13 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.” 2 So I bought a belt, as the Lord directed, and put it around my waist.
3 Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time: 4 “Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go now to Perath and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.” 5 So I went and hid it at Perath, as the Lord told me.
6 Many days later the Lord said to me, “Go now to Perath and get the belt I told you to hide there.” 7 So I went to Perath and dug up the belt and took it from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and completely useless.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless! 11 For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’
(Jeremiah 13:1-11 NIV)
Chapter 13 begins a series of symbolic acts that demonstrated the broken relationship between Judah and the Lord. If the people of Judah and Jerusalem did not listen to Jeremiah’s words, they would pay attention to his object lessons.
The first object lesson the Lord told Jeremiah to perform involved a linen belt. He was to buy a new belt, never worn or washed, and put it on. This new white linen belt against his otherwise drab tunic would be very noticeable and would likely generate comment from friends and family and anyone else that knew Jeremiah.
The Lord then told Jeremiah to bury the belt at Perath (a stream about four miles away from his home in Anathoth). Jeremiah obeyed the Lord and buried the belt in the dirt and mud near the creek.
After some indeterminate number of days, the Lord told Jeremiah to go dig up that same belt. Jeremiah obeyed, and the belt was ruined and worthless. Imagine the object lesson of Jeremiah carrying around a half-rotted stinky, dirty belt.
The Lord’s message in verses 9 – 11 was clear – by following after other gods, the people of Judah and Jerusalem had become like that linen belt. Once a great source of pride and love by the Lord, the people had ruined themselves and their relationship to the Lord by their idolatry.
Verse 11 uses the word “bound” to describe the relationship between God and His people. This word is the same Hebrew word that Moses used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the relationship between a husband and wife in marriage.
May we continue to grow in relationship with the Lord, to be His beloved, for His renown and praise and honor, not our own.