Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 178

Jeremiah 1–6

Bible text(s)


1This book is the account of what was said by Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests of the town of Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. 2The LORD spoke to Jeremiah in the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon was king of Judah, 3and he spoke to him again when Josiah's son Jehoiakim was king. After that, the LORD spoke to him many times, until the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah. In the fifth month of that year the people of Jerusalem were taken into exile.

The Call of Jeremiah

4The LORD said to me, 5“I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations.”

6I answered, “Sovereign LORD, I don't know how to speak; I am too young.”

7But the LORD said to me, “Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken!”

9Then the LORD stretched out his hand, touched my lips, and said to me, “Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak. 10Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Two Visions

11The LORD asked me, “Jeremiah, what do you see?”

I answered, “A branch of an almond tree.”

12“You are right,” the LORD said, “and I am watching to see that my words come true.”

13Then the LORD spoke to me again. “What else do you see?” he asked.

I answered, “I see a pot boiling in the north, and it is about to tip over this way.”

14He said to me, “Destruction will boil over from the north on all who live in this land, 15because I am calling all the nations in the north to come. Their kings will set up their thrones at the gates of Jerusalem and round its walls, and also round the other cities of Judah. 16I will punish my people because they have sinned; they have abandoned me, have offered sacrifices to other gods, and have made idols and worshipped them. 17Get ready, Jeremiah; go and tell them everything I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them now, or I will make you even more afraid when you are with them. 18-19Listen, Jeremiah! Everyone in this land — the kings of Judah, the officials, the priests, and the people — will be against you. But today I am giving you the strength to resist them; you will be like a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall. They will not defeat you, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Jeremiah 1GNBOpen in Bible reader

God's Care for Israel

1The LORD told me 2to proclaim this message to everyone in Jerusalem.

“I remember how faithful you were when you were young,

how you loved me when we were first married;

you followed me through the desert,

through a land that had not been sown.

3Israel, you belonged to me alone;

you were my sacred possession.

I sent suffering and disaster

on everyone who hurt you.

I, the LORD, have spoken.”

The Sin of Israel's Ancestors

4Listen to the LORD's message, you descendants of Jacob, you tribes of Israel. 5The LORD says:

“What accusation did your ancestors bring against me?

What made them turn away from me?

They worshipped worthless idols

and became worthless themselves.

6They did not care about me,

even though I rescued them from Egypt

and led them through the wilderness:

a land of deserts and sand dunes,

a dry and dangerous land

where no one lives

and no one will even travel.

7I brought them into a fertile land,

to enjoy its harvests and its other good things.

But instead they ruined my land;

they defiled the country I had given them.

8The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’

My own priests did not know me.

The rulers rebelled against me;

the prophets spoke in the name of Baal

and worshipped useless idols.

The LORD's Case against his People

9“And so I, the LORD, will state my case against my people again.

I will bring charges against their descendants.

10Go west to the island of Cyprus,

and send someone eastwards to the land of Kedar.

You will see that nothing like this has ever happened before.

11No other nation has ever changed its gods,

even though they were not real.

But my people have exchanged me,

the God who has brought them honour,

for gods that can do nothing for them.

12And so I command the sky to shake with horror,

to be amazed and astonished,

13for my people have committed two sins:

they have turned away from me,

the spring of fresh water,

and they have dug cisterns,

cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all.

The Results of Israel's Unfaithfulness

14“Israel is not a slave;

he was not born into slavery.

Why then do his enemies hunt him down?

15They have roared at him like lions;

they have made his land a desert,

and his towns lie in ruins, completely abandoned.

16Yes, those of Memphis and Tahpanhes

have cracked his skull.

17Israel, you brought this on yourself!

You deserted me, the LORD your God,

while I was leading you along the way.

18What do you think you will gain by going to Egypt

to drink water from the Nile?

What do you think you will gain by going to Assyria

to drink water from the Euphrates?

19Your own evil will punish you,

and your turning from me will condemn you.

You will learn how bitter and wrong it is

to abandon me, the LORD your God,

and no longer to remain faithful to me.

I, the Sovereign LORD Almighty, have spoken.”

Israel Refuses to Worship the LORD

20The Sovereign LORD says,

“Israel, long ago you rejected my authority;

you refused to obey me and worship me.

