Reading for September 30th

Jeremiah 29-31 (Listen)

Jeremiah's Letter to the Exiles
These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

“Because you have said, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,’ thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.’ Hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors' wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’”

Shemaiah's False Prophecy
To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, ‘The Lord has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to have charge in the house of the Lord over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “Your exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce.”’”

Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord.’”

Restoration for Israel and Judah
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.”

These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:

 

“Thus says the Lord:

We have heard a cry of panic,

of terror, and no peace.

Ask now, and see,

can a man bear a child?

Why then do I see every man

with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor?

Why has every face turned pale?

Alas! That day is so great

there is none like it;

it is a time of distress for Jacob;

yet he shall be saved out of it.

 

“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

 

“Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord,

nor be dismayed, O Israel;

for behold, I will save you from far away,

and your offspring from the land of their captivity.

Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,

and none shall make him afraid.

For I am with you to save you,

declares the Lord;

I will make a full end of all the nations

among whom I scattered you,

but of you I will not make a full end.

I will discipline you in just measure,

and I will by no means leave you unpunished.

 

“For thus says the Lord:

Your hurt is incurable,

and your wound is grievous.

There is none to uphold your cause,

no medicine for your wound,

no healing for you.

All your lovers have forgotten you;

they care nothing for you;

for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy,

the punishment of a merciless foe,

because your guilt is great,

because your sins are flagrant.

Why do you cry out over your hurt?

Your pain is incurable.

Because your guilt is great,

because your sins are flagrant,

I have done these things to you.

Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured,

and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity;

those who plunder you shall be plundered,

and all who prey on you I will make a prey.

For I will restore health to you,

and your wounds I will heal,

declares the Lord,

because they have called you an outcast:

‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares!’

 

“Thus says the Lord:

Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob

and have compassion on his dwellings;

the city shall be rebuilt on its mound,

and the palace shall stand where it used to be.

Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,

and the voices of those who celebrate.

I will multiply them, and they shall not be few;

I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.

Their children shall be as they were of old,

and their congregation shall be established before me,

and I will punish all who oppress them.

Their prince shall be one of themselves;

their ruler shall come out from their midst;

I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me,

for who would dare of himself to approach me?

declares the Lord.

And you shall be my people,

and I will be your God.”

 

Behold the storm of the Lord!

Wrath has gone forth,

a whirling tempest;

it will burst upon the head of the wicked.

The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back

until he has executed and accomplished

the intentions of his mind.

In the latter days you will understand this.

 

The Lord Will Turn Mourning to Joy

“At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”

 

Thus says the Lord:

“The people who survived the sword

found grace in the wilderness;

when Israel sought for rest,

the Lord appeared to him from far away.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;

therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Again I will build you, and you shall be built,

O virgin Israel!

Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines

and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.

Again you shall plant vineyards

on the mountains of Samaria;

the planters shall plant

and shall enjoy the fruit.

For there shall be a day when watchmen will call

in the hill country of Ephraim:

‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,

to the Lord our God.’”

 

For thus says the Lord:

“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,

and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;

proclaim, give praise, and say,

‘O Lord, save your people,

the remnant of Israel.’

Behold, I will bring them from the north country

and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,

among them the blind and the lame,

the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;

a great company, they shall return here.

With weeping they shall come,

and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,

I will make them walk by brooks of water,

in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,

for I am a father to Israel,

and Ephraim is my firstborn.

 

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,

and declare it in the coastlands far away;

say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,

and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’

For the Lord has ransomed Jacob

and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,

and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,

over the grain, the wine, and the oil,

and over the young of the flock and the herd;

their life shall be like a watered garden,

and they shall languish no more.

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,

and the young men and the old shall be merry.

I will turn their mourning into joy;

I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,

and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,

declares the Lord.”

 

Thus says the Lord:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,

lamentation and bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping for her children;

she refuses to be comforted for her children,

because they are no more.”

 

Thus says the Lord:

“Keep your voice from weeping,

and your eyes from tears,

for there is a reward for your work,

declares the Lord,

and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.

There is hope for your future,

declares the Lord,

and your children shall come back to their own country.

I have heard Ephraim grieving,

‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined,

like an untrained calf;

bring me back that I may be restored,

for you are the Lord my God.

For after I had turned away, I relented,

and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh;

I was ashamed, and I was confounded,

because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’

Is Ephraim my dear son?

Is he my darling child?

For as often as I speak against him,

I do remember him still.

Therefore my heart yearns for him;

I will surely have mercy on him,

declares the Lord.

 

“Set up road markers for yourself;

make yourself guideposts;

consider well the highway,

the road by which you went.

Return, O virgin Israel,

return to these your cities.

How long will you waver,

O faithless daughter?

For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth:

a woman encircles a man.”

 

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes:

 

“‘The Lord bless you, O habitation of righteousness,

O holy hill!’

 

And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”

At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say:

 

“‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,

and the children's teeth are set on edge.’

 

But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

The New Covenant
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 

Thus says the Lord,

who gives the sun for light by day

and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,

who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—

the Lord of hosts is his name:

“If this fixed order departs

from before me, declares the Lord,

then shall the offspring of Israel cease

from being a nation before me forever.”

 

Thus says the Lord:

“If the heavens above can be measured,

and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,

then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel

for all that they have done,

declares the Lord.”

 

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”