(An Excerpt from The Carpenter and the Cradle, a Bible Study by Connie Cook)
(From Exodus 25-30: the building of the tabernacle and Matthew 6:9-13: the Lord’s Prayer)
The Bible is a story that unfolds in bits and pieces over the thousands of years of its writing by its many human authors. They all wrote their own small “chapter” (—we call these “chapters” “books,” though given the holistic nature of the Bible, they’re really more like chapters—) but none of these writers could have foreseen the bigger plot line weaving its way through each individual chapter. It’s that unified story almost more than any other single thing that convinces me that the Bible is really One Book, written by One (non-human) Author. It smells of the supernatural. It’s one reason I hold the belief that the Bible is what it claims to be—a Book written by God.
Let me tell you about something I experienced with this highly unusual, supernatural-smelling Book: For a time, something strange began happening every time I opened the pages of my Bible (or so it seemed). If I flopped them open to read at random, the verses would contain in them, somewhere, something about a house. If I followed a regular schedule of planned reading, in every reading there would be a house. I began to get the feeling that Someone was trying to convey a message to me through the Book He wrote. (Don’t mock! If you study it long enough, you’ll have your own spooky experiences with it—another reason I’m convinced of the Supernatural at work in the writing of the Bible… even in its reading!)
It took some time, some digging, and some sweating, but eventually, the biblical concept of a “house” came to take on great meaning for me.
I slowly began to see that, in the Bible, a “house” may mean the four-walls-and-a-roof that we call by that name. Or it could go bigger. It could mean the people that normally inhabit those four-walls-and-a-roof. It could mean a family. It could go bigger still and mean a family-line, even a nation.
Not only did the concept of a biblical “house” come to take on great meaning for me, I began to see that the concept has great meaning for God. In fact, now, when I step back to look at the Big Picture of the Bible, I unavoidably see it in terms of a “house.” It’s a theme that winds its way through every twist and turn of the Bible’s plot line. If I had to summarize the storyline of the Bible in a single thesis statement it is this: “God is building Himself a house.”
Now, throughout most of the Bible, the human “house” that God was building for Himself was symbolized through four-walls-and-a-roof (or early on in the days of that house, through a big ol’ tent also known as the tabernacle. But we can keep right on calling it a tent and save on syllables.) And God’s human “house” usually missed the symbolism and got very hung up on the physical structure that was meant to represent God’s real house—His family-line, His sons and daughters. In fairness, He didn’t make His point clear from the start. He wrote His story the way all good authors do, not revealing all His meanings till closer to the end. (But don’t worry! Lots of mystery yet to be explored. The meaning behind every point has yet to be clearly revealed. And that’s because the Story hasn’t ended yet.)
Maybe now it’s becoming a little clearer to you why I’ve referenced at the beginning of this post both the passage from Exodus, speaking about the tent that God commanded to be built for Himself, and the Model Prayer Jesus gave to His friends (found in Matthew 6) where He taught them to call God “Our Father.” Both display the theme, “God is building Himself a house.” Another way to state that theme is this: “God is all-relational.”
It’s astonishing to me that the only real expert on God the Father taught us to address God not as Creator, not as the Almighty, not even as Lord; but as Father! It seems that this is God’s role that goes to the centre of His heart. That’s what I mean by “all-relational.”
It’s God’s dual role of Creator/Father that “The Carpenter” in the title references. Because I was thinking of the “house” God is building (that living house of sons and daughters), I chose the title I did for this post (and series of posts). I hope you’ll think of “the Carpenter” in relation to God’s fatherhood and “the Cradle” in relation to His sons and daughters. But I’ll have more to say on this subject again.