The Teaching of the Dirty Linen Girdle

                                      Jeremiah 13:1-16                            

                                     September 17, 2023



It is amazing to me how that men of the 19th century (over 200 years ago)

wrote in the Pulpit Commentary about things that happened in Israel, Judah

and Jerusalem, around 2500 to 3000 years ago, that address ideas that are contemporary

with the evils and needs of our generation, our culture and our society.


When I think of the word “girdle” it brings up memories of jokes.  But this

is no laughing matter!


There is an old saying, “If it don’t fit, don’t force it.”  This is a strange topic,

but when it comes to intimacy in this world, this seems a natural.  I am surprised to

be talking about it, but feel led to do so.  May God guide the lines of thinking in both

the presenter and the hearer or reader.



1 Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and

put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.

2 So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on

my loins.

3 And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying,

4 Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and

arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.

5 So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.

6 And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me,

Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I

commanded thee to hide there.

7 Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the

place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was

profitable for nothing.

8 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

9 Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of

Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

10 This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the

imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them,

and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for


11 For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to

cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of

Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people,

and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would

not hear.

12 Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the

LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and

they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle

shall be filled with wine?

13 Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I

will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon

David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the

inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.

14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the

sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have

mercy, but destroy them.

15 Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.

16 Give glory to the LORD your God, before He cause darkness, and

before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye

look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death, and make it

gross darkness.



loins - the part of the body on both sides of the spine between the lowest (false) 

ribs and the hipbones.  The region of the privates especially when regarded as

the source of erotic or procreative power.




In ancient times the girdle was a very useful part of many costumes, holding long,

draped garments or short, loose outfits in place. Girdles were also decorative

and could be a kind of jewelry for the waist. Girdles were often made of cloth

but were sometimes made of metal, decorated with precious stones and beads.




                        The Ruined Girdle!  Too Late to Mend?  (13:1-12)



The much-needed lesson of this section was taught by means of one of

those acted parables of which we have so many instances both in the Old

Testament and in the New: e.g.:


·       Zedekiah’s horns of iron (1 Kings 22:11);

·       the strange marriages of Isaiah 8:3, Hosea 1:2;

·       the two yokes (Jeremiah 27:2); and

·       in the New Testament, our Lord’s standing the little child in the midst

     of the disciples;  (Mark 9:36)

·         the washing the disciples’ feet; (John 13)

·         the withering of the fig tree; (Matthew 21:18-22)

·         the taking of Paul’s girdle (Acts 21:11),


The present instance seems very strange, and to us it would have

appeared meaningless, uncouth, and simply grotesque. But to Orientals, and

especially to Jews, the dramatic action of the prophet — for we regard

what is here said as having been literally done — would be very impressive.

It was a strange garb for the prophet to be arrayed in. It would attract

attention, be the subject of much comment, and, when the prophet

continued to wear it, though soiled and in much need of washing, this

would cause more comment still, and would indicate to the people that the

strange garb and conduct of the prophet had meaning and intent which it

would be well for them to give heed to. Then the taking of the girdle to

Euphrates (533 miles) whatever place be meant — burying it there, leaving it; and

then finding it and fetching it back, and no doubt exhibiting it, ruined,

worthless, good for nothing; — all this would rivet the people’s attention,

and deeply impress their minds. Now, one evident, if not the chief, lesson

designed to be taught by this to us curious procedure, was the irreparable

ruin that would come upon the people through the exile and captivity

which they were by their sin bringing upon themselves. Many, no doubt,

had comforted themselves with the idea — as is the manner of all

transgressors — that if trouble did come to them it would not be so bad as

the prophet made out. They would get over it, and be but little the worse.

This dramatic parable was designed to shatter all such notions, and to show

that Judah, like the much-marred girdle, would be, after and in

consequence of their exile, “good for nothing.” Note, then:







This would encourage their delusion. For the likening of them to a girdle,

especially to a linen girdle — a priestly and therefore a sacred vestment and

to a chosen and purchased girdle, would vividly declare to them how

precious they were in God’s sight.


1. For as the girdle (v. 11) was worn close to the person of the wearer, it

denoted how very near to the heart of God they were who by this

similitude were set forth. The known favor of God led them, as it had led

others, to presume that they could never try God too much. He would be

sure to bear with them and forgive them, do what they might.


2. Then the girdle was a portion of the dress most necessary to the wearer,

and so denoted how necessary His people were to God. Had not God said,

over and over again, in every variety of way, “How can I give thee up?

how can I make thee as Sodom?” (Hosea 11:8; Jeremiah 9:7) As

the girdle was indispensable to the comfort, the decorousness, the strength

of the wearer, so God taught by this figure that He could not do without

His people.



Read Exodus 28:6-12


Why is it called the curious girdle? The word in Hebrew means girdle or ingenious

work, and is taken from a root meaning to think, plan, esteem, calculate, invent,

make a judgment, imagine, count. God thought out, planed, imagined this girdle

and gave wisdom to the artist that made it.





