God puts on his Divine Armor in response to injustice and to protect his people and purposes. He dresses in righteousness, with salvation on his head like a helmet, wearing garments of vengeance, and “throws a cloak of passion (zeal) across his shoulders.” Isaiah 59:15-17 The Message
Winter is the perfect time to wrap up in something warm and protective against the wind, rain, and chill of the season. Putting on the right clothing for weather, sports, and special occasions is something we do out of necessity and also identity. As a follower of Jesus we are given detailed instructions on what to put on to prepare us to live as God’s people in an unjust world.
In his writing, the Apostle Paul uses the imagery of putting on clothing to teach us how to “put on” Christ and his character. (Rom 13:14: Col 3:12) Using the imagery of Divine Armor from Isaiah 59, Paul also urges us to put on the armor of God, the strength of God’s might. (Ephesians 6) Paul uses the pieces of armor worn by Roman soldiers such as the helmet, breastplate, shield and sword in order to teach us how to use God’s armor. However, he doesn’t mention the cloak of zeal from Isaiah, which seems odd, because the infamous red cloak was a blazing symbol of Roman power and authority. For the individual soldier it also provided warmth and protection against the elements as well as cover in the night.
In God’s armor, the cloak is a symbol for zeal representing the authority and passion to move forward as one commissioned for a purpose. As God Himself is zealous and fervently passionate about His people and His plan, we also can be wrapped with zeal, energized for God’s purposes. We can trust the One who has called us with authority and sends us out with promise of His presence forever. (Matt 28:19-20)
Another use of the cloak as a symbol is found in the story of the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19. Nearing the end of his ministry, Elijah throws his cloak around Elisha as a symbol of passing on the mantle of discipleship and service: “So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.” (verse 19)
Before taking up his calling to serve his master teacher, Elisha has a farewell feast with his parents: “ So Elisha… took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.” (verse 20)
It was with ardent zeal that Elisha took up his new mission by offering the tools of his former way of life as a sacrifice to God and then saying goodbye to his family and friends. With the calling and authority of the cloak of zeal, it was possible for Elisha to let go of what was necessary to move forward with intense devotion.
Reflect and Practice:
- On rainy cold days, throwing on a comfortable hoodie, or wrapping up in a warm scarf is just the right way to prepare to meet the elements. Visualize throwing on “zeal” or passion for Christ as you start your day or your project. Close your eyes and imagine yourself getting dressed for your calling as a disciple and witness. What piece of armor do you most need right now?
- In Col 4:12-13, we learn about “Epaphras, a bondservant of Christ,” who is “always laboring fervently in prayer” for his friends that they “may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Paul describes his friend as one “who has great zeal for you.” What difference would “putting on the cloak of zeal” make in your prayers and in your relationships?
- Is there an area of your life or ministry where you have been faking it or dragging through the motions? Pray through Isaiah 59:15-17 and ask God to teach you how to wear his divine armor. Pray for the cloak of zeal to be wrapped around you.
- Passion is not an emotion we can force or try to manufacture with our will. The Spirit of God equips us with the gifts and enables us with power. Passion in the context of a holy zeal for God’s people and purposes is also passed on through the community and our leaders who disciple, pray for us, and hold us accountable. “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (Paul to his disciple Timothy in 2 Tim 1:6.) Are you in a community, small group or mentoring relationship where spiritual leaders can hold you accountable? Who can you look to as an Elijah that will pass on zeal for your calling?