2The LORD says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.”
3So the LORD will abandon his people to their enemies until the woman who is to give birth has her son. Then those Israelites who are in exile will be reunited with their own people. 4When he comes, he will rule his people with the strength that comes from the LORD and with the majesty of the LORD God himself. His people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge his greatness, 5and he will bring peace.
Deliverance and Punishment
When the Assyrians invade our country and break through our defences, we will send our strongest leaders to fight them. 6By force of arms they will conquer Assyria, the land of Nimrod, and they will save us from the Assyrians when they invade our territory.
7The people of Israel who survive will be like refreshing dew sent by the LORD for many nations, like showers on growing plants. They will depend on God, not human beings. 8Those who are left among the nations will be like a lion hunting for food in a forest or a pasture: it gets in among the sheep, pounces on them, and tears them to pieces — and there is no hope of rescue. 9Israel will conquer her enemies and destroy them all.
10The LORD says, “At that time I will take away your horses and destroy your chariots. 11I will destroy the cities in your land and tear down all your defences. 12I will destroy the magic charms you use and leave you without any fortune tellers. 13I will destroy your idols and sacred stone pillars; no longer will you worship the things that you yourselves have made. 14I will pull down the images of the goddess Asherah in your land and destroy your cities. 15And in my great anger I will take revenge on all nations that have not obeyed me.”
The LORD's Case against Israel
1Listen to the LORD's case against Israel.
Arise, O LORD, and present your case; let the mountains and the hills hear what you say.
2You mountains, you everlasting foundations of the earth, listen to the LORD's case! The LORD has a case against his people. He is going to bring an accusation against Israel.
3The LORD says, “My people, what have I done to you? How have I been a burden to you? Answer me. 4I brought you out of Egypt; I rescued you from slavery; I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead you. 5My people, remember what King Balak of Moab planned to do to you and how Balaam son of Beor answered him. Remember the things that happened on the way from the camp at Acacia to Gilgal. Remember these things and you will realize what I did in order to save you.”
What the LORD Requires
6What shall I bring to the LORD, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him? Shall I bring the best calves to burn as offerings to him? 7Will the LORD be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil? Shall I offer him my firstborn child to pay for my sins? 8No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
9It is wise to fear the LORD. He calls to the city, “Listen, you people who assemble in the city!10In the houses of evil people are treasures which they got dishonestly. They use false measures, a thing that I hate.11How can I forgive those who use false scales and weights? 12Your rich people exploit the poor, and all of you are liars. 13So I have already begun your ruin and destruction because of your sins. 14You will eat, but not be satisfied — in fact you will still be hungry. You will carry things off, but you will not be able to save them; anything you do save I will destroy in war. 15You will sow corn, but not harvest the crop. You will press oil from olives, but never be able to use it. You will make wine, but never drink it. 16This will happen because you have followed the evil practices of King Omri and of his son, King Ahab. You have continued their policies, and so I will bring you to ruin, and everyone will despise you. People everywhere will treat you with contempt.”
Israel's Moral Corruption
1It's hopeless! I am like a hungry person who finds no fruit left on the trees and no grapes on the vines. All the grapes and all the tasty figs have been picked. 2There is not an honest person left in the land, no one loyal to God. Everyone is waiting for a chance to commit murder. Everyone hunts down his own people. 3They are all experts at doing evil. Officials and judges ask for bribes. The influential person tells them what he wants, and so they scheme together.4Even the best and most honest of them are as worthless as weeds.
The day has come when God will punish the people, as he warned them through their watchmen, the prophets. Now they are in confusion. 5Don't believe your neighbour or trust your friend. Be careful what you say even to your wife. 6In these times sons treat their fathers like fools, daughters oppose their mothers, and young women quarrel with their mothers-in-law; a person's enemies are the members of his own family.
7But I will watch for the LORD; I will wait confidently for God, who will save me. My God will hear me.
The LORD Brings Salvation
8Our enemies have no reason to gloat over us. We have fallen, but we will rise again. We are in darkness now, but the LORD will give us light. 9We have sinned against the LORD, so now we must endure his anger for a while. But in the end he will defend us and right the wrongs that have been done to us. He will bring us out to the light; we will live to see him save us. 10Then our enemies will see this and be disgraced — the same enemies who taunted us by asking, “Where is the LORD your God?” We will see them defeated, trampled down like mud in the streets.
11People of Jerusalem, the time to rebuild the city walls is coming. At that time your territory will be enlarged. 12Your people will return to you from everywhere — from Assyria in the east, from Egypt in the south, from the region of the Euphrates, from distant seas and far-off mountains. 13But the earth will become a desert because of the wickedness of those who live on it.
The LORD's Compassion on Israel
14Be a shepherd to your people, LORD, the people you have chosen. Although they live apart in the wilderness, there is fertile land around them. Let them go and feed in the rich pastures of Bashan and Gilead, as they did long ago.
15Work miracles for us,LORD, as you did in the days when you brought us out of Egypt. 16The nations will see this and be frustrated in spite of all their strength. In dismay they will close their mouths and cover their ears. 17They will crawl in the dust like snakes; they will come from their fortresses, trembling and afraid. They will turn in fear to the LORD our God.
18There is no other god like you, O LORD; you forgive the sins of your people who have survived. You do not stay angry for ever, but you take pleasure in showing us your constant love. 19You will be merciful to us once again. You will trample our sins underfoot and send them to the bottom of the sea! 20You will show your faithfulness and constant love to your people, the descendants of Abraham and of Jacob, as you promised our ancestors long ago.