“Man Goeth Forth Unto His Work.”

Psalm 104:23  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
THIS is the special dignity put upon man—he “goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening." It is a dignity which belongs to God. And this psalm bears witness to that fact in a very striking way. It sets before us, first of all, God's work in varied and beautiful connections, the psalmist, exclaiming at length, "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches. "And then, having spoken of God's work, he says," Man goeth forth unto his work.”
That man has his daily task—"his work"—distinguishes him from all other creatures above and below him. Angels are ministering spirits; the waters obey His decree; the young lions roar after their prey and seek their meat from God, but man, man alone, as made in the image mid. likeness of God, "goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening.”
Now this puts supreme value upon work. It is the order of the universe, and man's chief duty. This argument finds its strongest support in the fact that God worked. The very opening page of revelation reveals Him thus employed. Such is man's place in the universe. He is a worker. The very first direction Adam received was, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it." "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”
We may learn from this that to be unemployed is one of the very worst things that can befall a man. Someone has well said if we would be happy it is of the first importance to find our proper work. Most of the wrecks in life are caused either by having no work, or insufficient work, or uncongenial work; and the spirit of than is never so cheerful as when it finds that satisfying labor for which it is fitted. Find this by all means if you would be happy. Everyone has his own proper work. You may not have found it; it may not be the work you are doing now; but work there is for everyone. "Man goeth forth unto his work." Yes, you have your own particular work to do, as though there was no one else in the wide world to do it.
This gives immense dignity to life. How dignified is the description in the psalm before us—"the beasts of the forest creep forth," but "man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening"! In this way, as we have shown, he imitates God. Can there be anything higher? Did not our Lord Himself, as Man, go forth unto His work and to His labor until the evening? God gave Him a work to do, and on the cross He could say, "It is finished.”
Now while this principle is of universal application, we wish to bring it to bear especially upon the subject of Christian work. If God wrought in creation and thus set man an example He intended him to follow (perhaps we may never have thought of the six days' work in this light), He has also wrought in saving power through our Lord Jesus Christ, and He intends every believer to follow this example likewise. We speak only of the principle. The Lord Jesus Christ before He left this world said to His disciples, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father" (John 14:1212Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. (John 14:12)). If we pass on to the Acts, we read, "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching, the word." Here we find that believers, without being apostles (for the apostles, we are distinctly told, were left at Jerusalem) or having received any human ordination, went everywhere preaching the word. They had, something better than human ordination—they had divine communication. They were taught of God. Human learning is all very well in addition to this, but without this it is sometimes worse than useless.
This striking incident is mentioned not because every Christian is necessarily a public teacher or preacher, but because in a general way it conveys the idea that there is something for all to do. If this idea could be revived, it would be of untold blessing to the Church and the world. The prevailing notion is that nearly all preaching and Christian work, both at home and abroad, is to be done by a select few. The fatal consequence of this is that an immense wealth of talent lies wholly unused. The fact is, painful as it may sound, there are thousands upon thousands of believers in our land who will not let the Holy Ghost use them. They never preach a sermon; they never visit the sick; they never give away a tract; they never testify for the Master; or they do these things so seldom as not to be worth taking into account. In hundreds of churches, chapels, of meeting rooms everything is left in the hands of one man, or only a few. There are thousands of Christians who do nothing.
It would be impossible to estimate the annual spiritual loss thus sustained. Forgive us for looking at the matter from such a business point of view, but it is the best way of bringing this glaring defect forcibly under our attention. If people in this country acted on the same principle in business affairs, if the few worked and the many were idle, England's prosperity would decline immediately. But this is just what has been and is taking place in the Church. No wonder such a small impression is made upon the world!
If things were as they should be, many a Christian would probably go abroad carrying his business with him and preaching the gospel at the same time. If he had to settle in a place, it would be where the gospel is needed. He would not go abroad simply to get rich, but with the idea—while earning enough to keep himself—to spread the truth. It is not assumed that everyone could do this, but the opportunity is open to thousands who do not now avail themselves of it. How can we expect to impress others with the importance of Christianity when we ourselves are so careless of it? Take another branch of service—tract distribution. This again is in the hands of the few. And yet it is a kind of service that is within the reach of all. A little courage, a little politeness, abundance of prayer, and the thing is done. It requires no gift. And yet it is service that yields very great encouragement, and was never more needed than at the present day. In the face of the degrading literature that is gaining an ever-increasing circulation, and ruining hundreds of lives, and of the spread of Romanizing influence, something of an opposite character is sorely needed.
“Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening." What work is it to which you go forth?
We do not mean merely manual or mental labor—we mean work as a Christian. If you are converted you have some work to do for God over and above your secular employment. If every believer realized this the effect would be astonishing. There would be a regiment where now there is only one man, and a whole army in place of a few scattered individuals.
It, will not always be easy, doubtless. The highest work is never easily done. It will require labor. This our text implies. "Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening." "To his labor." Without this our work will never be well done. But where it is labor to do the work God has given us, and for which we are fitted, that labor becomes ever more sweet and easy.
We are reminded, too, that there is to be a limit to our labor. "Man goeth forth... until the evening." Here we see divine consideration for our weakness. God would never put more upon us than we can bear; and we do well to remember this gracious provision, and fall in with the divine plan. Here, again, God Himself becomes our example. Did He work for six days to teach man the nobility as well as the necessity of work? He also at the same time introduced evening and morning as marking the periods of labor and repose. We cannot afford to act differently. Generous souls there are who wear themselves out; always spending, and seldom recouping. This fact should make each one careful to do his part. If all were doing this, there would not be the necessity for the few to overstrain themselves. It is because this is not the case that we see men and women, conscious of the appalling need, taxing themselves to the utmost, and going down in their prime. "Until the evening." This may be taken in three ways: (1) We must put a limit to each day's work, and have regular periods of repose. This is necessary in order to gather strength for the next day, and gain the needed preparation. And the Lord's people may greatly help by seeing that the worker gets sufficient quiet without interruption. (2) There is the evening of life. Man has to go forth until the evening. Blessed are they who have labored on until they find their powers decline, and one service after another has to be given up, and the calm, still evening closes life's busy day—a day filled with good works. (3) And beyond all that there is the evening of death—"The night cometh, when no man can work." How it behooves us to do all we can now! The last day of our going forth to our work is marked either by the Lord's return, or that moment when the physical powers will fail. Till then let us fill our appointed task, and let us learn what a noble position man has been given, distinct both from angels above him and the beasts beneath him. "Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening.”