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Grace Notes

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"'CONFIRM THE WORK OF OUR HANDS"
by Philip Owen

            Moses ends his prayer as recorded in Psalm 90 with these words: “And confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands” (v. 17b). The KJV and the ESV translate the verb as “establish.” Both are thoughtful translations of the Hebrew word which means “to give permanence to.” The phrase “the work of our hands” seems to refer particularly to one’s livelihood (see, for example, Deut. 14:29; 16:15; 24:19). So Moses is praying that God’s hand might be upon the work of His people in order that it might be worthwhile. Such a prayer will provoke or be provoked by some of the following thoughts and questions.

            1. We can do nothing of permanent value in our own strength. The fact that each of us has God-given abilities is not God’s green light to use them as we see fit. Unbelievers have done astonishingly terrible things with the abilities God has bestowed on them; believers should not presumptuously assume that we know how, when, and where to use the talents God has given us. A Christian farmer may plow a field, sow a crop, and succeed in feeding his family. Or he might pray for rain and a bountiful harvest, audibly praise God for His goodness, teach his children that God is the One who provides, and testify to others of the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. Only the second alternative has permanent value.

            2. Is what we are doing worthwhile in nature? In other words, is my occupation such that I can ask and expect God to confirm it? It is clear that believers must avoid some occupations. A believer must reject sinful occupations; he must shun unethical or questionable business practices. But what about an occupation that prevents a believer from faithfully attending regularly established church services or that makes it difficult or impossible to serve in other practical ways?  Or perhaps the labor itself is ethical, but what if it tempts him to devote more time and energy to it than is appropriate? Sometimes the Lord might ask us not to engage in an occupation we love simply because He knows it will become an idol that consumes us.

            3. Is what we are doing done in and for the Lord? Do you realize that it is possible to be in “full-time Christian ministry” and yet not receive a positive answer to the prayer—“Confirm the work of my hands.”—because the believer is serving for the sake of his own honor? The nature of the work alone is not sufficient for the Lord to confirm it. The motive of the believer is critical as well. Whether the work is secular or sacred, the question is: Do I want to be seen and applauded, or do I want the Lord to be honored and others to be blessed? And am I trusting in my abilities to accomplish the task, or am I waiting on and relying on the Lord both to direct and empower me?

            4. There is something we can do that the Lord can confirm. I don’t care how mundane or repetitive, how filled with drudgery, or how insignificant the occupation, if God calls the believer to it and the believer performs it as unto the Lord, God will confirm the work of His hands. Whether giving just a cup of cold water, or eating and drinking, the simplest things may produce eternal fruit. The person required to work fifty hours a week to put food on the table need not despair that he has less time to serve the Lord than his brother who works only forty hours, or a retiree. Flipping hamburgers does not prevent someone from testifying about the Lord; it does not stop him from “singing and making melody with . . . [his] heart to the Lord,” nor does it preclude him from “always giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God” (Eph. 5:19b, 20a).

            Yes, we should pray Moses’ prayer because the truth is that the Lord wants to confirm the work of our hands far more that we want Him to do so. It is His desire that all our labor be in Him in order that it not be in vain. Are you where the Lord wants you to be and doing what He wants you to do in the way He wants you to do it so that He can answer positively when you pray, “Confirm the work of my hands”?

 

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