13 Saul was a young man when he began as king. He was king over Israel for many years.
2 Saul conscripted enough men for three companies of soldiers. He kept two companies under his command at Micmash and in the Bethel hills. The other company was under Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. He sent the rest of the men home.
3-4 Jonathan attacked and killed the Philistine governor stationed at Geba (Gibeah). When the Philistines heard the news, they raised the alarm: “The Hebrews are in revolt!” Saul ordered the reveille trumpets blown throughout the land. The word went out all over Israel, “Saul has killed the Philistine governor—drawn first blood! The Philistines are stirred up and mad as hornets!” Summoned, the army came to Saul at Gilgal.
5 The Philistines rallied their forces to fight Israel: three companies of chariots, six companies of cavalry, and so many infantry they looked like sand on the seashore. They went up into the hills and set up camp at Micmash, east of Beth Aven.
6-7 When the Israelites saw that they were way outnumbered and in deep trouble, they ran for cover, hiding in caves and pits, ravines and brambles and cisterns—wherever. They retreated across the Jordan River, refugees fleeing to the country of Gad and Gilead. But Saul held his ground in Gilgal, his soldiers still with him but scared to death.
8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel. Samuel failed to show up at Gilgal, and the soldiers were slipping away, right and left.
9-10 So Saul took charge: “Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!” He went ahead and sacrificed the burnt offering. No sooner had he done it than Samuel showed up! Saul greeted him.
11-12 Samuel said, “What on earth are you doing?”
Saul answered, “When I saw I was losing my army from under me, and that you hadn’t come when you said you would, and that the Philistines were poised at Micmash, I said, ‘The Philistines are about to come down on me in Gilgal, and I haven’t yet come before God asking for his help.’ So I took things into my own hands, and sacrificed the burnt offering.”
13-14 “That was a fool thing to do,” Samuel said to Saul. “If you had kept the appointment that your God commanded, by now God would have set a firm and lasting foundation under your kingly rule over Israel. As it is, your kingly rule is already falling to pieces. God is out looking for your replacement right now. This time he’ll do the choosing. When he finds him, he’ll appoint him leader of his people. And all because you didn’t keep your appointment with God!”
15 At that, Samuel got up and left Gilgal. What army there was left followed Saul into battle. They went into the hills from Gilgal toward Gibeah in Benjamin. Saul looked over and assessed the soldiers still with him—a mere six hundred!
16-18 Saul, his son Jonathan, and the soldiers who had remained made camp at Geba (Gibeah) of Benjamin. The Philistines were camped at Micmash. Three squads of raiding parties were regularly sent out from the Philistine camp. One squadron was assigned to the Ophrah road going toward Shual country; another was assigned to the Beth Horon road; the third took the border road that rimmed the Valley of Hyenas.
19-22 There wasn’t a blacksmith to be found anywhere in Israel. The Philistines made sure of that—“Lest those Hebrews start making swords and spears.” That meant that the Israelites had to go down among the Philistines to keep their farm tools—plowshares and mattocks, axes and sickles—sharp and in good repair. They charged a silver coin for the plowshares and mattocks, and half that for the rest. So when the battle of Micmash was joined, there wasn’t a sword or spear to be found anywhere in Israel—except for Saul and his son Jonathan; they were both well-armed.
23 A patrol of Philistines took up a position at Micmash Pass.
11 1-2 Does this mean, then, that God is so fed up with Israel that he’ll have nothing more to do with them? Hardly. Remember that I, the one writing these things, am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham out of the tribe of Benjamin. You can’t get much more Semitic than that! So we’re not talking about repudiation. God has been too long involved with Israel, has too much invested, to simply wash his hands of them.
2-6 Do you remember that time Elijah was agonizing over this same Israel and cried out in prayer?
God, they murdered your prophets,
They trashed your altars;
I’m the only one left and now they’re after me!
And do you remember God’s answer?
I still have seven thousand who haven’t quit,
Seven thousand who are loyal to the finish.