On every high hill

and under every green tree

you worshipped fertility gods.

21I planted you like a choice vine

from the very best seed.

But look what you have become!

You are like a rotten, worthless vine.

22Even if you washed with the strongest soap,

I would still see the stain of your guilt.

23How can you say you have not defiled yourself,

that you have never worshipped Baal?

Look how you sinned in the valley;

see what you have done.

You are like a wild camel on heat,

running about loose,

24rushing into the desert.

When she is on heat, who can control her?

No male that wants her has to trouble himself;

she is always available at mating time.

25Israel, don't wear your feet out,

or let your throat become dry

from chasing after other gods.

But you say, ‘No! I can't turn back.

I have loved foreign gods

and will go after them.’ ”

Israel Deserves to be Punished

26The LORD says, “Just as a thief is disgraced when caught, so all you people of Israel will be disgraced — your kings and officials, your priests and prophets. 27You will all be disgraced — you that say that a tree is your father and that a rock is your mother. This will happen because you turned away from me instead of turning to me. But when you are in trouble, you ask me to come and save you.

28“Where are the gods that you made for yourselves? When you are in trouble, let them save you — if they can! Judah, you have as many gods as you have cities. 29What is your complaint? Why have you rebelled against me? 30I punished you, but it did no good; you would not let me correct you. Like a raging lion, you have murdered your prophets. 31People of Israel, listen to what I am saying. Have I been like a desert to you, like a dark and dangerous land? Why, then, do you say that you will do as you please, that you will never come back to me? 32Does a young woman forget her jewellery, or a bride her wedding dress? But my people have forgotten me for more days than can be counted. 33You certainly know how to chase after lovers. Even the worst of women can learn from you. 34Your clothes are stained with the blood of the poor and innocent, not with the blood of burglars.

“But in spite of all this, 35you say, ‘I am innocent; surely the LORD is no longer angry with me.’ But I, the LORD, will punish you because you deny that you have sinned. 36You have cheapened yourself by turning to the gods of other nations. You will be disappointed by Egypt, just as you were by Assyria. 37You will turn away from Egypt, hanging your head in shame. I, the LORD, have rejected those you trust; you will not gain anything from them.”

Jeremiah 2GNBOpen in Bible reader

Unfaithful Israel

1The LORD says, “If a man divorces his wife, and she leaves him and becomes another man's wife, he cannot take her back again. This would completely defile the land. But, Israel, you have had many lovers, and now you want to return to me! 2Look up at the hilltops. Is there any place where you have not acted like a prostitute? You waited for lovers along the roadside, as an Arab waits for victims in the desert. You have defiled the land with your prostitution. 3That is why the rains were held back, and the spring showers did not come. You even look like a prostitute; you have no shame.

4“And now you say to me, ‘You are my father, and you have loved me ever since I was a child. 5You won't always be angry; you won't be cross with me for ever.’ Israel, that is what you said, but you did all the evil you could.”

Israel and Judah must Repent

6When Josiah was king, the LORD said to me, “Have you seen what Israel, that unfaithful woman, has done? She has turned away from me, and on every high hill and under every green tree she has acted like a prostitute. 7I thought that after she had done all this, she would surely return to me. But she did not return, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it all. 8Judah also saw that I divorced Israel and sent her away because she had turned from me and had become a prostitute. But Judah, Israel's unfaithful sister, was not afraid. She too became a prostitute 9and was not at all ashamed. She defiled the land, and she committed adultery by worshipping stones and trees. 10And after all this, Judah, Israel's unfaithful sister, only pretended to return to me; she was not sincere. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

11Then the LORD told me that, even though Israel had turned away from him, she had proved to be better than unfaithful Judah. 12He told me to go and say to Israel, “Unfaithful Israel, come back to me. I am merciful and will not be angry; I will not be angry with you for ever. 13Only admit that you are guilty and that you have rebelled against the LORD, your God. Confess that under every green tree you have given your love to foreign gods and that you have not obeyed my commands. I, the LORD, have spoken.

