Rejoicing In The Works Of Their Own Hands
James L. Reynolds
(Acts 7:37-43) "This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. {38} This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: {39} To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, {40} Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. {41} And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. {42} Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? {43} Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon."
    We would invite your attention this morning to verse 41 in the Scriptures which we have just read. The inspired narrative speaking of those rebellious Israelites says:
(Acts 7:41) And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.
    This morning we desire to take a brief look not only at how those Israelites 'made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands' but we also desire to take a look at a few other instances in the Bible where people were guilty of the same sinful actions of rejoicing in the works of their own hands. Additionally, we will note that many today in this present religious world are guilty of the same sinful actions of rejoicing in the works of their own hands. And, we will further note what God thinks of those actions, both those actions in the past as well as those actions in the present.
    We will be looking at some instances recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures wherein the Holy Spirit used the phrase 'works of their own hands' and we will also look at some instances in the Holy Scriptures where that particular term is not used but where the same idea or concept is being taught by those Scriptures.
    One thing we wish you to take note of as we proceed with this lesson is that the pattern which the Israelites followed is most always copied when people commit this sin. That pattern is a threefold process.
    1.) An idol is made by the people. Now please bear in mind that the idol will not always be one of physical substance as was the golden calf of the Israelites. The idol may be a concept of the mind and imagination which the person or persons have come up with.
    2.) The people pay homage to or worship that idol. This may be done publicly and collectively or in a secluded and private atmosphere.
    3.) They will rejoice in what they have done, thinking that they have achieved a great spiritual plateau.
    The main thrust of this lesson will be focused on point three and how people rejoice in the works of their own hands while thinking that they have achieved a great spiritual plateau. We will also note what is always the sure result or outcome from such actions.
    Let us begin our brief study this morning with a few comments on the account of the rebellious Israelites which was recorded for us in Acts 7 by the Holy Spirit. Our topic verses are from the only recorded message which we have that Stephen preached. I encourage each of you to review this chapter in its entirety at your convenience. The occasion of this message resulted when the religious elite 'were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.' ( Acts 7:10) They could not contradict or gainsay the message which Stephen preached.
    They, the religious elite, then brought false charges and false witnesses against Stephen. When Stephen was asked if the charges were true he replied with the gospel message recorded for us in verses 2 through 53 of Acts 7. The message preached by Stephen begins with an account of God's call of Abraham, it includes a history of the Jews, the giving of the Mosaic law, and then concludes with the charge that those to whom Stephen was speaking were the 'betrayers and murders' of the 'Just One'. As a result of this charge Stephen was stoned to death.
    From this message of Stephen recorded in Acts 7 and the Scriptural account of this incident of the golden calf given in Exodus 23 we see that the Israelites, although having been eye witnesses to God's majesty and power in dealing with Pharaoh, demanded gods of their own making.
(Exodus 32:1) "And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him."
    Then we read that they 'offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands'.
    Let us now take a look at another Biblical account of one who made an idol, that is a false god and then rejoiced in the works of his own hands and note what was the result of his actions. Remember, as we previously noted, that an idol or a false god does not have to be of a physical substance but can be the concept of one's imagination or mind.
(1 Samuel 13:5-15) "And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven. {6} When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. {7} And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. {8} And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. {9} And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. {10} And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. {11} And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; {12} Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. {13} And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. {14} But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee. {15} And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men."
    This is one of the instances which we previously mentioned where the Holy Spirit does not use the words 'works' and 'own hands' but where the idea of one rejoicing in the works of their own hands is still being taught.
    In this account we see that Saul did that which he was not authorized to do in offering a sacrifice unto God. He had made a false god in his imagination, he had offered a sacrifice to it and then he had rejoiced (if ever so briefly) in the works of his own hands.
    Now while outwardly it would appear that Saul was offering to the God of the Bible an examination of his actions based upon the Scriptures will reveal that he was offering to the god of his imagination.
    God is very explicit in His instructions for His people as to how they are to serve Him. When Moses was instructed to build the tabernacle he was given extremely precise directions to make it in a very specific fashion.
   (Exodus 26:30) "And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was showed thee in the mount."
    Moses was not permitted or was he authorized to deviate from God's instructions for the construction of the tabernacle in any way or in any area. He was to construct it just as he was told and instructed to do while in the mount with God.
    And so it is with EVERY service which God's people offer unto Him, that service is to be offered in the explicit fashion as He has instructed in His inspired Word that it is to be done.
    It is certain that Saul knew that the offerings were to be presented by the Levitical priests. Yet, when things seemed to be falling apart for him, he presumed to take to himself authority which he was not divinely granted. In that instance Saul made a god of his imagination, a god that did not care if his methods and order were circumvented. It was not the God of the Bible but the god of his own imagination to which Saul offered sacrifices, the works of his own hands.
    Are there not many today who claim to be, and undoubtedly some even are, God's people who are guilty of serving a god of their own imagination and not the God of the Bible?
    When people do as they deem proper and fit even though they have been shown contrary by the Scriptures are they not doing and rejoicing in the works of their own hands?
    As a result of Saul's making a god of his own imagination, offering sacrifice to it and rejoicing (if ever so briefly) over the works of his hands the one and only true God was provoked to wrath and the kingdom was rent from Saul's hand.
