If you find a house on the corner of X Avenue and Y Way, take the key from under an aging potted plant. Insert it with a few careful jiggles to the left to ensure it opens cleanly. Enter the house and take in the various busts of famous artists and writers of time past. Ascend the wooden stairs on the right, but take care to walk on the left side on the fifth step to avoid the groaning creak that sends tingles up and down one’s spine. Take a few steps to the end of the hallway and turn right to come face-to-face with a plain door. Look for a doorknob that gleams from the hands that have polished it for years. Grasp it firmly, and then turn it ever so slightly.
The door swings in without a sound, and the whisper of a breeze drifts from the doorway to brush the back of a man much too busy to pay you any notice. His dark brown hair is unkempt, and his frame still save for his quivering hand and his squinting eyes. The paintbrush moves from point to point, connecting hues that previously did not seem to fit. The man works feverishly, blending colors to connect to the larger vision.
As you inch forwards, your eyes scan lower and lower on the canvas. Somehow, you edge too close and bump into the man’s hunched back. He flinches with a start and moves off his stool.
Before you lies a painted replica of the Mona Lisa. Behind the easel lies hundreds of small replicas. Your heart sinks as you look at the storefront’s simple name: Artistic Originals. He answers your questions, saying that he paints these to adorn the mantels of the masses. But what of the satisfaction of conceiving the spark of an idea and executing the project, you ask? None to speak of, he says. And so the unasked question lingers in the open air – who is the audience that motivates the man to create anything in the first place?
Is this man an artist? Is he worthy of receiving glory? Who receives the credit of the piece – this man or Leonardo da Vinci?
That God created all things beautiful and glorious is indeed marvelous. Genesis 1 makes it clear that all of creation was initiated and brought to fruition by the Lord and Creator of the universe.
Psalm 19 declares “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”
This means something for the blazing sunset that trails over the horizon with an entourage of clementine orange, soft lavenders, and penetrating navy. This means something for the waters that stampede off the cliff’s edge and crash onto the eroding bedrock, roiling and churning at the base before settling into perfectly still lakes. This means something for the peregrine falcon that streaks across the sky, agilely penetrating all obstacles to snag a darting rabbit in perfect time.
And it is this: to God, and to Him alone, be the honor and glory and praise due His name.
It is indeed a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). To think upon the sinfulness of man and the holy wrath of the Righteous One makes me tremble. It drives me to share the truth with those who will hear, that they may come to know the peace of knowing that they are not only reconciled, but adopted into the family of the Judge of the universe.
It is also an incredible privilege to behold a glimpse of the creativity, majesty, and beauty of the perfect One. O to be blessed to see, hear, touch, and smell the world that God has made! It drives me to draw near to Him and love His people as well as those who are created in His image – all peoples. What better way is there to love someone than to care for them in the eternal way? There is no answer that will satisfy other than living and speaking the gospel to the nations in joyful obedience to the Father.
When God created all things, He did not speak it into existence because He desired to hear us admire His handiwork. He did not make us because He needed creation to acknowledge His perfection. Rather, the creation of all things demonstrates His perfection in love, graciousness, power, and wisdom. It points us to Him. With wisdom the foundations of the world was created, and with love a sinful world is promised the defeat of death and the triumph of the Lord.
Artists typically make things for one of two (or simply both) reasons. One, they need a means to provide for themselves and create or imitate mass products. Two, they create the paintings and statues and whatever else may be for their own sakes.
And in some way, every human artist makes something for the approval of someone. Even if they compose a beautiful work, their craftsmanship must be appreciated by at least one other person so they can have a livelihood. They can find satisfaction in what they do, but that means little if paintings go unsold and the stomach growls.
This makes it so amazing that God created all things and works all things for the glory of His name. He does not need to hear our praises nor see our delight when we experience breathtaking sunsets and feel the power of winds whipping at everything in their path. Blinding lightning dazzles us and we ooh and ahh at the booming thunder – yet it is nothing new to the One who orchestrates all. He is complete and one in Himself. And yet, He is pleased to receive our praises as we recognize by His grace who He is! He delights to hear the prayer of those whom He has redeemed! He takes pleasure in answering prayer and carrying out His will in the lives and circumstances of everyone, for His glory and for the good of those who love Him in their hearts!
We do all things for the audience of One. He does all things for Himself, for He alone is worth of all praise! Hallelujah!
He is the Author of history and the Author and Perfector of faith (Hebrews 12:2). In Him there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17) and He is love (James 4:8) incomprehensible and divine. God could have given us a drab world with no color or wonder, and yet He chose to fill the universe with amazing intricacy that we cannot fully understand any one aspect!
His grace makes one be still and know that He is God (Psalm 4:4). His power and love move us to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). His kindness and tolerance and patience lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
This is not to discount what God enables people to accomplish. It is wonderful to witness the beautiful works that men have fashioned throughout the years. God created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and it was an act of grace that we are bestowed with diverse artistic talents. O, that we would not take pride in them, nor what the world thinks of them, but that we would do all things unto the glory of Him who gave us abilities to steward (Colossians 3:23-24)! When I see or hear something that makes me pause in wonder, I want to take time each time to thank Him for allowing the world to have such beauty.
And for that day when Christ will return and the world be made new and His kingdom established! As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle, “And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” An eternity awaits to be in the presence of the one and only God, and to rejoice and know Him without sin or blemish in us because of Christ!
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.