24. The Spirit of Bezaleel

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is from Exodus 31:1-6, ‘the Spirit and Bezaleel.’ A couple of years ago in another context we discussed the significance of Bezaleel. We do so now more fully in terms of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan: and in the hearts of all that are wise hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee…” 1

As we have seen, the doctrine of man is very important. A false doctrine of man will color our beliefs about the work of the Holy Spirit in man. Moreover, a false or warped doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit will affect our doctrine of the nature of the Holy Spirit. A dualistic or a tripartite view of man will give us a Hellenic, a pagan frame word, not a biblical one. But it is not enough to hold to a unified view of man. It is necessary to say that man is created, that he is a creature, but even more, that he is a creature made in the image of God. This is the unique thing about man, that we are created as something we share with the whole of creation, that we are God's image bearer is something unique.

As God's image bearer, man is most truly what he was created to be when he is most faithful and most obedient to the Lord. The Fall damaged all of man's being. Man was created to be God's priest, prophet and king, and has become instead a slave. All our being is infected by sin, and all our being is affected by Christ’s regenerating work, and by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Christ is man restored to his original calling, and we, in Christ, are restored to our original calling, to dominion, and by the Holy Spirit are empowered to fulfill that which is our calling. We must therefore say that man is most truly himself, as God intended him to be, when he fulfills his vocation by living in the Spirit. Man is most man as God created him to be, when he is fulfilling his vocation in the Spirit.

We see this early in the Bible, we see it in Bezaleel. God tells us that He calls these men, that He gives them His Spirit, fills them with His Spirit, in wisdom and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, and all things were to be made we are told by Scripture, “for beauty and for glory.” Again and again Scripture speaks of the beauty of holiness. In other words, all excellence is associated with God the Lord, and with the Spirit.

The sad fact is that under the influence of Neoplatonism, church building in this country for some generations has put the accent on ugliness, as though there were something more spiritual about a very plain, or an ugly church building. But the Lord stresses the need for the physical and the spiritual virtues alike. The church is God’s palace and throne room from whence His law-Word goes forth, where Christ our king reigns, and issues His commandments. As surely as the prophets of the Old Testament were used by the Holy Spirit, so too were Bezaleel and the other artisans.

Some of the older commentators, and some recent ones, do some hedging at this text. And they tell us: “God inspired Bezaleel and his associates in their woodwork and their carving and whatnot; but not in their moral character.” But if we read this carefully we see that Bezaleel worked in terms of true theology, and true workmanship, by the Spirit. The Spirit brought all of Bezaleel’s being to the required level. There were many Baal-worshiping artisans all over the Middle East then. If all that God wanted was good craftsmanship, He would have told Moses: “Call in one of these men and use them.” The commentators thus are wrong when they say that the inspiration of Bezaleel was limited to his hands and did not extend to all his being.

Such thinking goes back to the world of Aristotle, to the false division of being, to the false division in man and in nature. The work of the Spirit in the life of Bezaleel, and the life of Paul, John, and all the prophets and apostles, meant the mature and the fuller realization of all their being and all their aptitudes. If today we were to find in some excavation a non-canonical letter of saint Paul, a letter that he wrote to his friend when not under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we would not know Paul better. The letter would be vastly inferior to those that we have; it would tell us less about Paul. In other words, Paul was most Paul when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, even as Isaiah was most Isaiah when he was filled with the Spirit.

Sometimes we say one to another, husband to wives and wives to husbands: “You are not yourself today, what is the matter?” Well, there are times when we are not fully ourselves, we aren’t performing in other words, to our true level of ability, and to our true nature, we are out of sorts, we are in poor health, or we are weary. Paul, Isaiah, John, Matthew, Mark, Amos, Hosea; all of them were most themselves when they were most inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Thus, George Rawlinson, writing in the last century, was right when he said concerning this text:

“He (God) knew what was in man. He knew to whom he had given the highest artistic power, and who at the same time that they possessed it would work in the most religious spirit. He accordingly names two persons, Bezaleel and Aholiab, as those to whom the superintendence of the whole business should be given … Both … were to receive the special assistance of God’s Holy Spirit for the due execution of their respective tasks (verses 3–6), and both, had their names equally commemorated in His Holy Book, and were thus upheld as examples to future ages.” 2

The whole of man is affected by the Holy Spirit, his mind, his body, his aptitudes - everything. The Spirit does not take over just one corner of our lives and our beings.

