In verse one, Yahweh instructs the prophet to purchase and wear a linen loincloth. In verse 2, Jeremiah does it. Period. Then, and only then, does the prophet receive another word from Yahweh.
Pause and reflect on that. Such a trivial command, no? As if God parted the heavens to tell you to buy a can of olives, or a jar of mayonnaise, and put it on the shelf?
If that were the case, would it be lawful and reasonable to ask why this command was given? Sure, I don't know why not. We could ask. But suppose no answer was forthcoming? What then?
In response, let me ask four questions of my own:
- Was the directive surely from God?
- Was the directive clear enough?
- Does God deserve obedience, regardless of the presence or absence of further explanation as to His rationale?
- Would it in any sense be unreasonable to say that disobedience, dithering or delay would itself be unreasonable?
Suppose Jeremiah never received one further word from Yahweh. The entry for that day might be, "Dear Diary: today, Yahweh told me to buy a belt, so I did." The diary's last entry of his life might include, "...oh, and I never found out what the deal with the belt was. But that's okay. He's Yahweh. I'm not."
Why would it be "okay"? Do this mental exercise. List for me every last being who does not have exhaustive knowledge of the nature, meaning and significance of every fact or event that ever has existed or will exist, as well as every fact or event that might have existed.
That will be a very, very long list. Blogger won't allow you to write all the names in your comment. This list will contain the name of every last sentient creature, of any order, ever.
My name will be on that list. Yours, as well.
Now: list for me every last being who does have exhaustive knowledge of the nature, meaning and significance of every fact or event that ever has existed or will exist, as well as every fact or event that might have existed.
That will be a very short list. It will contain only one name: God.
At this point — because this is what they do — your village atheist might sputter and fume with explosive, scornful fury. But, just to be blunt and plain, that's what Hell is all about, and that is why only people who deserve to be in Hell will be in Hell... and why we all deserve to be in Hell. The idea of a God who deserves ultimate and all-consuming love and respect and obedience, simply because He is God, is abhorrent, and the rejection of that premise is what launched the doomed project known as "the world."
Back to our passage. The issue to Jeremiah, once he received this seemingly nonsensical directive, is this and only this: is Yahweh worthy of faith, love, and obedience?
That, right there, is the archetypal question. It was that same question in the Garden, and it was at that same point that our great-great-greats answered wrongly, and doomed us all.
You see, they had a word from God that was also clear and sufficient: don't eat the fruit of this tree, or you will die. In fact, they actually had more than Jeremiah had, in that they had a known consequence. So the issue was exactly the same: was Yahweh worthy of faith, love, and obedience?