Posts Tagged ‘work’

The work the Lord burdened Nehemiah to accomplish finally begins in Nehemiah chapter 3.  There are quite a few things to note in how this work was carried out and by whom.  Let’s consider how the people of God began to rebuild their gates and walls as a unified community that we might glean some wisdom and insight for our own undertakings within our own communities.

Beginning in Nehemiah 3:1, we find the high priest and all the priests next to him begin the work.  Here, we have a picture of how godly men should lead.  Godly men ought to always lead by their good example.  When their is work to be done, ministers may indeed delegate it, but they must always also be willing to participate in it.  Far too many spiritual leaders today want to lead with their positions and power plays rather than by example.  A good leader will always do just that…literally lead in any profitable undertaking with his own two hands.

Secondly, we find that many men and women from neighboring communities came to help rebuild Jerusalem.  We find the people of Jericho, Gibeon and Mizpah, Zanoah, Beth-hacecerem, Beth-zur, and Keilah all coming together to help this effort.  Surely we should help those close to our community when they are in need in addition to serving our own.

In verse 12 we find a family helping.  Notice, too, that this was a father and his daughters.  Here was a man who was part ruler of Jerusalem coming, helping, and bringing his girls to help.  Not only did he not think himself above the effort because of his high position, he brings his whole family… of girls!  What a great picture of inclusion and unanimity among the builders of this wall.  Many a man with daughters and not sons may keep his girls from getting dirty and feel awkward to bring them along, but here we see just the opposite in God’s perfect Word.

Notice who else we find building in verses 8 and 32: the goldsmiths, the apothecaries, and the merchants.  These were the business owners; the blue collar men who made everything for everyone else to buy and use.  These guys didn’t use their businesses as an excuse not to show up.  They closed their shops or they went after hours to help this work get done because they considered it more important than making money or being open every single day of the year.  If shop owners can commit to the common good in their trade, they can commit to the common good as God commands outside of their trades as well.

Next, we find men working on this building project opposite their own houses.  How about that!  How many people do you know that would forfeit their time and money to work next door while they look across the street at all that needs done at home?  This is quite a testimony of the character and faithfulness these people had to accomplish God’s work first and their own needs second.

Finally, in verse 5, we find that not everyone was on board.  There was one particular group singled out as not being willing to serve their Lord.  The nobles of the Tekoites “would not stoop to serve their Lord.”  Here, the nobles were not noble, but full of pride which led only to disgrace for them and their name.  The reproach of being named here is shameful and it goes to prove how when we refuse to work with others in unity and harmony out of nothing more than sheer pride and arrogance we will be disgraced publicly for our stubborn selfishness…and rightly so!    Let that never be said of us!  If we cannot humble ourselves to serve God, we will never humble ourselves to serve anyone else.  Every good thing we do will always be self-serving thus rendering it purposeless and void of any wholesome “good.”

There will always be those who will refuse to do right even when everyone around them is working together toward a common goal.  There will always be dissenters and dividers among the true people of God.  But, by and large, when the people of God work together in love and obedience to Him, the work gets done, God is glorified, and we are blessed.  As Matthew Henry says, “If everyone will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean; if every one will mend one, we shall be all mended.”  


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There is one command that God gives as preparation (Exodus 16:23), directly before (Exodus 20:11), at the front of (Exodus 23:12), and, now, in Exodus 31:12-18, directly after all the other instructions he had given Moses regarding a covenant life with his people. This means that it was part of the moral law, the judicial law, and the ceremonial law.   God insists upon Sabbath-keeping.

Wait.  What?  If Sabbath-keeping was a part of the moral law, just like being forbidden to murder and commit adultery, what does that mean for us today?

The principle God was establishing was rest.  This was the example that he himself set in creation.

Work, work, work, work, work, work, rest.  Work, work, work, work, work, work, rest.  Work, work, work, work, work, work, rest.

This is God’s model.  God wasn’t telling his people to rest for their health.  Ok, he was, but there was way more underneath this command than that.  While it would indeed give them better health – physical, mental, and emotional – this was an explicit command for which the penalties were banishment and/or death!

