“O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
At 21 weeks our baby has everything he needs in place for life outside the womb – the remaining weeks of his development will focus on growth and fine-tuning. This week his movements become less random as his muscles and brain begin to sync, and his muscles respond to intentional brain stimuli. His tooth buds are forming. His eyelashes and body hair are white because they are not yet pigmented.
One can almost imagine a sculpture or painting that is essentially complete except for the details and final touches, as God steps back and strokes his chin while he considers, “Blond or ginger?”
God is the consummate artist: (Genesis 1:1). We appreciate the beauty of creation that surrounds us, and the Psalmist wrote that the beauty of creation is the first witness to the constant presence of God: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). God himself dwells in the glory of the rainbow beauty surrounding the throne of God described by the Prophet Ezekiel (1:28) and the Apostle John (Rev. 4:3) .
The Imago Dei (Image of God) as God’s self-portrait: God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27) It is not merely biology, philosophy or legislation that establishes the criteria that designates humanity: it is the presence of the Imago Dei that stamps “human” on every developing fetus from the moment of fertilization throughout life.
The human family has inherited God’s creative bent, and we are crafted for particular purposes: Whether or not someone is what the world deems as “artistically gifted” or “talented” - even if all you can draw is a stick figure - the Imago Dei means everyone is gifted to add beauty and value to God’s world. Human beings are driven to create more human beings. When Eve delivered Cain, she said, “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the LORD,” (Genesis 4:1). All Christians receive spiritual gifts to build up the church (I Corinthians 12). Other are specially-gifted crafters: “He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers,” (Exodus 35:35); “… trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design…,” (2 Chronicles 2:14). Whether artistically talented or spiritually gifted, “… we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Ephesians 2:10)
The Temple of God: We usually assume that God creates “freehand,” but we know for certain that the attributes of God include order and design. We are expressly told that when God ordered Moses to build a tabernacle for God to dwell among God’s people, God directed that everything be built according to specific instructions. God designed a pattern for everything – the sanctuary and all the equipment necessary for right worship (Exodus 25-27, 30). Solomon’s Temple was extraordinarily beautiful, made of fine wood and stone; full of gold, silver and bronze furnishings and rich fabrics (I Kings 6). John tells us that the foundations of the New Jerusalem are made of twelve layers of precious gemstones, gates of pearls and streets of gold, full of light and trees (Revelation 21). The description of our final home might be metaphorical, (maybe not!), but if it’s metaphor, it’s beautiful metaphor!
Believers as temples of the Holy Spirit: Each believer is now a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells (I Corinthians 3:16). If each temple before us was built according to the plans set out by God, and finished by multiple artisans into a collective work of extraordinary value and beauty, how much more are we being crafted throughout our lives into a finished work of beauty beyond human imagination?
We are an unfinished work and God is our artist-in-residence: Like Gilbert Stuart’s unfinished painting of George Washington God’s creative work in us is not completed in the womb, but continues throughout our lives. Institutions like art galleries, museums and churches invite artists, academicians, and curators to work and/or reside within the premises of the institution in programs known as “Artist-in-residence.” Artist-in-residence programs exist to foster the creativity of an artist whose work enriches and beautifies the institution itself or furthers and enhances the purposes and goals of its mission. As a temple of the Holy Spirit, each believer is analogous to an organized, purposeful entity that is being improved and enhanced by God as our “artist-in-residence,” through a process Christian thought understands as “sanctification.” The process of sanctification is the lifelong process of allowing God to complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6).
Believers cannot sanctify themselves any more than a child in the womb can direct his own development – it seems that what begins in this 21st week will not end until Jesus returns!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
Photo credit: "Starry Night," (c) 2019 Denise Lewinski, Willow Baby Photography