In Jeremiah 13, we get a vivid image of the status of God’s people. They have immersed themselves fully in idol worship. We read a story in which God tells the prophet Jeremiah to purchase a linen waistband—the article of clothing which would have clung closest to a man’s person. God tells Jeremiah to bury the band by the river Euphrates. After some time, the Lord tells him to go and get it. When Jeremiah digs the waistband up, it is ruined and totally worthless, like a rubber band that has been stretched and held at its limit and no longer retains its elasticity. God then tells him,
“’For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise, and for glory, but they did not listen.’” Jeremiah 13:11
The book of Jeremiah finds the divided nation of Israel in a state of despondency. More than 100 years before, the majority of the original God-ordained tribes in Norhern Israel had fallen to the Assyrians (2 Kings 17). This was an act of judgment from the Lord because of the wickedness of Israel. However, Scripture tells us that the wickedness of the nation of Judah was far greater.
Jeremiah gives us the condition of their heart “[they] polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees” (3:9), “walking after the stubbornness of their hearts and after the Baals, as their fathers taught them” (9:14).
God had created Israel to be His people and to cling nearest to Him just as the waistband clung nearest to a man. Deuteronomy 10:20 says,
“You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him…”
God wanted His people to cling to Him. He wanted to abundantly bless them but He couldn’t because their hands were wrapped so tightly around their idolatry and pride that they neglected sovereign God and His good and perfect blessings.
If someone were to reach out to hand me something, my hands would have to be empty. If my hands were full, either I couldn’t take whatever is being given, or I would try to take it on top of what I’m already holding, fumble over it and likely drop everything. In order to receive something, I need to put whatever I’m holding down. My hands need to be empty.
When I read this passage in Jeremiah 13, it reminds me of the old Charlie Brown cartoons. Every scene in which he appeared, Linus would be holding on tightly to his blue blanket. No matter the setting, he always held fast to that blanket. It was his safety, his security, and his comfort. The blanket was always in his hands.
When the soon-to-be disciples Peter and Andrew were called by Jesus to follow Him, immediately they left their nets, their livelihood—their “blue blankets,” to follow Him (Matthew 4:20). When He called Matthew the tax collector, he immediately got up, left his “blue blanket” behind, and followed Him (Matthew 9:9). Others however, sought to cling to their work or to come at a later time when it was more convenient for them. Their love for Jesus was conditionally based around their “blue blankets.”
In His Word, God calls us to surrender completely. If we are 99% surrendered and yet 1% still holding on to something, we are not surrendered. God calls us to offer our entire being as a “living and holy sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us….and fix our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:1-2).
So the question I want us to be challenged by is, what is it that you are clinging to? What is your blue blanket? What are those idols—those stones and trees—to which you hold fast? What is that thing (or things) in your life, which if taken away from you would be the most devastating? Is it a job or career plan? A relationship or marriage? Self-image?
Tim Keller, in his book “Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters,” says:
“The human heart is an idol factory that takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.”
When a good thing becomes the ultimate thing, we will eventually find that it can never satisfy. Only Jesus can do that.
Flash back to the Peanuts cartoons. If you have ever had the chance to see the Charlie Brown Christmas special, you’ll know that there is a scene in which Charlie Brown asks if anyone can explain the meaning of Christmas to him, and Linus happily obliges. You may have never noticed it before, but the moment Linus says, “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy,” he drops his blanket. He begins to share of the hope of the Savior born to us—both hands in the air in surrender—and in that moment everything pales in comparison. The truth is, the Gospel changes everything. It moves you! Jesus came into this world to live a sinless life, to die a sinner’s death for you and me, and to rise again, victorious over death! Nothing in life can compare to the hope and joy of a Savior.
So today and everyday may we, like King David, ask God to search us and know our hearts, to try us and know our anxious thoughts, to see if there be any hurtful way in us, and to lead us in the everlasting way. Let us, like Paul, count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us, like Peter, be stirred up by way of reminder as the Gospel changes us from the inside out. And let us, like Jesus our Savior, live a life of surrender, with open hands and open hearts in submission to our Perfect Heavenly Father.
Father, not our will, but Yours be done.
Andrew Cordasco is a graduate of Liberty University and men’s recruiter at the Kanakuk Institute.