By: Paul J. Morrison
He puts hammer to nail, a familiar sight at first to be sure. Perhaps he is building a new barn, but surely no barn would need to be so large? He has neither the crop or the livestock to fill it. The structure begins to take shape. The wood locks together around the massive frame. It seems to be finished enough, but he is not finished. He slaps pitch against the wood, filling every crack and crevice, coating the strange edifice inside and out. What are you building? What need do you have for such a thing? The dismissive and curious comments, questions, and jeers encircle him, but still he works. He builds because he must. He builds how he must. Noah builds unto the Lord.
The story is one we have heard since we were children, details have oft been added to the text as we seek to understand how Noah would surely be treated as he took on a building campaign that would last decades and culminate in its ultimate test under the flood.
It is interesting to think of what assumptions we bring to any story. Some are pure conjecture and others more definite. This is the first building project we see in Scripture. Genesis is by no means a record of architectural trends and is neither meant to be instructive to shipbuilders. Yet God gave to Noah a clear and definite instruction towards what he would build. Every peculiar detail carried a definite purpose and goodness.
There is no simple call for Noah to build a boat and figure out the details later or for Moses to simply make a tent in which to kill things. There is purpose and dimension in each, materials and detail. The embroidered curtain of the tabernacle would undoubtedly be more beautiful than the tarred walls of gopher wood, but God commissioned each.
We don’t know how much help Noah received from his sons, or if he hired others to help in the work, or if he bore the task alone. But we know that the ark was built. We know that it was complete before that first drop of rain fell to the ground. We know that its frame held against the waves. We know that the pitch kept it afloat. Noah had done what he was called to do.
I have been struck by the call of God to do good work, to build as he calls us. I have done my fair share of building. Or at least I have hammered my thumb enough times to lose count. Work is a good gift of God and it carries its own reward. Beyond the pride of a finished task, there is something to be said of the work itself. Good work is found in every moral profession; every nail driven, form filed, page written, diaper changed, and hole dug. Good work is both domestic and vocational, professional and amateur.
I truly believe that we are gifted to work and build for the glory of God. Further, I believe God often puts visions in our hearts of what we are called to build (Noah’s Ark). Other times I think our own hearts draw up the blueprints and try to stamp God’s name upon them as justification or approval (Babel’s Tower). Even now, I feel that the work we are doing here in Cleveland has been set before us. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.
Last week I was in a blueprint meeting of sorts. Five men with shared convictions each sketched and described the structure we hope to erect. We laid out our plans and bathed them with prayer, pleading for God to reveal his will to us. We worked intensely, relying on both God’s grace and the good gift of caffeine. We began to put hammer to nail, and while we have much work to do before this ship will float, we trust that God has called us to build, and to build together.
I expect questions to of all sorts springing from curiosity to confusion, and I hope the work itself will be an answer to many. I hope that every nail and board fulfills a distinct purpose to its desired end, but also in its shaping means. I hope that we are building unto the Lord. I hope also that you are building what you are called to build. I hope to share more about this boat soon, but until then let me leave you with the call to excellent work in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”