The Lord gives different gifts to different people, but he bypassed me in the art department. Give me a paintbrush and I can paint a wall, but not a portrait. I can draw stick figures, but not recognizable faces. No one ever has mistaken me for an art history expert, but I know what moves me when I see it.
During a recent visit to Rome my wife Candy and I viewed the paintings Michelangelo created on the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel. In St. Peter’s Basilica we gazed in wonder at the Pieta (“the Pity”), the famous marble sculpture that depicts Mary looking down tenderly while she holds Jesus’ body after he died on the cross. Michelangelo sculpted this masterpiece when he was only 23 years old, and it’s the only piece of art to which he ever signed his name.
Another striking work of art we saw in Rome was a tapestry created by Flemish weavers in the 1500s. This colorful woven fabric depicting Jesus’ resurrection hangs on the wall of a large hallway in the Vatican Museum. The tour guide explained, “As you walk past the tapestry, you will notice that as Jesus steps out of the tomb, he never stops looking at you.” I found it to be true. No matter where I stood in relation to the tapestry, Jesus’ eyes seemed to peer right at me. It’s an artistic technique known as “moving (or changing) perspective,” used in paintings like the Mona Lisa. I cannot fathom how an artist could accomplish this result with paint, let alone the skill it takes to create such an effect by stitching together pieces of thread.
History’s great artists have displayed amazing skills, but God’s artistry impresses me far more. A Christian friend who is a skillful artist says he simply “plagiarizes God” when he paints, using colors, shapes, and concepts the Creator has placed in nature for our wonder and enjoyment.
Solomon prayed, “Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth” (2 Chronicles 6:14). God is unmatchable, unsurpassable, unfathomable.
Using their God-given abilities, human engineers, architects, inventors, and artists design impressive buildings, compose beautiful music, discover new forms of technology, and create great works of art, but in the final analysis they all just plagiarize God. He deserves the highest glory and praise. Job asked a lot of questions, but after the Lord took him on a mind-boggling excursion to ponder galaxies in outer space, mineral deposits underground, animals in the wild, and other marvels of creation, Job humbled himself before the Lord’s challenging question, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” (Job 38:4).
The temple in Jerusalem was the religious, political, and aesthetic centerpiece of Jewish life. People were proud of it. Jesus’ disciples called his attention to the impressive buildings there (Matthew 24:1, 2), but Christ himself wasn’t overly impressed. Mark’s Gospel states that after the triumphal entry “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything” (Mark 11:11).
That’s what the Lord does. He looks around at everything, never missing a single detail. Those discerning eyes never blink. Whatever we do, wherever we go, the Master Designer is at work, weaving a tapestry no human artist can match.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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