there must be a moment of decision. The warnings are all invitations for the people of Jerusalem to return to the God who loves them. But their fate is up to them; it is their choice. At this place of decision, long overdue, Jeremiah voices the fear in the hearts of those who hear of the impending attack. Speaking for the nation, he once again responds to God’s awesome decree.
24 We heard the news, and our strength vanished—anguish and fear grip us.
We twist in pain like a woman giving birth.
25 Do not go into the field alone.
Do not walk the streets, for our enemy is armed and approaching fast.
Terror is everywhere we turn.
26 You who are my people, weep with me for it is time.
Put on sackcloth and roll in ashes.
Cry as you would for the loss of an only child.
The time for bitter tears has come.
The destroyer is descending upon us quickly,
and the days of sadness will soon begin.
27 Eternal One (to Jeremiah): Put My people to the test.
Examine their ways as a refiner tests the ore’s purity.
28 They are all stubborn rebels,
lying to each other and to Me.
They are nothing more than bronze and iron—
lesser metals, corrupt and common.
29 The refining fire has blazed fiercely, My prophet;
the lead is burned away in the fire.
But it’s no use. Though the refining fire burns hot,
their wickedness cannot be removed.
30 Now I, the Eternal, reject them as impure—
“rejected silver” is what they will be called.
7 The word of the Eternal came to Jeremiah.
Eternal One: 2 Go now and take a stand for Me at the entrance to My temple. Proclaim there My message. Tell all the people of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Eternal to stop and listen to the word of the Eternal. 3 Tell them this is what I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies and God of Israel, have to say:
“Change your ways and stop what you are doing, and I will let you live in this land. 4 Do not rely on the misguided words, ‘The temple of the Eternal, the temple of the Eternal, the temple of the Eternal,’ as if the temple’s presence alone will protect you. 5 But if you genuinely change your ways and stop what you are doing; if you deal with each other fairly; 6 if you don’t oppress foreigners, orphans, and widows; if you don’t shed the blood of the innocent in this land; and if you don’t practice the self-destructive worship of other gods; 7 then I will let you live forever in this land I promised your ancestors long ago.
One of the most important and difficult messages Jeremiah ever delivers is given at the entrance to the temple. In the seventh century, the problem isn’t that people are refusing to worship, for the crowds continue to form at the temple in Jerusalem, but that they are embracing a superficial form of worship. They are acting as if their motives do not matter; their immoral behavior seems to be of little or no concern. As long as they have the temple—with its rituals and rich history—they believe they are immune to anything. As long as they have the building in their midst, they seem to think they have God—as if He could be contained in this beautiful and storied structure.
Imagine the scene as this bold prophet speaks to the crowds streaming into the temple area. Imagine how startling these words sound to people who think religious activity and merely showing up at the temple will protect them. Listen now as Jeremiah preaches strong words about the dangers of worship gone bad.
8 “But instead, you are clinging to lies and illusions that are worthless. 9 Do you think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and chase after other gods and still expect Me to protect you? 10 Do you think all it takes is for you to run back to Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We’re safe now’? Does this somehow make it all right to do these vile things in front of Me? 11 Do you think this house, which is called by My name, is a den of thieves?[a] I see what you’re doing.
12 “Go and take notice of what happened in Shiloh, the place where I first met your ancestors in the tabernacle that bore My name. See what I did in response to the wickedness of My people, Israel. 13 Now, because of all the evil you have done, and because when I spoke to you time and again you never listened, and because when I called your name you never answered, 14 watch what I will do to this house which bears My name, this sacred place I gave to you and your fathers. I will do to this temple, where you have put your trust, what I did to Shiloh all those years ago. 15 I will throw you from My presence, just as I did to all your kinsmen in the Northern Kingdom, the descendants of Ephraim.”
(to Jeremiah) 16 Don’t pray or plead for these people. No matter how badly you want to come to Me on their behalf, don’t bother. For I won’t hear such cries from you. 17 Can’t you see what’s happening in the villages throughout Judah and even in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather the firewood, the fathers tend the fire, and the mothers bake the bread for the so-called queen of heaven! The people pour out drink offerings in honor of other gods as if to spite Me. 19 What they are doing doesn’t hurt me; it only hurts them, to their own disgrace. 20 Now hear what I, the Eternal Lord, declare: “The heat of My anger will pour out on this land, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the soil. My wrath will burn through this place and not be quenched.
