Dirt Under Your Nails

Exodus 31: 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

Dirt Under Your Nails

Read Exodus 31:12-18

If you have ever had to do a posting, slabbing, or mowing job in your garden after a proper days worth of work you end up with dirt underneath your nails. For some this dirt under the nails is part of the price of beautiful garden. Plato once remarked that manual labour was not worthy of humans. In fact to manual labour was seen as dehumanizing. In the Greek world work was so demeaning that slaves were often considered nothing but living tools. The respectable thing was to do mental labour.

But this is not the story of the Bible, which begins in a garden and ends in a garden. Work in no way dehumanizes us. It is precisely what makes us human, as we are made in the image of God—A workman God. Work is not a way of proving our worth.

Tim Keller once commented that the God of the Bible at the moment of creation can be found to have dirt underneath His fingernails.

What happened to us to make us fall out of love with work? Work was no longer something to be enjoyed. It would now become the main source of getting significance in the world.

Regardless of whether it is manual or mental labour, at the end of a day do we have the deep sense of contentment that God had upon finishing his labour in creation? God tells Moses in this passage, that it is possible to work and have contentment.

Work is no longer a means to an end; an incessant striving for significance. Work is delight and refreshment. It is deep cosmic rest. It is the much-needed REM sleep that rejuvenates not only our bodies, but our souls. We no longer have to prove ourselves.

The Sabbath is declaration that Jesus’ words on the cross ring true, “It is finished!”

Bishop JC Ryle once remarked of resting in this assurance of Jesus’ completed work.  “Assurance goes far to set a child of God free. It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business. The great debt, a paid debt, the great disease, the healed disease, and the great works the finished work and all other business, disease, debts, and works are then by comparison small.”

Close Calls


Close Call
Close Call

Psalm 34


1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;

but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

20 He keeps all his bones;

not one of them is broken.

22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;

none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.


Part of the beauty and charm of driving down the backroads of the Scottish Highlands are the passing lanes. These roads are fun and yet they can be harrowing. This Psalm has a quick superscript telling us that is one of those close calls for David. He ingeniously “changed his behavior,” or better said, pretended to be “bonkers” in order to avoid the wrath of the king of Gath.

David offers us two quick ideas in this psalm of thanksgiving 1. Rejoice with me (1-10). 2. Learn from me (11-22).(see Derek Kidner, IVP Psalms)

Rejoice with me

Life is filled with these crazy moments of divine rescue and human ingenuity. This is Davids story. “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”(v6) David referring to himself as a ‘poor man’ is a positive acknowledgment of humility and selfless enthusiasm. He gives us the secret of contentment. “I will bless the Lord at all times.”(v1)  Much like Paul, we can almost hear David say “Rejoice at all times”(1 Thes 5:18).

Learn from me

In verse 11 the psalmist doesn’t want us to simply have a moment of ecstatic enjoyment, rather he is looking for ecstatic engagement. He wants us to learn the secret of contentment. “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” (v11). Often in Hebrew wisdom literature the teacher or schoolmaster (whether in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or the Psalms) would refer to his pupils as benim [Hebrew for children]. The Psalmist clearly wants us to learn from him.

The last twelve verses bid us reflect on our circumstances and learn about the “awe of the LORD” (v11). These close calls are not just coincidental near misses, they remind us of a caring Father who knows us full well. This amazing divine rescue confirms to David what his heart already knows, that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)

David prophetically and unknowingly speaks about the greatest event, where not just near misses, but actual distress and catastrophe still work together for good. “He keeps all his bones; / not one of them is broken.”

The New Testament authors understood this Psalm to be fulfilled in Jesus on the cross. The trials that crushed Jesus will now no longer have power to break us. Christ has delivered us. Now no matter what happens to us, God will not allow us to be broken, only molded.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (v8)


This is the secret of contentment.