************ Sermon on Exodus 35:30-36:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 18, 2015
"Bezalel and Oholiab"
Grade school. I was always disappointed when I woke up Friday morning and found myself healthy. You see, I hated Friday afternoons – that's when we had art. To say I was lousy at art is an understatement. My stick men didn't look like stick men. My clay figurines were a joke. Even calligraphy – or fancy writing – was beyond me. It did not help that beside me sat a boy who, with a few flicks of a pencil or crayon on a blank piece of paper, could make a Mallard Duck or a Canada Goose appear in all their glory. I sat there incredulous. The teacher took pity on me and allowed me to make stained glass windows with paper and tape and scissors and colored plastic sheets. Finally, something I could do.
In my last year of Calvin College I discovered I needed some kind of art course before I could get my B.A. diploma. "I'm in trouble," I thought to myself. "Whatever am I going to do?" I poured through the college catalogue of courses – a couple of times. Much to my relief there was a course in Interpretive Reading that fulfilled the art requirement. Imagine my dismay when I found the class was full; no more students were being accepted. I went to see the professor. "Please," I told him. "I need an art course to graduate. You wouldn't want to keep me from getting my degree, would you?" He was gracious enough to let me in.
Of course I met and married an artist type. Like the boy next to me at grade school she can draw the most amazing things. Her pictures adorn my house and office. She plays organ and piano and directs the choir. She turns her flower garden into a work of art and makes beautiful flower arrangements. She decorates the house and arranges the furniture. I can only believe the Lord brought her into my life to make up for what I was lacking.
I have since come to realize that creativity is more than the ability to draw, paint, write poetry, sing, or conduct a choir. Creativity is also needed in worship, liturgy, sermons, speeches, and teaching. Creativity is needed in the discipline of children, in the clothing we wear, in the meals we prepare, in the games we play, in the letters we write, and in stretching the dollars in our checkbook.
I Bezalel and Oholiab
A In our Scripture reading we see that the gift of creativity and how it was used to make a place of worship; a place where the children of Israel could gather together and worship God; to worship Him Who was their Creator, Savior, and Provider; to worship Him Who was their Leader and Guide as they made their was across the wilderness and to the Promised Land. Listen to what the Bible says about Bezalel and Oholiab:
(Ex 35:31,35) and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts ... (35) 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.
Do you hear what the Spirit of God did in the lives of these two men? The Spirit of God – which of course is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that was poured out on Pentecost, the gift of Christ to the church, the gift of the Ascended Lord to His people, in a pre-appearance, gifted Bezalel and Oholiab. The Bible makes plain that they were filled with the Spirit of God and that their gifts came from the Spirit of God. That's the key: it is a gift from God and His Spirit. In other words, it was unearned. God didn't have to give those gifts to Bezalel and Oholiab. They didn't deserve to get those gifts. But He gave them the gifts anyway. Why? So that God Himself would ultimately be praised and honored and glorified and worshiped. These men were gifted by God and His spirit. This means that praise goes first not to Bezalel and Oholiab but to the God Who gave them their creative gifts. This further means that in using their gifts Bezalel and Oholiab should seek to glorify God and not themselves.
Remember, the gift comes from God and His Spirit. This means the gift of creativity is a manifestation of the Spirit in the lives of Bezalel and Oholiab (cf 1 Cor 12:7). The presence of the gift in their life shows that the Spirit was living within them and was at work in them. The gift was a sign that they were Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. To use a New Testament phrase, the gift is a sign that they were born-again by the Spirit of God, new creatures in Christ..
The gift of creativity was given to Bezalel and Oholiab "for the common good," as Paul puts it in 1 Cor 12:7. Their gift was meant to benefit the whole body. The gift was given so they could build a place where the children of Israel could answer God's call to worship Him, to offer sacrifices to Him, to offer sin offering and thanks offerings. It was meant for the common good so Bezalel and Oholiab were able to minister to the people of God. It was given so they could build up, encourage, and strengthen others through creative means. It was an early gift of Christ by means of His Spirit.
