For the next sixteen chapters, Jeremiah’s message is relentlessly one of impending doom and throughout, the prophet struggles with the nature of his message and the negative response of the people.
Unceasingly, the people reply to Jeremiah that they don’t understand what they have been doing wrong. And persistently, God has Jeremiah recite their sins in graphic detail often using animal imagery to describe their base activities (have you noticed the number of times God refers to them as neighing – like horses?).
Judah isn’t listening. They hear what they want to hear, so God determines to give them an object lesson. He sends Jeremiah on a 500 mile journey to the Euphrates area (called “Perath” here) with what in essence was a new thigh-length linen t-shirt. He has Jeremiah bury it there. A long time passed (remember that Jeremiah served as the Lord’s prophet for over fifty years) and the Lord sent Jeremiah back to retrieve it – likely now rotted, threadbare, and eaten by insects. Holding it up, Jeremiah says: “This is what you will look like when God gets done with you.”
We are constantly reminded of the multifaceted nature of God in these texts. God’s people will suffer. God is sending the suffering Himself. The people themselves are to blame for their sins. But God suffers too: “I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive” (13:17).