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?

How Much Provision?

When you pray for God to meet your financial needs and provide for you and your family, how much do you ask for? Do we follow the model of the prosperity preachers and claim the right to have a jet, sports car, and mansion? Do we follow the path of the ascetic, asking for only enough bread and water not to starve?

Proverbs 30:7-9

7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

In the proverb here, we see a simple wisdom regarding what we should desire from God when it comes to finance. There are two requests. The writer asks for God not to give him too much and for God not to give him too little.

The prayer for God not to give too little is an obvious one. We do not want to lack; none of us like that. I would think that everybody of the modern age who has prayed about provision has asked for God not to leave us without something we need.

But the other prayer is interesting. The writer also asks for God not to give him too much. That one is strange to our ears. Most folks do not say to God, “Be careful. Do not give me more wealth and comfort than I should have.”

What you need to see is the rationale behind why the writer prays both things. The same motivation is behind the proverb writer’s prayers not to have either too much or too little. The writer does not wish to dishonor the Lord. He wishes to properly show the value and the glory of God. And thus, the writer prays for God to give him just enough, neither too little nor too much.

Having too little could lead the writer to dishonor God. The man is honest. If he lacks food to feed his family, he might be reduced to stealing. He does not want to steal, as he knows that theft dishonors God. But he also knows that letting his own family starve would dishonor God. The man does not want temptation to do wrong to gain wealth, so he asks God to provide. But the prime motivation, please see it, is to be sure he properly honors the name of God.

Similarly, in the prayer that we find weird in our greed-saturated, comfort-focused culture, the proverb writer asks God not to give him too much. Why? He has the same motivation. He does not want to get so comfortable that he forgets that he still needs God. He does not wish to dishonor the Lord. He wants to live to the glory of God, and that includes being sure that he does not become so self-sufficient that it appears to him that he can make it on his own.

Friends, we can learn from these prayers. Our prayers need to be focused first and foremost on the honor of the name of the Lord. What will give God glory? What will show the world around us that God is great. What will prevent us from falling into sin and so dishonoring the Lord? These are the things that we should be asking God to give us. We should always ask God to answer our prayers in the ways that will most give him the glory he is so richly due.

Biblically Discovering God’s Top Priority

The following questions and answers from Scripture were part of a message on honoring God from Malachi 1:6. Many of these came from Desiring God, but many are my own additions to that list.

Why did God create people?

Isaiah 43:6-7 ()

6 I will say to the north, Give up,

and to the south, Do not withhold;

bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the end of the earth,

7 everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.

Why did God choose a people for himself and make Israel his possession?

Jeremiah 13:11

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.

Why did God rescue Israel from bondage in Egypt?

Psalm 106:7-8

7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,

did not consider your wondrous works;

they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,

but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,

that he might make known his mighty power.

Why did God part the Red Sea, rescue Israel, and destroy Pharaoh’s army?

Exodus 14:15-18

15 The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

Why did God spare Israel again and again in the wilderness?

Ezekiel 20:14

But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.

Why didn’t God cast away his people when they rejected him as king and asked for a king like the nations?

1 Samuel 12:20-22

20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.”

Why did God use his sovereign power to bring back his people from exile after punishing four generations of sin?

Isaiah 48:9-11

9 “For my name’s sake I defer my anger,

for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,

that I may not cut you off.

10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;

I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,

for how should my name be profaned?

My glory I will not give to another.”

Ezekiel 36:22-24, 32

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. … 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

Why does God forgive sins?

Isaiah 43:25

“I, I am he

who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,

and I will not remember your sins.

Why did the Son of God come to earth and to his final decisive hour?

John 17:1

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you”

Why did God refrain from judgment until he sent Jesus to die?

Romans 3:23-27

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

Why did God predestine our salvation?

Ephesians 1:5-6

5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:11-12

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Why did God give the Holy Spirit?

Ephesians 1:13-14

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Why will Jesus come again in the great day of consummation?

2 Thessalonians 1:9-10

9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Why will every knee bow and every tongue confess Jesus as lord?

Philippians 2:10-11

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Why Does God do all things?

Romans 11:36

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

If you were not convinced by the verses above, check out this list of some extra questions that will show you that God does what He does for the sake of His own glory.

What was the purpose of Lazarus’ sickness and death? – John 11:4

Why did King Herod die? – Acts 12:23

Why should we do what we do? – 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17

Why will every knee bow and every tongue confess? – Philippians 2:10-11

What was Jesus’ prayer as he approached his passion? – John 12:27-29

Why does God bring salvation and obedience to the Gentiles? – Romans 1:1-3

Why did God raise Pharaoh to power? – Romans 9:17

Why did Christ accept us? – Romans 15:7

Why was Paul praying for the Thessalonians? – 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Why were slaves commanded to behave well? – 1 Timothy 6:1

Why are our sins forgiven? – 1 John 2:12

Why let your light shine before men? – Matthew 5:16

Why would Peter be martyred? – John 21:19

Why will God bring peace to his chosen ones? – Isaiah 60:21, 61:3

What was God’s purpose in judging Sidon? – Ezekiel 28:22

Why did God command the temple to be rebuilt? – Haggai 1:8

Why will Jesus answer prayers? – John 14:13

Why did God Do That?

What is God’s motivation for his actions? If God is perfect, then so too must be his motivation. When God chooses to do a thing, the thing he does is right, because the thing is a thing that the holy god does. And the motivation behind the thing is the best possible motivation, because the motivation comes from the holiness of God.

Consider, then, the glorious rescue of the Israelites from Egypt. Why did God do that?

Psalm 106:7-8

7 Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,

did not consider your wondrous works;

they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,

but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,

that he might make known his mighty power.

Why did God save Israel, even though the people did not remember his glory or honor him beforehand? The answer is that God did this for God’s name’s sake. God did this so that his mighty power might be made known far and wide. Spreading the truth of the glory of God, honoring the name of God, these are the reasons behind the Exodus.

If this is true, then we must grasp not only that God did some stunningly amazing things for his own glory, he also did some incredibly rough things for his own glory. The parting of the sea was for God’s glory. The drowning of the Egyptian army was for God’s glory. The saving of lives in mercy was to the glory of God. The crushing of the rebellious was to God’s glory.

And, if God is holy, then his motivation, to promote his own glory and reputation, is the best possible motivation he could have had for doing what he did. God could not have rescued Israel for a better reason than for his own glory. God could not have judged the Egyptians for a better reason than for his own glory.

Thus, we see once again that God does what God does for God’s glory. And the motivation that is best is to glorify God. So, for you and for me, our highest motivation and purpose in life is to glorify the God who made us.

If you are like me, a person without anything like a clean record of pure living in your past, you will understand that God is so very good and so very gracious. Had God chosen to leave me in my rebellion, he would have been just and glorious to do so. That God would have drawn me to himself and saved me, that too is to his glory and honor. I am grateful to God for that grace. And I owe to God the honor of accepting that all that he does is right, and all that he does is rightly motivated. God’s glory according to what God desires and commands, is the highest of all goods in the universe. May we learn to better shape our lives to give him that glory. And may we accept his revelation of himself in his word as the only thing we need to see that his ways, even the ones we struggle to understand, are always perfect.