- Jeremiah 06 (Contemporary English Version)
- Run for your lives, people of Benjamin. Get out of Jerusalem. Sound a trumpet in Tekoa and light a signal fire in Beth-Haccherem. Soon you will be struck by disaster from the north. *
- Jerusalem is a lovely pasture, but shepherds will surround it and divide it up,
- then let their flocks eat all the grass.
- Kings will tell their troops, "If we reach Jerusalem in the morning, we'll attack at noon. But if we arrive later,
- we'll attack after dark and destroy its fortresses."
- I am the LORD All-Powerful, and I will command these armies to chop down trees and build a ramp up to the walls of Jerusalem. People of Jerusalem, I must punish you for your injustice.
- Evil pours from your city like water from a spring. Sounds of violent crimes echo within your walls; victims are everywhere, wounded and dying.
- Listen to me, you people of Jerusalem and Judah. I will abandon you, and your land will become an empty desert.
- I will tell your enemies to leave your nation bare like a vine stripped of grapes. I, the LORD All-Powerful, have spoken.
- I have told the people that you, LORD, will punish them, but they just laugh and refuse to listen.
- Your anger against Judah flames up inside me, and I can't hold it in much longer. Don't hold back my anger! Let it sweep away everyone-- the children at play and all adults, young and old alike.
- I'll punish the people of Judah and give to others their houses and fields, as well as their wives. I, the LORD, have spoken.
- Everyone is greedy and dishonest, whether poor or rich. Even the prophets and priests cannot be trusted.
- All they ever offer to my deeply wounded people are empty hopes for peace.
- They should be ashamed of their disgusting sins, but they don't even blush. And so, when I punish Judah, they will end up on the ground, dead like everyone else. I, the LORD, have spoken.
- The LORD said: My people, when you stood at the crossroads, I told you, "Follow the road your ancestors took, and you will find peace." But you refused.
- I also sent prophets to warn you of danger, but when they sounded the alarm, you paid no attention. *
- So I tell all nations on earth, "Watch what I will do!
- My people ignored me and rejected my laws. They planned to do evil, and now the evil they planned will happen to them."
- People of Judah, you bring me incense from Sheba and spices from distant lands. You offer sacrifices of all kinds. But why bother? I hate these gifts of yours!
- So I will put stumbling blocks in your path, and everyone will die, including parents and children, neighbors and friends.
- The LORD said, "Look toward the north, where a powerful nation has prepared for war.
- Its well-armed troops are cruel and never show mercy. Their galloping horses sound like ocean waves pounding on the shore. This army will attack you, lovely Jerusalem."
- Then the people said, "Just hearing about them makes us tremble with fear, and we twist and turn in pain like a woman giving birth."
- The LORD said, "Don't work in your fields or walk along the roads. It's too dangerous. The enemy is well armed
- and attacks without warning. So mourn, my people, as though your only child had died. Wear clothes made of sackcloth and roll in the ash pile."
- Jeremiah, test my people as though they were metal.
- And you'll find they are hard like bronze and iron. They are stubborn rebels, always spreading lies. *
- Silver can be purified in a fiery furnace,
- but my people are too wicked to be made pure, and so I have rejected them.
The time of repentance for Judah had past and the time of punishment and destruction was quickly approaching. The Lord had appointed prophets and priests as watchmen to warn Judah of her sin and of coming destruction because of her sin. But the appointed watchmen were as false in their dealings as everyone else, "claiming: Peace, peace, when there is no peace." (6:14) Furthermore, the Lord instructed these watchmen to inquire concerning "the way to what is good," (6:16) but they protested that they would not do it. Nor were they willing to listen for coming danger and sound the alarm. Why were God's appointed spiritual leaders so derelict in their assigned duty? A number of responses could be given to that question, but the bottom line is that they were more concerned for their own comforts than for faithfulness to God. Serving as God's watchmen to a people intent on evil was not a pleasant task. Both Judah and Israel had a history of killing the prophets who spoke truth to them concerning their sin and coming punishment.
Jeremiah, however, was a prophet who was true to his calling and spoke the message God gave him. Therefore he gave this message to Judah: "Look, an army is coming from a northern land; a great nation will be awakened from the remote regions of the earth." Concerning this army he told Judah: "Their voice roars like the sea, and they ride on horses, lined up like men in battle formation against you, Daughter Zion." (6:22-23) God instructed this invading army to "Glean as thoroughly as a vine the remnant of Israel. Pass your hand once more like a grape gatherer over the branches." (6:9) In other words, the destruction of Judah was to be complete. As no grapes were to be left on the vine, nothing in Judah was to be left untouched by destruction.
As mentioned before, the time of repentance for Judah had past and the time of punishment and destruction was quickly approaching. Did this mean that God would not stop the destruction at this point if Judah were to finally repent? Even at this late date I think God would turn away the destruction if Judah were to repent. In fact, I believe that is the intent of this message delivered by Jeremiah. Every warning of doom is an opportunity for repentance. However, Judah was so deep into her evil ways she was incapable of repentance. Nor could she be convinced that her ways were evil and required repentance. To say the time of repentance had past is not to say that God would no longer accept it, but that Judah was no longer capable of it.
Many would judge God's actions in this situation as vindictive and hateful. But what do we know of God's motives or of true justice for that matter? Do we know better than the Creator what is good and what is bad, what is just and what is unjust, what is vindictive and what is not? Furthermore, though this chapter speaks of God's wrath, the whole of scripture indicates that God's every action has a redemptive purpose. This situation with Judah is no different. Though Judah might be incapable of repentance prior to a punishing destruction, God would hopefully have her attention following it.