LET THY WORK APPEAR (2)*
“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.”
Let us consider the remaining two points in the subject. First, that the Lord would establish the work of our hands upon us, and then that He would put upon us His gracious beauty. “And let the beauty of our God be upon us”.
The Work of our Hands
Work lies, brethren, upon our hands. In some way or other there is a sphere of usefulness for us to fill, and it is not the same for everyone, of course, as the Lord Jesus taught in the parable of the man who left his various servants to their particular work, and commanded the porter to watch. Now we may understand this phrase as having some application first, to the general work of the Lord that lies upon our hands. Now we might in this particular, stress the ministry of the Gospel which is a most solemn and weighty and responsible work. And if the Lord establish it, it is the most useful work to which anyone can be called. There needs to be a call to it, and the Lord needs to establish it.
I have been thinking also, of that work amongst us with regard to our Sunday School, and all who are engaged in it. I feel that is a good work. It has been a useful work in this cause for generations. Now, will the Lord establish this work in years to come? And whatever we may put our hands to with regard to the work of the Lord, we do need the Lord to establish that work.
For an example of work outside that which I have mentioned, there is our work and interest and labour for the Aged Pilgrims Friend Society. This is the work of the Lord, to provide for the necessity and the comforts of His people in their age and weakness. We put our hand to that years ago now and the Lord established it.
Then there is much that can be done with regard to the work of our hands in a more private and personal character; there is the work of our hands practically, and there is labour in prayer, and we might certainly say that is a work of our hearts if not of our hands. We read of some in the New Testament who laboured earnestly in prayer. That was their work. And the Apostle Paul speaks of “some
of those women who laboured with me in the Gospel”. In what way they laboured we are not told, but certainly they worked. Preachers I am sure they were not, but labourers they were for all that. They put their hands, in some way, to the labour of the Gospel. Now, with your hearts and your hands, in one way or another, there lies upon us that work which is for us to do, and we do need the Lord to establish that work upon us.
Then this is very applicable, I feel, on special occasions when any special work is undertaken in the Lord’s cause and interest. How we need the Lord to establish it. When Paul and Barnabas were sent forth from Antioch on the first missionary journey to the regions beyond, that was a very, very important work to undertake, and we read that the Holy Spirit said to them, “Separate me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them”. They were entering upon a new work, a missionary enterprise to carry the Gospel to other regions. Very suitable for such an undertaking is this prayer “Lord, establish this work”.
The Need of Wisdom
With regard to the work of the Lord concerning which we read in the First Epistle to the Corinthians – “Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15.58), we need several things. We need wisdom with regard to it. If ever there is anything that we need to handle wisely, it is the work of the Lord. A good motive in our spirits, is very good and very necessary as far as it goes. Our purpose may be right, the work itself may be good, but how we do need wisdom! Wisdom! O how suitable is that direction:
“If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God” for wisdom to do the work. We need the Lord to give us that spiritual, heavenly wisdom, that wisdom which is from above, which is pure and peaceable and gentle, and easy to be entreated, which is without partiality and without hypocrisy (Jas. 3.17). Solomon did well; how good it would have been if he had always kept to it, that when the opportunity was given to him to ask what he would, he so realized the solemn nature of the work to which he was called, to be king over the Lord’s people, he asked not length of days, nor riches nor honour, but that the Lord would give him wisdom to do the work given to him. He asked for wisdom, for he said, “I am not able to judge this very great people. I have not wisdom for this work”. We need wisdom to perceive what is the work which the Lord will have us to do. How
much frustration and disappointment in our lives may come from putting our hands to a work which is not ours to do.
The Need of Ability
Again, with regard to the work in my text, how we need the Lord to give us suitable abilities for it. In fact, no small part of a call to any work for the Lord is ability for that particular work. I always have felt that. That where there are talents given, a call to use them is inherent in the gift of the talents. Where abilities are given they are given to be used, and if we have the wisdom that I have been speaking about, there will be some discerning as to the suitability of the abilities for the work that they are to be applied to. A person may have considerable ability, but that does not mean they have suitability for any kind of work in the Lord’s cause. There is a suitability for the work and there is work for the suitability, and there we need wisdom.
