How Art History Teaches Peace on Earth

I really enjoy sharing the lessons the Lord is teaching me with others. Not only am I excited to tell folks what God is doing for me, but often I find they are lessons other people are learning or hope to experience themselves! Last night I was blessed to share with ladies from my church at our annual Ladies’ Ministry Christmas party. I love this event! It is always so warm and God-honoring! No sniping, gossipping ladies at any of these I have ever attended. What God is teaching me was well-received, so I thought I would post it here, not in small part to simply record for myself what God is doing for me. Consider this my little pile of altar stones.

I start with a classic Christmas verse, Isaiah 9:6-7: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” This is a beautiful verse. It was read just last Sunday night in our Christmas program, and probably thousands of Christmas programs in our state that night alone. In fact, we hear it so often I think it becomes like empty poetry, pretty to hear, but without much meaning. So here in Isaiah 9 I dwell, and build, because Peace is what God is teaching me lately.

Isaiah also said in 26:3-4, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord is the Rock Eternal.” Trust in the Lord forever…to what extent do we really trust God? How deeply, really? If I worry at all, I am failing to trust. And if I fail to trust God, just Who is it am I doubting?

Well, if Jesus, as Isaiah prophesied, is the Prince of Peace, and if God is His Father, then that makes God King. And in fact, I Timothy 6:15-16 Paul calls God “the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal…” God is the Ultimate King; all earthly rulers reign as an illusion. President Obama does nothing without God’s permission. That North Korean scary dude, Kim Jong-Il, is subject to God Almighty. This is a hard thought, but can also be a very comforting and freeing thought, IF WE TRUST GOD. God is so totally ruling the affairs of man and nations, of EMPIRES, that it is actually hard for me to get my head around. He is infinitely patient to accomplish His purposes, and nations are His tools. Let’s look at about a thousand years in history, starting in the 700s BC (from an art teacher’s perspective):

When Isaiah was prophet, Egypt was a nation to be reckoned with. They were still an empire, just as they had been when enslaved Israelites were told to go. They had a culture that influenced other nations, and an unchanging art that supported their religious beliefs and their many, many pagan gods.

But eventually Alexander the Great rose up from Greece and conquered most of the Mediterranean, including Egypt. It was then the Greek culture and emphasis on reason that was spread. The Greek language became the language of thought and commerce. And Greek art, which emphasized the material and supported its system of religion worshipping many gods, spread throughout the Greek empire.

They were, of course, followed by the Romans, who seriously expanded the empire. They co-opted a lot of Greek culture and their style of art and religion, but they introduced yet another language, and added  Roman technology including a vast network of roads, and the bureaucratic system of government. THIS was the world God chose to send His Son to. In fact, this was the world God developed expressly TO send His Son to. He wrapped deity in humanity and set our Savior among the masses in a Hebrew town governed by a Roman-crafted bureaucracy, and which was undoubtedly infiltrated with Roman culture, art and language. Jesus walked among these influences, and died and rose from the dead under Roman government. The news of this miracle traveled Roman roads in common languages that could reach from the coast of France (and even England by boat) to the mideast and into Russia and around to Africa.

But it didn’t stop there! God is infinitely patient to accompish His purposes! Christians under this Roman rule were persecuted, scattered across the empire with their faith. But after a few hundred years this empire began to weaken, corrupted from within. It began to shrink, to lose battles. The emperor at the time actually turned to the God of these persecuted Christians and asked for help, and God granted him victory! Constantine became the first Christian emperor of the Roman empire, and he declared religious tolerance. No more killing the Christians! But not only did he encourage the Christian faith, he encouraged a new art. Art began to look very different, and its subject matter all glorified God and told the story of the Good News. This art spread across those Roman roads, and it educated the masses who didn’t speak or read the language of empire, and the world would never be the same.

But my point was peace. And actually that God is the KING of emperors. He directs and expands whole PAGAN empires for His glory and purposes. He sent His Son, the Prince of Peace, to die for us, who were His enemies. He lived a perfect life to bring us peace with God by taking the punishment for our sinful imperfect lives. This is the God we can trust with every detail of our lives!

Why would He care about the details of our lives? Sure, He might care about empires if they are needed to spread the gospel, but whether or not my child goes to this school, or whether my job is giving me enough hours, or even where those Christmas gifts are that I made but now can’t find? Well, amazingly, God not only is at peace with us, but He desires us as daughters and sons! If you accept Christ’s full payment for your wrongdoing, God adopts you as His own child. Romans 8:14-16 says “because those are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry ‘Abba,’ Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Amazing!

Even more, if we are sisters and brothers to Christ, the Prince of Peace Himself, then we are coHEIRS with Him! Paul continues in Romans 8 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”

So my point is that if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and God the Father is the King of kings, and if you received the gift of salvation that God offers, then you are in the Royal family. You are a prince or princess in the heavenly kingdom. Your inheritance is PEACE. The God who provides for all your needs can move whole empires to accomplish His purposes. Do we really need to worry whether he will provide for me, to His glory and my good? It may not always be the provision we expected, but it will always be the best, and in line with His perfect character of goodness, justice, love and grace. Trust your heavenly Father and receive perfect peace.

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