1 On the tenth day of the fifth month some of Israel's leaders came to me. That was in the seventh year that we had been prisoners in Babylon. The leaders sat in front of me. They wanted me to ask for a message from the Lord.
20:1The 5th month is July to August in our calendar.
2 Then the Lord gave this message to me: 3 ‘Son of man, speak to the leaders of Israel. Tell them, “This is what the Almighty Lord says: You say that you want a message from me. I promise you this, as surely as I live: I will not allow you to come to me like that.”
4 Son of man, you must warn them. Are you ready to do that? Make them remember all the disgusting things that their ancestors did.
5 Say to them, “This is what the Almighty Lord says: On the day that I chose Israel's people to belong to me, I made a promise to all Jacob's descendants. In the land of Egypt, I showed them who I am. I promised them, ‘I am the Lord your God.’ 6 On that day, I promised them that I would bring them out of Egypt. I promised to take them to a land that I had chosen for them. That land would give them plenty of good food and drink, enough for everyone. It was more beautiful than any other land. 7 I said to them, ‘You must each destroy the disgusting idols that you worship. Those are the idols of Egypt and they cause you to be unclean. Remember that I am the Lord your God.’
20:5God gave Jacob the new name ‘Israel’. So Israel's people are Jacob's descendants.
8 But your ancestors did not obey me. They refused to listen to me. None of them destroyed their disgusting idols. They continued to worship the idols of Egypt. So I decided to show them that I was very angry. I said that I would punish them there in Egypt. 9 But I did not want the people of other nations to insult my name. I had promised Israel's people that I would bring them out of Egypt. The nations near where the Israelites were living knew this. 10 So I brought my people out of Egypt. I led them into the wilderness. 11 I gave them my laws and my commands. Anyone who obeyed them would enjoy a good life. 12 I also gave them Sabbath days when they would rest. It would help them to remember that they belong to me. They would know that I, the Lord, have made them my holy people.
13 But when Israel's people were in the wilderness, they turned against me. They did not obey my laws or my commands. (But anyone who did obey them would enjoy a good life.) They did not obey my rules for Sabbath days. So I was very angry with them. I decided to destroy them there in the wilderness. 14 But I did not want the people of other nations to insult my name. They had seen me bring Israel's people out of Egypt. 15 So I made a strong promise to my people in the wilderness. I said that I would not take them to the land that I had chosen for them. It was a very beautiful land with plenty of food and drink for everyone. 16 I refused to take them there because they had not obeyed my laws and my commands. They did not obey my rules for Sabbath says. Instead, they liked to worship their idols. 17 But I chose to be kind to them. I did not completely destroy them in the wilderness.
18 I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not live in the bad way that your fathers did. Do not obey their rules. Do not worship their idols and make yourselves unclean. 19 Remember that I am the Lord your God. So be careful to obey my laws and my commands. 20 Make Sabbath days special to show that you belong to me. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’
21 But their children also turned against me. They were not careful to obey my laws and my commands. (But anyone who obeyed them would enjoy a good life.) They did not obey my rules about Sabbath days. So I was very angry with them. I was ready to destroy them there in the wilderness. 22 But I did not want the people of other nations to insult my name. They had seen me bring Israel's people out of Egypt. So I could not destroy my people. 23 There in the wilderness I made a strong promise to them. I promised to send them to many different places where they would live among other nations. 24 This was because they had not obeyed my laws and my commands. They had not obeyed my rules about Sabbath days. Instead, they worshipped the same idols that their ancestors worshipped. 25 So I let them obey rules that were not good. They were laws that would not help them to enjoy a good life. 26 I let them make themselves unclean because of the offerings that they made. They burned their firstborn children in fire as sacrifices. I did that to make them afraid. I wanted them to know that I am the Lord.”
27 So, son of man, you must speak to Israel's people. Tell them, “This is what the Almighty Lord says: Your ancestors insulted me when they did not serve me faithfully. 28 I took them to the land which I had promised to give to them. But when they were there, they continued to offer sacrifices to idols. They did this on every high hill or under every green tree that they saw! They burned sweet incense and they poured out wine as offerings in all those places. That made me very angry. 29 I asked them, ‘Why do you go to these high places?’ ” (That is why people still call them “high places”.)
30 So say this to Israel's people. “This is what the Almighty Lord says: Will you continue to make yourselves unclean in the way that your ancestors did? You are not faithful to me. Instead, you worship disgusting idols. 31 You make yourselves unclean when you offer sacrifices to your idols. You burn your sons in fire as offerings. You still continue to do that! So should I allow you to come to me for help? I promise you this, as surely as I live: I will not allow you to come to me! That is what the Almighty Lord says.
32 You think, ‘We want to live like the people of other nations and clans. They worship idols that are made from wood and stone.’ But these thoughts will never happen. 33 The Almighty Lord says, I promise you this, as surely as I live: I will use my great power and authority to rule you as your King. You will know how angry I am! 34 I will bring you back from the nations where I sent you to live. I will bring you back from all those different places. I will use my great power to do this and you will know that I am very angry with you. 35 I will bring you to a wilderness with other nations all around it. I will meet with you there and I will show that you are guilty. 36 I judged your fathers in the wilderness when they came out of Egypt. I will punish you in the same way. That is what the Almighty Lord says.
37 I will count you one by one, as a shepherd counts his sheep. I will cause you to obey the rules of my covenant with you. 38 I will remove from among you those who refuse to obey me. I will bring them out from the country where they have been living. But they will not go into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
39 Israel's people, this is what the Almighty Lord says to you: Now, every one of you, go to serve your idols! But after that, you will listen to me. You will no longer insult my holy name. You will no longer give gifts to your idols. 40 All of Israel's people will serve me on my holy mountain, Israel's great mountain. There I will accept them as my people. That is what the Almighty Lord says. I will receive your offerings, your gifts and all your holy sacrifices. 41 I will bring you home from the nations and all the places where you have been living. Then I will welcome you, like sweet incense that pleases me. When I am among you, I will show all the other nations that I am holy. 42 I will bring you into the land of Israel. That is the land that I promised to give to your ancestors. Then you will know that I am the Lord. 43 You will remember all the wrong things that you did which made you unclean. You will be ashamed of yourselves because of all the evil things that you have done. 44 At that time, I will help you. I will not punish you as you deserve for your wicked and evil acts. Instead, I will do things that bring honour to my name. Then, Israel's people, you will know that I am the Lord. That is what the Almighty Lord says.” ’
A message about the south of Israel
45 The Lord gave this message to me: 46 ‘Son of man, look towards the south. Speak my message to the people there. Warn the forests in the dry land of the south. 47 Say to those forests, “Listen to this message from the Lord. This is what the Almighty Lord says: Listen! I will start a fire to burn you. The fire will destroy all the green trees and all the dry trees. Nobody will be able to stop that fire. From the dry land in the south, all the way to the north, the fire will burn everything. 48 Everyone will see that I, the Lord, started the fire. Nobody will be able to stop it burning.” ’
20:48Chapter 21 explains the meaning of this picture of a strong fire.
49 Then I said, ‘Almighty Lord, “The people are already saying that my stories make them confused.” ’