“Solomon had seventy thousand who carried burdens, and eighty thousand who quarried stone in the mountains, besides three thousand three hundred . . . who supervised the people who labored in the work” (1 Kings 5:15-16).
One project in Bangladesh involved considerable digging and moving of dirt. A team of ten men were used, three or four of whom dug out the dirt and loaded it into baskets. These were then carried on the heads of the remainder of the crew to the place where the dirt was dumped. Each basket weighed an estimated 80 to 100 pounds. As I watched I could not help but be reminded of the massive building projects of Biblical times, such as the pyramids of Egypt and the great Temple and other buildings of King Solomon of Israel.
The Temple required seven years to build. In addition to 150,000 laborers working in Israel, Solomon also used 30,000 to help cut and transport timber from the mountains of Lebanon to Jerusalem. Such prodigious use of labor is incredible to many of us, who are much more accustomed to heavy machinery and other modern technology.
And yet it still astonishes to see what manpower alone can accomplish. It may be slow. It may work hardship on those who are required to do the work. But even a few able-bodied workers, using skills developed through training and practice, can accomplish great things.
This is true not only in terms of work like construction, but also of God’s eternal purpose of saving the lost by means of the gospel and through his church (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 3:10). He could have sent angels to preach as he did to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9-14). He could have chosen to reveal himself and speak directly with a voice from heaven, as he did on Mount Sinai to Israel (Exodus 19-20).
God did not use his great power in those ways. Rather he chose a few faithful men to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). The chosen few left homes and occupations to carry out the task assigned them. They did this fearlessly and tirelessly, so that “They did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).
As a result, within one generation the gospel reached into all parts of the Roman Empire (Romans 15:19). Since that first century it has been preached throughout the world, with immeasurable results. Only God could number the miles traveled, the sermons preached, and the good works done in the name of Jesus in order to carry out his purpose.
Yes, there are technologies available today that enable a person to speak to thousands in distant places with little physical effort. Yet one can still go next door, or down the street, or into another city, sit down with someone who has spiritual needs, and teach the gospel with nothing but one’s own knowledge of Christ and a love for the lost.
Machines can be a big help. But manpower can still get the job done. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15).