I’ll never forget the first time I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As a kid, I was glued to my TV as I watched what seemed like a modern-day fairy tale unfold as Lady Di walked down the aisle to marry Prince Charles. Many years later, I stood inside the colossal nave and beheld the faraway place I had envisioned from my childhood. The reality of being there was far better than any representation I had seen on TV. Once inside, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by it all. My eyes went up and my jaw went down, as I tried to take it all in.
Sir Christopher Wren was the mastermind architect behind the magnificent cathedral and completed its construction in 1711. Even though I was there only a short time, I could see evidence of the designer everywhere I looked. Every detail had meaning, purpose, and history. Like millions of other visitors, I stood in awe of its design and craftsmanship. But even more than appreciating the art, I considered how great God is, to inspire and enable men to create such beauty in his name!
During the Middle Ages, when cathedrals were popping up all over Europe, they were intended to be jaw-dropping. Designed to be places that would inspire and educate, cathedrals were also supposed to facilitate a connection to God. But these ancient monuments drew much of their inspiration from the first “official” meeting place between God and man, the gold-laden representation of heaven on earth: the tent of meeting or the tabernacle.
An Ordinary Man for an Extraordinary Task
After giving Moses the Ten Commandments and the Law, God wanted a tabernacle to be built, where he would meet and dwell with his people. God had already chosen a man to do the work. The master craftsman wasn’t Moses or a priest, and if you skim the final chapters of Exodus too quickly, you might miss him. He was an ordinary man, divinely equipped to do an extraordinary job. His name was Bezalel.
“Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has 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 artistic crafts.”Exodus 35:30-33
Foreshadowing the Shadow of God
Unlike the medieval architects commissioned to build cathedrals worthy of God’s presence, Bezalel was commissioned to build God’s actual dwelling place on Earth. The Lord chose him out of all the Israelites to do the work, and it was for this reason, he had been born. How could his parents have known that when they named him Bezalel which means “in the shadow of God,” they were really “foreshadowing” his life’s work?
Bezalel was given the job to create a physical place full of objects that represented the plan and purpose of God. The man “in the shadow of God” was tasked to make a dwelling place full of objects that were shadows pointing to God. These golden objects were not only utilitarian, but they also foreshadowed greater spiritual realities. Not the least of which was that the God of the universe was knowable, he was holy, and he wanted to dwell among his people.
Filled with the Spirit for Creation
If that was not exciting enough, God then gave Bezalel his Spirit to do the work. This is the first mention of the Spirit being given to anyone in the Scripture. Isn’t it remarkable that it was first given to a craftsman? But the Spirit of God is always linked to the act of creation.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2).
God is a creator and he delights in beauty, symmetry, and order. We see evidence of that in all his works. It’s no wonder God would fill Bezalel with his Spirit, plus give him all wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and craftsmanship so that he could convey such deep and rich truths of God’s character.
Creating Is An Act of Worship
Often we think art is “extra.” It’s not really necessary, but a nice bonus if you have the time or resources to enjoy it. But the story of Bezalel reminds us that art and craftsmanship are not extra but an integral part of our worship of God.
Do you write, paint, draw, play or write music, act, sing, sculpt, knit, sew, embroider, design, carve, craft, bake, build, garden, organize, take photos, or work with wood? Whether your craft is your hobby or your livelihood, the act of creation can (and should be) an act of worship.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”Colossians 3:17
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10
Bezalel was endowed with the Spirit of God for the special work of creating the tabernacle. As Christians, living in the shadow of the cross, we are privileged to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Not many in history have had the level of genius of Bezalel, but we can create and reflect our craft back to our Creator nonetheless. We are living shadows of Christ, representing his greatness to the world around us.
Art That Aims For Eternity
Sir Christopher Wren said, “Architecture aims at eternity.” He saw that his art form wasn’t just for man, it was ultimately for God. It was intended to direct hearts and eyes upward towards heaven and prompt our hearts to worship. If you’ve ever stood inside St. Paul’s you can attest, Wren certainly aimed high.
Does your art aim at eternity?
Someday we’ll see with unveiled faces the full splendor of the Son of Man. The need for shadows and representations will disappear because we’ll behold the real thing. Until that time, we should be busy filling the earth with art that reflects the beauty and glory of God.
Christian, you have the same Spirit Bezalel had, to create with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Until the shadows flee, let your art and your labors of love point others to the eternal God who wants to dwell with us. What an incredible privilege! That is the highest aim for art, and this is our spiritual act of worship.
Sola Deo Gloria,
Do you want to aim higher in your craft? I believe it starts with a Holy Leisure Mindset.