As Derek Williams (The Bible Application Handbook) says, drama has often been used down the years to communicate religious truth. In Medieval times, mystery plays taught people who were not able to read. In the case of the OT prophets, drama was used to enact parables.
Jeremiah’s linen belt was, in fact, an intimate undergarment. It signified the intimacy that Israel had one had with the Lord. But it had been taken off and buried, and had become ruined. It was fit for nothing, and deserved only to be thrown away. God was about to discard the people he had once bound so closely to himself. Throughout Scripture, God’s people are warned not to presume upon his love.
1 This is what the LORD said to me: “Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.” 2 So I bought a belt, as the LORD directed, and put it around my waist.
3 Then the word of the LORD came to me a second time: 4 “Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go now to Perath and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.” 5 So I went and hid it at Perath, as the LORD told me.
6 Many days later the LORD said to me, “Go now to Perath and get the belt I told you to hide there.” 7 So I went to Perath and dug up the belt and took it from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and completely useless.
8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9 “This is what the LORD says: ‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless! 11 For as a belt is bound around a man’s waist, so I bound the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’
12 “Say to them: ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Every wineskin should be filled with wine.’ And if they say to you, ‘Don’t we know that every wineskin should be filled with wine?’ 13 then tell them, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to fill with drunkenness all who live in this land, including the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets and all those living in Jerusalem. 14 I will smash them one against the other, fathers and sons alike, declares the LORD. I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them.’ ”
Threat of Captivity
15 Hear and pay attention,
do not be arrogant,
for the LORD has spoken.
16 Give glory to the LORD your God
before he brings the darkness,
before your feet stumble
on the darkening hills.
You hope for light,
but he will turn it to thick darkness
and change it to deep gloom.
17 But if you do not listen,
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.
18 Say to the king and to the queen mother,
“Come down from your thrones,
for your glorious crowns
will fall from your heads.”
19 The cities in the Negev will be shut up,
and there will be no one to open them.
All Judah will be carried into exile,
carried completely away.
20 Lift up your eyes and see
those who are coming from the north.
Where is the flock that was entrusted to you,
the sheep of which you boasted?
21 What will you say when the LORD sets over you
those you cultivated as your special allies?
Will not pain grip you
like that of a woman in labor?
22 And if you ask yourself,
“Why has this happened to me?”—
it is because of your many sins
that your skirts have been torn off
and your body mistreated.
23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard its spots?
Neither can you do good
who are accustomed to doing evil.
24 “I will scatter you like chaff
driven by the desert wind.
25 This is your lot,
the portion I have decreed for you,”
declares the LORD,
“because you have forgotten me
and trusted in false gods.
26 I will pull up your skirts over your face
that your shame may be seen—
27 your adulteries and lustful neighings,
your shameless prostitution!
I have seen your detestable acts
on the hills and in the fields.
Woe to you, O Jerusalem!
How long will you be unclean?”