The Pleasure of God in Ordinary Work

The Pleasure of God in Ordinary Work

The God of the universe genuinely enjoys the universe he’s made — the one we get to live and work in every day, the one he designed as a gift for his Son (Hebrews 1:2). He rejoices to see what normal humans can do in a day — and all the more so when that work rises from a heart set on him. Even when everyone else seems to completely overlook what we’ve done, he sees and he smiles, because he sees the dim, but brilliant reflection of his own work.

I wonder how many people in his day knew the apostle Paul as a guy who made and fixed tents. Surely many did. When he went to Corinth, he went to see Aquila and Priscilla, “and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade” (Acts 18:3). He had been doing this for a while. He was well-acquainted with goat’s hair. He could probably tie his favorite knots without looking. He knew all the ways holes were made and how to mend them. I imagine, as it is with most trades, that some days he wished he could choose another one.

I wonder how many knew the apostle Peter as a guy who caught fish. Surely many did. Even after Jesus died and rose and appeared to his disciples, where did he go to find his friend? Where Peter had spent so many long days and longer nights, where Jesus had first found him years before — fishing (John 21:3). He knew what each kind of fish smelled like (and if he forgot, his clothes could remind him). He had been through serious storms. He knew the best place to drop an anchor and the best times to cast the nets — and he knew what it was like to lift an empty one (like that night the risen Jesus suddenly appeared).

I wonder how many knew Jesus as a guy who built tables and chairs. We know some did. When he returned to his hometown to preach, his former neighbors asked, “What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mark 6:2–3). They were surprised by his words because they had grown so used to seeing him with saws and hammers and nails. He came not only in flesh and blood, but in sweat and toil. A man of splinters and acquainted with setbacks.

Each of them altered history with their ministry (and none more than the God-man). Each of them also spent much of their life doing ordinary, even tedious work (perhaps even more ordinary than what lies before you). And each of them knew that work like theirs, done well, is anything but ordinary.

Man Goes Out to Work

We would do our work differently next year, wouldn’t we, if we could see even our ordinary work through the wider eyes of God. So where could we go to see what God sees in our work? I love the glimpses we get in the wild and wondrous world of Psalm 104.

The psalm, like so many psalms, is meant to awaken awe and joy in our souls. It opens, verse 1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” But this psalm takes a less-traveled road to worship. When the psalmist sees the disconnect between what he believes about God and how he feels about God, he lets his mind wander over hills and through valleys (verse 8). He walks along springs and wades into oceans (verses 10, 25). He watches for badgers and listens for birds (verses 12, 18). Creation was his chosen hymnal, with all its familiar melodies and surprising key changes.

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