Bezalel. Sounds like a great name for your first born son, right? As strange as it is, Bezalel was the first recorded person in the Bible to be filled with the Holy Spirit and his calling was to be an artist for the Tabernacle. News to some, art flows through the…

history and culture of God’s people. While it can be difficult to know what kind of art is pleasing or displeasing to the Lord, artwork has been specifically sanctioned by God for ancient Israel and can be used by us today to glorify God.

“Art was specifically sanctioned by God.”

Abstract, symbolic, and representational types of art were ordained by God for the use of His worship and glory. Abstract art is not representative of anything (i.e. not symbolic) but simply made for beauty.

It is understandable that the Israelites, striving to be faithful to God’s prohibition against graven images, would not desire to place representational art in the temple. But God instructs these works of art to be displayed. Pomegranates, lilies, lions, oxen, and palm trees were placed in their dedicated places at the word of the Lord.

“Glorify God with Excellence.”

Finding and staying within boundaries is sometimes an arduous task. Having seen that God has authorized different types of art (i.e. abstract and representational), it is not surprising that He has allowed the depiction of spiritual realities. The creation of the invisible to the visible. Heavenly beings, like Cherubim angels, were portrayed in the temple. Where it can become tricky is differentiating between objects of worship and objects that point to the true Object of worship.

The slaughter of goats and bulls is gorgeous art, which pleased the Creator. Yes, pause for a moment and you shall agree that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement was art, perhaps even comparable to an ancient play elaborately performed each year. Symbolic art can teach and communicate ideas. Taking the sublime example of the Day of Atonement, which conveyed the gospel. The Lord commanded the high priests to offer sacrifices which represented the coming Messiah who offered “once and for all a sacrifice to satisfy Divine Justice.” This was communicated symbolically. Further, the Lord commanded the garments of the High Priest to have twelve jewels affixed to the robes, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. In many ways, this seems more like modern art, instead of the more ‘classical.’

“Our art should set us apart, for, we are a holy people.”

Christian art critic, Gene Edward Veith explains, “The aesthetic and expressive dimensions of art are thus sanctioned by the Scriptures.” The Word of God is ladened with different art variations such as poetry, visual arts, music, and fiction as presented in the parables. In Ancient Israel, there is a plethora of creative variety, giving us freedom in our artistic expressions. Above all, our goal in the arts, as well as everything in life is to do everything to the glory of God. We are to be a holy people like the Israelites, set apart for God’s purpose, giving glory to Him in all we do, even in the realm of art in all it’s creativity. Modern art is just one of those many ways.

Further Discussion:
W. Stranger discusses abstract art and meaning.

Disciple’s Perspective aims to reunite thoughtful profundity with beauty in loving conversation. Standing in the great Reformed and conservative heritage of thinkers like Edmund Burke and Abraham Kuyper, we humbly seek to inject civility into an informed conversation, one article at a time, bringing clarity out of chaos.