Moreover, the Holy Spirit comes to a man who is prepared by the triune God for His coming. Over and over again Scripture tells us this. God calls us from our mothers womb, so said the prophet. All that precedes our regeneration is used by God in terms of His purpose. All our yesterdays are a part of His plan for our preparation for that which He wishes us to do. All the mistakes we’ve made, all the sins we’ve committed, are used by the Holy Spirit to prepare us, to humble us, to refine us for His service. The Spirit, thus, comes to us having prepared all our lives for His purposes; His purposes. He comes not to fulfill our purposes, nor to ratify us, but to fulfill His purposes; and all our lives are a preparation by Him for His work.

Paul was not happy with his weakness, but God said to him:

“...my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 3

God has His purpose in everything in our lives. Our Lord at the Mount of Olives said:

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” 4

Our Lord teaches us to pray:

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” 5

That we may learn that the priorities of the triune God and the priority of the Spirit in our lives is of the Lord. The Lord was filled with the Spirit at His baptism. The Spirit always spoke in and with Him; but when our Lord began His calling, there the witness of the Spirit was made publicly, that Christ as the new creation, the New Adam and the new King, now was given over to one purpose in all His being:

“...seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness…” 6

Bezaleel and Christ, all of us; in us the Spirit is related directly to our calling. He appoints our calling, and He calls us, and He appoints the purposes of our lives and the gift of the Spirit Himself is permanent and abiding.

In Exodus 28:3 God says to Moses:

“And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” 7

All that had anything to do with the priestly garments, with the Temple or Tabernacle furnishings, and with the tabernacle itself, were prepared men; prepared by God Himself.

Consider for a moment who these men were. Bezaleel, a man who was a capable, a skilled, experienced worker in gold and silver, and in brass, in the cutting of stones, the carving of timber- where had he learned all this? Bezaleel like the others had been in Egypt, he had been a slave of Pharaoh - compulsory work on Pharaoh’s construction projects; where those with talent were separated and given the skilled tasks and training therein. This was the custom in antiquity. When a man was outstanding, very often he was given his freedom or special status, in order to hold him and to make him more loyal. Virtually all the great inventions of Greek civilization were made by slaves; the Greeks themselves did not like to work with their hands, just with their minds. And so to the men who gave the great inventions for which Greece is famous, Greek names were given, a Greek status, citizenship very often, to honor them, to ensure their loyalties.

Bezaleel and the others had been workmen almost certainly for Pharaoh. It is a good and a reasonable question to ask: “Did Pharaoh try to hold these most skilled men by offering them freedom? By offering them status in Egypt?” This was the usual practice. But Bezaleel and the others chose to remain faithful to the Lord, their careers were seemingly finished. How could a slave-people command construction jobs, and call for the use of the fine arts? Bezaleel and these others were there in the desert by choice, a choice which required a separation. In their work now God called them, and required of them that they follow a pattern which was God's pattern. They were skilled men, they had been trained in a particular tradition, but now again a separation from the traditions of antiquity was required of them. Art is a religious function, it is a handmaiden of religion; today of humanism. And God's artisans were put through a schooling to prepare them for the day when they would build God's tabernacle.

They never knew what was ahead of them. But God puts us through a school, all of us. All the days of our life, in terms of His requirements of us here, and throughout all eternity. The Holy Spirit prepared Bezaleel for His service, and He prepares us. The Holy Spirit separates us for God’s purposes, and He trains us therein.

Let us pray.

* * *

O Lord our God, even as thou didst separate Bezaleel unto thy holy purpose, we acknowledge that thou hast separated us unto thyself, and to thy purposes, and hast placed us where thou wouldst have us to be. Make us mindful O Lord that we are not for our own purposes, but we are, we exist, for thy purpose and for thy glory; and that the work of thy Spirit in us, as for thy praise and glory, for thy service, for the proclamation of thy Word to all the world, for the establishment of thy kingdom, for the establishment of godly families, churches, schools, for the conquest of all things, the bringing of all things into captivity to Jesus Christ, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords. Thou hast called us, O Lord, and we thank thee. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Is the failure to recognize the victory that Christianity requires, a downgrading of the Holy Spirit?

[Rushdoony] Yes it is, it is a downgrading of the Father, of the Son, of the Spirit. Because the Scriptures are so emphatic about victory. They assure us that God is the Lord, that the nations are before Him as nothing. We are told, moreover, that

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,

And from the river unto the ends of the earth.

Psalm 72:8

This is just one of countless passages which stress the note of total victory.

Moreover the Scriptures tell us so emphatically that sin does not work, it not only does not work, it is a sure guarantee of death: “All they that hate me love death.” So, Scripture tells us on the one hand that apostasy, that rebellion against God, whether by individuals or nations, leads to death; and that righteousness, that life in Christ is life. Now, how can you lose under those circumstances, unless you deliberately blind yourself to God and His Word, and then you are a part of the world of defeat? But we are called to victory:

“[T]his is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith.”