It’s the same today. There’s a fiercely loyal minority still—not many, perhaps, but probably more than you think. They’re holding on, not because of what they think they’re going to get out of it, but because they’re convinced of God’s grace and purpose in choosing them. If they were only thinking of their own immediate self-interest, they would have left long ago.
7-10 And then what happened? Well, when Israel tried to be right with God on her own, pursuing her own self-interest, she didn’t succeed. The chosen ones of God were those who let God pursue his interest in them, and as a result received his stamp of legitimacy. The “self-interest Israel” became thick-skinned toward God. Moses and Isaiah both commented on this:
Fed up with their quarrelsome, self-centered ways,
God blurred their eyes and dulled their ears,
Shut them in on themselves in a hall of mirrors,
and they’re there to this day.
David was upset about the same thing:
I hope they get sick eating self-serving meals,
break a leg walking their self-serving ways.
I hope they go blind staring in their mirrors,
get ulcers from playing at god.
11-12 The next question is, “Are they down for the count? Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No. Ironically when they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in. But the next thing you know, the Jews were starting to wonder if perhaps they had walked out on a good thing. Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God’s kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!
13-15 But I don’t want to go on about them. It’s you, the outsiders, that I’m concerned with now. Because my personal assignment is focused on the so-called outsiders, I make as much of this as I can when I’m among my Israelite kin, the so-called insiders, hoping they’ll realize what they’re missing and want to get in on what God is doing. If their falling out initiated this worldwide coming together, their recovery is going to set off something even better: mass homecoming! If the first thing the Jews did, even though it was wrong for them, turned out for your good, just think what’s going to happen when they get it right!
16-18 Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to gloat over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.
19-20 It’s certainly possible to say, “Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!” Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you’re on the tree is because your graft “took” when you believed, and because you’re connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don’t get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe and green.
21-22 If God didn’t think twice about taking pruning shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you? He wouldn’t give it a second thought. Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God—ruthless with the deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don’t presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, it’s game over.
23-24 And don’t get to feeling superior to those pruned branches down on the ground. If they don’t persist in remaining deadwood, they could very well get grafted back in. God can do that. He can perform miracle grafts. Why, if he could graft you—branches cut from a tree out in the wild—into an orchard tree, he certainly isn’t going to have any trouble grafting branches back into the tree they grew from in the first place. Just be glad you’re in the tree, and hope for the best for the others.
25-29 I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what’s going on and arrogantly assume that you’re royalty and they’re just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that’s not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house. Before it’s all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written,
A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion;
he’ll clean house in Jacob.
And this is my commitment to my people:
removal of their sins.
From your point of view as you hear and embrace the good news of the Message, it looks like the Jews are God’s enemies. But looked at from the long-range perspective of God’s overall purpose, they remain God’s oldest friends. God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.
30-32 There was a time not so long ago when you were on the outs with God. But then the Jews slammed the door on him and things opened up for you. Now they are on the outs. But with the door held wide open for you, they have a way back in. In one way or another, God makes sure that we all experience what it means to be outside so that he can personally open the door and welcome us back in.
33-36 Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.
Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
50 1-3 The Message of God through the prophet Jeremiah on Babylon, land of the Chaldeans:
“Get the word out to the nations! Preach it!
Go public with this, broadcast it far and wide:
Babylon taken, god-Bel hanging his head in shame,
god-Marduk exposed as a fraud.
All her god-idols shuffling in shame,
all her play-gods exposed as cheap frauds.
For a nation will come out of the north to attack her,
reduce her cities to rubble.
Empty of life—no animals, no people—
not a sound, not a movement, not a breath.
4-5 “In those days, at that time”—God’s Decree—
“the people of Israel will come,
And the people of Judah with them.
Walking and weeping, they’ll seek me, their God.
They’ll ask directions to Zion
and set their faces toward Zion.
They’ll come and hold tight to God,
bound in a covenant eternal they’ll never forget.
6-7 “My people were lost sheep.
Their shepherds led them astray.