Hey kids, you rest, or, you die!

What?! What is God trying to show these people – and us – because, after all, this is moral law, right?

The text says, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.” ~Exodus 31:12-13

Above all.  Above ALL, do this.  After everything else God has just instructed, this is above all of that on the to do list.  Why?!

“…for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.”

Matthew Henry says, “If we sanctify God’s day, it is a sign between him and us that he has sanctified our hearts: hence it is the character of the blessed man that he keeps the sabbath from polluting it.”

Our willingness to rest proves our faith and trust in God.  Our willingness to rest proves our faith and trust in God to a restless, faithless, anxiety-ridden world.  Our willingness to rest proves our faith and trust in God when there is more work laid upon our shoulders than we could possibly ever do.  It is an act of great trust.  Willingness to rest is the antithesis of God’s most hated human act: self-sufficiency.

Still, why was this part of moral law?  Does that mean if I work seven days a week that I am morally corrupt?

Some may argue that case, and I would agree that such a practice is wholly unwise as well as evidence of the lack of faith in God’s provision, however, I personally do not believe that is why God included it in the moral law.

For the Old Testament believers, there was no distinction.  The law was the law was the law.  God said it and they had to keep it to the best of their ability.

For New Testament believers, because of Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s law on our behalf, we no longer continue in the keeping of the Old Testament Jewish ceremonial laws and rituals.  In fact, to do so would be an affront and an abomination to the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

But what of the Old Testament moral law that God gave?  New Testament believers are indeed called to keep the moral law in the very same way – with the very same diligence and vigilance as the Old Testament believers were.

Therefore, Sabbath-keeping and rest are required.  Sabbath-keeping and rest, however, point us to our eternal rest.  Our infractions of this command have more to do with trusting in Jesus’ finished work on the cross and our resting in faith in Him alone than they do with physically working on a specific day of the week.  (Again, not implying that a weekly rest from our physical labor is not necessary or helpful, just saying that I do not believe that is the indication for New Testament believers as far as moral transgression goes.)

In other words, our “moral” duty to rest is realized when we trust in Christ alone by faith alone for our own salvation and refuse to point at any and all of our own work or works when determining our standing with God.  Obeying God’s command to rest is meant to, as the text says, be a sign that we may know the Lord sanctifies us.

That we may know what?  That the Lord sanctifies us.  Who sanctifies?  The Lord.  Our earthly rest, or, ceasing from our earthly work,  is meant to remind us whose work ultimately changes us and allows us to enter true, eternal rest.  That’s the whole point of this Sabbath rest – knowing and understanding that it is the Lord’s work to save and sanctify – not ours – and nothing we can ever do would be work enough to accomplish it.  Therefore, we must rest in him if we will live and not die eternally.

Working is obligatory on this earth.  Works for the kingdom are obligatory in that without them our faith is dead.  But, even more so, rest (in Christ) is obligatory because without it we prove our that faith does not even exist within us.

The physical reality that these Jews were called to is a spiritual reality that we Christians are called to.  Both point to eternal rest as the ultimate fulfillment and reward of keeping this commandment.  That helps us understand why God stressed it so much and why it was so important to keep the Sabbath.

After this final instruction on the necessity of rest for God’s people, God finally sends Moses back down the mountain with the two tablets (set #1) with the law written by his very own finger.

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After all of the detailed instructions were given about what was to be made for God’s house, God instructs Moses on who was to make these things.

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand,10 and the finely worked garments,[a] the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” ~Exodus 31:1-11

As In Exodus 28:3, here, in Exodus 31:1-11 God elaborates further upon who he had called to work for him with their hands.  These passages highlight the truth that God calls and equips people to work specific trades for his namesake in the assembly.

Specifically, Bezalel was called to head up this undertaking.  Bezalel was like the foreman over the craftsmen.  He was from the tribe of Judah.  Judah – the apple of God’s eye.  Apparently skilled craftsmen called to work as builders and mechanics were quite valuable and honorable in the kingdom work God was dealing out.  In fact, these men were just as valuable and honorable as the men called to any other type of ministry in the house of God.

