Establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).
The work of their hands is usually done with plastic shovels and buckets.
Just beyond the encroaching line of water that creeps over the sand after the wave’s crescendo, they labor. The work of their hands may be nothing more than a large mound of grainy mud. Sometimes their work has made something elaborate, an architectural wonder. The sand has been sculpted to make a mansion or a true castle. Quite often the work of their hands includes a moat that circles the structure.
The following morning vacationers will be up early to walk or jog on the beach. They will walk past the work sites from the day before and see how the tide came in overnight and eroded the work of those hands, those bucket-built worlds. The moats will be full of water. The mounds may still be noticeable but nearly worn away by the beating of waves. The mansions will be in utter disrepair, if left standing at all.
But the builders will return. Their moms and dads will stretch out on chairs and watch as young imaginations strike back at the tides and go to work again. The beach will be a canvas for their visions, an exhibit hall for the work of their hands.
We see this every summer. Sometimes what we see is a picture of what we live all year long.
The work of our hands may be done joyfully and well. But to what end? What becomes of the work we do? What kind of impact does it have? Psalm 90 ends with a peculiar prayer: “Establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.”
In his grace, God gives us work to do. All of us – whether or not we know it and believe it – have a vocation, a calling. God’s gift of work is his invitation to join what he is doing in this world, and no field of endeavor is omitted. God calls us to do the work – but Psalm 90 reminds us that it God who establishes it. To ignore this or to deny it is to live every day building sand castles, laboring to create things that are easily eroded and eventually undone.
As you go through this day, pray Psalm 90:17. Ask God to establish the work of your hands. The work, of course, is still yours to do. This prayer will not relieve you of the responsibility of giving your best effort to your work.
But the impact of what you do – the way you touch other lives and the way God uses the work that you do to bring about his own purposes – this is God’s alone to do. He will establish the work of your hands. He will make it matter in ways that you may never see and cannot begin to imagine.
The work you do today, you do with God. So take up your bucket and shovel knowing that he will establish what he has called you to do.
We give you thanks, O God, for the gift of work and for your call to live this day as co-laborers with you. Help us to do our work well. We give it to you, asking you to “establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.” Amen.