January 16, 2017

Chipping Away

183,300 men! That is the tally of laborers employed in cutting timber, hewing stone, and hauling materials for the building of the temple of the Lord in the days of King Solomon. 183,300 according to 1 Kings 5:13-16! That’s a lot of men … and thus a lot of timber and stone that they were cutting and hauling! Which gets me thinking …

What must it have been like to be one of those men? They must have known what the project was to which they were contributing. They must have known it was going to be grand, that it was going to be beautiful, and that it was going to be for the Lord. And I am sure that, on many days, these facts made the work all the more fulfilling. And yet, if I can put myself in their sandals for a few moments … Though I might have some idea of the grandeur and value of the project, at the end of the day, I am still just planing boards all day; or maybe chipping away on the same piece of stone, for days on end, to form it into the right shape and size. And the job of carrying all that stuff must have been even all the more tedious! So that – while these men knew they were working for the Lord, and building what would be the most important building that ever was built – some days it probably didn’t seem all that grand, or exciting, or moving, or maybe even fulfilling. Many days it must have been hard to see the splendor of the big picture, and much easier just to focus on this giant rock sitting in front of me, or on this tree trunk that has to be planed today. And that doesn’t light the fire the same way as does being on some big ‘adventure’ for God. And yet, whether they realized it or not, each of these 183,300 men (and their repetitive daily labor in the forests and quarries) was vital to the great project!

And it occurs to me that this is how the life of faith works, still today. We, in Christ’s church, are working on a grand project, too (even far grander than Solomon’s temple)! We are Christ’s hands and feet as He builds a kingdom that "will have no end"! Surely it is the most glorious project that was ever undertaken! And, like the 183,300, we know this! And, on our better days, we are glad to be a part of it! But, though we know the big picture, most of our actual work is done on the small picture. Most of our kingdom work is less like being the architect of the temple, and more like cutting away on the same block of stone day after day. Which means that many a time – when keeping the church nursery, or reviewing the catechism with our kids, or handing out bulletins on Sunday morning, or praying for some prayer request on a Wednesday night, or teaching a lesson, or paying a pastoral visit – many a time we may just be doing what is right in front of us, without any great thought about how it all fits in the grand architecture of the kingdom. Sometimes we may even feel rather humdrum about the work that God has given us to do. And, while I do not say that that is good … I also don’t know that it is all that uncommon. We are hewers of stone, cutters of timber, haulers of rock. And, while we ought to realize what privileges these are, the reality is that, even when we don’t set our sights as high as we ought, God is still working through our hands and feet, and the kingdom is still being built! And it will be grand! And when we see it in its completion, we will be so glad for the little bit of sweat and muscle that God allowed us to put in!

So be glad, you servants of the Lord! While you work on your little projects, and chip away at what is right in front of you … God, in Christ, is doing far more than you can yet see. And your part is important. And you’ll be glad, in the end, that you stuck with it!

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