We have to get this.  The church has strayed so far away from the truth regarding the great variety of God’s calling and giftings that we have begun to consider tradesmen and craftsmen as unspiritual or important in the building of God’s kingdom.  Even our culture considers those who work with their hands as inferior to those who work white collar intellectual jobs.  These ideas could not be further from the truth that scripture teaches us here in Exodus. Matthew Henry says this:

“Skill in common arts and employments is the gift of God…He teaches the husbandman discretion and the tradesman, too…God dispenses his gifts variously, one gift to one, another to another, and all for the good of the whole body, both of mankind and of the church.  Moses was the fittest of all to govern Israel, but Bezalel was fitter than he to build the tabernacle.  …the genius of some leads them to be serviceable one way, of others another way, and all these worketh that one and the same Spirit.”

Consider carefully this passage next time you are tempted to think tradesmen are not called, not Spirit led, not as important, and not as necessary as the priests and preachers in the building of God’s house and kingdom on earth.  Clearly, God fills certain men with the Spirit IN ORDER TO have, “…the ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood to work in every craft,” and he has given, “…all able men ability, that they may make…” all that he had commanded Moses concerning the building of his house.

Moses was the voice of God for the people.  The tradesmen were the hands of God for the people.  Moses was the fittest of all to govern Israel, but Bezalel was fitter than he to build the tabernacle.  God gives us each other that we all might work together for the building of his great and glorious kingdom.  We need one another.  We need variety and diversity within the body.  Can the foot say to the hand, “I don’t need you” ?  Surely not!  Stop ranking men according to their job titles.  Every job is valuable and infinitely important in the work of the kingdom and every job is Spirit led when the man or woman working it loves and follows the Lord.  AMEN.

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God lays out the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:8-11.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” 

God commands rest.  The Hebrew word for Sabbath is “shabbat,” and it comes from the word which means, “to cease.” God commands his people to stop working.  Not only they, but their children, animals, and even foreigners passing through their land.  Not one of them was to work on this holy day.

So, you couldn’t just tell someone else to work for you on the Sabbath.  You couldn’t have your servants, kids, or animals pull your weight.  Everyone was to rest.  The reason is because this is the example – the precedent set by God himself in his very creation of the world.

The concept of the Sabbath is very important to us today.  It points us back to creation and, even more importantly, forward to redemption.  In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the Sabbath was meant to point God’s people to their own deliverance from Egypt – from slavery.

All of this points us, today, to our rest in Christ.  We are commanded to cease from labor; to remember our deliverance from slavery; to rest in Christ alone every single minute of every single day in order to glorify him by our complete and total trust and faith in Him – despite the, often times immense workload he has ordained for us.

Resting in Christ does not mean that once we know him we can shuck all our responsibility and not do that which we have been called to.  It is not holy or righteous to cease from our work by dumping it off on everyone around us while we bask in the presence of God.

 It is tempting, I know.  I personally have an almost superhuman ability to block out noise and distraction when I want to study my Bible.  No matter how many mental gymnastics I do, I cannot justifiably come to the conclusion that God has commanded me to rest instead of doing the jobs he has given to me.  Even on the Sabbath, God has not commanded me to ignore and neglect my home and children in order to prove I am faithfully resting in Him.  No.  God wants me to pray for strength and endurance so I might have the great faith it takes to rest in Him in my most overwhelming circumstances.

Resting is remembering God and trusting him enough to stop working in my own strength, not only for one day per week, but every single day until my eternal rest.

Unfortunately, just like a human, I often get off track.  After I work in my own strength without resting in him for a long time, I crash, I burn, or I quit.  Quitting is resting in my own means.  It is a selfish rest.  And it doesn’t really help me, either.  Vacations do not make overwhelming situations go away.  If I left my home and children for a week, they wouldn’t magically become obedient, mature, and respectful while I was gone.  They may not even be alive anymore!  Literally ceasing from the work God has ordained in my life is never an option!  Ceasing from trusting in myself to accomplish it or trusting in my work itself is what this command calls me to.

