In my daily bible reading, it’s not often I’m struck while reading the books of the law–particularly the latter half of Exodus and Leviticus. But I encountered a passage that struck me anew. It wasn’t that I haven’t read it before, and even before this, I could have given a brief overview of what happens:
The Israelites, while camped in the wilderness after crossing the Red Sea, send their finest craftsmen to build the Ark of the Covenant and make the tabernacle in which the Ark will reside.
And that’s exactly what is happening, but this time I noted the language used (bolding provided by me):
30 And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.Exodus 35:30-36:1, NKJV
34 “And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works.
36 “And Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the Lord has put wisdom and understanding, to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, shall do according to all that the Lord has commanded.”
Even as an artist myself, I struggle believing that art is truly important on a practical level. It makes life pleasurable, but no one needs it to survive. That sculpture or that painting might “speak to your soul,” but neither will ensure food in your stomach. That story or that song might inspire you, but they won’t provide a warm place to sleep. I don’t make a living on art; it may be my main source of employment, but it is my husband’s practical IT job ensures our basic needs are met.
But Exodus proves that God thought that art was important enough that He filled men with His own Spirit to hone their abilities, their knowledge, and their artistry. He granted them a heart to teach and pass on the gifts He had given them.
And He did it all for His own sake. It was not to lift the spirits of the Israelites by beautifying their desert camp. No, everything that the artisans were creating was expressly for use in the service of God. If God had found no value in art, why would He have chosen it to be used for His glory? Why would He have equipped men so thoroughly and placed such an emphasis on it?
So maybe art is more important than a practical world gives it credit for. Than I give it credit for.
For me, this comes back to what has become my theme verse on the back of the cards I sell: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord. (Colossians 3:23). The Lord has made a place for art. When you’re creating, do it as for Him. When you’re writing, do it as for Him. When you’re making music, do it as for Him. Because it is for Him. He is the one who has filled us with the knowledge and the wisdom and the skill, who has given us the heart to pass on our gifts through the generations.