We are the unique workmanship of God

Unhappily, as I contemplate the upcoming Labor Day observance, I feel that few of today’s products display good workmanship. It seems to be more important that goods be made quickly and inexpensively for profit. Perhaps only in small, hand-crafted products can one find real workmanship anymore. In the past several years I have been able to travel abroad. That experience has been a great teacher. One lesson learned has been a true respect for the workmanship of the past. European and Eastern cities abound in artistic and architectural marvels thousand of years old. Nothing built today will ever match the Greek Acropolis, the Egyptian Pyramids or the Indian Taj Mahal for workmanship. But there is a city in the Near East that surpasses even these structural marvels. That is the city of Petra. It lies halfway between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqabah in Jordan. It was the ancient home of the Horites, and later of Esau and his family who were the ancestors of the Edomites. Several centuries before Christ, the Edomites were displaced by the Nabateans (a people of Arabian stock). Originally desert nomads and marauders along the caravan tracks that crossed the region, the Nabateans very quickly developed a high culture, being particularly adept at irrigation and architecture. For 400 years, Petra was the capital and stronghold of their wealthy and powerful empire. Then, for four hundred more years, it flourished as a Roman city. At one time it had a population of 7,000 and even a significant Christian community. But what makes Petra utterly unique is how it was constructed. Actually, the city was not constructed at all, but was carved. Most cities are built by craftsmen assembling materials brought in from the outside. In Petra there were few freestanding buildings. Instead, temples, storehouses, state buildings, dwellings and tombs were carved from the living rock within a narrow, precipitous canyon. The Nabatean craftsmen were able to chisel gigantic building fronts, some several hundred feet tall, utilizing themes from every corner of the world. Behind these fronts, rooms were hollowed out for commerce, worship and living. Twenty centuries of wear and erosion have scarcely dimmed their awesome beauty. One only wonders at the ability of workmen to create a whole monumental city out of a single, sheer, red sandstone mass with primitive tools in an arid wilderness. The stupendous Treasury at the entrance to Petra is a building without equal, a true ‘Wonder of the World.’ I think there is a lesson here on the building of Christian character. We are to be ‘Petrans,’ that is, crafted and not constructed! Our lives are not to be built out of various materials assembled on the site. The true secret of life building is letting God sculpt us into new creations pleasing to Himself. It is God who is the master builder, not only of the universe, but also of those who inhabit it’you and me. If we are wise enough to let Him use and develop the potential, which is latent within us, God can produce wonder works. How foolish we are to try to build and control our own lives. How often we either turn out misshapen or as imitations of someone else’s life. How easily we, betrayed by ambitions and deceiving vanities, can mess up the project. How easily brains, brawn or beauty can deflect or limit us. God is the guarantor of full humanity and individuality. As His unique creations, we will not be clones of others. Nor will we quickly crumble because we were beautifully fashioned by Him to stand the tests of time and trial. Petra was artfully carved from sandstone. We are carved from stuff of redeemed humanity. We were created to endure and prove the workmanship of God. Throughout Petra, there are nearly a thousand monuments carved. Some are large and some are small, but each is a unique work of art. And so, it is with each of us’the unique workmanship of God, wrought in flesh, but forever giving glory to Him.

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