The God Who Makes Jobs, Fills Jobs (Psalm 8)

Psalm 8:6–8 —

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under his feet,
     all sheep and oxen,
     and also the beasts of the field,
     the birds of the heavens,
     and the fish of the sea,
       whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Scattered across the globe are thickly dusted coal miners deep in the earth, sunburned farmers on top of the earth, chefs in kitchens, cattle ranchers, lawyers, politicians, horse tamers, teachers, brick masons, writers, auto mechanics, computer programmers, mothers managing kids and grocery store product price comparisons at the same time.

Countless occupations. And according to Psalm 8 all our legitimate jobs are traced back to God’s special design.

Along with its rich Christological truths, Psalm 8 paints a picture of humankind given dominion over God’s work of creation. And while the tone of the Psalm is one of awe, wonder, and joy at God, writes Ben Witherington, it is specifically awe, wonder, and joy over the majesty of God’s deep concern for us in his design of human nature and human vocation over creation.

“We are told that humankind is bequeathed both glory and the functions of God (though on a lesser scale), that is, to rule over all of creation,” he writes. “Notice that it is God who is the actor in all these actions (‘you made . . . you put’). We are not talking about human accomplishment or what humans deserve, but rather the plan and gift of God. We were meant and made to be rulers over all the works of God’s hands.”

God creates the planet, calls forth vocations, and then actively places and activates his image bearers in specific occupations. And what makes this point especially definite is the cultural contrast. “This stress on human dominion over creation was a revolutionary doctrine,” he writes. “Other ancient Near Eastern cultures saw the gods as part of nature, and all humans as slaves of the gods under the sway of the stars (hence the need for astrology). But it is not by recognizing nature as humankind’s mother, but rather God as its father, that human beings come to understand why they are here. Only by God’s special revelation through his word do humans learn of their true place and task in life.”

Our role in creation is not discovered or settled by astrological signs. Our callings are not simply the byproduct of nature’s latent possibilities. Each human occupation is the result of God’s unique calling for each life based on his design for the planet. Creation and vocation are linked by the command of God.

In other words, to see the earth full of vocationally called image-bearers leads us back to the awesome wonder of God. Browse a list of every available job on the planet, and then, if you have eyes to see divine glory, work backwards until you can see the God who calls each creation-serving vocation into being, and who fills each job opening with an image bearer of his, a vice regent of God’s rule over his creation.

Think like this long enough and eventually you must be overcome with the joy and wonder of beholding the evidence of God’s endless creativity over this planet, and all the particular callings and jobs he called into being. God’s care for us is this deep. He makes jobs and fills jobs. Such a sovereignly invested God must lead us to proclaim: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (v. 1).


Source: Ben Witherington III, Psalms Old and New: Exegesis, Intertextuality, and Hermeneutics (2017), 52–54. An Arminian biblical theologian, one I disagree with regularly, BW3 offers marvelous insight in his new trilogy on intertextuality (i.e. the NT use of the OT) in Isaiah (2017), the Psalms (2017), and now finally the Torah (2018).

The Doctrinal Book Most Significant to Me

Determining the single most pivotal theological work on my life and doctrine is rather easy. It was also my introduction to Jonathan Edwards. And while it took me three reads and about 18 months (2003–2004), with the help of lots of handwritten notes and drawings (including an upside down tornado inside the back cover, drawn from the bottom up), the connections finally came together, and my life and theology was forever changed.

The book, immodestly titled The End for Which God Created the World, was published posthumously in 1765. John Piper read it in his 20s. “Oh, man,” he recalled to me, “that book simply blew me away with the God-centeredness of God’s purpose in this universe.”

I felt the same thing. Eventually.

Accurately, the Yale editors later packaged the book with Edwards’ other ethical writings (yes, ethical writings), published in the works (vol. 8 [Yale, 1989], pages 403–536).

For me, fifteen years ago it providentially became the first book I read by John Piper, packaged together with Edwards under the newer title: God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Crossway, 1998). In those years, Piper (along with David Wells), was helping me see through the pressures and demands for short-cut pragmatics and felt-needs in ministry, to patiently trudge up into the mountains of divine revelation for a glimpse of the stunning glories of what Edwards’ beheld in Scripture as he contemplated God’s aims in making creation and us.

I bring it up today because I just discovered a paraphrased version of the work, something I could have made good use of fifteen years ago! If you make this essay the focus of your life and ministry, it’s not the only version of the work you’ll want, but The End for Which God Created the World: Updated to Modern English (2014), edited by pastor Jason Dollar, is a very good place to start, and a worthy attempt to simplify Edwards’ life-changing and virtue inducing treatise for a broader audience.

Which Is More Isolating: Blindness or Deafness?

Praise God if you can see and hear. Both are miraculous gifts. But if you could only see or hear, which would you choose? It’s the basis of a classroom experiment by W. J. T. Mitchell, English and Art History prof at the University of Chicago. I heard him explain it in a 2006 interview.

A thought experiment I use with my students is asking them: “If you have a choice, you can either be blind or rendered deaf — lose your ears or your eyes — which do you choose?” And then I say, “Don’t think about it, just vote.” Always, 90% vote to be deaf, rather than blind, because they think [sight] is so important.

Then I introduce a discussion to see if the vote changes, and in the course of the discussion they learn quickly, after a moment’s reflection, that the loss of sight is much less a problem than loss of hearing. A loss of hearing means we couldn’t do what we’re doing [a recorded conversation in a studio]. We could be doing this on the telephone. All of our sociability depends on the oral channel. And even though we have this inflated idea about eyesight, actually in terms of our being, as social animals, it’s relatively secondary. Yet we make it into something really important.

At the end of our discussion of course there’s a few holdouts who say, “I still can’t bear the thought of living in darkness.” But they begin to realize that deafness is a much bigger handicap, and of course that leads on to discussions like why are all of the greatest poets blind, not deaf? And why is blindness associated with the insight of “the blind seer”?

There’s no question our lives today are ocularcentric, and we over-prioritize the eyes because we live in a glittered age fully invested in the impulsive power of images to grab our eyes. This is Mitchell’s point, and it opens a vast field of exploration for Christians whose gospel priorities explicitly stress the ear over the eye (Rom 10:14; 2 Cor 5:7).

But this point was also recorded in 2006, prior to the advent of the iPhone and prior to social media as we now know it. In the 12 years since, I’m left to wonder if our new relational structures, heavily patterned after visual/typed realtime conversations of the digital world, now fundamentally tilt this equation? Or is this factor x-ed out by dictation tech?

What do you think?