Sep 23, 2002

Whose Work is This?

The great Old Testament scholar Gerard Von Rad published a series of his lectures under the curious title of God at Work in Israel. What did he mean? Did the title speak of God at work in a country, a people, or a person? The following excerpts from the Bible’s first five books (the Pentateuch) pique a similar question: Where is God at work?

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” (Gen. 32:28)

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Gen. 3:19)

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you" (Exod. 31:1–7)

“‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD.’” (Lev. 23:3)

So Moses, Aaron and the leaders of Israel counted all the Levites by their clans and families. All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to do the work of serving and carrying the Tent of Meeting numbered 8,580. At the LORD's command through Moses, each was assigned his work and told what to carry. (Num 4:46–49)

The LORD said to Moses, “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle.” (Num. 3:5–9)

Bless all his skills, O LORD, and be pleased with the work of his hands. (Deut. 33:11)

One thing certain is that where work is, God is.

Questions for discussion:

• Now we ask: Is God at work in this place? In us? In me?

• Better still: Is the work God’s or our own?

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