The import of Psalm 50:21-23


God is Sovereign - “But our God is in the heavens:  He hath done

whatsoever He hath pleased.”  (Psalm 115:3)


21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest

that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee,

and set them in order before thine eyes.

22  Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and

there be none to deliver.

23 Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his

conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.


add to this Jeremiah 8:7-8


7 Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual

backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.

8 I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented

him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned

to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle.



3. Moreover, as the girdle was adorned and ornamented, and thus was a

most valuable portion of the dress, so it showed that His people were to

God a cherished ornament and praise. They were to be to Him for a

name, and for a praise, and for a glory” (v. 11). And as such God had

worn this girdle and put it on Him. And His people knew all this, and

presumed upon it.  (Are we past this stage? CY - 2023)



show wherefore their ideas must be a delusion. “Put it not in water” (v. 1).

The prophet was bidden to wear it in this soiled and foul condition, and

no doubt he did so. It would provoke the contempt, which adornments

associated with uncleanliness EVER EXCITE!. But its intent in thus being worn

unwashed was to depict the moral state of those to whom the prophet was

sent. As they would put away from them a soiled and unclean girdle, so

they were to learn that God, though He might bear long with a morally

unclean people, would not always do so.


I am tempted to talk for a moment on the rite of circumcision from a

standpoint of personal hygiene, personal cleanliness and what I perceive

God’s meaning for the Jewish people - leading to its true meaning of

THE CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART.  I should think this is the

true meaning and the most effective way God could get across to all of us




AWAY. This would show that their presumptuous ideas were actually a

delusion. The girdle was so spoiled by its burial by the Euphrates that it

was henceforth “good for nothing.” And all this came true. It was but a

miserable remnant of the people that came back from Babylon, and as an

independent nation they have never since regained the position that they

then lost. All their national glory CAME TO AN END; THE LESSON OF




To Churches, to individuals, to all the gifted of God’s grace in time,

talents, opportunities, and, above all, in the presence and help of the Holy

Spirit. They will be tempted to presume, to think they can never forfeit

these things, that God will be ever gracious to them as He has been in the

past. This parable is a word for all such, and should prompt the earnest and

constant putting up of the psalmist’s prayer, “Keep back thy servant…

from presumptuous sins.”  (Psalm 19:13)





IN RE TO 13:12

·         CONCLUSION. We all are vessels. We all shall be filled. But

what with? Pray that it may not be with the wine of the wrath of God, but

with the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3.).




                                                Be Not Proud (v. 15) 


It is difficult to see what those whom the prophet was addressing had to

proud of; but it is certain that they were proud, and that thereby they were,

more than by aught else, hindered from receiving the word of God. The

inflated shape, the mean material, and the easily destroyed nature of those”

bottles” to which he had likened them, as well as the arrogant boastful talk

of the drunkard, whose doings theirs he predicted should resemble; both

these comparisons show how vividly the prophet discerned in them this

besetting sin of pride, and the ruin it would be sure to work them. Let us,

therefore, note:





1. The main reason which the prophet here urges is its antagonism to the

Word of God. Now, such antagonism cannot but be, for:


(a) The Word of God despises what men most esteem.


(α)  Their own moral worth. How high men’s estimate of this!

       How low that of the Word of God!

(β) Their own capacities. Man deems himself capable of

      self-support, self=deliverance, and self-salvation. The Word

      of God tells him he is utterly dependent on God for all things,

      be he who he may.

(γ) The world — its maxims, honors, wealth, etc.


(b) It esteems what men most despise.


(α) Such qualities of mind as meekness, forgiveness of injuries,

      humility, indifference to the world, great regard to the unseen

      and the spiritual.

(β) Persons who have nothing but moral excellence to recommend them,

     be they poor, obscure, and despicable in the world’s esteem.

(γ ) Courses of life which may involve “the loss of all things,” so

      only as we “may be accepted of Him.” (Philippians 3:8;

      II Corinthians 5:9)


2. Its other terrible fruits. Some of these are given in the verses following.

It will not suffer men to give glory to God; it leads men into deadly peril

(v. 16). It causes deep distress to those who care for their souls; it will

end in their utter ruin (v. 17).



nothing but that threefold work of the Holy Spirit of which our Lord

speaks which will ensure such obedience. Pride is too deeply rooted in the

hearts of men to yield to any lesser force but:


1. The conviction of sin — destroying all man’s self-complacency.


2. Of righteousness — filling him at the same time with admiration of the

righteousness of Christ, with despair of attainment of it, but with joy that,

though he cannot have it in himself, he yet has it by virtue of his faith in



3. Of judgment — destroying the supremacy of the world over his mind,

and so delivering him from the temptation to its pride. This work of the

Holy Spirit lays the axe at the root of the tree, and ere long hews it down.

