Carpenter's Gallery

Chapter 8

Characteristics of Wood

This chapter describes some of my thoughts about the characteristics of the material we are and how that affects the way the Craftsman approaches His work in our lives:

  • Bark.  On the outside of every tree is a protective layer of bark.  The bark shields the tree from physical damage such as from something rubbing on the tree.  The bark also protects the wood from losing its sap (the life of the tree) and drying out.  Bark is usually rough and coarse.  There is little strength in bark.  It is fairly susceptible to damage. Since there is little strength in bark, you can’t make much of anything useful out of it.

Every natural man who is not saved relies on a “layer of bark,” which is a layer of pride, to protect himself.  When people rub on a natural man the wrong way, he is rough and coarse with them. It is when this happens that the natural man’s tendency to protect his own selfish interests is brought to the surface.  He relies on his own strength to protect himself.  There is, however, little strength in him and he is fairly susceptible to damage.  As the natural man relies on his own strength, he realizes that he is weak and he ends up feeling as though he can’t make anything useful out of his life.        

When a man trusts Christ as his Savior, the Carpenter strips off that layer of pride.  The man must die to himself.  Christ does not leave us defenseless, but instead of a weak, thin layer of our own strength for protection, we are encased in the stone walls of the protection of the Spirit of God.  Nothing will happen to us that He does not allow.  Instead of relying on our own strength to maintain our life, we rest on our Foundation.  Since that layer of pride has been stripped off and we have died to self, the sap of our own life has dried up.  Christ gives us new life, His life, and as we rest on our Foundation, the Root of Jesse, we are now nourished by the water of life.  We become a part of something useful, something bigger than we are alone.  We become a useful part of the temple of God. 

  • Rings.  Beneath the bark is the wood.  The wood is composed of rings.  The lighter wood in each ring is generally formed when everything is going well for the tree, the thicker the ring, the faster it grew.  If there happens to be a drought, the ring formed that year may be especially thin.  The darker wood is formed when the tree is going through the difficult winter.  One ring forms per year. You can tell how old a tree is by counting the rings.  The tree starts out small, and as layer upon layer of rings is added, the tree grows larger.

Our lives are composed of years of experiences.  As the rings on the tree are circular, so the seasons repeat themselves once around each year.  Our years consist of good times and bad.  Some rings are thick indicating that we had an especially good year, while others are very difficult, and thin.  You can tell how old you are by counting the years.  When we are young, we have few experiences; but as more and more layers of years are added, our experiences accumulate and grow larger.

Think with me for a moment how God has brought different things into your life, both good times and bad, to make you what you are.  Consider how God has used those accumulated experiences of the years to work in your life.  God has stacked layer upon layer of experiences in my life that equipped me to write this book.  I am sure He is doing similar types of things for you whether you realize it or not.  

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

God is building up our lives to equip us to serve Him with good works.  

Think of all the main experiences that God has brought into your life, year after year, laying down the raw material from which He can carve you into a person that would do good works and glorify Him.  If you are considering what God’s will is for your life, consider the rings He has placed in your life.  What has He prepared you to do?  What is the purpose of the main events of your life?  How could God have been using these experiences to prepare you to serve Him for His glory?

If we look at the lives of many of the people in the Bible, we can see how God was at work in their lives, laying down ring upon ring of experiences years in advance.  God used these experiences to form them into the raw material that He could use to carve their lives into something glorifying to God. 

Think for a moment of what Joseph went through in order that he might glorify God by being used to save many people including the children of Israel from perishing in the famine.  Notice how the major events of his life almost seem to alternate between dark experiences and light experiences.  

(light) Joseph’s father showed favoritism to Joseph and gave him a coat of many colors.  (dark) Joseph dreamed a dream and when he shared it with his brothers it offended them.  His brothers threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave.  

(light) He ended up in Potiphar’s house and prospered there.  

(dark) Potiphar’s wife tried to get him to commit adultery, but he fled.  Joseph was accused of adultery and put in prison.

(light) He prospered and became the overseer of the prison.  He interpreted the dreams of  two of the prisoners, one of which was Pharaoh’s butler.  The butler’s dream meant that the butler would get out of prison in three days and be restored to his place.  Joseph asked the butler to help him get out of prison.  

(dark) The butler forgot about Joseph.  Therefore Joseph remained in prison for two more years.   

(light) Pharaoh had a dream and the butler recommended Joseph to interpret it.  Joseph interpreted the king’s dream and was made a ruler.  As a ruler he implemented a plan to save the people from a coming famine.  He used his position to become reunited and reconciled with his family.  God was glorified by his life.

