“Clean your room.” “Be kind and stop fighting.” “Please stop calling your sibling ‘stupid’.” “Pick up your dirty socks and underwear.” These phrases are common in our household as we are in the midst of discipline training in my home with four little people under the age of 9 years. My husband and I continually speak of obedience and consequences. We aren’t perfect in this discipline training task and we do fail in our consistency and follow-through at times. However, our kids are learning their actions and sin have consequences – some more painful than others. We also talk about the why of obedience and God’s provision of grace and forgiveness with true repentance. I will admit, the repetition of discipline and correction is exhausting. I can only imagine what Jeremiah went through in his repetition of the sins of Judah and the consequences to come. This week’s reading of Jeremiah chapters 11-17 begins Jeremiah’s prophecy of the impending destruction of Judah and Jerusalem.
The last thing most of us need in our Bible reading right now is more doom, gloom, and condemnation over how messed up we are. Jeremiah is a tough book as we have been discovering, but the reality is the sin in our lives has consequences – just as the sins of Judah and Jerusalem did. Jeremiah discusses two areas where Judah/Jerusalem struggled which are common to many of us today: pride and trust in mankind rather than God.
“Listen and pay attention. Do not be proud, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before He brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the mountains at dusk. You wait for light, but He brings darkest gloom and makes total darkness.” ~Jeremiah 13:15-17
This passage comes immediately after two object lessons Jeremiah used to teach the people about pride and what it does and has done to people. My favorite example is the dirty linen underwear. Yes! – Jeremiah actually talks about dirty underwear. Some versions of the text describe it as a linen belt, but this was thought of as an undergarment like underwear. In summary, Jeremiah 13:1-11 discusses Jeremiah’s interaction with the Lord about this new pair of underwear. He wore it for a time and then was instructed by God to go hide it in a crevice of a rock and then retrieve it after a period of time. By this point, the underwear was useless. This useless underwear was the object to which Jeremiah compared the people of Judah and Jerusalem. They were useless to God because of their pride, arrogance, and lack of repentance.
“These evil people, who refuse to listen to me, who follow stubbornness of their own hearts, and who have followed other gods to serve and bow in worship – they will be like this underwear, of no use at all.” ~Jeremiah 13:10
The last thing I want is to be compared to dirty, useless underwear. You think this example would have gotten their attention. Alas, their hearts and minds were focused more on man and immediate gratification than on the Lord and His commands.
“This is what the Lord says: Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind. He makes human flesh his strength, and his heart turns from the Lord. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives.” ~Jeremiah 17:5-6
Jeremiah gives the people of Judah this vivid example of an unfruitful, lifeless tree in the wilderness. This was to be the consequence of their disobedience of God’s command – unfruitful living and destruction. He does go on to provide a hopeful contrast in the next verses.
“The person who trusts in the Lord whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.” ~Jeremiah 17:7-8
Jeremiah compares two types of trees in this passage – one barren and unfruitful while the other is flourishing and fruitful. Which tree do you most resemble today? Are you trusting in man for your identity and strength or are you trusting in the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength?
As we continue to journey through Jeremiah, do not lose heart. Even the author himself grew dismayed, angry, and weary in his calling. Just as the Lord encouraged Jeremiah in a time of despair, He too can encourage us with these words:
“For I am with you, to save you and rescue you.” ~Jeremiah 15:20
If you have placed your trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have access to hope no matter how weary or discouraged you may feel. Jesus sacrificed everything for you so you could live and flourish for His ultimate glory. Will you choose to trust in the Lord today, cling tightly to His power (think underwear), obey His commands, and bless others with the fruit He produces in you? For who wants to be compared to dirty, useless underwear?