The Need of Patience
For the work of our hands, how we need the Lord to give us a steadfast and patient spirit, for this is a continuous matter. He that putteth his hand to the plough must plough, whether the going is easy or whether the going is hard. Whether the soil is easily worked, or whether it is hard to turn, still we must plough. We are very apt to get disheartened about this. I remember soon after I began to preach a little I felt like giving up, but a good man said to me, “Well, you have only ploughed one or two furrows yet”. It is ploughing furrow after furrow after furrow if we put our hand to the plough. It is one thing to begin, it’s another thing to continue, and it is another thing to end well.
The Need of Establishment
Whatever the work of our hands, to which we are called, and for which the Lord has given us ability and opportunity, we need Him to establish that work. For the Lord to establish the work of our hands means He will cause it to prosper in the purpose that He has. For there is a purpose in the work of our hands; it is not just work for the sake of working, not like a treadmill in which there is no profit and no result. If there is work there is an objective. We work so that the Lord’s work may appear. It comes back to my mind this day, how that when you called me to this work of preaching the Gospel before you, after so much anxious concern in my own heart, I felt constrained to respond to your call as a church, how that word did follow me, “Thus saith the Lord, shall it prosper, …. shall it prosper?” Will He establish it? Will He make it to endure? That was thirty-four years ago. Has it prospered? Let us look back for a few moments. Has the Lord established it? I came before you, the Lord knows, in weakness and fear and in much trembling, but has the
Lord established the ministry amongst us through these long years? Has He prospered it? Has it accomplished anything? Humbly and thankfully we must say, the Lord has established it. Surely, brethren, a ministry so weak as I feel mine to be, and with such insufficiency as I feel in myself, could never have stayed over forty years if the Lord had not established it. The work of our hands, establish it, Lord, cause it to prosper. We are not responsible for the prosperity of our work, nor the success of it. We are responsible for our work, to do that which the Lord has called us to do in the sphere He has appointed for us. We are not responsible for success but for faithfulness. But even with faithfulness, we need the Lord to give it to us. It has often been remarked that the Lord did not say at the end of the parable of the talents, Well done, good and successful servant, but, Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Now, may the Lord continue to establish a Gospel ministry. How much longer my ministry will continue I don’t know, but O how I pray the Lord will establish in this church and in this sanctuary a full, faithful, useful, profitable, spiritual God-honouring, soul-edifying ministry for years to come. “The work of our hands, establish thou it”.
The Need of Stability
For the Lord to establish a work is for Him to deepen it. I much appreciate depth in spiritual matters. I think what is shallow and superficial, and does not get much below the surface cannot have very much establishment. Lord, deepen our work. Whether we preach or whether we teach we can only engage the mind, we cannot convey the truth with power to the soul. We may create impressions but we cannot produce experience, and impressions are not experience: Impressions are superficial very often, they soon wear off, other things enervate them, but real experience in the heart is the work of God. He uses instruments and when He uses instruments to that end He establishes the work. For the Lord to establish the work of our hands is to make it strong. The word establish means to build up or to strengthen. Our work at the very best is of itself comparatively weak. How easily it can be overthrown. How soon temptation or the power of evil can bring to nothing our work if it is only ours. How soon a congregation can scatter if the Lord does not unite. The workman may gather together a people but unless the Lord establishes the work, how little it takes to scatter them, to bring it to nothing; and unless the Lord establish, things do not last very long. There is not much stability. “Lord,” one might say, “the work of our hands will go to pieces unless Thou dost strengthen it. Lord, strengthen that which thou hast wrought for us and by us.”
