Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
Somewhere along the way, I inherited a propensity to spill food, while I’m eating, onto my (typically new) clothes.
Not too long ago, I bought a nice shirt at J.C. Penney. It was a green sueded Henley with nice, soft fabric. Well, the first time I wore it, we went out to eat… and I spilled something on it. And try as we might, we were unable to get the stain out, and my brand-new shirt had been reduced to not much more than a rag. Fortunately, I’d used a series of coupons and sales and only paid $4 for the shirt in the first place.
So I can identify with Jeremiah this morning. God asks him to go buy a brand new linen belt, wear it for a while, and then go hide it in some rocks. And without reading on, we have a pretty good idea what’s coming next: Jeremiah goes back some time later, and the belt is ruined and completely useless.
Sometimes these prophetic actions can be difficult to understand, but God gives Jeremiah a clear explanation: the people are like the linen belt, as they have become completely useless because of their pride and stubbornness.
It’s easy for us to believe that piety and personal holiness are for our own benefit, that we will somehow receive more blessings because we live a holy life. We might think that righteousness is to earn us a spot in heaven, but this passage indicates that personal holiness is for a different purpose: to bring praise and honor to God. And when the people of God fail to do that, we fail to complete the purpose for which we were created.
Isaiah tells us that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Is. 64:6) compared to God’s holiness. No matter how hard we work at keeping the law, we fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23), and need a righteousness that comes through Jesus (Ph. 1:11). The Good News of the Gospel is that by faith we can receive the free gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23).