This year I decided to follow a chronological reading plan of the Bible. My reading this week took me to the portion of Exodus detailing the creation of the Tabernacle.
Reading these instructions, I was struck by the beauty of the Tabernacle’s furnishings, along with the craftsmanship required to create each piece. Take, for example, the lampstand:
“Make a Lampstand of pure hammered gold. Make its stem and branches, cups, calyxes, and petals all of one piece. Give it six branches, three from one side and three from the other; put three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with calyx and petals, on one branch, three on the next, and so on—the same for all six branches. On the main stem of the Lampstand, make four cups shaped like almonds, with calyx and petals, a calyx extending from under each pair of the six branches, the entire Lampstand fashioned from one piece of hammered pure gold.” (Exodus 25: 31-36 The Message)
Just imagine a goldsmith making this ornate fixture from one piece of hammered gold. I’ve watched the effort it takes sculptors and painters to work on just one section of a piece. I can’t even imagine the amount of work the lampstand took.
The more I read about the Tabernacle, the more it reinforced something I’ve long believed:
God loves beauty. He’s created us to love beauty. And some He’s created some to create beauty:
God spoke to Moses: “See what I’ve done; I’ve personally chosen Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur of the tribe of Judah. I’ve filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him skill and know-how and expertise in every kind of craft to create designs and work in gold, silver, and bronze; to cut and set gemstones; to carve wood—he’s an all-around craftsman.
“Not only that, but I’ve given him Oholiab, son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan, to work with him. And to all who have an aptitude for crafts I’ve given the skills to make all the things I’ve commanded you: (Exodus 31: 1-11 The Message)
Finishing my reading last night, the following thought hit: the Tabernacle’s artisans were given an incredible honour and responsibility. They were tasked to create the earthly dwelling place of the heavenly God. They were to create the tools used in daily worship. They were to use the talents God gave them in these tasks.
It also means those of us who have been gifted by God as creatives have been given that same incredible honour and responsibility. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his classic essay, “On Fairy-Stories” wrote:
“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.”
Tolkien calls us “sub-creators” and even though he was referring to his own literary efforts, it’s not too far of a leap to suggest “myth-making” can also take the form of visual arts, music, dance and the myriad of artistic expressions available to us.
I ended my devotional time last night by listing to Steve Bell’s version of “Why do We Hunger for Beauty.” The song affirmed the innate hunger for beauty that exists in all of us. As artists who are called by God, we have the honour and responsibility of creating art that can sate that hunger.