I had marked this verse down to come back to after one of our Wednesday night services. I thought the imagery was cool. Here’s the verse:
KJV: Jeremiah 2:22. For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.
The point is that soap can clean the dirt off our bodies, but it cannot clean the sin from our soul.
A quick illustration: I took a quick trip up to North Carolina a few weeks ago to help my father-in-law with some various projects. On one of the projects, I learned a little roofing and had a run-in with roofing tar. We went out to eat after the project, and I wanted to handle my food with clean hands. There was just something about putting food in your mouth with black hands. I went to the bathroom to at least get the first layer off my hands. Not much would come off even after several rounds with the restaurant’s soap. I think anything that came off was a result of my fingernails rather than the soap. Then, my brother-in-law came in with some butter — he claimed that vegetable oil cleaned tar off. Sure enough, with two packets of butter from the table, we got the tar off our hands!
You have to have the right cleaning agent to match the dirt. For regular dirt, that’s soap. For tar, it’s apparently vegetable oil. For sin, it’s only the blood of Jesus!
So, here’s just a few thoughts from a quick study.
First, nitre means, according my Thompson Chain reference Bible, “Old spelling of niter, natron, sodium carbonate.” Wikipedia has a nice little write up about nitre and also Sodium carbonate. According to the Wikipedia, Sodium carbonate “effectively removes oil, grease, and alcohol stains”.
Second, let’s do a little background on Jeremiah. According to Thomson Chain, Jeremiah “contains the biography and message of ‘the Weeping Prophet'”. The main themes are “the backsliding, bondage, and restoration of the Jews”. In the outline, Chapter 1 is just finishing talking about the “call of the prophet”. Here in Chapter 2 we are just starting the “rebukes, warnings, and promises to the Jews”, which extends through Chapter 20.
Here’s some good cross references —
This verse talks about being washed by Jesus:
KJV: I Corinthians 6:11. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The blood has always had special significance in any being. You can see this fact illustrated in Old Testament law:
KJV: Deuteronomy 12:23. Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh.
Our justification comes by faith in Jesus’ blood:
KJV: Romans Chapter 3  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Again, our redemption is in Jesus’ blood:
KJV: Ephesians 1:7. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
KJV: Colossians 1:14. In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Hebrews explains the relationship of the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament. Those sacrifices were pictures of Jesus’ sacrifice to come:
KJV: Hebrews Chapter 9  Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.  But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:  The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:  Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;  Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.  But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;  Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
The key to Jesus’ blood is that it is perfect. It took a perfect life to accept the penalty for our sin. If He was not perfect he would have to pay the penalty for his own sin rather than taking our penalty.
KJV: I Peter 1:19. But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
This verse is probably the best counterpart to our verse in Jeremiah. While it doesn’t use the word “wash”, “cleanse” is close enough to the same thing —
KJV: I John 1:7. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Here’s another one:
KJV: Revelation of John 1:5. And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,