Generally, prophets are called to speak to people on behalf of God (prophecy) and to speak to God on behalf of the people (intercession). But in this stinging message, God tells Jeremiah not to waste his breath by praying for the people because He will not hear the prophet’s pleas. God is determined to right His people’s wrongs with punishing fury. God’s honor is at stake, and so is His people’s future. The powerful and beautiful rituals God gave the Hebrews in order to shape them as individuals and as a community have become nothing more than empty rites that God cannot tolerate.
21 This is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies and God of Israel, has to say:
Eternal One: Treat your burnt offerings the way you treat other sacrifices. Go ahead and eat the meat yourselves. I won’t have any part of it. 22 When I freed your ancestors from slavery in Egypt, burnt offerings and sacrifices were not something I required of them. 23 I wanted them to trust Me and obey My voice. In those early days, I told them, “I will be your God, and you will be My people. Follow Me every step of the way into a life that is good.” 24 But they didn’t trust Me. They didn’t obey My voice. They refused to listen to Me. Instead they followed the plans of their own stubborn hearts. Each step was a step backward, not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, I have shown them the way to a better life. Day after day, I sent all of My servants, the prophets, to speak the truth. 26 But did any of them listen or pay attention? Did they change their ways? No, they only hardened their resolve to go their own way. Each generation has done more evil than the generation before.
(to Jeremiah) 27 This is how I want you to speak to the people—say it all, don’t hold anything back—but they won’t hear you. Your voice will call throughout the land, but no one will answer you. 28 And so you will say to them, “This is the nation that dared not obey the voice of the Eternal, their one True God. This is the people who would not be taught.” Truth has died and disappeared from their very lips.
29 Shave your head and throw your hair away, for it is time to mourn.
Climb the hills and grieve for the darkness has gone too far.
The Eternal has rejected His faithless people;
He has forsaken this generation that has stirred up His wrath.
30 For the people of Judah have done what is plainly evil right in front of Me. They have brought their revolting idols into My temple! They have desecrated this place that stands in honor of My name. 31 They have built shrines to other gods at Topheth, the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-hinnom, where they sacrifice their own sons and daughters and burn them in the fire to dark and pagan gods. I never taught them to do such unspeakable evil; it never even crossed My mind. 32 But I tell you this: the days are coming when that place will no longer be known as Topheth, or the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-hinnom. But it will be called the valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the bodies of those who sacrifice children there until there is no more room. 33 The remains of these wicked people will feed the vultures of the sky and wild animals of the earth because no one will be there to scare them away. 34 I will silence the sounds of laughter and joy from the villages of Judah to the streets of Jerusalem. Even the joy of a wedding will not be heard in this land of ruin.
8 Eternal One: When that sad day comes, the graves of My people will be desecrated. The remains of Judah’s kings and her leaders, of priests and prophets, of the citizens of My city Jerusalem will be pulled from their graves. 2 Their bones will be spread out over the ground, exposing them to the sun, moon, and the stars of heaven, the heavenly hosts, which our enemies loved, served, chased after, sought out, and worshiped. These bones will not be gathered or buried again, but they will be scattered like dung on the ground. 3 As for the survivors of this wicked nation, they will prefer death to life in all the places where I have driven them.
The Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, has spoken!
4 Eternal One (to Jeremiah): Tell My people that these are My words:
“When people stumble and fall, don’t they get up again?
When people are lost, don’t they try to find their way back?
5 So why have these people turned away from Me
and refused to come back?
They hang onto lies that lead them further away
instead of embracing the truth and coming home to Me.
6 I listen intently for someone, anyone, to speak the truth.
But it never happens. No one corrects his lies.
No one regrets his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’
Instead, everyone keeps running farther down that path, away from Me,
Like a horse charging into a battle.
7 Even the stork in the sky knows her time to migrate.
The dove, the swallow, and the crane
All take flight when the time is right.
But not so with My people.
They do not know or care about the Eternal’s commands.”
8 Make sure no predator makes you his prey through some misleading philosophy and empty deception based on traditions fabricated by mere mortals. These are sourced in the elementary principles originating in this world and not in the Anointed One (so don’t let their talks capture you). 9 You see, all that is God, all His fullness, resides in His body. 10 You, too, are being completed in Him, the One who has dominion over all rule, all authority. 11 In Him you were also circumcised, set apart by a spiritual act performed without hands. The Anointed One’s circumcision cut you off from the sinfulness of your flesh. 12 You were buried with Him beneath the waters of the ceremonial washing called baptism[a] and then were raised up with Him by faith in the resurrection power of God, who brought Him back from the dead. 13 And when your flesh was still uncircumcised—dead in transgression and swathed in its sinful nature—it was God who brought us[b] to life with Him, forgave all our sins, and 14 eliminated the massive debt we incurred by the law that stood against us. He took it all away; He nailed it to the cross. But that’s not all. 15 He disarmed those who once ruled over us—those who had overpowered us. Like captives of war, He put them on display to the world to show His victory over them by means of the cross.
