Meditations in Meaning & Values 18. Creativity
Ex 32:1-6 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:
We have been considering some of the things that make us human, some of the things that separate us from the animals. When we come to reflect upon creativity we find ourselves really treading on holy ground for what we see as artistic or creative expression is nothing like the instinctive senses that, say a bird has to form a beautiful nest. No, the puzzle about human creativity is why we do it when so often it has no value in sustaining us, it is not something to do with survival and often the end product may not be seen by the rest of the world.
It is interesting that the very first reference in the Bible to anyone being filled with the Spirit is in our verses above and is to enable them to be highly creative. Now there are clues earlier in the Bible about creativity: “His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.” Gen 4:21,22) Here we have reference to one early on who made music but to do that you have first to create instruments. But then there were those who worked in bronze and iron to make tools. In all these things there is a sense of creativity.
And so now we come to this important time in the life of Israel when the Lord instructs them to make a large tent, the Tabernacle, which is to become the place of meeting between God and Israel. Now there is nothing purely functional about this tent because consider the end product of the work of the two men mentioned and their team of workers: “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.”
So, note the content of these verses. First, God chooses this man, Bezalel. Second, He fills him with His Holy Spirit. Third, the reason for this is so that the creative power and wisdom of the Trinity (as a Creator God) will impart “skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts,” to do the work we just saw above.
Now when Moses reminds Israel about all this, he adds, “He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers–all of them master craftsmen and designers.” (Ex 35:35) and moreover “he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.” (Ex 35:34) These were the first art teachers, and the description of their work being taught in v.35 would fill the curriculum of an Art College. These verses in chapters 32 and 35 are rich with artistic creativity. God could have had them form a very basic and very plain tent, but He didn’t. He enabled these two men and the team that they trained up to create the most beautiful of objects.
I believe every single human being is made in the image of the Creator God that you and I worship. This is irrespective of whether or not they are a believer. They are a human being and therefore they are made in the image of God and reflect His creative flair. I suspect that many of us have this creativity knocked out of us. I was recently talking with an artist in middle age and she told me how as a child she had wanted to move in artistic ways but her mother wanted her to “have a proper job” and so it wasn’t until very recently that she allowed that creative nature to rise up within her again. Sadly this is the truth for many of us but fortunately there are sufficient numbers who do express their creative side that they remind us of this side of life.
I know a man who is a leading gemologist and works with precious stones. He also works with diamonds and gold and silver and platinum and sells beautiful jewelry. I know a girl who, in the past few years, has trained as a silversmith and now creates the most beautiful necklace pieces. It’s not just about money. What is it about us that thrills at the wonder of beauty in artistic things. My friend the jeweler once showed me different qualities of diamond rings and I stood there with my mouth open as he showed me rings that were more and more amazing.
I recently talked with an artist who said that if you are an artist, you just can’t help it coming out of you. I watch people in various art groups and marvel at the variety and wonder of their creations. They are not making them for money, but just for pleasure. How is that? My atheist friends say we only do things for evolutionary survival. These paintings, drawings, sculpted works of art contribute nothing to survival. I have a wife who knits, partly to provide clothes for the grandchildren, partly to raise money for charities but largely for pleasure.
I once asked a middle aged housewife, if you could put aside the past, put aside all financial considerations and put aside everything people have told you that you can’t do, what inner yearning is there in you, what would you like to create? She said very simply, I would like to write children’s books. Creativity! What is your creative hidden inner yearning? Don’t say nothing. It may be you have had it knocked out of you, but you are still made in the image of our Creator God. Dare you ask Him to reveal to you, that hidden inner desire? Is it to write, to compose, to knit, to crochet, to work in wood or stone or textiles or to paint or draw? What is there in you that the Lord wants to bring out to bless you and to bless His world with?