Let, then, this Holy Spirit be sought in all sincerity, and let his guidance be

ever followed; so shall “the mind of Christ” be increasingly formed in us,

and we shall learn of him who was “meek and lowly in heart,” and so find

rest in our Souls.



Vain is it to pile up the gold, vain is it to awaken the clarion trump of fame, vain is

it to gather learning or to master eloquence, eminence, rank, wealth, power

— -all these things are too little to satisfy the insatiable craving of an



BE AT PEACE WITH YOURSELF!  Man must enter into covenant of peace

with his God, or all the creatures of God shall conspire against him. Pilgrim of

earth, thy way must be towards holiness and God, or in vain shalt thou expect the


FOR EVER and even now his way is hard and his path is darkened with fear and

disquietude. I thought, however, this morning of addressing myself, through the words

of the text, to another class of individuals — persons who are sincerely

seeking better things, desirous of obtaining the true and heavenly light,

who have waited hoping to receive it, but instead of obtaining it are in a

worse, at least in a sadder, state than they were, and they are almost driven

today into the dark foreboding that for them no light will ever come, they

shall be prisoners chained for ever in the valley of the shadow of death.





            A Demand for the Timely Giving of What is Due to Jehovah

                                                     (vs. 15-16)


It will be observed that the previous verses of this chapter set forth the

doom of Jehovah’s apostate people by two very expressive figures. There

is the figure of the girdle, marred and become good for nothing by lying so

long in the damp recess of the rock. There is also the figure of the

inhabitants of Jerusalem, from those high in station down to the common

people, every one of them become as it were a living wine-skin, filled with

drunken fury, destroying one another and being destroyed. This figure,

bordering on the grotesque, presents as impending a very terrible scene.

But with the verses now to be considered there returns what we may call

an evangelical interval. Though in these prophecies of Jeremiah gloom of

necessity predominates, yet there are equally necessary intervals of light,

intervals where the mercy of Jehovah is clearly revealed, and His never-falling

desire that his people should return to Him. There is, of course,

practically, no hope for these people so far as their present social state is

concerned. They will go on their own way; but to the last God will also

make His appeal. Notice now the things which God asks for here.


I. ATTENTION. “Hear ye, and give ear.” These people have never really

attended to the import of the prophetic messages. Either they have been

totally indifferent or they have been irritated by some word they did not

like, and so the complete message has fallen uncomprehended upon their

ears. For instance, the why and wherefore of the prophet’s extraordinary

journey to the Euphrates, they did not trouble themselves to consider. And

it is plain from v. 12 how entirely they missed the meaning of the

prophet’s saying respecting the bottles being filled with wine. The

parabolic sentence was to them nothing more than mere commonplace.

And of course, so long as attention was lacking, truth was of no use. There

is an analogy between the receiving of truth and the receiving of bodily

food. As food must be properly introduced into the physical system, so

truth must be properly introduced into the mind, brought before the

understanding of the individual, firmly grasped by him in its reality, so that

it may become a real and beneficial element in the life.


II. HUMILITY. There must be submission to the prophet as a proved

messenger from God. Pride is going to be the ruin of these people. The

prophet himself was humbly obedient to all commandments of God; why,

then, should his audience be proud? The grandees (persons of high rank or

eminence) of Jerusalem do not like to be talked to by the comparative

rustic from Anathoth. The elders resent remonstrances from a man comparatively

young. Those whose boast it perhaps was that they had never been in bondage to

any man, do not like to hear of conquest and captivity. There is no getting at truth

and right without humility. Because truth means, not only the reception of that

which is true, but the casting out of the old and the loved and the often

boasted of. It is very hard for a man to cut himself off from the past and

show by a very different future how he feels the errors and follies of which

he has been guilty. It is hard for the διδάσκαλος - didaskalos - teacher - like

Nicodemus to go down from his chair and become a μαθητής -  mathataes -

disciple - stumbling among the rudimentary principles of the kingdom of heaven.  



your God.” These people had been giving elsewhere what they reckoned to

be glory, but which, so far from being glory, was indeed their own deepest

shame. Glory of a certain sort they had plenty of, but they came short of

the glory of God. They did not, in the conduct of their life, show a proper

response to the wisdom by which God had created them as men and

separated them as a people. By their present doings they were exposing the

Name of Jehovah to insult and scorn from all round about. This asking for

glory to be given was a request reasonable in itself. If a master is a good

master, it is not right that his servant should act so as to make the master’s

reputation suffer. If a father is a good father, it is not right for his child to

act as if he had been deprived of all beneficial influences in the way of

teaching and training. What is thought of a man who basely forgets his

nationality and laughs at the feelings that gather around the idea of

fatherland? And hence the Name of Jehovah was a name to be magnified in

word and deed and every outcome of life on the part of His people. We

ourselves must labor to praise God with our whole hearts. And more than

that, we must live as those who show the power of God, saving us and

lifting us into an altogether higher life.



