Slackness of Service
Cursed be the one who does the Lord’s work negligently, and cursed be the one who restrains his sword from blood (Jeremiah 48:10).
Jehovah speaks through Jeremiah the prophet to Moab, a wicked idolatrous nation to the east of Israel, which had a long history of causing God’s people trouble. He pronounces woes upon them, ‘Devastation and great destruction: Moab is broken, her little ones have sounded out a cry of distress’ (Jer. 48:3-4). He says that a destroyer will come to every city, so that no city will escape (Jer. 48:8). After this word of judgment God then says, ‘Cursed be the one who does the Lord’s work with slackness1 or deceit, and cursed be the one who restrains his sword from blood.’ Obviously Jehovah is warning those prophets and men of God who seek to do God’s work to give it their all, to be zealous, to fulfil their calling, to take the sword out of its sheath and use it, to be bold and relentless.
In 1 Kings 20 we find wicked King Ahab of Israel has run into trouble with Ben Hadad of Syria who claims that he will take Ahab’s silver, gold, children, and beautiful women (1 Kings 20:3). A couple of battles ensue and Ahab routs Ben Hadad’s army, killing 100,000 Syrian soldiers (1 Kings 20:29). Later Ben Hadad is given into the hands of Ahab who makes a covenant with him and lets him go (1 Kings 20:34). In other words, Ahab was slack. He was negligent. He did not finish the job which God had given him. Consequently a prophet spoke to Ahab saying, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people’ (1 Kings 20:42). Ahab was killed in a third battle with Moab by a random arrow, and his people were later routed by the Assyrians and taken into captivity.
Are you slack in the service of Jesus? Are you negligent, careless? Are you unwilling to ‘take your sword out of its sheath’ and use it? The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). We are to take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). Gideon used the sword of the Lord to rout the Midianites (Judg. 7:14, 18, 20). If we are to slay the giants of Islam, militant atheism, secularism, and the love of pleasure then we must repent of slackness. We must garner up the courage to use the sword of the Lord with power.
Jesus was mighty in word and deed (Luke 24:19). We need to be like Jesus. How do we become mighty in word and deed? We must seek the Lord and his strength. We must seek his face continually (Psa. 105:4). What does that look like? Perhaps many who read what I now write will dismiss me as legalistic, that I am putting burdens on people which they cannot endure. But stay with me! Matt Bennent2 put this question to his staff, ‘Suppose a student from your ministry at Princeton said, “I believe God will place me in a position of influence in my career and in order to prepare myself adequately for this role, please tell me how much time you think I should spend per day with God in prayer and his Word. And I don’t just mean now but every day when I leave college and enter the business or political world. Please don’t dismiss my question as legalistic. If I went to the golf coach at the university and asked him how much time each day I would need to devote to golf in order to be a great player, he no doubt would tell me exactly how many hours it would take, and what drills I needed to do to accomplish excellence.”‘
How many hours per day praying, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word will it take to make you mighty in word and deed? How much time do you spend in the Word and prayer now? Early Christians prayed and read the Scriptures three hours per day (9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.). William Wilberforce, the man who singlehandedly dismantled the slave trade in the British Empire prayed from 5 to 6 a.m., from noon to 1 p.m., and from 5 to 6 p.m. He also regularly recited all 176 verses of Psalm 119 on his walk home each evening from Parliament.
Let’s be honest with ourselves “” are we not slack, negligent, careless, or lazy in the pursuit of God! God pronounces curses on his servants for their slackness. Don’t dismiss this by saying, ‘Well, Jesus fulfilled the law so this no longer applies to me.’ To say this is to cut the guts out of the Old Testament. The curses of covenantal disobedience and the blessings of covenantal obedience still apply today (see 1 Cor. 10:1-14). As we survey the present state of evangelicalism and note our inability to affect and transform our culture through the gospel, we must ask ourselves this question “” isn’t Jesus more powerful than Islam? Isn’t he more powerful than secularism and militant atheism? And you no doubt will answer, ‘Yes, of course he is,’ but if this is true, and surely it is true, then why are we so powerless, so impotent? Isn’t it about time we took a hard look at our devotional practices and ask the question “” are we slack in God’s service?
Until we are ready to pay the price by much time alone and in small groups for prayer and serious Bible study, we are only kidding ourselves. We say our hearts are devoted to Jesus but our actions prove otherwise. Until we are willing to give ourselves to God in practical and measureable ways (hours per day in the Word and prayer), then we have about as much reason to expect revival as a young man would of making the PGA tour by practicing a few minutes a day, a few days per week.
It’s time to get serious about seeking God. It’s time to repent of slackness, laziness, worldliness, and loving pleasure. It’s time to pursue God with all our hearts and minds, to desire him more than silver or gold, to yearn for him like a man dying of thirst craves water. Do you need more time alone with God? Are you in a small group for prayer? Are you zealous and fervent in prayer? Are you seeking the face of God continually? Do you sense his smile upon your life?
- A transliteration of the Hebrew word is remiyah and can be translated treachery, deceit, guile, slack, slothful. It is used in Job 13:7 and Psalm 52:2 and is translated in the NASB as deceit or deceitful.
- A Seeking God Lifestyle. This is a Bible course manual from Christian Union that lays out necessary disciplines if we are to see God’s face and smile on our lives and ministries. I am indebted to Matt concerning much of what follows.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Al Baker’s sermons are now available on www.sermonaudio.com.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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