People being led astray has been happening for centuries. What’s frightening is when, like in our reading today, the prophets claim to be sharing a message from God. Clearly, these prophets were lying and totally deceived if they believed what was coming out of their mouths. That was certainly not the message God wanted the people to hear!
The Bible warns us to expect false prophets. In Ezekiel 13, there are false prophets saying whatever they please. Just like in our reading today, these false prophets would face the punishment promised by God for their folly.
Have you ever lived through a drought? The situation can be quite dire for farmers who rely on the earth to produce an income. As an Iowa girl for many years, I witnessed firsthand how farmers waited with guarded anticipation each season, especially the dry ones. I’m sure there were lots of prayers for rain being prayed.
Judah’s drought sounds to be extremely severe. Running out of water is a concern even now for some areas of the world. Rivers are at all time lows, fires are burning out of control, and people find themselves rationing water. Living in an arid climate here in Mexico, we’re extra careful with our own water consumption and love rainy season (the season we are in as I write this). It’s literally pouring outside as I reflect about dry and parched lands! (I think that’s a “God wink” for me today!)
It’s inevitable. We are going to sin. But how far do we have to fall before we realize we need help? Are we as blind as God’s “flock” that we can’t see our own destruction happening before our eyes? Who do we blame for our predicaments? Don’t be in denial about your weaknesses as you read through this. Jeremiah tells us what we can do. “Give glory to the Lord your God before it is too late.”
When we read through Scripture, we shouldn’t just read the words but let them percolate a little and speak to our hearts. It’s easy for us to look at what’s happening in Jeremiah’s day and dismiss it as “just history.” But history does repeat itself as we’ve seen time and again. The situations may be different, but the motivations remain the same. People continue to be separated by God because of their sinfulness.
Don’t you love when God uses “real life” items to make his point? Jeremiah often tells vivid stories given by God to illustrate Judah’s destiny. But I’m not sure how many loincloths I’ve seen being used in my lifetime in areas of the world where I’ve been. It would have made a lot more sense to people in Jeremiah’s day. Linen belts would be intimate pieces of clothing, like underwear. Linen was used to make the priests’ robes so could be seen as “holy.” But the way God uses this illustration is stunning!
The message for us is not “be careful, linen doesn’t hold up too well if it’s buried in the ground.” What was the message you heard? God said to Jeremiah, “This shows how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem.” God is making a statement that Israel and Judah could be stronger but are not; and because they hide from God and do not keep themselves ‘clean’, they further weaken and will be ruined. Fun fact: linen gets stronger when wet, so when Jeremiah is told to not wash the garment, the linen is actually dry, its weakest state.
Is he talking about us? The section title in my Bible says “A Message for Israel’s Neighbors” which tells me it’s about those who are not God’s chosen ones. God’s fury is settling in on Israel and Judah, but what about the rest of the world?
We know from the other messages Jeremiah has been sharing that God will use other nations to bring destruction. But in this reading, the prophecy switches to give hope to other nations as well. The instruction is there for how they can find favor with God, too.