Have you ever stopped to think, who was the very first artist? What defines an artist today? Where did that definition come from? Keep reading to discover the answers in Genesis 1!
God is an artist
You know probably as well as I do that God’s – and Jesus’ – personalities are so multi-faceted. The “names of God” – often a popular Bible study choice – span pages and pages. Comforter, Father, Lord, God, Prince of Peace, Savior…
What’s wonderful about reading the Bible is that you discover a new aspect of His personality every time. As God Himself is infinite, discovering who He is is an endless task, as well! Recently, as I was reading Genesis 1 for school, I stumbled upon a new characteristic of God I had never considered before. God is an artist! And, not just any artist – He was the first artist.
Here’s my Bible journaling page –
Why did I journal it?
Reading Genesis a few days ago, this verse just really struck me as unique. Obviously, it’s one of the most popular verses in Scripture. But, I believe that there’s something very special about it. By creating the earth, light, time, and everything else, He is setting a pattern for future artists – centuries later – to follow. Looking at this first verse of the Bible the millionth time, we might easily gloss over its significance. This time, I encourage you to think about this verse in its context.
Nowadays, all of God’s actions as a creator might seem common – considering we copy all of them each and every day. But, think about this: this was the first time anyone or anything had created. By speaking life into existence, God was determining how all humans after Him would create. Let’s look at some similarities between God the artist and humans the artists.
1. God creates beauty for beauty’s sake
Recently, I have been reading the introduction to a book named Heroes of the City of Man, written by Peter J. Leithart.
In it, he discusses God the artist in great detail, explaining why anything we “create” is actually an image of what God has already established. But, doesn’t this limit us as creators? He doesn’t think so, and I don’t either! Here’s a quote:
God’s sovereign rule as Creator does not form a limit on human creativity. On the contrary, we are creative only because the Creator is at work in us, only because “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” In fact, far from imposing a limit on human creativity, God’s inexhaustible creativity implies that human beings are in important respects inexhaustibly creative as well.
-Heroes of the City of Man, pg. 32
The only reason we are creators (in a limited sense), is because God was the first creator.
In addition, one of the things I find fascinating about the account of Creation, and a point that Leithart brings up is that God creates beauty for beauty’s sake. In Genesis 1:9 it says,
And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to they eye and good for food.
Did you see that? For no other apparent reason than for pure pleasure, God made trees that were beautiful. Now, what’s also interesting is that this same exact characteristic of God – creating beautiful creations – is what sets us apart as humans. Animals, to some extent, are creative; they build nests, homes, and dens that are amazingly functional. But, humans are the only creatures on earth who construct creations just for pleasure. As author Leithart states,
But only humans create as God does. Only humans paint and draw for no other reason than to produce paintings and drawings; … only humans build homes not only for function but for pleasure and beauty.
-Heroes of the City of Man, pg. 31
Isn’t that amazing? That’s why God – despite what some may think – is an incredible supporter of the arts. Besides, He created them!
2. God names His creations
Secondly, God establishes the tradition of creators naming their handiwork. I think this second characteristic of God the artist is also really special. Let’s start out with a verse. Genesis 1:5 states,
God called the light “day”, and the darkness He called “night.”
Notice the word choice: He called. He purposely named His creations “day” and “night”. I think this is actually a very important detail to record in the Bible. Not only was God establishing the importance of language, but He was setting a pattern for Adam to follow. Later in the creation week, Adam is told to name the animals – an action previously performed by God himself.
But, it didn’t just inspire Adam. Thousands of years later, God’s decision to name His creations has impacted pretty much every artist to walk the earth. From toddlers to professional sculptors, to composers, to painters; all of them place their personal mark on their handiwork by giving it a unique name. Most people don’t realize this, but it is a tradition that started with the first artist: God!
3. God analyzes His creations
The last and third step in the sequence of God the artist, is a phrase that reoccurs throughout creation week:
God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.
Throughout the creation of the world, God consistently evaluates each animal, tree, and star. He meticulously checks each creation to ensure that they are up to His standard – an analysis that every artist completes, either knowingly or unknowingly. This detail reveals an interesting point about the beginnings of the heavens and the earth.
Sometimes I wonder: why all this detail? Couldn’t the Bible have just said “He created” instead of phrases such as, “He breathed life into…”? What’s the point of so much emphasis on how He created?
Maybe that detail is for us. I think that it reveals that God really cared (and cares) about His creatures. He didn’t just half-heartedly say the word to create life; He breathed it into existence. Perhaps these details are included to set a standard for us. As human artists and creators, we should pour everything into “creating” things for God. I say “creating” in quotes because most people think that artists are only people who paint, sculpt, compose, or dance. But, that is absolutely not true.
As humans, we are always creating. No matter what the subject matter, our minds are – like God – bent on creating a beautiful product. We can’t help but copy Him. That’s why His actions in the very beginning are so important.
Another example is God’s day of rest on the seventh day. Obviously, He didn’t need the rest! God would never get tired. But, He established that pattern for us. He knew that thousands of years from creation, you would read that passage and know that you should follow God’s pattern as the ultimate artist.
Remember the first artist
For myself, I had never really considered God an artist. I had thought about Him as a Creator, but never in the human terms we use today. But, the more you think about it, the more you realize that almost everything you observe around you was founded on traditions that God established! Here’s one more quote from Heroes of the City of Man:
We can imagine and write about a world where God is not, but this imagining and writing reveals the God who is.
-Heroes of the City of Man, pg. 32
Isn’t that so true? Only God – the true artist – has the power to create; we are merely copying the ultimate creator. I hope that this perspective has helped you look at Genesis in a whole new light, and has encouraged you to seek the source of true creativity and artistry – Jesus Christ!
P.S. – If you were wondering about that quote in the beginning of the post, it was from Rend Collective’s song, The Artist. I encourage you to check it out!