“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.” 2 So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it around my waist.”Jeremiah 13.1-2
This is actually a rather funny passage of scripture because a loincloth is technically UNDERWEAR! Underwear is not usually a source of pride! But in this passage the loincloth that Jeremiah wears represents Israel and their pride in themselves
What gives the loincloth its meaning, purpose and value is its relation to the one who wears it. The Lord points out in verse 11 that just as the loincloth “clings” to the waist of the man who wears it, so Israel was created by God in order that they might cling to him and find their identity not in themselves, but in the fact that they belonged to the Lord. This is Israel’s glory: that they are God’s people!
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.Jeremiah 13.11
However, Jeremiah’s not dipping the loincloth in water (i.e. washing it) and his subsequent hiding of the loincloth at the Euphrates represents the pride of the people of Israel. Israel had failed to maintain a pure relationship with God through repentance (symbolized by not washing the loincloth by dipping it in water) and they had not “clung” to the Lord as they were created to do (symbolized by the hiding of the loincloth by the Euphrates).
4 “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.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. 6 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.” 7 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.Jeremiah 13.4-7
As a result, God says that he will spoil Israel’s pride just like Jeremiah’s underwear hidden somewhere down by the river. Would you wear used underwear that you found sopping wet and wrapped around some rocks down by a riverside??
When we forsake God and try to find our identity apart from who we were created to be in relation to him, we are like that muddy, wet underwear at the river’s edge. Jeremiah’s story is meant to wake Israel (and us) up to the fact that the glory we should pursue is not our own, but the glory that comes from our relationship to God.
The gospel shows us that our worth and value comes not from anything in us, but from our relationship to God–a relationship that is possible because Jesus has reconciled us to the Father by a spiritual uniting us to himself in his death and resurrection. That union with Christ is accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit who gives us new birth and causes us to cling to Jesus in faith.
This prophetic passage gives us yet another understanding of the gospel–that we are to cling in faith to Jesus and in so doing, our standing with God and our glory comes from the new identity we have as belonging to him.
As a Christian, do you pursue an identity in something or someone other than Christ? In what practical ways are you “clinging” to Jesus? In what practical ways are you building your identity around him and who he is in you through the unique way he has re-created you by the Spirit?