When God created the world, He laced it with His beauty. We don’t have to look far to see beauty through sunsets, starry nights, or mountaintop views. We encounter God through many different ways, but there is something to say about encountering the beauty of God through His creation. But this extends much further than simply nature. As humans, we are drawn so powerfully to beauty and unwittingly then to the God of all beauty. Man-made creativity, while merely a reflection of God, still displays the same beauty which draws us closer to Him. The release of our creativity shows the many facets of God’s being.
While we should constantly remind ourselves that creativity spans all aspects of life, there is something the be said here about artistry and artisanship. Let’s look at the very first artist mentioned in the Bible, after God – a man named Bezalel.Read Exodus 31:1-11
Bezalel was given the extraordinary task of furnishing and decorating the tabernacle – the place where God’s presence would inhabit. He was an artist who God himself commissioned. It’s clear that Bezalel possessed many excellent skills and talents, but from this scripture, we see that he had knowledge and wisdom and that he was filled with the Spirit of God. The source of all creativity and ingenuity rested on Bezalel as he undertook this incredible task. Exodus 25-30 outline many specific instructions from the Lord about how to craft the tabernacle. However, it didn’t cover every detail. The creative work that Bezalel and his helpers applied to the tabernacle was indeed man-made and man-imagined. But it was Spirit-inspired, and it was done with great wisdom. This scripture shows us that artistic beauty is important to God, that man-made expression is something through which others can encounter God, and that creativity should be actioned with wisdom and empowered by the Spirit.
If we continue reading, we see that all of the Israelites participated in this process of making the tabernacle beautiful.Read Exodus 35:4-29
Each of us has worthy skills in many different areas. Not all of us will have the artistic abilities of a Bezalel, but we can offer whatever we have and communally participate in bringing out beauty.
True beauty and art can draw us to encounter God. However, we must also recognise how these have become distorted through sin and how easy it is for them to be steered off course away from God, towards the glory of man and idolatry.Read Exodus 32:1-8
The Israelites’ process to build this golden calf was very similar to what we read about in Exodus 35 – they all contributed offerings and created with gold. But this was not for the glory of God. They created out of their understanding and instead created something that took the place of God. It’s important to recognise that it wasn’t the actions or the form or style used that angered God. It was their hearts and minds which had momentarily turned away from Him. We need to create with wisdom and humility. In one way, styles are completely neutral. But in another way, they must not be used in an unthinking, naïve way.
But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. In the Kingdom of God, beauty is redeemed and becomes a sign of the universal reign of God. For us, it is an expression of worship to God and something which calls the imagination to encounter Him. Too often, we can think that a work of art has value only if we reduce it to a tract – solely as a message for the intellect. But anything that is inherently beautiful, even without a conscious message or meaning behind it, can still demonstrate the overlapping of heaven and earth.
We encounter God through his beautiful creation, and our creativity can draw others towards him. Bezalel created for the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place, to make it a beautiful environment for others to encounter Him. In 2 Chronicles 2, we see an almost identical account of Huram-Abi being called upon by King Solomon to create beautiful furnishings for the temple. Perhaps we could draw some inspiration here and endeavour for more art, beauty and creativity in our church buildings. But the proper trend is from the tabernacle, to the temple, to our lives as followers of Christ. The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world. Each of us has a gift of creativity to offer to God in the way we live our lives. In this way, we demonstrate what God calls our true and proper worship (Romans 12:1), and our lives become something by which others may encounter God.Discussion Questions
1. Is there a particular form/style of creativity which helps you position yourself to encounter God? E.g. Music, Nature, Images, etc.
2. What has been one of the most memorable moments in your life where someone’s creative work has impacted you?
3. When you see something beautiful, do you connect that thing to God in your mind and give him credit?
4. What does living a life of beauty for God’s glory look like to you?
5. What is a simple way you could practise creating something of beauty for the glory of God?Prayer
Thank you for the way You have filled the earth with Your beauty and how You reveal Yourself to us. Your majesty is on display and we want to create in ways that reveals it to the world. Thank You that each of us has an offering we can give to You and by Your Spirit, You enrich the skills and talents that we have. Help us to work, craft and create with wisdom and to give You glory. Where beauty has been skewed, help us to see ways that we can redeem beauty in the world and demonstrate Your rule and reign. And help us to live our lives like beautiful artworks for all to see – not for our own glory, but for Yours.
All glory to You God,