The Chosen Artist

Part 2 in the Series:

The Bezalel Blueprint

By Don Enevoldsen

“Every good painter paints what he is.” —Jackson Pollock

Bezalel was chosen. Of all the artists of Israel, he was prepared, trained and selected for the task of overseeing construction of the Tabernacle. That is a remarkable thing.

But the remarkable elements of being chosen are perhaps a little different than is usually suggested. When we think of God choosing someone, it is usually the grand scale that comes to mind. And in picturing the grandiose, we often see other people as chosen and overlook or trivialize our own calling. Or we do the opposite and exalt our own calling and marginalize everyone else.

To illustrate what I mean, consider the contrast between Moses and Bezalel. They were both chosen, but in our minds, we make an unconscious distinction. Moses was CHOSEN. Bezalel was chosen. It sounds the same, but it looks quite a bit different.

We know a lot about Moses. That God chose him is easy to see. He was miraculously preserved from certain death after his birth. He was a slave, but he grew up in the royal palace. When God chose him, there was no mistaking the moment. A voice spoke to him out of a miraculous burning bush. When he set out to fulfill his calling, he came armed with miraculous signs to convince people. For example, he threw his staff on the ground and it turned into a serpent. Moses was CHOSEN. The plans for constructing the Tabernacle were given to Moses. In fact, it became known as the Tabernacle of Moses, even though all he did was pass the plans along to the artists. He had no part in the design.

We don’t know as much about Bezalel. When he was chosen, it wasn’t with quite the same dramatic fanfare. He was born. Somehow he survived, but apparently there wasn’t any particular story attached to it. He grew up. He was a slave who grew up in a slave home. There was no burning bush calling to him out of the wilderness, just Moses saying, “God chose you.” When he threw his staff on the ground, it turned into a stick. Bezalel was chosen. (Yawn.) He designed significant parts of the Tabernacle, based on the plans given to him, yet it was never called the Tabernacle of Bezalel.

These circumstances make it easy to miss the point that Bezalel’s calling was every bit as relevant, spiritual and valid as the calling of Moses. God chose Bezalel for a specific purpose and everything necessary to fulfill that purpose came along with the calling. Consider just three elements of Bezalel’s life.

1. God prepared Bezalel in spite of the circumstances.

It’s difficult to guess how many Hebrew artists came out of Egypt. In a population that easily could have reached three million, there must have been a few, but the number would likely have been small. They had been slaves for a long time, meaning choice of vocation was restricted at best. Not many children said, “I love painting. I’m going to art school when I grow up.” Bezalel did not decide to develop his talent. The decision was likely made for him, based on the needs and desires of the slave master. Making bricks does not require much artistry. Yet God somehow arranged for Bezalel to get whatever training he would later need for the task.

2. All things worked together for Bezalel’s good.

Though nothing in Bezalel’s early life indicated the slightest possibility that he would become the leading artist of Israel, it is still true that adversity provides a fertile ground for artistic development. Great artists are driven by the pain they have experienced and they are challenged by difficulty. Bezalel had more than enough challenges to produce an abundance of artistic angst. Instead of sulking, he allowed it to become part of his artistic worldview.

How does that look in real life? This is not the place for a detailed description of the Tabernacle, which was Bezalel’s crowning artistic achievement, but the overall design reflected in a symbolic form the redemption of God’s people. Who better to design the details of such a message than an artist who lived through one of the most dramatic moments of redemption in the history of mankind. Life in Egypt was never pleasant for slaves, but that life gave Bezalel an understanding of freedom that left him uniquely qualified for his calling.

3. A lifetime of preparation focused on a small window of expression.

I have no doubt that Bezalel was unable through most of his life to see where his artistic talent would take him. It is not likely that he sat down at some point and wrote out his goals for life. If he did, it probably did not include, “Someday I’m going to design a place for God to dwell in the midst of his people.” Bezalel pursued what he knew, and the day came when opportunity coincided with preparation.

