Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
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.Habit
I. The Origin of Habit.—Habit may be conceived to arise in this way. When, in the revolution of time—of the day, or the week, or the month, or the year—the point comes round at which we have been thinking of anything, or have done anything, by the law of the association of ideas we think of it again, or do it again. For instance, when day dawns we awake. We get out of bed because we have done it at that time before. At a later hour we take breakfast, and go away to business, for the same reason; and so on through the day. The more frequently anything has been done, the stronger is habit, and frequency acts on habit through something else. Frequency gives ease and swiftness to the doing of anything. It is not only the mind that is involved in habit. Even the body is subdued to its service. Do we not recognize the soldier by his gait, the student by his stoop, and the merchant by his bustle? And in the parts of the body that are invisible—the muscles and nerves—there is a still greater change due to habit. Hence the counsel of the philosopher, and I think it is a very profound counsel: 'Make your nervous system your ally instead of your enemy in the battle of life'.
II. Excessive Habit.—Habit, even good habit, may be excessive. It tends to become hide-bound and tyrannical. There is a pharisaical sticking to opinions once formed, and to customs once adopted, which is the principal obstacle to human progress. Yet, on the whole, there is no possession so valuable as a few good habits, for this means that not only is the mind pledged and covenanted to good, but the muscles are supple, and even the very bones are bent to what is good.
III. Desirable Habits.
1. Self-control; that is, the power of getting yourself to do what you know you ought to do, and to avoid what you know you ought to avoid.
2. Concentration of mind.
3. Really working when you are at work.
IV. The Tyranny of Evil Habits.—Evil habits may be acquired through simply neglecting to acquire good ones. Like weeds they grow up wherever the field is uncultivated and the good seed is not sown. For example, the man who does not work becomes a dissipated loafer.
The tyranny of evil habit is proverbial. The moralists compare it to a thread, at the beginning, but as thread is twisted with thread, it becomes like a cable which can turn a ship.
V. The Problem of Christianity.—In the work of overcoming evil habits, is there available for man a power outside himself that when his own power fails, will stand him in stead, not, indeed, by pushing his own powers aside, but by entering into compact with them, and raising them to the strength necessary for the occasion? I say that is the problem of Christianity, and nobody can have any doubt what the answer is which Scripture gives to it Is it not also the answer of experience, the experience of tens of thousands of men who have tried in vain to reform themselves, but have found in the Gospel the power of God unto salvation; the experience of men in whom the power of evil habit was so strong that it seemed as impossible to overcome it as to reverse the course of Acheron, and yet who, by the grace of God, were made humble and progressive Christians? There is no force of evil with which the Saviour cannot cope.
—James Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. 1896, p. 198.
References.—XIII. 23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2536. A. Brooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. 1897, p. 205. L. T. Dodd, ibid. vol. lxix. 1906, p. 88. E. B. Speirs, A Present Advent, p. 51. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 274. XIV.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2745. XIV. 3, 4, 22.—Ibid. vol. xxxv. No. 2115. XIV. 7-9.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Isaiah and Jeremiah, p. 281. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1661. XIV. 8, 9.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Prophets, vol. ii. p. 1. XIV. 9.—Ibid. Sermons on the Apocalypse, etc., p. 9. XIV. 22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvii. No. 2745. T. K. Cheyne, The Hallowing of Criticism, p. 83. XV. 4.—W. Lee, University Sermons, p. 262. XV. 12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 993.
So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.
And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying,
Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.
And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.
Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.
Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.
This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.
For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.
Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?
Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David's throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.
And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.
Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.
Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.
But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD'S flock is carried away captive.
Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.
The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.
Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?
What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?
And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.
This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.
Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.
I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?