They abandoned them in the mountains
where they wandered aimless through the hills.
They lost track of home,
couldn’t remember where they came from.
Everyone who met them took advantage of them.
Their enemies had no qualms:
‘Fair game,’ they said. ‘They walked out on God.
They abandoned the True Pasture, the hope of their parents.’
8-10 “But now, get out of Babylon as fast as you can.
Be rid of that Babylonian country.
On your way. Good sheepdogs lead, but don’t you be led.
Lead the way home!
Do you see what I’m doing?
I’m rallying a host of nations against Babylon.
They’ll come out of the north,
attack and take her.
Oh, they know how to fight, these armies.
They never come home empty-handed.
Babylon is ripe for picking!
All her plunderers will fill their bellies!” God’s Decree.
11-16 “You Babylonians had a good time while it lasted, didn’t you?
You lived it up, exploiting and using my people,
Frisky calves romping in lush pastures,
wild stallions out having a good time!
Well, your mother would hardly be proud of you.
The woman who bore you wouldn’t be pleased.
Look at what’s come of you! A nothing nation!
Rubble and garbage and weeds!
Emptied of life by my holy anger,
a desert of death and emptiness.
Travelers who pass by Babylon will gasp, appalled,
shaking their heads at such a comedown.
Gang up on Babylon! Pin her down!
Throw everything you have against her.
Hold nothing back. Knock her flat.
She’s sinned—oh, how she’s sinned, against me!
Shout battle cries from every direction.
All the fight has gone out of her.
Her defenses have been flattened,
her walls smashed.
‘Operation God’s Vengeance.’
Pile on the vengeance!
Do to her as she has done.
Give her a good dose of her own medicine!
Destroy her farms and farmers,
ravage her fields, empty her barns.
And you captives, while the destruction rages,
get out while the getting’s good,
get out fast and run for home.
* * *
17 “Israel is a scattered flock,
hunted down by lions.
The king of Assyria started the carnage.
The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar,
Has completed the job,
gnawing the bones clean.”
18-20 And now this is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
the God of Israel, has to say:
“Just watch! I’m bringing doom on the king of Babylon and his land,
the same doom I brought on the king of Assyria.
But Israel I’ll bring home to good pastures.
He’ll graze on the hills of Carmel and Bashan,
On the slopes of Ephraim and Gilead.
He will eat to his heart’s content.
In those days and at that time”—God’s Decree—
“they’ll look high and low for a sign of Israel’s guilt—nothing;
Search nook and cranny for a trace of Judah’s sin—nothing.
These people that I’ve saved will start out with a clean slate.
* * *
21 “Attack Merathaim, land of rebels!
Go after Pekod, country of doom!
Hunt them down. Make a clean sweep.” God’s Decree.
“These are my orders. Do what I tell you.
22-24 “The thunderclap of battle
shakes the foundations!
The Hammer has been hammered,
smashed and splintered,
I set out a trap and you were caught in it.
O Babylon, you never knew what hit you,
Caught and held in the steel grip of that trap!
That’s what you get for taking on God.
25-28 “I, God, opened my arsenal.
I brought out my weapons of wrath.
The Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
has a job to do in Babylon.
Come at her from all sides!
Break into her granaries!
Shovel her into piles and burn her up.
Leave nothing! Leave no one!
Kill all her young turks.
Send them to their doom!
Doom to them! Yes, Doomsday!
The clock has finally run out on them.
And here’s a surprise:
Runaways and escapees from Babylon
Show up in Zion reporting the news of God’s vengeance,
taking vengeance for my own Temple.
29-30 “Call in the troops against Babylon,
anyone who can shoot straight!
Tighten the noose!
Leave no loopholes!
Give her back as good as she gave,
a dose of her own medicine!
Her brazen insolence is an outrage
against God, The Holy of Israel.
And now she pays: her young strewn dead in the streets,
her soldiers dead, silent forever.” God’s Decree.
31-32 “Do you get it, Mister Pride? I’m your enemy!”