PERIL TO THOSE WHO REFUSE TO GIVE. The figure employed is

that of a traveler on a journey. He gets into the wrong road, gets indeed

altogether out of any proper road; but he persists in mere wandering,

refuses to be warned, will not accept guidance back to the proper .path. He

sees dangers, many dangers; but because it is daylight he manages to

escape them. And now, as the darkness momentarily increases, the

warnings also increase in urgency. When the darkness is fully come, where

will he be. On the mountains, not able to take one confident step in any

direction, lest it be over the precipice. Furthermore, in the case of a

traveler, he has always this resort, that if darkness comes amid such

dangers he can stand still till the return of the dawn. But here is the

contrast in that the expected dawn will never come. This rebellious, God-

dishonoring generation is virtually walking into captivity of its own accord.

As far as it is concerned, it will look in vain for restoration. The restoration

will belong, not to it, nor even to its children, but rather to its children’s

children. Those who wander from God wander into a state where they are

self destroyed, because the resources of which they boasted themselves

have come to nothing. Glorify God, willingly, in the light, or you will end

by glorifying Him unwillingly, in the darkness. Think of what came to

Herod because he did not give the glory to God. (Acts 12)







                        Moral Helplessness: How Induced (Jeremiah 13:23)


I. THE EXTENT TO WHICH IT MAY GO. The metaphors employed are

intended to illustrate the difficulty of getting rid of that which has become a

part of one’s self, or which has become natural to one. It is evident that

superficial means would never produce the effect supposed, because that

which seems to be superficial has really its root in the nature, and would be

reproduced similarly in place of that which was removed. The doctrine is

that there are certain evils into which men fall which may appear to be

external, matters of custom and observance, but which have really their

origin in the depravity of the heart. Any merely external reform, like that of

Josiah, would fail to effect a permanent change, because the source of the

errors and transgressions which were corrected was deeper than the

remedy could reach. And this is the case with the sins of men. To cease to

do evil we have not only to stay the hand but to purify the heart. To cease

to do evil we must cease to think it, to feel it, and to conceive it. So

helpless is the sinner when he stands face to face with the problem of

reformation. Effort after effort is made and fails. It is bound to fail because

the source of the wrong-doing has not been rectified. To change himself —

who is capable of this feat?


II. CAUSES OF IT, REAL AND UNREAL. Excuses readily suggest

themselves to the sinner who would avoid the humiliation of repentance.

He may ask the question, as if it were a mystery, “Wherefore come these

things upon me?” Or, ignoring the witness of conscience, he may attribute

his weakness to circumstances and external influences. This is the error

which the prophet refutes. With great skill he shows the terrible power of

habit: how men continue to do that which they have been doing simply

because they have been doing it. The feet acquire a fatal facility in

transgression, and the, hands a skill in working evil. They almost act

automatically when things forbidden are suggested. But when the

commandments of God are concerned they are unfamiliar with the duties

enjoined, and the will is not resolute enough to persevere in them.


III. ITS GREAT REMEDY. Seeing that in himself the sinner is without

strength, it would appear at first as if he could only despair. But this is not

the teaching of the prophet. He has already counseled vigorous effort, and

implied that a commencement and continuance in well-doing were possible.

But the change could only begin at a spiritual point, viz. repentance. And

this, as Scripture abundantly shows, though within the power of every one,

is a supernatural grace. A true sorrow for sin may be induced in answer to

prayer, by the study of Scripture, and the contemplation of Christ; BUT IT IS

ALWAYS THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!  When that grace, however,

has once been attained, it is open to the sinner to reverse the process by which he

has been enslaved. After conversion evil habit will assert itself, and can

only be met by constant dependence upon Divine grace and constant effort

after holiness. “But as many as received Him, to them gave He  power to

become the sons of God.”  (John 1:12)  The good habit formed by repeated

and regular actions according to the Law of God is the best antidote to the evil one.















                        Lost Upon the Dark Mountains (vs. 16-17)


“Give glory to the Lord!”


I. THE SCENE PORTRAYED. It is that of unhappy travelers overtaken

by night, when crossing some of the perilous mountain tracks of Palestine.

A traveler overtaken as these seem to have been by a night storm, is in

imminent danger of falling over precipices and perishing miserably. Even

by day the way is perilous: the paths are easily lost, or are strewn with

rocks, or they lead along steep and slippery slopes, or by overhanging

cliffs, where a single foot slip may plunge the heedless passenger headlong

to a frightful death in the far depths below. But how much more dangerous

such journey must be when night overtakes the travelers, is evident. The

fading light has gone, but the journey has still to be pursued. And now

comes that stumbling upon the dark mountains, which is so terrible and

inevitable. There is the anxious looking for the fitful light of moon or stars,

and occasionally hope arises that the clouds will break and some glimmer

appear. But this hope has been speedily quenched by the clouds gathering

over again, and with the added darkness of the rain-storm, so that the

darkness is “gross,” like unto that of the shadow of death. Every step,

therefore, is fraught with frightful peril, and not a few thus benighted amid

such mountain passes perish miserably ere the morning dawn. Such is the

scene portrayed.




