“I will pull your skirts up over your face so that your shame might be seen.” (Jeremiah 13:26 HCSB)
Naked and exposed—that is what the sinner is before God. “No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” (Hebrews 4:13 HCSB)
Adam and Eve tried to cover up with fig leaves and conceal themselves in the bushes—but God knew where to find them. David’s scandalous sin with Bathsheba was done under cover of darkness and followed by an elaborate cover-up attempt, but God saw it all and sent his prophet Nathan to expose him.
There are several graphic illustrations of the scandalous nature of sin that are given in the thirteenth chapter of Jeremiah.
“This is what the Lord said to me: ‘Go and buy yourself a linen undergarment and put it on, but do not put it in water.’
So I bought underwear as the Lord instructed me and put it on. Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time: ‘Take the underwear that you bought and are wearing, and go at once to the Euphrates and hide it in a rocky crevice.’
So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me. A long time later the Lord said to me, ‘Go at once to the Euphrates and get the underwear that I commanded you to hide there.’
So I went to the Euphrates and dug up the underwear and got it from the place where I had hidden it, but it was ruined—of no use at all. Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘This is what the Lord says: Just like this I will ruin the great pride of both Judah and Jerusalem. These evil people, who refuse to listen to Me, who follow the stubbornness of their own hearts, and who have followed other gods to serve and worship—they will be like this underwear, of no use at all.’” (Jeremiah 13:1-10 HCSB)
Remember as a kid, when your mother would ask you before you left the house, “Did you put on clean underwear?” She would add, “You might be in a wreck and have to go to the hospital.” Of course, in such a case, clean underwear would be a top priority! Well, it made sense to Mama, anyway.
Jeremiah left the house with his clean, linen underwear on, as God commanded. But, after an extensive hike through the desert and to the Euphrates River, you may imagine, it was no longer clean. What’s more, he was forbidden to wash it! Then he was told by the Lord to just bury it—which seems appropriate enough. After a long while, he was sent to dig it up, and it was just nasty tattered shreds. So, what is the story behind the soiled shorts?
God had wrapped the Jews around his loins as a man would wear a loincloth. They were close to Him and loved by Him, but they became dirty and defiled by disobedience. They would be discarded by the Euphrates River—exiles in Babylon all because of their scandalous sin.
Sin makes us dirty. It is a stench in the nostrils of God. As the loincloth was pronounced useless, so were the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Our usefulness to God will be lost if we live in unrepentant sin.
"’Say this to them: This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Every jar should be filled with wine. Then they will respond to you, “Don't we know that every jar should be filled with wine?” And you will say to them: This is what the Lord says: I am about to fill all who live in this land-the kings who reign for David on his throne, the priests, the prophets and all the residents of Jerusalem-with drunkenness.
I will smash them against each other, fathers and sons alike’--[this is] the Lord's declaration. ‘I will allow no mercy, pity, or compassion [to keep Me] from destroying them.’” (Jeremiah 13:12-14 HCSB)
There would be wine in abundance. The jars would be full and so would those who consumed it. They would be drunk, stumbling and staggering long. Their behavior would be scandalous! God would smash those who were “smashed.”
So, the people would be in a spiritual stupor—irrational in thought and incoherent in talk. As alcohol has the power to enslave, so the Jews would be in bondage to the Babylonians. They would stumble along the road leading to captivity while those watching would mock.
This is sin’s addictive power. It brings us under its control when we yield to it. Just one sip is all we meant, but then we find ourselves intoxicated with iniquity.
“Listen and pay attention. Do not be proud, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before He brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the mountains at dusk. You wait for light, but He brings darkest gloom and makes thick darkness.
But if you will not listen, my innermost being will weep in secret because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears, for the Lord's flock has been taken captive.
Say to the king and the queen mother: Take a humble seat, for your glorious crowns have fallen from your heads. The cities of the Negev are under siege;
no one can help [them]. All of Judah has been taken into exile, taken completely into exile.
Look up and see those coming from the north. Where is the flock entrusted to you, the sheep [that were] your pride?” (Jeremiah 13:15-20 HCSB)
God’s ideal for a king was a man who would be a shepherd over His people. He would lead them in the right way, feed them with the true Word and care for them and their welfare. Jeremiah pictures the king on his throne, head bowed and the crown fallen off. The sovereign had failed and the sheep had wandered away.
That is the nature of sheep. It is descriptive of what happens to us spiritually. “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a HCSB) Our only hope is for the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ to come and find us, and bring us back home to God.
“What will you say when He appoints close friends as leaders over you, ones you yourself trained? Won't labor pains seize you, as [they do] a woman in labor? And when you ask yourself, ‘Why have these things happened to me?’ It is because of your great guilt that your skirts have been stripped off, your body exposed. Can the Cushite change his skin, or a leopard his spots? If so, you might be able to do what is good, you who are instructed in evil. I will scatter you like drifting chaff before the desert wind. This is your lot, what I have decreed for you--[this is] the Lord's declaration—because you have forgotten Me and trusted in Falsehood. I will pull your skirts up over your face so that your shame might be seen.
Your adulteries and your [lustful] neighing, your heinous prostitution on the hills, in the fields—I have seen your detestable acts. Woe to you, Jerusalem! You are unclean—for how long yet?” (Jeremiah 13:21-27 HCSB)
There is more cotton used in a box of Q-Tips than is found in some skirts! The virtual nakedness of some that leaves little to the imagination is scandalous. Jeremiah says that the hemline of the women of Jerusalem would be even shorter than that—it would be over their heads! For humiliation, their captors would take the Jewish women and pull their skirts up over their heads—hiding what should be seen and showing what should be hidden. In fact, they would be stripped bare, as leering soldiers would grope them and worse.
They had prostituted themselves with idols, while being unfaithful to the God, their Husband. Reaping what they had sown, they would be treated like a whore.
But, that is sin. It is what it does. One day, we will stand naked and exposed before the all-seeing eye of God—nowhere to run, no way to hide. Without Christ, we will be the subject of ever-lasting contempt.
Daniel speaks of that day,
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt.” (Daniel 12:2 HCSB)
Unless, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, by faith, we have no access to heaven. What we are cannot be hidden by a garment we have fashioned of our own works, anymore than sewing fig leaves together could clothe Adam and Eve.
We simply cannot change ourselves—no matter what rags of self-righteousness we stitch together. When all is stripped away, the sinner is still a sinner. We are as helpless to change our nature as a Cushite to change his skin or a leopard to change its spots.
I must become a new man. You must become a new creation—another man or woman. Not physically, but spiritually, of course. Then, what we are on the inside, becomes more and more apparent on the outside. We will be able to stand naked and exposed before God, unashamed, because when He looks at us, all He will see is Christ!