When we talk about skill, we're often talking about the ability to do something externally, such as the ability to change the oil in your car or to prepare a delicious meal from scratch. These are what we think of when we think of "skills." So when God sends to Moses men who are called "skilled craftsmen," for the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, we are pretty sure we know what that means.
It means that these are the men who know how to hammer the gold, silver, and bronze; they are smiths who work on the anvils in the shaping of metals. These are the men who can weave intricate patterns out of blue, violet, and scarlet yarns, making the finest details of the tapestry. These are the man who can read blueprints and measure twice, cut once, making sure everything is exactly as the Lord has drawn it up. These are the men with the "know-how."
Except that's not it. Well, it's not all of it.
It has to be some of it because if these men did not have the physical skill to do what they were being called to do, they wouldn't be able to do it. Plain and simple. They had to have some understanding and ability of the above-mentioned things in order to do them; God would not have called a man who didn't.
But the actual phrase used here when we reference "skilled crafstmen" has nothing at all to do with what these men can do with their hands. Rather, the phrase is "the wise of heart."
Their know-how is in the depths of their soul.
The skill of the soul is quite different than the skill of the hands. It knows the why behind the what, and it pays deep attention to the how because it understands that the how reveals something about the who. When you look at the way that these men built the Tabernacle, yes, they had detailed plans to work from, but it was their hearts that tied into the project.
And hearts don't tie into measurements; they tie into meaning.
These men kept before them the Lord who ordained the work. They kept before them the purposes for which they were building - that Israel would have a place where the Lord would dwell among them in mercy and that they would have a place to come to the Lord as a people. They kept before them the heart of the Lord, not just the plans of Him, and His deep love, abiding presence, and constant provision for Israel.
They could already see in their hearts' eyes what would happen with these things that they were building. They could see the tablets inside the Ark. They could see the offerings poured out on the altars. They could see the people gathered in the courtyard, the priests clothed in their finest robes. They could see the bread sitting on the table and the lamps burning with oil in the dark of the night. They could smell the incense, even though they hadn't mixed it yet. And they knew not just what they were doing, but what they were doing it for.
We could use a little more of this wisdom in our lives. Most of us, anyway. We could use the kind of eyes that see with the heart and remember what the Lord is doing through the work He's given us to do. We focus so much on our ability, on our skill, and that's important; we have to be able to actually do the work. But so many of us lose sight quickly of the why behind the what, and we are too busy looking at the blueprints to see the Tabernacle at all. We're too busy looking at the pieces to see the whole. We're too busy looking at the work to see the use of it.
Yet, if God has called us to the work, it is not just because of our skill in doing it. It's not just because we are able. It's because He has made us to see the vision of what He's set before us, He's made us to see the holiness of our work. He's made us wise of heart.
Let us never lose sight of that.