16 So don’t let anyone stand in judgment over you and dictate what you should eat or drink, what festivals you should celebrate, or how you should observe a new moon or Sabbath days— 17 all these are only a shadow of what shall come. The reality, the core, the import, is found in the Anointed One. 18 Don’t be cheated out of the prize by others who are peddling the worship of heavenly beings and false humility. People like this run about telling whoever will listen what they claim to have seen; but in reality they testify only to an inflated mind, saturated in conceit—not in the Spirit. 19 They are detached from the very head that nourishes and connects the whole body with all of its nerves and ligaments, a body that grows by the kind of growth that can only come from God.
20 Listen, if you have died with the Anointed One to the elemental spirits of the cosmos, then why are you submitting yourselves to its rules as if you still belonged to this world? 21 You hear, “Don’t handle this! Don’t taste that! Don’t even touch it!” 22 but everything they are obsessed about will eventually decay with use. These rules are just human commands and teachings. 23 Here’s what they are promoting: fabricated religion, self-humiliation, and bodily abuse. No matter which way they try to tether their bodies, they cannot harness their desires.
A contemplative song[a] of Asaph.
1 O my people, listen to me!
Hear my instruction; soak up every word of what I am about to tell you.
2 I will open my mouth in parables;
I will speak of ancient mysteries—
3 Things that we have heard about, things that we have known,
things which our ancestors declared to us again and again.
4 We will not keep these things secret from their children;
rather, we will tell the coming generation
All about the praise that is due to the Eternal One.
We will tell them all about His strength, power, and wonders.
5 He gave His holy law to Jacob,
His teaching to the people of Israel,
Which He instructed our fathers
to pass down to their children
6 So that the coming generation would know them by heart,
even the children who are not yet born,
So that they might one day stand up and teach them to their children,
7 tell them to put their confidence and hope in God,
And never forget the wondrous things He has done.
They should obey His commandments always
8 And avoid following in the footsteps of their parents,
a hard-headed and rebellious generation—
A generation of uncultivated hearts,
whose spirits were unfaithful to God.
9 The sons of Ephraim were master archers, armed with all the necessary equipment,
yet when the battle hour arrived, they ran away.
10 They were not loyal to their covenant with God;
they turned away and refused to walk in it;
11 They did not remember all the wondrous things He had done,
even the great miracles He had revealed to them.
12 He did miraculous things in the presence of their ancestors
as they made their way out of Egypt, through the fields of Zoan.
13 He split the sea and made them pass through it;
He made the waters to rise, forming a wall of water.
14 Every day He led them with a cloud;
every night, with a fiery light.
15 He cracked open rocks in the wilderness
and provided them with all the water they needed, as plentiful as the depths of the ocean.
16 He caused streams to burst forth from the rock,
waters to rush in like a river.
17 Even after witnessing all of these miracles, they still chose to sin against God,
to act against the will of the Most High in the desert!
18 They tested God in their stubborn hearts
by demanding whatever food they happened to be craving.
19 Then they challenged God:
“Can God fill a table with food in the middle of the desert?
20 He split open the rock, and water gushed out;
streams and rivers were overflowing!
But can He also provide us with bread?
Can He supply meat to His sons and daughters?”
21 When the Eternal heard these words, He was furious;
His fiery anger erupted against Jacob;
His wrath grew against Israel.
22 This all happened because they did not trust God;
they did not have faith in His power to save them.
23 Nevertheless, He gave instructions to the clouds in the sky
and swung open heaven’s doors;
24 He showered them with manna to soothe their hungry bellies
and provided them with the bread of heaven.
25 (In that day mortals ate the bread of heavenly messengers.)
God provided them with plenty of food.
26 He stirred up the east wind and blew it through the sky.
With His might, He whipped the south wind into a storm;
27 Like dust from the sky, He caused meat to fall on them.
Birds, like sand on the seashore, fell to the earth.
28 They landed all about the camp,
all around their tents.
29 God’s people feasted on the food-blessings, and their stomachs were filled;
He gave them exactly what they desired.
30 But before their bellies were soothed,
while their mouths were still full of food,
31 God’s wrath came at them like a tidal wave
and swallowed some of the bravest, strongest among them
and quieted the youth of Israel.
- 78:title Hebrew, maskil
26 A straight answer is as precious
as a kiss on the lips.