Jeremiah's Linen Shorts
1The Lord told me, “Go and buy a pair of linen shorts. Wear them for a while, but don't wash them.” 2So I bought a pair of shorts and put them on.
3Then the Lord said, 4“Take off the shorts. Go to Parah and hide the shorts in a crack between some large rocks.” 5And that's what I did.
6Some time later the Lord said, “Go back and get the shorts.” 7I went back and dug the shorts out of their hiding place, but the cloth had rotted, and the shorts were ruined.
8Then the Lord said:
9Jeremiah, I will use Babylonia to destroy the pride of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. 10The people of Judah are evil and stubborn. So instead of listening to me, they do whatever they want and even worship other gods. When I am finished with these people, they will be good for nothing, just like this pair of shorts. 11These shorts were tight around your waist, and that's how tightly I held onto the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. I wanted them to be my people. I wanted to make them famous, so that other nations would praise and honor me, but they refused to obey me.
The Lord said:
12Jeremiah, tell the people of Judah, “The Lord God of Israel orders you to fill your wine jars with wine.”
They will answer, “Of course we fill our wine jars with wine! Why are you telling us something we already know?”
13Then say to them:
I am the Lord, and what I'm going to do will make everyone in Judah and Jerusalem appear to be full of wine. And the worst ones will be the kings of David's family and the priests and the prophets. 14Then I will smash them against each other like jars. I will have no pity on the young or the old, and they will all be destroyed. I, the Lord, have spoken.
The People of Judah
15People of Judah,
don't be too proud to listen
to what the Lord has said.
16You hope for light,
but God is sending darkness.
Evening shadows already deepen
in the hills.
So return to God
and confess your sins to him
before you trip and fall.
17If you are too proud to listen,
I will weep alone.
Tears will stream from my eyes
when the Lord's people
are taken away as prisoners.
Among the many prophetic warnings Jeremiah is told to speak to the people, are a few visible demonstrations which are meant to convey prophetic truths. Chapter 13 has two of these. Firstly, Jeremiah is instructed to buy and wear a pair of linen shorts, then told to go and hide them in a rocky crevice and finally retrieve them later when they are rotted and ruined.
The meaning of this action on Jeremiah’s part is given as a three-fold command followed by a parallel three-fold lesson. The shorts are ruined just as the nation is ruined through its evil and stubborn ways. Their faith is “hidden,” just as the shorts were hidden – in fact it is not even visible because it does not exist. Finally, Judah was to “fit tightly” to God but now, because the nation is ruined, they no longer “fit tightly” to God; they no longer are a living demonstration to other nations of how God honours and blesses those who are obedient to him.
The second illustration has to do with wine, a common drink for this Mid-Eastern nation. God says I will “make Judah and Jerusalem appear full of wine;” they will be like drunk people, destroying each other in what they do and how they treat each other.
Neither of the images paints a pretty picture. It is when the people refused to obey God and honour him with their words and their lives that they became an unhealthy and self-destructive society; they even ruined each other’s lives. They became something far less than what God had intended for them to be.
Lord God, you are a holy and just God. We recognize that we have at times and in various ways refused to be who you want us to be and are like ruined clothing. Forgive us and give us the courage and the will to be faithful to you once again. We pray in your holy name, Amen.