1. The temporal calamities which God sends — as to the Jews — in

punishment for their sins. All earthly distress has the sad tendency to

unhinge the mind, to fill with foreboding fear, and greatly to perplex and

overwhelm; but when to the natural effects of such earthly distress there is

added the consciousness of guilt and of having deserved what God has

sent, then the dismay, distress, and despair which are suggested by the

prophetic picture are miserably increased.


2. The hardened sinners despair of Gods mercy. The vision of judgment

and wrath has come upon him, but the remembrance of his sins crushes

hope of mercy (compare Judas “going out and hanging himself”).

(Matthew 27:5)


3. The entanglements of sin. It is a great mistake to imagine that those who

are enslaved by any sin are happy in it. Not a few of them endure a very

hell in their frantic but futile endeavors to break the chain which long

indulgence has forged and fastened around them. The bitter repentance, the

unavailing remorse, every gleam of hope of deliverance so soon quenched,

the recklessness of despair, the groaning as of the prisoner appointed to

death, — all these are realities known to the slaves of sin, and should make

every soul shudder lest the like should come upon him.


4. The procrastinators death-bed. He who has been convinced over and

over again that he ought to seek the Lord, but has ever put it off, — his

feet are likely to “stumble upon the dark mountains “when the night of the

shadow of death draws upon him.


III. HOW SUCH MISERY MAY BE AVOIDED. It was very near: the

prophet’s words imply that the’ oft-threatened doom was at their very

doors. And so the like doom may be near to many now. But yet it may be

avoided. Giving heed to God’s Word (v. 15). We have much hope when

we see an earnest heeding of that Word, a really serious attention paid to

it. But that by itself is not enough. There must be the actual “giving glory

to God;”


·         by confession of sin,

·         acknowledging the wrong done;

·         by casting the soul on God for forgiveness in lowly trust;

·         by forsaking the evil that has roused the just anger of God.


“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:  though your sins be as

scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they

shall be as wool.”  (Isaiah 1:18)


“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts:

and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and

to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”  (ch. 55:7).


“......behold now is the day of salvation.”  (II Corinthians 6:2) 



NOT BE AVOIDED AFTER ALL. It was and it ever is the accursed pride

(vs. 15, 17) that will not allow of such giving heed to the Divine Word

and such giving glory to him. All the instincts of the unrenewed heart are

up in arms against such self-abasement. Any sacrifice will be brought rather

than that of the broken and contrite heart.



LOST. (v. 17.) See the prophet’s piteous tears. He can do nothing —

every resource has been tried and failed, and he can but “weep sore in

secret places” for the “pride” that has ruined those he would fain have

saved. Oh then, sinful heart, down, down before thy God, and give glory

to Him, as He would have thee do, as it is so right and reasonable and good

for thee to do, as the ministers of God entreat thee to do.




            The Neglected Trust Demanded (13:20)    summarize


“Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?”  This word is

addressed to the rulers of Judah and Jerusalem. Their people, the nation over

whom they ruled, were God’s flock, His “beautiful flock.” That flock had been

entrusted to the rulers’ care. The influence of those in power was very

great. As were the leaders of the people — especially the king — so were

the people themselves. They could be led like a flock, and were so.

Tremendous, therefore, was the responsibility of those in power, to whom

was entrusted this flock of the Lord. But they had used their great

authority and power badly. Ruin had come or was about to come upon the

flock (compare vs. 18-19); they were to be scattered, scattered wholly, and

the greater portion of them lost. To these careless and guilty shepherds the

Lord now comes, and asks for the flock He had placed in their hands. Give

an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest no longer be steward.”

(Luke 16:2), was said to those who were to be no longer stewards because

of their faithlessness. Now, this question, “Where is the flock,” etc.? is one which

should be often heard sounding in the ears of many others besides those to whom

it was first addressed, e.g.


I. TO THE PASTORS OF THE CHURCH. The Church of God is His

flock, His “beautiful flock.” Its members are very dear to Him, “purchased

with his own blood.” The Church is given, entrusted, to pastors. When

Christ ascended up on high He gave some “pastors.” This method of

ordering His Church is the one He has willed. His blessing has evidently

rested on it. What does not the Church of God owe to her faithful pastors?

