A very interesting concept is introduced into today’s readings, and it’s a concept often overlooked in many circles. We meet Bezalel and Oholiab, and these are unlike any other characters we normally study in Sunday School. They are artists. They create stuff that has no practical use, other than to look beautiful. In this respect, they replicate, on a microcosmic level, the creative act of God Himself, Who created and then admired it, proclaiming it “good.” Note that God associates the concept of being “Spirit-filled” with intelligence and artistic creativity (31.1-11, 35.31). We Pentecostals love to speak of being “filled with the Spirit,” and often we are inconsistent on how that is manifest. Many neo-Pentecostals and charismatics believe that being filled with the Spirit is a work of sanctification in one’s life. We classical Pentecostals believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is evidenced by speaking in tongues, and is for evangelistic service. We often speak of being “filled with the Spirit” synonymously, which is sloppy theology. I want you to notice that God associates being “Spirit-filled” with two human qualities that we routinely marginalize in our movement as unimportant: intelligence and artistic creativity. The abilities to artistically create and to process knowledge to arrive at conclusions are God-given. Moreover, you might well notice the level of detail in the creation of these artifacts that the Lord mandates: they are of no practical use whatsoever, but He is quite specific when He describes details, colors, dimensions, etc. He is a God of excellence in craftsmanship, as well as creativity. This goes back to the first two chapters of Genesis, in which we find two different accounts of the same creation. In the first chapter, God is the Creator—the Artist. The Hebrew בָּרָא is used to denote this. The second chapter pictures God as a craftsman—more like a trim carpenter than an artist—and consumed with excellence. This is denoted by the Hebrew עָשָׂה. We see both of these elements of God’s attributes in the construction of the tabernacle. Elsewhere in the readings, we also see that a good shepherd has a burden for his own people (32.11), while a bad one makes excuses for his own weaknesses (32.24). We also note that prioritizing right worship is associated with victory in all aspects of life (34.24). But the overwhelming sense from these chapters is that God loves art, and is the Father of excellence.
If God is the Father of excellence, the devil is the origin of mediocrity. It has always been thus: God creates—and Satan twists and perverts that creation in some sense. Because of this truth, Christians should value excellence, and should pursue excellence. Reading of all the men and women using their skills in pursuit of excellence as a form of ongoing worship (35.29) should be inspiring to us. These men and women put their skills to work for the purpose of worship: they prioritized “right worship” ahead of their own individual pursuits, and then devoted their very best efforts to produce something excellent and beautiful. Compare that with the prevailing attitudes in our movement today.
We MIGHT go to church; it depends on how we feel when we wake up that morning. It depends on whatever else we have prioritized as “important” in our lives, relative to “church.” When we get there, we are as likely to show up empty-handed as we are to stay home. The concept of giving God what is His (after all, He calls it “My sacrifice” in 34.25) seems distasteful to Americans, who don’t want to think of “money” when they are thinking of “worship.” Though we have skills and abilities that were given to us by God, we assume that those are for our “jobs.” We have those skills so that we may support our families, or so our assumptions go. If we have something left over, we’ll grudgingly give that to God—but not in the same sense of excellence that we would give our work. After all, we could get FIRED at work if we are not on time, dressed appropriately, behaving professionally, and producing excellently. THAT’S the place for our excellence and loyalty—our paying jobs. Church is the place for our mediocre efforts, if we do anything at all. This is the American ecclesiology, and it should come as no surprise that we are in sharp decline as an influence in this culture. We don’t truly see “right worship” as a priority, and we are comfortable giving God mediocrity—if anything at all. He is not a very big God, after all, to the American evangelical. Why would any of our “lost” friends be inspired to worship Him?
The above paragraph stands in stark contrast to the way that God instructed His people. He was the Provider of their income, so they prioritized HIM over their occupations—which were seen as a means of providing for the ministry of worship. They gave God their very best—whether it was a freewill offering, the tithe, or making finely detailed things as God gave command. They appreciated excellence, and they loved beauty. God’s truth was never distinct from His beauty, and the ability to learn, know and communicate was valued. They were truly a people governed by God, and as such they couldn’t WAIT to get to the tabernacle and worship and serve Him.
When we lost sight of God’s transcendence (His “other-ness”), we made Him our Buddy. And when we did that, we lost all reason to worship Him.
Where are you in this rubric? Is God “God” enough for you to give Him your best? Do you do that with consistency, passion, and creativity? Or does He get what is left over after you have earned the money that was His to give you in the first place? If you want to see God cast out the sinful “nations” in your life—the enemies of sin that He is driving out, bit by bit—you should begin prioritizing “right worship.” Go back and re-read 34.24. You don’t have God’s victory without truly being God’s. Maybe it’s time for us to return God to His mighty throne, rather than the “buddy” car seat next to us.