Three Biblical Truths God Reveals About Artistic Specialists
There are three biblical truths God reveals about uniquely capacitated artistic specialists. It is God who is the prime mover in all this. And God did this for the sake of the worship vitality of His community of worshipers.
One, God specially equipped some people (here it was Bezalel and Oholiab) “. . . with wisdom, with understanding, and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in . . . all kinds of artistic crafts [craftsmanship] . . . He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as [craftsmen]” (Ex 30:31-33, 35 NIV). Here, the focus is not so much on the “craftsman” issue but on why they were creatively endowed and gifted for the design of worship environments, particularly for the Tabernacle.
Bezalel was equipped as an artist, and called into a specialized assignment, all for the purpose of creating a worship environment. God called him to oversee the design and making of the Tabernacle. Bezalel was actually helping to lead the entire worshipping community into the actual worship transaction itself, by designing the environment in which the community would do their worship—the Tabernacle.
Two, God commanded the involvement of artistic specialists in creating the context (environment) for the believing community’s (Israel’s) worship. Exodus 35:1, 10-11 states, “Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, ‘These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: . . . All who are skilled among you are to come and make everything the LORD has commanded: the tabernacle with its tent . . .” (NIV).
God knows how He made humans and the human community work. They need more than just “information”—they must deal with objective truth. Therefore, He designed, then directed, “human expression specialists” (what current culture labels “artists”) to lead the community into touching and interacting with Him, the Transcendent Living God! And that interaction with Him requires more than just rational reasoning. Interaction with God is intercourse, not simply information.
Interacting with God requires all of the faculties He gave to humans—rationality, imaginality, and emotionality. He did this so that to enjoy relationship with the crown of His Creation—His people! That interaction is a multi-dimensional mystery. So He created a specialized kind of person, the artist (the person unusually wise at imaginative expression) to creatively rearrange human metaphors, symbols and human signal systems in such a way that the whole of their creative rearrangement provides a kind of miracle. Those creative expressions allow for finite people to hold and interact with transcendent reality.
Three, God directs the artistic specialist to lead the congregation into the activities of worship. God directs the “human expression specialists” (artists) to lead the believing community into the “experience” of worship, both by creating the environments where that worship happens and by leading them into those experiences.
Here in this Exodus 35 passage, the craftsmen were leading the entire community into a worship way of life—by virtue of their work of forming the actual structure, equipment, and furniture of the Tabernacle, which then became the environment around which revolved the worship life of the community. The Tabernacle was to be in the middle of the camp, symbolizing that God Himself was dwelling with them in the middle of the life of the community. His presence would be visible with them (e.g., see Ex. 40:36-38—the Tabernacle, the Ark, the Cloud by day and the Fire by night).
These “expressions” were far more than entertainment, far more than a novelty, far more than just pretty things. These expressions, and the activities the Israelis were later to “practice,” were environments in which their hearts would be shaped—through the Tabernacle worship practices—toward God. Their Tabernacle-centered living comprised the spiritual disciplines (liturgies) that God used to train Israel and the rest of the world to understand Himself and the ways He requires (or desires) of all peoples to relate to Him.
Later, one sees the Levitical musicians and other specialists leading the congregation 1) in regular worship (Asaph and his associates before the Ark “. . . regularly, according to each day’s requirements . . .” 1 Chron 16:37ff), 2); in celebration (e.g. bring the Ark to Jerusalem, properly in line with God’s directives, 1 Ch 15:19ff); and, 3) in worship-related ministry assignments (e.g. the Battle of Jericho, Josh 6:3ff).