The Bible and the Vocation of the Artist

Last week I began sharing excerpts from a book that a friend loaned to me, The Gift of Art by Gene Edward Veith, Jr (1983). I am doing so because it is wonderful to find “kindred spirits” even if they are separated from me by 30 years, in his case, and by many miles, in your case. I’d like to continue this week with a summary of Chapter 2.

In Exodus 31:1-11 we find Moses telling the people of Israel that God has called a man by the name of Bezalel along with Ohaliab and others to carry out the work of constructing and beautifying the tabernacle. Not only had the Lord called these people, He had equipped them with the Spirit of God, ability, intelligence, knowledge, and all craftsmanship so that they might “devise artistic designs” and be inspired to teach.

First, from this passage Veith concludes that “art is within God’s will” (p 18). “The tabernacle, designed to glorify God and to instruct his people, was to involve ‘artistic designs.’ The worship of the true God was not to be out in the woods or on the ‘high places,’ as in the pagan nature religions, nor was it to be in a bare, unfurnished tent” (p 18).

Second, “The Scripture also points out that artistic ability is God’s gift. . . Artistic talent is not to be thought of as some innate human ability, nor as the accomplishment of an individual genius, but as a function of grace.” According to Calvin “every great human accomplishment in the arts or the sciences, even among nonbelievers, is a gift of the Holy Spirit” (p19).

Next Veith stresses that “Art is a vocation from God” (p 21). It is a calling as surely as one might receive for the ministry or mission work. Bezalel and Oholiab were called by name. Not only were they called, but they were gifted for the task at hand. The specific gifts that God, Himself, says that He has given to the artisans were the in-filling Holy Spirit, ability or talent, intelligence, knowledge, technical skill and the ability to teach. Next week I’ll describe each of these. I think you will find as much insight and encouragement as I have.

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