If you consider the lives of Moses, Ruth, Paul, Daniel, and many others, you will see a similar pattern of rings of experiences being laid down to prepare the person to glorify God. 

  • Grain.  The direction that the fiber of our being would naturally go is our grain.  For the carpenter, working contrary to the grain of the wood can be frustrating.  The carpenter wants the wood to go one way, and the wood naturally wants to go its own way.  If you read the account of the children of Israel on the way to the promised-land and their wandering in the desert, you can see the Carpenter become challenged with the obstinate wood of His people at times.  We see God working with His people for forty years to get them ready to go the way that He wanted.  When God is carving our lives, much of the time He must cut across the grain to make us into the image of Christ.  When we submit to the will of the Carpenter and are easily formed by His hand, it pleases Him.  The grain is not necessarily a bad thing as long as we yield to the will of the Master.  All wood has grain.  We even see the grain revealed in Christ.  As He was nearing the time of His crucifixion, we see the One who is Life, whose every fiber follows the ways of life, yielding to the will of His Father.  He allowed Himself to be cut off across the grain in order to conform to the death that was His Father’s will.

Jesus prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me:  nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”   Luke 22:42

As we live our lives for God, we must not try to head in our own direction, but live a life of obedience and allow Him to make our lives what He would have us to be.

“As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”  I Peter 1:14,15

  • Heartwood.  At the center of the cedar tree there is darker wood.  Near the outside of the tree there is a lighter wood.  In the early part of our lives, every person starts out lost.  Each of us accumulates some darker wood before turning to the Savior.  I think that one of the reasons that God chose cedar for the temple is the great contrast it has between the dark red heartwood and the light, white-colored, outer wood.  The Bible indicates that the color of sin is red.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:  though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”  Isaiah 1:18

Has there been a contrast that others can see in your life?  Did the color of your life change when you went from being lost to being a child of God?  If that has not happened, you need to examine your heart and ask God to help you find out what is wrong.  

  • Scent.  The most distinctive thing about cedar wood is its pleasant smell.  The smell originates from oil within the wood.  The wood does not smell when it is still in the tree in the forest.  It must be cut down and shaped to bring out the pleasant aroma.  Oil, in the Bible, is often a picture of the Holy Spirit.  When our pride is cut down and we die to self and are saved, the oil of the Holy Spirit permeates our being.  As we submit to the hand of the Master carving our lives as He chooses, we are filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and a beautiful aroma that is pleasant to God goes forth from us.  Have you yielded to the Hand of the Master?  
  • Knots.  Knots occur when a tree branch forms.  It is the tree branch’s connection to the tree trunk.  Although knots occur on almost every board, they are very difficult to work with.  Knots are extremely hard wood that may be brittle.  Knots can cause the strength of the whole board to be compromised and weakened.  They may not be attached solidly to the surrounding wood.  

We, as the wood that Christ is carving, also can have knots in us.  When we harden our hearts and branch out and go our own way and resist the will of the Lord, we have become a knot.  Hardening our hearts against the Lord makes us weak because we are then depending on our own strength.  When we are resisting the Lord, we put the strength of our testimony in jeopardy.  Oh Christian, don’t resist the Master.  He knows what He is doing.  What part of you are you not yielding to His control?  Don’t become hardened in your heart against Him.

Are you saying?

  • Knot now Lord.
  • Knot me Lord.
  • I will knot serve you in that way.
  • I will knot yield my thoughts to you.
  • Knot my music.
  • I will knot trust Him.
  • Knot my money.
  • Knot witnessing.
  • Knot my time.
  • That’s knot how I want to live my life.
  • Knot my all.

If this is what you are telling the Savior regarding some area of your life, then you have some knots that need to be dealt with.  Will you deal with the knots in your life and soften your heart to the Lord?  Do this before He needs to get a heavy mallet to chisel His way through the area in which you resist Him.

Picture of Ed Brill
Ed Brill

Mr. Brill has spent many years as a tool engineer for plastic injection molds working closely with craftsmen. This experience has given him unique insight into the character traits involved in craftsmanship. His engineering background has taught him to sort through things not readily apparent and get to the heart of the real issue. Mr. Brill has done a good deal of work on buildings, having remodeled an old house and having been on the board of trustees and then as a deacon at his church for many years. He has been a student and teacher of the Bible for many years as he serves in his local church.

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