Jeremiah 4

How Israel Can Return to the Lord

4 The Lord said:

    Israel, if you really want
    to come back to me, get rid
        of those disgusting idols.
2 Make promises only in my name,
        and do what you promise!
    Then all nations will praise me,
        and I will bless them.
3 People of Jerusalem and Judah,
        don’t be so stubborn!
    Your hearts have become hard,
    like unplowed ground
        where thornbushes grow.
4 With all your hearts,
    keep the agreement
        I made with you.
    But if you are stubborn
        and keep on sinning,
    my anger will burn like a fire
        that cannot be put out.

Disaster Is Coming

The Lord said:
*5 “Sound the trumpets, my people.
    Warn the people of Judah,
        ‘Run for your lives!
6 Head for Jerusalem
        or another walled town!’

    “Jeremiah, tell them I’m sending
        disaster from the north.
7 An army will come out,
        like a lion from its den.
    It will destroy nations
    and leave your towns empty
        and in ruins.”

8 Then I said
        to the people of Israel,
“Put on sackcloth!
        Mourn and cry out,
    ‘The Lord is still angry
        with us.’ ”

9 The Lord said,

    “When all this happens,
        the king and his officials,
    the prophets and the priests
        will be shocked and terrified.”

10 I said, “You are the Lord God. So why have you fooled everyone, especially the people of Jerusalem? Why did you promise peace, when a knife is at our throats?”

The Coming Disaster

11-12 When disaster comes, the Lord will tell you people of Jerusalem,

    “I am sending a windstorm
    from the desert—
        not a welcome breeze.
    And it will sweep you away
        as punishment for your sins.
13 Look! The enemy army
        swoops down like an eagle;
    their cavalry and chariots
    race faster than storm clouds
        blown by the wind.”

    Then you will answer,
        “We are doomed!”

14 But Jerusalem, there is still time
        for you to be saved.
    Wash the evil from your hearts
        and stop making sinful plans,
15 before a message of disaster
    arrives from the hills of Ephraim
        and the town of Dan.

16-17 The Lord said,

    “Tell the nations that my people
        have rebelled against me.
    And so an army will come
        from far away
    to surround Jerusalem
        and the towns of Judah.
    I, the Lord, have spoken.

18 “People of Judah,
        your hearts will be in pain,
    but it’s your own fault
        that you will be punished.”

Jeremiah’s Vision of the Coming Punishment

19 I can’t stand the pain!
    My heart pounds,
        as I twist and turn in agony.
    I hear the signal trumpet
    and the battle cry of the enemy,
        and I cannot be silent.
20 I see the enemy defeating us
    time after time,
        leaving everything in ruins.
    Even my own home
        is destroyed in a moment.
21 How long will I see enemy flags
        and hear their trumpets?

22 I heard the Lord say,
        “My people ignore me.
    They are foolish children
    who do not understand
        that they will be punished.
    All they know is how to sin.”

23 After this, I looked around.
    The earth was barren,
        with no form of life.
    The sun, moon, and stars
        had disappeared.
24 The mountains were shaking;
25 no people could be seen,
        and all the birds
        had flown away.
26 Farmland had become a desert,
        and towns were in ruins.
    The Lord’s fierce anger
        had done all of this.

The Death of Jerusalem

27-28 The Lord said:

    I have made my decision,
        and I won’t change my mind.
    This land will be destroyed,
        although not completely.
    The sky will turn dark,
        and the earth will mourn.

29 Enemy cavalry and archers
        shout their battle cry.
    People run for their lives
    and try to find safety
        among trees and rocks.
    Every town is empty.

30 Jerusalem, your land
        has been wiped out.
    But you act like a prostitute
    and try to win back your lovers,
        who now hate you.
    You can put on a red dress,
    gold jewelry, and eye shadow,
        but it’s no use—
    your lovers are out to kill you!

31 I heard groaning and crying.
    Was it a woman giving birth
        to her first child?
    No, it was Jerusalem.
    She was gasping for breath
        and begging for help.
    “I’m dying!” she said.
        “They have murdered me.”

The Contemporary English Version, c1995 by the American Bible Society.
Selected texts provided for use with the Amos: Hypertext Bible Commentary