What does it say? That was my thought yesterday as I perused a 13th Century French manuscript. The problem was that it was written in Latin, and my Latin is terrible. Another compounding problem is that the script, while beautiful, was very difficult to read. I really wanted to understand the words, but I could not.
I wanted to understand them because the manuscript was compelling. There was beautiful artwork on the page, and the letters were perfect. This manuscript was more than a mere book; it was a work of art. Each letter was written meticulously by hand. There was not one smudge, and all the letters ran straight to the end of a page. The ink was remakably uniform considering "pen technology" present in the 13th century. I was blown away.
Perhaps it is because I am a book nerd, or because I am peculiar in general, but as a work of art this page moved me. I could not help but think, "If the artist took such care to make such beautiful calligraphy and wonderful color drawings, how much did he treasure the message that this book contained?" I stared at the page for several seconds, trying to will the words to make sense. But the meaning would not come, and I was only left with a deep appreciation for the dedication and the skill that it took to make such a thing of beauty.
Take a minute to look at Rembrandt's "Sacrifice of Isaac". What does it say to you? What would it say to you if you did not know the story? What if all you had was that picture? What would it say? I will tell my favorite part of this picture, the part that moves me most. Do you see Abraham's hand over Issac's mouth? It covers Isaac's entire face, both mouth and eyes. Why? Why is Abraham bending back Isaac's head so far? Why is his hand clamped down so ruthlessly over his beloved son's face? Is it because he could not bear to here the boy scream or beg for his life? Was Abraham afraid that his resolve would waver if he had to look his son in the eye?
Of course, this is only Rembrandt's interpretation. And I am only able to speculate because I know the story that Rembrandt is portraying. If I did not know the story, I may think that the angel just stopped a horrible murder. Who knows? I know that this picture means something more to me because I know the story.
Take this thought to the stars. What do they say? I know that they are a piece of free-standing art, and that the universe is saying something about their Maker. Can someone who does not know the Maker look and see and feel the weight of the message of the universe? Will he not feel small, compartively, if he looks long enough at the pinholes in the sky? Will he not feel the weight and power and genius of the artist who framed them? Can he feel this truth, The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork? Does not the creation speak in manner that is above words? Have you felt creation call out in the rivers and canyons and stars and glaciers? If we would know what glory is, creation is a magnificent teacher.
I can see the glory of God in all the things He has created. I purposefully look for His glory in Creation because I know that is why all things exist. Sadly, there are millions across this majestic globe who stare at the stars as I did that 13th Century manuscript. They see the beauty and marvel at the creation. They feel the message, but they cannot put their finger on what it means. Or they mix the message and ascribe the glory to something other than the God of the Lord Jesus Christ. I long for the day when some from every tongue and tribe and nation will see God's glory in all things and when the declaration of the stars is heeded and understood by all. I pray that God will raise up Christians to go forth and finish the story for all peoples, to tell them why all things are made as they are, so that all may look at the world with renewed and deeper pleasure and give praise to the Maker of All Things.
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