By Steven Norris

     Bezalel and Oholiab are two of my favorite Bible characters. Who? While they performed an extremely important task for the people of Israel, they don’t get much “air time” in the text.

     After leading the Israelites out of Egypt, God gave explicit instructions about the construction of the tabernacle — their “mobile temple.” At the end of chapter 35, Exodus recounts the appointment of Bezalel and Oholiab to oversee the tabernacle’s construction.

     The scripture states, “the Lord…has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.” Likewise, Oholiab had artistic skills as well as the ability to train others.

     Bezalel and Oholiab epitomize the calling of humans to be co-creators with God. They remind us that the Arts are not expendable, superfluous, or optional. They are an essential part of God’s design for our world. To create through art is to connect with the Divine in a powerful way.

     I was reminded of this last week when I attended the Fine Arts Day at Jordan Hill Elementary, coordinated by music teacher, Megan Lokey. I brought a few instruments from my own collection and talked to the students about the joy of music — how it can help tell stories and speak to our emotions in ways that words alone do not.

     One student (we’ll call him Kenny), sat on the front row during my presentation. He was enthralled! Every sound that came out of the horn seemed to resonate with him, animating him and fueling an unseen spark. When I asked for questions, his hand was the first one up, and he couldn’t get enough of the opportunity to learn more.

     When the presentation was over, Kenny rushed up to me, hugged me, and thanked me so much for coming. His teacher looked at me with an expression I’ll not soon forget. Her jaw was agape, and she shrugged her shoulders. Then she mouthed to me, “I’ve never seen him like this! He has not been this engaged in anything we’ve done all year. Thank you!”

     As a community, we cannot underestimate the power of exposing our students to music or theater and surrounding them with great public art. Murals around town fill our streets with beauty and fire the imagination for what “could be” in our town. As I understand it, there were no discipline issues all day during that event. I firmly believe that unleashing the power of the Arts has benefits we’ve only begun to discover and just makes our community a better place to live.

     I want to say a word of praise for teachers in Griffin and Spalding County like Mrs. Lokey who recognize that God has placed a Bezalel spirit in the heart of our students, just waiting to be unlocked, validated, and encouraged to flourish. May their tribe increase.