“Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”
A prayer of Moses, the man of God!
Such is the tenor of the entire Psalm from which our text is taken, and such is also the nature of the text itself. Probably written toward the end of the long wilderness journey as this man of God led the children of Israel from the house of bondage to the borders of the Promised Land.
By Moses, the meekest of men, who, while no man can look on God and live, was privileged to come so close to His God that he could behold His hinder parts. Who, beholding the children of Israel consumed in God’s anger, was troubled by His wrath; and exclaimed, “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath, we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Who, while beholding the brevity of life, sees it on the background of the eternity of God. Listen to him extol that incommunicable attribute of God—”Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth, and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.” And again, “For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past,’ and as a watch in the night.” Who, beginning the prayer with: “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations;” prays further: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom;” and, “O satisfy us early with Thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” And who concludes the prayer with the words of our text.
A prayer for the appearance of God’s work! A prayer which could and should be uttered by the child of God at all times, but especially fitting it is at the end of the year.
A prayer expressing quite a different attitude from the man of the world, who is always passing away under God’s wrath. Is it not the desire of the ungodly, also as they stand at the end of the year, willingly or unwittingly taking inventory of all that has transpired, and calling on himself and others to behold his work, and to remind himself and others of the glory of his and their accomplishments?
Not for the appearance of the work of man does the psalmist pray, beautiful as that work may sometimes appear. He is not interested in the culture of the world, in the fine arts thought out with scientific minds, and played with professional fingers. He has learned to assess the true value of all the productions of man, and concludes that they all shall perish—even the artistic works of a Michaelangelo and the melodious tones of a Sebastian Bach. Though men describe these human endeavors as “immortal,” and the memory of them may last as long as the world endures, they shall all perish when the world perishes. The works of mere man are as mortal as the men who created them.
Though the psalmist prays “establish thou the work of our hands upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it;” he does not look upon this work apart from the work of God. In fact, he considers “the work of our hands” as very really the result of the work of God in His people. They are the manifestation of the beauty of the Lord our God which is upon us, for which the psalmist also prays.
Let Thy work appear!
That work of God which is to be seen all about us in the work of His hands. All creation is His work. Not of itself did it come into being. But by the creative Word of the Almighty all things have their being and continuance. Thy work in the heavens which declare the glory of God.
Thy work in the dry land which Thou broughtest into being by the Word of Thy power. Thy work in the sea, where travels the great leviathan. Thy work under the earth and the seas, where are stored up fountains of water and ovens of fire. Thy work also as it becomes evident in all the affairs of men. For back of all the movements of men and nations stands the everlasting God realizing His counsel and eternal purpose. He setteth up kings and presidents, and He removes them from office. He makes war and He makes peace. He sendeth epidemics and scourges upon the peoples of the earth and they hurry to an early grave. He causes nation to rise against nation. Even the devils cannot stir without His control. The whole ship of creation moves over the ocean of time, not by the will of man or Satan, but by the unchangeable decree of the All-Wise and Eternal God. And He experiences no contrary winds, no forces of evil that threaten to destroy His ship which He brings into the haven of His everlasting purpose.
Let Thy work appear!
Cause all Thy work to appear unto Thy servants and Thy glory unto their children!
And in the midst of all Thy work, O Jehovah, there is one work which Thy servants and their children would especially see. A work which Thou art performing throughout the ages.
Thy work of salvation!
The perfection of Thy everlasting covenant in Christ Jesus! That work which is not known through the things which are seen—the work of Thy hands in the firmament and in the seas and the dry land. That work which is known and understood only through the promise of the gospel. That work which Thou didst accomplish in the sending of Thy Only Begotten Son our Lord into the likeness of our flesh. That work which Thou didst give unto Him to accomplish on the accursed tree, when He battled all the forces of darkness, when He broke the power of sin and Satan and death, when He satisfied Thy justice and bore all the vials of Thy wrath that were due to us and merited for us Thy righteousness and eternal life, the adoption unto sons so that we Thy servants could also become Thy sons and daughters. Thy work which through the Spirit of Thy raised and glorified Son Thou art accomplishing in our hearts, making us to be transformed and conformed into Thy perfect image. Thy work according to which Thou dost implant in our hearts, renewed by Thy grace, a living faith whereby we are able to see the unseen, and to hope for that we see not. Thy work whereby Thou didst shed abroad in our hearts Thy love, so that once more we may go out to Thee in love and love one another, and seek Thy perfection, Thy glory, which is but the radiation of all Thy virtues.
And let Thy beauty be upon us!
So that we are able to reflect it in such a way that Thou mayest see in us Thy own glory!
