Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 13:6-11

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, October 22, 2014

     6 Many days later the LORD said to me, “Go to Perath and get the waistcloth I told you to hide there.” 7 So I went to Perath and searched. I took the waistcloth from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and worthless.

Why did the Lord wait “many days”? So that the waistcloth would not just be a little dirty. God wanted it to be even worse; not even mostly dirty a little spoiled. If Jeremiah had gone back the next day or two days later, perhaps the cloth might have been salvageable in some way. Perhaps there was a fuller (Isaiah 36:2) or a cleaner in Jerusalem who still might make something useful out of the waistcloth. Instead, the Lord wanted to show the people that the cloth was completely ruined. It was not rescuable or salvageable. It was worthless.

     8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9 “This is what the LORD says: I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem in the same way. 10 These wicked people refuse to listen to me. They follow their own stubborn hearts. They follow after other gods to serve them and to worship them. They are all like this worthless waistcloth.

As an article for sale, the waistcloth had been worth some money. Now, as a ruined scrap of fabric, dripping wet, caked with river mud or worse, and perhaps torn to ribbons by the stones where it was hidden, it was completely ruined.

The cloth had three different purposes as an object lesson. The first two are here in verses 8-10. It was a representation of the ruined pride of Jerusalem. God was going to strip away everything that might have been salvaged of Jerusalem’s pride until there was nothing left to boast about.

Second, and most obviously, the useless cloth was a representation of the people themselves from God’s point of view. They had been valuable to him once, but no longer. In the same way that we would toss a useless scrap of cloth into the garbage or into the rag bag, so the Lord was going to treat Judah. Once they had been his pride and joy, but now they were like a useless rag to him.

11 Just as a waistcloth fits tightly around a man’s waist, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD. I did this so that they would be my people, and that they would bring praise and honor to my name. But they would not listen.”

The third application of the ruined waistcloth is the reason it had to be a waistcloth and not a sock or a coat or some other piece of clothing. The cloth was once a garment that fit tightly around the waist, and God’s people were once wrapped around their God in love and faith. He kept them close because he cherished them. But then they let themselves become spoiled and rotten, and so that now he was tearing them off the way a person might tear off a garment covered in vomit or worse.

Luther made a nice application about this waistcloth and similar symbols in the Bible by seeing them (correctly) as a description of faith: “All this betokens that drawing of the Father by which [those who] are saved are drawn through the revelation of Christ and cling to Him through faith. For this clinging is what the apostle means…with the words ‘those who obey Him.’”  LW29, on Hebrews 5:9.

When God calls us and wraps us around him in love, we can do nothing else but praise him for treating us so well, even though we don’t deserve it. We reject and turn away from anything that might come between us and his love. That is our life of faith. Bask in his love, and always remember that you are his own dear child.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.