We learn a lot about God's view of art from the first mention of it in Exodus 31. In this chapter, God is instructing Moses that he must build a tent for the Ark of the Covenant. God specifically chooses artisans whom He wants to beautify the tent with "artistic designs." God says to Moses, "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you" (Exodus 31:2–6). From this section of Exodus 31, we learn that God enjoys art and that our artistic abilities come from God. He is the source!
God is glorified by beauty. For example, we see this in 1 Kings 6 when Solomon is building a temple for God. The details given paint an image of artistry and skill. Solomon knew that God would be pleased by the beauty at the hands of His craftsman. Solomon also compares the beauty of a bride to "the work of an artist's hands" (Song of Solomon 7:1 NIV), which praises God for the art that He Himself creates. God's hands create beauty. Although the word "art" first appears in Exodus, we can see God being an artist in Genesis, when He designs everything in existence.
It is important to define what beauty is in terms of art, to distinguish if it glorifies God. Art that is created with the intent of causing others to stumble (lust, hatred, greed) cannot be called beautiful because it is not from God. Art that is created with the aim of horrifying or glorifying sin is not beautiful. It is still art, but not the art that comes from God. Art that does glorify God follows the same structure that we see in Exodus 31. This kind of art is creative, and is executed to the best of the creator's ability. The artist should be able to say, "God put it in my heart to make this."
Art that elicits sinful responses or draws an observer to sin does not come from God (Mark 9:42). God cannot contradict His nature and will not put that in an artist's heart. Isaiah 40:19 states that the craftsmen who created idols were highly skilled, but the idols were used to draw people from God's glory. Their art was not from God.
All art does not have to look like the Sistine Chapel or "The Pilgrim's Progress." In creating God-glorifying art, the artist's goal is to lift a person's heart toward God, to show them new ways that God is worthy of praise. Beauty comes from God, and the Bible states numerous times how God dwells in beauty and His holiness is beautiful (Psalm 29:2; 50:2; 1 Chronicles 16:29).
God's glory can be depicted in endless artistic ways. The pain and ugliness of this world will always inspire artists to transcend the world's pollution and create beauty that leads to God. Artists have a very special place in the kingdom of heaven. If a person can say, "God put it in my heart to make this," they are artists and should bring that beauty into the world, whatever it may be.
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