Things Get Weird.

Thus says the Lord to me, “Go and buy a linen loincloth and put it around your waist, and do not dip it in water.” So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist. And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, “Take the loincloth that you have bought, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. And after many days the Lord said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled; it was good for nothing.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

“You shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Every jar shall be filled with wine.”’ And they will say to you, ‘Do we not indeed know that every jar will be filled with wine?’ Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will fill with drunkenness all the inhabitants of this land: the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will dash them one against another, fathers and sons together, declares the Lord. I will not pity or spare or have compassion, that I should not destroy them.’” –  Jeremiah 13:1-14 NLT

As if things weren’t already bad enough for Jeremiah, now God commands him to do something pretty bizarre, and it will be the first of a series of strange directives given to him by God. Jeremiah is told to buy a linen loincloth and put it on. Now, this is odd enough just from the standpoint that God is telling Jeremiah what to wear, but it nature of the item of clothing that makes this particularly odd. The Hebrew word is ‘ezowr and it referred to a “waist-cloth, the innermost piece of clothing” (“H232 – ‘ezowr – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It has been rendered a number of different ways by various Bible translation, including “girdle”, “waistband”, “waistcloth”, “sash”, “belt”, and “loincloth”. The bottom line was that was a personal piece of clothing, an undergarment as we might say. It was worn close to the skin and out of sight from anyone else’s view. It was an intimate, personal piece of clothing. And God has Jeremiah purchase a new linen loincloth and wear it. Then, Jeremiah was instructed to “go to the Euphrates and hide it there in a cleft of the rock” (Jeremiah 13:4 ESV). There has been much debate over the years as to exactly where Jeremiah was instructed by God to hide the garment. The issue is the Hebrew word Pĕrath, which is translated here as “Euphrates”, and refers to the great river that flowed through the land of Babylon. If this is where God told Jeremiah to hide the loincloth, it would have required a 700-mile, round-trip journey to accomplish the task. And Jeremiah would have been required to make that long trek twice. Others believe that the word, “Perath” actually refers to a place known as Parah, not far from Jeremiah’s hometown. Regardless of where Jeremiah ended up going, he was told to hide the loincloth. And the important thing to note is that nowhere in all of this strange exchange between Jeremiah and God, did the prophet ever question the wisdom or instructions of God. He just did what he was told. And some time later, after the linen loincloth had had time to succumb to the elements, God instructed Jeremiah to go back and retrieve it. When he did, he discovered that it was ruined. The text tells us the garment was “was spoiled; it was good for nothing” (Jeremiah 13:7 ESV). The delicate fabric had rotted and decayed. The garment was useless. And that was God’s whole point.

“This shows how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem. These wicked people refuse to listen to me. They stubbornly follow their own desires and worship other gods. Therefore, they will become like this loincloth—good for nothing!” – Jeremiah 13:9-10 NLT

Talk about an object lesson. This one spoke volumes. This intimate, highly personal garment, which Jeremiah had worn next to his own body, was now ruined, unrecognizable and completely worthless. It would no longer serve the original purpose for which it was created and bought. And God makes the connection quite clear.

“As a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me, says the Lord. They were to be my people, my pride, my glory—an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me.” – Jeremiah 13:11 NLT

The people of Israel and Judah, the Hebrews, had been God’s chosen possession. They had enjoyed a personal and intimate relationship with Him. Like no other nation on the planet, they had been graced with the undeserved status as God’s children. But they had squandered that relationship, turning their backs on the very one who had chosen them. And now, God was going to remove them and hide them in the cleft of the rock, by the river Euphrates. They were going to be conquered by the Babylonians and taken captive. There they would “rot” away, suffering as slaves and no longer enjoying their intimate relationship with God Almighty. All because they had refused to listen to God.

Next, God moves from talking about linen loincloths to jars of wine. God tells Jeremiah to instruct the people of Judah to fill their wine jars with wine. And, of course, God knew that the people would respond sarcastically that they knew the wine jars were meant to hold wine. In other words, they would reject God’s command as unnecessary. They knew better. But God tells them that they didn’t know anything at all. They were missing the point.

“No, this is what the Lord means: I will fill everyone in this land with drunkenness—from the king sitting on David’s throne to the priests and the prophets, right down to the common people of Jerusalem. I will smash them against each other, even parents against children, says the Lord. I will not let my pity or mercy or compassion keep me from destroying them.” – Jeremiah 13:13-14 NLT

God was going to fill His people with the wine of His wrath. Just as wine jars were meant to hold wine, His people had shown that they were meant to hold His judgment. They would become like staggering drunks, inflicting harm on one another. And while God would still have compassion on them, He was not going to let it hinder His justice. They were not going to get away with their behavior. Their rebellion would be dealt with, once and for all. And the saddest part of it all, was that they had willingly given up their intimate connection with God and sacrificed their position as His chosen people, in exchange for idolatry and autonomy. Rather than submit to His will, they had chosen to live according to their own. Unwilling to accept the role He had chosen for them, they had decided to do things their way, and the result would be their own destruction. Like a ruined, worthless loincloth, they would lose their significance and value.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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