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Tuesday
Jul212015

Dress for Action

We can imagine dressing for action to exercise, putting on sweats and sneakers to prepare to work out; or we might dress for action to play football, putting on pads and cleats to prepare for battle; or a soldier might put on his uniform, gather his weapons and ammunition, before heading out to fight. Each of those people have a shot at success, but what if it was God calling on a man to dress for action? What chance would he have? There are many times in the Bible in which God questions certain men — the circumstances and replies teach us a lot about his expectations and how success can be attained.

Discussion
I. Out of the Whirlwind
A. Job’s Dilemma
1. the account of the life of Job is one of the most famous in the history of the world, although we know precious little about Job outside of the book that bears his name
2. he was evidently not an Israelite, but a wealthy resident of the East, a rancher of sorts with a large family and a heart for worshiping Jehovah
3. all that came crashing down when Satan set his sights on ruining the faith of Job, whom the devil considered to be insulated against infidelity by divine bribery (Job 1:9-12)
4. bit by bit, Job lost it all — his children to sudden, tragic death; his wealth to marauding raiders; his health to boils and itching; his wife’s support to grief and frustration
5. still, Job refused her encouragement to curse God, whom she blamed, and die
6. his friends came to visit him, ostensibly to comfort him as he suffered, but their words became accusatory as they tried to pry out of Job the salacious details of the sins he had committed to deserve the terrible punishment they thought God had inflicted
7. one by one, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar lectured Job on the retribution principle — that Job’s circumstances proved he was guilty of something, even as Job argued he was repentant of mundane sins, and innocent of the egregious errors his friends suspected — and he was right, although even Job was confused about why he was being punished since he basically believed in that retribution principle as well

B. God Speaks Up
1. the reader, having witnessed the behind-the-scenes dialogue between God and the devil at the beginning of the book, knows the retribution principle is not as absolute as Job and his friends think
2. Job was not being punished for wickedness, but was actually enduring great hardship to disprove the devil’s supposition that people only trust in a God who rewards them materially; the devil, no atheist of course, believes in the prosperity gospel
3. after enduring the false theology of Job’s three friends long enough, God finally speaks toward the end of the book (Job 38:1-7)
a. he seems terribly offended that this group of mere men have deigned to speak in his behalf without understanding the truth much at all
b. he sarcastically challenges Job to explain the universe to him, if he is so wise and capable
c. and he demands that Job “dress for action like a man,” or in the Hebrew, to “gird up his loins” — to gather up his robe and cinch it about his waist in order that he might be ready to defend himself
4. being questioned by God must be terrifying — more nerve-wracking than being on the witness stand in your own trial, more intense than a job interview or a dressing down by the boss, more anxious than being pulled over by your friendly, neighborhood highway patrolman
5. if we have reverence for God, however, we can be ready to give an answer that acquits us of foolishness and reestablishes our relationship with him and our place in his plan

II. Six Divine Questions
A. Cain, what have you done?
1. God’s discussion with Cain actually includes several questions (Genesis 4:1-10)
a. when the Lord saw how disappointed the man was that his worship was unauthorized and unacceptable, he asked him why he was angry and showed him that if he did right, he would also be accepted
b. when God saw that Abel was missing, he asked Cain where his brother was and what he had done
2. it is, however, Cain’s question that has resonated through the centuries — “am I my brother’s keeper?”
a. it smacks of disrespect for God and flippancy about the murder of his own brother he had just committed
b. it has been repeated over and over by people who are desperately trying to avoid taking responsibility for the difficult chore of admonishing wayward brethren
3. we are called today to walk a fine line, being careful not to meddle in the liberties of other people, while accepting the responsibility of admonishing them when they drift over into sin
a. being a busybody should not be our goal
1. “ If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (First Peter 4:14-15 ESV).
2. brotherly love includes minding your own business (First Thessalonians 4:9-12)
b. yet it remains unavoidable that we will have to admonish our brethren should they endanger their souls with sin; “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work” (Proverbs 24:11-12 ESV)?

