Exodus 35:30-36:1; 37:1-9
The Beauty of Holiness
Today’s passage of Scripture might leave some yawning. Indeed, as you have noticed, we have skipped much of the passages which dealt with various laws concerning priests’ garments, the tabernacle, the lampstand, etc. But we must recognize that every word of Scripture is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), and all of it is for our edification.
It should not surprise us that, since worship is the most important thing God’s people do, God’s word should include much instruction about worship. And much of this instruction concerns, uh, … well, furniture and sights and things. Here, we read that God especially gifted Bezalel and Oholiab as craftsmen with skill in carving and cutting stones, in short, artistic design. And they were to use this skill in beautifying God’s sanctuary.
This tells me that God cares about beauty. Indeed, God is beautiful. We tend to think that God is good and true. But He is also beauty itself. And for those who would say, “Well, that was under the old covenant,” I refer them to the Book of Revelation where heavenly scenes are filled with rainbows, crowns, altars, censors, flames, thrones, and so much more. God cares about such things because He created them. God made His creation to be used, and nothing in creation can be used to a higher good than when it is used in the service of the worship of its Creator. And as our Lord assumed a body when he came to earth, and as he walked among the things of this world and was perfectly comfortable among them as their creator, and as one day even the earth itself shall be redeemed and restored (Romans 8:18-23), our Lord has sanctified all created things, and all things may be sacramental, that is, a means whereby God communicates His grace to us.
So, sanctuaries (holy places) should be adorned with beautiful things that enhance our worship of God. I do not say that people can’t worship in a shack or in an open field. But I do say that it appears both in Scripture and history that God has so created us that at some point, we construct a building, we set apart a place for worship, we adorn it with beautiful things (e.g., crosses, banners), at least as beautiful as we can afford, and we even set these things apart for special, that is, holy uses (e.g., baptisteries, altars, communion tables). We are creations ourselves, and it’s hard for us to worship God without the aid of other created things. And that’s okay. May God give us more Bezalels and Oholiabs to adorn our sanctuaries, especially in a day that exalts function and practicality over sacrament and beauty.