In the Old Testament book of Exodus, we find a stunning story of God commissioning an artist. In the midst of the building of the Tabernacle, where God’s presence would dwell and Israelites would come to worship Him, God called an artist to cultivate beauty in His place of worship. In the conversation about an artist’s role in a community of Jesus followers, Bezalel becomes an important example.
In Inspiro, we believe that a community of Jesus followers without the arts and the artists who create them is incomplete. When the arts are absent, the community’s worship is less wholistic. While there are certainly valuable ways of worshipping God that do not require the arts, we believe that the inclusion of the arts in worship provides a more complete understanding of God’s character. Indeed, God introduces Himself to us in the Scriptures as a creator (Gen. 1:1). As people made in His image, we too have the capacity to create. Without the arts, our worship is missing an aspect of God’s character.
Artists are uniquely able to depict aspects of the character of God through their art, and these depictions often resonate with people because they highlight the beauty of the gospel. The arts engage the emotions, giving people the ability to experience God in their “heart language.” It is especially influential when artists produce art that is culturally sensitive. The art of a culture tells us much about what it values, and reflecting on this can spark meaningful conversations and provide unique opportunities for the gospel to reach someone. In addition, art that is shaped by the cultural distinctives of a community allows individuals to worship the Lord through their culture’s unique artforms. This reinforces the truth that God desires every tongue and nation to worship Him (Rev. 7), and that worship is something that involves our hearts as well as our heads.
Artists like Bezalel can serve the Lord in a Biblically literate, culturally relevant, and Spirit-energised way. In the same way we would encourage people in other professions to serve God with the gifts and abilities He has given them, we should encourage artists to live into their God-given creativity. Artists “fit” into a community of Jesus-followers simply by living out what God has gifted them with and displaying His character through this gifting.
Bezalel provides a beautiful picture of what it looks like for an artist to serve the Lord in a community. In Exodus 31, God calls Bezalel and equips him with the gifts to live out his calling. God also provides him with co-laborers, reminding us that we are not meant to serve the Lord in isolation. Several chapters later (Exodus 35:31ff), Moses affirms this calling before the people of Israel. Moses points out that God has also called Bezalel to teach others, signifying a sharing of his gift. This aspect of Bezalel’s story reminds us that artists need community. There were multiple people involved in the building of the Tabernacle, and they all needed each other’s gifts to get the job done. The Israelites brought the necessary materials, from gold to acacia wood, and other “skillful craftsmen” came to help Bezalel (Exodus 35:4-29). One gift is not valued above another, nor are people asked to serve in isolation. Their gifts – artistic and otherwise – work in community to fulfill God’s calling and glorify Him.
It is vital in our communities of Jesus followers that we recognize our need for each other’s gifts. Artists should be encouraged and provided the opportunity to flourish in their artistry. Those who are creative in other ways should receive the same encouragement and opportunity to thrive in the gifts God has given them. Functioning together, we reflect the character of God in a beautiful and Christ-honouring way, helping us to see the fullness of His glory.