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The Arts, Beauty & Scripture

The Lord said to Moses, 'See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.

Exodus 31:1-5

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“The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.’” Exodus 31:1-5

Have you ever gone on a road trip with friends and then sat down to look at the pictures each of you has taken? You quickly discover that one friend has an obsession with quirky restaurant signs, another friend took pictures only of food, and still another used her professional photography skills to meticulously curate and filter her portraits to display only those with the most favorable composition or lighting. What we choose to record says a lot about what we value.

ART IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

The Bible starts off with a snapshot of art. Think about it. The very first words we read in Scripture are, “In the beginning God created . . . ” (Genesis 1:1). Besides creating the heavens and the earth, God sculpted man from mud and woman from bone (Genesis 2:7, 21–22). God could have made people appear in an instant, but instead we see God working with His hands to artistically craft each individual person one at a time. How incredible is that?

In keeping with His love for creativity, God divinely empowered craftsmen (the first people in the Bible said to be filled with God’s Spirit) to construct the tabernacle from a set of beautiful blueprints that He gave to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:40). It doesn’t stop there. God also gave King David plans for the first temple. The plans were exquisite—full of carved flowers and pomegranates, bells and palm trees, precious metals and intricately carved wood. ‘“All this,’ David said, ‘I have in writing as a result of the Lord’s hand on me, and He enabled me to understand all the details of the plan’” (1 Chronicles 28:19). God wanted His dwelling place among His people to remind them of His own beauty and His love for creativity.

God also devoted numerous chapters to the actual building of the temple, as well as a long section in Ezekiel (chapters 40–47) describing the future temple in all its beauty when Christ returns. God inspired Israelite musicians and lyricists to compose 150 songs, hymns, and prayers (the book of Psalms), and many of those psalms were appropriate for dancing. Poetry fills the Old Testament in books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Indeed, we can say that there is no part of the Old Testament untouched by God’s love for beauty, creativity, and artistic expression.

ART IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

While less pervasive in the New Testament, the creative arts might well be more emphatically used, forming a kind of exclamation point to the Bible in Revelation 21 and 22. That is not to say the arts are absent from the rest of the New Testament canon. We see tentmakers (Acts 18:3) and silversmiths (Acts 19:24), singers of hymns (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; James 5:13), dancers (Luke 15:22–27), and allusions to theater (Acts 19:29, 31). And as a tacit reminder of God’s love for craftsmanship, we see Jesus Himself trained as a well-known carpenter (Mark 6:3).

But the marvelous description of the New Jerusalem—the eternal dwelling place of God—sits as a gem at the end of Scripture. Just as the Bible opens with “In the beginning God created,”so its final pages show us the extravagant creativity and beauty of our God, enthroned forever amid precious metals and brilliant jewels, an entire city crafted of light and beauty. The entire Bible from cover to cover is filled with reminders that we serve a creative God who has established beauty forever.

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Reflections of God

Have you ever thought of the Bible as a book of art? What does that say about the God who authored it?

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