September 14, 2009 Ration

I Samuel 15:22-23b

“And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.’”

The greatest work that we can do, artists, is to listen to and obey the voice of the Lord. We are tempted to think that the artistry of our work is our greatest work. Not so. The artistry of our work as an artist is a given. But if we have not followed the Lord's charge, then our grand artistry will be in vain.

The Lord commissioned Saul to “go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (v. 3). Saul went out to war, but he “spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (v. 9).

The Lord was not pleased. The Lord did not delight in this sparing of the good. Saul, when confronted by Samuel for his failure to fully obey, tried to make the case that he was going to offer this good spoil to the Lord as an offering and sacrifice. They were, in fact, the best that the Amalekites had! But he was rebuked: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”

Artists, let us learn from Saul’s failures. Our first concern must be that we are faithful to the Lord’s charge, completely faithful. It is the Lord who gave you your artistic position, just as He gave Saul his kingship. It is the Lord who grants you your artistic accomplishments, just as He granted Saul his battle victory. Yet Saul’s work was rejected because he did not listen to and obey the voice of the Lord, which amounts to rebellion, which is as the sin of divination.

God has given you a particular charge and mission, artist, and has granted you a particular portion to accomplish it. See to it, then, that you are faithful in every aspect. If God has charged you to be artistic in the mission, then of course the artistry will be one of the categories He will scrutinize as He looks for faithfulness. But faithfulness in artistic form is meant to serve the mission, not trump the mission. Form is rarely the mission itself, except when the mission is to work on the disciplines of form. Don’t be fooled, the Lord does not delight in what we bring to Him when what we bring to Him is not out of faithfulness.

To obey is better than sacrifice. Our obedience to the Lord's voice is the sacrifice He delights in as we put to death our desires on the altar of His command. So let us pursue faithfulness in the mission of the artistic charge God has given us. Discern the charge, exercise your disciplines, and enjoy fellowship with God in the labor. This is how the greatest pleasures in your artistry will be known and enjoyed.

Jason Harms


© 2009 The Gaius Project