The Word Made Fresh
1The LORD told me, “Go and purchase a linen undergarment and put it on, but don’t wash it in water.” 2So, I bought it as the LORD said, and put it on. 3And the LORD’s word came to me again: 4“Wear the undergarment you purchased and go to Perath and hide it in a crevice in the rock.” 5So, I went and hid it in Perath as the LORD had instructed. 6Many days later the LORD said, “Go to Perath and take the garment I told you to hide there.” 7I went to Perath and dug up the under-garment from the place where I had hidden it, but it was ruined and good for nothing.
8Then the LORD’s word came to me: 9“The LORD says, in the same way I will ruin Judah’s pride and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10This wicked people who refuse to listen to me and stubbornly do whatever they wish, following and serving and worshiping other gods, will be like this undergarment which is good for nothing. 11Just as the undergarment clings to your skin, I made all of Israel and Judah cling to me, says the LORD, so that they might yet be my own people in name and in praise and glory. But they wouldn’t listen.”
12Tell them the LORD, the God of Israel, says this: “Every wine jug should be full of wine.” They will say, “Do you think we don’t know this?” 13Then you will respond, the LORD says, “I am about to make everyone in this land drunk – from the king who sits on David’s throne, to the priests and prophets and all those who live in Jerusalem. 14I will throw them against each other, both parents and children,” says the LORD, “without pity or compassion, and none of them will be spared when I destroy them.”
15Listen and learn. Don’t be proud, for the LORD has spoken.
16Praise the LORD your God before the darkness comes
and your feet stumble on the mountains at dusk.
While you search for light, God turns it into deep darkness.
17But if you refuse to listen,
my soul will quietly weep because of your pride.
My eyes will run with bitter tears
because the LORD’s flock will have been taken captive.
18Tell the king and the queen mother,
“Come down from the throne, for
your beautiful crown has been taken from your head.”
19The villages in the Negeb are closed in with no one to open them.
Everyone in Judah has been taken into exile far away.
20Look up and see them coming from the north and ask,
“Where is the beautiful flock that was given to you?”
21How will you respond when they set your former allies
over you as your head?
Won’t you be overwhelmed with pain,
like that of a woman in labor?
22And if you ask why these things have happened to you,
know that it is for the great extent of your foolishness –
your skirt has been raised and you are being raped.
23Can Cushites from Ethiopia change the color of their skin?
Can leopards rearrange their spots?
Then you, too, who are familiar with doing evil
would be able to do good as well.
24But I will scatter you like dust driven by desert winds.
25This is your fate, says the LORD.
This is what I have planned for you
because you forgot me and trusted lies.
26I will be the one to lift your skirts up over your face
so that your shame will be seen.
27For I have seen your filthiness,
your adultery and grunting like shameless prostitutes
on the hills in the countryside.
Woe to you, Jerusalem!
How long will it take to make you clean?
1-7: God tells Jeremiah to buy a new undergarment and wear it, but not to wash it. Then God tells him to bury it in the cleft of a rock near a body of water. There is much debate over whether or not the word he uses, “Perath,” is meant to refer to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia or to another stream near Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth. The problem is that the Euphrates is some 400 miles away from Jerusalem. In any case, God is up to something because, after the loin cloth is left for a while, God tells him to dig it up and he finds it damaged beyond repair.
8-11: An explanation is given. The loincloth represents Israel, once close to God like an article of clothing, but now worthless.
12-14: Another example is given by God, this one a bit more obscure, but obviously leading to a similar conclusion; God is going to punish them for their “drunkenness” in following the pagan gods known as the Baals.
15-19: Jeremiah pleads with the people to turn back to God, but he is driven to tears as he sees a vision of the people being taken captive.
20-27: Once again he sees the terror from the north overtaking them and humiliating them before the nations. God has judged that they are so attuned to the worship of idols that they are no more able now to keep their covenant with God than a leopard can change its spots.
When we go through times of trouble, it may be helpful to examine ourselves in terms of how well we have followed God’s guidance. A correction of attitude may be the quickest and surest rescue.