But whatever their character they cannot but have great influence. They are

trusted by the people. They have received special gifts for their work in the

form of mental and moral endowments. They are much prayed for. They

are specially set apart for the charge of the Church of God. They have

every inducement to fidelity. Faithful, the love of their charge will gather

round them; the fear of God will dwell within them; the crown of life

awaits them. And these mighty motives, acting upon hearts already

prepared by God’s grace and devoted to this high office, have for the most

part secured a great degree of fidelity in it. Hence a character and

reputation have become associated with the office, which cannot but invest

with much influence, as it does with much responsibility, all those who

occupy it. But in spite of all this there may be, as there has been at times,

great unfaithfulness. Hence the flock has been scattered. The Church has

suffered in numbers, in purity of doctrine, in consistency of life, in

spirituality of character. Its enjoyment in all holy service goes; its power

for good in the neighborhood where it dwells goes; its regard for all that

marks vigorous life in a Church all goes; and ere long its “candlestick is

removed out of its place.” Perhaps its numbers may not greatly diminish.

There shall be the observance of the sabbath, its services, its sermons, its

sacraments — orderly, regular, frequent. Many things may conduce to this.

Its name may live, but it is dead. Oh, the awfulness of this! And if it have

been through the negligence and unfaithfulness of the pastor, who shall

deliver him from the charge of blood-guiltiness which will lie at his door?

What will he answer when the question is addressed to him, as one day it

surely will be, “Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?”

Let every pastor of Christ’s Church consider this and pray:


“Chief Shepherd of thy chosen sheep,

From death and sin set free,

Let every under-shepherd keep

His eye intent on thee.”


II. TO ALL PARENTS. Our children are the Lord’s flock, His “beautiful

flock.” They are very dear to Him. He puts His arm round every one of

them; He takes them all up in His arms and blesses them. He declares by His

Word and by their baptism that they are of His kingdom, and He both

promises vast reward to those that receive them in His Name, and threatens

with dreadful doom all those who “offend” them. But parents have

unspeakable influence over them. They mold and fashion them, not in

outward form and habits alone, but in inward character. For a long time

they are as God to their children, who know no higher authority, no higher

help. Hence they trust their parents utterly. And to guard against the abuse

of this tremendous trust, God has implanted the instincts of parental love,

and given every motive to parents to guard and keep well those He has

entrusted to their care. Now, if through parental unfaithfulness those

children become renegades from God, He will surely ask this question,

“Where is the flock, thy beautiful flock?  Let remembrance of this lead to

earnest prayer and diligent heed so that each parent at last may have

the unspeakable joy — as he may have — of standing at last before God,

and saying, with glad thankfulness, “Behold, here am I, and the children,

 thou hast given me.” (Isaiah 8:18)


III. TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL SOUL. For the sum of all the faculties,

opportunities, talents, the whole of the varied gifts and capacities which

together form our spiritual nature — judgment, affection, conscience,

intellect, will, — all these are the flock of God which is entrusted to every

individual man; and by due care and cultivation of them he can preserve

and develop them into an offering of worship and consecration which God

will ever accept and bless. Every man has the making of his own life by the

help of God. There is scarce any degree of honor and joy which he may not

win by faithfulness in the use of that which God has entrusted to him.

Concerning them all God says, “Occupy till I come.” (Luke 19:13-14;

contrast Psalm 81:11-16))  And how vast and varied is the help God gives to us in

this great work! What means of grace are provided! What recompense even

here and now is given! Victory over self; a mind at peace; blessed influence

over others; the love and esteem of the good; free communion and fellowship

with God Himself; the consciousness of the Divine love; the bright and blessed

hope of the eternal life hereafter. So that even now “in keeping of God’s

commandments there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:11)  But if we be unfaithful here

and waste all  our goods — these high gifts, faculties, and opportunities — sowing

to the flesh when we should be sowing to the Spirit, then this question will be heard

concerning all these things, “Where is the flock, thy beautiful flock?”  And then we

search in vain for any answer to the next question “What will thou say when He

shall punish thee?” (v. 21), Therefore let us each keep continually before

our minds such truths as those that are taught in the well-known hymn:


“A charge to keep I have,

A God to glorify,

A never-dying soul to save

And fit it for the sky.

“Help me to watch and pray,

And on thyself rely;

Assured if I my trust betray

                        I shall forever die.”



An Awful Condition Indeed (13:23)


“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?  Then may ye

also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”  This verse tells of one who as

brought himself to such a pass that he cannot cease from sin. IT IS AN



in re:  the role of the will in past lessons


The prostration of his will.  He is continually making resolves, but they

are frail as cobwebs, they are broken through by the slightest temptation

now. The power to firmly and steadfastly resolve seems gone from him. He

has resolved so often, but in vain, that his will now refuses to rise to the






                                    A Natural Impossibility (v. 23)



