Monday, May 16, 2011

66 Words

For the last year and a half my church has been studying the book of Isaiah. 
We've traced redemptive history as God pleads with his rebellious people, 
disciplines them in their sin, foretells of his ultimate mercy and judgment 
and gives glimpses of the coming Messiah--

the suffering servant, 
the man of sorrows, 
the conquering king, 
and the glorious redeemer.

As we've neared the end of Isaiah, artists and creative types were invited to participate in a project
called 66 Words--an art show featuring one artistic work for each of the 66 books of Isaiah. 
Each work is entitled with just one word taken from the passage it represents. 

The end result, we hope, is an evening that encourages reflection on the preaching and teaching we've received over the last year and a half, and an opportunity to view the varied interpretations of each chapter--literal, symbolic, abstract, realistic--oil, watercolor, collage, sculpture, and on.

The Isaiah in 66 Words project offered me three specific challenges:

First, the risk of creating something worth showing to others as "art." 

Second, the chance to rediscover oil painting and to grow in my technical ability. 

And third, the difficult task of studying a passage of scripture 
and somehow representing something about it in a way that points to truth 
and doesn't trivialize the word of God.

I was randomly assigned Isaiah 9
A passage often quoted at Christmastime, it forms the text of some of Handel's Messiah, 
For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
   and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 And it's the prophecy quoted in Matthew 4:12-16 at the beginning of Jesus's earthly ministry,

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

In my artistic sensibilities I gravitate toward simple, realistic representation,
but as I reflected on this messianic passage I definitely wanted to suggest meaning
and not attempt to narrate the passage in literal images.  

In the ESV verse one reads,
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. 
In the former time he brought into contempt 
the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, 
but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, 
the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
After studying and re-reading several times, the phrase 

". . . he has made glorious the way of the sea." 

began to stand out.

This phrase refers to a literal place and yet that place and the phrase itself 
are suggestive of so much that is at the heart of redemptive history...

                                 The way of the sea is Galilee.

                                                     God has made a way for his people and for the nations.

                                                                          The way is Jesus.

                                                                  Jesus is glorious.

                                                         God's redemption of his people is glorious.


So my painting depicts a land and a way, close to the sea.

 I hope the image gestures toward the glorious way 
that God has made for those whom he has redeemed.


The art show and orchestral concert celebrating and reflecting on Isaiah
take place here on Sunday, May 22nd.
Click the link for details.


  1. Three things:

    1. Your painting is just beautiful.

    2. Apparently you can photograph fine art as create it.

    3. I think we will come and see the art and stay for the concert, and of course the finger kids love finger foods. ;)

    I was feeling especially creative with my camera today, check out my post if you have time.


  2. Ginger--So fun that you may be able to come! I'll look for you :)

  3. thoughtful reflections...not just a "project". i like this. good on you.

  4. God Makes a Way....hmmm...I've heard that before. :)

    Lovely painting. Can't wait to see it in person.


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