Our Blue-Collar God (A Passion for Work)
May 29, 2005
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 44:9-22
“9 ¶ All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. 10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing? 11 He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and infamy. 12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. 13 The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. 14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm; I see the fire." 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, "Save me; you are my god." 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, "Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?" 20 He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" 21 ¶ "Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. 22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you."” (Isa 44:9-22 NivUS)
How pitiful are those who follow after idols – gods who cannot see or hear or know – non-working models that men worship in vain from their own darkened understanding. They are like the gods they worship. They fashion gods like themselves. What they have is not God at all.
But we have a God who sees, who hears, who understands all things, who worked to create us, and works to redeem us. He is truly God.
Since he is truly God, and all that God is, let us not make him less than the God he is. Let us not make him out to be less than omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient – like a block of wood or a cast of metal.
Our God is not a non-working model. He is a working God. He is a Blue-Collar God, if you will. He is involved with his creation. He is willing to lay hands on us and labor over us.
We are the ones that have been carved and cast. In his grace he has breathed life in this dust and clay he holds in his hands.
But he has not born his child and then turned him loose on the streets of the city to raise and fend for himself.
Indeed, we are to work with him as he works in us.
“12 ¶ Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Php 2:12-13 NivUS)
But sometimes we like to tempt fate by leaving him out of the equation. When we temporarily abandon the partnership, we get in trouble. Watch this short video on “Letting Dad Be Dad”. Consider the father figure in the video to be God the Father and the children to be we ourselves.
ILLUS.: Sermon Illustrators, Vol. 1, No. 4, “Letting Dad Be Dad”
Even though we are to work with God, we must not forget that he is in control as our prime mover and enabler – the One who sets up the opportunities to grow in learning and usefulness and viability – the One who owns the pickup and the kitchen sink even though we are told to work in the back yard for now. We must respond to his will and instruction.
But even as we are often tempted by independence to go it alone, we can also forget that he is there at all, lovingly wooing our dependence upon him. We become spiritually isolated in our circumstances. It is then that we can become easily discouraged.
We must not forget that we have a Blue-Collar God who loves us as his children, cares for us, and will never forsake us. As Moses told Joshua ---
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."” (De 31:8 NivUS)
Today, I want us to be reminded of the nature of our Blue-Collar God and therefore encouraged about his continuing work in us as we respond to his work in us.
The first verse of the Bible tells us, “In the beginning God created ---.” Then it goes on to tell us about all the initial works of God, even up through verse 27, “So God created man ---.”
Then as we finish chapter one and begin chapter two it says, “God saw all that he had made --- / Thus the heavens and the earth were completed --- / By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”
(We continue to celebrate that rest today, even as he has commanded in the Ten Commandments, to keep it holy and rest ourselves.)
This is replayed in the Gospel of John by Jesus in the NT ---
“1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 ¶ The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (Joh 1:1-5 NivUS)
And after Jesus had burned brightly in his earthly ministry he prayed:
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (Joh 17:4 NivUS)
And then he went to the cross and said:
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Joh 19:30 NivUS)
And so Jesus rested in the grave on that same Sabbath, resting from his spiritual work of redeeming mankind, but rose again from the grave on a Sunday, the third day.
And so then we celebrate a new Sabbath on Sunday, resurrection day, the day after the old Jewish Sabbath.
This becomes for us a new day of rest - a rest in the grace of God in victory over sin and a rest from death – for the rest of your eternal life by faith in him.
After Jesus rose from the dead he ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father.
“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.” (Mr 16:19 NivUS)
Now, I don’t know what kind of a view you have of God when you are sorely tempted and tried.
If you just take this particular knowledge of God from his Word you might think that God the Father and even his only Son, Jesus, have completed their work and the rest is now left up to us – that all that remains for them to do is rest.
They are in heaven resting and we are on earth laboring. It is true, of course, that our Triune God has made provision now for sin in the death of Jesus, but you might be tempted to think we alone are left to deal with the results and pick up the mess.
Perhaps you think they are now somewhat detached, that the work of God will now somehow work itself out in us without their involvement – after all, they did complete their work and now reside who knows how far away.
You must admit that sometimes, under stress, you feel abandoned by God, that he doesn’t seem to be there, or that he somehow just doesn’t seem to care what you are going through.
You believe his plan - that it will all work out in the end - but you are certainly having trouble working it out now in the midst of the chaos in which you live.
In these times we need to re-evaluate our view of God so that we don’t fall further into whatever is besetting us.
You see, our God and his Christ, even though they worked and rested, have not abandoned the works of their hands.
God created and then rested, but he only rested from his act of creation. He has not rested from caring for it. Christ redeemed and rested, but he only rested from his act of redemption. He has not rested from the continual process of sanctifying all that he has redeemed.
God is actively involved in his creation. After all, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have a child and then expect that child to raise itself, do you? You don’t build a boat and then never sail it. You don’t build a house and then never live in it. Neither does God.
We must remember that we have a “blue-collar” God. He is willing to get his hands dirty – with us. Why? It is because he loves us and knows we still need him – every day of our lives. That is why he is called “Father” and “Savior”. These are the names of enduring relationship. He cleans the barnacles off the boat and maintains the house.
Do you need proof that God is still involved? The Bible is full of God’s involvement in his creation and with his people from beginning to end.
