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.…
In many instances the prophets were bidden to do singular things, and among the rest was this: Jeremiah must take a linen girdle and put it about his loins, and wear it there till the people had noticed what he wore, and how long he wore it. This girdle was not to be washed; this was to be a matter observed of all observers, for it was a part of the similitude. Then he must make a journey to the distant river Euphrates, and take off his girdle and bury it there. When the people saw him without a girdle they would make remarks and ask what he had done with it; and he would reply that he had buried it by the river of Babylon. Many would count him mad for having walked so far to get rid of a girdle: two hundred and fifty miles was certainly a great journey for such a purpose. Surely he might have buried it nearer home, if he must needs bury it at all. Anon, the prophet goes a second time to the Euphrates, and they say one to another, The prophet is a fool: the spiritual man is mad. See what a trick he is playing. Nearly a thousand miles the man will have walked in order to hide a girdle, and to dig it up again. What next will he do? Whereas plain words might not have been noticed, this little piece of acting commanded the attention and excited the curiosity of the people. The record of this singular transaction has come to us, and we know that, as 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 so as to lose its vigour; it as still as strong for all Divine purposes as when first of all Jehovah spoke it.
I. In our text we have AN HONOURABLE EMBLEM of Israel and Judah: we may say, in these days, an emblem of the Church of God.
1. God had taken this people to be bound to Himself: He had taken them to be as near to Him as the girdle is to the Oriental when he binds it about his loins. The traveller in the East takes care that his girdle shall not go unfastened: he girds himself securely ere he commences his work or starts upon his walk; and God has bound His people round about Him so that they shall never be removed from Him "I in them" saith Christ, even as a man is in his girdle. "Who shall separate us?" saith Paul. Who shall ungird us from the heart and soul of our loving God? "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord."
2. But Jeremiah's girdle was a linen one: it was the girdle peculiar to the priests, for such was the prophet; he was "the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth." Thus the type represents chosen men as bound to God in connection with sacrifice. We are bound to the Most High for solemn priesthood to minister among the sons of men in holy things. The Lord Jesus is now blessing the sons of men as Aaron blessed the people, and we are the girdle with which He girds Himself in the act of benediction by the Gospel.
3. The girdle also is used by God always in connection with work. When Eastern men are about to work in real earnest they gird up their loins. When the Lord worketh righteousness in the earth it is by means of His chosen ones. When He publishes salvation, and makes known His grace, His saints are around Him. When sinners are to be saved it is by His people. when error is to be denounced, it is by our lips that He chooses to speak. When His saints are to be comforted, it is by those who have been comforted by His Holy Spirit, and who therefore tell out the consolations which they have themselves enjoyed.
4. Moreover, the girdle was intended for ornament. It does not appear that it was bound about the priest's loins under his garments, for if so it would not have been seen, and would not have been an instructive symbol: this girdle must be seen, since it was meant to be a type of a people who were to be unto God "for a people, and for a name, and for a praise and for a glory." Is not this wonderful beyond all wonder, that God should make His people His glory? But now, alas! we have to turn our eyes sorrowfully away from this surpassing glory.
II. These people who might have been the glorious girdle of God displayed in their own persons A FATAL OMISSION. Did you notice it? Thus saith the Lord unto Jeremiah, "Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water."
1. Ah, me! there is the mischief: the unwashed girdle is the type of an unholy people who have never received the great cleansing. No nearness to God can save you if you have never been washed by the Lord Jesus. No official connection can bless you if you have never been washed in His most precious blood. Here is the alternative for all professors, — you must be washed in the blood of Christ, or be laid aside; which shall it be?
2. The prophet was bidden not to put it in water, which shows that there was not only an absence of the first washing, but there was no daily cleansing. We are constantly defiling our feet by marching through this dusty world, and every night we need to be washed. If you suffer a sin to lie on your conscience, you cannot serve God aright while it is there. If you have transgressed as a child, and you do not run and put your head into your Father's bosom and cry, "Father, I have sinned!" you cannot do God's work.
3. The more this girdle was used the more it gathered great and growing defilement. Without the atonement, the more we do the more we shall sin. Our very prayers will turn into sin, our godly things will gender evil. O Lord, deliver us from this! Save us from being made worse by that which should make us better. Let us be Thy true people, and therefore let us be washed that we may be clean, that Thou mayest gird Thyself with us.
III. Very soon that fatal flaw in the case here mentioned led to A SOLEMN JUDGMENT. It was a solemn judgment upon the girdle, looking at it as a type of the people of Israel.
1. First, the girdle, after Jeremiah had made his long walk in it, was taken off from him and put away. This is a terrible thing to happen to any man. I would rather suffer every sickness in the list of human diseases than that God should put me aside as a vessel in which He has no pleasure, and say to me, "I cannot wear you as My girdle, nor own you as Mine before men."
2. After that girdle was laid aside, the next thing for it was hiding and burying. It was placed in a hole of the rock by the river of the captivity, and left there. Many a hypocrite has been served in that way.
3. And now the girdle spoils. It was put, I dare say, where the damp and the wet acted upon it; and so, when in about seventy days Jeremiah came back to the spot, there was nothing but an old rag instead of what had once been a pure white linen girdle. He says, "Behold the girdle was marred; it was profitable for nothing." So, if God were to leave any of us, the best men and the best women among us would soon become nothing but marred girdles, instead of being as fair white linen.
4. But the worst part of it is that this relates undoubtedly to many mere professors whom God takes off from Himself, laying them aside, and leaving them to perish. And what is His reason for so doing? He tells us this in the text: He says that this evil people refused to receive God's words. Dear friends, never grow tired of God's Word; never let any book supplant the Bible. Love every part of Scripture, and take heed to every word that God has spoken. Next to that, we are told that they walked in the imagination of their heart. That is a sure sign of the hypocrite or the false professor. He makes his religion out of himself, as a spider spins a web out of his own bowels: what sort of theology it is you can imagine now that you know its origin. Upon all this there followed actual transgression, — "They walked after other gods to serve them and to worship them." This happens also to the base professor. He keeps up the name of a Christian for a little while, and seems to be as God's girdle; but by and by he falls to worshipping gold, or drink, or lust. He turns aside from the infinitely glorious God, and so he falls from one degradation to another till he hardly knows himself. He becomes as a rotten girdle "which profiteth nothing."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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.