1 Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen, and blue, purple, and crimson yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; all the curtains shall be of the same size. 3 Five curtains shall be joined to one another; and the other five curtains shall be joined to one another. 4 You shall make loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain in the first set; and likewise you shall make loops on the edge of the outermost curtain in the second set. 5 You shall make fifty loops on the one curtain, and you shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is in the second set; the loops shall be opposite one another. 6 You shall make fifty clasps of gold, and join the curtains to one another with the clasps, so that the tabernacle may be one whole. – Exodus 26:1-6
Our New England congregational predecessors (who built our building) were focused on avoiding idolatry. They did so by creating churches that avoided the ornateness and iconography of the Anglican and Catholic churches. But in doing so, they perhaps lost sight a little bit of God’s character. At His core, God is a designer. The above scripture text is God giving specific design instructions for the building of his tabernacle.
Anybody who reads this passage must struggle with the excess that God uses to create a tent that was never meant to be permanent. If Israel had gone straight into Canaan, it might have only been used for a couple years. Who amongst the Israelites might have benefited from fine linens of the curtains. How many widows could have been fed with the gold used as clasps for them. But God through direct theophany (a real voice to Moses and Aaron) instead ordered a flurry of design flourishes and then sent His spirit upon craftpersons to make them with skill.
Yet, it really shouldn’t be surprising. The first thing we learn about God is that He is ‘creative’! His first act in the universe is to create order out of chaos, but He does so with intention and design and with a desire for it to be good, not just functional.
What does it mean to serve a creative God? How might that change what we think about God’s desires for our life, for our church and for our world?
When God put humanity in the garden, He told them to name the animals, which given the tool that God used to design the universe (He spoke), really meant that God gave Adam a paint brush and said color on the canvas I created. (I myself am at best a toddler with fingerpaint, but God is gracious with me!)
Design is part of God’s desire for His world. And sometimes, like with His tabernacle, He gets really creative! It is ok for us to do the same!