On the contrary, carrying on and trusting that He is enough to help me accomplish all that which he has called me to do is truly what resting in him is all about.  That is a holy rest; a God-glorifying rest; a righteous rest.

I believe taking a once a week rest from physical or worldly work and daily responsibilities as much as humanly possible is definitely wise.  I believe, however, the command to keep the Sabbath for New Testament believers is rooted in our rest in grace, not works, and, ultimately, our eternal rest in Christ, in heaven.  Even a more literal approach to Sabbath-keeping only indicates and prescribes one day per week for rest from our human responsibilities and callings.  That means the more time we spend “resting” outside that prescription, the less we are actually trusting in God to give and provide us with the true rest he has promised – the rest that comes solely from Him despite overwhelming circumstances and hard labor coupled with a constant, urgent call to share his good news with everyone, everywhere, always.

“Neglected duties remain duties still, notwithstanding our neglect.” ~Matthew Henry

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Paul continues the Lord’s instructions for human relationships in teaching on how to be a good servant.  The application is for anyone who is a subordinate of another in the context of labor or service.  Any employment given to men by men stands to benefit in regards to these commands.

The Biblical prescription for employees, servants, and subordinates in the work place?

“…obey in everything those who are your earthly masters…”

“…work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

Paul teaches that all requests of earthly bosses and masters are to be taken seriously.  We are to serve men in a genuine and whole-hearted way, not in a for show, pretend, lazy behind their backs way.  The reason Christians are to work in this way is because of our fear and respect for the Lord.  That way, the attitude and advocacy of the boss makes no difference regarding our job performance.  We are not working to appease unruly bosses, we are working to please the Lord.  Even when we are treated unjustly and harshly, we remember that the Lord will give us our due.

Paul reminds us that God is impartial to men and that he favors no one based on status, position, race, or ethnicity.  God is completely just and will repay each of us for the work we have done as well as the way we have done it.

Paul also tells masters, aka, leaders, bosses, CEOs, etc., that God is watching.  He warns those in authority over others that they must treat their subordinates well lest they be judged by the true Master in heaven.

If you are a servant, employee, or subordinate of someone else, work hard and obey them as if they Lord were the one commanding you.  If you are a boss, leader, master, or person with any authority over others, be fair and just dealing with your subordinates as you would have the Lord deal with you.

If the instructions on work ethics found here in Colossians were taken seriously, the vast majority of the problems seen in the work place would be eliminated.

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“It’s not spelling, it’s writing!”

“It’s not math, it’s language!”

These are the type of emphatic statements my daughter makes when I correct her school papers.  She does not understand why I mark spelling wrong on her penmanship homework.  She doesn’t get it when I tell her about how she wrote her “5” backwards when she numbered her language quiz.  She thinks each subject should remain separate.  At 9, she has learned to compartmentalize her life in such a way that she feels comfortable justifying error.  She can now enjoy the benefits of avoiding personal responsibility, refuse helpful accountability, and ignore necessary correction – at least in as much as she can continue to convince herself that it is perfectly safe to live life in sordid, unconnected, error-filled pieces.  

I guess spelling, penmanship, math, and language are going to have to wait.  This lesson is far too important to sidestep.  I need a divine lesson plan straight from the Almighty.  As far as teachable moments go for the week, this is it.  I can’t afford to fumble.  

I spend the next five minutes trying to explain how every part of her life is a piece of her puzzle.  I tell her everything must fit together if she wants the best outcomes.  I feel desperately inadequate as we close our studies for the day.  I look to my Father for help giving a less insufficient answer and I ask him to show me how to help her.

What I find is myself standing in utter need, waste deep in confession, and at the mercy of mercy itself.  How many times have I said in my heart things like, “It’s not church, it’s a picnic.”  “It’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday night.”  “It isn’t right, but I’m not wrong because this part of my life has nothing to do with that one.”