14“Unfaithful people, come back; you belong to me. I will take one of you from each town and two from each clan, and I will bring you back to Mount Zion. 15I will give you rulers who obey me, and they will rule you with wisdom and understanding. 16Then when you have become numerous in that land, people will no longer talk about my Covenant Box. They will no longer think about it or remember it; they will not even need it, nor will they make another one. 17When that time comes, Jerusalem will be called ‘The Throne of the LORD’, and all nations will gather there to worship me. They will no longer do what their stubborn and evil hearts tell them. 18Israel will join with Judah, and together they will come from exile in the country in the north and will return to the land that I gave your ancestors as a permanent possession.”

The Idolatry of God's People

19The LORD says,

“Israel, I wanted to accept you as my child

and give you a delightful land,

the most beautiful land in all the world.

I wanted you to call me father,

and never again turn away from me.

20But like an unfaithful wife,

you have not been faithful to me.

I, the LORD, have spoken.”

21A noise is heard on the hilltops:

it is the people of Israel crying and pleading,

because they have lived sinful lives

and have forgotten the LORD their God.

22Return, all of you who have turned away from the LORD;

he will heal you and make you faithful.

You say, “Yes, we are coming to the LORD, because he is our God. 23We were not helped at all by our pagan worship on the hilltops. Help for Israel comes only from the LORD our God. 24But the worship of Baal, the god of shame, has made us lose flocks and herds, sons and daughters — everything that our ancestors have worked for since ancient times. 25We should lie down in shame and let our disgrace cover us. We and our ancestors have always sinned against the LORD our God; we have never obeyed his commands.”

Jeremiah 3GNBOpen in Bible reader

A Call to Repentance

1The LORD says, “People of Israel, if you want to turn, then turn back to me. If you are faithful to me and remove the idols I hate, 2it will be right for you to swear by my name. Then all the nations will ask me to bless them, and they will praise me.”

3The LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, “Plough up your unploughed fields; do not sow your seeds among thorns. 4Keep your covenant with me, your LORD, and dedicate yourselves to me, you people of Judah and Jerusalem. If you don't, my anger will burn like fire because of the evil things you have done. It will burn, and there will be no one to put it out.”

Judah is Threatened with Invasion

5Blow the trumpet throughout the land!

Shout loud and clear!

Tell the people of Judah and Jerusalem

to run to the fortified cities.

6Point the way to Zion!

Run for safety! Don't delay!

The LORD is bringing disaster

and great destruction from the north.

7Like a lion coming from its hiding place,

a destroyer of nations has set out.

He is coming to destroy Judah.

The cities of Judah will be left in ruins,

and no one will live in them.

8So put on sackcloth, and weep and wail

because the fierce anger of the LORD

has not turned away from Judah.

9The LORD said, “On that day kings and officials will lose their courage; priests will be shocked and prophets will be astonished.”

10Then I said, “Sovereign LORD, you have completely deceived the people of Jerusalem! You have said there would be peace, but a sword is at their throats.”

11The time is coming when the people of Jerusalem will be told that a scorching wind is blowing in from the desert towards them. It will not be a gentle wind that only blows away the chaff — 12the wind that comes at the LORD's command will be much stronger than that! It is the LORD himself who is pronouncing judgement on his people.

Judah is Surrounded by Enemies

13Look, the enemy is coming like clouds. Their war chariots are like a whirlwind, and their horses are faster than eagles. We are lost! We are doomed!

14Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart, so that you may be saved. How long will you go on thinking sinful thoughts?

15Messengers from the city of Dan and from the hills of Ephraim announce the bad news. 16They have come to warn the nations and to tell Jerusalem that enemies are coming from a country far away. These enemies will shout against the cities of Judah 17and will surround Jerusalem like men guarding a field, because her people have rebelled against the LORD. The LORD has spoken.

18Judah, you have brought this on yourself by the way you have lived and by the things you have done. Your sin has caused this suffering; it has stabbed you through the heart.

Jeremiah's Sorrow for his People

19The pain! I can't bear the pain!

My heart! My heart is beating wildly!

I can't keep quiet;

I hear the trumpets

and the shouts of battle.

20One disaster follows another;

the whole country is left in ruins.

Suddenly our tents are destroyed;

their curtains are torn to pieces.

21How long must I see the battle raging

and hear the blasts of trumpets?

22The LORD says, “My people are stupid;

they don't know me.

They are like foolish children;

they have no understanding.

They are experts at doing what is evil,

but failures at doing what is good.”

Jeremiah's Vision of the Coming Destruction

23I looked at the earth — it was a barren waste;

at the sky — there was no light.

