Bob, Bezalel, and Ohilhab: Men the Church Need

IMG_0709During life, everyone meets a “Bob”. My Bob was a child of the depression; a GI, retired Postal worker and entrepreneur.  He was able to make just about anything with his hands. Perched on pillars at the edge of his driveway, sat two eagles, mid-flight, that he had carved with his own two hands and cast in bronze. He built a kwanza hut for him and his wife to live in as he built his house.  But before he built the house, he had to move the Boce ball court he had built for his wife. I first got to know him because of his handiwork.

My sermon was forgettable (and I know because I had forgotten it), but I had mentioned new research on whether or not Noah’s Ark was a sewn boat based on an ancient boat excavated in the Sea of Galilee. Bob met me down stairs and asked for a picture of the boat. The following week he arrived at church, far to excited for a man who carries glycerin tablets for his heart, with two boards held together with twine based exactly off the archaeological diagrams.

It would be three years and countless numbers of breakfast’s at the Grantville “Almost Home Café” when our next project would arise. I was planning a purity dinner for the middle school girls at the Church and I searched far and wide for a trinket for them to take home. A friend showed me how simple it would be to weld a piece of steel to a horseshoe and write the Bible Verse on it. The problem however, was twofold: 1) I didn’t have access to a welder; 2) I had no idea how to weld. Bob was the answer to both. When he heard about my predicament, he told me to meet him at his house one afternoon. I met him as he was pulling out all of his equipment ready to go to work. He would spend the next 3 hours teaching me to weld, showing me how to set things up, and how to make a clean bead. After 40 horse shoes (80 welds), which for him must have seemed like eternity with my shaky hands in control, we had accomplished our goal. Just before I left his house he said this, “I feel guilty that I don’t help you out enough.”  One of his attempts to help was buying me a mule to train, but that story is for another time.

That was the beginning of Bob helping out at middle school youth group. An 80 year-old-man hanging out with between 50-75 inner city middle school students sounds like a social science experiment, but for some reason it worked. Bob showed up every week. He handed out snacks, talked with the kids, and helped me out. He didn’t understand a lot about them, questioned some things, but he was faithful and devoted to teaching the kids.

Bob’s are a rare find today, just as they seemed to be back in Moses’ day.

“And he [the Lord] has given both him [Bezalel] and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan the ability to teach others.” (Exodus 35.34)

The placement of this verse is interesting. In verse 31-33, Bezalel is described as having both the theoretical ability (31), the material ability (32), and the physical ability (33) to make the structure and furnishings of the Tabernacle. On the other side, in verse 35, Moses reiterates the physical skills needed to make all the things of the Tabernacle. To link together, these thoughts, Moses shows how God has given them the ability to teach others to be master craftsmen and designers.

The word the NIV translates “ability” in verse 34, is the hebrew word leb which is most commonly translated heart. So Bezalel and Ohilhab, didn’t just have the ability to do the tasks, but the heart to “teach” people how to do it. Elsewhere it ahs been discussed how the heart is more than just feelings and emotions in the ancient near eastern mindset. For Bezalel and Ohilhab, teaching [yare] or probably more accurate, showing or displaying for others, was a passion and desire. It was their will and motivation to help and teach others.

I have known great and skilled people, who’s ministries, business, and legacies, did not outlive them, because they were unable to teach others. What makes Bezalel and Ohilhab, so special is not just their skill but their heart to teach. God set these men apart, because the job was bigger than just them. He knew that they needed to be leaders on display, teachers able to communicate, workers with dirt under their fingernails.

Bob spent time investing in me. Bezalel and Ohilhab, spent time investing and training their people to the point where they became master craftsmen. There have been numerous men who have invested into me on all sorts of levels. It should be our heart, our will, our passion to do the same for the next group of men coming up in the Church. Whether it is going through a book with them, drinking some root beer and watching a game, showing them how to change the oil, or even just lunch after church, men take a moment to teach the next group of men. Church’s are full of young men needing spiritual mentoring and it needs to become our heart to teach others.

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The Clustered Craftsmanship of God

Skill, ability, and wisdom are all qualities that would make anyone successful. These are the qualities of a successful businessman, farmer, rancher, welder, or horseman. These are qualities that are better modeled than taught and before they were ever modeled in humanity our Heavenly Father modeled them for us from the beginning.

It is fitting that the first person to be spoken of as “filled with the Spirit of God” is not an academic or leadership guru. Nor is it a celebrity or a financial savant, but a craftsman drafted into the service of the Lord. In Exodus 31.2 it says: “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” The three qualities that the Spirit of God “filled” Bazalel form a distinctive cluster of words that are found a few other places in the Old Testament. He is said to be filled with “skill” or hokma, a word more commonly translated “wisdom”.   Biblical wisdom is the tools to live well. It is our life lived and decisions made in response to who God is. Bazalel was also endowed with “ability” [tebuna] and “knowledge” [da’at]. “Ability” denotes understanding; a capacity to see the big picture that comes from a long-life (Job 12.12), an even temper (Prov 17.27) and a hold on the tongue (Prov. 11.12). All of these things will contribute to a life lived without need for a course correction (Prov. 15.21). Bazelel was a man of the big picture, able to keep true to the direction and the plan.