    There are instances recorded for our instruction in the Holy Scriptures where the works of a people's own hands have provoked God to anger.
(Jeremiah 25:7) "Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt."
    God, through Jeremiah, told the Israelites that "ye have not hearkened unto me", "that is that you have not listened to me, you have not followed my instructions which I gave you. Not only did you not listen to what I commanded you to do so that your actions would be acceptable in my sight, but you also went about to devise your own means of service, and that in direct opposition to what I had commanded. The result is that I am angered by your works and therefore you will suffer for your wrong doing. You have brought this hurt and calamity on your own self by your own actions!"
(2 Kings 22:17) "Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched."
    Rejoicing in the works of one's own hands is not submitting to the righteousness of God.
(Romans 10:1-4) "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. {2} For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. {3} For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. {4} For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
    In the above Scripture the Holy Spirit presents us with a very sobering and alarming statement. People can have zeal for God and still be lost! How can that be we may ask? How can one have a zeal for God and still be in a lost state? The answer is that their zeal is not for the God of the Bible but for the god of their own imagination. They have imagined a god who will accept the righteousness which they feel they can produce, by the works of their own hands. In attempting to establish their own righteousness they have not acknowledged that they have no genuine righteousness and they have therefore denied that God only is righteous.
    How many hundreds, thousands or even millions of people are so deceived today? How many are there who believe that they can and must offer something, that they can and must in some way be instrumental in the favorable outcome of their everlasting destiny? How many are there today who refuse to acknowledge that they have absolutely nothing to offer to God? How many are there who rejoice in the works of their own hands as they boast of a decision which they made or of a favorable acceptance in God's sight which they produced?
    And how about those who rejoice in the works of their own hands as they proclaim that not only were they instrumental in effecting their salvation but that they are kept safe and secure in that salvation by their own diligent efforts?
    Beloved, Arminianism rejoices in the works of its own hands. Arminianism is a soul damning lie and it is an abomination unto the thrice holy God!
(Galatians 6:3) "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."
    People who trust in the works of their own hands (that is their false gods) will be dismayed because those false gods will not be able to deliver them in their times of calamity.
    The king of Assyria had sent a great host to encamp against Jerusalem. The leader of that host had declared in the hearing of the inhabitants of Jerusalem that none of the gods of the other lands which he had captured had been able to deliver their people out of his hand. He further proclaimed that neither would the Lord which they trusted in be able to do so.
(2 Kings 19:14-19) "And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. {15} And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. {16} LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. {17} Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, {18} And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. {19} Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only."
    God did indeed hear Hezekiah's petition and He answered it favorably. God defeated the Assyrians, demonstrating that while it is true that the works of men's hands (that is their false gods) are unable to deliver them from their calamities, theone and only true living God is able and willing to deliver those who place their trust in Him from any and all of their adversities.
    Just as the works of men's hands (that is their false gods) are unable to deliver those who put their trust in them from temporal calamities so also the works of men's hands (that is their false gods) shall be unable to deliver those who trust in them from everlasting destruction. It is a frightful thing to consider that many who have seemingly 'had a zeal for God', many who outwardly appeared to be servants of and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will one day be cast from His acceptable presence into the tormenting flames of God's hell.
(Matthew 7:21-23) "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? {23} And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
    No doubt many of these people spoken of here had on occasion rejoiced in the works which they had done, thinking themselves to have achieved unto a great spiritual plateau.
    Yet, because it was not the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ in which they had rejoiced but in the 'works of their own hands' they will be cast from His acceptable presence as the sinful and loathsome creatures which they are.
    Those who worship the works of their own hands shall have God's judgments against them.
(Jeremiah 1:16) "And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands."
    Some people have the misconception that God will ignore their sins because they are not 'as bad a some other people's sins are'.
    And, because they are not dealt with immediately some people think that He will not deal with their sins at all.
(Ecclesiastes 8:11) "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
    God has declared in many places in His Holy Word that every transgression and infraction of His holy law will be dealt with and that each sin debt will be paid in full. When eternity is ushered in every sin committed against the most high God will have been punished or will be everlastingly punished. Those sins of God's precious elect will have been punished on Calvary's cross in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the sinner's substitute. The sins committed by all those who die outside of the Lord Jesus Christ will be punished everlastingly in the sinner's person. God will not charge twice for the same sin, both in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the sinner, BUT He will charge once for every sin!
    Nations and great kings shall be recompensed according to the works of their own hands.
(Jeremiah 25:14) "For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands."
    As far as God is concerned there is no difference between the sinner that sits on a throne ruling a great nation and the sinner that sleeps in a cardboard box in a back alley. A person's position or station in life is of absolutely no value as it relates to their everlasting standing before God. Each one, from the poorest to the richest, from the least known to the most well known, all who have rejoiced in the works of their own hands and not in the saving work of the triune God will be subject to God's recompensing "them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands."
    People are defiled with their own works.
(Psalms 106:34-40) "They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them: {35} But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. {36} And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. {37} Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, {38} And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. {39} Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. {40} Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance."