B. Jonah, do you do well to be angry?
1. the story of Jonah and the fish is just as famous, but fewer remember that Jonah was trapped in its belly because he refused at first to preach in Nineveh; when he finally went there, the city repented and was saved from divine judgment
2. Jonah’s evangelistic success bothered him, however, because he wanted those brutal people slain, not saved, and he was driven to celebrate their redemption by pouting (Jonah 4:3-11)
3. anger is one of those emotions we tend to indulge ourselves with because it feels so good to loosen the valve and let off the pressure with a little shouting, a little self-righteous indignation, a little physical exertion
4. when we’re pouting or shouting, it’s a good idea to wonder, do I really have a reason to react this way
a. the answer might be yes, but more likely, it isn’t as big a deal as we are making it, and we are making things worse by lashing out in anger; “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29 ESV).
b. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20 ESV).

C. Elijah, what are you doing here?
1. having emerged on the winning side in the contest on Mount Carmel, Elijah found himself in Jezebel’s crosshairs; he had exposed her prophets as false when his God answered by fire and theirs remained imaginary and silent
2. Jezebel swore vengeance and drove the beleaguered Elijah into the wild, where God preserved his life under the broom tree of his depression
3. Elijah was expected to get back to work, but he was not ready (First Kings 19:9-13)
a. God gives Elijah two chances, but he just didn’t learn the lesson of the still, small voice, answering identically that he felt alone and doomed
b. the result is that God retired Elijah and prepared him to anoint Elisha as his successor
4. what are you doing here?
a. is God asking that question when you find yourself in a place where sin is likely?
b. or is God asking you that about the condition of your life in your general — what are you doing on an island of doubt, in a darkened cave of despair, in a forest of temptation?
1. “ May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13 ESV).
2. hope is the helmet of salvation, an earnest expectation of heaven that protects our minds against illogical arguments

D. Isaiah, whom shall I send?
1. Isaiah is remembered as a brave prophet, who spoke a message people did not much want to hear, but which was true; his embrace of the prophetic role reminds us that we have a duty to share the gospel with the people around us, even if the gospel leaves a bitter taste in their mouths when it identifies sin and demands reform
2. he wrote, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8 ESV).
3. waiting for others to volunteer for roles we could surely fill, if only we were more committed, more engaged, more energetic, is not the spirit of Isaiah
4. the spirit of Isaiah was in Thessalonica, where the believers received the word in much affliction of men, but joy of the Holy Spirit, and sounded it forth in all Macedonia and Achaia (see First Thessalonians 1:2-10)
5. what if God is counting on you to counter the influence of the unbeliever, the worldly, and the false religions in your neighborhood; whom shall he send, if not you?

E. Haggai, is it time to live in paneled houses?
1. centuries later, the remnant of Israel found itself exiled from their homeland, and then restored to it, but the temple and their houses had all been laid waste
2. back in Israel, they faced a monumental rebuilding project, with somewhat limited resources and opposition of the people who had moved into town while they were exiled
3. after they laid the new temple’s foundation, they took time off to work on their own houses, and that time turned into 16 years while weeds grew up around the idle temple grounds (Haggai 1:2-6)
a. our modern lives are full of distractions, things that lift our attention off of eternity and invest it in transient matters and wealth that perishes with use
b. it’s the temple, and only the temple, that will matter on Judgment Day, yet we are so often more intent on paneling our own houses than stacking bricks at the altar (Matthew 6:31-33; cf. Ephesians 2:19-22)

F. Malachi, where is my honor?
1. putting the kingdom first is ultimately a question of reverence for God and understanding of eternity; we cheat God and ourselves when we treat money and popular acceptance like powerful idols
2. as the Old Testament era wound down, idolatry had shifted away from statues and icons to abstract longings of the heart, much the same as it is today (Malachi 1:6-7)
3. we honor God when we worship him in spirit and in truth, when we sacrifice and are spent, when we deny ourselves the selfish and self-destructive yearnings that promise instant gratification and eternal regret (Romans 12:1-2; cf. Colossians 3:10, Second Corinthians 4:16)

Conclusion
Imagine yourself standing before a vocal God, who requires that you dress for action and prepare to answer his questions. Are you ready?

Questions for Review


  1. What did the devil think of Job’s faith?

  2. What is the retribution principle?

  3. When are we our brother’s keepers? What is the fine line we have to walk?

  4. When is it okay to be angry?

  5. What was God trying to teach Elijah with his still, small voice?

  6. What is involved in putting the kingdom first?

  7. What are some modern forms of idolatry?

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