How Creatives Fulfill God’s Mandate
From Genesis 1:1 and on, one of the things a Bible-reader will notice is that God is creative. He structures and organizes things. He is active in the workings of the universe. He speaks. He does stuff. He creates.
He creates universes, galaxies, and solar systems. He also used prophets, kings, poets, and apostles to write down His Inspired Word through poetry, prose, and narrative. By His Divine mandate He created a unique system of worship for His People during the age of the Old Covenant. And looking even deeper, the grand narrative of Redemptive History is the most unique thing in the cosmos.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at the Scriptures.
The Ordering of the Universe
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”
What a novel idea. Before the universe existed, there was nothing but a watery chaos. Then God decides to create something so essential to the human experience. Something we take for granted.
Light. Stuff. Existence. None of which existed before God spoke it into being.
It’s kind of hard to describe, isn’t it? How do you get order from chaos? How do you get light from non-light? How do you get something from nothing? How can you even possibly postulate as to how to create fundamental laws of the universe? And if you keep on reading the Creation Account in Genesis 1 & 2, you’ll see the creative attributes of God on display even more through the structuring and ordering of the creation.
Later on, God gives a universal mandate to mankind.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the [creation]…’”
This exercising of dominion includes multiplying, building cities, and developing cultures and art. That was God’s plan in the beginning and, in the end when all of the people groups of the world are gather before the Throne, it will come to completion. Even in the New Creation, we will continue to exercise dominion over the creation as we serve our King.
The Worship Derived from the Divine Mandate
“Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded: the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen; the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle; the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests.”
This is one of the most important moments in the entirety of the Biblical narrative. God has miraculously rescued His People from brutal slavery by casting plagues on the Egyptians, parting a sea, sending food down from heaven, and making water come out of a rock. That’s pretty creative, if you ask me. But God doesn’t stop there.
Now that God has delivered and been gracious to His People, He is calling them to obey His Law. I could write another Medium story on how crazy it is that it’s not the other way around, but I digress.
God then commands His People to engage in creative worship. This mandate culminated in all sorts of creative acts of worship like David dancing in an ephod, the sacerdotal ministry of the Old Testament priesthood, Psalms that recounted Redemptive History and extolled the Majesty of God, and, above all, reverent worship through hearing the Word of God (See Nehemiah 8). All of this was done by skilled craftsmen, priests, and poets. And while the Old Testament regulations for worship have been abrogated, the command for God’s people to creatively worship in Spirit and Truth still stands.
This has massive implications for the way the Church structures its worship time. I won’t get into here, but I will say that, in my opinion, most churches today put on a concert rather than letting their congregation worship God through a variety of creative media. Songs are great, but we also need to worship through poetry, dance, visual arts, film, intellectually engaging liturgy, responsive readings, ceremonial reading of the Scriptures, and, most importantly, the Word of God being prophetically proclaimed and preached in power to the People of God.
And please don’t get me started on how you can barely hear the people of God sing in church anymore because the lights are low and the volume is cranked up. That’s not a dig against a particular worship style (though churches that completely throw out theologically sound hymns of the faith are foolish), but just an observation from a guy who only sang out of a hymnal AND now attends a church that has a more blended feel for both traditional hymns and new worship songs. The Church needs both Elevation Worship and Martin Luther. It needs structure and expressive freedom. It needs solemnity and accessibility and welcome to outsiders.
Enough of that. Let’s get to the good stuff now.
The Climax of Redemptive History
The ultimate culmination of God’s Creativity comes through the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to live a perfect life (thus fulfilling the Law and righteous requirement of God the Father), became the atoning sacrifice of our sins (thus saving us from the eternal condemnation we deserve), died, was buried, was gloriously resurrected from the dead (thus defeating death, Hell, and Satan forever), and ascended into Heaven to serve as our Great High Priest, Friend, King, Brother, and Advocate. Anyone who repents of their sin and believes this will be saved.
But this concise statement doesn’t do the Gospel complete justice, however. The Gospel is simultaneously the most simple and complex thing in the universe. It is simple enough for a child to understand and yet complex enough to leave theologians who have studied it for years to see new nuances and beauties they hadn’t seen before. It can be beheld and contemplated for eternity. And those who believe it will be able to do just that.
“Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.
Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.
Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.
Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.
Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.
Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.
Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.”