1“O Israel,” says the Lord,
“if you wanted to return to me, you could.
You could throw away your detestable idols
and stray away no more.
2Then when you swear by my name, saying,
‘As surely as the Lord lives,’
you could do so
with truth, justice, and righteousness.
Then you would be a blessing to the nations of the world,
and all people would come and praise my name.”
Coming Judgment against Judah
3This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!
Do not waste your good seed among thorns.
4O people of Judah and Jerusalem,
surrender your pride and power.
Change your hearts before the Lord,
or my anger will burn like an unquenchable fire
because of all your sins.
5“Shout to Judah, and broadcast to Jerusalem!
Tell them to sound the alarm throughout the land:
‘Run for your lives!
Flee to the fortified cities!’
6Raise a signal flag as a warning for Jerusalem:
‘Flee now! Do not delay!’
For I am bringing terrible destruction upon you
from the north.”
7A lion stalks from its den,
a destroyer of nations.
It has left its lair and is headed your way.
It’s going to devastate your land!
Your towns will lie in ruins,
with no one living in them anymore.
8So put on clothes of mourning
and weep with broken hearts,
for the fierce anger of the Lord
is still upon us.
9“In that day,” says the Lord,
“the king and the officials will tremble in fear.
The priests will be struck with horror,
and the prophets will be appalled.”
10Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord,
the people have been deceived by what you said,
for you promised peace for Jerusalem.
But the sword is held at their throats!”
11The time is coming when the Lord will say
to the people of Jerusalem,
“My dear people, a burning wind is blowing in from the desert,
and it’s not a gentle breeze useful for winnowing grain.
12It is a roaring blast sent by me!
Now I will pronounce your destruction!”
13Our enemy rushes down on us like storm clouds!
His chariots are like whirlwinds.
His horses are swifter than eagles.
How terrible it will be, for we are doomed!
14O Jerusalem, cleanse your heart
that you may be saved.
How long will you harbor
your evil thoughts?
15Your destruction has been announced
from Dan and the hill country of Ephraim.
16“Warn the surrounding nations
and announce this to Jerusalem:
The enemy is coming from a distant land,
raising a battle cry against the towns of Judah.
17They surround Jerusalem like watchmen around a field,
for my people have rebelled against me,”
says the Lord.
18“Your own actions have brought this upon you.
This punishment is bitter, piercing you to the heart!”
Jeremiah Weeps for His People
19My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain!
My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still.
For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets
and the roar of their battle cries.
20Waves of destruction roll over the land,
until it lies in complete desolation.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed;
in a moment my shelters are crushed.
21How long must I see the battle flags
and hear the trumpets of war?
22“My people are foolish
and do not know me,” says the Lord.
“They are stupid children
who have no understanding.
They are clever enough at doing wrong,
but they have no idea how to do right!”
Jeremiah’s Vision of Coming Disaster
23I looked at the earth, and it was empty and formless.
I looked at the heavens, and there was no light.
24I looked at the mountains and hills,
and they trembled and shook.
25I looked, and all the people were gone.
All the birds of the sky had flown away.
26I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.
The towns lay in ruins,
crushed by the Lord’s fierce anger.
27This is what the Lord says:
“The whole land will be ruined,
but I will not destroy it completely.
28The earth will mourn
and the heavens will be draped in black
because of my decree against my people.
I have made up my mind and will not change it.”
29At the noise of charioteers and archers,
the people flee in terror.
They hide in the bushes
and run for the mountains.
All the towns have been abandoned—
not a person remains!
30What are you doing,
you who have been plundered?
Why do you dress up in beautiful clothing
and put on gold jewelry?
Why do you brighten your eyes with mascara?
Your primping will do you no good!
The allies who were your lovers
despise you and seek to kill you.
31I hear a cry, like that of a woman in labor,
the groans of a woman giving birth to her first child.
It is beautiful Jerusalem
gasping for breath and crying out,
“Help! I’m being murdered!”