profound and momentous truth, God Himself being the witness — the

heart-searching God — that man who is accustomed to do evil cannot turn

to good. This truth is not baldly stated here, but is illustrated in such a way

that there can be no possible doubt as to God’s meaning. Observe that the

impossibility referred to is a natural one. It is not said that under no

circumstances whatever can a man accustomed to do evil be enabled to do

good. The thing affirmed is that the power of habit and custom is so strong

that he cannot turn himself. If we are inclined to doubt this, and indulge in

that glorification of human nature which is at once so easy and so perilous,

we have only to think of the illustrations here employed. It is vain to

discuss with a man who is determined to magnify the power of the natural

man towards that which is right and good. The better plan is to assure

one’s own heart of the truth which God would make plain by these

illustrations of His own giving. If any one asserted that an Ethiopian could

change his skin or a leopard his spots, he would be reckoned a fool past

arguing with. But there are multitudes who think it is very good advice to

tell the poor slave of worldliness and passion to be a man and exert the

strength of his will and turn away from evil. Now, what God says here by

his prophet is that every such attempt must end in disappointment. No

doubt there are certain times and stages in life when it is hard to accept

such a view. It is a humbling and limiting view, one which exhibits in such

an uncompromising way our weakness. But the sooner we come to take

such a view — to take it practically and not in a mere speculative manner

to feel that the way of self-recovery and self-perfecting is closed against

us, the better it will be for us.



This is not stated here, but we know that it is meant to be remembered. In

all such emphatic assertions of human inability there lies the suggestion that

we may look confidently and ought to look promptly for abundance of

Divine help. God puts His hand on our mouths to stop all proud words, but

at the same time He would lead us to lay hold of His promises and be filled

with His strength. A clear vision of our own inability means a clear vision of

the need of Divine intervention, and a clear vision of the need of Divine

intervention may be expected to prepare for an equally clear vision of the

reality of that intervention. That which measures the impossibilities in the

corrupted natural man helps to measure the reasonable purposes and

expectations of the man who is renewed by the Spirit of God. When we

have got the life that is hid with Christ in God, we have something within

us which defies the corruptions so powerful before. The Christian, full of

the Divine Spirit, is found able to utter all sorts of paradoxes. Though he

cannot, of himself, make one hair white or black, he can be “suffering, yet

always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich.” (II Corinthians 6:10) There is a

way, then, by which those accustomed to do evil can be brought to do good.

There are resources which more than make up for the greatest lack of natural

strength. If we only seek for those resources in the right place, we cannot

fail to find them.




available to show natural impossibilities, but these two are employed. It will

be observed that they relate to the alteration of external appearance. God

could change the skin of the Ethiopian, could change the spots of the

leopard; but He leaves them as they are, because no good purpose could be

served by the alteration. Where an alteration is really wanted, He can make

it, with results that are profitable now and promise a far greater profit in

eternity. So far as the merely agreeable is concerned, it would certainly

have been pleasanter for the Negro if those features which make him an

object of ridicule to the ignorant, the proud, and the meticulous (careful and

precise), were taken away. But it is God’s principle to interfere with nature

only where sin has made the interference necessary. Many Negroes — God

be thanked — have found the better part, the one thing needful; and, compared

with this, what is the most disturbing of surface discomforts? Continual comfort at

the heart, a comfort which cannot be taken from him, makes him forget all

these. There would be no object in changing the spots of the leopard; let us

rather rejoice that God takes away from men the leopard-ferocity which

makes them as dangerous as any beast of prey. How often we seek vain

and useless things, making ourselves miserable over physical defects and

peculiarities, and continuing quite indifferent to the washing of the heart

from wickedness. Instead of being anxious after things we cannot change

and need not change, let us pray and strive after that possible, fundamental,

radical change which will bring in due time perfection of the whole man.

God, working from the heart, will cause that in due time we shall be

perfect and entire, lacking nothing.





The One Thing Needful (13:27)  Glean

Wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be?”


I. MEN ARE SPIRITUALLY UNCLEAN. Like as the Lord looked down

upon the occupants of the porches at Bethesda, and saw but a multitude of

impotent folk (John 5.); so now, as “His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children

of men.”  (Psalm 11:4)  He sees a similar though a far more terrible sight —

the mass of mankind spiritually diseased. This is manifestly true of the heathen

world. The abominations and the cruelties that are practiced there show the

virulence (servility or harmfulness) of the soul’s malady amongst them. And if

we look at the mass of those who profess and call themselves Christians, in how

many of these is the profession only, a veneer of religious customs covering

a corrupt and sinloving heart. And if it be so with the professing Church, what

must it be with those who reject all the means of grace which the Christian

Church enjoys?



DELIVERED FROM THIS UNCLEANNESS. “He will have all men to be

saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:4)

He desires this:


1. From His very nature. He Himself is the most holy God. But all moral

qualities ever strive to reproduce themselves in those around them. Let a

man be characterized by orderliness, truthfulness, sobriety, purity, and in

proportion as he is so the contact of those of opposite character will be

painful to him, and he will endeavor to make them like himself. And so,

because “good and upright is the Lord, therefore will He teach sinners in

the way.”  (Psalm 25:8)


2. His righteousness also. The sense of outrage and wrong which sin must

produce in the heart of God makes Him angry with the wicked every day.

