The Cost of Service

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If you want to stand out like iridescent acne, have the spirit of an Old Testament prophet. Zany publicity stunts were their specialty. You’d think Ezekiel was vying for the weirdest entry in the Guinness Book of Records, lying on just one side for more than a year, fueling his fire with dung to cook needlessly-rationed food. (God wanted him to use human feces, but Ezekiel was too straight for that – (Ezekiel 4:4-15)). He dug through a wall, built make-believe siegeworks against a brick he called ‘Jerusalem’, and attacked shavings of his hair (Ezekiel 4:1-3; 5:1-4; 12:5). Isaiah sauntered around almost starkers for three years. (Isaiah 20:2-4) Hosea got involved with a woman. Pious eyebrows must have shot through the roof. Yet these were not the hare-brained schemes of religious nuts. Men of God were obeying the holy leadings of the Almighty.

See Samson, flat on his face – tripped over his hair again. Nearby is a Nazarite, desperately trying to suppress his laughter (laugh at Samson and you laugh all the way to hospital). Under divine direction, the Nazarite has shaved his entire head (Numbers 6:9, 18-19). Here we have two men led of the Spirit. One we’d reject because his hair has never seen a razor, the other because his hair has seen a razor.

We should long for a ministry as a woman longs for a child, knowing it will involve anguish and intense commitment as well as joy and satisfaction. If you think Bible heroes had a ball, you are right, but you’ll never win the spelling bee. They had a bawl so often they needed waterproof ink to write the Bible. Remember Jeremiah, the town crier? If he wasn’t filling buckets over his nation’s plight, he was howling over the ministry heaven had landed him with (e.g. Jeremiah 9:1,10; 15:10,15,18; 20:7-10,18). If Jeremiah was a real stick-in-the-mud in the bottom of a hole, (Jeremiah 38:6), Paul – going to sleep a stone’s throw from death (Acts 14:19) – had rocks in his head. He made many a hasty exit and some people genuinely missed him. Others were more accurate. From the outset he knew persecution would shadow his ministry (Acts 9:15-16). Tears and trials were his constant companions (Acts 20:19). Isaiah, from the moment of his call, knew his generation would reject his message (Isaiah 6:9-10). Abraham had to endure the agony of almost killing his own flesh and blood. Jeremiah was not allowed a wife, let alone children (Jeremiah 16:2). Ezekiel was not permitted to mourn the death of his darling (Ezekiel 24:16-18). Hosea was condemned to heart-break, commanded by heaven to marry an adulteress (Hosea 1:2; 3:1-3). Like Gideon, many faced such danger that it took all they had not to cower in terror. Isaiah had to strip and wander in public with his body exposed year after year (Isaiah 20:2-4). Many had to suffer not just constant humiliation, but physical torment and a horrible death. Not surprisingly, in the prime of their ministries, suicide seemed attractive to not only Job, but to Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Jeremiah (Job 3; Numbers 11:15; 1 Kings 19:4; Jeremiah 20:7-10,14-18; Jonah 4:8). Hoping for the milk of human kindness, all they got was stiff cheese. Yet each soldiered on, so proving the purity of their motives.

If their resolve mirrors your urge to serve, you’re on target.

I could write an entire book on the pain and humiliation of serving our King but it has already been written. We call it the Bible.



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