In many instances, the prophets of old were bidden to do singular things. Here was one example. Jeremiah was to take a linen belt or girdle, and put it around his waist and wear it until the people noticed. The girdle was not to be washed, and this would have been strange to the sight of all observers. Then he was to make a journey to the distant Euphrates River, and take off his girdle and bury it there. When the people saw him coming back home without the girdle, they would surely ask him what he had done with it; and he would reply that he had buried it by the river of Babylon. Many people would count him insane for having walked so far to get rid of a girdle; indeed, 250 miles (402 km) across the desert was certainly a great journey for such a purpose! Surely he might have buried it closer to home, if it was necessary for him to bury it at all. Then the prophet was to go a second time to the Euphrates River, and now the people would truly laugh at him! They would say to one another, “That prophet is a fool! He is crazy in the head. See what a trick he is playing? Nearly a thousand miles he will have walked, just to hide a girdle and then dig it up again. What stupidity will he do next?” At a time when the plain words of a sermon might not have been noticed by the people, this little piece of strange behavior would certainly command their attention and arouse their curiosity.
The record of this singular transaction has come down to us in the pages of God’s Word; and we know that since it is a part of Holy Scripture, it is full of instruction. Thousands of years will not make it so antique as to be valueless. The Word of the Lord never becomes old enough to lose its vigor; it is still as strong for all Divine purposes as it was when Jehovah first spoke it.
Jeremiah’s girdle was an honorable emblem of Israel and Judah; and in these days, we may say that it is an emblem of the Church of Jesus. God has taken His people to be bound to Himself – so near to Him that they are like a belt around the waist. In fact, they are bound so tightly around Him that they shall never be removed from Him. “Who shall separate us?” asks Paul. Who can ungird us from the heart and soul of our loving God?
But Jeremiah’s girdle was a linen one; it was the girdle worn particularly by the priests, for Jeremiah was from a family of priests. Thus the picture represents chosen persons who are bound to God in connection with sacrifice. The Lord Jesus – our Great High Priest – is now blessing the children of men, just as Aaron blessed the Hebrews; and we are the girdle with which He girds Himself in the act of benediction, by the preaching of the Gospel.
However, these ancient people, who were the glorious girdle of God, displayed a fatal omission in their persons. Did you notice it? The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.” Ah! There is the mischief. The unwashed girdle is a picture of an unholy people, who have never received the great cleansing. Not even a very close nearness to God Himself can save you, if you have never been washed in the most precious blood of the Lord Jesus! You must be washed in His blood, or else be laid aside.
It was very soon that this fatal flaw in the girdle led to a solemn judgment. First, the girdle – after Jeremiah had made his long walk with it – was taken off of him and laid aside. It was hidden in a hole by the river of captivity, and left there. And then the girdle spoiled. No doubt the dampness and wetness acted upon it; and so when Jeremiah came back to the spot many days later, there was nothing but an old rag instead of what had once been a pure white linen girdle. “Behold the girdle was marred; it was profitable for nothing.” Similarly, if God were to leave any of us, the best persons among us would soon become nothing but marred girdles, instead of being as fair as white linen.
But the worst part of this was that it undoubtedly relates to many mere professors of religion – whom God takes off from Himself, lays aside, and leaves to perish. And what is His reason for doing so? He tells us here in the text, for He says that this evil people refused to receive His words. Dear friends! Never grow tired of God’s Word! Never let any other book supplant the Bible. Love every part of Scripture, and take heed to every word that God has spoken. Another reason that we are given for these people being laid aside is that they walked in the imagination of their own hearts. That is a sure sign of a hypocrite – he makes his religion out of his own thoughts and opinions. The false professor of faith keeps up the name of a Christian for a little while, and seems to be as the Lord’s girdle; but by-and-by, he falls to worshiping gold, strong drink, lust, or some other person or thing that he sets up in the place of Jehovah. He turns aside from the infinitely glorious God; and then he falls from one degradation to another, until he becomes like a rotten girdle “which profiteth nothing.” O Lord! Preserve us from such a fate! Wash us clean in the blood of the Lamb, so that we may never be cast off from You!
Lord, we pray for grace so that we may not merely be as close to You as a belt is to the waist; but we also desire to be washed and redeemed in the most precious blood of Jesus, so that we may be cleansed from the dust and defilement of sin that we contract in our daily lives. Amen.
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