1 John 5:4

So we do not honor the Spirit or the Trinity when we see only defeat ahead, only disaster. Yes?

[Audience Member] To what extent does your epistemological self consciousness in either direction affect your artistic endeavor?

[Rushdoony] A very, very good question. Epistemological self-consciousness means knowing what we are; if we are humanist, being self-conscious about our humanism, and our rebellion against God. If we are Christians, becoming fully self-conscious of all that it means to be a Christian, so that we strive after a total obedience, a total life in the Spirit.

Now, the artist expresses in his work what he believes, what he knows. Modern art stresses the mindlessness of all things, it is deliberately meaningless. It means whatever you want to make it mean when you look at a picture - that’s its meaning, a purely personal meaning. This should not surprise us, after all the Humanistic Education Source Book, which is a textbook for teachers, says that “Values are personal, they don’t have anything to do with good or evil; what they have to do with is what you like and what you don’t like, what you think.” Well, artists are going to express what they think, their values.

Now, a humanistic artist, therefore, will progressively become more and more self conscious both in his life and in his art, of his hostility to everything that is godly, to everything that is of the Spirit. He will, therefore, become more and more involved in that which is occult and demonic. On the other hand, the artist who is a Christian will find that if he is truly Christian he is going to separate himself progressively from all such, and his work will become more and more self-consciously given over to God’s meaning, not self-expression.

The humanist must stress self expression, because in terms of Genesis 3:5 he is his own God, the determiner of good and evil; whereas the believer must say:

“The Lord, He is God, and beside Him there is none other.”

Deuteronomy 4:35


[Audience Member] If someone has talent, is he capable of transcending his thinking with his talent?

[Rushdoony] Sometimes he will truly witness against himself. Since man is created in the image of God, very often in an ungodly artist that image will express itself in spite of himself. However, the basic direction of his work will be in terms of his epistemology and his self-consciousness. However we do have artists who sometimes will write, or do things, make things, that are a total witness against his being. I have seen evidences of that more than once.


[Audience Member] the question is with regard to religious liberty: “If Hells Angels decide they are a religious group, should they be entitled to the First Amendment protection?”

[Rushdoony] The point is, as I have often stated, that all law is an establishment of religion. Laws set forth values, a moral system. You cannot separate morality and law, what you enact when you enact a law is a moral system, and you establish a basic religious outlook. I have referred to this before but it bears repeating more than once; in the famous Mormon Polygamy case in the last century, the Supreme Court faced the question of religious liberty for polygamy. And what they had to conclude was that if religious liberty were granted absolutely, then there would be no law possible, because in the name of religion the Thuggees practiced murder and theft, other groups have practiced cannibalism and human sacrifice, homosexuality, bestiality, you name it; virtually every practice imaginable has been practiced by some cult or another. And so it became necessary in a series of decisions to try to resolve this matter. You could not grant absolute religious liberty without destroying civilization, you would have no law-system possible, because a law-system is an establishment of religion. So, finally they had to say by the end of the century after about forty years or so of a variety of cases: “This is a Christian country.” Not in the sense that any church is established, but that Christianity provides the common-law basis for our country.

This means therefore, any attempt to establish a different law basis is a revolutionary act; any attempt to establish and give freedom to a religion which attacks that law-basis is a revolutionary act. But today humanism is seeking that kind of situation, to establish humanism, by recognizing a variety of cults in order to attack the Christian foundations of our law, and establish another one which deals with the rights of man, as against the rights of God.


[Audience Member] Aren’t Christians neglecting their Christian responsibility by not being involved to protect our Christian laws and our Christian rights?

[Rushdoony] Yes, Christians are neglecting their responsibilities, and if they feel that by having entered into the political sphere with this election, they can forget about them, Christians will be finished. Because the humanists are smarting badly, they will press their advantage, in fact they are already doing it, hoping that everybody has closed shop and gone home, content to let Washington take care of it now, that supposedly we have the right man in the White House. So the threat is there, Christians have to be involved with every area of life and thought because Christ is Lord over all things. Yes?

[Audience Member] On KNS they had Creatures and Politics on, and they have taped every preacher, what they have been saying; but then the commentary came on afterwards ridiculing what the Christians are saying or doing, and I think it is our duty to write against these transcripts and send them to a central quarters where the Christians could document this, and then go after the people trying, and go after the government, and if we don’t do this we will be wiped out.

[Rushdoony] That’s right.

Well, let’s bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 Ex 31.

2 George Rawlinson, “Exodus”, in C.J. Ellicott: Commentary on the Whole Bible, I. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan). p. 306.

3 2 Co 12:9.

4 Lk 22:42.

5 Mt 6:10.

6 Mt 6:33.

7 Ex 28:3.

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