I have just been down to the local square
To buy down there a long wide linen undershirt
Free from dirt, a normal thing to do I guess
Well that was in for us – to wear shirts thus underneath our hairy robes.
I wore the thing for weeks and weeks
Until the cloth was dirty absolutely filthy
And that was in for God
Which you may think is odd
But I didn’t take it off until He gave the word.
And when I did, it stunk – The thing was rank
And God who couldn’t stand it anymore shouted through my door
“Take that putrid rag and bury it 400 miles from here beside a rambling river
In the land of Babylon where all my dying people soon must go
Shackled hand to hand – a sloppy band of exiles – slaves and hos.”
I anchored down my moldy shirt behind an old wet rock
And staggered home relieved or so I thought
Until my mind was caught by God’s relentless pitch:
“Return!” He said.
“Oh, no!” said I.
“Oh, yes!” He said.
“Oh, well” said I.
And traveled back again 400 heavy miles
I found that cloth like flesh, decayed and damp.
Smelling like the meat that ravenous dogs would drag along the street.
I held that shirt aloft as though it was an empire’s checkered flag.
And the latest word of God came through
Like the smell that reached the naked nostrils of all who wandered by.
“Look at yourselves,” says God
“And see you as I do.
Your putrid yellow pride will bring you black corruption.
For I will let you rot in a damp and dirty land
Until you are good for nothing
Nothing but the garbage damp
That’s quite a slump.
Long ago I made you cling to me
Like a fragrant linen undershirt
Close, and fresh and clean
With a covenant, I bound you to My loins
A dancing bride too shy to show her shining face
But now, you have a harlot’s brow
Every day you wear a mask
A mask for kissing wooden calves
A mask for petting pagan kings
A mask for spitting on the poor
A mask for preying on the floor of my temple
I will tell you what you are my beloved, what you are
A mutilated mask poked with sin which cannot be erased
Your mask you see became your skin
And just as leopards cannot change their spots,
You cannot change your lives
Dark with evil blots breaking through your flesh
The ugly mask you wore is precisely what you are – rotten to the core.”
There are sweeter jobs I am sure
Than waving rotten rags about
And rubbing dirty noses until their nerves are raw
For every act is more than just a symbol
It is the Word made visible
Working through my actions
To bring about the end they must vividly portray
That final day for Israel
Such antics are the Word of God.
Source: Are You Joking Jeremiah by Norman Habel