O Jehovah, let all Thy work appear! Also all that which Thou must still do until we shall come to Thee and abide with Thee in Thy house forever. When all sin and shame shall forever be gone. When there shall be a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness shall dwell, and where Thou shalt be acknowledged and served as God alone. When our sinful flesh and Satan and his angels and all the wicked shall be destroyed, and we shall be able to see Thee no longer through a darkened glass, but face to face and know Thee even as we are known.
O, we believe Thy work continues uninterruptedly whether it appears unto us or not. Nothing can interfere, nor impede Thy work. And though it may seem to us Thy servants that Thy mills grind slowly, yet we believe that they grind surely, and that Thou dost hasten to accomplish all Thy good pleasure.
Yet Thy work does not always appear unto Thy servants and their children. We are no different than Thy people Israel of old, O Lord, who saw Thy mighty acts and then quickly forgot them and rebelled and murmured against Thee. When Thou didst deliver them with a mighty hand through the waters of the Red Sea, they rejoiced for a moment in Thee the God of their salvation. But it was only for a moment that they rejoiced with thanksgiving. For when their feet touched the burning sands of the desert, and their lips became parched, they forgot their Deliverer, and murmured against Him. We and our children are no different than they. We, too, O God of our salvation, fail to see Thy footprints which are traced out before us as we are required to go through the wilderness of this present time, showing us the way to our Canaan and Rest. The lust of our flesh as a film covers our eyes so that we cannot always see the cloudy pillar by day and the fiery pillar by night. We so often become enamored by the beauty of the works of men, which are so completely gilded that their sparkle blinds our eyes, that Thy work does not appear.
And Thou knowest that by Thy grace we have come to know that all the work of man cannot be trusted nor can we set our hope on these things, yea, that we even become tired of beholding them because we know that they cannot last. They belong to that vanity that is of vanities.
That is why we pray, let Thy work appear, and Thy beauty!
Let Thy work appear also in the work of our hands. And that work, which is nothing more than Thy work in and through us, establish Thou it.
This is our prayer, O Jehovah, as we stand again at the close of another year.
The prayer of the Church of the present!
Unto Thy servants, let Thy work appear! Thy covenant-friend servants! Thy people whom Thou hast loved from before the foundation of the world, whom Thou hast chosen in Christ Jesus our Lord, and determined to be saved by Him. We, Thy servants, who acknowledge Thee as our Lord and Master, before Whose face we now humbly bow, confessing that we are no more than dust and ashes in Thy sight, wholly unworthy of the least of Thy blessings. Unto Thee, our Lord, we pray. Show unto us as we have never before seen it—Thy work! Beholding which we may bow before Thee in humble adoration. Even in the good works which we, Thy servants, perform, establish it—that is, make us to see that it is Thou Who workest in us both to will and to do according to the good pleasure of Thy will. So that not we, but Thou alone mayest receive all the glory.
Now, at the end of another year! At that time when, more than at others, we are so deeply conscious of the truth that we are strangers and pilgrims in the earth, and all things are developing so fast that they cry for an end. Let us see Thy work, and let Thy beauty be upon us.
But, O Covenant Jehovah, we are also concerned about our children! Those children which Thou hast given unto Thy servants. In whom Thou hast promised to extend and establish Thy covenant forever. Never allow us to become like our fathers were, who protested that Thou wouldest destroy them and their children in the dry and thirsty wilderness, and who had to be shown that not they but their children would enter the Promised Land. Grant, O our God, that we with our children may see Thy work, and that we may see in our children Thy saving power and Thy glory. And our prayer is that our children may be Thy children in whom Thy work of grace appears, and that they may have grace also to know Thee as the God of their salvation in Christ Jesus. This is our prayer so much the more because we see our children beset by many temptations, temptations which neither we nor our fathers have known. We believe, O God, that Thy promise also concerning them shall never fail, and therefore we pray that they may see Thy work and rejoice with us in Thee, the God of our salvation.
On this new year’s eve grant, we pray, that we with our children may rejoice. in the beauty of Thee, the Lord our God. And that work which we were privileged to perform in instructing them to know, love, and serve Thee, may it be established. Yea, the work of our hands, establish Thou it.
Our concern, O Jehovah our God, is not only for the Church of today, but also for that of tomorrow. We shall soon be cut off and come to Thee; but our children must yet remain for a time. And Thou hast foretold in Thy Word that perilous times shall come, when even the elect would perish didst Thou not shorten the clays. Then, also, our Father, let the Church see Thy work, and cause They beauty to be upon her. We know Thou canst not rest until all Thy children come to Thee. Therefore continue Thy work—working in our hearts and in those of our children with thy grace and Spirit until the very last one whom Thou hast chosen shall appear before Thee. Then, we with our children shall see Thy work in its fulness, and we shall glorify Thee forever!
Amen and Amen!