12 “Say to them: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Every wineskin should be filled with wine.’ And if they say to you, ‘Don’t we know that every wineskin should be filled with wine?’ 13 then tell them, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to fill with drunkenness all who live in this land, including the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets and all those living in Jerusalem. 14 I will smash them one against the other, parents and children alike, declares the Lord. I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them.’”
(Jeremiah 13:12-14 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 hopefully pay attention to his object lessons.
Yesterday’s object lesson was a brand new linen belt that the Lord told Jeremiah to bury then dig up later. The belt, of course, was destroyed and useless. This ruined belt signified the uselessness of Judah and Jerusalem to bring the Lord praise and honor.
Today’s object lesson uses a different object (wine skins) but the same net effect – waste and loss because of blatant sin.
In verse 12, the Lord tells Jeremiah to quote a familiar proverb: “Every wineskin should be filled with wine.” The Lord also told Jeremiah what to say when the people mocked Jeremiah for quoting the familiar proverb. The Lord knew the hearts of the people, and fully expected them to respond to Jeremiah with hurtful words like a snarky “Thank you, Captain Obvious” or its kid version of “duh.”
Like the linen belt example, the wineskins will be ruined in the process and will be unable to perform their intended function of holding wine. Likewise, the people of Judah will be unable to perform their duty of carrying praise and honor and presenting them as an offering to the Lord.
The “wine” that the Lord referred to was not fermented grape juice in the literal sense, but rather it was God’s wrath poured out on His people for their blatant disobedience. Like a drunken person, Judah and Jerusalem would not be able to control their actions and emotions. From kings to priests to everyday citizens, young and old, wealthy and poor, they would all smash into one another and destroy themselves.
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus taught the Beatitudes, then followed them up with a similar message to Jeremiah’s object lessons:
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:13-16 NIV, Jesus speaking)
May we take both the privilege and responsibility of obeying the Lord seriously and seek to live our lives for His glory and honor, not our own.