Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Strength and honor are her clothing -- Proverbs 31:25

It's sweltering outside. But, you'd never know it if you walked into a clothing shop or a fabric department. Merchandisers are already enticing the public with fall goods.

On Labor Day, I will put away my white clothing, but I will continue to wear lightweight garments. Each year, autumn weather takes a long time coming to Tennessee. It's hot one moment and coolish the next. I try to keep some lightweight layers on hand, so that I can pull whatever I need from my closet.

Lately, one of my goals has been to take a more care with the details of my outward grooming and dress. I want my outer appearance to reflect greater diligence, as well as to be a blessing to my family.

I'm talking about getting in shape, building a basic wardrobe, and sprucing myself up a bit. I'm not talking about spending tons of money or becoming a primping princess.

Proverbs 31 mentions, almost in passing, that the worthy woman was dressed in purple and fine linen. It's hard to imagine that she was sloppy or negligent in her dress. Instead, she presented herself well. She also made sure that the people in her household were prepared for changes in the seasons , and she provided warm, well-made coverings for them to wear in the winter.

In verse 30 NASB, we see the flip side of this: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." Verse 25 NASB tells us that the worthy woman's true clothing comes from within, from the heart. "Strength and honour are her clothing, and she smiles at the future."

I don't know about you, but I do not possess within myself the resources to clothe myself with strength and dignity. I have to go to God to receive appropriate spiritual attire.

The Bible is so full of references about how God clothes us that we can't examine them all in this article. At the dawn of history, Adam and Eve sinned and, as a result, discovered their spiritual and physical nakedness. Their attempts to cover this nakedness were inadequate. God replaced the fig leaves they had pitifully sewn together with sturdier garments made of animal sins.

In the same way, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have all, at some point, tried to cover our own spiritual nakedness with our own attempts to be religious or righteous. Or, we have hidden our souls by wraping them with layers and layers of self-protectiveness.

Only by coming repentantly to God will we receive the spiritual garments that we need. (See Acts 2:38) It is only the covering of Christ's blood that allows us to stand before God, pure and holy and without condemnation.

In Galatians 3:27, God tells us when we receive this new wardrobe. "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

In Zehariah 3:1-10 NIV we discover a foreshadowing of being clothed with Christ. The prophet sees Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of God. Satan is there also, with the intent of accusing Joshua. God does not accept Satan's accusations.

God says, "Is not this man (Joshua) a burning stick snatched from the fire?"

Verse 3 tells us, "Now Joshua was dressed in filghty clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes. Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you." Interestingly, Joshua and Jesus are both forms of the same name, which mean "God saves."

In Isaiah 61:10 (NASB), Isaiah gives us a beautiful prophecy of the garments of salvation through Christ. "I will rejoce geatly in the Lord...for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridgroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

In Isaiah Chapter 61:3 NIV, Isaiah foretold that God would, "provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

Isn't that a lovely thought? Some moments, I revert to my old, gloomy, sinful, tatterd sweatsuit of despair. But, praise be to God, when that happens, I can ask for forgiveness. Through his power, I can put on the shimmery, warm, soft, luminous garment of praise to the Lord.

It is only because God himself clothes us in Christ that we can attend the eternal party. In many scriptures, heaven is depicted as a wedding banquet that a King (God) throws for the wedding of his Son (Jesus) . In Matthew 22, Jesus gives us one of these analogies. A king invites friends and family to his son's wedding banquet. Yet, on the day the banquet begins, they refuse to come. So, the king dispatches his servants to find guests who will be more grateful for the invitation. Many accept this gracious offer.

However, when the king arrives and views his happy guests, he notices that one man has not bothered to put on the proper wedding garments. This shows a lack of respect for the King and his Son, as well as a total want of gratitude for the King's beneficent invitation. So, the King orders Him thrown outside. So, too, it will one day be with us if we do not clothe ourselves in the garments of salvation through Christ.

After we are initally clothed with Christ in baptism, we have the daily choice to select the garments of Christ's righteousness. It's one thing to own a closet full of beautiful garments. It's another to actually put them on. How many of us know someone who lets lovely items hang unused on their hangers, while she shelps around with uncombed hair, in dirty sweats, and with ratty athletic shoes on her feet? (Ouch. There have been days in my life when I have resembled that remark!)

Colossians 3:12 urges us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness, and beyond all of these things, to put on love. What a wardrobe God provides for us!

Ephesians 6:11-17, urges us to put on the whole armor of God, that we may stand frim. Among other thigns we are to put on a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, and feet shod with the gospel of peace. In I Timothy 2:9, Paul tells us that women are not to be concerned with costly array, but to adorn themselves with good works.

What Father does not want to provide and care for his children. Since God went to the utmost length to purchase our spiritual wardrobe with His Son's blood, it makes him happy to see us dressed as becomes His daughters and servants. Yet, it grieves Him when we ignore the beautiful clothing He has given us in order to put on things like irritablity, selfishness, and self-pity.

One of my favorite picutres of spirtual adornent is in Revelation 19:7 NIV, where we see the church attired for her wedding to Christ. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"

Every bride looks forward to her wedding day. She selects her gown carefully. She spends time arranging her hair and her veil. Yet, when the moment finally comes that she is walks down the aisle towards her groom, she forgets all about her attire. Her eyes are focused on her beloved hsuband to be. In the same way, when Christ takes us home, our eyes will be focused on Him -- the Bridegroom who loved us and gave Himself to save us.

As the song says, "What a day of rejoicing that will be!"


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