The Word Made Fresh
1I was determined to stand at my post on the ramparts,
to watch to see what they will say to me,
and how they will respond to my complaint.
2But the LORD spoke to me
and told me to write a description of the visit on tablets
that can be read by a messenger.
3There is still a vision for the time to come.
It tells of the end, and it is true.
If it seems to linger, wait;
it will certainly happen without delay.
4Look at those who are proud –
they have a false spirit within them,
but those who are righteous live by faith.
5For wealth is a treacherous thing,
and those who are arrogant will not survive.
Their mouths are open as wide as Sheol.
Like death, they never have enough.
They capture other nations for themselves.
6Everyone should taunt such people with scorn, and say,
“Woe to those who collect what doesn’t belong to them.”
How long will you keep doing such things?
7Don’t you know your creditors will rise up;
that the very ones you fear the most will awaken?
Then you will be the victims!
8Because you have robbed many nations,
the ones that survive will take from you
because of the bloodshed and violence on the earth.
Your cities and all their inhabitants will suffer.
9“Woe to you who amass wealth through your wickedness,
and think you are above harm’s reach!”
10Shame will come down on your house
because you have injured so many.
Don’t you realize your very life is forfeit?
11The stones in your walls will cry out,
echoed by the wooden beams.
12“Woe to you who build a city with bloodshed,
and establish a city based on your sinfulness.”
13Isn’t it from the LORD Almighty
that people labor, only to provide fuel for the flames,
and nations wear themselves out for nothing?
14But the world will be filled with knowledge of the LORD’s glory,
as certain as the waters fill the seas.
15“Woe to those who force your neighbors
to drink your poison until they are drunk,
just so you can enjoy staring at their nudity!”
16You will be full of shame, not glory.
You yourself will stagger with drunkenness.
The cup in the LORD’s right hand will come to you,
and your glory will be covered with shame.
17You will be devastated by the violence you have done to Lebanon.
You will be terrified at the slaughter of animals.
Bloodshed and violence to cities and people will frighten you.
18What good is an idol, since a man has shaped it.
It is nothing more than a lying cast image.
Its maker trusts in what he has made,
even though it is only an idol that can’t speak.
19Woe to you who try to awaken a wooden idol, or arouse a silent stone.
It can’t speak! Look at it – it is gold plated and inlaid with silver.
There is no breath in it at all.
20But the LORD is in the holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before God!
1: The prophet waits for God’s response.
2-5: God replies that although justice seems slow, it is thorough. Injustice has a way of bringing about its own destruction in time. Meanwhile, the righteous keep the faith, a phrase quoted by Paul (Romans 1:17), while the unjust take advantage of the weak and poor.
6-8: The remainder of the chapter is a series of five statements that the prophet believes will one day be said against those who have perverted the law for their own gain at the expense of others, each statement beginning with the words, “Alas for you…” This first one accuses them of heaping up riches for themselves and points out that the day will come when they will be treated as they have treated others.
9-11: The second “alas” accuses them of building up their own house (family) at the expense of others, denounces them for setting themselves above others and warns that their deceitfulness will someday be published. If need be, “The very stones will cry out” — a phrase used on at least one occasion by Jesus (Luke 19:40).
12-14: The third “alas” continues to widen the circle of their crimes; now they have cheated others so that they can build and own an entire town or city.
15-17: The fourth “alas” expands the charge even further, from “neighbors” in verse 15 to “cities” in verse 17.
18-19: Now we get down to it: the real problem is that these people worship other gods than the LORD. Alas to them because the gods they worship are no gods.
20: They have forgotten that the LORD is present in the city.
We cannot make a “god.” And when we worship anything or anyone other than God, we expose ourselves to reap the consequences.