I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.
1. The works of God mean(1) such as are God appointed. Christ wrought as one in possession of a chart, each hour charged with its special commission. Hence the speed and certainty with which each work was done. Amidst all the multiplicity of His activities He never hesitates, recalls a step, or regrets it, "Faithful to Him that appointed Him," during these long years of self-repression at Nazareth, and up to the time when He died at the moment the Father had appointed.
(2) Such as are God revealing. There is not an act that is not in some way reflective of God or contributive to our knowledge of God, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," and every relation and step adds its own special touch to the picture. His miracles of mercy tell something of the Father's love; His miracles of judgment of the Father's wrath. The Cross discloses every attribute of the Father at once.
2. Making allowance for the difference of power and vocation, the works of the servant should possess the same two-fold character as those of the master. Here we have the Christian theory of work. Much is said about work now-a-days. But work for work's sake is a doubtful evangel to preach. Inactivity has its sins, but so has work. Some work till they are carnalised. Wrong work may be done, and right work wrongly. Let us illustrate the rule as it runs through a three-fold relationship.
(1) Toward the world our work should be —
(a) God assigned. Our daily callings, however worldly or menial, can be conscientiously regarded as the appointment of God. But here inclination, parental wishes, advantageous prospects, etc. often hold sway. There are few things more critical than the choice of a profession, and one may miss one's way grievously. But let us feel "This is the task appointed me," and then we may regard it as sacred, and among the works of Him who hath sent us.
(b) God revealing. Your faithfulness will be a miniature of Him who is faithful in all things; your punctuality will be God-like because a reflection of Him who is true to His promises; your patience under business provocations will resemble His longsuffering, who is slow to wrath; your conscientiousness will be the reflection of Him who never begins but He finishes. Nor will any vocation be too mean for this. from the statesman down to the shop lad the principle is the same.
(2) Towards the Church. Our works —
(a) Must be God appointed. "But," some say, "I have no special sphere in the Church. Beyond the fact that I avail myself of its privileges Church life has no interest for me. What was assigned to me as my work I found unsuitable or too taxing." The excuse will hardly pass muster. Christ "is as one taking a far journey, and left His house, and gave every man his work." That house is the Church. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a husbandman who went out...to hire labourers for his vineyard." That vineyard is the Church; and it can scarcely be argued that they who enjoy the shelter of the one and the fruits of the other can absolve themselves from the duty of serving in them. More generous and consistent is the spirit which says, "Give me some door to keep, some plot to till. Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"(b) When once we feel our work God appointed we shall try to make it God revealing in its thoroughness, for the God we represent is a God of order; in its perseverance because we testify to a God who faints not, neither is weary; in its humility, not losing interest in a work because others are preferred in it, realizing that I bear witness to a God who "humbled Himself."(3) Towards your personal life and the care and culture it demands. Preeminently is this task the appointment of God, for His will concerning us is our sanctification: and preeminently, too, is the task a revelation of God "for herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit."
II. THE MOTIVE. If Christ kept before Him a coming night much more should we. For Christ knew the length of His day, and could have told how many hours were left, but we are ignorant here. We know what lies behind, and how we have cheated ourselves with purposes and dreamings, but we cannot cheat time. With some the freshness and dew of the morning have given place to the burden and dust of the mid-day; with some that is succeeded by a grey and monotonous afternoon; while others are passing on amidst the frosts and dreariness of the fast falling twilight. And the thought may never have been faced, yet "the night is coming to me." What shall we say to these things? "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," etc.
(W. A. Gray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.