Today's Lectionary Text
Jeremiah 13:1-11The Lord proclaimed to me: Go and buy a linen undergarment. Wear it for a while without washing it. So I bought a linen undergarment, as the Lord told me, and I put it on. The Lord spoke to me again: Take the undergarment that you are wearing and go at once to the Euphrates and put it under a rock. So I went and buried it at the Euphrates, as the Lord instructed. After a long time, the Lord said to me: Return to the Euphrates and dig up the undergarment that I commanded you to bury there. So I went to the Euphrates, and I dug up the linen undergarment from the place I had buried it. But it was ruined and good for nothing.
Then the Lord’s word came to me: The Lord proclaims: In the same way I will ruin the brazen pride of Judah and Jerusalem! Instead of listening to me, this wicked people follow their own willful hearts and pursue other gods, worshipping and serving them. They will become like this linen garment — good for nothing! Just as a linen undergarment clings to the body, so I created the people of Israel and Judah to cling to me, declares the Lord, to be my people for my honor, praise, and grandeur. But they wouldn’t obey.
I’ll confess that when I think of Jeremiah, I tend to think of chapter 31, where we learn that a new covenant — which we know to be ushered in by Jesus — is on the way. But today’s reading comes long before that, with the prophet having a discussion with God.
Well, actually, Jeremiah is doing a good job of listening and following instructions. He buys a loincloth, possibly to represent the people of Judah and how they were supposed to cling closely to God. Jeremiah is told to travel more than 500 miles away from near Jerusalem to the Euphrates River to bury the loincloth under rocks. He then, “after a long time,” is told to retrieve it.
What he finds is a beat-up, ruined loincloth, damaged by time, neglect and exposure.
Many scholars tend to think Jeremiah either traveled to a waterway much closer than the Euphrates or that this is a symbolic journey — almost like a vision. The loincloth was in good condition when it was taken far away, much like the people of Judah are in good condition but soon will be taken away to the Euphrates and beyond, into exile by the Babylonians.
That same loincloth would be beaten down while near the Euphrates, just like God’s chosen people would be beaten down while in exile. Why?
God tells Jeremiah, “Instead of listening to me, this wicked people follow their own willful hearts and pursue other gods, worshipping and serving them.”
In other words, not listening to God’s call in their lives cost the people of Judah their place close to God. Their actions led to separation from God.
Have we separated ourselves from God in today’s world? Unfortunately, I think we have.
When we don’t stand up for justice for people who are judged merely by the color of their skin, by the country in which they were born, by the language they speak, or by the people they love, we separate ourselves from God. When we fail to look out for the well-being of others by choosing not to follow guidelines provided by health professionals, we separate ourselves from God. When we are comfortable with the fact that people are stuck in the margins of our society, we separate ourselves from God.
And when we fail to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people who have not heard how he reconciles us with our Creator, we fail to bring ourselves and others closer to God.
May we this day examine ourselves, discern where we have allowed ourselves to be separated from God, and then surrender to Jesus and allow Him to bring us closer to the Creator who loves us all.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Loving God, Creator of all people and our beautiful world, we yearn to draw closer to you. Help us to see how we have separated ourselves from You, and help us to embrace the risen Christ as the way to draw closer to You.
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