"But they say, ‘It is no use! We will follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of our evil will.’
Therefore thus says the Lord:
Ask among the nations:
Who has heard the like of this?
The virgin Israel has done
a most horrible thing.
Does the snow of Lebanon leave
the crags of Sirion?
Do the mountain waters run dry,
the cold flowing streams?
But my people have forgotten me,
they burn offerings to a delusion;
they have stumbled in their ways,
in the ancient roads,
and have gone into bypaths,
not the highway,
making their land a horror,
a thing to be hissed at forever.
All who pass by it are horrified
and shake their heads.
Like the wind from the east,
I will scatter them before the enemy.
I will show them my back, not my face,
in the day of their calamity.
Then they said, ‘Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah—for instruction shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us bring charges against him, and let us not heed any of his words.’
Give heed to me, O Lord,
and listen to what my adversaries say!
Is evil a recompense for good?
Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
Remember how I stood before you
to speak good for them,
to turn away your wrath from them.
Therefore give their children over to famine;
hurl them out to the power of the sword,
let their wives become childless and widowed.
May their men meet death by pestilence,
their youths be slain by the sword in battle.
May a cry be heard from their houses,
when you bring the marauder suddenly upon them!
For they have dug a pit to catch me,
and laid snares for my feet.
Yet you, O Lord, know
all their plotting to kill me.
Do not forgive their iniquity,
do not blot out their sin from your sight.
Let them be tripped up before you;
deal with them while you are angry" (Jeremiah 18:13-23).
This is a sort of "call and response" between the prophet and the "people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (v. 11). Jeremiah, speaking for the Lord, warns them that they must amend their evil ways to return to divine favor. They decide to ignore the prophet and "follow our own plans." Verses 13-17 are the Lord's commentary (through the prophet) on their collective decision: In following their own plans, they "have gone into byways, not the highway." In response the people decide, in verse 18, to "make plots against Jeremiah" and ignore his words.
Interestingly, in verses 19 through 23 Jeremiah is not speaking for the Lord, but from his own human consciousness. He's angry and offended, so the spiritual Truth is harder to define. But it's essentially a repetition of the earlier verses. Bottom line: Choices have consequences, and their consequences are going to be painful indeed.
Metaphysically, I see this passage as a dialogue between my own mortal mind and the perspective of Spirit that is my essential Truth. Like the people opposing the prophet, my mortal mind is always sure it knows best, busy with plans and ideas on how to move through this human experience. Spirit does not blame or punish; it simply notes that I'm choosing to wander "into byways" instead of staying on the clear and easy highway available through trusting the guidance of Spirit.