Passage: Jeremiah 3, 4 (RSV)

Jeremiah 3

1"If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man's wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted? You have played the harlot with many lovers; and would you return to me? says the LORD.
2Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see! Where have you not been lain with? By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers like an Arab in the wilderness. You have polluted the land with your vile harlotry.
3Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have a harlot's brow, you refuse to be ashamed.
4Have you not just now called to me, `My father, thou art the friend of my youth --
5will he be angry for ever, will he be indignant to the end?' Behold, you have spoken, but you have done all the evil that you could."
6The LORD said to me in the days of King Josi'ah: "Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the harlot?
7And I thought, `After she has done all this she will return to me'; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it.
8She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the harlot.
9Because harlotry was so light to her, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.
10Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, says the LORD."
11And the LORD said to me, "Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah.
12Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, `Return, faithless Israel, says the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, says the LORD; I will not be angry for ever.
13Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, says the LORD.
14Return, O faithless children, says the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.
15"`And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
16And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, they shall no more say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD." It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; it shall not be made again.
17At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.
18In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your fathers for a heritage.
19"`I thought how I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beauteous of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me.
20Surely, as a faithless wife leaves her husband, so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel, says the LORD.'"
21A voice on the bare heights is heard, the weeping and pleading of Israel's sons, because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten the LORD their God.
22"Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness." "Behold, we come to thee; for thou art the LORD our God.
23Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.
24"But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our fathers labored, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.
25Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us; for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God."

Jeremiah 4

1"If you return, O Israel, says the LORD, to me you should return. If you remove your abominations from my presence, and do not waver,
2and if you swear, `As the LORD lives,' in truth, in justice, and in uprightness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory."
3For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
4Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your doings."
5Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say, "Blow the trumpet through the land; cry aloud and say, `Assemble, and let us go into the fortified cities!'
6Raise a standard toward Zion, flee for safety, stay not, for I bring evil from the north, and great destruction.
7A lion has gone up from his thicket, a destroyer of nations has set out; he has gone forth from his place to make your land a waste; your cities will be ruins without inhabitant.
8For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and wail; for the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned back from us."
9"In that day, says the LORD, courage shall fail both king and princes; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded."
10Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD, surely thou hast utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, `It shall be well with you'; whereas the sword has reached their very life."
11At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, "A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse,
12a wind too full for this comes for me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them."
13Behold, he comes up like clouds, his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles -- woe to us, for we are ruined!
14O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?
15For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims evil from Mount E'phraim.
16Warn the nations that he is coming; announce to Jerusalem, "Besiegers come from a distant land; they shout against the cities of Judah.
17Like keepers of a field are they against her round about, because she has rebelled against me, says the LORD.
18Your ways and your doings have brought this upon you. This is your doom, and it is bitter; it has reached your very heart."
19My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
20Disaster follows hard on disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment.
21How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
22"For my people are foolish, they know me not; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but how to do good they know not."
23I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.
25I looked, and lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled.
26I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
27For thus says the LORD, "The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
28For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back."
29At the noise of horseman and archer every city takes to flight; they enter thickets; they climb among rocks; all the cities are forsaken, and no man dwells in them.
30And you, O desolate one, what do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint? In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.
31For I heard a cry as of a woman in travail, anguish as of one bringing forth her first child, the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, "Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers."

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