Have you ever noticed the way art can sometimes simplify very complicated things and even sugar-coat very distasteful things? Paintings are two-dimensional representations of something much more involved than the shading and perspective lead you to believe.  Portraits freeze one solitary moment in the long, convoluted progression of millions of moods and expressions. Films almost always have a bad guy and a good guy, whereas in real life, the line of good and evil courses through every single heart with an indistinguishable blur. When a film is ‘based on true events,’ that almost always means you’re about to watch a sentimental, air-brushed and neatly packaged version of something that slightly resembles events that didn’t exactly happen in that way whatsoever. One example is the making of a movie called, “Facing The Giants,” in which some people in a church hand-picked certain favorable events that occurred in the lives of about twenty different families, and then squished those hand-picked events into the story of one fictitious family for the purpose of the movie they made. Wow.  

I have been reading the book of Exodus lately and I got to the part where God is telling Moses how involved their worship is going to be. He lays out plans for a massive construction project that would include the masterpieces of many skilled craftsmen and artists. Chapter 28 deals specifically with the uniform that Moses’ brother Aaron would have to wear in God’s presence and then pass down to all the generations of high priests after himself. Those priestly garments were extremely intricate and every last detail was important and expressed some truth about what it means to worship God and to come into His presence. The thing that really struck me was a part of the outfit called ‘the breastpiece,’ which was kind of like a golden shield covered with priceless and beautiful gem stones that hung around the priest’s neck and laid right over his heart. It was about the size of an iPad, but square, made out of solid gold and decked out with four rows of three gems a piece. Each gem was different and each gem was inscribed with a name: the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. I’m telling you, this was one deluxe piece of high-rolling bling.

Twelve stones, beautifully set into pure gold, covering the heart of the high priest as He stands before God… It makes for a beautiful story, right? It fills the imagination with awe and brings to mind how amazing and godly those ancient patriarchs must have been, right? 

Well, not exactly. Look, you can dress it up in rubies and topaz, surround it with gold all you want to, but those guys were a mess! I mean, Reuben slept with his dad’s concubine (who was kind of like one of his step moms)! Simeon and Levi tricked an entire village of unsuspecting dudes into compromising themselves so that they could slaughter the lot of them! One time Judah thought he was hiring a prostitute who wound up being his daughter-in-law in disguise. She got pregnant, which meant that Judah’s new son was somehow also his grandson… I mean, even in Tennessee that’s weird. You get the picture. The twelve sons of Jacob were not godly and amazing men. Just the opposite. They were total disasters, just like everyone else. So, if these guys were such messes, why were they featured on the fancy breastpiece of worship? Was God the original Hollywood producer who airbrushes over the messy stuff and makes everything appear neat and pretty while forsaking the truth?

No. It’s not like that. In fact, it’s way better than that. God is the Author of redemption, in which He actually writes a new truth. You see, God didn’t just airbrush over the sins of the twelve tribes of Israel. He came down here and lived a life as a man, in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who was and is God was born into the tribe of Judah and lived a perfect life. He then laid that life down to pay the penalty for all the wrong from Adam, through Judah and right on down to you and me. Now he offers us not only forgiveness and pardon, but His own righteousness tacked on to our account! For all who believe, it’s not just a dramatized fiction, it’s the truth of God. It’s as if we never did anything wrong, but lived our lives as beautifully as Jesus lived His. God looks at our life and sees a stainless, pure, beautiful work of art. It’s not a simplified fiction, but a new truth.