Listening to Scripture
We will never complete our task of incorporating the Great Commission and the Great Commandment into our lives. We will always be able to improve. There will always be parts of our work that needs to be more intimately engaged with our basic Christian lives. But let’s leave the topic of our general calling to be entirely devoted Christian as we work as a never ending work in progress. Moving from the general to the more specific, there are three passages of scripture of interest, where God influences someone’s work. For the next three sections we will examine these passages for how they can instruct us on our question of what is God’s will for my work. The three passages are Genesis 2: 1 – 15 (concentrating on verse 15), Exodus 31: 1 – 11 and 1 Samuel 10: 1 – 8 (concentrating on verse 7).
Adam’s Service in the Garden
The first is a one that we have examined before.
Gen 2:15 The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it.
Prior to Genesis 2:15 we read that God has created the Heavens and the Earth, planted a garden and formed Adam. Then in this verse, God takes and places Adam in the garden and assigns Adam the task of working it and watching over it. Adam is given a specific place prepared by God to work and specific assignments commanded by God to do. Adam is called by God to be the farmer, caretaker and/or gardener of Eden. Is this a sacred or secular job? Today gardening tends to be viewed as a mostly secular occupation. But Adam is not just gardening but is taking care of God’s creation and following God’s direct commands. So it can easily be viewed as a sacred assignment. So did God call Adam to a sacred or a secular job? I am coming to the conclusion that the distinction between the sacred and secular within God’s creation (and especially within the workplace) is artificial. Adam’s sacred call as the first human to work in the garden of Eden should cause us to question our sacred and secular dichotomy.
Looking a little closer at the passage we come across the word “work”. This is the word that got me thinking about all this in the first place. It may be translated dress, cultivate, tend or take care of but it is just a very generic version of the word work. That word “work” is actually the Hebrew word ‛âbad. It can mean many types of work. It is often translated into different words based on context of the sentence. The translation of the Bible sponsored by King James back in the 1600’s actually translated this word in this instance “to till” or “to dress” because that’s the type of work you do in a garden. This word ‛âbad is used often in the Hebrew Torah. In fact it is used 294 times. The vast majority of these are translated “serve” because the context that the word occurs. Many of them are in reference to the Israelites’ service to God. Look at these quotes just from the 5th book of the Hebrew Torah Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 6:13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.
Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
Deuteronomy 10:20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.
Deuteronomy 11:13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-
Deuteronomy 13:4 It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
This is used to point out the fact that there is no linguistic difference in the ancient Hebrew Torah between tending a garden and service to God. God’s interaction with Adam gives scriptural precedent for God to specifically place someone in a God determined and God provided context and directly command that person to do specific work. Working within God’s created context in obedience to God’s direct command our work is service to God. It does not matter if the actual nature of the work may be seen as secular. It is sacred.
But many of us will never have that Adam experience of being directly commanded by God. I have found this lack considerably frustrating. I remember as a college student praying. I was asking God to tell me what it is that I was supposed to do with my life. I did not get a direct answer. I was completely committed to follow God’s command wherever I was instructed me to go. But I was not placed in my garden and told to work it by God. Where does that leave me? Did I not listen hard enough? Was I not actually willing to hear God’s voice? Was I expecting too much from God? Was I not important enough for God to speak directly to?
Have you ever had a situation like Adam where it was very clear from God what you were supposed to be doing and/or where you were supposed to be doing it?
If yes, how did you hear that instruction from God?
If no, has God’s direct silence on what you are supposed to do with your life been frustrating?
Would you feel confined or restricted if god told you exactly what to do and where to do it?
In the next section we are going to deal with God’s influence over Bezalel, Oholiab and all the craftsmen of Israel found in Exodus 31.