24I looked at the mountains — they were shaking,

and the hills were rocking to and fro.

25I saw that there were no people;

even the birds had flown away.

26The fertile land had become a desert;

its cities were in ruins

because of the LORD's fierce anger.

27(The LORD has said that the whole earth will become a wilderness, but that he will not completely destroy it.)

28The earth will mourn;

the sky will grow dark.

The LORD has spoken

and will not change his mind.

He has made his decision

and will not turn back.

29At the noise of the horsemen and bowmen

everyone will run away.

Some will run to the forest,

others will climb up among the rocks.

Every town will be left empty,

and no one will live in them again.

30Jerusalem, you are doomed!

Why do you dress in scarlet?

Why do you put on jewellery and paint your eyes?

You are making yourself beautiful for nothing!

Your lovers have rejected you

and want to kill you.

31I heard a cry, like a woman in labour,

a scream like a woman bearing her first child.

It was the cry of Jerusalem gasping for breath,

stretching out her hand and saying,

“I am doomed!

They are coming to kill me!”

Jeremiah 4GNBOpen in Bible reader

The Sin of Jerusalem

1People of Jerusalem, run through your streets!

Look around! See for yourselves!

Search the market places!

Can you find one person

who does what is right

and tries to be faithful to God?

If you can, the LORD will forgive Jerusalem.

2Even though you claim to worship the LORD,

you do not mean what you say.

3Surely the LORD looks for faithfulness.

He struck you, but you paid no attention;

he crushed you, but you refused to learn.

You were stubborn and would not turn from your sins.

4Then I thought, “These are only the poor and ignorant.

They behave foolishly;

they don't know what their God requires,

what the LORD wants them to do.

5I will go to the people in power,

and talk with them.

Surely they know what their God requires,

what the LORD wants them to do.”

But all of them have rejected the LORD's authority

and refuse to obey him.

6That is why lions from the forest will kill them;

wolves from the desert will tear them to pieces,

and leopards will prowl through their towns.

If those people go out, they will be torn apart

because their sins are numerous

and time after time they have turned from God.

7The LORD asked, “Why should I forgive the sins of my people?

They have abandoned me

and have worshipped gods that are not real.

I fed my people until they were full,

but they committed adultery

and spent their time with prostitutes.

8They were like well-fed stallions wild with desire,

each lusting for his neighbour's wife.

9Shouldn't I punish them for these things

and take revenge on a nation such as this?

10I will send enemies to cut down my people's vineyards,

but not to destroy them completely.

I will tell them to strip away the branches,

because those branches are not mine.

11The people of Israel and Judah

have betrayed me completely.

I, the LORD, have spoken.”

The LORD Rejects Israel

12The LORD's people have denied him and have said, “He won't really do anything. We won't have hard times; we won't have war or famine.” 13-14They have said that the prophets are nothing but windbags and that they have no message from the LORD. The LORD God Almighty said to me, “Jeremiah, because these people have said such things, I will make my words like a fire in your mouth. The people will be like wood, and the fire will burn them up.”

15People of Israel, the LORD is bringing a nation from afar to attack you. It is a strong and ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know. 16Their bowmen are mighty soldiers who kill without mercy. 17They will devour your crops and your food; they will kill your sons and your daughters. They will slaughter your flocks and your herds and destroy your vines and fig trees. The fortified cities in which you trust will be destroyed by their army.

18The LORD says, “Yet even in those days I will not completely destroy my people. 19When they ask why I did all these things, tell them, Jeremiah, that just as they turned away from me and served foreign gods in their own land, so they will serve strangers in a land that is not theirs.”

God Warns his People

20The LORD says, “Tell the descendants of Jacob, tell the people of Judah: 21Pay attention, you foolish and stupid people, who have eyes, but cannot see, and have ears, but cannot hear. 22I am the LORD; why don't you fear me? Why don't you tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary of the sea, a permanent boundary that it cannot cross. The sea may toss, but it cannot go beyond it; the waves may roar, but they cannot break through. 23But you people! You are stubborn and rebellious; you have turned aside and left me. 24You never thought to honour me, even though I send the autumn rains and the spring rains and give you the harvest season each year. 25Instead, your sins have kept these good things from you.

