Drunk Artists Are Bad Artists

Part 7 in the Series:

The Bezalel Blueprint

By Don Enevoldsen

Many years ago I attended a concert by the Rock and Roll band Aerosmith. The day of the concert, I heard an interview with lead singer Steven Tyler. He talked at length about the band getting clean, that is, they had stopped using drugs. I remember his comment that he had realized people did not come to watch him muddle through slurred lyrics and a sloppy performance. The performance that night confirmed the value of self-control for an artist. The music was crisp, tight and clean. Every note was sharp. It was an amazing performance.

Opening the concert that night was Guns N’ Roses, a new band that had just started climbing the charts toward what would prove to be great success and popularity. As frontman Axl Rose stepped to the microphone to introduce their hit song, “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” it became obvious that he did not share Tyler’s conviction for cleanness. He was so wasted that he could not get a coherent sentence out of his mouth. The musicianship was sloppy. The singing was muddled. Perhaps it would not have been so obvious if Aerosmith had not been so much better.

“What does that have to do with Bezalel?” you might ask. To answer that, we must discuss how Bezalel came to be filled with the Spirit. Since the term means such different things to different people, it might be best to describe it in terms of my changing understanding over the years.

I recall a preacher making a statement during an altar call. He was encouraging people to come forward to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit (a term used interchangeably with “filled with the Spirit” in most Pentecostal settings). He said, “You receive the baptism by faith, the same way you received salvation.”

That may be the most confusing statement I ever heard come out of the mouth of a preacher. I received salvation in a church filled with Baptists. In good Baptist style, they assured me that it did not matter whether I felt anything. The Bible says, “If you believe…” I did believe and thus I was saved. Some days I feel saved; some days I don’t, but I am certain that I am saved regardless. Early in my Christian walk I learned the truth of the saying:

God said it,

Jesus did it,

I believe it,

That settles it.

Then I was introduced to a Pentecostal ministry. Being filled with the Spirit, in spite of what that pastor said, was never portrayed the same way. It was always a heavily experiential occurrence. It had “evidence” associated with it. I was supposed to believe and receive without dependence on feelings, but if I didn’t speak in tongues, then I must not have it.

This led to a two-years-long succession of trips to the altar, frequent mouth massages in vain attempts to coax out a prayer language, and enough slaps on my forehead to cause whiplash (euphemistically referred to as “laying on hands”).

It seemed that being filled with the Spirit involved plenty of feeling, which means that I could not receive it the same way I did salvation. It was defined as an experience and if I felt nothing, then I experienced nothing. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force it to happen. I always had the sense that God had to do the filling, that is, he had to make me feel it, or it was not valid.

(For the record, I did eventually speak in tongues, and still do, but it started when I was alone, not at the altar, and without the aid of anyone massaging my mouth. And at the beginning, with no ecstatic feelings. Also for the record, an experience of ecstasy did come at a later time.)

Biblical accounts seemed to confirm the idea of ecstatic experience. Acts 2 describes a dramatic expression of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Visible tongues of fire rested on the believers, they spoke in tongues and the crowd that gathered to witness the spectacle thought the believers were all drunk. The Apostle Paul linked drunkenness, or at least the appearance of drunkenness, with the Spirit.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

All around me were people who embraced the idea of drunkenness as proof of the Spirit’s presence. “Drunk in the Spirit” was held out as a kind of measuring standard for “filled with the Spirit.” The drunker you get, the more filled you are. No one actually said those words, but their actions spoke clearly enough. A worship service wasn’t good unless you had trouble standing up afterwards.

(Again for the record, I have experienced enough of Holy Spirit ecstasy to know it is real, and my comments are not intended to disparage that experience. However, I also know that being filled with the Spirit does not require ecstatic frenzy.)

This is where my concert experience relates to Bezalel. It is difficult to envision how he could have been drunk in the Spirit and still capable of designing and executing the complex artistic details of the Tabernacle. Drunk artists are not good artists. They are sloppy.

So what does it look like when one is filled with the Spirit? We already saw the Hebrew word used in Exodus. It is male’, and means “to satisfy, to fulfill, accomplish, complete, to confirm.” In other words, God anointed Bezalel for the work to which he was called.

The New Testament word has a slightly different meaning, which might help us in understanding the process. The word in Acts 2 is pimplemi. It means “to be filled mentally, be under full influence; of a stated time, to be brought to a close.”

The word in Ephesians 5 is pleroo. It’s meaning is “full, full of, abounding in, wholly occupied with, completely under the influence of, or affected by.”

Apparently the idea of drunkenness is helpful in understanding the word. We refer to a drunk person as being “under the influence of,” which is essentially the same meaning as “filled.” One is filled with the Spirit when he is under the influence of the Spirit.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one staggers around while under the influence of the Spirit. It does mean one has subjected his life so completely to the Spirit that God is free to influence and direct his thinking. That is the sense in which Bezalel was filled with the Spirit. He was influenced by the Spirit in all that he did. You might say that he forsook the influence of the Muses, or the world, or whatever else might have guided him, and replaced such influence with the inspiration of the Spirit.

Next, Part 8: The Artist’s Fruit of the Spirit

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.

Drunk Artists Are Bad Artists

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