Decree of the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
“Time’s run out on you:
That’s right: It’s Doomsday.
Mister Pride will fall flat on his face.
No one will offer him a hand.
I’ll set his towns on fire.
The fire will spread wild through the country.”
* * *
33-34 And here’s more from God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
“The people of Israel are beaten down,
the people of Judah along with them.
Their oppressors have them in a grip of steel.
They won’t let go.
But the Rescuer is strong:
Yes, I will take their side,
I’ll come to their rescue.
I’ll soothe their land,
but rough up the people of Babylon.
35-40 “It’s all-out war in Babylon”—God’s Decree—
“total war against people, leaders, and the wise!
War to the death on her boasting pretenders, fools one and all!
War to the death on her soldiers, cowards to a man!
War to the death on her hired killers, gutless wonders!
War to the death on her banks—looted!
War to the death on her water supply—drained dry!
A land of make-believe gods gone crazy—hobgoblins!
The place will be haunted with jackals and scorpions,
night-owls and vampire bats.
No one will ever live there again.
The land will reek with the stench of death.
It will join Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors,
the cities I did away with.” God’s Decree.
“No one will live there again.
No one will again draw breath in that land, ever.
* * *
41-43 “And now, watch this! People pouring
out of the north, hordes of people,
A mob of kings stirred up
from far-off places.
Flourishing deadly weapons,
barbarians they are, cruel and pitiless.
Roaring and relentless, like ocean breakers,
they come riding fierce stallions,
In battle formation, ready to fight
you, Daughter Babylon!
Babylon’s king hears them coming.
He goes white as a ghost, limp as a dishrag.
Terror-stricken, he doubles up in pain, helpless to fight,
like a woman giving birth to a baby.
44 “And now watch this: Like a lion coming up
from the thick jungle of the Jordan,
Looking for prey in the mountain pastures,
I’ll take over and pounce.
I’ll take my pick of the flock—and who’s to stop me?
All the so-called shepherds are helpless before me.”
45-46 So, listen to this plan that God has worked out against Babylon, the blueprint of what he’s prepared for dealing with Chaldea:
Believe it or not, the young,
the vulnerable—mere lambs and kids—will be dragged off.
Believe it or not, the flock
in shock, helpless to help, watches it happen.
When the shout goes up, “Babylon’s down!”
the very earth will shudder at the sound.
The news will be heard all over the world.
28 Don’t turn a deaf ear
when I call you, God.
If all I get from you is
I’d be better off
in the Black Hole.
2 I’m letting you know what I need,
calling out for help
And lifting my arms
toward your inner sanctuary.
3-4 Don’t shove me into
the same jail cell with those crooks,
With those who are
full-time employees of evil.
They talk a good line of “peace,”
then moonlight for the Devil.
Pay them back for what they’ve done,
for how bad they’ve been.
Pay them back for their long hours
in the Devil’s workshop;
Then cap it with a huge bonus.
5 Because they have no idea how God works
or what he is up to,
God will smash them to smithereens
and walk away from the ruins.
6-7 Blessed be God—
he heard me praying.
He proved he’s on my side;
I’ve thrown my lot in with him.
Now I’m jumping for joy,
and shouting and singing my thanks to him.
8-9 God is all strength for his people,
ample refuge for his chosen leader;
Save your people
and bless your heritage.
Care for them;
carry them like a good shepherd.
29 1-2 Bravo, God, bravo!
Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before the glory,
in awe before God’s visible power.
Stand at attention!
Dress your best to honor him!
3 God thunders across the waters,
Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
God, across the flood waters.
4 God’s thunder tympanic,
God’s thunder symphonic.
5 God’s thunder smashes cedars,
God topples the northern cedars.
6 The mountain ranges skip like spring colts,
The high ridges jump like wild kid goats.
7-8 God’s thunder spits fire.
God thunders, the wilderness quakes;
He makes the desert of Kadesh shake.
9 God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”
10 Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
from which his power flows,
from which he rules the world.
11 God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace.