INTRODUCTION: Today is the last message in our series called, “God’s Good Creation.” The first week we looked at Genesis 1 and saw that God created all things good. The second week we looked at Psalm 8 and saw that God placed us in charge of his creation. Last week we looked at Psalm 19 and knowing God through his creation. Today we close out the series by looking at God’s good gift of creativity.
Our text in Exodus this morning takes place immediately after the giving of the Ten Commandments. Moses has ascended to the top of Mount Sinai where God has just given him detailed instructions concerning the tabernacle. And now in chapter 31 God tells Moses how the building of the tabernacle is to be accomplished.
Exodus 31:1-6 -Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts — to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.”
So what is creativity and where does it come from? When God created the world, he created man and woman in his own image. He told them to be fruitful and multiply and to rule over all that he had created. As part of that rule God had Adam name the animals. This was one of the first recorded creative acts of man. He also placed Adam and Eve in the garden and gave them work to do. That work involved thinking, planning and decision making, all of which are aspects of the creative process.
After the fall we find that mankind’s creativity continued, although it was now stained by sin. In the early chapters of Genesis we see the rise of agriculture, the building of cities, the forging of tools and even the beginning of music. We read in Genesis 4:21 that “Jubal … was the father of all who play the harp and flute.” In short, we find the beginnings of human culture, as man began to put into practice the creative gifts that God had given him to fulfill his task of ruling over creation.
And so God, the creator, is the source of all creativity. And in creating man in his own image, he gave man gifts of creativity also.
Our text this morning has to do with a very practical matter. God is telling Moses who will be in charge of building the tabernacle. But the text also contains four very important principles for us as we consider Gods good gift of creativity.
I. God chooses to whom he gives gifts. (1-2)
The first thing we learn from our text this morning is that God chooses to whom he gives gifts. Look at verses 1-2: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.’” The word translated “chosen” in this verse is a word that means “called or commissioned.” You have heard of people commissioning art work to be done before. Well, here God commissions Bezalel son of Uri for the work of overseeing the building of the tabernacle. God had gifted Bezalel for this task. God chooses to whom he gives gifts.
We find this principle throughout Scripture. It is true of spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul lists a number of the gifts and then he says, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) Hebrews 2:4 also speaks of “gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
But spiritual gifts are only one example of this. God is the giver of all gifts, and he chooses which gifts to give to whom. God did not create everyone the same. To some he gives artistic ability, to others musical ability, to others the ability to make things with their hands. God in his wisdom gave you exactly the creative gifts that he wanted you to have. Your gifts are part of who you are. They are part of the person that God created you to be. And so we should receive those gifts with thanksgiving and use them to the best of our ability.
Some people don’t like the gifts that they have. They would rather trade them in for someone else’s gifts. But that displays a lack of faith in God. We read in Isaiah 45: “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’” (Isaiah 45:9) But isn’t that exactly what we are doing when we question the gifts that God has given us? Are we not saying, “God, why did you make me this way? God, why did you give me this set of gifts? Why didn’t you give me those gifts instead?” God chooses to whom he gives gifts, and so we should not disparage our own gifts from God, nor should we envy the gifts of others.
II. God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship. (3)
The second thing we learn from our text this morning is that God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship. Look at Exodus 31 again: “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.” (Exodus 31:2-3)
I find it interesting that God says, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God to do all these things.” Throughout Scripture we continually find God’s Spirit involved in creative acts. When God first created the world, we read in Genesis 1:2 that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” When God created man, we read in Genesis 2:7: “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” That word “breathed” calls to mind God’s spirit. What is the breath of God if not the Spirit of God? When you become a Christian, you become a new creation in Christ. How? Jesus said you are born again, which he also called being “born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) He was referring back to Ezekiel 36 where God said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27) The Holy Spirit is part of all of God’s creative acts, and so it should not surprise us that God also gives us our creative gifts through the Holy Spirit.
Apparently this man, Bezalel, was a master craftsman. He was filled with the Spirit of God in knowledge, skill and ability to do the work of building the tabernacle. God had clearly chosen Bezalel for this task long before he revealed it to Moses. Moses didn’t just walk down the mountain and find that Bezalel could suddenly do all these things. God doesn’t work that way. God had been preparing Bezalel all along. And Bezalel would have had to work hard to develop those gifts as well. Still, God had chosen him for this task, and with that in mind, he had “filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”
Now we are not all going to be like a Bezalel. It seems that Bezalel was an extraordinarily gifted man. You and I will probably not attain to the same level of skill and mastery that Bezalel obviously had. And that’s okay. God not only chooses to whom he gives gifts; he also chooses how much of any gift he gives to each person. But the point is this. Whatever knowledge, skill and ability you have comes from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” (James 1:17) Paul asked the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) God is the giver of all good gifts, and so we should never take a wrongful pride in the talents and gifts that he has given us.
I taught guitar and piano for many years, and one thing I learned quickly was that there were some people who had a special aptitude for music that others just did not. For some people rhythm and timing came naturally, whereas for others they just never seemed to get it. Some people take to an instrument or an activity in a special way. They have a certain facility for writing or drawing or electronics or computers where it just comes easy for them. We often call them “naturals” but there is nothing natural about it. God gives us those abilities. It is a gift from God.
Do you have knowledge in a certain area? Do you have special abilities? Do you have skills that you have been able to develop beyond what the average person can do in that area? God gave that to you. It comes from him. God gave you your creative abilities, and you need to honor him with the gifts he has given you. God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship.
III. God gives a wide variety of creative gifts. (4-5)
The third thing we learn from our text this morning is that God gives a wide variety of creative gifts. Going back to Exodus 31, look at verses 4-5. When God gifted Bezalel, he gave him knowledge, skill and ability “to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.” (Exodus 31:4-5)
Bezalel wasn’t just given one gift, say, the ability to work with gold. Bezalel was skilled in many mediums – gold, silver and bronze. He knew how to cut stones and place them in beautiful settings. He understood carpentry and how to work with wood. Apparently he knew much more, because verse five finally stops listing all his different skills and just says he was able to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.
God gave Bezalel a wide variety of gifts. And that was all just one person! Romans 12:6 says, “We [all] have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” God in his grace gives a wide variety of gifts to all people everywhere.
And so when we think of creative gifts, we should not limit ourselves to just thinking about the creative arts – painting, sculpture, writing, music, dance, design, photography, and so on. All of human endeavor involves creative gifts and abilities, from a simple setting of the table for dinner to the building of a vast cathedral.
Every person here today is a creative person. It’s true. Anytime you put part of yourself into a task or project you are being creative. Anytime you organize or decorate something you are being creative. Anytime you solve a problem you are being creative. Anytime you inject humor into a situation you are being creative. Anytime you apply the knowledge, ability and skill that God has given you to the task at hand, you are being creative.
So when you think about creativity, don’t just think about the arts! God gives a wide variety of creative gifts, and he has given creative gifts to you, too. And there is a reason God gave you the specific gifts that make you who you are.
IV. God’s gifts have a purpose. (6)
And that leads us to our fourth and final point this morning. God’s gifts have a purpose. Look at verse 6 where God expands the creative task for building the tabernacle beyond just Bezalel: “Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.” (Exodus 31:6)
Why did God give Bezalel and Oholiab and all the other craftsmen their specific skills? I am sure they used those skills for many other things as well, but God also had a specific purpose in mind for them. God had given them all the particular skills they needed in order to build the tabernacle, and not just to build it, but to build it according to God’s exact specifications, as God told Moses, “to make everything I have commanded you.”
God gives creative gifts for a purpose. Part of that purpose is simply for us to fulfill our role as human beings made in the image of God. Listen to what theologian Abraham Kuyper says about this:
“As image-bearer of God, man possesses the possibility both to create something beautiful and to delight in it. … The world of sounds, the world of forms, the world of tints, and the world of poetic ideas, can have no other source than God; and it is our privilege as bearers of his image, to have a perception of this beautiful world, artistically to reproduce, and humanly to enjoy it.” (Abraham Kuyper; Calvinism, pp. 142,156-157)
A strong, biblically-based creational theology encourages us as Christians to get involved in all areas of life. Too often we think of Christianity only in terms of the Bible, prayer, and church on Sunday mornings. But as important as all those things are, the Christian life is so much bigger than that. Christianity is all about being human to the glory of God. And so that means taking all that God has created in this world and all of human culture and creativity and then returning it to God in praise. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 4, “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:4) Otherwise, Christian faith becomes divorced from real life, and we lose our real influence as Christians in the world.
The best book I have ever read on this whole theme of Christian interaction with culture and creativity and the arts was written by the Dutch art history professor, H. R. Rookmaaker. The book is called, Art Needs No Justification. It is a thin little paperback, only 60 pages long, and for me it was life-changing. It opened my eyes to the incredible importance of the doctrine of creation for the church as a whole. Listen to some of his analysis of how Christianity began to lose its influence in society in the eighteenth century.
“The mainstream of Christianity turned to a kind of pietism in which the idea of the covenant, as preached in the books of Moses and throughout the whole of Scripture, was bypassed. The Old Testament was often neglected, and the meaning of the Christian life was narrowed to that of the devotional life alone. Too easily, large areas of human reality, such as philosophy, science, the arts, economics and politics were handed over to the world, as Christians concentrated mainly on pious activities.