(Haggai 2:14) "Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean."

    People who do and rejoice in the works which their depraved hearts have conjured up believe that they are being holy, that they are being spiritual and that they are therefore acceptable unto God. In reality those works do not make them acceptable but make them defiled and polluted in God's holy sight.
(Jeremiah 10:2-5) "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. {3} For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. {4} They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. {5} They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good."
    May we not correctly conclude that those who erect a Christ Mass tree and pay homage to it are 'rejoicing in the works of their own hands'? Surely we can make such a valid conclusion!
    Please remember the three points relative to rejoicing in the works of one's own hands which we noted at the outset of this lesson.
    1.) An idol is made by the people.
    People search for just the proper tree, they bring it into their home, they erect it and they decorate it.
    2.) The people pay homage or worship that idol.
    After getting it 'decorated just right' they sit or bow before it and are mesmerized by it.
    3.) They rejoice in what they have done thinking that they have achieved a great spiritual plateau.
    Many people are so deluded by this heathenistic custom that they actually feel as if they were in some way or in some measure worshipping the Lord and that their actions are honoring and pleasing unto Him. How greatly they err, how great is their deception.
    Have you ever heard someone say something to the effect that it doesn't matter if someone is in error about what they believe as long as they are sincere?
    Beloved, sincerity is no substitute for the truth!
(Isaiah 55:8) "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD."
    If things are not done according to the manner which He has prescribed them to be done, both in motive and method, God says it does not matter how sincere one is in their thoughts and works they are not His way and are therefore totally unacceptable!
    That which is acceptable in God's sight is polluted and defiled by the works of man's hands.
(Exodus 20:25) "And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it."
    God created every stone and therefore it was created good. God looked at His creation and declared that it was very good. Yet, when man puts his hand to that stone to change it, to make it the 'work of his own hands', it becomes polluted and unacceptable.
    Even that which the wicked thinks to be good, the works of their own hands, even that is an abomination unto God.
(Proverbs 15:8) "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight."
    The sacrifice of the wicked is not acceptable unto God because it is not being done in the proper method or with the proper motive. Instead of offering a sacrifice which points to the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ they offer a sacrifice which is the 'work of their own hands' and it is therefore totally unacceptable unto God and one which will bring His just and holy wrath upon them.
    This morning we have briefly mentioned a few Scriptural instances where people rejoiced in the works of their own hands and we have noted how totally unacceptable that is to God and how He will punish those who are guilty of such a sin.
    In the next few minutes let us take note of what work and what rejoicing therein is acceptable unto God.
    There is a special sense in which it is proper to rejoice in one's works.
(1 Corinthians 15:1-10) "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; {2} By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. {3} For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; {4} And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: {5} And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: {6} After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. {7} After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. {8} And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. {9} For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. {10} But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."
    The apostle Paul declares that he labored more abundantly than all of the disciples, but hastens to point out that it was because of the grace of God which was with and in him. "I served the Lord greatly" he declares, "but only because He enabled and allowed me to do so!"
    This same thought is also declared unto us in Ephesians 2:10.
(Ephesians 2:10) "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
