Exodus 31:1-6. The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you…
The tabernacle was divinely planned but it was humanly constructed. God called Bezalel and Oholiab to skillfully devise artistic designs so as to make the tabernacle both wise and beautiful.
God filled these men with ability (wisdom) so that they might produce beauty. God the Holy Spirit came upon these men so that they would be skilled. That is, they would have ability, intelligence, and knowledge. These words cover the range from the mind to the heart to the hands. They had all that they needed to build God’s tent.
If wisdom and skill are the means, beauty is the end.
Not just any common tent. A beautiful tent. A tent born from craftsmanship with artistic designs. Heaven on Earth. The goal here is to create not just a functional tent for God, but a gorgeous tent for God. One that reflects his beauty and glory to the Hebrews and to the nations. One that reflects his beautiful gospel. One that reflects his beautiful Son.
Everything in life that is wise and beautiful is meant to point us to God and to Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God. Beauty never exists for its own sake. It exists to reveal the glory and majesty of the Trinity. God’s beauty is our final good. Our final truth. Our final hope. Seeing God in all his his beauty is what the gospel is all about. We are saved so we can see the unveiled God in all his splendor. And in so doing our hearts will be transformed forever by his radiance.
Above all else seeing God’s beauty should be our life’s pursuit.
Psalm 27:4. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
But where do we see God’s beauty?
True beauty, like the beauty of the tabernacle, reveals reality. The deeper realities of God and his salvation. The beauty of the ark of the covenant for example, reveals the truth and goodness of the holiness and mercy of God. The skillful and beautiful design of the tent, and the veil, and the table, and the lampstand each reveal the deeper realities of God’s salvation and re-creation. Therefore, it is in the gospel that we ultimately find God’s beauty.
This is important for us to understand – there is a beauty that goes deeper than the outer beauty that we see with our eyes. Outer beauty is meant to point to a deeper beauty, a deeper truth, a deeper goodness, a deeper reality. All beauty comes from wisdom. But ultimate beauty comes from a wisdom that is foolishness to the world. And ultimate beauty comes from what the world might call ugliness. The foolishness and ugliness of self-sacrifice.
Not all makeovers are beautiful. Sometimes the beauty was in the ugliness.
In his incarnation, Jesus came to be the tabernacle of God with men. But did he come in beauty and in wisdom? Of course this is a trick question isn’t it? From a purely earthly point of view Jesus came in ugliness and in foolishness. Isaiah 53 says that Jesus had no beauty that attracted us to him. His entire life seems foolish. Embracing the life of a servant? Only a fool would give up being first to become last.
And what about Jesus’ death? Isn’t this where the ugliness and the foolishness reach their climax? There is nothing more appalling in human history than a crucifixion. Nothing more grotesque. And nothing more foolish than to allow yourself to be crucified when you could have avoided it all along. And that’s only the physical reality. Beyond this there’s the ugliness and foolishness of the spiritual reality – the curse of Sin. Jesus became the most repulsive thing in the universe. He became the ugliness that repulsed his followers and his Father.
And yet this foolish ugliness is the wisest most beautiful act in all of time and space. The death of Christ is both disgusting and majestic. Grotesque and glorious. It is death and yet it is life. It is true beauty. It is true goodness and love and perfection.
And this is what we are in Christ. We are Bezalel. We are Oholiab. Ours are lives full of the wisdom of the Spirit. Ours are lives of wisdom toward the final goal of displaying God’s beauty. Lives meant to be lived in the knowledge of God for the glory of God. Lives of majesty. Lives of glory. Lives of goodness that point the world around us to our Father in heaven (Mat. 5:16), just like the tabernacle in the wilderness.
But let us never forget that the greatest wisdom and the greatest beauty is the cross of Jesus Christ. The Spirit that fills us with wisdom and beauty is the Spirit of the crucified Christ. The Spirit that is progressively conforming us to the crucifixion of Christ in all of its ugliness and foolishness. The “ugliness” of humility, the “foolishness” of unconditional love.
The resurrection turned Christ’s ugliness into beauty. His wounds are beautiful to us. So beautiful they are now eternal. But what about our wounds? What about our dying? What about our lives in this ugly world? Can they also be things of beauty? Can there be wisdom in our suffering? Glory in our shame?
“To live is Christ” is to be filled with the wisdom of God that allows our broken and spilled out lives to be a beautiful display of the glory of God. As we embrace the cross of our Savior, may we find in it the true goodness and beauty of our God.