Thus said the LORD to me, Go and get you a linen girdle, and put it on your loins, and put it not in water.…
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GIRDLE. This is set before us clearly in Ver. 11. God chose something which should illustrate the close connection between Israel and himself, and yet which should illustrate at the same time how easily that connection could be severed. The girdle was, of course, a familiar part of an Israelite's apparel. Not exactly a necessity, for a man could perhaps do without it; and yet a necessity in this sense, that habit had made it so. The very function of the girdle was to bind; otherwise it was, as a girdle, of no use. Thus, by likening the people to a girdle, God indicated that, in a certain sense, he had made them necessary to himself. He had placed them in a conspicuous position, where the service they could render was very important. He meant that he and his people should be viewed together; he always in relation to them, they always in relation to him. Hence the variety of terms in which he indicates his purpose in making the children of Israel to be as his girdle. "That they might be unto me for a people." Jehovah was to look on them with a feeling of ownership and mastery Which he was not able to feel with regard to other nations; and they, in turn, were to look up to Jehovah, feeling that all their purposes and actions were to be determined by his will. Jehovah meant that one of the most suggestive and comforting names by which he could be known should be that of the God of his people Israel, and that in turn Israel should be known as the people of Jehovah. In them Jehovah was to be praised; in them he was to be glorified. Other nations might play the part of girdle to their deities, but there was really nothing of substance to gird. But when Jehovah drew Israel to himself, there was the opportunity of a real, glorious, and ever-extending service before them. Other nations chose and fabricated their gods; Jehovah chose and separated Israel, and in doing so intended the connection to be a very close one, and provided all the means by which it might become such.
II. THE INSTABILITY OF THE GIRDLE. The very Israelite who was to be taught lessons by this girdle, when he chose a girdle for himself, was generally able to make it serve his purpose. He would get it of some durable substance, to wear long. Elijah and John the Baptist were girt with leathern girdles. The Israelite, in the girdle with which he was familiar, dealt with that which was altogether under his control. The longer he wore it, the easier he found it, and the more amenable to his touch. If it began to tear and slip, and to slacken and hinder just when it should have been tightest and most helpful, its owner would very soon get rid of it as a deceiving girdle. But while Jehovah could bring his people very close, and compel them in a certain sense to remain with him, he could not make them cleave to him. Cleaving could only be done with purpose of heart, and must be a voluntary action. These people were not as a piece of linen or leather, to be folded exactly as the wearer might choose. If they had been they could not have rendered the service Jehovah wished from them, and in the result they showed that they did not wish to cleave to God. He could not trust them. Again and again he tried them, only to find that they cared nothing for their relation to him, nothing for the golden opportunity of setting forth his praise and glory.
III. THE HUMILIATION OF THE GIRDLE. Jeremiah was told to take this linen girdle and bind it round his loins. Linen was the material of the priests' garments; and was not Israel a consecrated people? Jeremiah, belonging to a priestly family, would easily be able to get hold of a linen girdle; although the directions given to him here would seem to show that this particular girdle was, in some way, to excite special attention. Notice how the instructions were given to the prophet bit by bit. At first he is simply told to put on the girdle. It was there to teach its own lesson to all who had eyes to observe and a disposition towards timely repentance. Then with his girdle he was to take a journey to Euphrates. That such a journey was long, difficult, and dangerous, is true as men count length, difficulty, and danger, but to a prophet the greatest difficulties and dangers come from refusing to take the way of God, however long it may be. Jonah had to go to Nineveh; what is there unreasonable in supposing that Jeremiah had to go to the neighborhood of Babylon? It may have been just as profitable a use of time to take long journeys there as to go on giving testimony against those who resolutely closed their ears. Besides, it was by Euphrates that the girdle Israel was to be marred. It was to be shown to them that, if they would not act as a girdle, they could easily be made useless for any other purpose. If they would not be God's people, they should achieve no position for themselves. If they would not honor the name which he had given them, there was no other name by which they could get distinction. If they would not be to his praise and glory, as the girdle cleaving firmly and serviceably to him, then they should be to his praise and glory as the marred girdle. If we will not do what God wishes us to do, then he takes care that we shall not do what we ourselves wish to do. The girdle brought back from Euphrates was found profitable for nothing. That which is meant for salt of the earth and loses its savor, is thenceforth good for nothing but to be east out and to be trodden underfoot of men. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.