One is a teenager who is talented, but immature in his musical expression and experience. She is worried that he will get tied down with high school, and may even be underage and not allowed into some of the venues she has concerts in.
The second is a worship musician for a church down the street. While this person is more mature than the first auditioner, his musicianship is mediocre. He doesn’t know how to read music and cannot transpose songs into a different key. While he may be passable as a worship musician at a church, the singer is turned off by the fact that this person has played worship music for almost ten years, but still has a beginner’s grasp of music.
The third to audition is by far the best musician of the bunch. He’s a good guitarist and is not just technically adept, but brings emotion and meaning to his playing as well. However, when the singer asks him about his faith, it becomes obvious that this guitarist is not a Christian. “Do you know that I am a Christian singer?” the singer asks. “Yes, and I’m OK with that. I want to play for you and I hope my religious beliefs don’t disqualify me from this gig,” the guitarist answers.
Question: You are the singer. Which guitarist would you choose?
Solomon had a similar conundrum when he was building the temple. The best artists he knew were the Phoenicians, people from Tyre. They were polytheistic people. But, unlike the singer in the scenario above, who could build a case for choosing any of the three guitarists, Solomon wasn’t auditioning people for a few concerts in coffee houses and area churches. He was finding artists who would be qualified to build God’s Temple. The process he used to find the best artist for the job is in 1 Kings 5 and 2 Chronicles 2. Read both passages below (both taken from the Message translation):
1 Kings 5
1-4 Hiram, king of Tyre, sent ambassadors to Solomon when he heard that he had been crowned king in David's place. Hiram had loved David his whole life. Solomon responded, saying, "You know that David my father was not able to build a temple in honor of God because of the wars he had to fight on all sides, until God finally put them down. But now God has provided peace all around—no one against us, nothing at odds with us.
5-6 "Now here is what I want to do:
Build a temple in honor of God, my God, following the promise that God gave to David my father, namely, 'Your son whom I will provide to succeed you as king, he will build a house in my honor.' And here is how you can help: Give orders for cedars to be cut from the Lebanon forest; my loggers will work alongside yours and I'll pay your men whatever wage you set. We both know that there is no one like you Sidonians for cutting timber."
7 When Hiram got Solomon's message, he was delighted, exclaiming, "Blessed be God for giving David such a wise son to rule this flourishing people!"
8-9 Then he sent this message to Solomon: "I received your request for the cedars and cypresses. It's as good as done—your wish is my command. My lumberjacks will haul the timbers from the Lebanon forest to the sea, assemble them into log rafts, float them to the place you set, then have them disassembled for you to haul away. All I want from you is that you feed my crew."
10-12 In this way Hiram supplied all the cedar and cypress timber that Solomon wanted. In his turn, Solomon gave Hiram 125,000 bushels of wheat and 115,000 gallons of virgin olive oil. He did this every year. And God, for his part, gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised. The healthy peace between Hiram and Solomon was formalized by a treaty.
13-18 King Solomon raised a workforce of thirty thousand men from all over Israel. He sent them in shifts of ten thousand each month to the Lebanon forest; they would
work a month in Lebanon and then be at home two months. Adoniram was in charge of the work crew. Solomon also had seventy thousand unskilled workers and another eighty thousand stonecutters up in the hills—plus thirty-three hundred foremen managing the project and supervising the work crews. Following the king's orders, they quarried huge blocks of the best stone—dressed stone for the foundation of The Temple. Solomon and Hiram's construction workers, assisted by the men of Gebal, cut and prepared the timber and stone for building The Temple.
2 Chronicles 2
The Temple Construction Begins
1 Solomon gave orders to begin construction on the house of worship in honor of God and a palace for himself.
2 Solomon assigned seventy thousand common laborers, eighty thousand to work the quarries in the mountains, and thirty-six hundred foremen to manage the workforce. 3-4 Then Solomon sent this message to King Hiram of Tyre: "Send me cedar logs, the same kind you sent David my father for building his palace. I'm about to build a house of worship in honor of God, a holy place for burning perfumed incense, for setting out holy bread, for making Whole-Burnt-Offerings at morning and evening worship, and for Sabbath, New Moon, and Holy Day services of worship—the acts of worship required of Israel.
5-10 "The house I am building has to be the best, for our God is the best, far better than competing gods. But who is capable of building such a structure? Why, the skies—the entire cosmos!—can't begin to contain him. And me, who am I to think I can build a house adequate for God—burning incense to him is about all I'm good for! I need your help: Send me a master artisan in gold, silver, bronze, iron, textiles of purple, crimson, and violet, and who knows the craft of engraving; he will supervise the trained craftsmen in Judah and Jerusalem that my father provided. Also send cedar, cypress, and algum logs from Lebanon; I know you have lumberjacks experienced in the Lebanon forests. I'll send workers to join your crews to cut plenty of timber—I'm going to need a lot, for this house I'm building is going to be absolutely stunning—a showcase temple! I'll provide all the food necessary for your crew of lumberjacks and loggers: 130,000 bushels of wheat, 120,000 gallons of wine, and 120,000 gallons of olive oil."
11 Hiram king of Tyre wrote Solomon in reply: "It's plain that God loves his people—he made you king over them!"
12-14 He wrote on, "Blessed be the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, and who gave King David a son so wise, so knowledgeable and shrewd, to build a temple for God and a palace for himself. I've sent you Huram-Abi—he's already on his way—he knows the construction business inside and out. His mother is from Dan and his father from Tyre. He knows how to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, in purple, violet, linen, and crimson textiles; he is also an expert engraver and competent to work out designs with your artists and architects, and those of my master David, your father.
15-16 "Go ahead and send the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine you promised for my work crews. We'll log the trees you need from the Lebanon forests and raft them down to Joppa. You'll have to get the timber up to Jerusalem yourself."
17-18 Solomon then took a census of all the foreigners living in Israel, using the same census-taking method employed by his father. They numbered 153,600. He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 to work the quarries in the mountains, and 3,600 as foremen to manage the work crews.
Question 1: If an artist is not a Christian, but obviously skilled, do Christians have anything to learn from him/her?
Question 2: Is It O.K. for a church that is expanding its sanctuary to hire a non-Christian construction firm for the job if that firm is the best qualified (in whatever ways the church deems important)?
Question 3: Can a non-Christian artist successfully depict Christian themes in his/her work? When should a patron consider art from only Christian artists, and when is it fine to look for the most skilled, whether or not the artist is Christian?
Question 4: The scripture is plainly talking about non-Jews working on God’s temple. But, what if we turn it around backwards? Is it O.K. for Christian artists to work on non-Christian projects? What if a Christian is asked to paint a picture for a public library, for instance? What if a Christian is hired to write a song for a non-Christian singer/band like Prince or Nine Inch Nails? What if a Christian is hired to write a jingle for a car commercial?
To read Fine Arts Bible Study #1 click here.
To read Fine Arts Bible Study #2 click here.
To read Fine Arts Bible Study #3 click here.
To read Fine Arts Bible Study #4 click here.