Besides the more well-known sacred names of God in the Bible by which we worship him such as: Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah, El-Elyon, El-Shaddai, and Adonai, all of which mean Lord, God, God Most High, Almighty God, or Master, he is also revealed by a number of other references (blue-collar references, if you will) such as:
Jehovah-jireh (the God who provides [our provider], Gen. 22:8, 14)
“6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" 8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 ¶ But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. 12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."” (Ge 22:6-14 NivUS)
“"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16 NivUS)
“9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1Jo 4:9-10 NivUS)
Jehovah-rophe (the God who heals [our healer], Ex. 15:26)
“22 ¶ Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, "What are we to drink?" 25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, "If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.” (Ex 15:22-27 NivUS)
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Mt 4:23 NivUS)
“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."” (Mr 2:17 NivUS)
“He replied, "Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’” (Lu 13:32 NivUS)
“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.” (Ac 3:16 NivUS)
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1Pe 2:24 NivUS)
Jehovah-nissi (the God who overcomes [our banner], Ex. 17:15-16)
“8 ¶ The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up— one on one side, one on the other— so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." 15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16 He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."” (Ex 17:8-16 NivUS)
Mt 12:20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.
1Co 15:54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
1Co 15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Jo 5:4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Jehovah-M’Kaddesh (the God who sanctifies [our sanctifier], Lev. 20:7-8)
“4 If the people of the community close their eyes when that man gives one of his children to Molech and they fail to put him to death, 5 I will set my face against that man and his family and will cut off from their people both him and all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molech. 6 "‘I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people. 7 "‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” (Le 20:4-8 NivUS)
Heb 2:11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
Heb 10:10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Heb 10:14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Jehovah-shalom (the God who pacifies [our peace], Judges 6:23-24)
“19 Gideon went in, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. 20 The angel of God said to him, "Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth." And Gideon did so. 21 With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!" 23 But the LORD said to him, "Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die." 24 So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” (Jud 6:19-24 NivUS)
“1 ¶ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Ro 5:1-2 NivUS)
Jehovah-tsidkenu (the God who justifies [our righteousness], Jer. 23:5-6)
“5 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” (Jer 23:5-6 NivUS)
“21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Ro 3:21-24 NivUS)
“21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6:1 ¶ As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2Co 5:21-6:2 NivUS)
“It is because of him (God, the Father) that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1Co 1:30 NivUS)
Jehovah-rohi (the God who cares [our shepherd], Ps. 23:1)
“1 ¶ A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps 23:1-4 NivUS)
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36 NivUS)
“"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (Joh 10:11 NivUS)
“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."” (Re 7:17 NivUS)
Jehovah-shammah (the God who remains [our eternal life], Ez. 48:35)
“30 "These will be the exits of the city: Beginning on the north side, which is 4,500 cubits long, 31 ¶ the gates of the city will be named after the tribes of Israel. The three gates on the north side will be the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah and the gate of Levi. 32 "On the east side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin and the gate of Dan. 33 "On the south side, which measures 4,500 cubits, will be three gates: the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar and the gate of Zebulun. 34 "On the west side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher and the gate of Naphtali. 35 "The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. "And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE."” (Eze 48:30-35 NivUS)
“60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."” (Mr 14:60-62 NivUS)
“67 "If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." 70 They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am."” (Lu 22:67-70 NivUS)
“56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." 57 "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" 58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"” (Joh 8:56-58 NivUS)
“25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"” (Joh 11:25-26 NivUS)
The NT gives even more support and explanation to God’s working relationship with us.
“15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17 ¶ Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."” (Joh 5:15-17 NivUS)
So Jesus is Jehovah-rophe, our healer. Do you see when it is that he worked? He worked when he was supposed to be resting (on the Sabbath) because the work of God is not cumbersome for him, and it is never done because life goes on. And wherever life goes on there is always some need.
“11 He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."” (Mt 12:11-12 NivUS)
God is on duty 24/7 because he is God and we are the sheep of his pasture. The emergency room in his hospital of healing never closes, whether or not the wound is our own fault.
“3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."” (Joh 9:3-5 NivUS)
God’s work is to glorify himself by healing us. Jesus is the attending physician.
“"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (Joh 4:34 NivUS)
So Jesus says that what drives his life is to glorify God by saving our life, and his life never ends, even as our need never ends – in this life or the next. He is our life.
Now you could argue that this example doesn’t apply because it was during the earthly ministry of Jesus when he was working on earth to reveal himself. But we must take home the principle of the thing.
The work of redemption was made manifest on earth but continues on in heaven because of the generations of man yet to come.
“33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died— more than that, who was raised to life— is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Ro 8:33-35 NivUS)
“5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men— the testimony given in its proper time.” (1Ti 2:5-6 NivUS)
If we ourselves would ever do God’s work, we must believe in his work. His work in us is that we should believe in his work in us.
“27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." 28 ¶ Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" 29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."” (Joh 6:27-29 NivUS)
The work he is doing in us is that we should believe his words. After all, God spoke creation into existence.
“"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” (Joh 5:36 NivUS)
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” (Joh 14:10 NivUS)
The work of God is to give us the word of Christ and it is the word of Christ that does God’s work in us.
The next time you are tempted to believe that God isn’t there for you or that he doesn’t care for you and your circumstances, consider the promises of God to us in Christ ---
“3 ¶ I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Php 1:3-6 NivUS)
“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.” (1Th 2:13 NivUS)
“20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21 NivUS)
And then consider the effect of his work in us ---
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2Co 9:8 NivUS)
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1Co 15:58 NivUS)