B Today, people tend to specialize in one craft: whether it is painting, printing, woodworking, sculpting, making pottery, sewing, and so on. No such specialization with Bezalel and Oholiab. Theirs was a wide range of skill, ability, and knowledge. As we find in our Scripture passage,
(Ex 35:31-33,35) and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-- (32) [AND THEN SOME OF THEM ARE MENTIONED; NOT ALL OF THEM] to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, (33) to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship ... (35) 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.A wide range of skills and abilities and knowledge. All of them meant for the common good. All of them meant to build up the children of Israel. To end up ultimately to bring honor, praise, and glory to God.
We look ahead in Exodus and Moses inspecting everything made by Bezalel and Oholiab. What were Bezalel and Oholiab able to do with their gift of creative ability? Listen as I read the remarkable list:
the tent and all its furnishings; the coverings; the ark; the table with all its articles; the pure gold lampstand; the gold altar, the anointing oil, the fragrant incense, and the curtain for the entrance to the tent; the bronze altar with its bronze grating, its poles and all its utensils; the basin with its stand; the curtains of the courtyard; all the furnishings for the tabernacle; and the woven garments worn by the priests (Ex 39:33-41).Isn't that amazing? There was wood, there was cloth, there was gold, there was silver, there was bronze. There was special curtains around the Holy of Holies. There was all of this woodwork. There was all those figurines, remember, woven into the curtain. Remember all the seraphim and cherubim woven into the curtains – hundreds and thousands of them? All of this done by Bezalel and Oholiab.
Then we go further in Scripture. God poured out the same gifts again when the temple was built by King Solomon and when it was dedicated. The gift of creative ability was needed to make many of the same things – except now they were bigger and even more elaborate.
II David, Levites, and Jesus
A So far we have looked at Bezalel and Oholiab. But they were not the only ones blessed with the gift of creative ability. Listen, again, to Exodus 36:1 and what it says:
(Ex 36:1) So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.In other words, Bezalel and Oholiab were not the only skilled persons used by the Lord for the common good to build up the church and the kingdom. That creative ability was not confined just to Bezalel and Oholiab. Even in the building of the tabernacle other skilled persons were involved says Exodus 36:1.
B When we look at the psalms and the writings we see that the gift of creative ability was used not only in the place of worship but also at the time of worship. King David, for instance, is designated as "Israel's singer of songs" (2 Sam 23:1). A look through the Psalms tells us that David must have composed hundreds if not thousands of songs for use in worship. We know the Spirit also used this gift of David's to soothe the troubled soul of King Saul (1 Sam 16).
C When King David brought the ark of the covenant to Gibeon, he left priests there to present burnt offerings. But he also chose others to give thanks to the LORD. Says Scripture:
(1 Chr 16:41-42) With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the LORD, "for his love endures forever." (42) Heman and Jeduthun were responsible for the sounding of the trumpets and cymbals and for the playing of the other instruments for sacred song.From this it appears that some Levites and priests were gifted musicians. It was job to lead God's people in praise and worship. They functioned as the choir directors of God's people. To lead God's people in praise and worship with their instruments. These men and certain designated singers led the people in giving praise and thanks to the LORD when the ark was finally brought to the temple.
(2 Chr 5:12-13) All the Levites who were musicians--Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives--stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. (13) The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: "He is good; his love endures forever."Notice, creative ability was given by God, by the Spirit of God, that is the Spirit of Christ, first of all to build the tabernacle, to build the temple and to also be used in the worship that happens in those places.
D Have you ever thought of Jesus as having the gift of creative ability? Jesus showed His creativity at the beginning of history. At that time He made out of nothing everything in the universe: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him (Col 1:16). He is the original creator.
He also showed great creativity in His teaching while on this earth because He taught with stories.
What happens today when a teacher says, "Once upon a time ..." At the sound of these words, a hush blankets a room, and all attention is focused on the storyteller.
Why do we love stories? Not only do we often relate to the characters or the plot, but stories spark the imagination. We see ourselves in the shoes of a Daniel or a David. We put ourselves in the shoes of the hero, the victim, or even the villain. When we do that, we enter another dimension of life. Good stories reach both the hearts and minds of listeners.
Jesus was extraordinary in His teaching ability. He didn't say, "Once upon a time ..." But He did something like that. He spoke in parables.