(ibid. ch. 11:7)

3. His compassion. Sin is sorrow. We wonder at the priests of Baal

persisting in cutting and wounding themselves. But is not every sinner just

such a one? And with this added sorrow — that their wounds are FOR

ETERNITY, and not for the short life here alone. On the other hand, to be




III. YET MEN WILL NOT. The tone of the question, the woe which

precedes it, the comparison of the sinner with the Ethiopian and the

leopard, etc. (v. 23), the half-despairing cry, “When shall it once be?”

(v. 27), — all this shows the prophet’s conviction of man’s persistent

clinging to his sin. Were the question concerning bodily disease, it would

be unnecessary. Who would not be delivered from that? But when it is

spiritual healing, MEN WILL NOT!  From the consequences of their sin they

are willing to be delivered the punishment, the remorse, the shame, etc. —

BUT NOT FROM THE SIN ITSELF!!!???? True, at times, in the first keen

pangs of remorse, and under the vivid sense of shame, they would be willing then

to be rid of the sin itself. But their return to their sin shows how momentary

and superficial this feeling was. (And it is true of them as of the true proverb,

“.....The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed

to her wallowing in the mire.”  (II Peter 2:22)  And men would be willing,

perhaps, if by some one act the whole cure could be effected; if the being made

whole was not so slow, so difficult, so self-denying a process. And, in fact, they

do hope that by some one act — a death-bed repentance — the whole

process will be accomplished.



MADE WHOLE. God does not by a mere act of power make a man

spiritually whole, as He makes one tree an oak, another an elm. The will

must consent. We have this awful power of compelling Christ to “stand at

the door and knock; for the door of our hearts is opened from the inside.

We must undo the bolts and remove the bars. No view of the Holy Spirit s

influence which contradicts this can be a true view. We can, and alas! do,

say “No” to God. But also we can, and He is ever pleading with us to, say

“Yes” to His call.


V. BUT ONE DAY IT SHALL BE GIVEN. “My people shall be willing in

the day of my power.”  (Psalm 110:3)  Christ wept over Jerusalem, but yet He

told them that when next He came they should say, “Blessed be he that cometh

in the Name of the Lord; el. also the predicted repentance of the Jews, “They also

which pierced Him,” (Revelation 1:7)  But oh, what “everlasting

burnings,” what awful scourgings, has Jerusalem had to go through before,

like the prodigal, she came to herself! Let none abuse this doctrine. If we

will say “Yes” to God now, and come to Christ in loving self-surrender, we

shall find His yoke easy and His burden light; but if we will say “No,” then

we shall have to come to ourselves; and what may not that involve? Truly,

now is the accepted time”   (II Corinthians 6:2)





   Jeremiah 13:

I. THE DUTY. “Give glory to your God.” Several distinct elements of

thought and life are involved in this.


1. A recognition of the sacred and indissoluble relation in which we stand

towards God. However we may have forsaken Him, He is still “the Lord our

God.” We are still His dependent creatures, His needy children. To please

Him, to serve His purposes, to show forth His glory, must, in the very nature

of things, be the end of our existence. All religious life begins with the

devout acknowledgment of this supreme PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP!


2. A due sense of the claims God has, on the ground of what He is in

Himself, on our regard. The true glory of the Divine Being is HIS INFINITE

MORAL PERFECTIONS!   When Moses said, “I beseech thee show me thy

 glory,” God answered, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I

will proclaim the Name of the Lord before thee.” (Exodus 33:18-23)  We

give glory to God” when, gazing upon the beauty and majesty of His

intrinsic moral excellences, we yield back to Him a due response of

reverence, and admiration, and trust, and love.


3. Practical surrender to His service.Glorify God in your body and in

your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). The actual homage

of a godly life is indicated here — the consecration of all the powers of our

nature as a “living sacrifice” upon the altar of the Lord. (Romans 12:1-2)

If the Name of the Lord our God is hallowed in our hearts, we shall thus give

ourselves and our all to Him. Practical goodness akin to His own is the best

and most acceptable tribute we can pay. We honor Him most when we most

strive to be like Him in all holy character and Godlike deed.


II. THE MOTIVE. “Before he cause darkness.”  Here is a prospect

that may well awaken fear. Something more than mere external calamity is

suggested. There is internal distress, mental perplexity and bewilderment; a

condition in which the spirits of the people become a prey to all kinds of

misleading and deluding influences, wildly groping after a good that is lost

and gone from them forever. Few pictures of imagination could be sadder

than that of men looking and longing for the light, only to find the darkness

growing more and more deep and dense around them. It is often something

like this when men are unfaithful to their real convictions and negligent el

the acknowledged claims of God. Trifle with truth and conscience, and you

cannot wonder that truth should become to you a mere mocking shadow,

and conscience a perpetual foe to your peace. Despise the sacred privileges

and obligations of life, and you make them to be sources of heavy

condemnation. Let the light be scorned or abused, and it turns into “the

shadow of death.” “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon

you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.  While ye

have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of the light.

These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them.”

 (John 12:35-36).