In this chapter, God gives two object lessons to teach Jeremiah what he will do to Judah and why. The first is a linen loincloth and the second is a jar of wine.
13:1-11 Object lesson 1: The Linen Loincloth
The Lord told Jeremiah to buy a linen loincloth and put it around his waist. There is some debate about that this is. Some think it is a type of underwear. Others think it is a sash or belt. Linen was a fine fabric.
So Jeremiah bought the loincloth and wore it.
But then, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah again and told him to take the loincloth to the Euphrates River and hide it in the cleft of a rock. The Euphrates is the river that ran through Babylon. So, we have to think God is making a point about Babylon as well as Judah.
After a long while, the Lord sent Jeremiah back to get the loin cloth. (6). He dug it up and, no surprise, found it ruined and rotten. (7)
So Jeremiah is standing there at the river and looking at this piece of rotten linen and the Lord explains his purpose. He said, as the dirt spoiled this piece of linen, so will I spoil the pride of Judah and Jerusalem. (8-9) The Judahites had become proud and arrogant. They refused to obey the Lord. They had become evil. The Bible tells us repeatedly that the Lord does not like pride in his people. He values obedience and love. He also promised to break their pride: I will break your proud glory (Leviticus 26:19).
Here is how the Lord described them:
1. they refused to hear his words,
2. they were stubborn,
3. they followed their own hearts,
4. they worshipped other gods, and
5. because of these things, they were good for nothing.
What does this tell us? First of all, those who stubbornly do what they want and do not worship and obey God are worthless to him. I would hate for God to tell me “you are useless to me, you are good for nothing”.
The other thing that stands out to me is that God was unhappy that his people “followed their own hearts”. I found that telling, for that is a thing we are encouraged to do by many. It is a thing I object to in Disney movies. The theme is often “children must be free to follow their hearts and parents should not get in their way”. This was the primary theme of Little Mermaid. At the end of the movie, a character sees the happy ending and says this to us. This happy ending only came about after the Little Mermaid’s father sacrificed himself to free her from the consequences of her mistakes. But the ending does not glorify the sacrifice, only the rebellion.
It will not turn out that way for us. Disney does not get to remake the message of the Bible. The Bible glorifies obedience to God as a measure of our love for him. In the New Covenant, it is a matter of gladly living to glorify God who sacrificed himself to free us from our slavery to sin and its consequences. Obedience is valued over rebellion. Sacrifice is valued over self centeredness.
One reason we follow the Word of God rather than our feelings is that our hearts cannot be trusted. In chapter 17, the Lord will say this plainly. You cannot trust your feelings because they are an expression of your desire. But the Word of God tells us the will of God. We seek that rather than ourselves.
Notice in verse 11 what God offered the people of Israel. They could be for God a people, a name, a raise and a glory. If they had lived in obedience and love, they would have brought glory to the name of the Lord and enjoyed the blessing of his favor.
The Father offers that today to those who believe in and obey his Son. He called them “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”. 1 Peter 2:9.
13:12-14 Object Lesson 2: Jars filled with Wine
In this passage, the Lord says he will fill all the leaders with drunkenness so that they will turn on each other. Then he says he will destroy them without pity.
While I can see a Baptist preacher taking off on a drinking sermon here, I do not think this is about drinking and drunkenness. Rather, there is a play on words within the object lesson. There was a saying “every jar will be filled with wine”, meaning we expect great prosperity. It is the equivalent of the French king saying he would make France so prosperous, every peasant would have a chicken in his pot on Sunday. The American Democrats later adopted the saying.
So the Lord plays off this saying and contradicts it, saying you will not be prosperous, in fact it will get bad and everyone will turn on each other to survive. This will be part of the destruction I will pour out on you.
The additional image is likely the use of wine for wrath, the pouring out of wrath. For example, Revelation 14:9-10 says “if anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur…”
13:15-17 Jeremiah Calls Judah To Repentance
After hearing these terrible words of warning from the Lord, Jeremiah calls the people to repent of their pride and to bring glory to God. (15) Yet, he knows they will not listen. So he wept because of their pride that kept them captive to sin. This is why Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet.
13:18-27 Jeremiah Speaks to Royalty
In this section, Jeremiah addressed the king and the queen mother (the mother of the king). Jeremiah may have delivered this message to Jeconiah, the son and successor of Jehoiachin and his mother, Nehushta, when the Babylonian generals had camped out near Jerusalem, but did not besiege it until Nebuchadnezzar arrived with the great body of the army. (2 Kings 24:8-16)
He told them they were really not ruling anymore because the cities of the Negeb were shut up and the country taken into exile. This seems to be looking forward to the exile as a forgone conclusion. The Negeb is in the south, so Jeremiah was saying that the Babylonians did not just get the people of the north, as the Assyrians did, but all the way through the country.
Notice in verse 20, Jeremiah refers to the flock. The king was supposed to be a shepherd for the people, leading them to obey God and keep the covenant. Long before Israel had a king, the Lord gave instructions that the king was to copy the book of the law for himself, read it every day and obey it. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) He would lead the people in knowledge and obedience. And in fact we see that Israel prospered under Godly kings and suffered under evil kings.
The final part of this chapter deals with the Lord’s intent to shame or humiliate Judah. “lifting up your skirts” speaks to great humiliation. These people wore long robes. The exposure of their bodies was intensely humiliating. So, not only will Judah suffer defeat and desolation and exile, it will suffer humiliation at the hands of the Babylonians.