9 July 2008

Jeremiah 13:1-11

"Thus says the Lord: Just so I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own will and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. For as the loincloth clings to one's loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen." (v.9-11)


You have to admit it, until now you may have not have thought about a Bible study using knickers or underpants as a starting point. But in today's passage Jeremiah does just that. Imagine getting designer underwear and then destroying them to make a point about God. Jeremiah did.

Words like comfortable, athletic, elegant, soft, classy and seductive may well belong in a catalogue for underwear but do they belong on Bible study web pages? The answer is yes. They make the point that Jeremiah wanted to make. God's people had been made to be something special in the eyes of God but they did not listen to God.

In a style typical of Jeremiah the prophet turned to action in a way that would speak louder than words. The people, who were close and trusted, had become proud and betrayed the Covenant promise that bound them together with God. The river Euphrates (used to ruin the loincloth) that flows from Babylon represents how God would punish the people using Babylonian oppressors.

Someone walking around in their underwear might look strange to us today, but it was the most basic item of clothing preserving modesty to Jeremiah. It was not about looking strange, but about something deeper. God and Jeremiah were bound together in a common love for the people. In previous chapters God and Jeremiah talk directly with each other. Their words have the tone and feeling of lovers betrayed. Two souls yoked and hurting together.

Mahatma Gandhi was the father of modern India. His quest for justice, equality and unity for his people led him to reject his privileged background and live simply. He dressed in the simplest way, wearing the traditional dhoti (underwear) and shawl. There is a picture of him from 1931 outside 10 Downing Street (see above). He looks strange in the English climate next to a suited politician. In a powerful way the two people show why liberation from the colonising English was inevitable.

To Ponder

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." What similarities can you see between these words of Mahatma Ghandi and God's relationship with the people of Israel?

"A people, a name, a praise, and a glory" (verse 11). How might these words best describe our relationship with God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tom Quenet

Prior to his current role as superintendent in the Tynedale Circuit, Tom Quenet was partnership coordinator for the Americas and the Caribbean in the World Church Relationships Office of the Methodist Church in Britain. A deep knowledge of the Church in the region gave given Tom a passion for the insights into being a disciple of Jesus that the Spanish speaking world has to offer the world.

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