(Mt 13:3) Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed ..."Something everyone could relate to. Or He talked about a widow who lost a coin. Or He talked about a father who lost two sons. Or he talked about a shepherd looking for lost sheep. He was extraordinary in His teaching. He grabbed the minds, the hearts, the imagination of His audience.
You know we have God's Word in black and white and it tells us about God. But we also need to use our imagination. So we turn to Revelation and see the visions of heaven. And in our mind we have to see the Lamb, seated on the throne, with the four living creatures and the 24 elders, and the thousands of angels, and the sea of glass and every creature in heaven and on earth praising Him. And all of them bringing praise and thanks and hallelujahs. And we need to use our imagination to see Jesus on the cross, suffering and dying and crying out "My God, my God, what have you forsaken me?" In our imagination we need to see the angel rolling back the stone so we can see that the tomb is empty and He has risen as He said. In His parables Jesus appeals powerfully to our imaginations.
III In the Church Today
A Too often those in the Reformed tradition love to say what cannot be done in worship. So, for instance, we like to talk about the regulative principle in worship. There is a place for this principle. But it is not the only thing God says about worship. As I said last time, there is also a place for beauty in worship. And there is a place for the gift of creative ability.
As we look at our Bible reading this evening we see that God delights in giving His servants gifts to be used in His worship. These gifts were given not only for tabernacle and temple worship but also for worship today.
Try to imagine our worship today without the gift of music. Imagine me telling our musicians to stay in the pew. Our worship would be infinitely poorer without musicians: choir; soloists; organ, piano, keyboard, flute, trumpet, and guitar players. I mentioned last time the beautiful decorations at Thanksgiving and Christmas; you need creative ability to do this. Sermons, children's messages, and orders of worship require creative ability. Church School teachers need creative ability in order to get the lesson across. In a previous church I served I had a girl who was a talented poet. More than once I would ask her to write and recite a poem for a special service or time. And, in the 25 year history of our church Rich Voortman was always quick with making a poem to fit the occasion. Try to imagine how boring both our bulletin and Trinity Post newsletter would be without clipart and other uses of creativity.
Take a look at this week's bulletin. Creativity is needed by those who provide pulpit flowers. Creativity is needed by the students at Hanford Christian performing the musical about Daniel. Creativity is needed by the students performing in the Dordt College Band. Creativity is needed for the 35th Anniversary Celebration of CVC; we see a concert, we see details about a book on the Story of CVC.
B Because every human is created in the image of God, every person is creative. Do you think of yourself as a creative person? You are – whether you realize it or not. And, you must use your God-given creativity to enhance your relationship with God and Christ. Faith, prayer, and worship become vibrantly alive when your imagination and creativity are used according to God's design. A little creativity added to some of the more boring parts of life can transform them into that which is exciting and productive.
C I want to mention here parents' responsibility towards their children. Kids are naturally creative. And children have a delightfully unbridled approach to praising God. Unfortunately, schools and churches and adults try to kill and stifle this creative impulse. Parents, creativity should be encouraged in children. Love and praise your children's creative moments. Encourage make-believe play. Value their creations and hang them in a prominent place – like the front of the fridge, for instance. Expose them to good books and limit TV watching. Take time with your children to watch birds, rain drops, people, flowers, and animals. Encourage them to ask questions. Use all of this to point them to God and to point them to Christ and to encourage their walk with the Lord.
D We also must strive to channel creativity in the right direction. I am sure you heard of how the National Endowment of the Arts sponsored an artist who splashed urine and blood on a canvass. This might be creativity, but it certainly is not a kind the Christian can applaud. At a recent meeting I heard that many kids today are sketching Satanic figures and symbols and all sorts of gruesome faces. That too is creativity going in the wrong direction.
We always need to ask: does it glorify or degrade God? does it celebrate or desecrate God's creation? does my spirit feel refreshed or grieved by it? is it beautiful and at the same time holy?
We need creativity in our marriage, in discipline, in worship, in family devotions. We need it in the church, the kingdom, the community.
I especially thank God for the gift of creative ability in worship. It enhances our praise of the Lord Jesus Christ. It enhances our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul puts it,
(Rom 11:36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
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