August 14, 2017

Hewed to Fit

Imagine a cedar tree standing in the forests of Lebanon, tall and beautiful. A bird flies by and, seeing the cedar tree, makes its nest there. A squirrel climbs the trunk and sits on a branch to nibble a nut. A weary traveler sits down, puts his back against the tree, and takes a nap, so thankful that the tree is there. If that cedar tree could talk, I believe it would be proud of what it is. But do you think the only purpose for a cedar tree is to provide a place for birds to build their nests? for squirrels to sit? for a weary traveler to rest?

In 1 Kings 5 we read of another use for cedar trees. God had a plan to build a temple, and King Solomon was chosen to put that plan into effect. King Solomon knew he needed good material to build a temple for the Lord. He found it in the forests of Lebanon, where there were beautiful cedar trees. The cedar tree was fulfilling its purpose in nature, yet God had another use for the tree. 

Before the cedar tree could be used as part of the Temple, a procedure was necessary. It could not be taken to Jerusalem the way it was. It would not have fit. So King Solomon told Hiram, King of Tyre, that he wanted skillful workers to hew those cedar trees for the Temple. We read, "And Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house" (1 Kings 5:18).

Hewing trees

Let us consider the process of being hewed and fitted. One day a lumberjack walks up to the grand cedar tree with an ax in his hand and begins to chop at the trunk. Eventually the cedar tree falls to the ground, down as low as possible. Very humiliating, isn't it? Yet, it had to be brought down in order to be worked on.

Though the cedar is on the ground, it still cannot be used the way it is. So the lumberman starts chopping off its branches, one at a time. If that cedar tree had feelings and could talk, it would say, "Oh, those are my beautiful branches you are cutting!" There is nothing wrong with the branches, but in order for the cedar to be useable, its branches must be removed. The cedar must be hewed to fit.

Once the branches are off, the cedar must be conveyed to the site. Perhaps an ox is brought and hooked to this tree, and the once proud, beautiful cedar is pulled through the mud. Then it has to be submerged in water and floated to the place where the stones and wood for the Temple are being prepared.

There the builder begins to chop once more. He takes a slab off on that side, then a slab off this side. The master builder comes by with his rule and does some measuring. "It is still too thick," he says. "You need to take off a little more here." Or he might say, "It's a little crooked. Cut out that bend." There is a special place where that cedar is to be placed in the Temple, so it must be made to fit. Perhaps it is needed for a beam. It may be for the threshold. It may just be for a floor plank. What? Will people walk over this proud cedar tree that was once so beautiful? Yes, they will.

Spiritual hewing

God is building a spiritual house—a glorious Church. Who will make up that Church? God does not take a drunkard out of a nightclub and immediately say, "Here is a preacher." Some hewing must take place before that one can stand at the pulpit. A shaping process must go on before he qualifies. Salvation is the beginning point. God has a place designed for us in His Church, but first we must be saved—cut down. The lumberjack can’t cut the branches off the tall cedar tree until the tree is down on the ground. Just so, the proud attitudes we are displaying must go in order for God to make us fit.

Before that cedar qualifies to be even a floor board, it has to go through a process. Ephesians 2:10 declares that "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." The great Architect of Heaven has a master plan, and those who qualify for His building must be willing to be shaped according to that plan. If you are not submissive, you will find this a very painful procedure. But if you are willing to yield to the work of God, getting fitted for His Kingdom will be much smoother.

We must fit into the Gospel and not expect the Gospel to be made to fit us. We cannot change the Word of God. If we do not measure up, we do not fit.

Every so often we may get checked. In Revelation 11:1, we read, "And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein." The Master Builder comes by and holds His rule to us, to see if we are still measuring up. We must fit into the Gospel and not expect the Gospel to be made to fit us. We cannot change the Word of God. If we do not measure up, we do not fit.

In Romans 1:29-31, we find a list of things that will cause us not to fit. We read, "Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." The rule of God will detect if any of these are present in our lives, whether or not they can be seen from the outside. When a tree is cut down, the lumberjack might find that, though the tree looked good, it is rotten at the center. Then it must be rejected. When God puts His rule up to us, it will check what is on the inside. We might look good on the outside, but what about the heart?

A purpose for each one

The Master Builder has a place for everyone, but we must be made to fit his plan. Consider putting up a wall. Some of the studs are put in place, and it looks good. Then one is cut a little too long, but put up anyway and pounded into place. At first it seems to fit, but in looking at the others, they seem too short. Are they really too short? No! The best thing to do is take out the board that is too long, cut off a little, and put it back. Then the wall is perfectly aligned. The whole wall can be thrown off with just one misfit, and an entire congregation can present a wrong picture if one person does not fit in place.

We cannot all be the board that makes the altar. Someone has to be the doorpost, the floor plank, and the threshold, but we are all in God's plan.

God has differing uses for the material with which He is building. In Ephesians 4:11-12 we read, "And he gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." We cannot all be the board that makes the altar. Someone has to be the doorpost, the floor plank, and the threshold, but we are all in God's plan.

We want to be securely attached. Paul cautions us to be "no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." We must be fastened tightly into God’s structure. When you get in place, ask the Lord to fasten you. You do not want to fall out of place like a stud not fastened securely. We need to be secured where God puts us.

Fixing warped boards

Sometimes a piece of wood gets out of shape after it is in a building. Years ago, I did most of my own work in building a house. After some time went by, I noticed that one piece of wood had become warped. There was nothing wrong with that piece at first, but eventually it got out of shape. In order to correct the problem, I had to do some work on it. That can happen in the church. If we are not careful, we can get out of order and warp a little. But if we let God have His way, He will work on us so we fit again without being removed. It is possible. We make mistakes, and sometimes we may get discouraged or a little out of line. God can put us back in shape, but we must let Him.

Sometimes there are pieces of wood which must be removed. Perhaps they become so warped they cannot be corrected. Other times, a piece of wood gets old and deteriorates, and it must be replaced through no fault of the piece itself. It served its purpose, but now another piece must be found to fit where the first one was removed. As old-timers pass on, God needs others to fill in. Are you the piece He can put into place to make another good threshold or floor board? You must be willing.

The final product

Isn't it wonderful when everyone has gone through the process, the rules have been held up, and everyone is the right thickness, the right length, and securely in place? What a beautiful temple! What a body! What a Church! It is wonderful to be part of the Church when Christ pours out His blessings, but the most glorious time will be when the Trumpet of God sounds and when He says, "I'm coming for my Church." We will be so glad that we were fitted into the Church of God. Then we can take our departure to be forever with the Lord.

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