The Craftsman

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love?

Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?”
He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.”
Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, “What are these coming to do?”
He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.” Zechariah 1:18-21 (NIV)

In this amazing vision, that was given to Zechariah, God meets and overcomes brute force and destruction with craftsmen, with artisans! With craftsmen who will restore, redeem, remake like new. And this act of mercy and unfailing love – this checed – terrifies the enemy who can only mar and destroy and scatter.

Isn’t this just like God, to overcome destruction and chaos and hatred, with creativity, redemption, and love? He is the ultimate artisan, the Creator. Jesus was the Craftsman at his side during the creation.[i]

I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep … I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Proverbs 8:27, 30-31 (NIV)

He continually is creating and crafting – the entire Universe, but also you and me. I am, we are, his poiema, his poem if we surrender to his expert hands. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says that “we are God’s workmanship” or “we are God’s masterpiece” (NLT). Though it may seem like chaos reigns, he is always working, always re-creating, always redeeming – and our enemy is terrified.

The word translated craftsmen encompasses many types of creativity and craft: craftsman, carpenter (it is very cool that Jesus was a carpenter-craftsman here on Earth), artisan, engraver, artificer, stonemason, blacksmith. The craftsmen in the Bible were always doing one of three things: creating and adorning God’s Temple, fashioning idols and adorning their temples, or they were hammering out weapons for warfare.

Made in the image of God, we are craftsmen too. We were made to be always adorning a temple – either the temple of God as we adorn our hearts (working out our salvation) with holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, humility – or the temples of our idols, perhaps with greed, covetousness, bitterness, jealousy, resentment, unforgiveness, pride.

We, as craftsmen, are also given the trust and authority to hammer out weapons of warfare – and to wield them – in this fight against evil, chaos, destruction of all that is good and right, the fight against the hatred of all whom God loves. These weapons of our warfare are many and mighty. Mostly they are not intuitive to our flesh. They include praise and thanksgiving in the face of impossible odds (2 Chronicles 20:15-25). Ephesians lists more of the weapons and armor that we use against the enemy.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God … Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:12-16 (NIV)

Isn’t it amazing that the weapons of our warfare are truth, righteousness, faith, and the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection, his love, forgiveness, and redemption? Isn’t it wonderful that with these we disarm the rulers of this world?

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13b-15 (NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome (subdue, conquer, prevail, be victorious over), evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Let us, as “little craftsmen,” adorn our hearts as temples of the Lord. Let us forge the weapons of our warfare, working alongside The Craftsman. Let us overcome the brute force and destruction, hatred and chaos of this world, with the Word of God, with truth, mercy, praise, thanksgiving, and unfailing love.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10 (NASB)

 

[i] See 1 Corinthians 1:30

The Lord Looked

This verse has always struck me with such sorrow. What an opportunity lost! To be known fully and (yet!) loved by God – but walk away.

And he [Andrew] brought him [Peter] to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).  John 1:42 (NIV)

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Mark 10:21 (NIV)

In both of the above verses Jesus “looked.” The Greek word is emblepo and means to look upon, observe fixedly or absolutely, to discern clearly, behold, consider. Jesus looked at these two men and saw into their hearts, discerning them clearly. He saw Peter’s full commitment, leaving all behind, flinging himself into the sea, stepping out of the boat. Knowing all the missteps and mess-ups that would come along the way, Jesus said, “Yes, this is the one. I’ll build my church here – on a heart that will give up all and follow.”

Emblepo is also the word used in Luke 22:61 when Peter denied he knew Jesus three times. “Jesus turned and looked at Peter” (see The Lord Turned). Jesus looked past Peter’s weakness and sin and saw his heart.

He also saw the heart of the other man (Luke calls him a ruler) and loved him. He saw the earnestness to follow God’s laws, to be holy and righteous, to please God. But, Jesus also saw his idol, the thing that entangled him, the slave-chains that pulled him away – materialism and greed, “He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” This is why Jesus warned against greed so much (Luke 12:15, 32-33).

This verse has always struck me with such sorrow. What an opportunity lost! To be known fully and (yet!) loved by God – but walk away. To turn and walk away from that pure love and fierce passion in the Face of God. How grievous that “stuff” – or anything else – would keep us from that zealous, longing love and life-giving presence. And he does love and long for us. Job declared:

You will call and I will answer you; you will long for (pine after, desire, be greedy for) the creature your hands have made.  Job 14:15 (NIV)

God is greedy for us! He desires for us to love and long for him the same way. To, yes, be greedy, but greedy for God and for him only. To be willing to throw down everything that would keep us from him – and follow.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders (every burden, weight, bulging load, encumbrance) and the sin that so easily entangles (skillfully surrounds, clings so closely, besets, thwarts) and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Whether we follow or not, he sees us, he knows everything about us – our sins, our idols, our weakness and doubts. And yet! Yet, yet, yet (hallelujah!) he loves us. Let’s love him back, wholly, undivided. Let’s be greedy for Him – and follow!