The importance of his work cannot be over stated and undoubtedly was not lost on him. The cluster of words previously mentioned carry great weight because the only other times they are found together, they speak of the character of God or the communion of God with His people. They are clustered at:

  • “By wisdom [hokma] the Lord laid the Earth’s foundations, by understanding [tebuna] he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge [da’at] the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.” (Prov 3.19-20) Creation was the original meeting place of God and man. It was the first communion between our Heavenly Father and us. No veils, no separation, no distance. True face to face communion and communication fostered by His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.
  • The Tabernacle. “…the Lord has chosen Bezalel…and has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill [hokma], ability [tebuna] and knowledge [da’at] in all kinds of crafts.” (Ex. 35.30-31) The tabernacle was the sanctuary of God during the time of wandering in the desert up until the Temple was built by Solomon. (2 Samuel 7.6; 1 Chron. 23.26). In it resided the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, the Altar of Incense, the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Wash Basin, and all the other things need for worshipping the Lord. Everything that resided in the Tabernacle, and the Tabernacle itself was under the skill and supervision of Bezalel and the Spirit that filled him.
  • The Temple.   David wanted to build it (1 Chron 28.2), he was given the plans for it (1 Chron. 28.12), but was told by God that Solomon would do it (1 Chron 28.6). Solomon undertook the building of the Temple (1 Kings 6), but hired Huram who “was highly skilled [hokma] and experienced [tebuna + da’at] in all kinds of bronze work. He came to Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.” (1 Kings 7.14) The ark was brought from Shiloh to the Temple, where God’s glory filled His new dwelling place (1 Kings 8.10-13).
  • The Messiah. “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom [hokma] and of understanding [bina], the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge [da’at] and of the fear of the Lord…” (Isaiah 11.2) The “him” here refers to the “shoot from the stump of Jesse” which is to say the Messiah. The Jewish community interpreted these verses (and all of chapter 11) as a Messianic prophecy. A careful study of the life of Jesus and the teaching of the early Church in the book of Acts reveals a community that understood Jesus as a resting place for the Spirit of the Lord. He even applies another Isaiah text to himself that begins “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. (a quote of Isiah 61.1-2) Jesus was from the line of Jesse (Acts 7.23), grew in wisdom (Luke 2.40, 52), and had the Spirit rest on him (Matt 3.16)

What ties all of these together is not just the words but also the implication of God’s presence. These were all places where God dwelt with Man. In the Garden/Original Creation, God would walk with man in the “cool [ruach] of the day” (Gen. 3.8). Sin broke our relationship and made hiding desirable. There would be no more walks with the Lord and no more seeing His full glory. For year’s there would be intermittent contact with God. People knew that he was with him (even non-Hebrews could see that [Gen. 39.3]) but there was no lasting place for God to dwell among His people until He gave Moses instructions for the Tabernacle. Moses was to “make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell [sakan] among them. Make this Tabernacle…” (Ex 25.8-9) The tabernacle was God’s dwelling place in the center of the Hebrew camp. When they entered the Promised Land it was set up at Shiloh, where God would eventually say “Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling [sakan] for my Name…” (Jer. 7.12) But the Tabernacle would eventually be replaced by a building designed by God, communicated to David by the Spirit, and built by the oversight of Solomon and the hands of Hiram. In the Temple at Jerusalem would now be where God’s name would dwell (Neh. 1.9; 1 Kings 8.12). God, however, would soon find another way, a different way to dwell amongst his people. John writes: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1.14) Jesus was God’s representative to this world for 33 years until he sent his replacement, the Spirit, to make his dwelling in us (1 Cor. 3.16).

The Lord dispensed His wisdom, skill, and ability in His interactions with man. These qualities came out because they were central to God’s character. He “gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov. 2.6) because that is part of His character. That is why Solomon implores those to “turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2.2-3)

We are now the vehicles by which God meets others. We are the carriers of his wisdom, skill, understanding, and ability. We not only bear the image of the one who created us, but we are indwelled with the very qualities that God has meet with humanity for ages. As we walk through the day, as we undertake a project, as we comfort those around us, as we interact with others, we are the meeting place where God’s character meets others…its our job to let Him do His thing.

Chasing a Career and/or Calling

“Did you ever look around in your life and say, ‘How did I get here? And furthermore, where am I?” — Baxter Black

This is how Baxter Black, cowboy poet, begins his book Cactus Tracks & Cowboy Philosophy.  His story of how he arrived at cowboy poetry is both simple and complex.  In short, he got fired but kept up his previous engagements and in his words “the phone just never stopped ringing.”  He is by far one of my favorite authors and writers.

“Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements!” — Peter Gibbons, Office Space

If you have never seen the movie Office Space, Peter Gibbons is stuck in a dead-end data job that he hates.  The plot of the movie show him becoming the worst employee ever; yet, still getting promoted as others who work hard are laid-off.  Peter’s speech above is the rallying cry for him and his friends.  The movie ends with him happily shoveling the charred remains of his building (a fire set by a different disgruntled co-worker)…but he’s happy doing that job.

“West Philadelphia born and raised…out on the playgrounds where I spent most of my days…chillin’ out maxing relaxin’ all cool…shootin’ some bball outside of the school” — Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young performing the theme song to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (click here)

I love watching Jimmy Fallon.  When I watch his show, I am amazed at his talent, giftedness, and passion all came together into this one career.  His entire show is based around what he does best.  I watch and think, “man I would love to go to dinner with this guy because he seems so real on TV.”  He’d have the Taco Bell people rollin’ (yeah that is where we’d go) and we would just hang out…because that is what his show is about: hanging out!

How does a job/career like these come about?  A place where calling, passion, giftedness, talent, and contentment all combine into a 40+ hour week?

The sad thing that struck me this week was that the search will never end.  No matter where I look, how many W-2’s I turn in, or where my pay comes from, there will always be aspects of a job that is not fun.  If someone tells you they “love everything about a job”, chances are they are lying too you.  There are many jobs out there where people love 99% of it, but it still ain’t a 100 (unless you’re running a candy store in which case you are the exception and not the rule)!

Understanding the greater purpose at work is part of the discussion too.  God created us to work!  Figuring out the best, most effective way to serve God and others through 9-5 life is a challenge in and of itself.  God also created us men to serve and provide for our families.  I could drop everything now (first I would set my computer down) and go preach to the homeless, adopt every orphan, or go clean wells in Africa, but at some point collectors will be finding my wife and she will be one of the homeless that I am preaching too.

So all that to say, careers/job/callings are synonymous for the lucky few amongst us.  I hope to join your ranks someday, but until then, I will continue exploring the very thing that my second grade teacher told me as I turned in a poster with about 10 careers on it for “what I want to be when I grow up day”: “You are a confused yet ambitious young man”.  Thanks Mrs. Ritchie.

They could complain about the cold…but won’t

When I hopped in the truck at sun-up this morning, my phone read -8 degrees.  I turned the key and felt the warm air hit me in the face and had never been happier that I didn’t have a ranch to take care of.   Yesterday, while I sat in my living room under a blanket, I saw pictures of guys, in blizzard like conditions, taking care of their animals, doctoring calves, and driving the feed truck with the windows down.  I have been in those situations, the cold, the snow, and the rain, and I say this with the utmost respect, but I’m glad it was they and not I this day.

A few years back, I was feeding on a morning very similar to the ones we felt this week here in the Midwest.  I had tried to ride in my coveralls, but coveralls in the saddle is a recipe for disaster.  I chose to go with jeans and chaps, and about 5 layers up top.  After 1 hour of checking cows, I didn’t think that I could get any colder.  Then I had to chop open a hole in the pond.  I thought before that I couldn’t get colder, then I knew.  With no feeling in my fingers, I wrapped the reins around my forearm (I’m to manly to wear mittens) and finished checking cows.  I had lost feeling from the knee down, and had icicles forming in my beard.  I was taken back as to how men work in those conditions on a regular basis.  Then it hit me…

There wasn’t a choice.  Animals need to be fed and watered.  Calves need to be checked and doctored.  There is no putting-off-until-tomorrow, no out-sourcing or contracting-out.  When it comes to days off, there are none.  Hard work is what makes them who they are.  Hard work is something that Paul made a focal point of his ministry.  Paul lived out the proverb: “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10.4)  In Corinth he split time as a tentmaker and preacher (Acts 18.3).  In Thessalonica he “worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.” (2 Thess. 3.8)  Its clear from reading through the letters to the Thessalonians, the Paul expects them to follow his “model” (1 Thes. 3.9) and their “example” (1 Thes. 3.7).

As I was looking at facebook and reading through Thessalonians, I was reminded of the verses that I want my life to reflect.  I want to live out Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 4.11-12: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”  Paul understood that our ability to work was part of our being. (Gen 2.15)  I know people who hit the big bucks by suing a company.  I also know others who put down hours they don’t work.  I have seen laziness first hand, and can’t stand those who refuse to give their best.  Paul would tell us “to never tire of doing what’s right.” (2 Thess. 3.13)  In a previous life, this tiring of doing right killed me.  I struggled to remain diligent in my work as I watched others around me.  I want to get better at this…regardless of what is going on around me, continuing my work regardless of my surroundings.

So to you farmers and ranchers out there who work tirelessly, thanks for your example.  For those of you who give your best every day, thanks for living out scripture.  Hard work is essential to the Christian life and there are few things better than a hard days work.  It is imperative, that we as disciples, live our lives, do our work, in a way that people look at us and are encouraged.  Do we work in this way?  Are the people we work alongside encouraged because of the effort we give?  I want to be the kind of guy that Paul was thinking of in Thessalonians…and if I’m not, I sure aim to be!