An Odd Sermon Illustration and the Purpose of Our Lives

I don’t think I’ve ever used a pair of underwear to make a sermon point—nor do I intend to do so in the future. But in Jeremiah 13, the Lord asks the prophet to make a point to Judah with a loin cloth. The illustration is simple. He takes a new loin cloth, clean and whole, and buries it in the ground. Then, after several days, he digs it up again, and it is now ruined. And God says this is a picture of what has happened to Judah.

Jeremiah 13:8-11 – 8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. 11 For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.

Much of the book of Jeremiah is like this passage. Judah has turned from the Lord. Because they have turned, they are in deep trouble.

Before we start thinking that God is being harsh here, remember a few things. First, we have no right to ever judge the actions of God. Second, the people of Judah agreed to follow God according to his standards and accepting God’s promised consequences for disobedience. Third, God had given them warning after warning for centuries. Fourth, the people were not only refusing to follow the law in general, but they were actually rebelling against their ultimate purpose.

What was Juda’s purpose? God says he made Judah his people for this reason, “that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory.” God rescued Judah as a people, drawing them out of Egypt and entering into covenant relationship with them, so that these people would shine forth a light on the glory of God for the world to see. Their purpose for existence as a nation was to show the greatness of God. And they, as a nation, were not only failing to show the glory of God in general, but were particularly rebelling against their purpose, behaving in dishonorable ways, and still wanting the protection and provision of the Lord. And it was for this reason that God was going to bring in enemy nations to destroy Jerusalem and ultimately take Judah captive for 7 decades.

God wanted his people to know that Judah would go into exile, and it would be because the people of Judah would not obey the Lord and live to his glory. But what shall we learn from this? Like the people of Judah, all human beings have been created by God, in the image of God, for the glory of God. There is no person on earth whose reason for existence is not the glory of God. And all people everywhere have a choice to either glorify God in their submission to the Lord or glorify God as God judges them for their sin. We all deserve the latter. It is the grace of God that offers us the former, the opportunity to glorify God by coming to him for grace and then living in obedience to his word for his glory.

Get personal here. You are made by God. God, as your Creator, has the right to tell you why you exist. You exist to display God’s glory. You, in fact, will display God’s glory for eternity. And you have a responsibility. All humans have failed to live up to our responsibility. Thus, we all deserve for God to eternally judge us and display his glory by enacting his just retribution on us for fighting against him. But God calls us to turn from fighting him, to trust in Jesus and Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and to be saved by his grace through faith in Christ alone. If you will repent and believe, God will save you, change you, and empower you to find great joy in honoring him with your life. Then you can obey the commands of God and find that your whole purpose for being is to magnify the perfection of God.

Which would you prefer to be? Would you prefer to display the glory of God by being an object lesson of his justice? Or would you prefer to be a trophy of his grace and kindness? Jeremiah used a rotten loin cloth to illustrate the destruction we all deserve for not being what God created us to be. But in Christ, God can make us new and useful to him for his glory and our joy. Will you trust Jesus? Will you then give your life for its real purpose, the honor, the glory, the name of God?