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts! See if there is any offensive way (idol) in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (NIV)

 

Image, detail from For He Had Great Possessions, by George Frederick Watts, 1894. Photograph by Martin Beek https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxfordshire_church_photos/413448324

 

 

 

Sawdust

God may be doing a demolition and rebuilding in your brothers and sisters, but you won’t be able to see it if you have not started your own demolition. All you will see is the sawdust in their eyes. The beams in our eyes hold up self-made structures that become the prisons of our souls. The beams need to be pulled out, as from a Jenga tower, so the structures can collapse and be rebuilt.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust (karpos) in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank (dokos) in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take (ekballo) the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7: 3-5 (NIV)

It’s easy to think of the first person (with the speck) in the above verse as having a little problem or sin, and the second person (with the plank) as having a bigger problem or sin. But, the three Greek words, karpos, dokos, and ekballo, tell a deeper story – a story of redemption.

Karpos (κάρφος) is a small particle, as a splinter of straw or wood; a dry stalk, a chip of wood, twig, splinter, or chaff. These small particles are usually the resultant left-overs from carpentry work or from threshing and winnowing wheat – unimportant garbage that is swept up or blown away.

There are a lot of sawdust and splinters flying around in the Carpenter’s shop. There is a lot of chaff blowing in the wind when the wheat is being winnowed, or refined and cleansed, until only the good grain is left. Like the first person, it would be easy to get a speck of it in your eye. To stick with the first metaphor, the Carpenter is building something in a person, or in us, but sometimes all we see is the mess the process makes – or we can’t see what he’s doing at all because of the sawdust in our eyes. We have to trust that he knows what he’s doing.

The second person has a dokos in his eye. Dokos (δοκός) is a beam of wood. It comes from a word that means “to hold up.” This beam is “a large beam (joist) of wood; “a beam of timber[i]; “a log on which planks in the house rest … joist, rafter, plank.”[ii] ”The term beam of wood refers to a very big piece of wood, the main beam of a building, in contrast to the speck in the other’s eye.”[iii] These beams sound essential, holding up a structure. Jesus says the person with the beam needs to ekaballo (ἐκβάλλω), pluck, pull, take, or thrust it out of his eye – this beam that is holding up the whole structure! It reminds me of a giant Jenga game where you pull out the wrong block and everything crashes down. But Jesus says the structure must be dismantled in order for us to see clearly to help our brother with the speck.

But what is this structure? Jesus calls the plank-eyed brother a hypocrite, or “an actor under an assumed character, a stage-player.”[iv] So maybe the structure is a stage, or even an elaborate theater, a self-made structure where a self-chosen part is played. We may build these theaters to make us feel good about ourselves, to protect a fragile ego, to hide a broken heart. We may play the part of smug self-competence, better-than-you self-righteousness, hard invulnerability, a discerning Judge dispensing well-meant criticism or confident condemnation. Or the structures could be those of racism or prejudice or assumptions, long-held, long-built. Whatever it is, the parts we play, the structures we build and cling to, blind us to the needs of others, and blind us to our true identities.

Jesus wants to tear them down and start a very messy demolition. He wants to re-make us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new (kainos) creation (ktisis); the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

The Greek word kainos means new, recently made, fresh (can you smell the wood shavings?). Ktisis means a building or creation. A new, recently made, building or creation. We are all in the process of redemption. God may be doing a demolition and rebuilding in your brothers and sisters, but you won’t be able to see it if you have not started your own demolition. All you will see is the sawdust in their eyes. The beams in our eyes hold up self-made structures that become the prisons of our souls. The beams need to be pulled out, as from a Jenga tower, so the structures can collapse and be rebuilt.

Lord, show me if I have a beam in my eye, and if I do, what structure it holds up. Help me to pull out the beam and let that building fall so you can start re-building me today.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

“Look, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:5 (NLT)

 

Photograph, Granada Theater, Chicago, 1990, taken by Genial 23, from flikr.com

 

[i] A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament by G. Abbott-Smith.

[ii] James Moffatt’s New Testament Commentaries.

[iii] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988.

[iv] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.