“If the world’s system was a secularized one, missing true spirituality, the Christian’s attitude also became a reduced one, missing its foundation in reality, being uninterested in the created world. It sometimes became a ghostlike spirituality without a body. Christians have indeed been active. But they have often optimistically believed that it was enough to preach the gospel and to help in a charitable way. In concentrating on saving souls they have forgotten that God is the God of life and that the Bible teaches people how to live, how to deal with our world, God’s creation. The result is that even though many people became Christians, nevertheless our world became totally secularized with almost no Christian influence.” (Rookmaaker; Art Needs No Justification, pp. 17-18)
The church lost its influence in the world, because it lost interest in the world that God created. How sad! As Christians we should not only be interested in Christianity. We should be interested in everything! C.S. Lewis once wrote:
“I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more good by that than by any directly apologetic work. … What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects.” (Lewis; God in the Dock, ‘Christian Apologetics’)
I thought about that when I started up my blog. The tagline for my blog reads: “Thoughts on God and life from a Christian perspective.” That was very intentional. I could have limited my blog specifically to Christian topics and themes only, but I knew that would also have limited my audience. And so I chose to write about anything that interested me – books, music, movies, science, technology, politics, parenting, family life, and so on. And you know what has happened? All sorts of people visit the blog. Somebody searching for information on a recent movie like “3:10 to Yuma” arrives at the blog, reads the post, then looks around and discovers other articles of interest. I don’t specifically mention God or Christ in every post, because I don’t have to. All of life belongs to God. Anyone who reads the blog will soon discover that I am a Christian because that is just part of who I am, and it comes out naturally in the blog as a whole. Isn’t that the way it should work in all areas of our lives?
Listen to H. R. Rookmaaker once again:
“Very often we have created barriers against hearing the gospel because we preached that we care for people and that this world is God’s but we did not act on those principles. Our lack of care showed that we were not really interested in people or in God’s creation. …
“We should remind ourselves that Christ did not come to make us Christians or to save our souls only but that he came to redeem us that we might be human in the full sense of that word. To be new people means that we can begin to act in our full, free, human capacity in all facets of our lives. Therefore to be a Christian means that one has humanity, the freedom to work in God’s creation and to use the talents God has given to each of us, to his glory and to the benefit of our neighbors. Therefore, if we have artistic talents, they should be used.” (Rookmaaker; Art Needs No Justification, pp. 19-20)
Beyond the general overall purpose of reflecting the image of God in society by exercising your creative gifts, God also has some specific purposes for the gifts he has given you. Going back to the tabernacle in Exodus 31, God had a very specific purpose for the creative gifts he gave to Bezalel and Oholiab. How about for New Testament believers today?
Ephesians 2:10 says that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Isn’t that awesome? Just as Bezalel and Oholiab produced quality workmanship for the tabernacle, you are the workmanship of Almighty God. And God has not only prepared specific works for you to do, but he also created you with the specific gifts necessary to do those good works. Make no mistake about it. God’s gifts have a purpose, and God has a purpose for the creative gifts he has given you.
CONCLUSION: In summary then: 1) God chooses to whom he gives gifts; 2) God gives knowledge, skill, ability and craftsmanship; 3) God gives a wide variety of creative gifts; and 4) God’s gifts have a purpose.
What should our response be to all this?
1) Thank God for the creative gifts he has given you. Do not put down your gifts. Do not envy the gifts of others. Do not boast in your gifts. Rather, thank God for the specific gifts he has given you, and do so with a spirit of humility and wonder.
2) Use and develop your creative gifts. Remember the parable of the talents? God does not want you to bury your gifts in the ground. If you have a sharp mind, develop it! If you have the ability to produce beautiful things with your hands, produce them! Work hard, and develop the gifts God has given you. The Bible says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Take the gifts that God has given you, develop them to the best of your ability, and then use them in loving service to God and others.
3) Engage all of life for God’s glory. Remember, “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:4) So if you are an artist, then yes, go ahead and paint scenes from the Bible, but also paint portraits and landscapes and snippets of life. If you are a musician, then yes, write praise songs to God, but also write love songs and fun songs and songs about all aspects of life. No matter where your gifts or interests lie, God can use you to bring him glory in this world.
Remember what we have learned in this series:
- God created all things good.
- God has put us in charge of his creation.
- We can know God through his creation.
- And so we should use our creative gifts to bring glory to God in all areas of life.
That is creational theology. That is our calling as Christians who have been redeemed from sin in this world by Jesus Christ. Are you ready to answer the call?
© Ray Fowler
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