Romans 11:33, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”
One of my great disappointments in life happened in Paris. It was mid-morning on a warm June day. We walked up to the entrance of the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum. The entrance was shut and locked in our face. The museum was closed indefinitely; Paris city workers had walked out on strike. My disappointment was shared by others as we had seen several enter in front of us.
Paris is such a wonderful and beautiful city. The architecture, the people, the history, are intriguing beyond the typical European city. Of all the points of interest to me, my No. 1 goal was to feast my eyes on the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. On my bucket list is to spend a month in Paris and explore.
I, of course, am not a student of fine art, but it doesn’t take an art expert or critic to see far beyond the paint and canvas. To view the Mona Lisa would have been to look deep into the mind of Leonardo da Vinci. To consider his history, his family, the town where he lived and his many accomplishments would certainly have been intriguing. That he lived 400 years ago yet he communicates to today’s culture is captivating of my curiosity.
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian cascade of knowledge with many abilities. He was of the High Renaissance who was active as a painter, draftsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor and architect. To see the Mona Lisa would be to see him and I missed that opportunity by seconds.
I did have the privilege of seeing many great works of art in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, (Leningrad) Russia.
It was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive, but somewhat insignificant at the time, collection of paintings from a Berlin merchant.
History tends to ignore her methodology and I find that interesting in itself.
I found myself getting lost in the depths of the Rembrandts, Paul Gauguins, and Van Goghs. The Return of the Prodigal Son was painted by Rembrandt from 1666 to 1669. Apostles Peter and Paul is an El Greco painting, which was made in 1587-1592 in Spain.
El Greco once said, “Artists create out of a sense of desolation. The spirit of creation is an excruciating, intricate exploration from within the soul.” His paintings are an expression of the personalities of the subjects and convey a greater message than can ever be had by reading the most complex text.
These, for me were paintings to be experienced, not just seen. One’s vision connects the heart and mind of the observer with the artist. What were their thoughts, their motives, their feelings? There is so much more to the great art of the world than meets the eye.
To view a Van Gogh is to share his insanity. To view his work gives a visual to his fits of anger with Gauguin. He began to hallucinate and lose consciousness and, during one of his periods of outrage, he cut off his left ear. I’m wondering his thoughts when he regained his mind.
Da Vinci art, as opposed to Van Gogh’s, shows us his proclivity to order, precision and perfection. I cannot begin to even imagine him lying on his back on scaffolds for four years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. My first time in the chapel, I could not take my eyes off his work.
Whereas the art connects us to the artist, the Holy Bible connects us to God in much deeper and complex detail.
To superficially read the Bible and not connect with the mind of God and His lessons and purposes for the reader is to not read the Bible at all or for sure miss a part of life’s greatest blessing.
The Bible verifies displays of emotion by God. Anger, compassion, grief, love, hate, jealousy and joy are seen in God in several passages of scripture.
In observing the works of the great artists, there develops an emotional bond. In-depth study of God’s word connects to Him in ways previously not imagined; that connection results in an emotional bonding.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we connect with each other emotionally. Those feelings may be of one extreme or another, but, it seems obvious when we consider why and how we regard those we know as friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc., there exists an emotional factor.
In previous articles I have encouraged readers to contemplate and meditate on individual verses. Seek out the inner or hidden meanings. The deeper meanings are convincing of the depth of the mind of God and His omniscience.
To read and study the Holy Bible is to experience the mind of God, not to simply read the words as in an ordinary book. Consume it and digest it; take time to absorb the Bible’s extended meanings. We also fail to grasp the fullness of many of our earthly experiences such as art, architecture or nature. We do not invest the time to delve deeper.
Even in its supernatural depth, for salvation, we are not required to absorb those depths. Our relationship with our Savior Jesus is simple enough for anyone to understand and believe.
His sacrificial death on the cross is an emotional experience, not an intellectual one. To progress into deeper meanings is a missed and greater blessing by many believing they are students of the Bible.
In a sermon on the crucifixion, I have explained the tormenting methods employed by the Roman soldiers. I have observed tears in the eyes of listeners. To even superficially contemplate His suffering for the sins of mankind can bring even the strongest willed man to his knees.
I’m beginning to see a conflicting tone to this article in the minds of some readers. If I may make an additional statement: It is not necessary to fully understand the mind of God for salvation (that, of course, is not possible).
We are saved by our faith-based belief in Christ Jesus crucified for the remission of sin and resurrected. There are not degrees of salvation based on the perceiving of deeper meanings!
We are not saved by our intellectual connection with God, but our faith-based emotional connection. He wants our hearts, love and dedication, not our belief based on our human reasoning.
Our intellectual exploration into the depths of the scriptures is to enhance our relationship with Him through understanding.
Many visitors to the great museums stand and look at the works of art and do not experience the artist. Similarly, many Christians do not experience the depth of the scriptures and that emotional, personal connection with God. Do not let it be you!
Writer’s note: Let me again state, I do not claim to be an art expert or even a serious student of art. I simply know what appeals to my thoughts. We humans so often fail to take time to ponder and consider our experiences. One of my greatest areas of concern is not for what I have experienced, but for what I have missed.