The Beauty of the Lord
Consider now this expression, “Let the beauty of the Lord be upon us”. What is the beauty of the Lord our God? Well, first it is His grace. Perhaps I might say that the beauty of the Lord our God means nothing more nor less than the beauty of Jesus Christ. Jesus, in whom the Godhead’s rays beam forth with such mild majesty. Now, the beauty of the Lord our God is the graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if we have any spiritual discernment, and I hope we have in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we shall discern that there is a beauty in Him. The natural eye does not see it. It was prophesied by Isaiah and fulfilled that when men saw Him there was “no beauty that we should desire Him”. For the beauty of Jesus Christ is not so much the beauty of His appearance, as the beauty of His spirit. The beauty of the Lord is His graciousness. The word we have translated “beauty” from the Hebrew of the Old Testament, is the same as the word translated “grace” from the Greek in the New Testament. I have said sometimes that we get confused with this, but I always feel that the proof of the Scripture is in the letter of it, like the kernel in the shell, and I try to get at that. The real meaning of this word “beauty” is grace. Now the Lord Jesus is so gracious. If there was one thing that adorned His character and His spirit it was His grace. O that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ was more on us than it is. As I have often said, let me repeat it, brethren, we not only need to pray for grace to save us, but we need to pray for grace to make us gracious. So for the beauty of the Lord our God to be upon us is for the likeness of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to shine in us. Grace is beauty.
The beauty of the Lord our God is the beauty of His righteousness. Ah, we might, without any stretching of the meaning, see the doctrine implied if not expressly stated, of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my beauty are, my glorious dress. Well, for the beauty of the Lord to be upon us is for the beauty of the Lord Jesus to be upon us in His righteousness, His perfect, law fulfilling, God-honouring, sinner-justifying righteousness. It is expressed in the Scriptures under the figure of a robe. “He has clothed me with the robe of His righteousness”. Now, poor sinner, to be clothed with the righteousness of Jesus, to be made righteous in His righteousness, is for the beauty of the Lord our God to be upon us. For that there is a beauty in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus is beyond question. It is a really beautiful righteousness. It is all that righteousness can posssibly be, and without any stains or shortcomings in any wise. It is a beautiful righteousness to have the righteousness of Jesus upon us, and it is unto all, and upon all them
that believe. As for our righteousness we could not claim any beauty for it, not even with regard to the righteousness of the obedience which we would render. We could hardly see much beauty in it, but the righteousness of Jesus is beautiful.
By the beauty of our God I understand too the beauty of His love. His love is beautiful love, spiritually so, in its purity, tenderness, meekness, compassion. It is beautiful love. I suppose even naturally, natural love is a beauty upon anyone’s spirit. But it is not comparable to the beauty of the love of the Lord Jesus on our spirits. Lord, let thy beautiful love be upon us.
Here is something we really all should pray for constantly. Let everyone of us pray without ceasing for this. Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us personally, for we need it. How we need this beauty to be on our spirits. It all comes within that prayer “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit”. If this is so it will hide so much that is uncomely and ungracious in us naturally. Then we need that beauty to be upon us collectively. I wish it might be truly characteristic of us as a church and people, that the beauty of grace and love and holiness is upon us. We should pray for it. “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us”.
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us in regard to our worship. ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’. That is the beauty we want. I know other features of worship may be attractive, but the true beauty of spiritual worship is the beauty of the Lord our God upon the spirits of the worshippers. O that we could worship Him in love, in grace, O if the spirit and likeness and character of the Lord Jesus Christ was upon us it would make our worship spiritual.
So in our union one with another in the Gospel. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another”, and it was a beautiful communion. Although we are not told expressly what they said yet they had communion together, and there was a beauty of grace and of humility and of godly fear resting upon their souls together personally and collectively. In our worship, in our work, in our communion we need the Lord’s beauty to be upon us.
Then what? “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord”. In this life the beauty of the Lord our God is a beauty of grace, and in the life to come it is a beauty of glory, for grace and glory are of the same nature, of the same holy, loving, gracious beauty. In this life it is the beauty of grace but in heaven it is the beauty of glory, and when we read “to be changed from glory to glory” it means to be changed from the grace as it is here to the beauty of glory as it is there in the world to come.
Well, this is what I do pray for, brethren. The Lord’s work has appeared here many times and it has appeared in some ways, I feel,
remarkably during this year which is now coming to a conclusion. What the Lord has done, He can do. We pray that He will. The Lord’s work has appeared in the ministry and the Lord’s work has appeared in the Sunday School. We hope it will do, and that He will continue to establish the work of our hands upon us, and above it all, may rest the holy, heavenly influence of His divine beauty. Amen.
*This sermon follows that printed in Vol. 10 No. 7, p.246.