Those who ministered to God before Him had to be clothed with linen garments, linen bonnets on their heads, and linen breeches on their loins. Their whole body was clothed with linen material. Verse 17 also says that no wool should come upon them. No one who ministered to the Lord could be clothed with wool. Before God, no one could ever put on woolen garments. Why? Please read Ezekiel 44:18: "They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat." This portion of the Word reveals that all those who minister to the Lord should not sweat. All work that produces sweat is not pleasing to God and is rejected by Him. What is the meaning of sweat? The first sweat in the entire world was shed by Adam when he was driven out of the garden of Eden. Genesis 3 tells us that, due to Adam’s sin, God punished him by saying, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." Sweat is a result of the curse. Due to God’s curse, the ground ceased to yield its fruit; due to the absence of God’s blessing, human effort is necessary, and this causes sweat. What is the work that causes sweat? It is the work that comes out of human effort without the blessing from God the Father. Everyone ministering to God should absolutely abstain from any work that causes sweat. Numerous works placed before God require effort and running around for their accomplishment. Everyone ministering to God must do a work that causes no sweat. All of God’s work is serene; it is not accomplished by running around but by sitting down. Although outwardly one may be very busy, he is very restful within; although outwardly it is hot, within it is very calm. This work is done by sitting down. This is the work that causes no sweat! All the real work before God is not accidental and not accomplished by fleshly effort. Unfortunately, so much of today’s work cannot be accomplished without sweating. What a pity that today’s work cannot be accomplished unless someone is planning, sponsoring, promoting, proposing, running around, admonishing, exhorting, and exerting human effort and fleshly strength. Oh, it is really a pity that in most cases, without sweat, there is no work. Please bear in mind that sweating outside is permissible. In slaying cattle and sheep outside, serving sinners, and ministering to the saints, sweating is permissible. If you are doing that kind of work, you can sweat all you want. But those who minister to the Lord in the Holy Place absolutely cannot sweat. God does not need man’s sweating. No doubt, all work is busy, but God’s work does not need fleshly strength. I do not mean that there is no need of spiritual strength. In fact, how much spiritual strength you need and how much suffering you have to go through is hard to say. No one cares to distinguish between spiritual work and fleshly work. Men conclude that all of God’s work cannot be accomplished without running around, spending time to discuss and debate, negotiating, proposing, approving, and authorizing. Yet if you ask them to wait quietly before God and listen to His speaking, they cannot do it because the flesh is not capable of doing this. Oh, all these require sweating.
The most important aspect of spiritual work is to deal with God. The first person we should contact is God, not man. The work of the flesh is different; the first one it contacts is man. Hence, if a work cannot be accomplished without man, it is not the work of God. How precious it is to be in God’s presence. We have to deal with Him alone. We are not idle; rather, we are doing a work that causes no sweat. What does this mean? If we deal properly with God, there is no need to sweat before man. We can accomplish the most amount of work with the least amount of strength. The reason there are so many advertisements, promotions, and proposals is because men are not praying before God. Let me say that all spiritual work is done only before God. If we take care of our work properly before God, we will not need many ways. Others will spontaneously respond to us and spontaneously profit. God is working, and there is no need of human strength and sweating.
Brothers and sisters, we should examine ourselves very honestly before God. Let us ask Him, "O Lord, am I really ministering to You or to the work? O Lord, is my ministry unto the house or unto You?" If we are sweating from morning till evening, then we can surely say to ourselves that we are ministering to the house and not to the Lord. If all our business and laboring are to meet outward needs, we can conclude that we are ministering to people and not to God. I do not despise such people, for they also are doing God’s work. There is a need for some to slay the cattle and sheep. There is a need for some to lead and guide others. The children of Israel needed some to minister to them. But God desires something much deeper. We ought to pray to Him, "O God! I beg You to deliver me that I might not fall into the realm of ministering to the people." There is more than just ministering to the people. Brothers and sisters, too many are already ministering to the people. Why do we still want to add our portion there? God has no way to demand everyone to minister to Him; God cannot do this since many are not willing to minister to Him. Because man is not willing, it is impossible to revive the whole church and cause everyone to become faithful. Many are truly saved and have God’s life, yet they just want to minister to the people. There is no way to change them because they do not want to miss the excitement on the outside. They will not let go of the work on the outside; their focus is on the field of work. Surely, there are some who need to take care of these matters. But the question is, are we among those taking part in these things? I hope we all can say to the Lord, "O God, I want to minister to You. I am willing to drop everything, to let go of all the work and forsake all the outward things. I want to minister to You and do a spiritual work. I am willing to give up all the outward things. I want to enter within, more deeply within."
(Ministering to the House or to God?, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)