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. Psalm 90:17 KJV
This beautiful prayer is expressed differently in the various translations. In most translations, the word used is favour – ‘May the favour of the Lord rest on us’; some use words like sweetness, kindness, graciousness, pleasantness and brightness in place of beauty.
In the NLT, the verse comes across as practical rather than ethereal: “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” May the Lord direct our efforts, confirm and establish the work of our hands. Make our endeavours successful and secure. Make us successful in everything we do. All these translations find words insufficient to express the full meaning of this awe-inspiring prayer.
What does it mean to have our works enriched by the beauty of the Lord?
Work is an important part of our lives. We labour not only to earn our daily bread, but also to leave an impact on the lives of people. The things we do and say while at work can make an impact for eternity. In the workplace, we as Christians perform dual roles – being ambassadors for Christ while fulfilling our job descriptions.
I remember the first moments when I awoke from the effects of the anaesthetic medication, following an abdominal surgery. The tremendous pain and discomfort that I experienced was considerably lightened by the presence of two kind young nurses in the post op room. Although I barely remember their faces – being so drowsy at the time – their kind voices and concern made me feel less alone. Mary, our office cleaner keeps the rooms so sparkling clean, that on her days off when substitutes are posted, the place suddenly seems dull and untidy. We have a driver working in our health project who makes a special effort to make our field visits happy and comfortable. All these people carry the mark of excellence, and even beauty, which comes from God Himself.
How can our work reflect the beauty of our God?
My mother, who was a doctor, tried to impress upon us something her parents had taught her – to always commit our daily tasks to God and to seek His blessing. As she spent hours in hospital wards saving lives, she carried with her the knowledge that she was sharing in the work of Jesus Christ. She saw her work as a divine calling to minister to the sick. Medicine was for her, and now for us her daughters who chose to follow in her footsteps, a vocation and a privilege. Her skill, hard work and her graciousness marked her out as a Christian doctor. Growing up, we had before us a great example of serving God and suffering humanity through the work of our hands.
God uses our work to shape our character.
At work, we have the opportunity to learn from others. People who display excellence and commitment in their work or kindness and warmth in their interactions. We also encounter people who are a trial to us – bosses who are unappreciative or manipulative, people in our teams who won’t pull their weight, people with difficult or oppositional attitudes. We realise that many people who work alongside us, are struggling in their lives and desperate for a change in their situations – whether professional or personal. In engaging with them, we learn more about God and ourselves. We may also face practical problems that seem beyond our ability to tackle – these show us the limitations of learning and skill, and the need to depend on Christ.When we bring people and difficult problems to Christ in prayer, His supernatural enablement and beauty, becomes evident in our work and lives.
“Take my hands and let them love at the impulse of Thy love…” Frances R Havergal
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Colossians 3:23 NASB
We should see our work as a vocation – where through our service to others, we may glorify God. Whatever God has put in our hands – whether skill, knowledge or understanding – should be placed before His altar with thanksgiving. Like the two fish and five loaves of bread, the Lord will receive our offerings and increase it for the benefit of a multitude. His favour will make all the difference.
On our part, we should always be ready to go the extra mile – and do things willingly, even if we are not specially paid for it. We should turn up early and work at our tasks diligently; be willing to adapt to people and receive advice or criticism. We should avoid criticising colleagues unnecessarily or undermining their work. As Christians, we must stay away from the gossip, backbiting and unseemly jokes in the workplace. We must be confident, but also kind and respectful of others. As we place our hands in the hands of Christ, we can be sure of His guidance and favour.
“Let the sweetness of Lord Jehovah our God be upon us, because of the works of his hands which he has fashioned for us, and he formed us among the work of his hands!” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
Thank You Lord for the work You have given me to do. Thank You for the skill and strength to earn my livelihood. I commit my work into Your hands and seek Your blessing, favour and skill. Forgive my many shortcomings and establish my work, so that many people may be blessed and Your name may be glorified.