26“Evildoers live among my people; they lie in wait like those who spread nets to catch birds, but they have set their traps to catch people. 27Just as a hunter fills a cage with birds, they have filled their houses with loot. That is why they are powerful and rich, 28why they are fat and well fed. There is no limit to their evil deeds. They do not give orphans their rights or show justice to the oppressed.

29“But I, the LORD, will punish them for these things; I will take revenge on this nation. 30A terrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: 31prophets speak nothing but lies; priests rule as the prophets command, and my people offer no objections. But what will they do when it all comes to an end?”

Jeremiah 5GNBOpen in Bible reader

Jerusalem is Surrounded by Enemies

1People of Benjamin, run for safety! Escape from Jerusalem! Sound the trumpet in Tekoa and build a signal fire in Beth Haccherem. Disaster and destruction are about to come from the north. 2The city of Zion is beautiful, but it will be destroyed; 3kings will camp there with their armies. They will pitch their tents round the city, and they will each camp wherever they want. 4They will say, “Prepare to attack Jerusalem! Get ready! We'll attack at noon!” But then they will say, “It's too late, the day is almost over, and the evening shadows are growing long. 5We'll attack by night; we'll destroy the city's fortresses.”

6The LORD Almighty has ordered these kings to cut down trees and build mounds in order to besiege Jerusalem. He has said, “I will punish this city because it is full of oppression. 7As a well keeps its water fresh, so Jerusalem keeps its evil fresh. I hear violence and destruction in the city; sickness and wounds are all I see. 8People of Jerusalem, let these troubles be a warning to you, or else I will abandon you; I will turn your city into a desert, a place where no one lives.”

Rebellious Israel

9The LORD Almighty said to me, “Israel will be stripped clean like a vineyard from which every grape has been picked. So you must rescue everyone you can while there is still time.”

10I answered, “Who would listen to me if I spoke to them and warned them? They are stubborn and refuse to listen to your message; they laugh at what you tell me to say. 11Your anger against them burns in me too, LORD, and I can't hold it in any longer.”

Then the LORD said to me, “Pour out my anger on the children in the streets and on the gatherings of the young people. Husbands and wives will be taken away, and even the very old will not be spared. 12Their houses will be given to others, and so will their fields and their wives. I am going to punish the people of this land. 13Everyone, great and small, tries to make money dishonestly; even prophets and priests cheat the people. 14They act as if my people's wounds were only scratches. ‘All is well,’ they say, when all is not well. 15Were they ashamed because they did these disgusting things? No, they were not at all ashamed; they don't even know how to blush. And so they will fall as others have fallen; when I punish them, that will be the end of them. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Israel Rejects God's Way

16The LORD said to his people, “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is. Walk on it, and you will live in peace.”

But they said, “No, we will not!” 17Then the LORD appointed watchmen to listen for the trumpet's warning. But they said, “We will not listen.”

18So the LORD said, “Listen, you nations, and learn what is going to happen to my people. 19Listen, earth! As punishment for all their schemes I am bringing ruin on these people, because they have rejected my teaching and have not obeyed my words. 20What do I care about the incense they bring me from Sheba, or the spices from a distant land? I will not accept their offerings or be pleased with their sacrifices. 21And so I will make these people stumble and fall. Parents and children will die, and so will friends and neighbours.”

Invasion from the North

22The LORD says, “People are coming from a country in the north; a mighty nation far away is preparing for war. 23They have taken up their bows and swords; they are cruel and merciless. They sound like the roaring sea, as they ride their horses. They are ready for battle against Jerusalem.”

24“We have heard the news,” say the people of Jerusalem, “and our hands hang limp; we are seized by anguish and pain like a woman in labour. 25We dare not go to the countryside or walk on the roads, because our enemies are armed and terror is all round us.”

26The LORD says to his people, “Put on sackcloth and roll in ashes. Mourn with bitter tears as you would for an only son, because the one who comes to destroy you will suddenly attack. 27Jeremiah, test my people, as you would test metal, and find out what they are like. 28They are all stubborn rebels, hard as bronze and iron. They are all corrupt, going round and spreading gossip. 29The furnace burns fiercely, but the waste metals do not melt and run off. It is useless to go on refining my people, because those who are evil are not taken away. 30They will be called worthless dross, because I, the LORD, have rejected them.”

Jeremiah 6GNBOpen in Bible reader
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