God is Beautiful!

beautyofgod

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple. (ESV)

I think all of us who profess faith in Christ would agree that beauty is an attribute of God. But do we know what that even means?

The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines it like this:

the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit

The Hebrew word from which it is translated, including similar words, indicate pleasantness, loveliness, and delight. I tend to miss all of that. Typically, I think the beauty of the Lord is some elusive thing that I can’t ever really know. Sometimes I think it’s not even worth finding out. Maybe we just don’t talk about enough. But in this Psalm, David says that he’d like to gaze upon it for ever. Wow!

Well, that’s David. He must be super-spiritual, right? Not if we consider the shortcomings of David. Remember Bathsheba? This hits home even more as a man. David, who went through the same temptations and lusts as all of us, said that he is seeking after one thing: to behold God’s beauty forever! Think about that. This really means that the beauty of the Lord is attractive. I ought to delight in it. I ought to seek it first thing in the morning. It should get me going. It brings me pleasure. It should be my desire

Say what you want about Christian Hedonism, but I think this is the main thing: as Christians, we ought to delight in our God more than our wildest fantasies. It’s not about just being happy. In fact, John Piper, the instigator of the Christian Hedonism philosophy specifically says, “By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good.” What he does mean is that, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” I think that’s another way of saying, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

To love Him more than anything else with my whole being doesn’t just mean I’m going to obey Him more, although that certainly will be the outcome of such a position. It speaks to my deepest desires and emotions. God’s beauty is certainly part of that. As I meditate on His precepts, commune with Him, serve Him, and worship Him, I desire His presence!

Where did this concept go? We see David pour out his heart toward God in this fashion continually throughout the Psalms. The Song of Solomon was written with the believer’s relationship to God in view. Paul’s desire was to “know Him.” And yet, it seems that an emotional attachment to God is pushed aside today as something reserved for liberals and sissies. Spiritual intimacy has become all about our individual prayer time and nothing else. 

I believe God has been teaching me the importance of spiritual intimacy these days. He has put people in my path who emphasize this more than I’m used to. I’ve been listening to preachers as well as reading things that talk to this matter. I have linked to this before, but I recommend the article, “Quite Time Guilt.” Piper’s Christian Hedonism has undoubtedly played a part. And recently, a prayer meeting was very helpful. Pastor Tony has already written on this, but I’ve been wanting to comment as well. During the meeting, we took some time to meditate on a Psalm about God individually, then come back and share with each other. Nearly half of us were led to Psalm 27! I won’t hesitate to say God was in that.

I speak for myself when I say that a feeling of longing in the heart for God was something with which I was uncomfortable. I think I still am a bit. But I think it’s due to some misconceptions I’ve had. I thought a follower of Jesus could only be a rugged, manly man who preached loudly and fought hard. In fact, some circles try to cultivate that attitude in their rigid dress code and hair preferences as well as revolving conferences around hunting trips. Then there’s Steven Anderson, who you’d better believe will stand up when he goes to Germany (some of you know what I’m talking about)! In fact, at times it seems that the more a Christian man grows, the more he’s supposed to forsake sensitivity and inner feelings. I’ve heard some preachers mock other “types” of Christians for being sensitive. I was in that boat. I didn’t like churches in which people raised their hands and closed their eyes. I made fun of them. I didn’t like people crying out to God with real gusto. I thought they were faking. I didn’t like these new songs (I couldn’t name one at the time) in which you can “substitute your girlfriend’s name for Jesus” and it would still make sense. The real Christian man was like Peter, the rough fisherman.

Yet, while I acknowledge Peter’s macho madness, I also see John leaning upon Jesus’ breast. While I see King David defeating a lion and a giant, I see him sharing an intimate time with his friend Jonathan and desiring to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord all the days of his life. Even our Lord Jesus, who was a lot manlier than depicted in Renaissance art (He didn’t get His carpenter’s wood from Home Depot), sweat drops of blood in prayer. And how many Bible passages are there in which we can substitute our girlfriend’s name and have it still make sense? Jesus of course being excluded, we can’t neglect the fact that we are poor, desperate, weak beings in need of God. No amount of manliness can substitute our dependence upon God. Take a look at the armor of God chapter in Ephesians. After putting on all that armor, the soldier engages in one thing: communion with God:

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 
14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 
15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 
16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 
17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

We cannot be afraid of deep, intimate communion with God. Nor can we be afraid to express our love and desire for Him. My love for God and desire to see His beauty ought to supercede any and every conceivable ambition, dream, and desire in my life. It is impossible to think about that without getting. . .”mushy.” But it’s ok to declare that “God is beautiful” in such a way that you would something else to which you can relate. He is more attractive than your crush. More desirable than money. More pleasant than your favorite sport. More lovely than your favorite food. He is more necessary, more sufficient, more important to me than anything this world has to offer. The more I know Him, the uglier the world’s attractions are to me.

It’s never going to be perfect. The world will constantly bombard us with forbidden fruit that takes our attention away from God. But the solution is not just to avoid the fruit and participate in joyless, obligatory service until Heaven. We can have real victory in this life. We can’t ignore the personal, emotional side of things. The battle isn’t just avoiding sin, it’s avoiding the desire to sin. It isn’t just serving God it’s desiring God! That will only come to fullness when we finally get to see His beauty up close and personal! In the meantime, my prayer is to understand what it means to desire to look upon the beauty of the Lord in this lifetime.

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1 comment so far

  1. David T. on

    Communion with God… amazing how it all got locked up in a box called Bible reading and prayer!
    Not that they aren’t important, but more important is to walk with the Lord, conscious of His presence all day, ready to talk with Him when the Spirit moves or your flesh is weak and trembling. Also important is to take time to simply meditate on the things of God, of spiritual things, not just in the sense of extrapolating a principle to your life, but also in reverse, of “smelling the roses” and understanding through His constant grace and providence what and how it is He works in your life.


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