That one.  You know, that part which holds it all together; the centrality of all of life; the big picture creator; the weaver of this great tapestry; the one golden thread running through the whole of it all.  The subject?  Jesus Christ.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

He holds all things together.  Every piece of our lives belongs to him.  There is not one about which we have the liberty to say, “This isn’t Christianity, it’s recreation.”  “This isn’t about Jesus, it’s about me.”  “This isn’t religion, it’s work.”  “This isn’t God’s business it’s mine.”  No.  None of that holds water at the end of the day and we all know it.

We know that if Christ is not welcome at work or play or in the recesses of our own hearts and minds at any given moment – if we relegate him to any specific areas and leave him there – nothing will ever fit together properly.  The pieces of our lives will simply never match.  The practice of compartmentalizing our Christianity means spiritual slumber, carnal living, and abdication of personal responsibility.  A compartmentalized Christian repeatedly refuses helpful accountability and ignores necessary correction.  The Bible calls that person a fool.  

A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5)

Little wonder why it also warns parents that folly itself is indeed bound up – tied in knots; holding captive; intertwined to a serious and dangerous degree – in the hearts of our children.  We must teach them his ways if we want them to lead righteous lives.  

The problem then becomes us.  We cannot teach what we do not know.  We cannot teach what we do not do.  If our lives are separated by subject, our children will never learn integrity, consistency, faithfulness, or sacrifice.  They will learn, however.  They will learn hypocrisy, abdication, irresponsibility, and self-righteous self-defense.

iF u dOnn’T blevE me, teSt mY werDs?

Go ahead and try to pretend you don’t need reading to do math or language to write.  You will end up like a professor of faith who acts as if he does not need God at work; play; in relationships; etc.  A sayer who cannot, by mere virtue of his own bad theology, be a doer of any good thing.  

Lord, let me not be foolish!  Every compartment of my life must include you.  


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I enter to find three men conversing.  Two customers and one mechanic grace the mostly done office in my new favorite garage.  I quietly lie down the boss’s lunch and turn to leave without interrupting more than I already have.  The busy man interrupts himself and says, “Thanks, honey.  I’m hoping to change your oil while the car is here if I have enough time.”

“I thought you changed it Saturday.”

“I just rotated the tires.  I didn’t have any money to buy the oil.”  

He points to customer #1 and goes on, “But this guy got an inspection so now I can get it.”

I pause for a moment and survey the main work floor.  I study each phenomenally handsome vehicle.  A wave of humility comes over me as I realize what my leader has just done in light of what he does each and every day.  I consider just who he is and how much he has changed.  Pride has taken a back seat and all I see in this moment is the image of Christ upon his face.

How humbling it must be to handle those material things you once would have beg, stolen, or borrowed for day in and day out knowing they do not belong to you.

I return to my children and I strive to imitate that great leader.

In the forefront of my mind I keep a detailed picture of that work floor.  I continually remind myself that I do not need to impress any person who walks into my life with false notions of my own success.  I consider how much more influential I can be if I learn to humbly admit when I’m spent.  I save a screenshot of the beautiful task-makers who wait not so patiently in my work space.  I hang it up alongside that garage floor in my mind and I pray for the grace to imitate the head of my house.

These children do not belong to me.  This mother is not my possession.  I will never have ownership over any of the people in my life.  God is the owner of them all.

As the mechanic cannot drift, race, or punish the possessions of the men who employ him and whom he greatly respects, I cannot overwhelm the property of the God I serve.  I can, however, do something far better.  I can do as he does.  I can know them like the performance mechanic knows those amazing machines.  Doubtless there is even greater reward in daily knowing intricately what I love most than in trying to simply use it, store it, and own it as it dusts alone in some detached garage somewhere.  Surely, in knowing them I can more readily humbly remember who really owns me, too.

Furthermore, I can help them become everything their real owner wants, intends, and has designed them to be.  I can test and tune them towards true greatness.  I can dismount myself from my former false throne, interrupt what seemed in my yesterdays to be the most important conversations and offer them a simple thank you for the opportunity to serve them as well as for their service to me.

Yes, I follow a great leader.  One who is not too proud to change the oil in a Ford Focus next to his next three supercharger installs.


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