1 This is what the LORD said to me: "Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not wash it."
2 So I bought the belt as the LORD directed me and put it around my waist.
3 Then the LORD gave me another message:
4 "Take the linen belt you are wearing, and go to the Euphrates River.* Hide it there in a hole in the rocks."1
5 So I went and hid it at the Euphrates as the LORD had instructed me.
6 A long time afterward, the LORD said to me, "Go back to the Euphrates and get the linen belt that I told you to hide there."
7 So I went to the Euphrates and dug it out of the hole where I had hidden it. But now it was mildewed and falling apart. The belt was useless.
8 Then I received this message from the LORD:
9 "The LORD says: This illustrates how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem.
10 These wicked people refuse to listen to me. They stubbornly follow their own desires and worship idols. Therefore, they will become like this linen belt--good for nothing!
11 As a belt clings to a person's waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me," says the LORD. "They were to be my people, my pride, my glory--an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me.
12 "So tell them, `The LORD, the God of Israel, says: All your wineskins will be full of wine.' And they will reply, `Of course, you don't need to tell us how prosperous we will be!'
13 Then tell them, `No, this is what the LORD means: I will make everyone in this land so confused that they will seem drunk--from the king sitting on David's throne and from the priests and the prophets, right on down to the common people.
14 I will smash them one against the other, even parents against children, says the LORD. I will not let my pity or mercy or compassion keep me from destroying them.' "
15 Listen! Do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken.
16 Give glory to the LORD your God before it is too late. Acknowledge him before he brings darkness upon you, causing you to stumble and fall on the dark mountains. For then, when you look for light, you will find only terrible darkness.
17 And if you still refuse to listen, I will weep alone because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears because the LORD's flock will be led away into exile.
18 Say to the king and his mother, "Come down from your thrones and sit in the dust, for your glorious crowns will soon be snatched from your heads."
19 The towns of the Negev will close their gates, and no one will be able to open them. The people of Judah will be taken away as captives. They will all be carried into exile.
20 See the armies marching down from the north! Where is your flock--your beautiful flock--that he gave you to care for?
21 How will you feel when the LORD sets your foreign allies over you as rulers? You will writhe in pain like a woman giving birth!
22 You may ask yourself, "Why is all this happening to me?" It is because of your many sins! That is why you have been raped and destroyed by invading armies.
23 Can an Ethiopian* change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you always do evil.2
24 "I will scatter you, just as chaff is scattered by the winds blowing in from the desert.
25 This is your allotment, that which is due you," says the LORD. "I have measured it out especially for you, because you have forgotten me and put your trust in false gods.
26 I myself will expose you to shame.
27 I am keenly aware of your adultery and lust, and your abominable idol worship out in the fields and on the hills. Your destruction is sure, Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are pure?"
Read Jeremiah 14