I grew up around a lumber yard/ hardware store that my father managed. As a kid I played in the lumber bins and mostly just got in everyone’s way. Later, as an employee, I worked with contractors and plumbers, amateur fixer-uppers and professional painters. The ones that amazed me, though, were the carpenters. They could fix anything, create something beautiful from pieces of wood, and solve great problems; the kinds that make the homeowners lose sleep. On top of all that, they have magic pencils. See, one thing I figured out a long time ago is that one needs a magic pencil in order to mark the spot to make a proper cut, insert a cabinet into a tight fit, or even to make pictures hang level. I know this because without that magic pencil, all the marking lines drawn on the boards move as soon as one picks up the saw, the cabinets no longer fit into that space and the pictures sag on one end. But, as I later figured out, there are different kinds of pencils. The end of my pencil has an eraser, theirs do not. I find that a bit of magic all by itself.
Of course not all carpenters utilize the same level of professionalism. Some are just interested in making things work. The high caliber carpenter makes it work, but in a more excellent way. He uses proper tools to work with the various surfaces. He understands the material and knows that using the wrong tool can damage the job. This is similar to what the Lord does with each of us. He knows what tests are needed to bring our strengths and talents to the surface. He knows what tools to use to refine us into an athlete, physically able to finish the race.
A close friend of mine is a carpenter. Ask him what he does and he’ll tell you “I work with wood.” He’s told me of times when the day in the shop didn’t go so well. Or the customer made last minute changes that seemed right to them, but not to my friend who has the experience to know better. I’ve seen the drawings, the measurements, and photos of the finished product that just leave me in reverent respect for his skill. I also know that my friend, who faces minute by minute attention to detail, listens to either an audio bible or has on some meaningful music to help him maintain his zone of focus. He works in his shop and contemplates the things of God. I know this because I know that he abides by “seek ye first the kingdom of God…” All that he does revolves around his Creator. While I know that being in the shop is hard work, and can be very stressful, I would imagine that it could also be a time of drawing close to the Lord.
We all know that Jesus was raised by his earthly father who was a carpenter. In my mind I can see Jesus as a small boy watching Joseph work, learning from an early age that skill and patience produces things of great worth. I also imagine that in His later years, as He worked in the shop, that He too contemplated the things of God. Did He pray aloud while He worked? I wonder, did He sing songs of worship as He applied himself to the tedious task of filing and sanding?
There was a time when I couldn’t reconcile the God of the Old Testament with Jesus. I wondered why I felt different as I read the scriptures about God descending onto Mt Sinai to speak with the people, who were so struck with fear that they asked Moses to mediate between them, and then read about Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” On one hand was Almighty God, untouchable, unreachable, unapproachable. Very God seemed far away. And then there was Jesus. Jesus who healed, Jesus who taught, Jesus who sat with the people while they talked and who cooked fish for His disciples. Jesus who forgave. Jesus was touchable, reachable, and approachable. Jesus was knowable. Jesus worked with wood.
Of course, now I see the same passion, and compassion, in Almighty God that I see in Christ. I see the same caring when I compare Jesus feeding the multitude on a hillside near Bethsaida and Almighty God when daily He sent manna to the wandering Israelites. And now I see the same love as God breathed into Adam to give him life, and as Jesus who willingly and with purpose exhaled his last breath to give man eternal life. As Almighty God he parted the water to show the people that He is worthy of their faith and devotion As Jesus, He did the same thing by walking on the water. As God, He created the stars that shine in the heavens above the earth. As man He sat on the earth, beneath the stars, as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. With his hands God created iron ore that runs throughout the earth. As man He felt that same iron as it was hammered though his hands to nail him to the cross. A cross that was possibly built by a carpenter.
Carpentry is serious business. It takes eyes that can look at raw material and see a finished product. A carpenter can access the situation and invent or modify the inefficient and make it better. A carpenter has to understand measurements and the use of space. Every carpenter that I have ever known speaks encouragement to the situation and hope for what seems lost. They reassure the homeowner that it’s fixable.
A Carpenter set in motion the whole of the universe, carefully placing each and every star. He set the moon to make the tides to create the weather to water the earth. He created plants and animals, man and lilies. Yes, lilies. A Carpenter created a lily to attract a bee that would make some honey that would feed a man who was clothed in camel’s hair and would announce the coming Messiah –Who would work with wood.
Isa 40:12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?