Being chosen by God does not always look particularly glamorous. Neither does it suddenly occur at some point late in life. God chose you to be a creative genius before you were born. He did that so that he could be sure you would have everything you would need later to accomplish what you were chosen for. Your circumstances, the obstacles to your calling, and even your ignorance of your calling do not change the fact that you are called.

You might have heard a voice speak from a burning bush. But more likely you simply have a desire built into you to accomplish something, a desire that has never gone away. Like Bezalel, you are chosen.

Next, Part 3:   Meant To Be

Go to the beginning of the series, The Bezalel Blueprint:  Part 1, The Artist Bezalel

Do you have an additional thought on this subject? Please join the discussion and share your insights.

The Chosen Artist
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5 thoughts on “The Chosen Artist

  • July 13, 2013 at 10:26 am
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    Don- ABSOLUTELY EXCELLENT. Thanks from two artists who live in Jerusalem a block away from BEZALEL Street. Perfect timing. Keep in touch. Your book changed how we do everything.
    Brian & Jeni Stivale
    Stivale Ministries
    Jerusalem, Israel

    Reply
    • July 13, 2013 at 11:51 am
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      Brian and Jeni, one day I am going to make it to Israel, and I will absolutely want to spend some time there with you. Thank you for your encouraging words. Many years ago, God called me to be a pastor to artists, and ever since then he has brought my path across many, many artists. I have been privileged to make some incredible friends along the way, and some very talented friends. Ever since, this subject has been very close to my heart. I hope it inspires others.

      Reply
  • July 13, 2013 at 8:02 pm
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    That is interesting, but what about the artists that never get to work at their calling? I know people like that…I am one.

    Reply
    • July 14, 2013 at 10:55 am
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      Tom, I’ve been in that category at times myself, so I empathize with your comment. It’s difficult to give a blanket answer to that question. At best, I can offer a few thoughts. There are many reasons artists don’t work in their calling and likely any given artist deals with a combination of them. Some of them are dealt with later in this series, so I’ll only touch on them briefly here.

      First is the definition of what a person might mean by “working” in their calling. For many that does not necessarily mean making a full time living. For many, artistic expression is something that never will bring income. But that does not make the expression any less important. Writers are writers because they write, not because they sell books or screenplays. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for some form of distribution or exposure for your art, but the artist is not defined by the distribution.

      In the same vein, if the goal is to get recognition more than artistic expression, then the art is more likely to be a poor expression of artistic integrity. This is a common problem I saw in Hollywood. Many artists there are more interested in fame and in the lifestyle that they can pursue if they are financially successful and less interested in being artists.

      Sometimes a lack of discipline or willingness to do that work involved in becoming good prevents an artist from achieving his highest potential. That’s a subject of a later part of the series.

      Often people use art as a cover or an excuse for avoiding personal issues. For example an artist who has a problem with pride (which is usually driven by insecurity) uses art to attack others and brag about himself. Instead of engaging in the work involved in personal growth, he hides behind his art. A person who has a problem with uncontrolled lust might use nudity in art as a justification for never dealing with his problem. There are many examples of this kind of thing. In fact, I think most artists are driven to some degree by dysfunction. The question is are we growing. If we never grow as human beings, then we will likely never be very successful as artists.

      Related to that is the idea that dysfunction can often drive artists to financial success faster than personal growth and health. It might well be that your failure to make a living in art is an indication of personal growth. This is an area that could take a lengthy discussion to cover appropriately, and honestly I’ve not really given it much consideration. Perhaps I need to.

      Often circumstances make it difficult to follow an artistic calling. Survival can get in the way, especially if the art does not pay for itself, which is the case with most artists. Many people spend their time in creative endeavors for others (another common thing in Hollywood), and rarely getting to pursue their own art. But that is a necessary part of working. Those artists are often just as frustrated as any others. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that many skills are learned from such experience.

      This is such a complex issue that this only begins to address it, but these are a few thoughts. If other readers have others, I would welcome them.

      Reply
  • October 19, 2018 at 5:04 pm
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    Artists are built to be contemplatives, in their relationship with God. We all need to learn to celebrate this contemplativity, (to make up a word), and work to balance the do of activity FOR God, with that of Being WITH God.

    Reply

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