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Friday, August 10, 2012

Aimless 2

Yesterday I shared the start of some time with the Lord and suggested you look at Psalm 127 and 1 Corinthians 15 before I shared the way the issues resolved for me.
How do we resolve the exhortation to be diligent in following the Lord and doing the work of the Kingdom with the truth of Psalm 127, that if the Lord does not build it, it is vain?
As I mentioned yesterday the word “vain” captured most of my attention.  “Vain” shows up three times in Psalm 127:1 – 2.  The word is also in 1 Corinthians 15:10.  On the surface there seems to be tension between the two passages.  In Psalm 127 the clear message is that if we do not depend on the Lord to build our “house” or guard our “city” it is vain.  However, in 1 Corinthians 15:10 vain is joined at the hip with Paul’s declaration that he worked harder than all of the other apostles.  What gives?

I spent some time looking at the words in the original languages that are translated “vain.”  In the Old Testament the word has the sense of aimlessness, useless activity.  In the New Testament similarly the meaning is empty or ineffective.  The email that included the reference to Proverbs 4:23, reminded me of the charge to be diligent, which charge Peter reminds of us multiple times; 2 Peter 1:5, 10, 15; 3:14.

How do we resolve all this?  It seems to me that we have to be diligent to trust in the Lord alone in all that we do.  Not in our gifts, not in our abilities, but in Him.  As Paul said in 15:10, it is the grace of God that allowed him to work harder.  Our capacity to serve is a product of our rest and trust in Him.  It is stunningly counter intuitive.

To just work harder, to launch into the fray, is like shooting without aiming.  Aimless, empty, useless pursuit.  This idea shows up multiple times – can you think of other places or stories that reinforce or repeat this idea?

1 comment:

  1. This is a profitable discussion. It seems clear that Paul is talking about trusting God to bring out the results of his labor; he was clear on the fact that only God can bring the fruit of the harvest.

    It seems that Jesus on earth also demonstrated this reality (all the proof would require a small book). His life never seems hectic or frenetic. He took His direction from His Father, and in the end He was able to say, "I have finished the work you gave me to do." Like us, He had 24 hours a day and seven days in His week. And I think we can assume, because He perfectly kept the Law, that He kept the Sabbath holy as commanded.

    True, He scandalized the Pharisees because He did not keep, or insist His followers keep, the myriad little rules that had grown up around the simple command of of Exodus 20:8-11. But God never insists that we keep rules added to His reasonable and beneficial commands.

    There's a lot more to the discussion as we relate the "spiritual" rest of dependence on God and the fruitfulness it brings and rest from frenetic and pressured activity that is a necessary part of true rest. Is there still a "day" of rest? Are we also "allowed" to go to bed earlier and get up later as implies in Psalm 127:1,2?

    Perhaps there's more discussion on this aspect of the topic.