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20
Israel Has Refused God
1It was the seventh year, in the fifth month of our captivity. It was the tenth day of the month. Some of the elders of Israel came to ask about the Lord. They sat down before me.
2The Lord spoke his word to me. He said: 3“Human being, speak to the elders of Israel. Say to them: ‘This is what the Lord God says: Did you come to ask me questions? As surely as I live, I will not let you ask me questions.’
4“Will you judge them? Will you judge them, human being? Let them know the hated things their fathers did. 5Say to them: ‘This is what the Lord God says: I chose Israel and made a promise to the descendants of Jacob. At that time I made myself known to them in Egypt. I promised them, “I am the Lord your God.” 6At that time I promised them I would bring them out of Egypt. I promised to bring them into a land I had chosen for them. This is a land where much food grows. It is the best of all lands. 7I said to them, “Each one of you must throw away the hateful idols you have set your eyes on. Don’t make yourselves unclean with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
8“‘But they turned against me and refused to listen to me. They did not throw away the hated idols which they saw and liked. They did not leave the idols of Egypt. Then I decided to pour out my anger against them in the land of Egypt. 9But I acted to show who I am. I did not allow myself to be dishonored before the nations where the Israelites lived. I made myself known to the Israelites. I did this by bringing them out of Egypt while the nations were watching. 10So I took them out of Egypt and brought them into the desert. 11I gave them my rules. I told them about my laws. If a person obeys them, he will live. 12I also gave them my Sabbaths. They were to be a sign between us. Then they would know that I am the Lord. I make them holy.
13“‘But in the desert Israel turned against me. They did not follow my rules. They rejected my laws. But if a person obeys them, he will live. They dishonored my Sabbaths. Then I decided to pour out my anger against them and destroy them in the desert. 14But I acted for the sake of my name. I did not allow it to be dishonored before the nations. As the nations watched, I had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. 15But in the desert I had to make another promise to the Israelites. I had to promise I would not bring them into the land I had given them. It is a land where much food grows. It is the best of all the lands. 16This is because they rejected my laws. They did not follow my rules. They dishonored my Sabbaths. They would rather worship their idols. 17But I had pity on them. I did not destroy them. I did not put an end to them in the desert. 18I said to their children in the desert, “Don’t live by the rules of your fathers. Don’t obey their laws. Don’t make yourselves unclean with their idols. 19I am the Lord your God. Live by my rules. Obey my laws and do them. 20Keep my Sabbaths holy. They will be a sign between me and you. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
21“‘But the people turned against me. If a person obeys my laws, he will live. But they did not live by my rules. They were not careful to obey my laws. They dishonored my Sabbaths. So I decided to pour out my anger against them. I decided to carry out my anger against them in the desert. 22But I held back my anger. I acted for the sake of my name. Then my name would not be dishonored with the nations watching. As the nations watched, I had brought the Israelites out from Egypt. 23Also in the desert I had to make a promise to the Israelites. I had to promise to scatter them among the nations and spread them among the countries. 24This is because they did not obey my laws. They had rejected my rules and dishonored my Sabbaths. And they worshiped the idols of their ancestors. 25I also allowed them to follow rules that were not good. And they followed laws by which they could not live. 26I let the Israelites make themselves unclean by the gifts they brought to their false gods. They sacrificed their oldest children in the fire. This is how I shocked them so they would know that I am the Lord.’
27“So, human being, speak to the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: Your ancestors spoke against me by being unfaithful to me in this way: 28I had brought them into the land I promised to give them. They saw every high hill and every leafy tree. There they offered their sacrifices to false gods. They brought offerings that made me angry. There, also, they burned their incense. There they poured out their drink offerings. 29Then I said to them: What is this place where you go to worship false gods?’” (It is still called High Place today.)
30“So say to the people of Israel: ‘This is what the Lord God says: Will you make yourselves unclean as your ancestors did? Will you be unfaithful and desire their hated idols? 31You offer your children as gifts to the false gods. You sacrifice them in the fire. You make yourselves unclean with all your idols even today. So, people of Israel, should I let you ask me questions? As surely as I live, says the Lord God, I will not accept questions from you.
32“‘What you want will not come true. You say, “We want to be like the other nations and the people in other lands. We want to worship idols made of wood and stone.” 33As surely as I live, says the Lord God, I will rule you. I will rule you with my great power and strength and anger. 34I will bring you out from the foreign nations. I will gather you from the lands where you are scattered. I will do this with my great power and strength and anger. 35I will bring you among the nations as I brought your ancestors into the desert with Moses. There I will judge you face to face. 36I will judge you the same way I judged your ancestors. That was in the desert of the land of Egypt. So I will judge you, says the Lord God. 37I will take control of you. I will punish you by my agreement. 38I will get rid of those who refuse to obey me and who turn against me. I will bring them out of the land where they are now living. But they will never enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
39“‘This is what the Lord God says: People of Israel, go serve your idols for now. But later you will listen to me. You will not continue to dishonor my holy name with your gifts and false gods. 40My holy mountain is the high mountain of Israel. There all Israel will serve me in the land, says the Lord God. There I will accept you. There I will look for your offerings. I will look for the first harvest of your offerings and all your holy gifts. 41I will accept you like a pleasing smell. This will happen when I bring you out from the foreign nations. It will take place when I gather you from the lands where you are scattered. Then through you I will show how holy I am. The nations will see it. 42When I bring you into the land of Israel, you will know that I am the Lord. I will bring you into the land I promised your ancestors. 43There you will remember everything you did that made you unclean. Then you will hate yourselves for all the evil things you have done. 44I will deal with you to show who I am. Then you will know I am the Lord, people of Israel. But it’s not because of your evil ways or unclean actions, says the Lord God.’”
45Now the Lord spoke his word to me. He said: 46“Human being, look toward the south. Prophesy against the south. Prophesy against the forest of the southern area. 47Say to that forest: ‘Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord God says: I am ready to start a fire in you. The fire will destroy all your green trees and all your dry trees. The flame that burns will not be put out. All the land from south to north will be burned by the fire. 48Then all the people will see that I, the Lord, have started the fire. It will not be put out.’”
49Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! The people are saying about me, ‘He is only telling stories.’”