By Van Yandell Retired American industrial arts teacher, evangelist and minister
Romans 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and his inscrutable ways!’
One of my big disappointments in life happened in Paris. It was mid-morning on a warm June day. We went to the entrance of the glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum. The entrance was locked and locked in front of our noses. The museum has been closed indefinitely; The Paris city workers had gone on strike. My disappointment was shared by others as we had seen several enter ahead of us.
Paris is such a wonderful and beautiful city. The architecture, the people, the history are fascinating beyond the typical European city. Of all the points of interest to me, my main 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’m not a fine arts student, of course, but it doesn’t take an art expert or critic to see far beyond paint and canvas. Seeing the Mona Lisa would have been like looking deep into the mind of Leonardo Da Vinci. Looking at his story, his family, the city he lived in and his many accomplishments would certainly have been fascinating. The fact that he lived 400 years ago and still communicates with today’s culture captivates my curiosity.
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian cascade of knowledge with many skills. He came from the High Renaissance and worked as a painter, draftsman, engineer, scientist, theorist, sculptor and architect. Seeing the Mona Lisa would mean seeing him and I missed that opportunity by seconds.
I have had the privilege of seeing many great works of art at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Russia. It was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great bought an impressive, but then rather insignificant, collection of paintings from a Berlin merchant. The story tends to ignore its methodology, and I find that interesting in itself.
I lost myself in the depths of Rembrandt, Paul Gauguin and Van Gogh. The Return of the Prodigal Son was painted by Rembrandt between 1666 and 1669. Apostles Peter and Paul is a painting by El Greco made in Spain between 1587 and 1592.
El Greco once said, “Artists create out of a sense of desperation. The spirit of creation is an agonizing, intricate exploration of the soul.” His paintings express the personalities of the subjects and convey a greater message than can ever be received from reading the most complex text when one can see beyond the canvas.
For me, these images were to be experienced, not just seen. Your own vision connects the heart and mind of the viewer with the artist. What were their thoughts, their motives, their feelings? The great art of the world has so much more to offer than meets the eye.
Seeing a Van Gogh is sharing his madness. Viewing his work makes visible his tantrums with Paul Gauguin. He began hallucinating and passed out, and during one of his episodes of outrage cut off his left ear. I wonder what he was thinking when he regained his sanity.
Da Vinci’s art shows us in contrast to Van Gogh’s penchant for order, precision and perfection. I can’t even begin to imagine him lying on his back on scaffolding for four years painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. When I first got to the chapel, I couldn’t take my eyes off his work.
While art connects us to the artist, the Bible connects us to God in much deeper and more complex details. To read the Bible superficially and not to connect with the Spirit of God and His teachings and purposes for the reader is to not read the Bible at all or certainly to miss a portion of life’s greatest blessing.
The Bible proves that God shows feelings. Anger, compassion, sadness, love, hate, jealousy and joy are seen in God in several scriptures. Looking at the works of the great artists creates an emotional bond. A thorough study of the Word of God connects with Him in a way previously unimagined; This connection leads to an emotional bond.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we connect emotionally with each other. These feelings may be at one extreme or the other, but it seems obvious when we think about why and how we view those we know as friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. there is an emotional factor.
In previous articles I have encouraged readers to ponder and meditate on individual verses. Look for the inner or hidden meanings. The deeper meanings convince of the depth of the mind of God and His omniscience.
Reading and studying the Holy Bible means experiencing the Spirit of God, not just reading the words as you would in an ordinary book. Consume it and digest it; Take the time to absorb the expanded meanings of the Bible. Nor do we grasp the fullness of many of our earthly experiences such as art, architecture, or nature. We don’t invest the time to delve deeper.
Going deeper into Bible study means going deeper into the mind of God. This in itself convinces many with an analytical mind or discernment of the reality of God’s existence.
Even at its supernatural depths, we don’t have to absorb those depths for salvation. Our relationship with our Savior Jesus is so simple that anyone can understand and believe it. His sacrificial death on the cross is an emotional experience, not an intellectual one. Penetrating to deeper meanings is a missed and greater blessing for many who think they are Bible students.
In a sermon on the crucifixion I explained the methods of torture used by the Roman soldiers. I saw tears in the eyes of the audience. Even a superficial review of his suffering for the sins of mankind can bring even the strongest of wills to their knees.
I’m starting to see a conflicting tone about this article in the minds of some readers. If I may make an additional statement, it is not necessary (of course it is not possible) to fully understand the mind of God for salvation. We are saved by our faith-based belief in Christ Jesus, who was crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins. There are no degrees of salvation based on the perception of deeper meanings!
We are not saved through our intellectual connection with God, but through our faith-based emotional connection. He wants our hearts, love and devotion, not our faith based on our human reason. Our intellectual exploration of the depths of Scripture is designed to improve our relationship with Him through understanding.
Many visitors to the big museums stand there and look at the works of art and do not experience the artist. Similarly, many Christians do not experience the depth of Scripture and this emotional, personal connection with God. don’t let it be you
Author’s Note: Let me say again, I don’t claim to be an art expert or even a serious art student. I just know what appeals to me. We humans so often don’t take the time to think and reflect on our experiences. One of my biggest concerns is not what I experienced, but what I missed.