June 1, 2017 • Life for Leaders
At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers — the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.
Reading between the lines of Isaiah 18, we can see that certain ambassadors from far away came with an offer of military help for Israel. They came from Cush, a region south of Egypt along the tributaries of the Nile River, roughly equal to modern day Ethiopia. Ambassadors from Cush came down the Nile in their boats in order to enter into an alliance with Israel. But the Lord rejected their offer, noting that he had more than enough power to deal with countries that would attack Israel.
But then, Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Cush ends with an ironic and unexpected twist. The ambassadors from Cush would come to Jerusalem again, this time bringing gifts to Jerusalem, offerings for the Lord. Their gift giving would implicitly recognize the Lord’s own sovereignty and power. It was almost as if the ambassadors knew of the Lord’s glory.
Have you ever thought of the irony in our giving gifts to the Lord? Everything we have is from him: our talents, our time, our money, and our very lives. In a very real sense, we give back to God only what he has already given to us. In fact, we give to the Lord that which is ultimately his. Yet he is honored, not so much in what we give, but in our act of giving. In this way we recognize his worthiness and sovereignty, much as did the ambassadors from Cush.
Remember that your giving to God has to do with much more than offerings in church or going on mission trips. We are to present our bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means that everything we do can, in principle, be an offering to God. Whether your work involves poring over spreadsheets, selling services, building furniture, teaching children, or nursing babies, every kind of good work can be an expression of worship.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
As you think of gifts you have given to God, which gifts stand out to you? Why?
What difference does it make to you that in giving to God you are essentially giving back what is already his?
Do you think of your daily work as an offering to God? Why or why not?
What might help you in offering your work to God each day?
Gracious God, you have given me more than I can possibly fathom. In fact, you have given me the opportunity and privilege of giving back to you a portion of what is really yours. It isn’t that you need my money or my abilities to get your work done. Yet you have chosen to use me and my contributions. What an honor! Thank you!
May I learn to give to you all that I am, all of the time. In particular, help me to offer my work to you as worship, honoring you with what I do and how I do it. Be glorified in my work today, Lord.
Help me, I pray, to give to you freely and joyously, without hesitation or reservation. And when I give, may I be aware of your unique worthiness to receive all glory, honor, and power… and all that I am. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Sacrificing for the Sake of the Community (Romans 12:1–3)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.