    Not only has God ordained or decreed that His people should walk in good works generally but He has also decreed that they should walk in particular or specific good works. And in His matchless grace He gives them the opportunity, the ability and the desire to do so. Thus we readily see that it is ONLY in the work of God that we are permitted to rejoice.
    Paul declares that it is forbidden by God to glory (rejoice) in but one thing and that is the cross (work) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Galatians 6:14) "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."
    The saints are the works of God's own hands.
(Psalms 138:8) "The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."
    Recall Ephesians 2:10 which we just read which declared that God's people are His 'workmanship'.
(Ephesians 2:10) "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
    The Psalmist in Psalms 138:8 petitions the Lord to perfect or complete that which concerns his everlasting well being and to not forsake him because of his frailties, seeing that he is the work of God's own hands.
    The apostle Paul was convinced that because all of God's people are the work of His hands that He will complete that work which He begins in them.
(Philippians 1:6) "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:"
    There are two works of God's own hands which we will briefly mention in closing.
    1.) The work of creation is the work of God's hand.
(Genesis 1:1) "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
    No matter what any person or multitude of persons may say, "... God created the heaven and the earth." True science demonstrates that the universe and all that it contains was created by an infinitely wise and powerful being, but infinitely more important God's Word expressly declares it to be so and therefore it is forever settled.
    2.) The work of salvation is the work of God's own hand.
(Jonah 2:9) "But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD."
    No matter what any person or multitude of persons may say, "... Salvation is of the LORD." God's Word expressly declares it to be so and therefore it is forever settled.
    The work of the salvation of God's people is a work of the triune God's own hands and it is the manifestation in time of what the Holy Trinity covenanted to do in the covenant of election made by all three persons of the Godhead in what mortals refer to as eternity past.
    God the Father elected a multitude unto salvation and gave them unto His Son to redeem.
    God the Son took on Himself the form of His people, He lived the perfect life that they could not live and He then voluntarily laid down His life as the sin bearing substitute for all those whom the Father had given Him.
    God the Spirit will convince all those whom the Father gave unto the Son, who are the same ones whom the Son has ransomed, of their sin and of their need for a Savior and He will give them faith to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their all sufficient Savior.
    Christ finished the work which the Father gave Him to do and with His dying breath He declared it to be finished.
(John 19:30) "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
    God's people need to rest in His labors and rejoice in His works.
    Those who have entered into God's rest have ceased from the works of their own hands and rejoicing therein.
(Hebrews 4:10) "For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his."
    When we finish a work we often take a rest from our labors because we are tired or fatigued. God did not enter into a rest because He was tired as we often do BUT because the work He had been doing was finished.
    Beloved the work of salvation is complete and that eternally so in the Lord Jesus Christ!
    Let us ever be quick to seek forgiveness for anywise being guilty of rejoicing in the works of our own hands. And let us continually rejoice in the work of God, which work our everlasting salvation is!
    In closing permit me to read six verses of Holy Scripture. No comment will be made for none is needed.
(1 Samuel 2:1) "And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation."

(Psalms 9:14) "That I may show forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation."

(Psalms 13:5) "But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation."

(Psalms 20:5) "We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions."

(Psalms 21:1) "The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!"

(Psalms 40:16) "Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified."

    May the Lord be pleased to add His blessing to what has been said this morning and may we cease from any rejoicing in our own works and be filled with rejoicing in and for the works of our sovereign and gracious Lord.

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