The Work of Our Hands

It Was Good Making Art to the Glory of God

The Work of our Hands

When we call something creative, what do we mean? Webster’s definition of the word “create” means to make or produce (something) : to cause (something new) to exist or to produce (something new, such as a work of art) by using your talents and imagination. While we use the word creativity to describe many different aspects of using our imagination and our hands, “the Bible only speaks of God creating, never people” (Bustard 128). This is not to say there were no artists in the Bible. On the contrary art has always played a vital role in the way God’s people have expressed their relationship with their Creator. God’s gifting of craftsmen to design the tabernacle is a prominent example of this:

Now Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skillful person in whom the LORD has put skill and understanding to know how to perform all the work in the construction of the sanctuary, shall perform in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.     Exodus 36:1

It Was Good explains how the Hebrew words “skill and understanding” used in this passage are translated as “wisdom, ability, intelligence and insight” (Bustard, 127). These are the characteristics needed in artists. So often it seems in our culture that the arts are not regarded as highly as they used to be. Wisdom is not the first thing that comes to mind when many people think about art. While people in careers centered around mathematics, science and medicine are looked on with favor and prestige, art is often looked down upon or dismissed as mere decorations. Although our culture is saturated by art, there is many times a disconnect from people understanding the artist and the artist’s process. The same is true for graphic design. Unless you sit down and walk your client through your design process showing them stages of your sketching and planning, they will never fully understand or appreciate the time you put into it. There is a disconnect from understanding the craft and the craftsmen.

It Was Good describes craftsmanship in this way, “Craftsmanship is the skilled manipulation of materials in object making. The best craftsmen, artisans and artists have the ability to “transfigure matter,” transforming it though hard work to reveal beauty and occasional magnificence” (Bustard 127). This definition really intrigues me and gives me a fresh perspective of how I view art. Every time I produce a work of art I get to engage in “transfigure[ing] matter.” Transfigure means a change in form or appearance. I am taking a specific medium or “matter” such as paint and changing it into a form or appearance. The best craftsmen “reflect the maker’s respect for himself, the materials of creation, as well as a high regard for the user or viewer”  (Bustard 127). As the artist applies their wisdom in transfiguring matter into a different appearance they must consider what the art is saying to themselves and also what they hope to say to those who will see their work. Although these questions may be subconscious while the process is taking place, they are still very much relevant to the work of art as a whole. Another characteristic of a skilled craftsmen is “the design inherent in it, is also “just right,” specific, and “deliberate” (Bustard 129). While we may take this idea of being specific or deliberate for granted all we need to do is look at God’s creation to see where we get it from. There is order and specificity everywhere we look in nature. We want our art to have order, purpose and meaning because we want our lives to have order, purpose and meaning. The greatness of God’s universe and specific detail of our world down to the smallest subatomic particle in an atom is designed with wisdom and significance. We strive to make art and define meaning by bringing order out of chaos just as God brought meaning when he spoke into the darkness and created the light.

To understand the wisdom and the responsibility that craftsmen bear, it is good to delve more into studying the building of the tabernacle. The intricate detailed instructions that God gives the builders in constructing the tabernacle itself and the furnishings within is worth exploring. Here is a fascinating drawing  that displays the tabernacle and gives you a picture of the grandness of the structure in the midst of the wilderness. sepia

This website explains more about the furnishings, decorations and tools used in the tabernacle.

Check out these amazing sculptures of the ark of the covenant at St. Anne of the Sunset Catholic Church (in San Francisco), at this site:

52 West door Ark of the Covenant

(St. Anne Sunset Catholic Church)

Escorting the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem-(illustration-late-19th-century)

Here is a sketch I did of this artwork:

ark of the covenant sketch1


Bustard, Ned. It Was Good Making Art to the Glory of God Second Edition 2006. Square Halo Books: 2006. Print.


One thought on “The Work of Our Hands

  1. I like that you did your own image of the arc painting, very fun. Moreover I like your thoughtful comments regarding wisdom. Wisdom is different than smart in that there is an element of discernment that needs to happen, and I do think a good artist navigates those waters well. I also liked your comments on transforming matter – that is was artists do right? Otherwise or work is just a lump of clay or a bunch of pigments on a piece of fabric. And with both of those concepts – craftsmanship has to play a part. The only suggestion I would have for you is that you link what you wrote a bit more to the images of the tabernacle and arc- I see the connection you are making, but just tie them in a bit at the end there before your show the images. Nice read!

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